Two birds, one platoon – Canada’s military cooperation with Brazil helps strengthen Haiti

Image Gallery

Related Links

Article / August 22, 2013

By: Michelle Ferguson

On 21 June, a platoon of 34 personnel from the Canadian Army left for Haiti as part of Operation HAMLET– Canada’s military contribution to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, commonly known by its French name as MINUSTAH.

But first they made a slight detour ­– to Brazil, one of the largest contributors to the mission and an important ally to both Haiti and Canada. Here they were trained by the Brazilian Armed Forces and integrated into a Brazilian Battalion (BRABAT). 

While Canadians have been a part of MINUSTAH since it began in May 2004, this has normally taken the form of five senior staff officers providing aid to the headquarters in regards to planning and coordinating operations. The arrival of the platoon from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade group, originating from Valcartier, Que, means Canada is now able to make tactical contributions as well.

Within this new role CAF members deployed on the Brazilian battalion will help ensure security and stability in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Western Hemisphere.

Their primary task is to conduct patrols of their area of responsibility. But they also undertake guard duty for their camp and other points of interest, as well as conduct Civic-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) projects, such as the provision of clean water in neighbourhoods vulnerable to cholera.

In short, they fulfil the same roles as a Brazilian platoon in supporting the MINUSTAH military component mandate to ensure safety and security in Haiti, allowing other UN agencies to foster the rule of law and support the country’s people,” said Task Force Port-au-Prince Commander, Colonel Stephen Cadden.

Their goal is to create stronger links with the Haitian population and to contribute to the overall positive impact of MINUSTAH, which has been critical in stabilizing the security situation in Haiti.

The fact that we speak French is a huge asset,” said Corporal David Fitzpatrick, a rifleman and driver deployed on Op HAMLET. “The locals trust us and are willing to share information concerning what they need and what problems need to be resolved.  I believe that in the short time we are here we can make major strides and do a lot to help the Haitians.

Since Canada has never deployed to Haiti in this context before, the CAF were happy to accept the invitation from the Brazilian Armed Forces to train the platoon in Brazil’s peacekeeper training centre.

The Brazilians have been here for years and have a detailed understanding of the requirements of this particular theatre,” explained Col Cadden. “While our soldiers are well trained, each mission is different and the Brazilian confirmation training they attended ensured that they are optimally prepared for the challenges they will face here in Haiti.

For three weeks, Canadians completed extensive tactical training exercises with the Brazilian army, in Cuiabá, Brazil. This training period not only helped prepare the CAF members for their new role in Haiti, but was also critical in developing confidence between BRABAT and the embedded platoon.

According to Private Demers-Dufour, a rifleman with the Royal 22e Regiment, 2nd Battalion, the training was effective on many fronts. “It prepared us for most eventualities that we may come across while here in Haiti,” he said. 

During this time the platoon’s leadership also completed language training in order to ensure their ability to work within the context of a Portuguese-speaking battalion.

While approximations, charades and other expedients allow communications in an occasional encounter, in an emergency one must be able to clearly transmit ideas and information,” explained Col Cadden. “Having key personnel able to proficiently communicate in the battalion’s working language is critical to our force’s safety and effectiveness.

This isn’t the first time Canada and Brazil have collaborated in Haiti. They have also participated in two joint cooperation initiatives with Brazil to provide support to the vaccination program in Haiti and to overcome urban violence in the impoverished country.

The deployment of CAF personnel within BRABAT reflects Canada’s commitment to regional peace and security and supports the Government of Canada’s “Engagement in the Americas” aimed at a collaborative approach to a more prosperous, secure and democratic hemisphere.

The military-to-military cooperation also allows both armed forces to capitalize on each other’s specializations and experience.

While both goals may seem different in nature, they are actually quite similar in practice.

In general, it requires patience, compassion and cultural sensitivity to approach both inter-army cooperation and the establishment of enduring security and stability in Haiti,” said Col Cadden.

Date modified: