Canadian peacekeeping

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a person in a military uniform wearing a United Nations blue helmet
Canadian peacekeeper in 1976 wearing the distinctive flag of Canada and UN blue helmet

Canada has served in over 50 peacekeeping missions, including every United Nations (UN) peacekeeping effort from its inception until 1989.[1] More than 125,000 Canadians have served in international peacekeeping operations, with approximately 130 Canadians having died during these operations.[2] Canada's strong support for multilateralism and internationalism has been closely related to its peacekeeping efforts.[3][4][5]

Canada's role in the development of and participation in peacekeeping during the 20th century led to its reputation as a positive middle power.[6][7] Canada's successful role in mediating the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis gave it credibility and established it as a country fighting for the common good of all nations.[8][9] The Canadian public came to identify the nation's peacekeeping role as the country's top contribution in international affairs.[10][11][12]

Canada faced controversy over its involvement in some peacekeeping efforts resulting in a military reassessment in the late 1990s.[13] By the 21st century, Canadian direct participation in UN peacekeeping efforts greatly declined, with its military participation reallocated to UN-sanctioned operations through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).[14] This military reallocation resulted in a shift towards more militarized and deadly missions, rather than traditional peacekeeping duties.[15]

Foreign relations context[edit]

Canadian Delegation to the United Nations seated around conference table
The Canadian delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization, San Francisco, May 1945[16]

The notion of peacekeeping is deeply embedded in Canadian culture and a distinguishing feature that Canadians feel sets their foreign policy apart from its closest ally, the United States.[17][11][18] Canada's foreign policy of peacekeeping, peace enforcement, peacemaking, and peacebuilding has been intertwined with its tendency to pursue multilateral and international solutions since the end of World War II.[19][20][21][22]

Canada's central role in the development of peacekeeping in the mid 1950s gave it credibility and established it as a country fighting for the "common good" of all nations.[23] Canada has since been engaged with the United Nations, NATO and the European Union (EU) in promoting its middle power status into an active role in world affairs.[24]

Canada has long been reluctant to participate in military operations that are not sanctioned by the United Nations,[25][26] such as the Vietnam War or the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.[25][26] Canada has participated in US-led, UN-sanctioned operations such as the first Gulf War, in Afghanistan and Libya.[25][26] The country also participates with its NATO allies in UN-sanctioned missions, such as the Kosovo Conflict and in Haiti.[25][26]

History[edit]

Inception of modern peacekeeping[edit]

External videos
video icon "Peace Operations "Historica Canada - Record of Service. (2:45 mins)

Lester B. Pearson, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, had become a very prominent figure in the United Nations during its infancy and found himself in a peculiar position in 1956 during the Suez Crisis.[27] Pearson and Canada found themselves mediating a conflict involving their closest allies when the United States opposed the British, French, and Israeli invasion of Egypt.[28] During United Nations meetings, Pearson proposed to the security council that a United Nations police force be established to prevent further conflict in the region, allowing the countries involved an opportunity to sort out a resolution.[29] Pearson's proposal and offer to dedicate 1,000 Canadian soldiers to that cause was seen as a brilliant political move that prevented another war.[28]

Pearson would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 and be called "the father of modern peacekeeping" for his role during the Suez Crisis.[30][31][32] He would go on to serve as the 14th Prime Minister of Canada from 1963 to 1968 overseeing the creation of the distinctly Canadian flag that is worn by Canadian peacekeepers.[33] During the Suez Crisis, Pearson was disturbed when the Egyptian government originally objected to Canadian forces in view of the fact that Canada's Red Ensign contained the same symbol (the Union Flag) used by the United Kingdom, one of the belligerents.[34]

Peacekeeping efforts[edit]

Canada participated in every UN peacekeeping effort from its inception until 1989.[1] Prior to the creation of the formal UN peacekeeping system, Canada had engaged in UN intervention operations, notably the 1948 mission in the second Kashmir conflict.[35] Since 1953 Canada has been involved in the first international unified command (UNCMAC) in support of the ongoing armistice between North and South Korea,[36] and played a central role in the International Control Commission (ICC), which tried to broker peace in Vietnam beginning in 1954.[37]

External videos
video icon " Dextraze in the Congo" – Historica Canada. - Heritage Minutes (1:01 min)

High-profile UN peacekeeping missions involving Canada include those in Congo (1961), Cyprus (1964), Lebanon (1978), Angola (1989), Somalia (1992), Rwanda (1993), East Timor (1999), Haiti (2004), Mali (2013), and observation missions in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights during the mid-1970s.[38] Canada also participated in multiple missions in the Balkans with the UN, NATO and the EU in Croatia from 1991-1995; Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992-2010; Kosovo from 1998-1999; and the former Republic of Macedonia in 2001.[39]

Since 1989, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have been involved in peacekeeping missions related to training law enforcement personnel,[40] notably the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH) from 1997 to 2000[41][42] and the NATO led missions in Afghanistan for over a decade.[42]

Personnel contributions[edit]

a person in a police uniform wearing a United Nations blue beret
Royal Canadian Mounted Police peacekeeper in 2011 wearing the distinctive UN blue beret

Canada provided the most amount of UN peacekeepers during the Cold War with approximately 80,000 personnel – equivalent to 10 percent of total UN forces.[43][44] In all, more than 125,000 Canadian men and women military personnel, civilians, diplomats – including over 4,000 Canadian police officers – have served in peacekeeping operations.[45] Approximately 130 Canadians have died in service of peacekeeping operations, with 123 of these deaths occurring during UN missions.[2]

Canada's ongoing participation in United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (Operation Snowgoose) that began in 1964, has seen over 33,000 Canadians serve with 28 deaths.[46] Canada's largest contribution of approximately 40,000 personnel and resulting in 23 deaths, took place from 1992 to 2010 in multiple operations in the Balkans during and after the Yugoslav Wars.[47] The death of nine Canadian Armed Forces personnel when their Buffalo 461 was shot down over Syria on August 9, 1974, remains the largest single death toll in Canadian peacekeeping history.[48][49] The United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti saw the death of two Canadian RCMP peacekeepers as a result of the 2010 earthquake.[50]

Canada's "high point" of participation took place in April 1993, when there was 3,336 Canadian UN peacekeepers,[51] with a record low number of 34 UN designated Canadian peacekeepers in August 2020.[51] In March 2024, there were 59 – including 18 women Canadians deployed in UN peacekeeper missions, resulting in Canada being the 69th-largest, out of 120, personnel contributor.[52] Canada's military in the same period had over 3,000 personnel deployed overseas in multiple non-UN operations.[53] Canada has been criticized domestically and internationally for its non-fulfillment of UN personnel commitments in the 21st Century.[12][54][55][56]

Peacekeeping assessment[edit]

Assessments of peacekeeping operations deemed they are generally successful, usually resulted in long-term peace.[57] The post–Cold War era has seen the concept and practice of peacekeeping evolve significantly.[58] Traditionally focused on ceasefire monitoring and maintaining stability in conflict zones, peacekeeping missions evolved to have a wider range of activities including protecting civilians, promoting human rights, and supporting political processes in post-conflict societies.[59]

External videos
video icon "Canada's peacekeepers face a troubled world "CBC News: The National. 2016 (5:10 mins)

Critics argue that Canadian personnel may not consistently had the necessary training or resources to successfully navigate complex and volatile environments, leading to mixed results in their peacekeeping and peace enforcement efforts.[60] Other criticisms include the perceived lack of clear objectives and mission parameters.[11]

Canadian troops have been accused of being complicit in human rights abuses,[61] notably in 1993 when the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed during the Somali Civil War to support UNOSOM I in a peace enforcement capacity.[62][63][64][65] Soldiers from the Canadian Airborne Regiment tortured and killed a 16-year-old youth who broke into the encampment.[66][67] Known as the Somalia affair, the incident has been described as "the darkest era in the history of the Canadian military" and led to the regiment's disbandment.[66][68]

Canadian troops and the UN system have been accused of failing to adequately protect civilian populations in conflict zones,[69] notably in 1994 when Canadian troops were deployed to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda. The mission was criticized for the perceived failure to prevent or intervene in the genocide that occurred, despite Canadian General Roméo Dallaire warning top UN officials of an impending humanitarian crisis.[70][71] On 11 January 1994, General Dallaire, commander of UNAMIR, sent his "now infamous genocide fax" to UN headquarters, stating [the informant] has been ordered to register all Tutsi in Kigali to prepare "for their extermination".[70]

Military reallocation in the 21st century[edit]

A period of reassessment took place in late 1990s within the Canadian military and the United Nations after the Somalia and Rwanda missions.[72] This led to the UN Security Council reducing the number of new operations,[73] and thus a significant decline in Canadian direct participation in UN peacekeeping efforts.[2] Canada began redeploying its military efforts to multilateral UN-sanctioned operations through NATO, rather than directly to the UN by the turn of the century.[14] Despite the military reallocation the Canadian public views its smaller peacekeeping efforts in the 21st century as its "most important contribution to the world".[12]

External videos
video icon "Canada marks 10 years since the Afghanistan military mission's end"CBC News: The National. 2024 (2;49 mins)

The military reallocation in the 21st century resulted in a shift towards more militarized and deadly missions, where Canadian troops were tasked with combat and security support roles rather than traditional peacekeeping duties.[15] Most notably in several missions and campaigns in support of the global war on terror.[74][75] Canada's participation in the Afghanistan war (2001–2014) saw 165 Canadian deaths, the largest for any single Canadian military mission since the Korean War in the early 1950s.[76][77] Many within Canadian society expressed opposition to Canada's combative roles in Afghanistan on the grounds that it was inconsistent with Canada's historic role of peacekeeping.[78][79] The Canadian government rhetoric of peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peacebuilding in support of the Afghanistan war despite Canada's combat roles was a point of contention within Canadian society.[80]

Alongside many domestic obligations and a few ongoing peacekeeping missions such as the Multinational Force and Observers operation in the Sinai Peninsula, the Canadian Armed Forces, police and civilian personnel are currently deployed in multiple foreign military operations.[81] Notable missions include; Operation Unifier in Ukraine training military personnel, Operation Caribbe in the Caribbean Sea related to the elimination of organized crime, Operation Projection in the Asia-Pacific, Euro-Atlantic and African regions in support of NATO operations related to maritime security and Operation Impact as part of the military intervention against ISIL.[81]

Financing[edit]

The unpredictability of peacekeeping operations makes forecasting costs a challenging task for policymakers and budget planners.[82] Canada has always fulfilled its financial commitment to the UN by paying its dues "in full, on time and without conditions" unlike other nations.[12][82] In 2022 Canada was the eighth-largest UN peace operations financial contributor with approximately $198.8 million for ongoing missions worldwide.[83] Canada in total allocated $2.49 billion to multiple UN organizations including those related to peacekeeping, policing, research, training, climate change and humanitarian efforts such as medicine and food distribution.[84] Canada's total military expenditure in the same period was approximately $26.9 billion, or around 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) — placing it 14th for military expenditure by country.[85]

Recognition[edit]

a statue of a person in front of a flag and two other persons kneeling down
The Peacekeeping Monument in Ottawa, Canada[86]

The Somalia Medal, a campaign medal created in 1992 to recognize Canadian military personnel who participated in the international military coalition invasion to stabilize Somalia, has been awarded to 1,422 individuals.[87] In 1992, Reconciliation: The Peacekeeping Monument was completed, commemorating Canada's role in international peacekeeping and the soldiers and police officers who have participated and are currently participating, both living and dead.[88] The 1995 Canadian one-dollar coin displays the Peacekeeping Monument.[89] This commemoration was followed by the 2001 $10 Canadian banknote named "remembrance and peacekeeping" that depicts a female peacekeeper.[90]

In 1988, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to United Nations peacekeepers, inspiring the creation of the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal in 1999 that has been awarded to over 75,000 Canadians.[91][92] Since 2008, after a campaign by the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping, August 9 has officially been National Peacekeepers' Day in Canada,[93] with ceremonies taking place throughout the country at memorials and Peacekeeper Parks.[94]

List of UN missions[edit]

Below is a list of high-profile UN peacekeeping missions undertaken by Canada from 1947 to present, with Canadian operational names listed when assigned.[95]

Date UN operation Location Conflict Canadian operation
1948–present United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) Middle East Israeli–Palestinian conflict (initially) Military observers[96]
1948–1950 United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea (UNCOK) North Korea Korean conflict Several civilian and military personnel[97]
South Korea
1949–1979 United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) India Kashmir conflict Military observers and military personnel[98]
Pakistan
1956–1967 United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF I) Egypt Suez Crisis Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO)[99]
1960–1964 United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) Republic of the Congo Congo Crisis Long term mission MONUSCO[100]
1962–1963 United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) Netherlands New Guinea Transfer of sovereignty over Western New Guinea
following the West New Guinea dispute
Security and law enforcement[101]
Indonesia
1964–present United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) Cyprus Cyprus dispute Operation SNOWGOOSE[102]
Northern Cyprus
1973–1979 United Nations Emergency Force, Middle East (UNEF II) Egypt Yom Kippur War logistics/ signals air and service units[103]
Israel
1974–present United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) Israel Maintains ceasefire following the Yom Kippur War. Operation DANACA[104]
Syria
1978 United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Lebanon 1978 South Lebanon conflict Operation ANGORA[105]
1981–present Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) Sinai Peninsula Enforce the Egypt–Israel peace treaty Operation CALUMET[106]
1989–1990 United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) Namibia Namibian War of Independence Operation MATADOR[107]
1991–1994 United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) Western Sahara Western Sahara conflict Operation PYTHON[108]
1992–1993 United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) Cambodia Conflict in Cambodia Operation MARQUIS 1 and MARQUIS 2[109]
1992–1995 United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) Bosnia and Herzegovina Yugoslav Wars Operation Harmony[110]
Croatia
Republic of Macedonia
FR Yugoslavia
April 1992 – December 1992 United Nations Operation in Somalia I (UNOSOM I) Somalia Somali Civil War Operation CORDON[111]
December 1992 – May 1993 Unified Task Force (UNITAF) Somalia Somali Civil War Somalia Affair[112]
May 1993 – March 1995 United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) Somalia Somali Civil War Operation DELIVERANCE[113]
1993–1996 United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) Haiti 1991 Haitian coup d'état Operation CAULDRON - October 1993
Operation PIVOT - March 1995 to April 1996
Operation STANDARD - April 1996 to Sept 1996
soldiers and civilian police[114]
1993–1996 United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) Rwanda Rwandan Civil War Operation LANCE[115]
1994–1996 United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation (UNCRO) Croatia Croatian War of Independence Canadian Battle Group through Operation MEDUSA
Operation WALLEYE for support[116]
1995–1999 United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) Macedonia Aftermath of the Yugoslav wars Observer[117]
1995–2000 United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnian War Canadian Forces personnel and RCMP and civilian police[118]
1996–1997 United Nations Support Mission in Haiti (UNSMIH) Haiti Stabilizing Haiti's democracy Operation STANDARD and Operation STABLE[119]
1997–2004 United Nations Transition Mission in Haiti (UNTMIH) Haiti Training of the Haitian National Police Operation CONSTABLE[120]
1997–2000 United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH) Haiti Training of the Haitian National Police Operation COMPLIMENT[121]
1998–2000 United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) Central African Republic Mutinies in the Central African Republic armed forces Operation PRUDENCE[122]
1999–2000 The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) East Timor 1999 East Timorese crisis Operation TOUCAN[123]
Indonesia
1999–2002 United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Serbia Kosovo War Operation Kinetic[124] and Operation QUADRANT[125]
Kosovo
1999–2005 United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) Sierra Leone Sierra Leone Civil War Operation REPTILE[126]
1999–2010 United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) Democratic Republic of the Congo Second Congo War Operation CROCODILE[127]
2000–2002 The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) East Timor 1999 East Timorese crisis Operation TOUCAN[123]
Indonesia
2000-2003 United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) Eritrea Eritrean–Ethiopian War Operation Addition[128]
Ethiopia
2004 United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) Haiti Aftermath of the 2004 Haitian coup d'état Operation HALO[129]
2005–2009 United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) Sudan Second Sudanese Civil War Operation SAFARI[130]
2008–2020 United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Sudan War in Darfur Operation SATURN[131][132]
2018–2023 Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) Mali Mali War Operation PRESENCE[133]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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