On 26 July 1956, the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdul Nasser, nationalized and seized the Suez Canal, which was privately owned by the Anglo-French Suez Canal Corporation. On 29 October, the Israeli army invaded the Sinai Peninsula. The following day, French and British aircraft bombed Egyptian air bases. On 5 November 1956, British and French troops landed at the Egyptian town of Port Said.
A majority of nations, including the United States, condemned the actions of Israel, Britain, and France. After a series of intense and difficult negotiations, the Canadian delegate to the United Nations (UN), Lester B. Pearson, gained UN approval for the creation of a multinational UN Emergency Force (UNEF). The force would not include troops from any permanent members of the Security Council (Britain, the United States, France, the Soviet Union, and Nationalist China). It would consist of soldiers and officers from Brazil, Columbia, Indonesia, Yugoslavia, India, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Canada. Canadian General E.L.M. Burns, the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, would command UN Emergency Force I. Originally, the Canadian contingent was to include the Queen's Own Rifles. However, President Nasser objected to its inclusion because the regiment's name sounded altogether "too British."
The Canadian contingent was reconfigured from infantry to logistics and communication support, duties that became a Canadian peacekeeping specialty. Canadian combat troops were eventually included in early 1957. These troops, along with a Yugoslav contingent, were part of a newly created reconnaissance unit. The Canadian component was named 56 Recce Squadron, Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. Rotating reconnaissance squadrons from the four armoured regiments manned the unit. The first Canadian Recce Squadron was drawn jointly from the Royal Canadian Dragoons and the Lord Strathcona's Horse. The Royal Canadian Navy aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent transported troops, 230 vehicles, 4 light aircraft, and one helicopter from Halifax to Egypt's Port Said. Edmonton's 435 Squadron was assigned to UNEF and served lifting troops and supplies from Italy to Egypt. In addition, the Royal Canadian Air Force 115 Air Transport Unit (composed of Dakota, Caribou, and Otter aircraft) was created and assigned to the force. The Canadian contingent exceeded 1,000 men, more than one sixth of the UNEF's total strength. The Canadian force arrived in Egypt on 12 January 1957.
Lester B. Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the creation of the United Nations Emergency Force.