(SVH) The Canadian Armed Forces is currently taking part in Operation PRESENCE, leading training validation support to Peace Operations for the UN’s Engagement Platoon Initiative in Entebbe, Uganda. Several countries are involved in the mission, with the shared task of enhancing situational awareness of the UN infantry battalion by mapping the area of operations to identify vulnerable areas and at-risk populations. This follows the Canadian contingent’s Proof of Concept course, which previously took place in Rwanda. Today, we welcome Lieutenant Colonel Hope Carr, Task Force Commander of Op PRESENCE’s Training Support to Peace Operations, to tell us more. So, can you give us an overview of the Canadian contingent’s work and who is taking part?
(LCHC) So, our task force is a little unique. This task force was put together to help support the UN in developing their engagement platoon concept. Engagement is something they've done for a lot of years, but it hasn't been a formalized or operationalized part of the infantry battalion. We are here at the request of the UN. And as Canada is one of the working group leaders, we're here to help develop the project and implement it. And this package of work and this concept will now be used in every infantry battalion in all of the UN missions going forward for 2023.
(SVH) So, how will the Engagement Platoon Pilot Course, as part of Infantry Battalion Training, improve the UN’s readiness to assist at-risk populations?
(LCHC) So, we all know modern missions are complicated, because there is a lot of people involved. We don't have missions where it's not heavy populations. So, it's really important we understand those populations, because they give us cues into what's really happening, and also allow us to better understand how we can support or tailor missions to support them in the right way. The engagement platoons are focused solely on the conduct of activities and engagements and meetings that will help give a better understanding of the environment and support the infantry battalion as they have more awareness to what is in their area of operations.
(SVH) So, I understand the Platoon has reached gender balance. Can you tell us why this is important?
(LCHC) So, this is important on so many fronts. We know that women are a critical part of peace building, whether it's on the military side or on the civilian side. So, part of the gender parity strategy was focused on ensuring that 50% of the engagement platoon was made up of women soldiers, so that, that way, we could reach into the population. In many communities, women in the community may not want to speak to men just because of whether it's cultural norms or whether it's just comfort. So, this allows us to have a lens into a significant part of the population that may have been missed if we didn't have that number of women soldiers who are part of the team.
(SVH) Is there anything else you’d like to add?
(LCHC) This is a really amazing task force and we are really unique. And we've done a lot of firsts in this task force. When we deployed to Rwanda, we were the first Canadian soldiers on Rwanda soil since the genocide. So, that was an amazing experience to get to work with Rwanda Defence Force after so many years. We also were almost all army reservists. So, this is a unique task force. Only one person on my task force is a regular Force person, and it really shows the unique skill set that reservists have and also proves out the one army concept that it doesn't matter which part of the army you are supporting, we are one team and we all bring something to the table. And then, lastly, my task force is... All the senior officers are predominantly women. And, not because we were chosen because we were women, but because we had the best skill set and also reinforce the really important part behind the UNEP, which is that women matter in the military when we go out and do these jobs.
(SVH) Thank you so much for joining us today.
(LCHC) Thank you very much.