Operations

Recognizing National Peacekeepers’ Day

For more than 70 years, brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have proudly upheld the ideals of peace, international law, and human rights throughout the world as part of peacekeeping missions.

Photo credit: Veteran Affairs Canada Peacekeepers Park Calgary “Peacekeeper Park in Calgary, Alberta, features a bronze statue (48008-018) and a Wall of Honour (48008-019) that commemorate Canadian peacekeeping missions and pays tribute to those who have lost their lives. The statue depicts a Canadian peacekeeper giving an “Izzy” doll to a child. The “Izzy” doll is named after Mark Isfeld, whose mother crocheted small dolls for him to give to local children while on patrols during his tour. Isfeld’s name is on the wall of the park, as he was killed by a landmine in Croatia on June 21, 1994. The park also features a Mission Wall which lists all the United Nations missions that Canadians have been involved in.”

Recognizing Canadian Peacekeepers

To honour them, Canada recognizes every August 9 as National Peackeepers’ Day.

“Today, we honour all Canadians who have served – and continue to serve – in peacekeeping operations around the world. Their courage, perseverance, and compassion have helped strengthen the rule of law, protect civilians, uphold human rights, and advance peace and stability in many countries,” stated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on National Peacekeepers’ Day.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I invite all Canadians to join me today in learning more about Canadian police and military peacekeepers, past and present, and thanking them and their families for their dedication and sacrifices. Their tireless work in the service of peace represents true Canadian values and leadership,” Trudeau continued.

Thousands of Canadian peacekeepers served in Egypt over the years.

Internationally Acknowledged

Since the late 1940s, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has taken part in peacekeeping missions around the world.

More than 125,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), over 4,000 police officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Indigenous, provincial, municipal, and regional police organizations, as well as thousands of Canadian diplomats and civilians have taken part in a peacekeeping mission.

Canada has played a leading role in peacekeeping from its inception. In fact, Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping the United Nations Emergency Force in Egypt in 1956 from preventing the Suez Crisis from turning into a major global conflict.

From the 1960s to the 19990s, Canada was a leading contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions. According to Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), Canada had an average of some 1,500 military personnel deployed on these efforts at any one time.

Regions around the world where Canadians have served include Egypt, Cyprus, the Balkans, Rwanda, Haiti, and Somalia.

In 1988, the Nobel Peace Prize was collectively awarded to the world’s peacekeepers, including Canadian personnel. According to VAC, this inspired Canada to create the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal, which has been awarded to thousands of Veterans and CAF members.

Camp Ziouani, Golan Heights, United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) mission area. November 04, 2002. Canadian peacekeeper Cpl Charlsey Jacob, a reservist from 23 Service Battalion in Hamilton, unwraps an auto atropine injector, during chemical defence refresher training at Camp Ziouani, Golan Heights. The atropine injector is used to counter the effects of chemical agents should troops be exposed to them. The mission of the Canadian Contingent of UNDOF, also known as OP DANACA, is to monitor and supervise the disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria. The Canadian Contingent provides most of the troops for the UNDOF Logistic Battalion, as well as a number of communications and headquarters personnel. Canadian peacekeepers have been serving with UNDOF since its inception, and will mark 29 years in the mission during April 2003. Photo: MCpl Frank Hudec, courtesy of Canadian Forces Combat Camera.

Sacrifices

Decades of relentless bravery in the face of adverse conditions has come at its price. Over the years, approximately 130 Canadian peacekeepers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of peace.

Hundreds more have suffered from mental health injuries, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Today, we are proud to honour and remember the significant service and sacrifices of all Canadian peacekeepers, including military, police, and civilians. We join all Canadians in recognizing and paying tribute to our peacekeepers and Veterans for their tireless efforts and commitment to building a safer world,” said Minister of National Defence Anita Anand, Minister of Veterans Affairs, and Associate Minister of National Defence Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly, and Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino in a joint statement.

27 July 2004 GONAIVES, HAITI As Hotel Company of the Second Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment prepares to leave Camp Moncton, their camp in Gonaives, Haiti they must hand over control of their area of responsibility to the Argentinean Military. Commanding Officer of Operation HALO, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Davis (left) and the Officer Commanding Hotel Company, Major Russel King (center) meet with Argentinean Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Santiago Ferreyra (right) to discuss the hand over. Operation HALO is Canada’s contribution to the Mission des Nations unies pour la Stabilization en Haiti (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti), or MINUSTAH. The Command is called Task Force Haiti. The Canadian Forces has deployed about 450 personnel and six CH-146 Griffon helicopters to Haiti. Their mission is to assist in providing a secure and stable environment in Haiti.Photographer: Corporal Matthew McGregor, Formation Imaging Services Halifax.

Sanctifying a Legacy

On Aug. 9, 1974, the Canadian military suffered its highest single-day loss of soldiers on a peacekeeping mission. A Canadian military transport aircraft was shot down by Syrian missiles during a regular resupply mission in the Middle East, claiming the lives of nine Canadian peacekeepers.

In 2008, August 9 was selected as National Peacekeepers’ Day to recognize the lives lost on that tragic day in 1974 and the dozens lost since.

“Their bravery is reflected in the selfless work of peacekeepers around the world, and we continue to honour them today, and remain committed to telling their stories,” continued the ministers’ joint statement.

January 03, 2001 Eritrea, Africa Cpl Gaetan Roy with Recconaissance (Recce) Platoon, the Second Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, based out of Camp Gagetown, meets a young resident of Dek’emhare during a familiarization patrol in the Eritrean town January 3, 2001. Recce Platoon’s mission is to provide a security screen on the Eritrean side, north of the Temporary Security Zone, through frequent patroling and the conduct of surveillance operations. They are deployed for six months on Operation Eclipse, Canada’s contribution to United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Photo by: MCpl Danielle Bernier, J5PA. Courtesy of Combat Camera.

Canada Continues

Canada continues today with its legacy of peacekeeping. Canada also continues to support the UN with expertise, funding, and specialized capabilities to increase UN missions’ efficiency and effectiveness. Canada currently also serves as Chair of the Working Group of the Whole of the United Nations Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.

Current peacekeeping missions include Op PRESENCE, Op CROCODILE, Op JADE, and Op SOPRANO in Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and the Middle East.

Additionally, in 2017, Canada launched the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations to increase the meaningful participation of women in UN peace operations to ensure that peace operations better reflect the communities they serve, according to VAC.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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