From Cold War to Present Day


Peacemaking and the 1990-91 Gulf War

HMCS Protecteur, Protecteur-class operational support ship, Canadian Forces, with the American battleship USS Wisconsin, 1990

Caption: HMCS Protecteur, Protecteur-class operational support ship, Canadian Forces, with the American battleship USS Wisconsin, 1990

View Multimedia - Peacekeeping Operations

Caption: View Multimedia - Peacekeeping Operations

The action most resembling Korea was the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91, which entailed the deployment of three Canadian ships, two fighter squadrons, an infantry company and a field hospital. The Canadians, under the command of an integrated headquarters located at Al-Manâma, Bahrain, served mainly in the naval blockade of Iraq and air reconnaissance or combat patrols. No casualties were suffered. Canada participated in a minor way in the U.N.-mounted anti-Iraqi coalition under American command, an involvement totalling some 1,000 men and women, and played a role in liberating Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion in the summer of 1990.

Since 1991, Canada has contributed to other major U.N. peacekeeping operations such as: in the Red Sea with a ship and 250 men, in the former Yugoslavia (1991-95), Cambodia and Somalia (1992-93), Rwanda (1994-96), Haïti (1995-97) and East Timor (1999-2000).

Canada is valued for its record in various U.N. peacekeeping missions. It also invented a new type of mission. In 1956, Lester B. Pearson, then Secretary of State for External Affairs, proposed stationing U.N. soldiers between Israel and Egypt along the armistice line drawn after several weeks of conflict in which the Israelis had been supported by France and Britain. Pearson made his proposal on 1 November and the U.N. General Assembly approved the plan a few days later. The idea was to separate the belligerents until an agreement could be reached. In this case, fighting that was expected to be over in a few months went on for more than 20 years. Although this new approach to peacekeeping with a U.N. Emergency Force (UNEF) was far from perfect, it would initiate a process that continues, in various forms, to this day.

When the first UNEF was sent in, Canada elected to contribute a battalion of the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. At that time Canadian soldiers were barely distinguishable from their British brethren who had only just left Egypt, having supported Israel in October and November 1956. The Egyptians let it be understood that this unit, though Canadian, would be less than appreciated in the circumstances. In the end Canada provided the mission with logistical support by more than 1,000 signalmen, engineers, logisticians, pilots and seamen. In UNEF II (1973-79) Canada would provide a similar number of personnel, and their role would approximate that of their predecessors.

In all these peacekeeping missions, more than 40 to date-not all under the U.N., as Canadian observers in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in 1954-73 came under the four-nation International Commission for Supervision and Control-the Canadian Forces have supplied a total of over 100,000 men and women, more than 100 of whom have been killed in various parts of the world.

Additional Images

Warrant Officer Gagné, Canadian Forces, U.N. Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), 1994
Canadian M113 armoured personnel carriers, U.N. Protection Force in ex-Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR), 1993
Master corporal, Canadian Forces, Haïti, 1996
Evacuating a wounded soldier, U.N. Protection Force in ex-Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR), 1994
'Military Life', 1994