Honouring the Sacrifice of Canadian Peacekeepers

Article excerpt

An often movingly poignant ceremony honouring 119 Canadian troops killed while on United Nations peacekeeping missions was staged in early August 2004 in the new Peacekeepers' Park in Calgary, Canada.

Rick Wright, a former signals captain who served in the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in the Middle East, recalled to a solemn, hushed audience of several hundred people how he had chatted with the crew and passengers of a Canadian aircraft in the UN service on 9 August 1974 before it left for Damascus. "We later found out it had been shot down by three missiles. No one survived. We were shocked and outraged that this could happen. It reinforced the belief that peacekeeping was a dangerous job, and this brought home in no uncertain terms just how dangerous and random peacekeeping really was." It was the worst single Canadian peacekeeping death toll, and the date has officially been named Peacekeepers' Day in a number of cities across Canada (see UN Chronicle Issue 4, 2003, page 76).

While peacekeeping, no doubt, could be dangerous, Canada has nonetheless been in the forefront of United Nations peacekeeping missions since 1948, having deployed more than 100,000 troops over the years to serve the United Nations cause for peace in places that could turn deadly dangerous in minutes. Nor has its commitment faltered. It takes more than $150 million a year to support as many as 4,500 blue-beret-wearing peacekeeping troops in response to UN needs.

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The sacrifice of the peacekeepers from 66 UN missions who did not come home is remembered in Canada, but the most visible and permanent tribute is in the Park, at the new Garrison Green community in Calgary.

Canada Lands Company (CLC), a Crown corporation that disposes surplus federal property and returns its income to the Federal Treasury, is the master planner and developer of Garrison Green, which is part of a larger project nearing completion on a decommissioned military base. CLC spent nearly $1 million on the handsomely landscaped 1.5-acre park, in consultation with the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping (CAVUNP), which officiated at the dedication ceremony.

The dominant features of the Park are the Wall of Honour, which bears the names of Canadian peacekeepers killed on UN assignments, and another wall with inscriptions of the countries where they served. …