CBC Digital Archives

'Belet Huen is a peaceful place'

Canadian peacemakers were lauded as heroes when they went into an untamed land ruled by rebels. Their mission, Operation Deliverance, charged them with restoring order in Somalia. But in fact, the Canadian Airborne regiment was splitting apart at the seams, lacking both leadership and accountability. Murder after murder, the troops came home disgraced. Tracks were covered and responsibility shifted up and down the chain of command during an investigation that would dismantle the army and implicate the government in a high-level cover-up.

media clip
Early forecasts aren't optimistic. It's reported that Canadian forces will have to calm trigger-happy gangs, high on narcotics, who rule Somalia fearlessly. But when the Black Hawk helicopters land in Belet Huen, the Canadians are greeted with welcoming cheers. The Canadian soldiers are surprised to find a relative level of calm in Belet Huen. The famine is under control, with almost no one dying of starvation anymore in this replenished region. But over in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, U.S. Marines have shot and killed a Somali during a peace march.
. Two internal government reports written before the troops were sent to Somalia warned of attitude problems among Canadian soldiers. The Peacekeeping Review stated that "We are seen by some as self-indulgent and not sensitive to the feelings, customs and requirements of others." The Peacekeeping Training Report indicated that "Canadians are known as complainers with an attitude of superiority based in part on a lack of knowledge." This issue later became central to the Somalia inquiry. The question would be asked whether the Canadians should have been sent in at all.

. Lt.-Col. Carol Mathieu was placed in charge of the Canadian Airborne Regiment in October 1992. He succeeded Lt.-Col. Paul Morneau. During the public inquiry on Somalia, it was revealed that Morneau had recommended that a group of unruly soldiers be removed from the Somalia mission. Morneau was replaced by Mathieu after the Airborne division failed their readiness test before they departed for Somalia.

. Gen. John de Chastelain was the chief of defence staff when the Canadian soldiers were sent into action in Somalia. He was later criticized for sending the troops despite red flags that the Airborne Regiment was not adequately trained and suffered disciplinary problems. Gen. John Anderson succeeded de Chastelain once the mission was underway. The media also condemned him for telling the troops in Somalia to maintain a low profile during Kim Campbell's bid for the Conservative leadership.
Medium: Television
Program: Prime Time News
Broadcast Date: Dec. 28, 1992
Guest(s): Dan Alvis, Kevin Hopkins, Carol Mathieu, David Putsch, Michael Rainville
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Susan Harada
Duration: 5:24

Last updated: February 16, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Peacekeepers and Peacemakers: Canada's Diplom...

Canada has enjoyed a reputation for diplomacy ever since Lester B. Pearson came up with a nove...

1994: Federal government announces the Somali...

Allegations of violence and an organized cover-up spark a public inquiry into the treatment of...

The Somalia Affair Part 2

Canadian peacemakers were lauded as heroes when they went into an untamed land ruled by rebels...

Peacekeeper to the World

For half a century, Canada's Blue Berets have defused escalating tension and conflict with the...

1946: First UN General Assembly opens

In London, England, a new international organization holds the first "town meeting of the worl...

Horror and heroism: the Indian Ocean tsunami

Death tolls mount, aid pours in and tales of heroism emerge three days after the Indian Ocean ...