Cyprus became an independent state in 1960. It had been a British colony for 82 years. Greek and Turkish communities had both been on the island for a long time. The new constitution was designed to balance the interests of both groups. At the same time, Cyprus joined in a treaty with Britain, Greece and Turkey. The treaty was to guarantee:
- the basic provisions of the new nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
- the basic provisions of its constitution
A series of constitutional crises followed Cyprus independence. Violence broke out between Turkish and Greek groups in December 1963. Outside countries attempted to restore peace, but failed. The matter then went to the U.N. Security Council. On March 4, 1964, it voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 186 to send in peacekeeping forces.
UNFICYP was formed at Nicosia in April 1964. It began with troops from four countries. These were Canada, Denmark, Finland and Ireland. UNFICYP’s mandate was:
- to try to prevent fighting recurring between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot groups
- to help restore and maintain law and order, and return Cyprus back to normal
That mandate remains the same today.
Canada maintained a battalion-sized group of peace-support troops in UNFICYP from 15 March 1964 to 15 June 1993. Fifty-nine groups totalling about 25 000 CAF members completed six-month tours on the island.
Canada’s troops were committed by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s government on 12 March 1964. The first Canadian troops arrived in Cyprus on 15 March 1964. They were followed by:
- a brigade headquarters
- the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment
- a Royal Canadian Dragoons reconnaissance squadron. They used Ferret scout cars that were taken to Cyprus by HMCS Bonaventure
Canada withdrew its combat arms group from UNFICYP in 1993. By this time, every Regular Force infantry battalion had gone to Cyprus at least once. Regular Force artillery and armoured regiments had also trained for infantry duties so that they could take part.
The operation name “Snowgoose” dates from July 1974. This was when the Canadian group in UNFICYP was quickly made stronger. This took place when the Turks invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974.
The Canadian group was originally made up of:
- 1 Commando, Canadian Airborne Regiment
- the Airborne Field Squadron (Canadian Airborne Regiment combat engineers)
In July 1974, the first group was quickly joined by:
- 2 Commando, Canadian Airborne Regiment
- 3 Commando, Canadian Airborne Regiment
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) now sends one officer to the operations staff at UNFICYP headquarters in Nicosia. The normal tour of duty there is one year.