Quebec provincial police could join Mali peacekeeping mission
Past Haiti mission prompted several sexual misconduct reports
A contingent of officers from the Sûreté du Québec could soon be heading to the West African country of Mali as part of Canada's peacekeeping efforts.
The provincial police officers would help train Malian police in specialized techniques such as crime scene or major crime investigations, including homicide, said SQ Lt. Sophie Gougeon.
Gougeon spent a week in Mali's capital of Bamako last June with the RCMP, to assess whether a police contingent should go to the country.
"Are there any hospitals? What can they provide to our people if they are hurt or sick?"
"We just wanted to be sure that our people will be well taken care of if anything happens to them," she said.
CBC News reported last month that Canada plans to deploy up to 20 civilian police officers to the civil war-torn country, which has been one of the deadliest United Nations peacekeeping missions in recent years.
Gougeon contributed to the RCMP's report to the federal government, which the government will consult before issuing a final decision about dispatching police officers, likely this fall.
The first Canadian military team arrived in Mali at the end of June.
Canada hopes bringing in female officers such as Gougeon will help focus its peacekeeping efforts on the plight of women. Authorities are also interested in recruiting police from Quebec, since the mission is in a French-speaking country.
Keeping an eye on peers' behaviour
Gougeon, who took part in the mission to Haiti, says steps will be taken to prevent a repeat of past incidents.
Participants will be warned about proper behaviour during their training. They will have to sign documents pledging to conduct themselves appropriately, and they will be reminded of the existence of an employee support line that provides for advice and counselling.
Officers will also be asked to keep an eye on each other's behaviour.
"UN personnel are meeting with them, and they are constantly talking about it," Gougeon said. "We are doing everything we can to make sure no one is crossing the line on that subject."
While Gougeon says she cannot predict whether Quebec provincial police officers will eventually end up in Mali, she says her team felt perfectly comfortable in the country.
With files from the CBC's Spencer Van Dyk and Murray Brewster