On today’s date in 1956, the United Nations General Assembly appointed Canadian Lieutenant-General Eedson Louis Millard Burns as commander of the first United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF).
Resulting from a proposal by then-Minister of External Affairs Lester B. Pearson, UNEF was established to maintain order and assure an armistice agreement between Egypt and Israel was maintained. Canada was one of several nations providing soldiers to the force.
A native of Montreal, Que., and the son of a militia officer, Burns had served in the Canadian army during both world wars. He served first in the militia before attending the Royal Military College of Canada, from which he graduated in 1914. He served on the Western Front with the engineers in the First World War, and in the Second World War, he rose to command the First Canadian Corps in Italy.
After retiring from the military, Burns began working in Canada’s Department of External Affairs. He would later represent the Canadian government at disarmament conferences and eventually became a professor at Carleton University.
SUPPORTING THE PEACEKEEPERS
The Royal Canadian Mint has honoured Canadian peacekeepers with two separate issues.
In 1995, the Mint struck a $1 commemorative circulation coin depicting the Peacekeeping Monument in Ottawa. Alongside the monument on the coin’s reverse side are the words “CANADA” and “DOLLAR”. The obverse, designed by Dora de Pedery Hunt, features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II alongside the year-date, “1995”. The $1 coin has a weight of seven grams, a diameter of 26.50 mm and a thickness of 1.75 mm.
More recently, in 2014, the Mint issued a $20 silver coin marking the 50th anniversary of Canadian peacekeeping in Cyprus, which was the longest UN mission conducted by Canada. Designed by Silvia Pecota, the coin depicts a soldier standing at the base of an observation tower, with a second soldier in the foreground wearing the distinctive blue beret worn by peacekeepers worldwide. The coin has a limited mintage of 8,500.