Reconciliation: Canada’s Peacekeeping Monument

Peace KeeperAs signed on June 26, 1945 at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, the Charter of the United Nations grants the United Nations Security Council the authority and responsibility of intervening in world affairs to preserve international peace and security. Since 1948, peacekeeping forces of the UN have participated in 68 operations around the globe, and at the time of this article there were UN troops actively involved in 16 different interventions for which the UN had budgeted $7.3 billion. Down through the years, approximately 114 countries have contributed uniformed personnel to this cause, with an estimated 3,120 casualties that have occurred while carrying out the special duties in the field. The UN describes a peacekeeping force as involving “military, police and civilian personnel, who work to deliver security, political and early peacebuilding support.” For the country of Canada, it is estimated that approximately 125,000 citizens have participated in UN and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) peacekeeping missions, and the United Nations officially lists 121 Canadian fatalities that have occurred during such worldwide efforts to preserve tranquility. The Canadian government itself claims a total of 114 citizens that have died as part of UN interventions, and an additional 12 to conflicts involving NATO. Canadian dedication to the principle of peace, and to those that have died to preserve it, is very evident in the Reconciliation and Peace Keeping Monument located in the capital of Ottawa.

reconciliation-the-peacekeeping-monument-reconciliation-monument-au-maintien-de-la-paix

The Canadian Peacekeeping Monument
Photo credit: Canada’s Capital – Capitale du Canada / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Situated proudly on Confederation Boulevard in Ottawa, the monument venerates the memory of Canadians, both living and deceased, who have participated in peacekeeping missions down through the years since 1947. Depicting 3 peacekeepers – two men and one woman – that are standing on sharp edges of stone that cut through the rubble and debris of war, this unique memorial symbolizes the resolution of wartime conflict. Below the three military figures, the word “reconciliation” is etched in stone, and elsewhere the monument is also inscribed with the words of former Canadian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Laureate Lester B. Pearson, who said “we need action not only to end the fighting but to make the peace… My own government would be glad to recommend Canadian participation in such a United Nations force, a truly international peace and police force.” Completed in 1992, the memorial is the work of architects Richard and George Henriquez, who have long been dedicated to the moral and social dimensions that can be a part of architectural endeavors. It is situated an easy walking’s distance from the National Gallery of Canada and the U. S. Embassy.

Besides the recognition it brings to the peacekeepers in Canadian history, the Canadian Peacekeeping Monument also serves as a testimony to the important role Lester Pearson and Canada have played in the worldwide development of peacekeeping efforts by the UN. During the Suez Crisis of the 1950s, Israel and Egypt fought tenaciously for control of the Suez Canal – with France and Great Britain at one point taking the side of Israel and even bombing Cairo on the behalf of the Israelis. In order to grant the invading powers the opportunity to save face and withdraw from occupied territory adjacent to the Suez Canal, Pearson proposed to the United Nations the idea of organizing a peacekeeping force that

would intervene in the crisis. The end result of his efforts was the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), which played an active presence in the area from 1956 until 1967. Pearson proposed the creation of UNEF during his tenure as the Canadian Minister of External Affairs, and to this day he is considered to be the father of the modern theory of “peacekeeping.” Thus, the Peacekeeping Monument located in Ottawa is not just a hallmark to the sacrifice of Canadian peacekeeping forces, but also to the birth and significance of that concept in international affairs. In recognition of his efforts, Pearson – who died in 1972 – won the Noble Peace Prize in 1957.

United Nations Peacekeeping Forces

The Blue Helmet of UN Forces
Photo credit: United Nations Photo / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Wearing the familiar blue combat helmet of the United Nations, troops performing peacekeeping duties around the world are empowered to promote, monitor, and observe the peacebuilding process taking place in post-conflict areas of concern. As indicated at the UN Peacekeeping website, these forces “are called upon not only to maintain peace and security, but also to facilitate the political process, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; support the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights and assist in restoring the rule of law.” Since the end of the Cold War, the number and cost of peacekeeping efforts has risen steadily, due mostly to the increased spirit of cooperation that broke upon the world stage. Furthermore, this involvement has come to include ever-increasing non-military connotations, such as the promotion and monitoring of desired civic functions, including democratic elections.

Canadians have every right to be proud of the role they have taken in bringing the concept of peacekeeping onto the international scene. However, the sacrifice and hope represented in their Peacekeeping Monument is for the whole world, meaning that it is a symbol that reaches beyond the geographic boundaries of Canada and speaks to a worldwide human need – namely peace. The promoters of this website ask you to show your commitment to these ideals by clicking on the link below and signing the petition to which we are dedicated. Like the Canadian Peacekeeping Monument, a memorial dedicated to the victims of terrorism is a statement on the need for peace, and you can express your commitment to that need in the next 5 minutes.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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About jrcclark

On October 2, 2001, scarcely one month after the horrors of 911, Representative Jim Turner of Texas introduced H. R. 2982 to the House of Representatives, calling for “the establishment of a memorial to victims who died as a result of terrorist acts against the United States or its people, at home or abroad.” The resolution was amended by the Committee on Resources in June of 2002 and eventually approved on September 25, 2002 on a “motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill.” It was sent to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but it has languished there ever since – in effect dead and going nowhere. In 2008, this Senate Committee considered making Dark Elegy, the work of a New York sculptor who lost a son in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, as the monument called for in H. R. 2982. However, the committee turned down the touching and thought-provoking sculptures of Suse Ellen Lowenstein – on the grounds that “…as compelling and impressive a proposal as has been made for the memorial in question, that we believe that, for the time being, that it relates to a very specific incident and should be treated as such rather than as a generic monument to victims of terrorism for all time.” Today the resolution seems forgotten, and it is the purpose of this website to promote a petition to the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, requesting that H. R. 2982 be reconsidered and revisited.
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