RELUCTANT WARRIOR, ENTHUSIASTIC PEACEKEEPER: DOMESTIC LEGAL REGULATION OF CANADIAN PARTICIPATION IN ARMED CONFLICTS*

Ikechi Mgbeoji

Abstract


War is, by necessity, a savage and grisly business and the decision to participate in armed conflict is one of the most onerous any govern- ment can make. This paper examines the domestic norms and institutionalized procedures that constrain or guide the office of prime minister of Canada in deciding when and how to put Canada in a state of war or armed conflict. This question assumes greater importance and subtlety because in contemporary times, formal declarations of war, which in past would have followed intense parliamentary debates, now seem anachronistic. In modern times, states engage in armed conflicts, whether aggressive1 or defensive, without adopting the technical procedure of formally “declaring” war on perceived enemy-states. Indeed, so ubiquitous and recurrent is this phenomenon of “undeclared warfare” that some scholars have suggested that the technical concept of war (declaration of war) has been effectively replaced by the “factual concept of armed conflict.”2 An obvious implication of this trend is that Canadians may not realize that their troops may be engaged in armed conflicts somewhere without as much as a prior parliamentary debate on the necessity of otherwise of participating in an armed conflict.


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