ARCHIVED - Canada and Multilateral Operations in Support of Peace and Stability

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Backgrounder / February 27, 1998 / Project number: BG-98.009

Canada has been and remains one of the most dedicated supporters of United Nations peace support operations, whether it be restoring and upholding peace, conducting truce supervision operations or responding to humanitarian relief missions.

An enduring commitment to contribute to international peace and security has been an abiding feature of Canadian foreign and defence policy since 1947. In 1988 Canada shared in the Nobel Peace Prize that was presented to all United Nations peacekeepers. The Canadian Forces’ share in this special acknowledgement was well and truly earned.

The participation of the Canadian Forces in multilateral operations is something of which Canadians are justly proud. For over 50 years, Canadian Forces personnel have made an invaluable contribution to international peace by helping to reverse aggression, limit conflict and save lives. This is embedded in the 1994 Defence White Paper which states that, as a reflection of our values and interests, the Canadian Forces will continue to contribute to security abroad.

Over the past few years, the nature of these operations, undertaken largely in support of the United Nations, has changed enormously. Where, in the past, their scope was restricted to traditional peacekeeping and observer missions, they have since expanded to encompass a much broader range of military activities, such as the delivery of humanitarian assistance, de-mining and the protection of displaced persons.

The Government will continue to entertain requests for the deployment of the Canadian Forces on multilateral missions. The decision to participate in a given operation, and the nature of Canada's contribution, will be influenced by a variety of national, international, and operational factors. That said, the Government is willing to consider the participation of Canadian Forces personnel in a wide range of operations, including:

    • operations that reflect the will of the international community or our commitment to defend allies;
    • the deployment of forces to prevent the escalation of conflicts;
    • traditional peacekeeping and observer missions; and
    • post-conflict peace building.

An Extraordinary Contribution

Since 1947, Canadians have participated not only in peacekeeping and enforcement operations mounted by the United Nations, but in truce supervisory and observer missions conducted outside the UN framework. Not including the Korean War, over 100 Canadians have died while assigned to peacekeeping and related operations.

UN peacekeeping began in the Middle East. In June 1948, the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) was established to observe and report upon any violations of the armistice between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Canada's involvement in UNTSO started in 1954 when four officers were seconded to it. A Canadian Major-General was named as UNTSO’s Chief of Staff in that year.

The word 'peacekeeping' proper entered the UN's vocabulary with the Suez Crisis of 1956. When fighting began in late October 1956, the UN, both the Security Council and the General Assembly were unable to initially cope with the crisis. At an emergency meeting of the General Assembly to consider the implementation of a cease-fire resolution, Canada's Minister of External Affairs, Lester B. Pearson, proposed the formation of an emergency UN force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities. His suggestion was approved by the Assembly in early November 1956. The General Assembly resolution established the first peacekeeping force, as distinct from observer groups, deployed by the UN. The UN Secretary General appointed a Canadian, Major-General E.L.M. Burns, to head the UN Emergency Force (UNEF).

The Canadian Army contributed an armoured reconnaissance squadron, a signals squadron and a logistics unit. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) provided a communication squadron. The vehicles and other heavy equipment were transported to the Sinai by Canada’s sole aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent. The Royal Canadian Air Force carried out the initial air lift of personnel, and supported the UN by way of cargo and passenger transportation, medical evacuation, communication and reconnaissance flights. By January of 1957, there were over 1,100 Canadian troops with UNEF. The United Nations Emergency Force would keep the peace in the Sinai until 1967. On the eve of the Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbours, the Egyptian President Nasser ordered the UNEF out of the buffer zone.

Following the Arab/Israeli Yom Kippur War of 1973, Canada again participated in the UNEF 2. The Canadian Forces provided a Service Battalion and a Signals Squadron to assist in the maintenance of the fragile peace. The Camp David Accord of 1979, which resulted in a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, ended the need for UNEF 2.

The Canadian Forces has been in the forefront of UN efforts to keep the peace. Canada has sent troops to such far away places as Kashmir (1949-79), West New Guinea (1962-63), and Yemen (1963-64).

Military personnel have been associated with such delicate operations as clearing the mercenaries out of Katanga and securing the territorial integrity of the former Belgian Congo (1960-64). They have stood between Egyptians and Israelis in the Sinai (1956-67, 1973-79) and assisted in the transition to independence of Namibia (1989-90).

Canada has also participated in missions not under the auspices of the UN. These include the International Observer Team to Nigeria (OTN 1968-70); two truce supervisory operations in Indochina - the International Commission for Supervision and Control (ICSC, 1954-74) and the International Commission for Control and Supervision (ICCS, 1973); the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai, (since 1986); and the European Community Monitor Mission (ECMM) in the former Yugoslav republics and neighbouring states between 1991 and 1994.


The United Nations Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was established in 1964 and to this date, it remains the longest standing mission in which Canadian troops have participated. At that time, the mission was to help prevent a recurrence of fighting between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots and, as necessary, to contribute to the restoration and maintenance of law and order on the island. Canada made a significant contribution to peacekeeping activities in Cyprus for 29 years. In 1992, Canada’s contribution was reviewed by the Government. This resulted in the withdrawal of the Canadian Battalion from Cyprus. The close out of the last battalion was completed in September 1994.

Currently, there are three Canadians employed at UNFICYP headquarters in Nicosia. Two work at the Operations and Information cell and one is a member of the Force Commander’s staff.


The Canadian Forces initially contributed to this UN mission by sending an infantry battle group and later contributed as much as two full battle groups in addition to sending a headquarters staff and military observers. Canadian troops provided support in the form of re-supply, humanitarian aid, air weapons control, medical evacuations, engineering support, security as well as air, surface and sub-surface surveillance, to name only a few. Ground forces were provided to UNPROFOR from 1992-1995.

In September 1992, Canada also deployed the destroyer HMCS GATINEAU to the Adriatic Sea as part of NATO’s Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT) to monitor compliance with UN sanctions. At least one Canadian destroyer or frigate participated in STANAVFORLANT throughout its duration.

Later, the Canadian Forces deployed naval and air resources to the Adriatic Sea under operation SHARP GUARD, to assist the UN in peacekeeping efforts by imposing a naval blockade. All unauthorised shipping and arms were prohibited from entering the territorial waters of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Over 8 Canadian ships were deployed in support of OP SHARP GUARD between June 1993 and June 1996. The embarked CH - 124 Sea King helicopter detachment provided support by enhancing the surveillance capability of the ship and carrying out utility flights. In 1994, CP-140 Aurora Maritime Patrol aircraft joined the mission and supported the embargo by carrying out surface and sub-surface surveillance patrols.

Canadian CC-130 Hercules aircraft participated in airlift missions, a 5 nation air bridge, from Italy to the former Yugoslavia. Our aircraft ferried over 27 million kilograms of freight and conducted well over 1,800 missions, consisting of humanitarian airlift, re-supply flights and medical evacuations between July 1992 - January 1996.

Under the NATO Multi-National Peace Implementation Force (IFOR), which commenced in December 1995, and the subsequent Stabilization Force (SFOR), which started in December 1996, Canada continues to provide troops in support of peacekeeping operations in Bosnia to ensure compliance with the military aspects of the Dayton Peace Accord.

In 1997, Canada increased its overall commitment to the Balkans by deploying over 100 personnel and six CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft. The CF-18’s provided air-to-air and air-to-ground support to NATO’s SFOR. Their mission was completed on 15 November 1997. Also, as part of the commitment, twelve personnel were attached to NATO’s Multinational Air Movement Detachment to assist in tactical airlifts within the theatre of operation with the mission to be completed in mid January 1998.


The Canadian Forces also contributed to the United Nations’ efforts to control and limit conflicts in Somalia. In late December 1992 the Canadian Airborne Regiment Battle Group as well as HMCS PRESERVER deployed to Somalia in support of UN relief operations.

Canadians restored security for an area over 30,000 square kilometres, escorted famine relief convoys, carried out extensive de-mining operations and collected, safeguarded or destroyed thousands of confiscated weapons. CC-130 Hercules aircraft also transported over 730 tonnes of food aid and humanitarian supplies into Somalia from Nairobi, Kenya. Additionally, Canadian Forces personnel built four schools, built or repaired two bridges, rebuilt roads and helped re-establish a local constabulary.


Canadian observers conducted river and coastal patrols in Cambodia under United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), which commenced operations in April 1992. The mission included the disarming of Cambodian/factional naval forces and the confiscation of weapons. Although UNTAC’s mandate has since been terminated, efforts continue under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Canadian personnel continue to provide support to the de-mining effort with the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC). Between 1992-1993, the Canadian naval contingent worked with the UN, and was instrumental in the re-establishment of peace among warring factions in Cambodia.


Canada participated in three missions in Rwanda between 1993 and 1996. In 1993-1994, Canada contributed to the United Nation Observer Mission Uganda Rwanda (UNOMUR) for the purpose of monitoring and verifying that no weapons or ammunition were transferred between Uganda and Rwanda.

Canada provided medical assistance and water purification facilities to refugees as part of a non-UN mission during 1994. This mission was known as OP PASSAGE. The medical unit screened over 22,000 patients during their four-month deployment.

Finally, in the full period of 1993-1996, Canada deployed forces as part of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), referred to as OP LANCE. The mandate of UNAMIR was to contribute to the security and protection of displaced persons, refugees and civilians in Rwanda; and to provide security and support for the distribution of relief supplies and humanitarian relief. A Canadian CC-130 Hercules was the only aircraft in the world flying into Kigali during the worst of the conflict in Rwanda.


With three UN missions, the Canadian Forces played a large role in restoring peace and democracy in Haiti, beginning in March 1995 and ending in November 1997. The UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) provided 500 personnel, largely from Air Command. The UNMIH occurred in 1995-1996 with a mandate to assist the Haitian democratic government in sustaining a safe and stable environment, protecting international personnel and key installations, creating and training a Haitian Nation Police (HNP) force, and providing electoral support.

In July 1996, the UN Support Mission in Haiti (UNSMIH) stood up under the direction of Brigadier-General Pierre Daigle. Canada contributed 750 personnel, principally from the Land Forces, mandated to assist the government in maintaining a secure and stable environment, to support the government in the professionalisation and training of the HNP and to support the co-ordination of the activities on UN agencies.

The UN established the Transition Mission in Haiti in July 1997 to support the Haitian Government by supporting and contributing to the professionalisation of the HNP. Our contribution of 644 personnel completed their mandate in November 1997.

Canada also provided eight military police and three staff officers as a close-out team, following the completion of UNTMIH. These personnel returned to Canada in January 1998. Remaining in Haiti is six wheeled armoured personnel carriers, with Canadian Forces driving instructors and technicians, loaned to the UN civilian police (UNCIVPOL) until the end of the UNCIVPOL mandate, currently planned for November 1998.


In November 1996, the United Nations approved the deployment of a Canadian-led Multi-National Force (MNF) to Central Africa to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid by relief organizations, to ease the voluntary repatriation of refugees and return of displaced persons by the United Nations Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). General Maurice Baril, who at the time was Commander of the Army, was appointed to command the force.

The Canadian Forces deployed approximately 550 personnel to provide basic command and control capability, communications support, intelligence, geomatics, and a national support element. Canada also provided three CC-130 Hercules aircraft that flew tons of humanitarian supplies into Central Africa.

Subsequent to the UN Security Council Resolution, the situation rapidly evolved and on December 13, 1996, it was announced that the perceived need for a multi-national force had disappeared as refugees and displaced persons had returned to their home countries. Canadian troops were all repatriated by December 31, 1996.

Quite distinct from peacekeeping operations were the Korean conflict (1950-53), and the War in the Persian Gulf that followed Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990-1991.

The Korean War

In the Korean conflict, the Canadian Forces fought under the aegis of the UN in defence of a victim of aggression, in an attempt to restore peace. Some 27,000 members of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force served in the Korean theatre of war over a span of three years, the maximum at one time being more than 9,000. They suffered more than 1,600 casualties, including 516 deaths.

The Gulf War

Canada's participation in the Gulf War was authorized by a series of UN Security Council Resolutions that sought the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait. From the beginning of their deployment in August 1990 to the end of hostilities in April 1991, up to 2,500 Canadians were in-theatre at any one time. Approximately 2,000 more Canadian Forces personnel in Germany and in Canada were involved in direct support of the war effort.

In 1990, a multi-national force was assembled to enforce UN sanctions on Iraq. Canada committed to participating in Aug 1990 by deploying HMCS ATHABASKAN, TERRA NOVA and PROTECTEUR to monitor shipping and conduct cargo inspections. In January 1991, the 1 Canadian Field Hospital deployed to Saudi Arabia to assist in augmenting the medical treatment resources and to provide medical treatment and surgical intervention. A CF-18 Hornet squadron was deployed to the Gulf to provide air cover for Canadian ships and to augment the multi-national air resources already in place. The CF-18s flew combat air patrols and performed sweeps and escort functions.

After the end of the Gulf War, Canada was asked to take an active role in the enforcement of UN sanctions against Iraq. Canada assisted in enforcing the embargo with the deployment of HMCS HURON to the Arabian Gulf in March 1991 in support of the multi-National Interception Force (MIF) operations. In 1991, the Canadian Forces was involved in de-mining activities in the de-militarised zone between Kuwait and Iraq and later contributed to the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM), which is an ongoing mission.

In February 1992, the Canadian Government announced that it would continue to participate in the multinational Maritime Interception Force for the restoration of peace and security. HMCS RESTIGOUCHE was deployed in February 1992, followed by HMCS CALGARY in June 1995. In February 1997, HMCS REGINA set out for the Arabian Gulf to join the USN Pacific Middle East Surface Action Group. Our ships intercepted and inspected vessels coming and going from Iraq, ensuring compliance of UN sanctions.

Peace support operations have been, and will continue to be, an important part of Canada’s defence policy. The Canadian Forces will continue to participate actively in UN-authorised and UN-conducted peace support operations.

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