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The end of the war in Vietnam

Vietnam may have been America's war but Canada was heavily involved — for and against. Canada harboured American draft dodgers and helped supervise ceasefires. But at the same time, about 30,000 Canadians volunteered to fight in southeast Asia. And there was Canada's involvement in secret missions, weapons testing and arms production. CBC Archives looks at Canada's role in the Vietnam War.

Two weeks after the signing of the Paris Peace Accord, Canadian members of the hastily-formed International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS) are feeling that their presence in Vietnam is more symbolic than real. ICCS observers feel like frustrated spectators because they have no actual powers of enforcement. They are not permitted to investigate violations of the ceasefire as this is done by the Joint Military Commission field teams. The CBC's Joe Schlesinger reports on the situation. 
• The ICCS was made up of 1160 members — 290 from each from Canada, Hungary, Indonesia and Poland.
• Canadian ambassador Michel Gauvin was the first ICCS chairman.
• Canadians withdrew on July 31, 1973, but the commission continued to operate until April 30, 1975.
• The Joint Military Commission was made up of members from South Vietnam, North Vietnam, the United States and the Viet Cong.

• In a summary of the experience, an article on the Canadian Department of Defence website described it as follows: "Everything is complicated, and one officer later remarks that his six months in Saigon included eight weeks in a traffic jam, six weeks trying to complete one phone call, eight weeks of sleep and two weeks of work he would normally wrap up in four days at home."

• In September 2004, cabinet records from 1973 were released publicly, showing that cabinet was convinced the ICCS mission was futile.
• The minutes of one briefing paper read "There had been 7,000 violations of the ceasefire recorded. The commission had been asked to investigate only 31 complaints from which only two reports emerged."
Medium: Television
Program: CBC News
Broadcast Date: Feb. 15, 1973
Guest(s): Col. Keith MacGregor, Nguyen Van Thieu
Reporter: Joe Schlesinger
Duration: 7:17

Last updated: February 17, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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