National Peacekeepers’ Day was marked in Chemainus Monday, Aug. 9 with a special ceremony at the Chemainus cenotaph.
Ceremonies are held in communities across the country each year, with veterans and Canadian Armed Forces personnel honouring their comrades who died in peacekeeping efforts and those continuing to serve.
Since 1948, more than 125,000 Canadian peacekeepers have participated in dozens of international efforts all over the world.
National Peacekeepers’ Day was established in Canada in 2008, giving Canadians the chance to recognize all the Canadian Armed Forces personnel, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and provincial and municipal police forces, as well as Canadian diplomats and civilians who have worked in support of international peace and security operations.
The Chemainus ceremony was attended by about 25 special invited guests under COVID protocols and not open to the public as would normally be the case.
“It went pretty well,” said Dave Munro of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Chemainus Branch 191.
Munro wrote an address for the occasion that was read by Darlene Beggs, as follows: “Thank you for participating in our Peacekeeping Day ceremonies. A Canadian United Nations Buffalo aircraft painted white and blue was shot down by Syria Aug. 9, 1974, killing five crew members and four Canadian UN military passengers. This represents the single biggest loss of lives on a UN mission.
“They took off from Egypt towards Damascus providing logistical air support for our troops in the Golan Heights. The cockpit had received confirmation from Syrian air control that they could proceed into Syrian air space. During the investigation the UN faced nothing but interference from Syria. The Syrian surface to air missile operators may have mistaken the Buffalo for an enemy aircraft, an Israeli F4 that was reported in the area.
“This event caused the federal government in 2008 to designate Aug. 9 as Peacekeeping Day in Canada. The B.C. government declared Peacekeeping Day in 2003. There have been 130 Canadians who have lost their lives on UN missions. Many military and RCMP members are receiving Veterans Affairs benefits due to their service, some are here today. The wreath laying ceremony will have nine wreaths for this incident and a 10th wreath for those killed on other UN duties.”
Rosalie Sawrie, acting mayor of North Cowichan, laid the first wreath and Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor the last one on behalf of the other 121 from UN service. Munro also laid a wreath and the rest were laid by UN vets.
The Chemainus Legion colour party at the event consisted of Munro, Wes Everitt, Colin Murphy and Wesley Barnaby. The piper was Peter Leckie, the bugler Brock Caplin and Rev. Michael Wimmer officiated the ceremony.