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Bob Rae

BOB RAE: The Suez Crisis was a proud moment for Canada

Canada's rise as a middle power and influential diplomatic player is best symbolised by a historic vote at the United Nations General Assembly in October of 1956.  On that day the UN decided to create an emergency force to supervise the withdrawal of Israeli, British and French troops from Egyptian territory and to ensure the maintenance of a cease-fire agreement that would last for eleven years.  The UN Emergency Force, or UNEF as it was called, soon became known as "the blue berets" - soldiers working under the flag not of their own country, but of the United Nations itself. The Canadian diplomat and politician front and centre on this day in New York was Lester Pearson, a man whose intelligence, charm and personal skills put together a resolution of a conflict that threatened the peace of the region and the world.  Pearson's personal contribution received its due recognition when he won the Nobel Peace Prize that December, the first and only Canadian to be personally recognised in this way. Gamal Abdul Nasser's decision as Egyptian President to nationalize the Suez Canal electrified his people with its boldness. It also convinced Anthony Eden, the British Prime Minister who had finally emerged from his long apprenticeship as Foreign Secretary and number two to Churchill, that what was happening in Egypt was an echo of Hitler's steady grabs for territory and power in the 1930s. The French saw these alarming parallels as well, as well as a profound concern about what this nationalism would mean to neighbouring Algeria and other colonies. Israel, a fledgling country whose very existence Nasser saw as an affront to Arab pride and sovereignty, was alarmed for its own reasons. At a series of secret meetings, long denied but now confirmed and recorded, the three countries agreed to engineer an… Read More