Canada has a long history of peacekeeping around the globe. It was Canadian Prime-Minister Lester Pearson who invented the idea (and won a Noble Peace Prize for it) and Canada was the first nation to participate in UN Peacekeeping operations, and the biggest contributor to global peacekeeping in the world.
Peacekeeping became Canada’s main foreign-policy tool, and because of this Canada carefully crafted its place in the world not as a militarily aggressive nation but as a nation that would protect people around the world from conflict, disaster and strife. For nearly 40 years peacekeeping became what Canadian Forces personnel were trained to do, and the respect and honour this noble undertaking achieved for Canada in the world is something new that no other country in history has done.
Peacekeeping is, at its heart, the act of sticking armed soldiers with easily-identifiable blue helmets between two warring factions. Since the 1950s, when it was first introduced as a tool to end t he Suez crisis, peacekeeping missions have expanded to include protecting civilians threatened by war and genocide, deliver food and medical aid to conflict and disaster zones, and to provide “carrot and stick” tools to settling conflict between warring factions.
Canada has participated in nearly every UN peacekeeping mission to date, with the most famous being Cypress, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Rwanda, Kosovo and Haiti. While saving people and ending wars is a noble endeavour, it comes at a high price. Nearly 700 Canadian peacekeepers have lost their lives serving in conflict zones, and over 1000 have been injured, not to mention the psychological scars such areas of the world leave on a peacekeeper.
Despite the cost, Canada continues to be a world leader in peacekeeping missions, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Below are some choice photographs of the brave Canadian men and women who have put their lives on the line to save the lives of the dispossed overseas.
Canadian peacekeeping mission in Cypress, which effectively ended the war between Turkey and Greece
The Cypress mission continues to this day, with occasional flare-ups between rival militias. UN peacekeepers monitor the border and pro-actively disarm armed groups when they can.
Peacekeepers patrol a mountain road in Bosnia-Herzogovina. Canadian peacekeepers were succesful in stopping a repeat of the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia, earning a very high reputation in the world despite political interference.
A Canadian peacekeeper stands guard in Bosnia
Peacekeepers in Sarajevo
A Canadian peacekeeper helps a small Bosnian boy do up his jacket in Sarajevo
One of the most contraversial peacekeeping missions was in Rwanda, where over 800,000 people were killed in a genocide as UN peacekeepers stood helplessly by, betrayed by their political masters in New York. Here a Canadian escorts some children safely to school.
One of the more famous photographs of the mission in Rwanda, this one made the cover of Time Magazine.
Major-General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian in charge of the UN mission in Rwanda, was deeply scarred by what he experienced on that mission. He later went on to write “Shake Hands With The Devil”, his personal memoirs of Rwanda.
Another photo of General Dallaire, taken during the height of the genocide. The stress and anxiety he was under shows clearly on his face.
Canadian army medics in Ethiopia
Post-mission stress during a mission to Congo
74% of the UN mission to Haiti consists of Canadian personnel, drawn largely from police officers
Haiti is one of the most unreported peacekeeping missions, yet it is solely because of peackeeping and the stability and aid (such as food, water and medicine) they bring that Haiti has not completely collapsed.
A Canadian RCMP peacekeeper in Haiti
Police peacekeepers are awarded medals in Congo
Ensuring peace and caring for the lives of civilians around the world comes at a high cost. Since 1958 nearly 700 Canadian peacekeepers have died in overseas missions.
The National Peacekeeping Memorial in Ottawa