From Peacekeeping to Peacemaking: Canada's Response to the Yugoslav Crisis


243 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2205-0
DDC 327.710497




Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University. He
is the author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable
Kingdom and The History of Fort St. Joseph, and the co-author of
Invisible and Inaudible in Washington: American


Gammer reviews Canadian-Yugoslav relations from 1941 to 1999, and many
readers may be surprised at their extent. Migrants from the former
Yugoslavia arrived in Canada before 1939. During World War II, 25
Canadians with the RCAF were shot down over Yugoslavia. In 1941, Canada
established diplomatic relations with the Royal Yugoslav Government,
then in exile in London. In 1948, Canada opened a legation in Belgrade
(upgraded to embassy status in 1951), its first diplomatic post in the
Balkans outside Greece. With Czechoslovakia’s disappearance behind the
Iron Curtain and Yugoslavia’s escape from Stalin’s embrace in 1948,
some Canadian officials regarded Yugoslavia (rather than Czechoslovakia,
as previously anticipated) as the most plausible bridge between East and
West during the Cold War. During the Vietnam conflict, Canadians in
Belgrade collected intelligence on the People’s Republic of China,
North Vietnam, and the National Liberation Front. In 1971, Tito made a
five-day visit to Canada.

The book’s primary focus, however, is on the 1990s, as Yugoslavia
disintegrated. There were several reasons for Canadian interest. Mila
Mulroney was an ethnic Serb, born in Sarajevo. Whatever happened as
Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina seceded from Yugoslavia might
become precedents in the event of Quebec’s secession from Canada.
(Both federalists and Quebec nationalists realized that.) Once Barbara
McDougall became Secretary of State for External Affairs in 1991, human
rights became a Canadian priority.

In 1992, the Mulroney government committed ground forces to deal with
human-rights violations, not only by Serbs. In September 1993, the
Canadian Armed Forces fought their most serious battle since the Korean
War, and the enemy was the Croatian Army. The fighting took place in the
Medak Pocket, where Croatans were driving ethnic Serbs from their homes.
An estimated 27 Croat soldiers died in the battle. (Canada has lost 17
soldiers to violence in the former Yugoslavia.) Canada extended
diplomatic relations to Croatia only on April 15, 1993, after 61 other
countries had done so.

Jean Chrétien’s government was less committed to the former
Yugoslavia than Mulroney’s had been, especially after Serbs seized 55
Canadian soldiers in 1994 and held them hostage. Nevertheless, 18 CF-18s
participated in the Kosovo War of 1999, while 1300 Canadian troops
remained in Bosnia-Herzegovina and 1500 in Kosovo. Louise Arbour, now a
judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, served with distinction on the
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Gammer argues successfully that Canadian–Yugoslav relations have
mattered. To understand them, one must read this book.


Grammer, Nicholas., “From Peacekeeping to Peacemaking: Canada's Response to the Yugoslav Crisis,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,