Canadian cops retire ahead of Haiti sexual misconduct hearing
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Saturday, July 30, 2016 5:40PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 30, 2016 9:45PM EDT
Two Quebec police officers have avoided a disciplinary hearing into sexual misconduct allegations stemming from peacekeeping missions in Haiti because they have since retired.
The allegations date back to 2013, when the provincial officers were serving on a peacekeeping mission in Haiti.
The names of the two male Sûreté du Québec sergeants have not been made public.
For more than 20 years, Canadian peacekeepers in Haiti have tried to bring stability and security to a country that has seen decades of chaos.
But allegations of sexual misconduct against two former peacekeepers have some questioning Canada’s credibility.
One of the officers at the centre of the allegations allegedly frequented a bar that was off limits to mission members and attempted to solicit a local prostitute in January of 2013.
Criminal investigations were held in Haiti and in Quebec, but no charges were laid.
The other is accused of having a consensual sexual relationship with a local woman in 2014.
The officers were bound by a peacekeeping deployment agreement that “strictly prohibits intimate or sexual relations with members of the local population due to the difference in real or perceived power or authority.”
Both the officers retired with full pensions before disciplinary hearings could be held.
Members of Montreal’s Haitian community say they are outraged by the lack of recourse, and some are asking the federal government to intervene.
Jean Fils-Aime, a political analyst and Montreal radio host, says the incidents serve as a reminder of how some Canadians act with a sense of impunity in other countries.
"You can do whatever you want to Haiti and there will be no punishment, there will be no consequences," he told CTV News.
The Montreal-area is home to Canada’s largest Haitian community.
“It’s sexual exploitation,” said Marjorie Villefranche, director of La Maison d’Haiti, an organization that promotes the education and integration of immigrant families in the Montreal-area.
Villefranche says loopholes that allow police to avoid such hearings are not something she expected to find in Canada.
“In Haiti . . . a lot of crimes go unpunished,” she said. “We are giving the same examples here too.”
Quebec is one of a handful of jurisdictions in Canada where once a police officer retires, any disciplinary hearing they may have faced is cancelled.
The situation involving the two Quebec officers is further complicated by the fact that the alleged offences did not happen in Canada.
Sûreté du Québec said the “most severe action” that could be handed down by the disciplinary committee, if wrongdoing was found, is termination of employment.
“If an employee resigns, then we lose any kind of power to sanction this employee for any kind of behaviour,” said SQ spokesperson Guy Lapointe.
According to SQ statistics, there have been 369 deployments to Haiti involving 298 officers. These two incidents have been the only complaints of sexual misconduct.
The United Nations says sexual abuse and exploitation is an ongoing problem during peacekeeping missions. The U.N. has investigated 69 incidents since 2015. Only one peacekeeper has faced punishment. A Montreal police officer was suspended for nine days for fathering a child with a Haitian woman.
Paula Donovan, the co-founder and co-director of the international advocacy organization AIDS-Free World, says the system is “broken.”
“There is no justice being realized for victims.”
Federal officials declined to comment on the two Quebec officers’ cases, but issued a statement saying "Canada will continue to engage with the UN to support initiatives which aim to prevent and combat all forms of sexual misconduct by peacekeeping personnel."
With files from CTV News’ Kevin Gallagher and CTV Montreal