The recent peacekeeping summit in Vancouver has left many pundits wondering if Canada is living up to its reputation as a peacekeeping nation. Our past record, for the most-part, has been key in articulating our Canadian spirit and values to the world.
The challenges of present day leave us with such questions as: are we truly shouldering our fair share of the UN peacekeeping mandate, and are we adequately prepared for the challenges inherent to future missions?
Our government offered no concrete pledge of commitment at the Vancouver summit other than working towards the previous promise of providing approximately 600 troops, 150 police officers, and high-end equipment and corresponding training supports. To the frustration of many, there remains no commitment to a specific mission.
One of the emerging themes, as reported by mainstream media, is that Canada seeks to depart from traditional methodologies of peacekeeping and enter into a new era where the provision of training and equipment replaces boots on the ground. The latter point has been cited a source of frustration for other UN peacekeeping nations such as Germany, France, and the Netherlands, who call for more support of current missions in Mali, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
Canada has always answered the call to arms in defence of peace. Are we still sure of this moving forward? During 2017’s Week of Remembrance I had occasion to provide keynote addresses to over 1500 students, staff, and community members in two area schools. For me, remembrance is very much a verb. It is something we do actively.
I conclude my speech leaving by challenging the audience to be peacekeepers in their homes, schools, and within the greater community. While the violence of conflict, oppression, and terrorism wreak havoc in far and not so far corners of the world, we bear witness to increasing levels of intolerance, bigotry, and persecution within our own province. We see hatred in social media comments. We see the rise of apathy and relativism. We see the erosion of tolerance and trust in the truth. These are not acceptable and certainly fuel our challenges into the future.
As a person of faith, I recall that there is no greater sacrifice than the laying down of one’s own life for the safety and well-being of others. Subservient to this ultimate sacrifice, which so many Canadians made in past global conflicts, there are simpler, more practical ways to serve peace. These include tolerance, open-mindedness, and upholding democratic principles. I recall the words: “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” If we are to truly uphold what is considered to be one of our greatest attributes as a nation, we must ensure that the promotion and preservation of peace is suffused in the hearts and minds of every Canadian.
Canada needs to re-assert itself as a peacekeeping nation; especially if we seek a seat on the UN Security Council. We, as citizens need to do our part to both make peace and model peace.
There can be no compromise of the Act of Remembrance. The torch, as we were so recently reminded, is ours to bear. Let us hold it high.
Tim Cusack is an educator, writer, and member of the Royal Canadian Navy.