Canada's Role on the World Stage During the 1950s and 60s

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This article looks at Canada's role in world politics during the 1950s and the 1960s.

The 1950s and 60s were years of great political change and strife across the globe. The United Nations, formed in 1945, was put to the test during these years, dealing with a number of conflicts that had arisen in the rivalries created after the Second World War. A Cold War, or a war without armed conflicts, was occurring throughout the 1950s and 1960s between the United States and their democratic allies and the Soviet Union and their communist allies. Canada helped maintained peace throughout the world despite tensions between these two opposing sides by helping to resolve the two major conflicts during this time period. Canada introduced the first ever UN led peacekeeping mission during the Suez Canal Crisis, and supplied troops and the commanding officer for the mission, as well as sending troops and supplies to Korea to help support South Korea and its democratic allies against North Korea and China during the Korean War. For these reasons, Canada played a key role in world politics during the 1950s and the 1960s.

During the Cold War, there were only two “hot” conflicts, the Korean War in 1950 and the Suez Crisis in 1956. A hot conflict is an armed and open conflict between countries or factions . Canada played a leading role in both of these conflicts. The Korean War was a civil war between North and South Korea. Communist North Korea, with the support of the Communist Chinese government, marched into the democratic South Korea in a full-scale invasion on June 25th, 1950 . The UN condemned the attack, and asked for member nations to lend their assistance to South Korea. Canada committed itself to the mission in Korea on June 29th, 1950, and over the course of the war, over 26,000 Canadians would serve, the third largest contribution of assistance to South Korea. Of those 26,000, more than 516 would be killed1. Canadian troops fought on land, by sea, and in the air. Over 22,000 soldiers were on the ground, serving as foot soldiers, medics, and a number of other roles to allied troops. Over 3,600 served in Canadian naval vessels, lending support to South Korea by maintaining a continuous blockade of North Korea’s shores, blocking reinforcements and supplies by sea, protecting allied carriers and other ships from enemy fire, and protecting South Korea’s shores from amphibious landings. Canada also supplied the No. 426 Transport Squadron, which flew over 600 round trips of the Pacific, moving over 13,000 passengers and 3,000,000 kilograms of freight and mail. Additionally, 22 fighter pilots from the RCAF were attached to the US Fifth Air Force, and were credited with damaging or destroying twenty enemy fighter jets . Canada’s contribution to the Korean War was quite substantial, and it is quite possible that the war would have been lost without such a generous donation of troops and supplies.

Canada was responsible for the solution to the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956. The Middle East gave the Soviet Union and the United States the chance to support countries that furthered their own interests, as well as allowing other countries to test their weapons and military technologies. The Soviet Union and its allies supported Iraq, Egypt, and Syria, while the United States and its allies supported Israel, a newly formed state created by Jewish refugees after World War Two. The Egyptian leader, General Nasser, decided to seize control of the Suez Canal, which meant that the old British and French owners would lose influence and power in the region and money for their respective countries. France, Britain, and Israel secretly agreed to take the Canal back by force. However, the Soviet Union condemned the attack, and the threatened to come to Egypt’s aid. Canada, while an ally of Britain, France, and Israel, agreed with the Soviet Union that the attack was wrong and something It was the Canadian secretary of state for external affairs, Lester B. Pearson, who came up with the solution . He proposed the idea of a multinational UN led peacekeeping force that would monitor the withdrawal of the invading forces and to enforce a ceasefire between the two sides. The plan was agreed upon, and the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was formed. Canada supplied the largest contingent of troops to this newly formed peacekeeping force, with over 800 soldiers serving in the Canal Zone until they were asked to leave by the Egyptian government in 1967. Additionally, the commanding officer of the mission was Canadian General E.L.M. Burns . For his role in the resolution of the Suez Crisis and the formation of UNEF, Pearson received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957. Canada was single handedly responsible for coming up with the resolution of the Suez Crisis, and supplied the greatest amount of soldiers and the commanding officer to the mission. Without these efforts by Canada, the Suez Crisis could have escalated to a much larger and much more serious conflict.

Canada was the driving force behind the resolution of the Suez Canal Crisis, and made many valuable contributions to the Korean War, including transportation of supplies and soldiers, as well as actual troops and a naval blockade. Without the contributions that Canada made to these two conflicts, they could have easily spiraled out of control and became much more serious than they already were. The allied forces supporting South Korea could have been overpowered by North Korea and China, and the Suez Crisis could have escalated to a war with the Soviet Union and their nuclear warfare capabilities against the democratic countries of Britain, France, and Israel. Because of these contributions and preventative measures, Canada was a key player on the world stage during the 1950s and the 1960s.


Mariyam Naeem
Posted on Dec 17, 2012
A. Smith
Posted on Jun 27, 2011