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Canada Remembers Times
Veterans’ Week Special Edition

5-11 November 2021 - Page 2

The Golan Heights

A peacekeeper guarding the Canadian base in the Golan Heights in 2002.
Photo: Department of National Defence

Serving far away from home in international peace support missions is very challenging. One of our country’s longest-lasting peacekeeping efforts came in the Golan Heights of Syria. Canadian Armed Forces members first deployed there in 1974 as part of a United Nations (UN) mission to help supervise and monitor the ceasefire between Syria and Israel in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War.

Our peacekeepers in the Golan Heights primarily carried out support duties for the UN force, like maintaining vehicles and filling communications and other logistical roles. A large contingent of Canadian peacekeepers served in the Golan Heights for 32 years before most of them were withdrawn in 2006, with a much smaller Canadian presence remaining there for several years after that. In total, more than 12,000 Canadians would serve in the Golan Heights.

Peace support efforts can have a high price. In fact, the highest single-day loss of life in our country’s history of peacekeeping touched on the mission there. Nine Canadian Armed Forces members with the UN peace force in Egypt were killed on 9 August 1974 when their plane was shot down in a Syrian missile attack while delivering supplies for the Golan Heights. August 9 is now marked each year in Canada as National Peacekeepers’ Day.

Canadians in Afghanistan

Canadian Armed Forces members in Afghanistan in 2002.
Photo: Department of National Defence

Canada’s mission in Afghanistan was our country’s most high-profile military effort in recent years. More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in this far-off country in Southwest Asia from 2001 to 2014 as part of a UN-mandated multinational coalition.

It was very challenging duty in a rugged and harsh environment. Canadian military personnel fulfilled a variety of roles there, from combat operations to contributing to many humanitarian and nation-building efforts. The danger was very real and when our soldiers went outside the relative safety of their bases, the threats of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other enemy attacks were often present.

It has been 20 years since our country’s military mission there began, but the memory of the some 158 Canadian Armed Forces members who died in the effort will endure. The service and sacrifice of all of those who supported our country’s mission in Afghanistan has been commemorated in many ways, from the “Highway of Heroes” and community monuments across the country, to a new national memorial that is currently being planned for Ottawa. Canada will remember them.

The “Black Battalion”

A 2016 Canada Post stamp featuring No. 2 Construction Battalion.
Image: Library and Archives Canada

Black Canadians were eager to serve their country during the First World War. In an era when our society was less inclusive,  it was difficult for them to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. 2021 marks the 105th anniversary of the formation of No. 2 Construction Battalion in Pictou, Nova Scotia, on 5 July 1916. It was the largest Black unit in Canadian history. While recruitment took place across the country, the majority of the volunteers came from the Maritimes. By the end of the war, some 800 personnel had served in the battalion.

The unit was intended for support roles and served honourably in France attached to the Canadian Forestry Corps. They provided lumber to maintain trenches on the front lines and also helped improve roads and build a railway. After the end of the First World War in November 1918, its members returned to Canada in early 1919 to rejoin civilian life and the unit was officially disbanded in 1920.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the Government of Canada would officially apologize for the discrimination that members of No. 2 Construction Battalion were forced to overcome in order to join the fight for peace and freedom. Today, their dedicated service is remembered as an important chapter in the long tradition of military service by Black Canadians in our country and the evolution of attitudes in our society.

Battling the pandemic

Canadian soldier delivering vaccine supplies to a First Nations community in northern Manitoba in May 2021.
Photo: Department of National Defence

Canadians who serve in uniform gain some pretty remarkable skills—ones that are not only useful in the military but in the civilian world as well. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some former and still-serving Canadian Armed Forces members have made impressive contributions in the national response to the great challenges our country has faced. Here are a few of those accomplished individuals.

  • Dr. Bonnie Henry is a former member of the Canadian navy. She enlisted as a university student and would go on to serve as a medical officer. This role exposed her to a number of physical and mental stresses but also taught her many lessons about leadership and how to make decisions under pressure. This hard-won experience would help Dr. Henry guide British Columbia through the pandemic as the Provincial Health Officer.
  • Dr. Trevor Jain joined the Canadian Armed Forces reserves while still in high school. He went on to obtain his medical degree and served as a medical officer. His impressive contributions after the Swiss Air disaster off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1998 earned him the Meritorious Service Medal. Dr. Jain developed an interest in disaster medicine, a skill that would be invaluable as an emergency room physician in Prince Edward Island as well as an important leader in the province’s response to the pandemic.
  • After becoming a family physician, Dr. Jennifer Russell of New Brunswick joined the Canadian Armed Forces and served as a medical officer for 10 years. She gained valuable experience in health systems that focused on preventive medicine and immunization programs. Dr. Russell’s training in the military helped position her as the Chief Medical Officer of Health in New Brunswick, taking on the fight against the pandemic.

Thanks in part to their special training and military experiences, we have been in experienced hands to battle the pandemic!

Some Canadian military milestones

First and Second World War Milestones

First World War 1914-1918

  • 22 April 1915 - Canadians see first major action at Ypres
  • 1 July 1916 -Start of the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel
  • 9 April 1917 - Start of the Battle of Vimy Ridge
  • November 1917- Canadians capture Passchendaele
  • 11 November 1918 - End of the First World War

Second World War 1939-1945

  • September 1939 - Start of the Battle of the Atlantic
  • 25 December 1941 - Canadians in Hong Kong forced to surrender
  • 19 August 1942 - Canadians take part in the Dieppe Raid
  • June-August 1944 - Canadians fight in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy
  • 5 May 1945 - Canadians liberate the Netherlands
  • 8 May 1945 - Victory in Europe (V-E) Day
  • 15 August 1945 - Victory over Japan (V-J) Day
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