by Major-General (Retired) Lewis W. MacKenzie
Canadians are known as a tolerant and peaceful people. We pride ourselves on our multiculturalism and humanitarian outlook. In fact, much of our identity has been shaped by the peaceful settlement of our frontier and our willingness to maintain justice and to do what is right — to help bring peace to those far and near. This goal has never been easy. It has been expensive in blood and dollars, yet this is the role that history has bestowed upon us. For the past half-century we have defined ourselves as a culture and society largely by our efforts at peace rather than war.
Nevertheless, although not a warlike or militaristic people, Canadians have earned a reputation as brave and capable soldiers. This recognition was achieved through the toil and sacrifice of those Canadians who served their country under arms since our nation’s birth. From the hardy and intrepid colonists of New France to the well-trained professional soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan, one constant has always remained — their courage, tenacity, and capability on the battlefield. Canadians have always been a welcomed ally and a dreaded foe. But our commitments have come with a considerable cost. Contemplating the loss of life within the span of our human memory tells a compelling story. Of the 620,000 who served in World War I, 60,000 were killed and another 172,000 were wounded. Twenty years later, World War II prompted the entire nation to mobilize. An incredible 1.1 million Canadians served in uniform, of which 42,042 were killed and 54,414 wounded. Five years later, 26,971 Canadians volunteered to fight again, this time in Korea. Once again, the price paid was 516 killed and 1,072 wounded. But the cost did not end there. Canadian involvement in peace support operations since 1956 has cost the lives of approximately 130 personnel, as well as permanently transforming the lives of thousands of others — in and out of uniform. As lamentable and painful as the sacrifice was and continues to this day,