November 21, 2021
Canada has made many proud contributions as peacemakers. One of its earliest came during the 1956 Suez Crisis when the then Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, (later to become Prime Minister), Lester B. Pearson, established the first armed peacekeeping mission in the history of the UN to deescalate an armed conflict. His proposal to have armed peacemakers stand between warring countries earned him the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize.
Over 125,000 Canadian peacekeepers have served in 59 peacekeeping missions spanning more then 70 years. In that time, 130 Canadians have died in service to those in need and are recognized here at Peacemakers Park. Peacemakers Park was created in 2011 and is located in Angus, Ontario, Canada. The park’s stewards continue to add memorials to keep alive and honour each person’s contribution.
The Park not only commemorates those from peacekeeping missions but also participants in the Afghanistan, Bosnian and Korean wars. At the entrance to the park, visitors walk between two granite walls of honour inscribed with the names of 283 Canadians.
Along the pathway another eight walls add more details about each of these heroes. On these walls are the faces, names, rank, mission(s) and birthplaces of each person being honoured. As I read each description, I saw four people from my hometown of 12,000 citizens. Some were my school mates. I had to stop and reflect longer on their character, their willingness to serve their Country and aid people trapped in hellish conditions so far from the safety we take for granted. What called them to serve?
I also thought about those that returned home. No one returns unscathed. Peacekeeping is rarely peaceful; this quote came to mind.
Walking further along the pathway the “Buffalo Nine” banners suspended from flag poles recognize the greatest single loss of Canadian lives during a peacekeeping mission. These nine Canadians were killed when their UN transport plane was shot down by Syrian missiles as it was on approach with a delivery of supplies.
The pathway circles around, guiding visitors to a white UN light armoured vehicle, a Lynx reconnaissance vehicle, a reproduction UN watch tower and plaques outlining Canadian peacekeeping missions.
When sight of the white United Nations vehicles and blue helmets is made by those living amidst conflict, it may signal change is coming and help has arrived. Sadly, safety is not certain for the peacekeeper standing between two warring regimes. Lives will continue to be lost, both the lives of the peacemakers and the lives of those they have been sent to protect.