Supt. Robert Boulet (r) and Insp. Michel Martin in front of the UN HQ in Port-au-Prince.
Since 1993, hundreds of Canadian police have served in Haiti on various United Nations (UN) missions. They have seen it all – riots, earthquakes, floods, cholera, gang warfare, never-ending poverty – and have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Haitian people through it all.
In fact, three RCMP members lost their lives for the sake of peace and security in Haiti: retired Sgt. Mark Bourque in 2006; Chief Superintendent Doug Coates and Sgt. Mark Gallagher in the January 2010 earthquake.
Now marking 18 years in Haiti, Canadian police continue to bring their expertise and dedication – and their legendary humanitarian efforts – to Haiti. There are currently 137 Canadian police in mission, 98 in Port-au-Prince and 39 in the regions.
The Canadian police contingent commander, RCMP Superintendent (Supt.) Robert Boulet speaks about his motivation to serve on the UN’s Stabliization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and describes the ordinary and extraordinary feats that Canadian police carry out every day during their mission in Haiti.
I have served three times in Haiti as contingent commander: in 2004, in 2007 and since May 2011 on this current deployment. As contingent commander, my job is to ensure the effectiveness, continued engagement and wellbeing of nearly 140 Canadian UN Police (UNPOLs). I also work as chief of the Rule of Law unit within the UN’s Joint Mission Analysis Cell and I like to contribute to humanitarian efforts.
Shortly after the earthquake, I participated in a UN post-disaster needs assessment. My observations of a country and people in need drew me – and many other Canadian police – back to Haiti to help out.
Two years after the earthquake, the country is still only starting to rebuild. Reconstruction has been slow. Although there have been improvements, the HNP suffered serious setbacks with the earthquake, which killed many of their officers and crippled their infrastructure.
In the past two years, we have worked hard with our MINUSTAH colleagues to help the Haitian National Police (HNP) get back on their feet and rebuild their capacity and infrastructure. We have also assisted them in dealing with new challenges brought on by (and since) the earthquake: the escape of thousands of prisoners, the crime and violence in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, cholera, elections-related riots, etc.
Canadian contingent member, Staff Sgt. Richard Martel, poses with children from an orphanage as he prepares to deliver food donated by Canadian police.
Many of our officers continue to work day and night in the IDP camps, bringing some aspects of community policing to people living in the most desperate conditions. We have helped reduce violence, provided assistance to rape victims and have brought a better sense of security to the camps. The work is not easy and nor are the conditions.
Our officers also provided training to HNP officers on the use of gas masks, enabling them to protect themselves and continue to provide security during demonstrations or other types of operations.
Canadian police have contributed to developing and delivering training curriculum, not just for the HNP but for UN police serving at MINUSTAH as well. One of our officers developed gender training for UN staff that has since been adopted by the UN as its standard for all missions. In the regions, Canadian police work side-by-side with their HNP counterparts, mentoring and guiding them through their daily tasks of policing.
Besides police work, Canadian police and their families and friends have poured their hearts into helping Haitians: some have raised thousands of dollars to build or support orphanages or send Haitian children to school, while others have donated clothes, books, toys and food.
Over the course of the past year, our officers even helped three mothers deliver their babies, protecting the mothers and babies from serious complications and even death.
Regardless of their rank, Canadian police can and do have an important impact at all levels – from the citizen whose life they have saved or whose baby they have helped to deliver to the HNP officers they have assisted in an operation or trained in the use of equipment.
All in all, I feel that Canadian UNPOLs provide excellent service to MINUSTAH in all program areas and continue to contribute significantly to the mission and the people of Haiti.
Canadian police will continue to be needed – and to be in high demand – in the UN’s mission in Haiti for the foreseeable future.