Operation SNOWGOOSE

Operation SNOWGOOSE is Canada’s involvement in the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). It is one of Canada’s longest-running missions in another country. It dates from the beginning of UNFICYP in 1964.

Task Force Cyprus

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) now sends one officer to the operations staff at UNFICYP headquarters in Nicosia. The normal tour of duty there is one year.

Canada in UNFICYP

Canada maintained a battalion-sized group of peace-support troops in UNFICYP from March 15, 1964 to June 15, 1993.  Fifty-nine groups totaling about 25 000 CAF members completed six-month tours on the island.

Canada’s troops were committed by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s government on March 12, 1964. The first Canadian troops arrived in Cyprus on March 15, 1964. They were followed by:

  • a brigade headquarters
  • the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment
  • a Royal Canadian Dragoons reconnaissance squadron. They used Ferret scout cars that were taken to Cyprus by HMCS Bonaventure

Canada withdrew its combat arms group from UNFICYP in 1993. By this time, every Regular Force infantry battalion had gone to Cyprus at least once.  Regular Force artillery and armoured regiments had also trained for infantry duties so that they could take part.

The operation name “Snowgoose” dates from July 1974. This was when the Canadian group in UNFICYP was quickly made stronger.  This took place when the Turks invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974.  

The Canadian group was originally made up of:

  • 1 Commando, Canadian Airborne Regiment
  • the Airborne Field Squadron (Canadian Airborne Regiment combat engineers)

In July 1974, the first group was quickly joined by:

  • 2 Commando, Canadian Airborne Regiment
  • 3 Commando, Canadian Airborne regiment

Mission context

UNFICYP today

UNFICYP was made up of 878 military personnel and 69 civilian police officers from 20 countries, as of May 4, 2017. Three countries send both military and police. These are: Serbia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

UNFICYP troops:

  • maintain a safe zone between the ceasefire lines of the opposing forces
  • investigate ceasefire violations
  • carry out humanitarian activities
  • support the good offices mission of the Secretary-General

Origins of UNFICYP

Cyprus became an independent state in 1960. It had been a British colony for 82 years. Greek and Turkish communities had both been on the island for a long time.  The new constitution was designed to balance the interests of both groups. At the same time, Cyprus joined in a treaty with Britain, Greece and Turkey. The treaty was to guarantee:

  • the basic provisions of the new nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
  • the basic provisions of its constitution

A series of constitutional crises followed Cyprus independence. Violence broke out between Turkish and Greek groups in December 1963. Outside countries attempted to restore peace, but failed. The matter then went to the U.N. Security Council. On March 4, 1964, it voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 186 to send in peacekeeping forces.

UNFICYP was formed at Nicosia in April 1964.  It began with troops from four countries. These were Canada, Denmark, Finland and Ireland.  UNFICYP’s mandate was:

  • to try to prevent fighting recurring between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot groups
  • to help restore and maintain law and order, and return Cyprus back to normal

That mandate remains the same today.

Date modified: