Canadian Forces International Operations: 2001-2005

Tasneem Jamal

Peter Whelan

The Ploughshares Monitor Autumn 2005 Volume 26 Issue 3

Peter Whelan is a Political Risk Analyst for sub-Saharan Africa at Export Development Canada. During the preparation of this article he was a Program Associate with Project Ploughshares.

Peacekeeping is an important aspect of Canada’s national heritage and a reflection of our fundamental beliefs.… Peacekeeping is also a significant component of Canada’s foreign policy and our contribution to the multilateral security system. Fifty years of experience in peacekeeping and participation in an overwhelming majority of peacekeeping missions mandated by the United Nations Security Council has established an international reputation for Canada (Foreign Affairs Canada 2004).

Canada has a well established tradition as a peacekeeping1 nation, beginning with the creation of the concept in 1956, largely due to the efforts of Canada’s Lester B. Pearson. However, in the last decade Canada has contributed fewer personnel to UN operations, for many reasons, the foremost being that Canadian Forces (CF) personnel are increasingly deployed in operations undertaken by regional organizations and other inter-governmental organizations, primarily NATO.

Canada’s shift to peace support operations2 undertaken by inter-governmental organizations other than the UN was touched upon in the International Policy Statement (IPS) released by the Government of Canada in April 2005. In outlining the global role of the CF, the IPS emphasized the importance of multilateral cooperation in peace support activity and asserted that Canada would maintain its contributions to international institutions such as the UN and NATO, while continuing to participate in “less formal coalitions of like-minded states” “when the will of the international community is clear” (Government of Canada 2005, p. 24).

Types of operation

From 2001-2005, UN-led missions3 were the most common undertaken by the CF, constituting 47 per cent of international operations in which Canada participated during this period. However, in these five years UN-authorized, but not UN-led operations4 were established with increasing regularity, in part because regional and other inter-governmental organizations such as the European Union (EU), African Union (AU), and NATO became more involved in peace support roles. These operations have also become more common as the Security Council has outsourced operations to states or regional organizations in cases where its Permanent Members have been unable to agree on official UN action, or have deemed the situation unsuitable for the deployment of a UN force.5 Canada has participated in several of these operations, even those led by regional organizations to which it does not belong, such as the EU and AU. For example, as of July 2005, CF personnel were deployed on the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and the EU Force in Bosnia (EUFOR).

While all UN-led or UN-authorized peace support operations (PSOs) may arguably be considered legal, given their endorsement by the Security Council, some lack wide international support. For example, the US-led Multinational Force in Iraq received Security Council authorization in October 2003 following the controversial invasion of Iraq earlier in the year.6 In spite of this authorization, many governments and international affairs experts assert that the operation remains illegitimate. However, for the most part UN-authorized missions operate with a high level of international acceptance.

Canada has also contributed military personnel to operations neither led nor authorized by the UN. Several were undertaken by Canada as part of the International Campaign Against Terrorism, e.g., Operation APOLLO in Afghanistan. Others, such as the country’s contribution to the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai, were traditional peacekeeping operations.7


Table 1: CF International Operations, 2001-2005

     2005    2004     2003      2002       2001
UN-led operations       9             8             8             8             11      
UN-authorized operations       5       7             4       1       3
Other       5       4             5       6       9
TOTAL       19       19       17       15       23

CF operations of more than 100 personnel

Although UN-led and UN-authorized operations represent almost three-quarters of all missions to which Canada deployed troops from 2001 to 2005, most CF deployments of more than 100 personnel were not operating under UN command. The CF participated in 12 operations, each with more than 100 Canadian troops: of these three were UN-led, four were UN-authorized, and five were ‘other’ operations.

UN-led operations:

  • The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), established in 1974 in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria, has consistently included close to 200 CF personnel over the past five years.
  • The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) (2000-2001) included more than 400 CF personnel as part of the United Nations Multinational Standby High-Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG).
  • The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established in 2004. Approximately 500 CF personnel deployed to Haiti in March 2004 as part of a UN-authorized Multinational Interim Force (MIF). When authority was transferred from MIF to MINUSTAH in June 2004, several hundred CF personnel were under UN command until returning home two months later. In July 2005, only three CF personnel remained with MINUSTAH.

UN-authorized operations:

  • The Maritime Interdiction operations undertaken in the Arabian Gulf to enforce sanctions imposed upon Iraq following the first Gulf War included Canadian frigates between 1991 and 2001.
  • NATO’s Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia (1996-2004) consistently included a minimum of 600 CF personnel.
  • The Multinational Interim Force established in Haiti in 2004 for a six-month period included a contingent of 500 CF personnel.
  • NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), established in Afghanistan in 2003, has included thousands of CF personnel. At its peak in 2004, over 2,000 CF personnel were deployed within ISAF. The number of CF personnel has recently been reduced to approximately 900.

‘Other’ operations:

  • NATO’s Mission to Macedonia (2001-2002) included approximately 200 CF personnel. The mission was primarily intended to disarm armed groups in the country.
  • The International Campaign Against Terrorism has involved several CF operations of considerable size:
    • Operation APOLLO in Afghanistan (2001-2003) at times included more than 2,000 CF personnel.
    • After the termination of Operation APOLLO, Canada established a naval operation in support of the International Campaign Against Terrorism. In 2003 and 2004, approximately 250 CF
       personnel aboard a frigate in the Arabian Gulf conducted surveillance patrols and interdiction operations.
    • The Canadian Forces also undertook a maritime operation in support of NATO’s Operation
       Active Endeavour against international terrorism. As part of this mission, Canada deployed approximately 300 personnel in and around the Mediterranean Sea in 2004-2005.
  • Canada deployed its Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) of approximately 200 personnel in early 2005 following the tsunami in South Asia.

Current deployments

As of July 2005, approximately 1,600 CF personnel were deployed to 17 operations on four continents and a dozen countries. Canada’s present personnel contribution to international operations is the lowest it has been in almost 15 years, due to a reduced operational tempo during most of 2004 and 2005 that was initiated by Canada’s defence planners to regenerate the force. For much of the previous decade the CF had at least 2,000 and, on occasion, more than 4,000 personnel deployed to international operations. The CF is presently undergoing an expansion to increase the forces by 5,000 Regular and 3,000 Reserve personnel. According to the International Policy Statement (p. 29), the expanded force will be capable of maintaining up to 5,000 personnel in international operations.

UN-led operations:

According to UN figures, as of June 2005, Canada ranked 33rd among all contributors, contributing 108 civilian police, 12 military observers, and 202 troops to UN operations. During the past five years, Canada’s ranking as a contributor to UN-led operations has remained fairly constant, fluctuating between the high 20s and the low 40s, with the exception of a brief period in 2004 when Canada was ranked 20th due to its contribution to the mission in Haiti. As of July 2005, Canada’s contribution to UN PSOs represented 15 per cent of all CF personnel deployed abroad, excluding those permanently stationed in the US, e.g., CF personnel located at NORAD headquarters.


Table 2: CF personnel in UN-led operations

UN-led operations  Number of CF personnel
UNDOF (Golan Heights)          191
UNMIS (Sudan)         14
MONUC (DRC)          8
UNTSO (Israel)         8
MINUSTAH (Haiti)         3
UNAMA (Afghanistan)         1
UNAMI (Iraq)         1
UNFICYP (Cyprus)         1
UNAMSIL (Sierra Leone)         1
Total         228

UN-authorized operations:

As of July 2005, most CF personnel deployed abroad were with UN-authorized, but not UN-led, operations. Canada had 1,037 personnel (67 per cent of all deployed personnel) in five UN-authorized operations, the largest contingent being Canada’s contribution to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.


Table 3: CF personnel in UN-authorized operations

UN-authorized operations Number of CF personnel
ISAF (Afghanistan)       950
EUFOR (Bosnia-Herzegovina)      73
SFOR (Bosnia-Herzegovina)      10
AMIS (Darfur)       4
Total      1,037

‘Other’ operations:

Canada also contributed personnel to operations neither led nor authorized by the UN. Canada contributed 294 personnel (19 per cent of total) to five operations. Most were deployed as part of Canada’s contribution to the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom. Canada is currently in the process of deploying soldiers to southern Afghanistan. Although these soldiers will initially operate as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, by the end of 2006 they will be under NATO command as part of ISAF.


Table 4: CF personnel in ‘other’ operations

Other operations Number of CF personnel
International Campaign Against Terror (Persian Gulf)         247
MFO (Sinai)          29
IMATT (Sierra Leone)         11
International Campaign Against Terror (Florida)         7
Total         294

Comparison of CF deployments with those of NATO allies

Canada ranks 11th among 26 member states in terms of personnel deployed on international operations. The US (142,540) and the UK (12,140) rank highest because of their ongoing operations in Iraq. The Netherlands (1,879) and Poland (3,823) are also involved in Iraq. France (8,501) has almost 4,000 troops deployed in Côte d’Ivoire alone. Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Greece also have more personnel deployed on international missions than does Canada.

When compared with fellow NATO member states, Canada’s contribution to UN-led operations appears more significant. Among NATO states, Canada is one of the top contributors. As of June 2005, only France (663), Poland (651), the UK (410), and the US (361) contributed more personnel to UN PSOs than did Canada, and the average NATO member state contribution to UN-led missions was 169. Furthermore, only Slovakia (55 per cent), Romania (21 per cent) and Poland (17 per cent) contributed a higher percentage of total military personnel deployed internationally to UN-led operations than did Canada (15 per cent).

Several trends are apparent in the international operations undertaken by Canadian Forces during the last half-decade. First, while CF personnel remain deployed on several UN-led operations, these deployments most often consist of very small contingents. Second, although most internationally deployed CF personnel do not operate under UN command, many of them work within missions authorized by the UN Security Council but conducted by regional organizations.

Financing UN Peace Support Operations

One factor that has an impact on the number of personnel that states commit to multilateral peace support operations is the level of financial reimbursement received for their contributions. A relatively high level of reimbursement is provided to troop-contributing countries by the UN.

In 2005-2006, the UN General Assembly approved a US$3.2-billion budget for peacekeeping operations and reimbursements to states that contribute personnel and equipment. While not all costs associated with deployment are covered, many are, including basic salary and allowances; allowances for personal clothing, gear, and equipment; and travel costs. In 2002 the standard rate of reimbursement for basic salary and allowances of UN peacekeepers was $1,028 per month.

Financing of NATO Peace Support Operations

While UN peace support operations are largely financed through the peacekeeping budget, NATO operations are covered almost entirely by participating states. NATO’s Military Budget, which is made up of assessed contributions from member states, covers costs associated with the organization’s military structure, including the Military Committee, International Military Staff, Strategic Commands, research and development, and NATO’s Airborne Early Warning and Control Force. Not covered by the NATO Military Budget are “the very substantial costs of assignment of military personnel [to peace support operations], which are borne by the respective contributing countries” (NATO 2004). Therefore, there is no obvious economic incentive for participating in NATO peace operations.

As of July 2005, Canada was contributing more than 20 personnel to only one UN operation: UNDOF, with 191 troops. All of the other deployments were made up of very small contingents, including three one-person deployments. These smaller deployments are often of CF officers who occupy senior positions in these operations. For example, a Canadian Brigadier-General, one of 14 CF personnel with the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), is the mission’s Deputy Force Commander. Similarly, Canada’s one-person contribution to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) is a Lieutenant-Colonel who serves as an advisor for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq.

As of July 2005, Canada was contributing 950 troops to NATO’s ISAF in Afghanistan. Due to the size of the contingent and its assigned tasks, a substantial amount of equipment, including Coyote reconnaissance vehicles and Light Armored Vehicles (LAV III), was deployed as part of the operation. The inclusion of this equipment has obvious implications for the cost of Canada’s contribution to the mission, not only due to increased operation and maintenance costs, but also to costs incurred in transporting this equipment to the theatre.

The environments within which contingents are deployed also have an impact upon the costs of the operations. UN operations are generally established following the signing of a ceasefire agreement and once a certain level of security has been attained, although operations underway in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are two notable exceptions. As a result, personnel with UN operations generally do not deploy with the full range of military equipment required for traditional warfare. For example, Canada presently has almost 200 CF personnel deployed with the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria. Although the mission requires a certain amount of equipment, it does not require much force projection or force protection equipment, because the mission’s primary mandate is observation in a relatively benign area of operation.

Conversely, CF personnel with ISAF are heavily armed. While ISAF is not a combat operation, many regions of Afghanistan remain highly volatile. So, to establish security within their areas of deployment, CF personnel need to be prepared to confront and defeat opposing military forces.



  1. Peacekeeping refers here to operations undertaken by lightly armed forces mandated to monitor a ceasefire agreement between previously warring factions. Examples of classic peacekeeping operations include those currently deployed by the UN in Cyprus and in the Sinai.
  2. Peace support operations refer to a wide range of operations including peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions.
  3. UN-led operations are established by the UN Security Council, financed by the UN peacekeeping budget and undertaken by personnel operating under UN command.
  4. UN-authorized operations are authorized by the UN Security Council but undertaken by a state or group of states, or by a regional organization. These operations are not financed by the UN and do not come under UN command.
  5. The African Union Mission in Sudan is an example of the former while the French-led EU mission to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003 is an example of the latter.
  6. UN Security Council Resolution 1511 of 16 October 2003 authorizes, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, “a multinational force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq. …” This authorization was reaffirmed by Security Council Resolution 1546 of 8 June 2004.
  7. Although this operation has all the hallmarks of a typical UN Chapter XI operation, this multinational force was created, with US support, as an alternative to a UN mission when members of the Security Council were unable to decide on a common course of action.


Foreign Affairs Canada 2004, Canada & the World.

Government of Canada 2005, Canada’s International Policy Statement: A Role of Pride and Influence in the World – Defence.

NATO 2004, NATO Handbook.

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