Dagg earns meal for peacekeeping

Nov 28, 2002, vol. 25, no. 7
By Roberta Staley

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More than 125,000 Canadians - mostly military personnel - have been involved with peacekeeping missions since the Second World War. It is a record unmatched by any other nation - one per cent of the world's population providing 10 per cent of the world's peacekeeping forces.

The effort to help bring about world peace has been part of the Canadian psyche since the 1940s, and extends into government policy and international relations.

Our peacekeepers are internationally renowned: from Lester B. Pearson, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his Middle East peace plan, to Major General Lewis Mackenzie, the former head of United Nations peacekeeping in Bosnia. But many thousands of military troops and civilians continue to selflessly risk their lives in volatile situations around the globe.

Now thanks, however modest, has been given by the Canadian government to honour the 125,000 who have served in every peacekeeping mission around the globe for more than half a century.

Chris Dagg (above), director of project and support services in SFU international, is one of those who received the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal, issued in Ottawa on Oct. 20, for his role during the Vietnam War.

A graduate student specializing in international affairs and peacekeeping during the early 1960s, Dagg, now 62, joined the Canadian foreign service as a Vietnam specialist. Throughout the war, from 1964 to 1973, Dagg served on Foreign Affairs' Vietnam desk or in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), never finishing his master's thesis. A front-line observer to the historic 1968 Tet offensive, Dagg was legal and, later, political adviser on the Canadian delegation to the International Commission in Vietnam and delegate to the Paris Peace Conference in 1973 where a cease-fire between North and South Vietnam and the U.S. was signed, ending America's combat role in the war. After Canada withdrew from the Commission in frustration in 1973, Dagg became the political officer in the Canadian Embassy in Jakarta. The war ended in 1975.

Like other war-time diplomats, Dagg faced the threat of death from the occasional stray bullet or grenade. Such dangers are not what a diplomat fears the most, says Dagg. Rather, it is the possibility of becoming inured to suffering and death - becoming a puppet of the language of diplomacy - which a foreign-service diplomat is most vulnerable to.

“The biggest threat to a person in foreign policy is that you get so accustomed to putting your energy into word crafting and position crafting that you forget the reality,” says Dagg.

Dagg left the foreign service to work for Inco Ltd., the Canadian nickel giant, helping with development projects in Indonesian villages. After working in regional development in Indonesia and at the University of Guelph, he was hired by SFU to assist with international education initiatives.

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