On 26 July 1956 Egyptian President Nasser seized the predominantly Anglo-French Suez Canal Company, which had operated the canal since 1869. Nasser's takeover of the canal, connecting the Mediterranean and Red seas, was a blow to Western pride and commerce.
On 26 July 1956 Egyptian President Nasser seized the predominantly Anglo-French Suez Canal Company, which had operated the canal since 1869. Nasser's takeover of the canal, connecting the Mediterranean and Red seas, was a blow to Western pride and commerce. Diplomacy failed, and Britain, France and Israel secretly agreed to move against Egypt. Israel attacked October 29, advancing in a single day to within 42 km of the canal. As planned with Israel beforehand, Britain and France ordered Israel and Egypt to withdraw from the immediate area of the canal. Nasser refused. On October 31 Britain and France intervened directly, bombing the Canal Zone.
Privately the Canadian government was angry at an action which split the commonwealth and alienated the US. Publicly the Canadian role was that of conciliator. Lester B. Pearson, secretary of state for external affairs, and his colleagues at the United Nations won overwhelming General Assembly support November 4 for an international force “to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities.” Canadian General E.L.M Burns was immediately named commander of the UN Emergency Force (UNEF). The British and French, however, ignored the UN resolution and landed paratroopers in the Canal Zone late on November 4. Under pressure, largely American, placed on British PM Sir Anthony Eden, a cease-fire was achieved November 6. Pearson fought successfully to have Canadian soldiers included in UNEF; advance units of the force arrived in mid-November. Although Pearson was awarded the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for his peacemaking efforts at the UN, there were many in Britain and Canada who were dismayed by Ottawa's apparent lack of support for Britain. Such sentiment was probably a factor in the Liberal government's defeat in the general election of 1957.
See also Peacekeeping.