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Canada and peacekeeping
Canada’s commitment to peacekeeping is recognized throughout the world. Our commitment to peacekeeping is unusual in that Canadians have served in almost every UN-sponsored peacekeeping initiative. Over 120,000 men and women have served in close to 50 different operations ranging from truce observance to the supervision of elections.113 Canadians have given their lives while serving on UN peacekeeping missions. Canadian personnel have traveled to the far-flung corners of the globe -- from Afghanistan to Zaire -- and have helped to resolve many complex disputes.
Perhaps nothing illustrates the difficult nature of peacekeeping more than the complex situation in Cyprus. Trying to solve the taxing puzzle of an old conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots has tested the resilience and conciliatory abilities of peacekeepers since 1964 to the present day.
Initially, UN forces policed the tinderbox situation on the island, quelling the bloodshed between the two communities. Although a fragile peace was restored, a coup took place in 1974. This was soon followed by a Turkish invasion that ultimately resulted in the division of the island. These events dramatically altered the role of the UN forces stationed there.
Today peacekeeping troops patrol the buffer along the “green line” that divides the island, working to prevent skirmishes from breaking out. Although many critics feel that the apparent stalemate prevents any ultimate conclusion to the dispute, the fact remains that many innocent lives have been spared thanks to the presence of the United Nations. The UN Secretary-general is personally active now in trying to mediate a full political settlement in Cyprus.
The difficulty in resolving conflict is often multiplied when dealing with internal disputes such as the situation in Yemen in 1963, and more recently in the former Yugoslavia. To date, over twenty-five hundred Canadians have participated in peacekeeping duties in the former Yugoslavia.
Their mandate has included providing emergency shelter, patrolling, mine clearance, and maintenance of critical distribution routes for delivery of vital humanitarian aid shipments.
Hope remains that a more stable peace will be found so that life can return to normal for the people of this war-ravaged region.
Since the earliest peacekeeping missions, the presence of the blue helmet has served as a reminder of the United Nations’ commitment to preserving peace. With the full support and moral weight of the international community behind them, Canadian peacekeeping forces of the United Nations can and do make a difference.
A Monumental Achievement
When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1988 to UN Peacekeeping Forces, it was the eighth time this honor was bestowed on a UN initiative. As Canadians have always been at the forefront of UN peacekeeping, the Government of Canada acknowledged this honor by sponsoring the creation of a peacekeeping monument in the heart of the nation’s capital.
This fitting tribute was dedicated to remind future generations of the need to promote international peace and security, and to inspire pride in Canada’s great peacekeeping heritage. Perhaps by sheer coincidence, this monument somehow also seems to speak to the very heart of what it means, and how it feels to be Canadian. Nowhere is it felt more strongly, than in the hearts and minds of Canadians on UN peacekeeping missions in troubled spots around the globe.