Seventy-one years ago this year, the United Nations deployed troops on the first peacekeeping mission on May 29, 1948.
The mission deployed members to the Middle East to maintain the ceasefire during the Arab-Israeli War.
Since then, over 125,000 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members have served on UN peacekeeping missions, the most recent deployment on Op PRESENCE ending.
August 9 was chosen as National Peacekeepers’ Day to honour and commemorate the nine Canadian Peacekeepers that lost their lives back on this date in 1974 when their plane was shot down over Syria in 1974.
The military personnel were flying on a Canadian Buffalo aircraft flying over the Mediterranean skies when it shot down by Syrian forces, and all nine lives aboard were lost.
This tragedy took place while Canadian military personnel were serving on the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) II. Canada was not only providing boots on the ground but also logistical support for the UN observers on the Golan Heights.
The incident is remembered as the highest number of Canadian peacekeepers casualties during a single event.
While British Columbia set the date of August 9 as Peacekeepers’ Memorial Day back on June 30, 1993, nationally the day was made official by the federal government in June 2008.
“Today on National Peacekeepers’ Day, we join Canadians in paying tribute to our country’s peacekeepers, past and present, for their service and commitment toward building a safer world, stated the Minister of National Defence Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of Veterans Affairs Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Public Safety, Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland in a press release to commemorate the day.
“Canada has a long and proud history of peacekeeping. Over the past seven decades, Canadian peacekeepers – military, police, and civilians – have served on a variety of operations all over the world to advance and support global peace and security. Our peacekeepers represent Canada with professionalism, compassion, and operational excellence. Their meaningful contributions have a direct and positive impact on the lives of people affected by conflict, and we owe them and their families our unwavering support and our most profound gratitude.
“In the past year, the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed under Operation PRESENCE have been providing essential support to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) with life-saving medical evacuations of injured soldiers and civilians. We are proud of their important contribution and we thank them for making a difference in the region. Canadian contributions to Mali will continue with long term police deployments to MINUSMA and the European Union capacity-building mission.
“On National Peacekeepers’ Day, we also pause to honour the memory of the 122 Canadian peacekeepers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of peace. Their bravery will continue to be represented in the selfless work of peacekeepers around the world.”
“Over the years, conflicts have changed and have become more complex than ever before. Canada remains determined to do its part on the world stage and improve the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping operations. This is why we continue to take real, tangible steps to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers and help ensure that peacekeepers are better prepared to face this tragic reality with our leadership on the Vancouver Principles. We are also focused on increasing the proportion of women deployed overseas and empowering women in all aspects of peace and security, including through the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations.”