A police officer who found a better life in Canada has just returned from Haiti as part of a mission to ensure people of the island nation are able to live in peace and stability.
Constable Guy Kama returned home to Toronto on November 17, after spending a year mentoring and training Haitian police as part of an RCMP deployment to help the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.
Kama started his deployment in Hinche, a commune in central Haiti.
“I was there for four months, working out of a police station, patrolling the streets with Haitian officers and assisting with traffic, homicide, gender-based violence and other investigations,” he said. “Then I was transferred to headquarters in Port-au-Prince to help their financial crimes unit. As team leader, my job was to assist my Haitian counterparts with investigations ranging from fraud and corruption to money-laundering and drug trafficking.
“That assignment was eye-opening because they don’t have the technology and tools that we have in Toronto and take for granted. I had to learn to do things their way, combining my knowledge and skills with their know-how.”
Kama, who joined the Service eight years ago and is fluent in French, said the deployment was a life-changing experience.
“It was far more than I ever expected,” he said. “You learn and grow as you go along and you have to be patient, understanding and open-minded. It’s something I will do again, once I get my wife’s permission.”
Kama had waited for his wife, Sanaz, to graduate from university before pursuing a mission abroad as it would separate him from his family for most of a year.
“This was the right time in his life to do this,” said Sanaz, who was at the airport with their sons Adam (11), Kayan (8) and Remy (5) to welcome Kama back home, along with dozens of Toronto officers. “We missed him, of course, but it was something he really wanted to do. We are proud of him and he has set a good example for our boys.”
While Kama didn’t experience any close calls during the assignment, he lost several officers he worked with and individuals he befriended.
“Policing is a dangerous profession in the country and officers, who are not well equipped and inexperienced, unfortunately lose their lives,” he said. At least one officer is killed on the job every two or three days.”
Liz Byrnes, 51 Division unit commander, isn’t surprised Kama undertook the challenging assignment.
“He’s deeply committed to ideals that we as a Service embrace,” she said. “He also recognizes the role that our officers play in helping to make a difference in the lives of others in disadvantaged and challenged communities around the world.”
Detective Barry Radford, of 51 Division, was also at the airport to welcome his colleague.
“Guy is community-oriented and a very dedicated officer,” said Radford. “He saw this assignment as a way to give back.”
Acting Deputy Chief Tom Russell represented Chief Mark Saunders at the welcome reception.
“Guy has demonstrated his commitment to help others and build communities,” he said. “He did a great job in representing the Service and himself in Haiti and we are happy that he’s back safe. Our Service owes him and others who have been deployed a very big thank-you.”
Born in the Congo, Kama came to Canada in 1997.
“I was looking for a better life,” he said.
After spending two years in Montreal, he moved to Toronto to learn English.
“That was the main reason, but I had jobs that weren’t fulfilling,” he said. “I wanted more. I felt something was missing and I found that when I joined Toronto Police because I was looking for a career where I could interact with people.”
After nearly three years at 53 Division, Kama transferred to 51 Division.
“The two Divisions share the same band width and that’s how I became aware of some of the things that were happening in that Division,” he noted. “I felt I could make a little difference and asked for a transfer that was granted.”
He spent two years on foot patrol before joining the Division’s fraud unit.
“With fraud, you have to understand, analyze and work with data you have to make sense of a certain crime and then explain what you have well enough so that a judge could understand and accept it. It’s challenging work, but I love it.”
Byrnes said Kama is one of the best investigators in the city.
“He simply fantastic in this field,” she added.
Kama was the fifth Service member to be deployed to Haiti.
Constables Daniel Saleh and Jean Bresse were the first Toronto Police officers who went to the Caribbean country, since police deployments there started just over two decades ago. They returned home in August 2013 from the year-long assignment, working alongside local police officers.
Sergeant Steve Henkel came back in August 2014, after spending a year sharing his policing experience with Haitian Coast Guard officers and assisting a local orphanage, and Constable Antoinette Rowe, who is assigned to Traffic Services, returned last February
Since 1999, a total of 89 Service members have been deployed to Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Jordan, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Haiti through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police International Peace Operations branch. The Canadian mission in Afghanistan ended in March 2014.
Nearly 300 Canadian police officers served in the war-torn country in the last 11 years.