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Is Canada A Peacekeeping Country History Essay

Info: 1525 words (6 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in History

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Canada is viewed as a nation that always attempts to keep and build peace. Humanity has seen Canada virtually invent the terms ‘peacekeeping’ and ‘peacebuilding’. Peacekeeping is a vital component of Canada’s foreign policy, and consists of a reputation that has been established from fifty years of experience. Canadian involvement has ranged from, “…providing emergency shelter, patrolling, mine clearance, and the maintenance of critical distribution routes for delivery of vital humanitarian aid shipments. [1] ” Over 120,000 men and women have served in close to 50 different United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, but with a price of 108 Canadian casualties. [2] There are two perspectives for Canada’s participation in peacekeeping. One side says that Canada was distant from the majority of the disputes, and therefore there was no reason for involvement. These individuals speculate on Canada’s sacrifice, but do not realize the reward. However, these people are incorrect, and the necessity of Canadian involvement in peacekeeping was specifically seen in the Suez Crisis (1957), Congo (1960), and Cyprus (1964). It is commonly said that, “Canada has saved the world from the brink of war. [3] “

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The opportunity for Canada to develop a reputation of peacekeeping began in the Suez Crisis. The crisis began when the British and French decided not to finance Egypt’s construction of a dam, because of Egypt’s growing ties with communist Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. [4] The Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, reacted by taking control of the canal; gaining a strategic waterway, and the power to cut-off British and French shipments. [5] The British and French prepared a military force to seize the canal and found a ready ally in Israel. Eventually, fighting erupted with Egypt on one side, and Britain, France, and Israel on the other. As news spread about this dispute, “The world braced for another deadly meeting of the world’s military powers. [6] ” This was when the Canadian external affairs minister, Lester B. Pearson, proposed to establish a UN peacekeeping force. His intentions were to create a multi-national force that could lower tensions, which would separate the combatants, and eventually bring lasting peace with negotiations. [7] The plan called for the British and French to withdraw, but a UN force would remain in the area, stabilizing the situation by patrolling the Egypt-Israel border. [8] The United Nations General Assembly accepted this proposal, and the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was created. Canada sent the first peacekeepers to Egypt on November 24, 1956 and soon the canal was fully reopened to shipping. [9] Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for the creation of the United Nations Emergency Force and he was now considered the father of peacekeeping. Therefore, if Canada’s future prime minister did not propose his solution, the United Nations Emergency Force would never have been created, and war would have been a likely possibility.

Furthermore, Canadians were needed in another UN peacekeeping mission in Congo. The problems in Congo began when they gained independence from Belgium, and this resulted in the native army and police revolting against its white officers. Belgium moved in troops to restore order and asked the UN to provide support. When the UN headquarters requested French-speaking bilingual Canadian forces, Canada was hesitant because French-speaking members in the Canadian Army were not common. [10] Some say that the reason the UN requested French-speaking bilingual forces was because the troops needed to be able to communicate with the Belgian forces, as well as the Congolese soldiers. A reason behind Canada’s acceptance of this request was commonly seen due to people saying that Canada, the creator of peacekeeping, cannot decline a UN request. Although some say Canada accepted this mission to keep their reputation, Canadian involvement was much needed because it would have been very difficult to find French-speaking bilingual peacekeepers. Although the Canadian government was relieved when their peacekeepers eventually returned home, Canadian involvement was vital because the demand of the UN was very specific. Canada, being a multicultural country, was one of the only countries that had French-speaking bilingual forces at their disposal, and this was the key to the success of this mission.

Lastly, Canada strengthened their already developed peacekeeping reputation on the island of Cyprus. This tedious mission was one of the longest, lasting 29 years. The conflict, leading to violence, began during the time of the island’s independence. The island had been Greek in culture and population for a long time, but there was also a population of Turkish people. The thought of joining Greece had long been favoured by the Greek people; however, the Turkish people were concerned about this possibility. This was the origin of friction between the ethnic groups, and eventually led to violence in 1963. [11] In 1964, Cyprus asked the UN to establish a peacekeeping force. Once peacekeepers arrived, they discovered that the groups of people were mixed together. Small populations of Turkish groups lived among larger Greek populations and this made peacekeeping a great challenge. [12] Canadian soldiers used their skills of managing conflicts and disagreements, as well as traditional skills of soldiering. A unique remark erupted from Canadian actions that said, “Peacekeeping is not a soldier’s job, but only a soldier can do it. [13] ” Although all UN efforts were made to keep violence away from the island, Turkey invaded the northern part of Cyprus in 1974. As fighting erupted, peacekeepers were in the middle of a war zone, but after several weeks, an armistice was negotiated. The UN created a cease-fire line, and this separated the island between the Greeks and Turks. [14] Canadian peacekeepers continued to patrol this line until 1993, and this shows Canada’s commitment and motivation, which has come from years of experience.

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The world would have been completely different if Lester B. Pearson, the father of peacekeeping, did not propose his solution. His proposal gave insight that created the fundamental goal of the UN. If the United Nations Emergency Force had not been established in the Suez Crisis, there would have been a large number of disputes and battles, and there would be no one attempting to solve them. Canada helped the world solve disputes with negotiations instead of war, and this reward is enough to claim the necessity of Canadian involvement. In the Suez, Canada created peacekeeping; in Congo, Canada provided bilingual peacekeepers; in Cyprus, Canadians showed commitment by patrolling the cease-fire line for 29 years. As a result, many soldiers have been saved by peacekeepers. Therefore, Lester B. Pearson’s proposal has the world in his debt. Today, his reward can simply be the knowledge of saving the world from war, and giving Canada a reputation that can only be Canadian. Canada has built their reputation on the fact that they are a peacekeeping nation, and they have dealt with a large number of disputes, sometimes even preventing war. Canada will always be the creator of peacekeeping and they will always be needed to keep and build peace.


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