29 May 2014

Today is the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers

Fifty-eight years ago, one of Canada's most honourable contributions to the international community was born. The first armed UN peacekeeping mission, an emergency force formed to deal with the Suez crisis, was created, largely due to the efforts of then Canadian Minister of External Affairs Lester B. Pearson. Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly designated today, May 29th, as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. The day serves to pay tribute to "all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in United Nations peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication, and courage and to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace."

Unfortunately, the number of Canadians serving to keep the peace has steadily dwindled. From the Suez crisis until the mid-1990s, Canada was the largest contributor of peacekeepers and the only country to have contributed to every UN mission. Our contribution once reached 3,000 military personnel. Canada's contribution today, including police, military experts and troops, is a meager 120. Our commitment to peacekeeping has declined, it seems, along with our international reputation generally.

Nonetheless, today deserves our recognition for all the Canadians and those from other nations who have served one of humanity's great causes.

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