In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Korea - Canada in the War

Posted 7/18/2008 by Grant Mitchell


The Korean War was a significant and vicious campaign. It took place from April 1951 to June 1953. It was UN forces including Canada that fought for the South Koreans. After WWII, the country was effectively split with the control of the North being given to the USSR and the control of the South to the US.

In 1951, the North Koreans staged a surprise attack on the South, eventually forcing through to what is now the City of Bussan on the south east corner of the South. US and other UN forces fought them back north to the Chinese border. This provoked the Chinese to enter the war and they fought the UN forces back to south of the 38th parallel. It was here that the ultimate impasse was reached and the armistice was signed. Technically the two countries are still at war since a treaty has never been signed.

Canadians played a key role in this war and in particular in battles around and about the 38th parallel. At Gapyoung, the site of a major battle, other forces retreated but the PPCLI refused to retreat. In fact, their position was overrun by Chinese forces and the commander of the PPCLI called artillery fire onto their own position. This was a breaking point in the determination of the Chinese and was critical to them reaching the armistice.

While in Korea last week, our delegation participated in a memorial ceremony at Gapyoung. Very moving.

Later, we also participated in a number of other memorial ceremonies at a variety of memorials in Seoul and Bussan. At the UN grave yard in Bussan, the Aboriginal veterans in our delegation performed a special ceremony. It was beautifully done with sweet grass burned and a beautiful and eloquent Aboriginal prayer presented. It was a powerful reminder of the contribution of Aboriginal Canadians to the Canadian effort in Korea despite the fact that they lost their official Aboriginal status for joining the forces and that they did not have the vote in Canada. It is really hard to believe that that was the case. But there it is. We have made some progress but have so much more to do in honouring our Aboriginal history and their contribution to what our country is today.

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