Canadian Forces personnel deploy to Jamaica to train troops for Haiti mission

Approximately 70 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members were deployed to Jamaica on Friday to train military personnel from several Caribbean countries who are bound for Haiti as part of a multinational security force led by Kenya and backed by the United Nations.

The Canadian personnel will provide training on core peacekeeping skills and combat first aid to troops from Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas — member countries of the Caribbean economic and political bloc known as CARICOM — the CAF said in a joint press release with the Department of National Defence on Saturday.

The CARICOM troops are expected to help support the Haitian National Police in their efforts to restore security for people in Haiti, the statement said.

The Canadian-led training mission, known as Operation HELIOS, will take place at the CAF’s Operational Support Hub in Jamaica. 

The Canadian deployment will last for an initial period of one month, where the CAF expects to train around 330 CARICOM troops, said the release. The Canadian personnel deployed are primarily from the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment from Valcartier, Que. 

“Canada is stepping up with important contributions to Haiti’s security. We will continue to support Haitian-led efforts to build stability,” said Minister of National Defence Bill Blair in the release. 

Haiti’s gang wars have intensified in recent weeks with heavily armed rivals unleashing fresh waves of attacks, including raids on police stations and  the international airport. 

Over 1,500 people have been killed so far this year in the ensuing violence, said a UN human rights office report Thursday, describing the “cataclysmic” situation in Haiti.

The report documents 4,451 killings last year and 1,554 so far this year, up to March 22, as violence has escalated. Some people have been killed in their homes in reprisal for their alleged support for the police or rival gangs. Others have been killed in the street by snipers or in crossfire, the UN report said. One of the victims was a three-month-old baby.

Armed brigades filling a security void left by police lynched 528 people suspected of links to gangs last year and 59 so far this year, the UN rights office said.

“The recent escalation of violence has heightened human rights abuses, including killings, kidnappings, and rapes, especially against women and young girls,” the report said in its conclusions, calling on states to support the rapid deployment of a UN-backed international security force.

Roughly 3,000 Canadians are registered in Haiti, according to Global Affairs Canada (GAC). With airports and roads under gang control, leaving the country has been a challenge.

GAC issued an update Thursday that 50 Canadians were evacuated from the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, to the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

The department has now assisted 132 Canadian citizens in reuniting with their families, it said.

On top of efforts to get Canadians out safely, Canada is contributing $80.5 million to the multinational security force but says it will not send soldiers or police to participate directly. 

A very small number of RCMP officers are deployed to Haiti now, mostly in training roles. Their number fluctuates; the terms of the deployment allow for up to 45 Mounties to be in Haiti at a time, but their current complement numbers in the single digits.

Soldiers and police making up the multinational security force will come from Kenya, Benin, Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana, Barbados and a few other Caribbean island nations. Kenya will take the lead and will be the first to deploy.

The Kenya-led mission is not a United Nations operation but it was authorized by the UN Security Council in October. The Haitian government requested the mission in 2022.

It has since encountered multiple legal obstacles, including a January court ruling in Kenya that blocked the deployment of Kenyan police officers.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly has said Canada will continue to work with the international community to support Haitian-led solutions to the crisis in Haiti.

“We will continue to engage with Haitian stakeholders, CARICOM and international partners to strengthen the security and justice sectors, as well as to protect the people of Haiti and encourage Haitian-led efforts to restore peace, law and order, and prosperity in the country,” said Joly in Saturday’s press release.


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