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Canada Remembers Times
Veterans’ Week Special Edition

5-11 November 2023 - Page 1

75 years of United Nations peacekeeping

Canadian peacekeeper at United Nations observation post in Eritrea in 2001.
Photo: Department of National Defence ISD01-0073

Canada has a long tradition of standing up for peace and security around the world. One of the ways our country has done this is by taking part in peacekeeping missions. Peacekeepers are neutral international troops. They go to places in turmoil to try to reduce tensions and restore peace. They can play many roles. This includes monitoring ceasefires, patrolling buffer zones and clearing landmines. Peacekeepers also provide humanitarian aid, help refugees and investigate war crimes.

More than 125,000 Canadian Armed Forces members have served in peace operations in dozens of countries through the decades. Over 4,000 officers from the RCMP and other Canadian police forces have also participated.

Our country played a key role in the evolution of peacekeeping. Lester B. Pearson, Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping establish the UN Emergency Force in Egypt during the 1956 Suez Crisis. Pearson later became Canada’s prime minister in 1963. The Nobel Peace Prize was also awarded to all UN peacekeepers in 1988 for their impressive contributions over the years. This inspired our country to create the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal for those who have served in these missions. It also helped spur the unveiling of Reconciliation—the Peacekeeping Monument in downtown Ottawa in 1992.

The role of a peacekeeper is very challenging. The toll it takes on service members is often high. Approximately 130 Canadian Armed Forces members have lost their lives during these operations over the years. Many more have returned home with physical and psychological wounds that can last a lifetime. We recognize our brave peacekeepers who have done so much to help others.

Disaster off the coast of Nova Scotia

Debris on the deck of a recovery ship near Peggy’s Cove.
Photo: Department of National Defence

The Canadian Armed Forces perform many important duties here in our country. One thing they do is launch search-and-rescue operations when ships are in distress or planes go down in remote areas. They have helped save many lives over the years. But sometimes they play a different role after a major accident.

On September 2, 1998, Swissair Flight 111 took off from New York City on its way to Geneva, Switzerland. Smoke was detected in the cockpit about an hour into its flight. The plane was quickly diverted to Halifax International Airport. Despite the best efforts of the pilots, at 10:31 pm the plane crashed into St. Margaret’s Bay, about eight kilometres off Nova Scotia’s coast.

Military personnel and local people tried to rescue possible survivors in the dark of night. The violent crash meant there was no one to save. 229 passengers and crew tragically lost their lives in the accident. The rescue mission soon became a recovery mission. Canadian Armed Forces members helped collect debris and evidence so investigators could determine the cause of the accident.

HMCS Preserver became the command ship for the recovery efforts. Military aircraft searched for human remains and wreckage in the water. Soldiers collected debris that washed up on shore and helped handle the recovered material.

Many of the personnel who participated were young reservists. The recovery efforts were physically and emotionally exhausting. Some who helped in the aftermath of the Swissair Flight 111 crash suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For many, hard memories would follow them for years afterward.

At war in Korea

Canadian soldiers cleaning their weapons during a quiet time on the front lines.
Photo: Library and Archives Canada

After years of rising tensions, North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. This act of aggression triggered an international crisis in a place traditionally known as the “land of the morning calm.”

The United Nations voted to send a multinational force to East Asia to intervene. More than 26,000 Canadians served during the Korean War. In the summer of 1950, the Royal Canadian Navy sent  destroyers to patrol the waters off Korea and the Royal Canadian Air Force began air transport runs between North America and Asia. The Canadian Army sent ground forces soon after and our soldiers saw heavy action in places like Kapyong, Chail’li, Hill 355 and “the Hook.” 516 Canadians were killed during the Korean War.

After more than three years, an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. This agreement ended the fighting but was not a peace treaty, which means that the war never officially ended. 7,000 Canadian military personnel continued to serve in Korea in a peacekeeping role until 1957. Today, tensions along the border between North Korea and South Korea remain high.

2023 is the 70th anniversary of the signing of the armistice. We remember the brave Canadians who served in the Korean War.

The Italian Campaign

Canadian Nursing Sisters on night duty in February 1944 during the Italian Campaign.
Photo: Library and Archives Canada Photo 3599964

More than 93,000 Canadians served in the Italian Campaign during the Second World War. This important chapter in our country’s military history began when our troops came ashore in Sicily on July 10, 1943. The Allied invasion of this strategically important Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea was known as Operation Husky. In the weeks that followed, the Canadians faced extreme conditions. The summer heat and dusty air was suffocating as our troops advanced through hundreds of kilometres of enemy territory.

Italy was on Germany’s side early in the war. After the Allies captured Sicily, Italy overthrew dictator Benito Mussolini and formally surrendered. Germany refused to see the country fall to the Allies, though. It quickly moved its soldiers in to fight and the campaign continued.

Canadian soldiers landed in mainland Italy on September 3, 1943. They joined the long, tough Allied advance up the peninsula. The terrain gave the determined German defenders a great advantage. Italy’s many mountains, deep valleys and rivers helped them make it tough for the Allies to liberate the country. Despite the challenges, the Canadians helped push the enemy back in a series of battles through places like Ortona, the Liri Valley and Rimini.

Our soldiers weren’t part of the final Allied victory in Italy. Beginning in February 1945, they were transferred to fight in Northwest Europe with the First Canadian Army. More than 26,000 Canadians were killed or wounded during the Italian Campaign. This includes nearly 6,000 who gave their lives.

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