Canada pledges $13M for Mali aid
Money exclusively for food and health care, Fantino says
The Conservative government continued its efforts to keep Canada at arms-length from the war in Mali on Tuesday, pledging $13 million in humanitarian assistance but refusing to help pay for any African-led military mission.
International Development Minister Julian Fantino announced the new aid money at a major conference in Ethiopia, where organizers had hoped to raise nearly $1 billion to cover the costs of several African-led military interventions.
French and Malian forces are currently pushing back Islamic militants who have taken over the northern half of Mali, but troops from the surrounding West African region are being organized to take over in the coming weeks and months.
Fantino said Canada’s money is exclusively to provide food and health care to Malians struggling inside the country and the estimated 383,000 who have been displaced by the conflict, and not for military purposes.
“Canada has been a friend of the Malian people,” Fantino said in a statement. “Building on Canada’s significant investments over the past year, Canada will continue its lifesaving work in Mali through humanitarian and development assistance.”
Officials did not say why the government opted to contribute emergency aid, which will flow through the UN and a number of aid groups, and not the international military interventions.
While dozens of countries pledged money and equipment at the conference in Ethiopia, the total raised was only $455 million — well short of the $1-billion target.
Despite this, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar indicated his party’s support for the government’s decision to direct money toward aid instead of military interventions.
“What we do know is that there is a huge need for humanitarian support,” he said. “It’s a good start.”
Dewar said Canada will have an opportunity to make additional commitments on Mali at an EU-organized conference next month — if Parliament decides that is the way to go.
“The (African Union) has stepped up and done its job and if there’s still a need for other support, obviously when that conference in Brussels comes up, we should be taking a look at it,” he said.
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, however, described the decision not to contribute to the African-led missions as “regrettable,” particularly given they were approved by the United Nations.
“I think we should continue to participate and support the activities of the UN in Africa to provide more security, not only to Africans but to the rest of the world,” he said.
Canada has so far committed a C-17 military transport aircraft to help ferry French troops and equipment to Mali until the middle of next month, and it has deployed special forces troops to guard the Canadian Embassy in Bamako.
While acknowledging the seriousness of the situation in Mali, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has ruled out any “direct” military mission.
Rae indicated he is strongly in favour of an increased Canadian role in the conflict.
“There are issues here of security as well as of internal governance that have a consequence for the whole region,” he said.