Canadian Troops Operate Under Brazilian Command in Haiti
By Dialogo June 10, 2014
Canada signed a memorandum of understanding with the Brazilian government in June 2013, stipulating that Canadian troops would help in maintaining the peace in Haiti.
In total, 39 personnel from the Canadian military were sent to Haiti, five allocated to the MINUSTAH’s General Staff, while the remaining 34, from the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade of the 22nd Royal Regiment of the Army, ended up joining the 4th Platoon of the 4th Company of Marines of the Brazilian Battalion Peace Force, known as BRABATT.
The participation of the Canadian forces in MINUSTAH is known as operation HAMLET 13. Operating within the BRABATT, the Canadian squad aims to support the mandate of MINUSTAH through mechanized or ground patrols, security of the facilities and the convoys of the Peacekeeping Force, logistical support, civic and military cooperation operations, among other tasks.
As I joined a patrol carried out by the Canadian Military in Haiti, I conducted the interview that the reader will find below, with Major Frederic Harvey, commander of Operation HAMLET 13. Speaking perfect Portuguese, he talked about the major challenges faced by troops and his experiences with the Brazilians and Haitians he encountered.
Rodrigo Pereira: What was the biggest difference you noticed in the course of transforming from soldiers to peacemakers?
Major Frederic Harvey, commander of Op. HAMLET 13: The big change was around the combat doctrine of our military. Haiti does not have an enemy. It's been ten years since we began training for combat operations in Afghanistan, with the idea that there will be an enemy ahead, what are the modus operandi of this enemy, how to react in the event of an attack and in case of ambush. It does not happen here in Haiti. There is no enemy, but rather adverse forces, such as climate, the criminal stain, organized crime, namely forces that act regardless of our presence.
Rodrigo Pereira: How did Canada decide to support MINUSTAH?
Maj Harvey: The decision was not only to place the Canadian troops with the Brazilian Army. Canada needed to open economic and diplomatic doors with Brazil. The Canadian policy, known as Policy of the Americas, establishes the strongest possible economic and political contacts with all the countries of the continent. Therefore, at that time, there was an opportunity in the military field to participate in MINUSTAH. In this sense, Haiti was the way for Canada to achieve the political objective. Canada has often participated in missions in Haiti. In 1996, for example, we had the first mission. We returned in 2003/2004 before the creation of MINUSTAH and in 2010 we helped in the operations during the aftermath of the earthquake. Canada has the largest group of Haitian immigrants in the world, approximately 300,000. In this sense, Haiti has a significant political importance to the Canadian people. In a population of 30 million, 300,000 Haitians equal a significant minority. In addition, we have to consider that our relationship with Haiti dates way back. Based on these facts, it is easy to understand that all these elements have been positive for the creation of a mission in conjunction with Brazil.
Rodrigo Pereira: Who does the Canadian Military report to in Haiti?
Maj Harvey: We report to the Brazilian chain of command. We have a Canadian chain of command, but it is basically for administrative and bureaucratic purposes, such as military personnel payments. Operationally, all our missions and tasks go through the Brazilian chain of command.
Rodrigo Pereira: What is the objective of the Canadian soldier in Haiti?
Maj Harvey: Generally speaking, it is the same mission of Brazilian soldiers, namely, creating and maintaining a secure and stable environment in Haiti. This is achieved through constant patrolling of the areas of operation, refugee camps, and monitoring of high traffic avenues. The French language is a strong point for the Canadian soldiers. It is easier for us to communicate with the Haitian population. So we have a very important role, which is to collect intelligence information on the ground.
Rodrigo Pereira: What is it like working with the Brazilian troops?
Maj Harvey: It is very easy. Brazilians are a highly mixed people. All cultures were placed in a single "Brazilian soup". So it is easy for us to integrate with and have a friendly relationship with a nation that does not have a culture of confrontation. The Brazilian soldier has a great ability of empathy. That is why the integration was like any other weapon in the Canadian Army.
Rodrigo Pereira: What is the biggest challenge here?
Maj Harvey: One of the biggest challenges is the Portuguese language. This is a challenge that cannot be overcome before the end of the mission. Unfortunately our soldiers have not received linguistic training, unlike the officers. So it is easier for us (officers) to face the challenge of learning Portuguese. Another aspect is the peculiarities that each army has, that are different, such as the code of conduct and the physical training, which are some examples of organizational differences that require work. These differences exist and it was a challenge to make the Canadian troop understand the Brazilian rules, but nothing that threatened the fulfillment of the mission.
Too phony and elaborated. We know that Haiti is under military occupation and they have oil, uranium and many precious minerals in their subsoil. Haitians are no longer being deceived like before. The forces in disguise are being rejected by the people. Music War...until when? Tasks like those are important for a country like Haiti. Keep up the good job, Canada and Brazil. Ask them what they were doing when 150 criminals, rapists and terrorists were released by an alleged commander from a prison in Haiti during this week of August. Go Haiti!