OTD: Canada joins United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus

On today’s date in 1964, the Canadian government agreed to join the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), beginning a decades-long mission on the war-torn island.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960; however, regional conflicts broke out three years later amid tensions between the Greek majority and Turkish minority, leading to civil war in the capital city of Nicosia. The bloody conflict left thousands of people homeless and prompted the United Nations to organize a peacekeeping mission.

On Feb. 19, 1964, Prime Minister Lester Pearson was questioned in the House of Commons by New Democratic Party leader Tommy Douglas, who asked Pearson to lay out his government’s plan. In response, Pearson outlined four stipulations as prerequisites of Canada’s participation in the peacekeeping force.

The stipulations included:

  • the acceptance of the peacekeeping force by the Cypriot government;
  • the promotion of peace and stability;
  • the adherence to a pre-planned timeline; and
  • affiliation with the United Nations.

Pearson spearheaded Parliament’s decision to join the UNFICYP on March 13, 1964.

Within 48 hours, the country sent an infantry battalion to Cyprus.


When the Canadian-led mission eventually began on March 15, it was expected to last three months. A 29-member contingent arrived on the island—about the size of Prince Edward Island—to prepare for the arrival of more than 1,000 Canadian troops, the first to respond to the conflict. They were responsible for patrolling a contentious 65-kilometre strip known as UN Buffer Zone in Cyprus, which splits the island directly through its capital.

Originally intended to bridge the divide between the island’s Greek and Turkish citizens, the mission’s mandate was updated repeatedly throughout the conflict to accommodate for ongoing changes.

On June 15, 1993, Canada’s role in the conflict ended as they passed their duties on to British and Austrian peacekeepers.


In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a $20 silver coin marking the 50th anniversary of Canada’s peacekeeping mission in Cyprus—the longest United Nations mission conducted by Canada.

Designed by Canadian artist 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 mintage of 8,500 pieces.

Leave a Reply

Canadian Coin News


Canadian Coin News is Canada's premier source of information about coins, notes and medals.

Although we cover the entire world of numismatics, the majority of our readers are Canadian, and we concentrate on the unique circumstances surrounding collecting in our native land.

Send Us Your Event

Running an event? Send it to us and we will display it on Canadian Coin News!

Submit Event →

Subscribe To 26 Issues For Just $59.99/year

Subscribe today to receive Canada's premier coin publication. Canadian Coin News is available in both paper and digital forms.

Subscribe Now

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage.