Operation SNOWGOOSE

Operation SNOWGOOSE is Canada’s contribution to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). Dating from the beginning of the original U.N. mandate in 1964, Operation SNOWGOOSE is one of Canada’s longest-running overseas missions.

Task Force Cyprus

TF Cyprus today

The Canadian Armed Forces currently contributes one officer to the Operations staff at UNFICYP headquarters in Nicosia. The normal tour of duty on Operation SNOWGOOSE is one year.

Canada in UNFICYP

From 15 March 1964 to 15 June 1993, Canada maintained a battalion-sized contingent of peace-support troops in UNFICYP. During this period, the Canadian contingent went through 59 rotations and some 25,000 Canadian Forces personnel completed six-month tours on the island.

With Denmark, Ireland and Finland, Canada was one of the four original contributors of troops to UNFICYP, committed by the government of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson on 12 March 1964. The lead elements of the initial rotation of the Canadian contingent arrived on 15 March 1964, followed by a brigade headquarters, the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment, and a Reconnaissance Squadron from The Royal Canadian Dragoons mounted in Ferret scout cars that were transported to Cyprus by HMCS Bonaventure.

By 1993, when Canada withdrew its combat arms contingent from UNFICYP, every infantry battalion of the Regular Force had deployed to Cyprus at least once, and Regular Force artillery and armoured regiments had reorganized for infantry duties to take their turns.

The operation name “Snowgoose” dates from July 1974, when the Canadian contingent in UNFICYP — originally made up of 1 Commando, Canadian Airborne Regiment, and the Airborne Field Squadron (the combat engineer element of the Canadian Airborne Regiment) — was rapidly augmented by 2 Commando and 3 Commando in response to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus that began on 20 July 1974.

Mission context

UNFICYP today

As of 31 May 2014, UNFICYP comprises 858 military personnel and 62 civilian police officers from 20 countries. Four countries — Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia, and Ukraine— deploy both military and police personnel.

UNFICYP troops are responsible for:

  • maintaining a buffer zone between the ceasefire lines of the opposing forces,
  • investigating ceasefire violations, and
  • supervising civilian activities in the buffer zone.

Origins of UNFICYP

In 1960, after 82 years as a British possession, Cyprus became an independent state with a constitution designed to balance the interests of Greek and Turkish communities, both long-time residents of the island. At the same time, Cyprus entered into a treaty with Britain, Greece and Turkey to guarantee the basic provisions of the new nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and the basic provisions of its constitution.

Independence in Cyprus was followed by a series of constitutional crises that led to the outbreak of inter-communal violence in December 1963. After attempts by the international community failed to restore peace, the matter was referred to the U.N. Security Council, which voted unanimously on 4 March 1964 to adopt Resolution 186, recommending the deployment of peacekeeping forces to separate the island’s opposing factions.

Starting with only four troop contingents — from Canada, Denmark, Finland and Ireland — UNFICYP stood up at Nicosia in April 1964 with a mandate to use its best efforts to prevent a recurrence of fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, and to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order, and a return to normal conditions. That mandate remains unchanged.

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