The Cyprus operation, which began in 1964, is one of Canada's longest and best-known military engagements. A large contingent of Canadian soldiers served in Cyprus from 1964 to 1993. A small number of Canadian Armed Forces soldiers are still there as part of ongoing United Nations (UN) peace efforts.
In all, more than 25,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have served in Cyprus in recent decades, and many more than once.
In 1964, due to the unrest in the region, Cyprus asked the United Nations to establish a peacekeeping contingent. Once there, the UN troops saw a situation as they had never known before. The two warring communities lived mingled with each other, complicating the task of UN soldiers. Thus, small groups of Turks lived in the middle of the great Greek community. Canadian soldiers had to use traditional military techniques and manage civil conflicts. It is not surprising that it has been observed that peacekeeping is not a military job, but that only military can do it.
Cyprus managed to maintain a precarious balance until 1974 when a coup d'etat led by the Greeks who wanted to see the island annexed to Greece. For their part, the Turks responded with the invasion of the island and took control of the northern region. Canadians and other UN soldiers suddenly found themselves in the middle of a war zone marked by instability and violence.
A ceasefire was negotiated after several weeks of sustained fighting, during which three Canadian soldiers perished and seventeen others were wounded. UN troops established the famous Green Line, a ceasefire demarcation line and a buffer zone that extends across the island and separates the areas controlled by the Greeks and the Turks.
The UN peacekeepers had the hard task of patrolling this dangerous area, which in some places was only a few meters wide. To be in these places was dangerous because an incident could quickly be triggered. Canadian soldiers had to think of being in the midst of very agitated groups and trying to ease tensions. The Canadians were called to control and disperse the crowds and calm the spirits of the rebels who were inflamed for a real or imagined break-in.
Although we will not know the exact number, at least 27 Amerindians were part of the Canadian contingent in Cyprus.