By Martine Courage, Public Information Officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
n January 12, 2010, at 4:50 p.m., a massive earthquake struck the tiny Caribbean nation of Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Among the dead were members of the Haitian National Police (HNP).
Shortly after the tragic disaster, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) wanted to donate funds, which it had collected, to help support the families of the fallen HNP officers, just as it does in North America.
Because of the Canadian police’s strong presence and excellent reputation in Haiti, the IACP reached out to Chief Superintendent Barbara Fleury, a Canadian police colleague and vice-chair of the IACP’s International Policing Division, to help with the task.
Thus began the IACP’s journey to reach the goal of donating $10,000 to support the families of these fallen police officers.
“The first hurdle was to define how to donate the funds—logistically, what the money would be used for and how to get it to the individual families,” explained Chief Superintendent Fleury, who is a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). “Our police in Haiti decided the best approach was to pay the school directly for the children’s tuition fees.”
In the spring of 2012, members of the Canadian police contingent in Haiti, including then-Contingent Commander Superintendent Norm Gaumont and Montreal Police Staff Sergeant Éric Legault, got involved in the project. The RCMP’s liaison officer in the Dominican Republic also provided support.
With his strong investigational skills, Staff Sergeant Legault, who was also head of the United Nation’s Investigations Unit in Port-au-Prince, was the right person to do the job.
“My goal was to make sure that the donation helped as many children as possible,” emphasized Staff Sergeant Legault. “I had to be judicious about how to partition the money among the various families, some of whom had more children than others.”
He began by tracking down the families of fallen HNP officers. Over a period of several months, he met with each family at home, visited the schools the children attended, and arranged to pay for the tuition fees. Each family needed to provide a birth certificate for the school-aged children as well as a death certificate for the deceased spouse—not an easy task due to the chaos that Haiti was plunged into after the earthquake.
Each time he visited a family, Staff Sergeant Legault would bring colleagues from Canada and other countries with him, which gave them a chance to see more of the country and experience the diversity of culture and life of the Haitian people.
On one trip Staff Sergeant Legault and his Montreal Police colleague, Constable Marie-Claude Larocque, went to the town of Vaudreuil in Cap Haitien to meet 8-year-old Ralph Lorry Dorcin and his mother. Eric and Marie-Claude were able to see their living environment first hand, which clearly highlighted the need for financial support. At the same time, they met school leaders in the neighborhood who also appreciated that the IACP was able to help fund the education of children in their community.
For another family, the donation arrived just in time because they could no longer afford the school fees and the mother had just received notice that her two children could no longer attend school.
“For some people, $10,000 may not seem like a lot, but we were able to send 27 children from 20 families to school for a year,” he added. “I want the IACP to know how thankful and happy the families of the fallen officers were for the generous donation.”
Staff Sergeant Legault also took the opportunity to make his own contributions to the families of the fallen officers: after telling his 11-year-old daughter about the project, he encouraged her to tell her schoolmates about the project and gather toys and clothing from them to give to Haitian children. On one trip home, he received three large bags of donations, which he would give to the children of the fallen officers in Haiti when he visited the families.
“I am grateful to the IACP for the opportunity to take on this project,” he said. “It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my mission, because of the satisfaction I got from doing some good for others.”
Staff Sergeant Legault also brought a high level of rigor to the process—documenting the living conditions of each family and the school facilities available to them and keeping careful records of the tuition fee payments. He was able to complete the project by the end of his mission in January 2013.
“We were very grateful to the Canadian police who took on this project,” says Mr. Santiago. “We knew the funds would go directly to help pay for the children of fallen officers’ schooling. Some of them would not have had the opportunity to get the education they need to make a better life in Haiti.” ♦
|About Canadian Police in Haiti|
Canadian civilian police in Haiti act as advisors to the Haitian National Police (HNP) in the areas of management, professional standards, training, and mentoring. Since 1993, approximately 1,700 Canadian police have served on various United Nations (UN) missions and bilateral projects in Haiti. It is the largest and longeststanding mission of the RCMP’s International Police Peace Operations Program.
Canadian police have participated in the current UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), since its inception in July 2004. Approximately 90 police officers from various police services across Canada are serving at MINUSTAH.
With 19 years of experience in Haiti, they are involved in training, mentoring, and advising the HNP at all levels, from teaching cadets and imparting community policing techniques during joint patrols to mentoring their counterparts on conducting drug seizures and managing policing stations. Their ability to communicate in French and English (and sometimes Creole) makes them a valuable asset to the mission and greatly assists them in mentoring the HNP.
Canadian police have established a reputation for leadership and professionalism on international missions. In recognition of that reputation, Canadian police serving in Haiti routinely hold key positions in the mission, such as police commissioner and deputy commissioner and regional commanders.
From a humanitarian viewpoint, Canadian police in Haiti often take on individual charitable causes, providing food, clothing, school supplies, toys, and much more to Haitians they meet in the course of their deployments.
The January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti claimed the lives of two Canadian police officers: Chief Superintendent Douglas Coates and Sergeant Mark Gallagher. They are the first serving Canadian police officers in the 21-year history of the program to be killed while on mission.
Canadian police also serve in other missions around the world, including in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ivory Coast, South Sudan, and the West Bank. A senior police advisor is also posted to Canada’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York.
Please cite as:
Martine Courage, "IACP Donation Helps Educate Children of Fallen Officers in Haiti," The Police Chief 80 (August 2013): 74–75.