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Editorial

Editorial: John Humphrey, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In 1946, John Humphrey became director of the United Nations Division on Human Rights, and Eleanor Roosevelt was named the United States representative to the UN’s Commission on Human Rights. Humphrey was an obscure Canadian law professor. Roosevelt was the world’s most celebrated woman. For two years, they collaborated on the creation of one of the modern world’s great documents: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was adopted on 10 December 1948.

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Canadian Peacekeepers in Somalia

In 1992–93, Canada contributed military forces to UNITAF, a United Nations–backed humanitarian mission in the African nation of Somalia. The mission was hampered by the fact that some of the warring factions in the Somalia conflict attacked the international forces that were trying to restore order and deliver food to a starving population. The Canadian effort was also clouded by the murder of a Somali teenager by Canadian troops. The crime — and alleged cover-up by Defence officials in Ottawa — became one of the most infamous scandals in Canadian history.

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Canadian Peacekeepers in Rwanda

From 1993 to 1995, Canada was a leading contributor to a series of United Nations peacekeeping missions in the African nation of Rwanda. However, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), led by Canadian Major-General Roméo Dallaire, was powerless to prevent the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans in 1994. Following the genocide, a new contingent of Canadian troops returned to Rwanda as part of UNAMIR II, tasked with restoring order and bringing aid to the devastated population. Hundreds of Canadian soldiers, including Dallaire, returned from their service in Rwanda deeply scarred by what they had witnessed.

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Canada and Peacekeeping

Peacekeeping is the term usually applied to United Nations (UN) operations in countries affected by conflict. Peacekeepers work to maintain peace and security, protect human rights and help restore the rule of law. Peacekeepers can be members of the armed forces, police officers or civilian experts. As a result of Lester Pearson's leadership in the 1956 Suez Crisis and Canada's role in the UN Emergency Force he helped create, many Canadians consider peacekeeping part of the country's identity. However, since the 1990s Canada's reputation as a peacekeeping nation has been affected by scandal and by the failure of some overseas missions. Although Canada’s contribution to peace operations has declined since then, Canadian peacekeepers continue to serve overseas in such places as Haiti (2004 to present). In total, more than 125,000 Canadians have served in UN peace operations. Canadians have also participated in UN-sanctioned peace operations led by NATO and in missions sponsored by the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). Approximately 130 Canadians have died in peace operations.

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Canadian Peacekeepers in the Balkans

From 1991 to the present, members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and civilian police forces, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), have served in peace operations in the Balkans. Their mission was to provide security and stability following the breakup of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Nearly 40,000 Canadians have served in the Balkans, and 23 CAF members died while deployed there.

timeline event

UN Warns of Impending Climate Change Tipping Point

A report issued by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that for climate change to be kept to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, greenhouse gas emissions would need to be reduced at least 45 per cent (of 2010 emissions levels) by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050. Otherwise, the most dire “climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth” may not be avoided. 

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Canadian Peacekeepers in Haiti

Since 1990, peacekeepers from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and civilian police forces, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), have served in Haiti on various United Nations (UN) missions. The purpose of these missions was to help stop the internal violence and civil unrest that had plagued the country for years and help promote and protect human rights and strengthen police and judicial systems.

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Canadian Foreign Relations

Through its history, Canada has taken a series of increasingly bold steps to develop from a British colony into an independent nation. Both the world wars were turning points, with Canada's military sacrifices giving it the strength and confidence to demand its own voice on the world stage. In the postwar era, Canada has maintained its role in both Western and global alliances. However, relations with the United States – because of its singular importance to Canadian security and trade – have dominated Canada's foreign policy since Confederation.

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Korean War

The Korean War began 25 June 1950, when North Korean armed forces invaded South Korea. The war’s combat phase lasted until an armistice was signed 27 July 1953. As part of a United Nations (UN) force consisting of 16 countries, 26,791 Canadian military personnel served in the Korean War, during both the combat phase and as peacekeepers afterward. The last Canadian soldiers left Korea in 1957. After the two world wars, Korea remains Canada’s third-bloodiest overseas conflict, taking the lives of 516 Canadians and wounding more than 1,200. The two Koreas remain technically at war today.

timeline event

Canadian Economist Mark Carney Accepts UN Position

Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England and former governor of the Bank of Canada, accepted a position with the United Nations as the special envoy on climate action and climate finance. He will begin serving in the role sometime in 2020. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Carney “a remarkable pioneer in pushing the financial sector to act on climate.” (See also Climate Change.)

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Bob Rae

Robert Keith (Bob) Rae, CCOOntPC, lawyer, politician (born 2 August 1948 at OttawaOntario). A prominent lawyer, community activist and author, Rae has served as a federal (1978-82; 2008-2013) and provincial politician (1982-96), premier of Ontario (1990-1995), interim leader of the federal Liberal Party (2011-2013), and as a government-appointed official. In July of 2020, Rae was named Canadian ambassador to the United Nations. Rae's family had substantial ties to Ottawa; his father Saul had been a senior diplomat, while his brother John was a long-time advisor to former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

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Canada and the World Trade Organization

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only international organization that regulates global trade. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Canada is one of its 164 members. The country plays a central role in the WTO and was also a key member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that preceded it. In addition to helping craft the WTO’s dispute resolution systems, Canada is among those countries most directly involved in its trade dispute cases.

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Canada and the Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis lasted from 16 to 28 October 1962. The Soviet Union stationed nuclear missiles in Cuba, which posed a threat to the United States and Canada. It brought the world to the edge of nuclear war. Canadian armed forces were placed on heightened alert. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s hesitant response to the crisis soured already tense relations between Canada and the US and led to the downfall of his government in 1963.   

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Persian Gulf War, 1990-91

In 1991, Canada joined an international military coalition to confront Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait. Canada contributed warships and fighter aircraft to the successful campaign to liberate Kuwait. It was the first time Canada sent women to war in combat roles, and it was the first time in decades that Canadian air and naval forces supported each other in a war zone. More than 5,100 Canadian military personnel served in the war, with a peak of about 2,700 in the region at one time. No members of the Canadian armed forces died during the conflict.

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John Humphrey

John Thomas Peters Humphrey, OC, lawyer, diplomat, scholar (born 30 April 1905 in Hampton, NB; died 14 Mar 1995 in Montreal, QC). John Humphrey was the director of the United Nations Human Rights Division from 1946 to 1966. He was instrumental in drafting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. He also taught law and briefly served as dean at McGill University. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1974 and received the United Nations Prize for human rights advocacy in 1988.

timeline event

Truth and Reconciliation Records Added to UNESCO Register

A collection of residential school survivors’ archives, personal stories and pictures held at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg was added to the UNESCO Canada Memory of the World Register. Other collections of similar items from the McCord Stewart Museum in Montreal and the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection at the University of British Columbia Library had already been added. Residential school survivor and Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Webstad said, “It’s a world recognition that these documents of survivors’ truths are going to be kept for years to come and for future generations.”

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9/11 and Canada

The terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001 had an immediate and profound impact on Canada. Twenty-four Canadians died in what became known as the "9/11" attacks. When the US closed its airspace, hundreds of planes carrying thousands of passengers were diverted to Canadian airports. In the weeks following, Canada passed controversial anti-terrorism laws and sent its first troops to Afghanistan as part of the “War on Terror.”

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Middle Power

In international relations, the term middle power refers to a state that wields less influence on the world stage than a superpower. As the term suggests, middle powers fall in the middle of the scale measuring a country’s international influence. Where superpowers have great influence over other countries, middle powers have moderate influence over international events. Canada was considered to be a middle power during the postwar period — from 1945 until about 1960. Though Canada was not as powerful or prominent as the United Kingdom or the United States during this time, it was an international player that influenced events through moral leadership, peacekeeping and conflict mediation.