Silver $20 coins honour Canada’s ‘blue berets’ in Cyprus

Peacekeeping, a subject already featured on a circulating coin, has been commemorated with a new Canadian non-circulating legal tender issue. The coin, which was unveiled as part of the Royal Canadian Mint’s annual public meeting, commemorates the 50th anniversary of Canadian peacekeeping in Cyprus.

The event was held at the Legion House, in Kanata, an Ottawa suburb. “Canada is celebrated as an active supporter and defender of peace and this coin is a keepsake that will be treasured by those who value the men and women who have served as peacekeepers,” said Ian Bennett, master of the Royal Canadian Mint. “The Mint has long demonstrated its commitment to honouring Canada’s veterans and on the eve of the centennial of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the Second World War, I am pleased to confirm that we are developing an extensive coin program to commemorate these watershed moments in Canada’s history.”

“Canadians have long recognized the service of peacekeepers where ever they were stationed around the world,” said Gordon Moore, dominion president of the legion. “Tens of thousands of our legion members served Canada in this way and with this coin we will have a daily reminder of their contributions to the freedoms we enjoy today.” The coin, designed by Silvia Pecota, shows a Canadian soldier in the foreground and a United Nations observation post and a second soldier in the background. A highlight of the coin is the application of blue enamel to the soldier’s beret, to give it the distinctive colour that signifies peacekeepers.

A total of 8,500 $20 coins have been produced on .9999 silver blanks. The coins have a diameter of 38 millimetres and weight of 31.39 grams. The force in Cyprus was established to prevent a recurrence of fighting between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Canada was among the first nations to contribute soldiers to Cyprus, and Canadians remain there today. The headquarters is the appropriately named Blue Beret Camp, at Nicosia International Airport. Modern peacekeeping is the result of an initiative by then future Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson to ensure a ceasefire declared following the 1956 Suez Crisis, a war between the alliance of United Kingdom, France, and Israel against Egypt, would be honoured. Canadians were among the soldiers committed to the job.

Because Canadian uniforms at that time were almost identical to those worn by the United Kingdom, a “UN blue” beret was adopted to show their neutrality. It has since become the colour worn by all UN peacekeepers. Pearson’s resolve that soldiers could be warriors for peace earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1957. Canada has been a participant in many peacekeeping operations around the world. In 1995, Canadian peacekeeping was honoured with a circulating $1 coin. That coin, which depicts the Peacekeeping Monument in Ottawa, was unveiled at Lester Pearson High School in Ottawa, at a ceremony involving members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Pearson family.

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