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Blue Berets: Help not wanted

For half a century, Canada's Blue Berets have defused escalating tension and conflict with their peacekeeping missions. The United Nations Blue Berets have come to symbolize reconciliation and idealism. Initially, Canadians regarded our peacekeepers as a point of pride - our noble contribution to the global community. But with time, Canada was forced to measure the costs of success and the harsh realities of loss. CBC Archives examines five pivotal peacekeeping missions including the Suez crisis, the Cyprus mission, the Congo operation, the East Timor success and the Rwandan retreat.

It's a race to the finish line for the Canadian peacekeepers. The troops are assembled, the ships are readied and morale is running high. But on the eve of their departure, the Canadians suffer a devastating rejection. The Egyptians have objected to Canada's participation in the peacekeeping effort. CBC cameras capture the heady high and humiliating low the soldiers face as a result of this surprising diplomatic development. 
• Egypt resisted the inclusion of Canadians on the force due to Canada's perceived allegiance to Britain. Specifically, the Egyptians argued that Canada could not be considered neutral given its membership in NATO -- an alliance of imperialist nations. Moreover, the regiment Canada planned to send was the Queen's Own Rifles, whose name and uniforms strongly resembled those of the British troops who had invaded Egypt. A compromise was reached when Canada agreed to contribute only supply, transport and medical units to the United Nations Emergency Force.

• A peacekeeping mission is only initiated at the invitation of the involved country. Peacekeepers are considered guests in the countries they serve.

• In 1957, Israeli troops retreated from the region and UNEF established three buffer zones to protect: the frontier between Egypt and Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Strait of Tiran in the Red Sea. Despite UNEF attempts to maintain the free passage of ships in the Suez Canal, Egypt effectively blocked Israeli transport. In 1967, Egypt forced the withdrawal of UN forces and the Arab-Israeli war began.

• Over the years, a total of 1007 Canadian troops served in the Cyprus mission and fifty-three Canadians were killed.
Medium: Television
Program: Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: Nov. 25, 1956
Reporter: Kingsley Brown
Duration: 7:41

Last updated: May 22, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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