Canada urged to lead fight against United Nations peacekeeper sex abuse

With the Trudeau Liberals pledging a return to peacekeeping, Canada is being urged to play a leading role in stamping out what is being described as rampant sexual abuse by United Nations peacekeepers.

OTTAWA — With the Trudeau Liberals pledging a return to peacekeeping, Canada is being urged to play a leading role in stamping out what is being described as rampant sexual abuse by United Nations peacekeepers.

Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador to the UN, is one of the leaders of an international coalition for the creation of an independent management board to oversee UN peacekeeping.

Lewis, co-chair of the Code Blue coalition, wants Canada to lead the charge in UN corridors to wrestle control of peacekeeping away from the UN and place it with an independent board, similar to a bankruptcy trustee.

Lewis and others are accusing top UN brass of turning a blind eye to systemic sexual abuse by peacekeepers.

The coalition has been calling for UN reform following the scandal that erupted last year in the Central African Republic with child sex abuse allegations against French soldiers involving boys as young as nine.

Another Canadian, retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps, co-authored a report released last month that accused the UN of a “gross institutional failure” because of how it responded to the abuse allegations.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commissioned Deschamps’s report last year after Lewis’s organization raised concerns about the scandal.

Lewis said the Canadian government can lead a diplomatic push to clean up peacekeeping because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants Canada to play a bigger role in future missions, while re-engaging more broadly with the UN.

“I think that Canada has a very considerable role to play in making certain that sexual exploitation and abuse is high on the agenda of what we do around peacekeeping hereafter.”

Canada has already played a lead role behind the scenes to press Ban to appoint Deschamps and her panel to review the allegations, said Lewis.

But with Canada’s new UN ambassador assuming his post in New York in April, and the Liberal government’s renewed focus on multilateralism, “there can be a new tone set on the part of Canada,” said Lewis.

The coalition is pressing the UN to lift the blanket immunity that protects its diplomats because it says many civilian employees know about peacekeeping abuses, but have done nothing to stop it.

Paula Donovan, the American women’s rights activist who is Lewis’s co-chair, said Canada has a vested interest in cleaning up peacekeeping because “they essentially invented peacekeeping, and I think many Canadians feel proudly attached to that legacy.”

Backed by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, former external affairs minister Lester Pearson proposed the first UN peacekeeping mission in 1956 to help defuse the Suez Crisis — for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize a year later.

In recent decades, however, Canada’s contribution to UN peacekeeping has dwindled to a few dozen troops.

Canada is still one of the top 10 financial supporters of UN peacekeeping missions, but Trudeau has said he wants to see Canadian troops playing a more active role in future missions.

Trudeau has said he expects Canada can contribute specialized leadership, such as engineers, or leverage the bilingualism of senior officers instead of contributing large numbers of infantry troops.

Developing countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan have become the leading contributors of troops to peacekeeping missions since the passing of Canada’s heyday in the 1990s.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From masks to cohorting, a guide to back-to-school rules across the country

Plans are being made across the country for how to safely send… Continue reading

Red Deer asking for feedback on new transit routes

The new routes will begin Aug. 23

Red Deer region unemployment hits 14% in July

Unemployment in Red Deer region nearly double July 2019 rate of 7.4%

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

OTTAWA — Canada’s labour market gained 419,000 jobs last month as more… Continue reading

1 in 7 Albertans have been tested for COVID-19

56 additional cases Thursday, 1,107 active cases remain in the province

Protestors for Indigenous Lives Matter gather in Wetaskiwin

Protestors gathered along 56 St Wetaskiwin, Alta. August 4, 2020 for Indigenous Lives Matter.

You have nothing to fear from central EMS dispatching

My name is Brad Higgins. I am reaching out with respect to… Continue reading

Maskwacis teen charged in 10-year-old boy’s death

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit have laid a manslaughter charge against a 14-year-old boy from Maskwacis.

‘Caught up in the frenzy:’ Oilers 50/50 draw breaking ticket sale records

Previous record was held by Toronto Raptors fans when a 50/50 raffle reached $2 million

Expanded rail service would put Alberta’s economy on the fast track

To empower our communities, unite our province, and grow our economy, Alberta… Continue reading

Alberta jury trials to resume next month at offsite locations due to COVID-19

About 12 locations across Alberta may host the trials in halls, hotels and community centres

Alberta school curriculum to focus on basics, keep out political bias: minister

NDP education critic says the kindergarten to Grade 4 changes should have been implemented a year ago

Walmart to make face masks mandatory for customers across Canada

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

Oilers 50/50 draw prepared for more fan frenzy for Game 4 against Blackhawks

EDMONTON — Frenzy over the Edmonton Oilers online 50/50 draw may continue… Continue reading

Most Read