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Canada's Defining Peacekeeping Moments

Everyone thought Eleanor Roosevelt was behind it. Or maybe a French jurist named Renau Cassin penned it. But, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the truth comes out: a Canadian law professor named John Peters Humphrey wrote the original draft of what's been called "the Magna Carta of humanity."

• The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not a law, but a statement of ideals. There are 30 articles in the document, covering six categories of human rights: political, civil, equality, economic, social and cultural.
• Provisions for the UDHR were set out in 1945 in Article 68 of the UN Charter, which called for a commission "for the promotion of human rights." Three years later, the document was ready.
• John Peters Humphrey was a professor in the faculty of law at McGill University and expert in international law when he was asked to direct the UN's Human Rights Division after the Second World War. He also served as a bureaucrat for the Human Rights Commission: chair and former U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, P.C. Chang of China and Charles Malik of Lebanon. The three were unable to produce a first draft, so Humphrey got to work.
• It took Humphrey about six weeks to write his first drafts of the Declaration. His final version, a blueprint of about 400 pages containing 48 articles, was handed over to Rene Cassin, who tweaked it further.
• Once the final draft was handed to the Commission, they held 187 meetings and went through 1400 resolutions before settling on the document's exact phrasing.
• The Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1948.
• The John Humphrey Centre for Peace and for Human Rights is an educational institute based in Edmonton which promotes understanding of human rights.
• Humphrey is also remembered with the John Humphrey Freedom Award. It's presented each year to an individual or non-governmental organization working in the promotion of human rights. The award is sponsored by the Montreal-based International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development.

Egypt's President Nasser has taken control of the Suez Canal, a vital shipping link between the Middle East and Europe, from British and French interests. The two nations are outraged, and have secretly teamed up with Israel to regain control by attacking Egypt. The conflict, dubbed the Suez Crisis, has been at a boil for days when a Canadian diplomat, Lester B. "Mike" Pearson, proposes a solution to the United Nations. Canadian leaders are in a sticky position here: they don't wish to alienate their allies, the United Kingdom and France. Yet they feel they can't support the reckless attack on Egypt. Instead of taking sides, Canada plays peacemaker a role for which it will long be remembered. The Canadian delegation's resolution calls for an international emergency force to supervise a ceasefire in Egypt.

• Pearson's resolution was inspired by a speech he'd already made to the UN. Late one night, the General Assembly passed a motion from the Americans calling for a ceasefire in the region. Canada abstained from that vote, and Pearson's original speech was in part an explanation of the abstention.
• Over the next two days, Pearson fleshed out his idea and got permission from Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent to present a resolution to the UN.
• Canada's resolution called for the creation within 48 hours of "an emergency international United Nations force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities." It passed with 57 votes in favour, zero against, and 19 abstentions.
• The new force was called the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF). It consisted of troops from six nations: Colombia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Canada.
• The UNEF would later be known as the "Blue Berets" — the colour of its headgear.
• Egypt originally resisted the inclusion of Canadians on the force due to Canada's perceived allegiance to Britain. 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 UNEF.
• About 1,000 Canadian troops served in the UNEF.
• Canadians were deeply divided about the action. Some felt they had sold out their "mother countries," Britain and France. Many supported the idea of the UNEF, but others felt that by remaining neutral Canada was behaving too much like the United States.
• Pearson, who was minister of external affairs at the time, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his solution to the Suez Crisis. He became Prime Minister in 1963.

Canada is one of 51 original member states at the United Nations and was present at the 1945 conference in San Francisco where the UN Charter was written. Among its contributions was a clause allowing non-members of the Security Council to attend meetings when the use of their armed forces was under discussion.

• Both Prime Minister Mackenzie King and Canada's ambassador to the United States Lester Pearson were part of the Canadian delegation to the conference.
• The UN Security Council consists of five permanent members (Russia, China, the United States, France and the United Kingdom) and 10 members who are elected for two-year terms.
• Canada has served on the Security Council six times: in 1948-49, 1958-59, 1967-68, 1977-78, 1989-90, and 1999-2000.
• The UN Security Council is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. Members of the UN are obliged to abide by its decisions but other UN bodies, including the General Assembly, can only make recommendations.
• For substantive matters, nine votes are required to pass a Security Council resolution. Five of the nine must be from the permanent members; the ability of any one permanent member to deny the resolution is called "veto power."
• British Columbia MP Howard Green, a Progressive Conservative minister under John Diefenbaker, was a strong advocate of nuclear disarmament. Under him, Canada became a member of the 10-nation Committee on Disarmament reporting to the UN. The committee was composed of five Communist and five Western powers, and its mandate was to resolve the issue of disarmament both nuclear and conventional then facing the UN.

In 1964, Blair Seaborn was head of Canada's delegation to the International Commission for Supervision and Control in Vietnam. His assignment was to visit Hanoi on behalf of the United States a visit some would later view as good diplomacy, while others would see it differently. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson worried that South Vietnam was vulnerable to a communist takeover. Johnson asked Prime Minister Pearson if Canada could glean North Vietnam's intentions with regards to the South. The Americans would do whatever was necessary to prevent a takeover of South Vietnam, and As It Happens wonders whether Canada's willingness to convey this threat is evidence for its complicity with U.S. interests.

• The International Control Commissions were created at the Geneva Conference in 1954 to be peace observers in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos after the defeat of the French in what was then French Indochina. They were composed of military officers and diplomats from Canada, India and Poland.
• For Canada, the ICC mission in Vietnam was frustrating. The peace it was meant to keep was nonexistent, and Poland consistently favoured the North Vietnamese.
• Blair Seaborn visited Hanoi, the North Vietnamese capital, about six times in the spring and summer of 1964. Leader Van Pham Dong listened politely to Seaborn's message, but gave no indication of his intentions. He was also not tempted by the implied offer of U.S. aid if he cooperated with requests to stay out of South Vietnam.
• Seaborn's visits were less than successful. U.S. bombing in North Vietnam began months later in February 1965.
• The Americans were keen to protect South Vietnam because of the "domino theory." Their concern was that if South Vietnam fell to communists, other Southeast Asian countries Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia and others would follow like dominoes. This theory proved unsound after the fall of Saigon, as only Laos and Cambodia were overtaken by communists.
• Seaborn's Hanoi meetings were revealed in the "Pentagon Papers," secret documents about U.S. involvement in Vietnam that were released in 1971.
• When news of Seaborn's mission emerged, some suggested that he had been spying for the United States. The Canadians had been gathering details about North Vietnam but, Seaborn pointed out in 2003, it was the kind of information any diplomat gathers: the country's mood, influences from other countries, and whether war preparations were under way.

The war in Vietnam is in full swing, and a United Nations force is headed to Egypt again, bringing peacekeeping back into the Canadian consciousness. Ever since Lester B. Pearson won a Nobel Peace Prize for his proposal to end the Suez Crisis with an international peacekeeping force, Canada has enjoyed a reputation as neutral, fair peacekeepers in conflicts around the world. At the root of questions about Canada's image as peacekeepers is the concern that it's just that: an image. Critics wonder whether Canada is in fact a "cat's paw" a surrogate for U.S. foreign policy. Others are concerned that Canadian peacekeeping missions are unjustifiably idealistic.

• Canada has taken part in virtually every one of the 54 United Nations peacekeeping operations which have been undertaken to 2003. So has the Pacific island nation of Fiji.
• In October 2000, 38,000 military and civilian police personnel from 89 countries were engaged in UN peacekeeping operations around the world.
• Not every Canadian diplomatic effort was a success. In 1996, unrest broke out in Zaire, where Rwandan refugees were waiting to go home after genocide in Rwanda. Canada won praise for offering to lead a multinational force in Zaire to quell the violence and offer the refugees aid and safe passage. But the effort never got off the ground; other countries didn't commit to the force and aid wasn't urgently needed after all.
• In 1981, a Canadian diplomat named Ken Taylor, an ambassador to Iran, won admiration for pulling off what's been dubbed "The Canadian Caper." Six American diplomats were trapped by a revolution in Iran in which 52 of their compatriots were taken hostage. They took sanctuary at the Canadian embassy and Taylor arranged for false passports and their safe passage out of Iran. This act, while heroic, doesn't exemplify good diplomacy, in which negotiation comes first.

"A country can be influential in the world by the size of its heart and the breadth of its mind, and that's the role Canada can play," says Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, trying to rise above the Cold War tensions of the early 1980s. This statement was made at the begining of Trudeau's world-wide peace initiative.

• The peace initiative came at a time when relations between the United States and the Soviet Union were particularly tense. In September 1983 the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Airlines 747 that had flown into Soviet airspace. All 269 people on the flight from Anchorage, Alaska to Seoul, South Korea were killed. The Soviets had concluded it was a spy mission, but the Americans deemed it "a cold-blooded barbarous attack."
• Trudeau believed the airliner incident was a tragic "accident of war" caused by "a reckless pilot" and "a misguided commander on the ground." He was deeply concerned about the level of distrust between the two superpowers, and thought the Canadian proposal for peace could ease tensions and lessen the chances of a nuclear war.
• Among the places Trudeau visited to gain the support of other world leaders were: Japan, the Commonwealth conference in India, China, the United Nations in New York, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania and the Soviet Union.
• In 1984, Trudeau received the Albert Einstein Peace Prize Foundation's annual award. In accepting it, he said: "Political leaders will decide whether or not a nuclear war actually takes place, yet politicians act as if peace is too complicated for them."
• While Trudeau's peace plan was never adopted, East-West tensions eased considerably shortly after he completed his tour. In 1985, the U.S.S.R.'s newly appointed General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev summoned Trudeau to ask him what to expect from Reagan in an upcoming summit. When the two superpower leaders met weeks later, they issued a statement very similar to the one Trudeau had urged them to make: "Nuclear wars can never be won and therefore must never be fought. 

In many parts of the world, the threat of mines is all too real. Representatives from 70 countries, aid organizations and the UN have gathered in Ottawa for an international conference aimed at ridding the world of these dangerous tools of war. Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and its minister Lloyd Axworthy have been instrumental in organizing the conference. Just over a year later, 122 world representatives will meet again at a ceremony in the nation's capital to sign the Ottawa Convention — a framework for dealing with the global issue of landmines.

• About 10,00 to 15,000 people, most of them civilians, are killed or injured by land mines every year.
• The 1996 conference in Ottawa and subsequent discussions resulted in a document called the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. As of 2003, 146 countries had signed it and 131 have ratified it. The United States, Russia, China and about 45 other nations had not signed by 2003.
• Canadian forces began destroying their supply of land mines in 1997.
• The International Campaign to Ban Landmines was formed in 1992 as a coalition of human-rights organizations and other concerned groups. In 1997, the ICBL and its coordinator, Jody Williams, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. Today the ICBL comprises over 1,100 groups in over 60 countries. Among them are demining, humanitarian, veterans', medical, arms control, and religious groups.
• Canada continues to play a leadership role in seeing that the Mine Ban Treaty of the Ottawa Convention is adopted and implemented by countries around the world. It has helped to organize regional conferences on landmines, contributed millions of dollars to mine action programs, and provided money and support to organizations such as the ICBL.

War crimes and genocide in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda have been tried by International Tribunals in recent years. But in the face of bloody conflicts around the world, a permanent court for crimes against humanity is what's really needed. Canada and like-minded states have been negotiating a new approach to humanitarian law: an International Criminal Court.

• The idea of an independent international tribunal to prosecute individuals for crimes against humanity has been around since after the Second World War, when German Nazis and Japanese officials were tried in International Military Tribunals.
• Canada played an instrumental role in the founding of the new international court: it chaired the group of countries that got the idea off the ground, and donated money so developing nations could take part in the founding conference in Rome.
• The International Criminal Court was established by 120 countries in Rome on July 17, 1998, with the intent to "promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished."
• The court became effective on July 1, 2002, when the requisite number of countries, 60, ratified the statute that established it. Anyone who commits a crime under the statute after that date can be tried by the ICC.
• The ICC's mandate is to investigate and prosecute atrocities — such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes — on behalf of the international community.
• The ICC does not replace national courts; it will take on cases only when national courts are unwilling or unable to.
• The Dutch city of The Hague is the home of the ICC.
• The ICC is not part of the United Nations, but it can accept recommendations from the UN Security Council.
• In February 2003, prosecutors and judges were elected to the ICC. Among the 18 judges was Canadian diplomat Philippe Kirsch, Canada's ambassador the Sweden. Kirsch's fellow judges also chose him to be the first president of the ICC.
• As of February 2003, 89 countries had ratified the court's statute. Among those holding out is the United States, which has said it's concerned its citizens would be unfairly singled out by the court.

Another war in Iraq looms. Three members of the UN Security Council back an invasion, but two others want to give weapons inspectors as much time as they need. A Canadian proposal acknowledges both sides: it gives the inspectors more time, but also specifies a firm deadline by which Iraq must comply with disarmament resolutions.

• The compromise was a one-and-a-half-page document called "Ideas on Bridging the Divide." Paul Heinbecker, Canada's ambassador to the UN, said it was a middle ground between the opposing views on the Security Council.
• Canada's solution called for a deadline of March 28, 2003, after which Iraq could be invaded if it failed to disarm.
• France, Germany and the United States rejected the Canadian plan immediately, but Mexico and Chile were interested enough to study it further.
• The plan went to the UN Security Council for consideration on March 3, 2003. On March 6, U.S. President George W. Bush said delays wouldn't provide a solution.
• Elements of the Canadian plan, such as a series of disarmament tests for Iraq, were still under discussion on March 11, but the disarmament deadline stood at March 17.
• On March 19, without the backing of the Security Council, a coalition of U.S., British and Australian forces invaded Iraq. Without Security Council support, Canada did not join the attack.

Published on: 2008-02-22 (17912 reads)

submitted by: Canadaka

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