Canadians on United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping and NATO-led Peacemaking Missions
Canada’s peacemaking operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. In 2006, Canada took on a larger role in Afghanistan after the Canadian troops were redeployed to Kandahar province. 2,500 CF continued operations there. The first Canadian Armed Forces contribution to the campaign against terrorism in Southwest Asia came at sea. Beginning in October 2001, Canadian ships would see ongoing duty in the waters off the region, supporting and defending the international fleet operating there as well as locating and searching unknown boats looking for illegal activity.
The Aurora patrol aircraft and Hercules and Polaris transport planes of the Canadian Armed Forces Air Command would also be active in Afghanistan and the waters off Southwest Asia, filling important roles in marine surveillance, transporting supplies and personnel, and evacuating casualties. Canadian helicopters also provided important service in identifying merchant vessels and offering valuable transport support over the years.
Canadian soldiers soon travelled to Afghanistan as well. The first were commandos from the elite Joint Task Force 2 (JTF 2) in December 2001, followed by other Canadian soldiers in January 2002 who were initially based in Kandahar. There they joined American and British troops already fighting to topple the Taliban regime, eliminate terrorist operations and establish the basis for lasting peace in the troubled country.
With the eventual fall from power of the Taliban, attention turned to stabilizing the country and helping establish a new Afghan government. The UN authorized a NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to take on this challenge. The initial Canadian contribution to the ISAF in the summer of 2003 consisted of more than 700 Canadian Armed Forces members stationed in Kabul, the country’s capital, with 200 more providing support from elsewhere in Southwest Asia. In Kabul, the Canadians patrolled the western sector of the city, helped operate the airport and assisted in rebuilding the Afghan National Army.
In 2005, the Canadian Armed Forces’ role evolved again when they began to shift back to the volatile Kandahar region. While the Taliban government had been toppled, the group remained a strong presence in some areas of the country. Indeed, Canada’s return to Kandahar coincided with a resurgence in Taliban activity and our soldiers quickly found themselves the targets of attack.
The numbers of Canadian soldiers soon swelled to approximately 2,300 to help deal with the enemy and support the Provincial Reconstruction Team operating there. Canadian tanks, artillery and infantry soldiers all took part in many ground operations in Kandahar, including large-scale offensives against massed Taliban forces. This chapter of Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan was the most perilous. Anytime Canadian soldiers left the relative safety of their main camps to go "outside the wire," the danger was very real.
Canada’s combat role in the country ended in 2011 when the focus shifted to training Afghanistan’s army and police force and the last of our service members left the country in March 2014. But Canada’s efforts in the troubled country have been numerous. Reaching out in an attempt to build trust and win the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan was an important goal. In addition to their military activities, Canadian Armed Forces members engaged in many humanitarian efforts like digging wells, rebuilding schools and distributing medical and relief supplies, both as part of their official mission and on a volunteer basis.
- More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the Afghanistan theatre of operations between 2001 and 2014. These brave men and women are eligible to receive the General Campaign Star-Southwest Asia.
- Afghanistan is a very poor country and its climate can be extreme. Summer temperatures of 50° C are common and huge dust storms can sweep across its arid deserts.
- Camp Nathan Smith was a base for Canadian operations in Kandahar for several years. It was named in honour of a soldier from Nova Scotia who was killed there in 2002.
- Operation Medusa was a September 2006 offensive in Kandahar province that involved more than 1,000 Canadian Armed Forces members, making it our country’s largest combat operation in more than 50 years. The heavy fighting in Operation Medusa tragically saw the loss of 12 Canadians, but the Taliban were pushed from the Panjwai district.
Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan have made a difference, but this has come at a great cost. The threat of suicide attacks and roadside bombs was a constant risk. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) caused the most Canadian casualties. There were also many other perils beyond ambushes and firefights with the enemy. Landmines and friendly fire incidents took the lives of our soldiers while vehicle accidents, illnesses and the psychological strain of serving in such a difficult environment also took a heavy and life-long toll. Sadly, 158 Canadian Armed Forces members died in the cause of peace and freedom in Afghanistan.(https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/canadian-armed-forces/afghanistan)
LAV IIIs, Camp Warehouse, Kabul, Afghanistan, spring 2004.
Camp Dracula, Romanian ABC-79M APC, Romanian Major and Maj Hal Skaarup.
The driver of this HLVW survived the blast from an IED, and took the photo.
Canada’s support for UNPROFOR operations in the Balkan region from 1991 to 2004. Canadians served in European Community, United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization missions in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. These new countries arose from the ashes of the former country of Yugoslavia. Since 1991, tens of thousands of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members joined these missions in the Balkans region of southeast Europe. They worked to restore peace and security to the people there.
Fighting erupted in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In early 1992, the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) formed. It protected the civilians within three special “UN Protected Areas” in Croatia and kept other military forces out. By the time the original mandate of UNPROFOR came to an end in 1995, its mission had extended into the wider region. Peacekeepers from dozens of countries, including Canada, served in this effort.
Canada played an important role in UNPROFOR efforts. Canadian soldiers went to the Balkans as a peacekeeping force. But they soon found out that there was often very little “peace” to “keep”. Many CAF members came under fire. This included intense action at the Medak Pocket in Croatia. Canadian troops saw their heaviest fighting since the Korean War during their time there.
In the spring of 1992, fighting escalated in Bosnia-Herzegovina. UNPROFOR moved troops into that area. Their goal was to help the civilians trapped by the fighting and deliver humanitarian aid. A major part of the operation was to open the airport in Sarajevo so supplies could be flown in. In July 1992, as Canadian peacekeepers protected the airport and escorted relief convoys, they often came under fire.
Canada's Major-General Lewis MacKenzie commanded the United Nations (UN) forces in the Sarajevo Sector. He often made international news as he did his best to let the world know the harsh reality there. In the end, our peacekeeping efforts helped keep the vital flow of outside help coming in.
Thousands of Canadian Armed Forces members would take part in UNPROFOR efforts. Almost every Canadian infantry battalion and armoured regiment spent time in the Balkans. CAF members played many other important roles during their time with the UNPROFOR. Our service members supplied military engineering, mine clearance, logistical support, electronic warfare and air control capabilities. Canadian warships patrolled the Adriatic Sea to help the UN block arms shipments to the region. Canadian aircraft enforced the UN's no-fly zones and prevented the warring sides from buying weapons.
The Dayton Peace Accord of December 1995 laid out the terms to end the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A multinational peace Implementation Force patrolled the ceasefire lines and other borders. It helped keep citizens safe, assist local police forces and monitor elections. The Implementation Force also helped refugees return and rebuild the economy.
More than 1,000 CAF members served with the Implementation Force in many roles. This included a headquarters group, a reconnaissance squadron, a mechanized infantry company, an engineer squadron, and command and support elements.
The Stabilization Force was the next phase of NATO peace support efforts in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Formed in December 1996, it saw multinational peace support troops patrol the country. It helped establish lasting peace in the war-torn land. Its goal was to help set up a democratic nation that would sustain the peace process without help from multinational peace support forces. Some 1,200 CAF members would serve with the Stabilization Force.
Canada initially dedicated roughly 800 peace support troops to the Kosovo Force, and soon added 500. Canadians helped maintain the fragile peace, protected civilians and provided reconnaissance support. The CAF deployed an armoured reconnaissance squadron, a tactical helicopter squadron, a field engineer squadron, an infantry battle group, and command and logistical supports elements.
They led patrols and monitored activities. Our soldiers also carried out many humanitarian aid projects in Kosovo. They rebuilt damaged schools and medical facilities. They installed small bridges and put up playgrounds for local children.
In December 1999, the first Canadians to serve in the Kosovo Force rotated out. By June 2000, most of the Canadian military personnel had left. By December 2003, the situation in Bosnia had improved. NATO reduced the size of the Kosovo Force and the Canadian contingent dropped to about 650 people by April 2004. The European Union Force led the multinational peace support troops in late 2004. As the mission evolved into this new form, the number of CAF members in the country reduced to less than 85.
A Liaison and Observation Team led Canada's role with the European Union Force. These troops kept in close contact with local authorities, police departments, community leaders and army units. They helped develop a peaceful society, collect illegal weapons and prevent smuggling. As a lasting peace took root, the CAF withdrew its last troops from Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2007.
A handful of CAF members are still serving in the Balkans today. The region has recovered since the devastating civil wars that swept through the former country of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Almost 40,000 Canadian peacekeepers served there over the years. They played a major role in helping achieve this hard-won security and stability.
Canadians can be proud of our country's reputation around the world as a force for peace, but this comes at a price. About 130 Canadians have died in the course of international peace support operations. In the Balkans, 23 of our service members died and many more were injured.
The wounds of peacekeeping are not always caused by hostile fire, land mines or accidents. Sometimes the scars of service are psychological. Canada's military efforts in the Balkans were particularly difficult for our soldiers. The war crimes and atrocities committed against the civilian population there were horrific. Witnessing such human brutality often has a deep impact on those who see it.
Light Armoured Vehicle II (LAV II) Bison armoured personnel carrier (APC), Velika Kladusa, Bosna-Herzegovina, July 1997.
Canadian National Intelligence Centre (CANIC) crew in Sarajevo, ca June 1997.
Front row kneeling: Capt David B. Owen, MCpl Ian Steel, PO André Gibeault. Rear row standing: WO R. Hal Pugh, Maj Harold A. Skaarup, Sgt Michael C. Wagner, WO Byron K. Mackenzie, Capt Al Haywood, PO1 William D. Kean. All of us were serving, with the NATO-led Peace Stabilization Force (SFOR), in 1997.
UK Maj Andrew Perry, UN LCol from Senegal, CA Maj Hal Skaarup, UK Maj Julian Moir, Pale, Bosnia Herzegovina.
A few of the UN Medals earned by Canadians.
Canada’s mission to help stabilize and rebuild Cambodia during four peace support missions from 1954 to 2000. More than a thousand Canadian Armed Forces members served in Cambodia to help stabilize and rebuild the country during four peace support missions between 1954 to 2000. They took part in United Nations and other international community efforts there to help the people of this war-torn land.
Canada’s first military efforts in Cambodia began in 1954. About 30 Canadians went there as part of the International Commission for Supervision and Control (ICSC) to help enforce the Geneva Accords. This military mission helped French Indochina transition to becoming three new countries—Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. In Cambodia, Canadian peacekeepers played several roles. They helped maintain order and supervised the withdrawal of French colonial forces and those from neighbouring countries. The mission’s international personnel watched for border violations in the volatile region. They also monitored the first elections in Cambodia as a new country.
The ICSC mission soon reduced in size. After a few years, only a handful of Canadian Armed Forces members still served there. In 1969, the last ICSC troops left the country.
In late 1991, Canadian Armed Forces members returned to Cambodia. This time, they joined international efforts to help the war-torn country after the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime and the ensuing Vietnamese occupation and civil war.
The United Nations Advance Mission in Cambodia (UNAMIC) helped put in place a long-awaited peace agreement and pave the way for a larger UN mission to come. Canadians were part of this initial mission. They monitored the delicate cease-fire and worked in landmine awareness, training and removal. Canadian military engineers played a key role in clearing landmines in this war-torn country. After decades of conflict, the Cambodian land had millions of these deadly, hidden weapons.
In early 1992, the massive United Nations Transitional Authority Cambodia (UNTAC) mission began. As one of the UN’s largest ever peace support efforts, more than 20,000 military and police personnel from over 40 countries joined this mission. These peacekeepers monitored the cease-fire and disarmed the fighting sides. They also oversaw the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Cambodian refugees in time for a national election.
About 700 Canadian Armed Forces members served with UNTAC between February 1992 and September 1993. While they made up only a small portion of the UN force, these experienced Canadians shared a great asset: their extensive peacekeeping knowledge.
At any given time, about 240 Canadian Armed Forces members served there in several roles. A key job was a challenging one. They transported supplies and the thousands of UN personnel around a Cambodia. At the time, there was still guerrilla activity in the country and wide-spread armed robbery in some regions. The No. 92 Transport Company delivered food, fuel, natural gas, election supplies and other goods the UN needed.
Canadians offered other logistical support, such as finding accommodations for the huge UN force. Many of our peacekeepers were bilingual—a great asset as English and French were spoken in many of the countries contributing UN troops. Some Cambodians spoke French, as a result of decades of colonial rule.
Thirty Canadian sailors served with UN naval detachments. They patrolled the Gulf of Thailand and the Mekong River to monitor refugee movements. They also watched for cease-fire violations, smugglers and bandits. Another 40 Canadian officers served with the UN command in the country.
The UNTAC mission closed in 1993. The last Canadian peacekeepers left the country in November. Cambodia has one of the heaviest concentrations of land mines in the world. It’s estimated four to six million land mines have killed 15,000 people and injured 120,000 more. Between 1994 and 2000, more than 60 Canadian Armed Forces members returned to the country to work with the Cambodia Mine Action Centre. They helped find and remove deadly land mines—a UN task that continues there to this day. (https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/wars-and-conflicts/caf-operations/cambodia)
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4297844)
Indian Major P. V. Ramchandran and Canadian Major-General Ted O'Snow, Canadian Military Advisor, in front of the Hotel Royal, Pnom Pneh, Cambodia, May 1955.
Ongoing peacekeeping efforts in the Congo since 1960. The original peacekeeping mission to the Congo was one of the largest ever undertaken. At times in the early 1960s, there were more than 20,000 UN personnel from 30 countries involved. In 1961, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold died in a suspicious plane crash while in Africa trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Due to the Congo’s background as a Belgian colony, French-speaking peacekeepers were at a premium and Francophone Canadian officers held key positions in the UN command. The Congo in the 1960s was the first time the UN authorized the use of deadly force other than strictly in self-defence. They would not do so again until the missions in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The current UN effort in the Congo is also a large one, with approximately 18,000 troops taking part. (DND)
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235646)
Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Mayer, on Mercy Operations in Congo, c1965.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235648)
Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Mayer, on Mercy Operations in Congo, with a Sikorsky HO4S-3 helicopter in UN markings, c1965.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235033)
Canadian Signalmen in Congo on UNEF Mission, c1965.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234731)
Jeep being loaded on a Canadair CL-2 North Star, RCAF (Serial No. 17502) for Canadian troops Leaving for Congo c1965.
Peacekeeping efforts in a divided Cyprus from 1964 to 1993. The peacekeeping operation in Cyprus, from 1964 to today, is one of Canada's longest and best-known overseas military commitments. A large Canadian contingent served on the island from 1964 to 1993, and a small Canadian Armed Forces presence remains there today as United Nations (UN) peace efforts continue.
In total, more than 25,000 Canadian Armed Forces members have served in Cyprus over the decades. Many of them served in Cyprus more than once, participating in several rotations.
On 4 March 1964 the United Nations set up the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus to help restore order. Canada was part of this effort from the beginning.
On 13 March 1964 the Royal Canadian Air Force began taking troops and supplies to Cyprus. The Canadians faced a great challenge there. It was difficult to keep the peace where many small groups of Turks lived in the larger Greek population. The United Nations forces needed their soldier skills, but also the ability to diffuse day-to-day disagreements between the two sides. Because of situations like this, it is often said "peacekeeping is not a soldier's job, but only a soldier can do it."
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235914)
LdSH (RC) M38 A1 CAN3 2¼ -ton 4 X 4 Jeep on patrol in Cyprus.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235911)
LdSH (RC) Ferret scout car, Cyprus.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235973)
RCHA members with a British Westland Wessex helicopter in Cyprus, c1965.
MCpl R. Grant Oliver and Capt Harold A. Skaarup, western Cyprus, 6 Sep 1986.
Canada’s peacekeeping role in the new country of East Timor from 1999 to 2001.
Canadians in East Timor, 30 Oct 1999.
Soldiers from the Canadian Contingent, formed mainly from the 3rd Battalion Royal 22e Régiment and engineers of the 5th Combat Engineer Regiment, unload onto Suai beach in East Timor. 29 October 1999.
Canada’s leadership role in three separate missions to preserve peace in Egypt.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234146)
Stretcher Bearers Unload Casualty At a Canadian Base Hospital in Abu Sueir, Egypt, c1965.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234420)
Canadian Provost Corps in Egypt, c1965.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4951073)
RCN Sikorsky HO4S-3, RCN (Coded 228), from HMCS Magnificent. The helicopter is painted in UN markings, and stands at Abu Suweir, near a hangar damaged during British raids. United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) Egypt, 14 Jan 1957.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4951070)
HMCS Magnificent (CVL 21), unloading Canadian Army vehicles, Port Said, UNEF, 13 Jan 1957.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4117928)
Scout cars contrast with camels during Canadian Reconnaissance Squadron Patrols of the Sinai desert, 11 Aug 1964.
Ethiopia and Eritrea
Canada’s support for peacekeeping operations in Ethiopia and Eritrea from 2000 to 2003.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4947523)
Ethiopia Emperor Haile Selassie, 2 May 1967.
Canadian Armed Forces light armoured vehicle on patrol in Adi Ugri, Eritrea on January 23, 2001.
Canadian peacekeeper at United Nations observation post in Senafe, Eritrea on February 1, 2001.
Canada’s role in the Persian Gulf War and securing peace in the region after the war.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5056678)
Canadian warships conducting replenishment at sea, Oct 1990.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3922314)
Firing a Bofors 40mm Anti-Aircraft gun on a Boffin mounting, fitted to HMCS Protecteur for Operation Friction, the 1991 Gulf War.
Canada’s two missions in Haiti to provide stability and relief from 1995 to 2004.
Canadian and Argentinian peacekeepers on foot patrol in Gonaives, Haiti.
The Korean War began 25 June 1950, when North Korean armed forces invaded South Korea. The war’s combat phase lasted until an armistice was signed 27 July 1953. As part of a United Nations (UN) force, 26,791 Canadian military personnel served in the Korean War, during both the combat phase and as peacekeepers afterward. After the two world wars, Korea remains Canada’s third-bloodiest overseas conflict, taking the lives of 516 Canadians and wounding more than 1,200.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3524689)
United Nations flag flying over post near the Imjin River, Korea, February 1952.
Canada's leadership role to restore order in Rwanda during a violent civil war from 1993 to 1996.
Canadians in Rwanda.
Canada’s role in the peacekeeping efforts in Somalia from 1992 to 1994.
Canadians in Somalia, 1992.
Canada’s ongoing logistical support to the peacekeeping mission in Syria since 1974.
DND Combat Camera Photo)
Canadian and Australian observers on the Golan Heights, 15 Nov 2008.