Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP Randall Garrison meeting with Canadian personelle in Mali (Photo: Government of Canada)

Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP Randall Garrison meeting with Canadian personnel in Mali (Photo: Government of Canada)

Member of Parlement Randall Garrison says after his trip to visit Canadian Armed Forces in Mali he will push for an extension to the mission.

Canada is set to leave by Aug. 1 but Garrison, who was visiting with the National Defence Committee, says the trip for him affirmed concerns that the gap up to Oct. 15 when Romanian forces will replace Canada could put lives at risk and force a reduction in UN activities.

“I’ll be arguing very strongly that we ought to extend that mission to prevent that gap before the Romanians arrive. I don’t really understand why we have a hard date of August 1st,” said Garrison, who is vice chair of the committee.

“What the UN is doing is trying to do is stabilize the country and make sure the government doesn’t collapse… if that country does collapse it endangers its neighbors and provides a safe haven for terrorist activities, it will result in a vast increase in drug trafficking and human trafficking in the Sahara.”

Currently, Canada has deployed around 250 personnel to provide medi-evac support to the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the state, and to contribute to peace and stabilization efforts.

The committee also heard other comments on the Canadian support, such as high praise for providing the support, and requests for speeding up Canada’s delivery on the commitment to provide police —  in particular women police officers.

“We’ve sent one man and one woman… unfortunately that’s not anywhere near what we promised to send,” said Garrison.

“The liberals made promises for increasing contribution to UN peacekeeping, but are slow to deliver on them.”

The federal government looked to send up to 20 civilian police officers to support both the UN peacekeeping mission and the European Union training mission in Mali.

Garrison says Canada also has a great opportunity to help Mali take over their own security.

The National Defence Committee visited the West African state from Feb. 9 to 16 following the Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP’s urging. Due to extreme safety concerns the trip was under a media and social media blackout until the committee returned.

On Jan.20 five Canada helicopters and crews responded from Gao to Aguelhok following a complex attack.

Fifteen wounded were transported out, and water, food and ammunition were delivered to remaining peacekeepers.

No Canadians were hurt, but ten peacekeepers were killed and another 25 were injured.

On Jan. 25, Canadian crews responded to another incident where two Sri Lankan peacekeepers were killed in Douentza area after hitting an explosive device.

“[Out trip was] nothing compared to the risks that the Canadians who serve are under each and every day while they are there but it was one of the more high-risk missions from the house of commons,” he said.

“There are so many parties and so many  possibilities for things to go wrong that it’s a very fragile country to be in.”

The Standing Committee on National Defence says they study the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as the domestic, continental and international security environment.

The committee has 12 members from across the three main parties. Liberal MP for Kelowna — Lake Country Stephen Fuhr is the chair.

With files from the CBC

Julian Kolsut