Canada has a long and proud military history. Canada participated in many wars including the two World Wars which killed tens of millions of people. They were a middle power during the Cold War when, at times, humanity faced nuclear annihilation. Today, Canada continues a military campaign with the war in the Middle East. Canadian soldiers displayed bravery and courage at the face of death through countless generations. Canadian soldiers earned a reputation for being effective soldiers but their home nation have been known as peacekeepers. Canada has contributed a lot of troops to peacekeeping and humanitarian aid to unstable places. They continued to do this from the 1960s to modern day. Being both a military nation and a peacekeeper seems a contradiction, but some would argue that based on Canada’s involvement in the 20th and 21st century, Canada is truly both a military power and a peacekeeping nation. From the First World War to the Second World War, the Cold War to the challenges of the modern day, Canada has always been a reliable ally. Whether if it was peacekeeping or military intervention, the people who are affected by Canadian actions are the ones who will have the answers to support this statement. World War One was said to be the war to end all wars. Instead, it ended nothing. Canadian soldiers had sacrificed their lives to defend Europe from an aggressor. It all started when Britain declared war on Germany when Germany invaded neutral Belgium. Since Canada was a part of the British Empire, they got dragged into the war. Originally, the Canadians were going to send 50000 soldiers over as an expeditionary force, but instead, they got 150000 volunteers (Morton, 2013). That number later raised to 330,000 from a population of 8 million (Morton, 2013). Most of the Canadians soldiers were volunteers who didn’t realize the true nature of war. During the course of the war, Canadians worked behind the front line and could almost be found in every place contributing to the war effort. From the air force to the navy, caring for wounded soldiers to cutting down forests or operating trains, Canadians were there (Morton, 2013). Canadian troops participated in many famous battles throughout the course of the war, like Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Ypres and so on (Morton, 2013). One of the most important battles of the war in the eyes of French field marshal Ferdinand Foch was the battle of Kitchener’s Wood which was part of the Second Battle of Ypres (Neidell, 2015). Canadian troops were hit with gas but they stayed put and held the line. Even when they took heavy casualties, they still held on (Neidell, 2015). After the war, French field marshal Ferdinand Foch recognized the Canadian’s sacrifice at the battle of Kitchener’s Wood as “the greatest act of the war.” (Neidell, 2015) The battle of Kitchener’s Wood was also important for Canadians because it was the first time a European colonial power was defeated by another European colonial force in a battlefield in Europe and it was the Canadians who did this (Neidell, 2015). The battle of Kitchener woods also represented one of Canada’s first major battle of the First World War which helped make a name for themselves. Later in the war, the Germans began to view the Canadians forces as shock troops because they were effective soldiers (Cook, 2014). The allied forces shared this same view of Canadian soldiers being effective troops because Canadian soldiers were finding themselves leading an attack near the end of the First World War (Neidell, 2015). First Nations were part of the Canadian war effort and they became very good snipers and scouts (Cook, 2014). The Canadians were also viewed as effective soldiers by the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. He said, “whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line, they prepared for the worse.” (Neidell, 2015) However, one of the most heroic actions that not many people think of was the Newfoundland Regiment’s actions during the Battle of the Somme. They bravely charged into battle and lost 90 percent of their men (Neidell, 2015). Later, King George V recognized the Newfoundland Regiment’s action and gave the regiment the title ‘Royal’ (Neidell, 2015). It was the only time that a unit received this title during the First World War (Neidell, 2015). It was also the third time a unit was given this title during a war in British military history (Neidell, 2015). From a king to the average soldiers, everybody during the First World War viewed the Canadians as effective soldiers. Canadians had left a legacy during the First World War as being seen as effective soldiers. World War One had brought out the worst in mankind but the Canadians and the rest of the allies stood up. Their sacrifice has not been forgotten and is still remembered today. Although the war was originally named The Great War, in just a little over 2 decades, it would be renamed World War One. There is a saying that history repeats itself. In 1939, two decades after the end of the First World War, another World War broke out despite the world’s best effort to avert it. Canada joined the war a week later to protect Europe from an aggressor once more (Stacey, 2013). In the beginning, Canada’s war effort was limited but after the fall of France, Canada realized that it had to step up. Canada started producing military equipment for the Allied which were valued at three billion dollars during the war (Stacey, 2013). They also started to rapidly increase the size of the Canadian military seeing Germany as a threat (Stacey, 2013). In the beginning, Canada suffered some humiliating defeats such as Hong Kong and Dieppe but still enjoyed many other successes, like the Italian campaign, D-Day, the Atlantic war and so on. Canada helped keep Britain alive during the war in the Atlantic. In the air, Canadians served in almost every theatre of war, from Asia to Europe, they were there (Stacey, 2013). During the Italian campaign, the Canadians fought in Ortona which was nicknamed the Little Stalingrad (Zuehlke, 2006). But before Ortona, there was the Gully, a defensive position that most people thought it was impossible to break through. However, a small Canadian force led by Captain Paul Triquet broke through the Gully and headed straight to Ortona. His action would be recognized later when he was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award in the Commonwealth for bravery (Zuehlke, 2006). At Ortona, Canadian soldiers got their first taste of bitter street fighting as they had no experience in this field of fighting (Zuehlke, 2006). Ortona was brutal. A CBC reporter said that “the battle has the quality of a nightmare.” (Zuehlke, 2006) The Canadians would later win that battle. Another success in the Italian campaign was at the Hitler and Gothic line where Canadian soldiers took the leading role of breaking through. (Stacey, 2013) It was also during this time that the First Canadian Division demonstrated their fighting capabilities. The First Canadian Division received praise from their allies and enemies. They were nicknamed the ‘Red Devils’ by the Germans (Defence, 2010). The Italian Campaign arguably could have set the stage for Canada but D Day was another important battle for Canada. Canadians led a breakout from the Normandy Bridgehead against fierce German resistance (Stacey, 2013). One newspaper said that the Canadians were “going strong.” (Munro, 1944) It also said that “Canadians … airborne troops did a good job. They capture and held several important bridges.” (Munro, 1944) The newspaper also reported that the Canadian Assault formation staffed was pleased with the result of the battle (Munro, 1944). Another story that helped cement Canada’s reputation was Major Leo. A Canadian soldier who single-handedly captured ninety-three soldiers in a Dutch town (Harline, 2016). He tricked them into surrendering by saying a bigger army will come later and he liberated the town (Harline, 2016). After the war, Canada had shown the world that it can become a military power. Canada had proved itself to be an effective fighting force in both World Wars. The next war would last almost half a century. There were no shots between major powers, but instead, there were proxy wars. However, Canada would start to take a different approach to the Cold War. The Cold War was the first time humanity came close to nuclear alienation. It was caused by two completely different ideology fighting for control and influence in the international community. While everybody else was fighting proxy wars, Canada was creating their present-day nation identity as a peacekeeping nation, but it didn’t start off that way. One of the first Cold War conflicts Canada was involved in was the Korean war. They sent troops and ships to Korea to help push back the North Koreans (Herd, 2007). The war would end in a stalemate and it would be like that until tensions go up again. Then the Suez Crisis happened when Egypt took the Suez Canal back and nationalized it. It was at this moment that a Canadian diplomat named Lester B Pearson helped cool down the tension and prevented a further escalation into the conflict (Tattrie, 2006). He organized a large peacekeeping force and sent it there. He would later earn a Nobel Peace Prize for his actions in 1957. In his acceptance speech, he said, ” I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given to participate in that work as a representative of my country, Canada, whose people have, I think, shown their devotion to peace.” (Tattrie, 2006) Ottawa voiced their objection to military invention fearing that it would cause another war and will damage Commonwealth relations (Tattrie, 2006). This isn’t the only time Canada voiced their objection to wars, as throughout the Cold War, Canada critiqued the American’s actions in the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia in their fight against communism (Herd, 2006). Canada throughout the Cold War focused on peacekeeping rather than fighting wars. In the 1960s, public opinion forced the Canadian government to send peacekeeping troops to the Congo as it erupted in violence (Granatstein, 2006). The Canadian public thought it was their duty and their job to keep the peace (Granatstein, 2006). Peacekeeping was popular among Canadians because there was no hesitation when they sent peacekeeping troops to Papua New Guinea, Yemen or Cyprus in the 1960s (Granatstein, 2006). Cyprus would also become one of Canada’s main peacekeeping mission for several decades (Granatstein, 2006). In the 1980s, peacekeeping was seen as a chore for Canadians (Granatstein, 2006). Canadian public opinion throughout the Cold War helped cement Canada’s identity as a peacekeeping nation. Their work would later be recognized when the U.N received a Nobel Peace Prize. From 1948 to 1988, Canada would send 80000 troops for peacekeeping which would account for ten percent of the U.N peacekeeping force (Granatstein, 2006). As the Cold war comes to the end with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Canada had proved itself to be a peacekeeper and a country that preferred peace. However, that will all change in the new millennium as Canada faces new challenges. As the new millennium dawned upon the world, so did the new challenges that would have to be faced. Canada’s actions in the years leading up and after the new millennium can be contradicting. Canada participated in Peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. They experienced heavy combat like Korea but managed to pull through (Granatstein, 2006). They also sent peacekeeping troops to Rwanda but were ineffective in stopping the genocide (Granatstein, 2006). Another peacekeeping mission that may have damaged Canada’s peacekeeping reputation was the Somalia Scandal. Canada had sent peacekeeping troops to Somalia. However, two Canadian Soldier had beat and tortured a Somalian teen to death (Granatstein, 2006). Somalia and Rwanda may have damaged Canada’s reputation, but Canadians still have high attitudes towards peacekeeping (Granatstein, 2006). Peacekeeping is still engraved into the minds of Canadians. Romeo Dallaire, a peacekeeping veteran from Rwanda still believes that Canada is a nation-leading in peace. He said “Canada means to me an opportunity to influence humanity, and in so doing, advance the ability of justice, human rights, and ultimately for all human being to be treated equally. Canada is the leader in that campaign.” (Bonikowsky, 2008) Canada had contributed more than 125000 soldiers to peacekeeping so far in its duty as a peacekeeper (Granatstein, 2006). In 2004, Canada sent 530 peacekeeping troops to Haiti as one of their last major peacekeeping mission because Canada’s foreign policy in the new era were focused on the war in Afghanistan (Granatstein, 2006). Afghanistan would be one of Canada’s longest military commitment. Canada sent a few dozen special forces troops during the initial invasion and then they sent about 1200 troops and other equipments later (Foot, 2009). The Canadian forces were receiving praise from the public and media (Foot, 2009). Canada continued to win battle after battle against the Taliban fighters (Foot, 2009). During Canada’s time in Afghanistan, they spent 2.2 billion dollars in aid to help rebuild Afghanistan. Public support for the war in Afghanistan was initially high, but it started to fall, which reflects, Canada’s changing attitude from war to peace (Foot, 2009). This was also evident in the Parliament when all four major parties voted for an extension into the war but then were calling to end the war (Foot, 2009). The parties who voted out of the war wanted to continued humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Afghanistan (Foot, 2009). In 2007, a survey was conducted on Canadians and they believed that that the war in Afghanistan would fail (Foot, 2009). There are conflicting views if Canada achieved anything in the war in Afghanistan. One military commander who led a Canadian battle group said they helped kept the insurgency at bay for eight years which helped the new government establish himself (Foot, 2009). However, others had said that Canada had failed its core mission of securing certain sectors from violence (Foot, 2009). One article from the Policy Option magazine said: “In the end, the Canadian exertions and sacrifices in Kandahar did little to change the underlying conditions of this conflict.” (Foot, 2009) These arguments can support either side. Canada in the new millennium had been both peacekeeping and fighting in wars but never really reached their full potential. As this chapter of history closes, Canada proved itself it can participate in world conflicts. Canada had faced the challenges of a new era. However what kind of legacy has Canada left behind? Throughout Canada’s existence, it has proven to be both a peacekeeping nation and a nation that can wage war. Canada had participated in many well-known conflicts in terms of peacekeeping or military intervention. Arguments can be made on both sides and it supports Canada on each argument. From the First World War to modern day, there were personal opinions and facts to support either side. But in the end, all of the evidence shows that Canada can be both a military and a peacekeeping nation. As history tends to repeat itself, will Canada continue on the same path or go down a different route?
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