Ottawa demands answers in death of Canadian peacekeeper in Haiti

A retired RCMP officer serving as a UN peacekeeper was shot and killed by gunmen in a poor neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Tuesday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said Wednesday that Canada is demanding answers into the killing of a Canadian peacekeeper in Haiti.

"The United Nations are working closely with the Haitians to shed light on the events of yesterday," he told CBC News while emphasizing the importance of the dangerous mission that took the life of a retired RCMP officer from Quebec.

Mark Bourque, who was part of a Canadian police contingent helping provide security for the upcoming elections in the country, was killed by gunmen on Tuesday in Port-au-Prince.

Bourque, 57, from Stoneham, Que., is the eighth UN peacekeeper to be killed in Haiti in the past 18 months, and the fourth shooting victim in the past five days.

According to Damien Anses-Cardona, a spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission, Bourque was shot at by two unknown gunmen while on patrol in Cité Soleil, a sprawling, impoverished suburb of the capital.

Another UN spokesman, David Wimhurst described Cité Soleil as "an extremely violent slum area of the city run by armed gangs."

According to Wimhurst, Bourque "was driving along Route Nationale 1 and the car came under fire. The police officer was hit in the leg, very seriously injured in the leg. His partner tried to help him as much as he could.

"An armoured personnel carrier, from the UN came in to extract him and got him to the Argentinean hospital ... unfortunately they couldn't save him."

He died in hospital after losing a lot of blood. His colleague wasn't injured.

Dangerous mission

On Friday, three Chilean peacekeepers were ambushed and shot in the north of the country, near Cap Hatien. Their injuries are not described as life threatening.

Bourque's death brings to eight the number of peacekeepers that have died in Haiti since the UN established a mission there in June 2004. Four have died in accidents, according to U.N. officials, 30 others have been wounded.

There are 125 active and retired RCMP officers on duty in Haiti amid the nearly 9,000 UN soldiers trying to bring order to that country.

Pettigrew says that even though the situation is dangerous, Canada's efforts in Haiti must continue.

"I think it is important that Canada maintains its commitment," he told CBC.

"Canada is part of the UN force there and we have to do our share," he said.

"The general situation is a challenging one."

Prime Minister Paul Martin condemned the killing. In a statement he said "Bourque was in Haiti as part of Canada's efforts to promote good governance and democracy, and his work there exemplified to the world the finest of Canada's values.

Haiti has scheduled legislative and presidential elections for Jan. 8.

The country has been wracked by political and gang violence and since a bloody rebellion overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.