Nearly fifty years ago, Lester B. Pearson, Canada's leading diplomat and later its Prime Minister, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his epochal plan to send troops from UN Member States to get between warring factions in international trouble spots. The legacy of that contribution is being implicitly honoured in several provinces and cities across Canada.
While Peacekeepers' Day in Canada falls on 9 August, specifically to commemorate the deaths of nine Canadian UN peacekeepers whose aircraft was shot down over Lebanon on that date in 1974, it also more contemporaneously remembers the 110 peacekeepers killed so far in far-flung places where the United Nations has intervened to save lives.
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Art Hanger, a Canadian Alliance member of the federal Parliament (the official Opposition party), noted at the ceremony: "Our men and women who have served in peacekeeping roles over the decades have sacrificed a lot, and I don't think the Canadian public really understand or have come to grips with that. This day is long overdue."
The decommissioned military base was acquired in 1998 by Canada Lands Company, a Crown corporation which disposes of surplus federal property and is redeveloping it into a residential community. The recently completed first phase-Garrison Woods-commemorates the First World War battles through street names, commemorative walks and sculptures. Col. Ethell is one of thirteen former UN peacekeepers who will be honoured in the next phase-Garrison Green-by the installation of cairns bearing their names and street names, which will include, for example, Lewis Mackenzie Place (for Major-General Lewis Mackenzie, former Chief of Staff for the UN Protection Force in Yugoslavia during the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s) and Dallaire Avenue (for Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, who commanded the UN Observer Mission in Uganda and Rwanda in 1993 and 1994). Two parks with commemorative sculptures and two memorial walls with the 110 names and the locations of their missions are also planned. Most of them are expected to be unveiled during the next Peacekeepers Day event at the site.
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Canada's involvement in United Nations peacekeeping dates back to 1948, when it contributed to the force sent to the Middle East to monitor a ceasefire between Israeli and Arab armies. Over the years, Canadian peacekeepers have participated in 66 missions in the Middle East, the Balkans, India-Pakistan, Africa and Central America.
Lester B. Pearson assisted in the formation of the UN Charter in 1945 and was President of the seventh UN General Assembly in 1952. He was an initiator of the idea of peacekeeping as a meaningful UN role and recommended that UN troops be sent to Egypt to restore peace during the 1956 Suez crisis, for which he was awarded the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize. He was Canada's Prime Minister from 1963 to 1968.
Thanks to friend of wmtc M@ for telling me about Peacekeepers' Day.
I'm proud to live in a country where the armed forces have been used to further world peace. I would be prouder still if Canada would get back to that mission - and get out of Afghanistan.