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Canada Remembers Times
Veterans’ Week Special Edition

5-11 November 2022 - Page 2

Canadian peacekeepers in Cyprus

A Canadian peacekeeper at a UN observation post in Cyprus in 1967.
Photo: Department of National Defence

Canada has a long and proud tradition of contributing to international peacekeeping missions. One of our country’s best known peace efforts has been in Cyprus. The Mediterranean island became an independent country in 1960, but long-simmering tensions between its Greek and Turkish populations soon erupted into open violence. In 1964, the United Nations (UN) launched a major peacekeeping mission in Cyprus and Canadians would play an important role.

Our soldiers helped maintain a fragile peace there for a decade. However, in 1974 thousands of troops from neighbouring Turkey invaded the northern portion of the island and Canadian peacekeepers suddenly found themselves in the middle of a war zone. Cyprus would end up split into two parts, separated by a buffer zone running its full width called the “Green Line.”

A large contingent of Canadians served on the island until 1993, spending countless hours patrolling the Green Line and helping prevent renewed violence. Our country no longer has a large peacekeeping force there, but Canada still supports UN efforts in Cyprus with a mission called Operation SNOWGOOSE. More than 33,000 Canadian Armed Forces members have served there over the years and, sadly, 28 of them lost their lives.

Military families in Western Europe

Canadian service member with his sons at a NATO school for military families in France.
Photo: North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Thousands of Canadian military personnel served in Western Europe from the early 1950s to the early 1990s as part of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces on the continent during the Cold War. Primarily stationed at army and air force bases in France and West Germany, they helped stand guard against a possible communist attack from the eastern side of the Iron Curtain. Being an ocean away from Canada for years on end was a lot to ask, and many married service members would take their families with them to Europe.

It is often said that when someone serves in the Canadian Armed Forces, in a way the whole family also serves because of the sacrifices that must be made so they can perform their important duties. For the spouses and children of Canadian military personnel who deployed to Western Europe during this period, it was even more true. Being far away from extended family, old friends and all that was familiar back home was often tough. However, many Canadian children who grew up at our bases overseas also have fond memories of the unique opportunities they had to see the wider world. So when we thank those who have put their lives on the line in the cause of peace, let us also remember the families who supported them.

The Menin Gate

The Menin Gate is a massive Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial that stands in the Belgian city of Ypres. Engraved on its stone walls are the names of nearly 55,000 soldiers of the British Commonwealth—including almost 7,000 Canadians—who lost their lives in Belgium during the First World War and had no known grave.

The Menin Gate was unveiled 95 years ago in July 1927. Every evening at 8:00 p.m., a special ceremony is held where buglers solemnly play the Last Post to honour the fallen. War memorials are powerful places where we can help keep the torch of remembrance burning brightly. When we respectfully visit them, we have a unique opportunity to show that the sacrifices of our service members will never be forgotten.

Eyes and ears of the north

A Canadian Ranger during a patrol in Nunavut in 2012.
Photo: Department of National Defence IS2012-1012-06

Canada is the second largest country in the world. And yet, more than 80% of our vast nation is sparsely populated. Following the Second World War, Canada’s military knew they had to do more to monitor and protect these remote areas. To help meet this need, they created the Canadian Rangers in 1947 – a special army reserve unit to be, as their motto suggests, “Watchers” of the North.

It takes unique skills to be able to navigate and survive in Canada’s most isolated regions. Because of their intimate knowledge of the land, many Canadian Rangers are from Indigenous communities. They provide essential support in the North, as well as on hard-to-reach stretches of our east and west coasts.

In addition to helping maintain a military presence in these areas, Canadian Rangers also assist during local rescue operations and natural disasters, such as forest fires and floods. In the past two years, they have also filled a variety of roles while helping with the pandemic response in their parts of the country, such as delivering vaccines and much needed supplies. We salute our Canadian Rangers who have been serving our country for 75 years and counting!

A remarkable aviator

Doug Sam in uniform during the Second World War.
Photo: Canadian War Museum 20020083-002_4b

Kam Len Douglas “Doug” Sam was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1918. The son of Chinese immigrants, he was well-educated and spoke several different languages. He wanted to serve his country during the Second World War and tried to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1941. The discriminatory RCAF regulations at the time meant that he was initially rejected, simply because of his ancestry. However, he was not one to give up easily. Sam persevered and was accepted when he again tried to join the following year, after the racial restrictions had been loosened.

He would serve as an air gunner in Bomber Command, taking part in 28 missions over occupied Europe. It was very dangerous duty. Sam’s plane was hit by enemy fire over France in June 1944 and he was forced to bail out. To evade being captured by the Germans, Sam made contact with the French Resistance. He ended up staying in France for some time, pretending to be an Asian student studying in the country while aiding resistance efforts and helping other downed Allied airmen escape. He also gathered information on enemy forces in France that he passed along to the Allies when he met up with advancing American troops at Reims in September 1944.

Among other service medals, Sam was awarded the French Croix de guerre for his impressive efforts. He remained in the RCAF after the war, making a career in military intelligence before retiring from regular service in 1967, after 25 years in uniform. We salute this extraordinary Chinese-Canadian trailblazer.

Did you know?

Many Royal Canadian Navy ships have been named after First Nations peoples over the years, as a sign of respect to that diverse and proud heritage. These vessels have taken part in naval operations all over the world, from the Second World War era to more recent times. One of these deployments saw three Canadian destroyers with Indigenous names—HMCS Algonquin, Huron and Iroquois—deploy to the Adriatic Sea in the 1990s. There they joined other nations in a naval blockade of the Balkans, to enforce economic sanctions and prevent military supplies from reaching the war-torn region.

A flood of support

Canadian Armed Forces members stacking sandbags during the 1997 Red River Floods.
Photo: Department of National Defence ISD97-097

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the 1997 Red River Floods in Manitoba. The waters of the Red River often run high during the spring, but that year would bring what many called “the flood of the century.” Alarmed by the situation, the province asked the Canadian Armed Forces for support. On 21 April 1997, Operation ASSISTANCE was launched to help protect Winnipeg and other communities in southeastern Manitoba. It would be a massive undertaking, with more than 8,500 regular and reserve force military personnel taking part.

Our troops worked long hours filling sandbags, building levees and running drainage pumps. They also evacuated residents at risk and provided medical assistance for those in need. Military engineers checked roads and bridges that had been affected. Military helicopters also helped in the relief efforts, while amphibious vehicles were used to travel across the flooded terrain. The struggle against nature was challenging and, despite their best efforts, many areas would still suffer heavy flooding.

As the worst of the crisis passed, some of our troops could begin to leave. On 13 May 1997, a large convoy of Canadian Armed Forces vehicles drove through downtown Winnipeg on their way back home. The streets were lined with thousands of grateful people cheering those who had helped them so much in their time of need.

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