Canada is considering paying into a special UN trust fund for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by international peacekeepers, the Star has learned.
But while the UN requested all member states to pay into the Trust Fund for Assistance to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA), few countries have contributed — including Canada, which has five documented cases of sexual abuse against its peacekeepers serving in Haiti.
The trust fund was created in 2015 as part of the UN’s response to troubling allegations of sexual abuse on multiple peacekeeping missions.
As of this week, only five states — Norway, Japan, India, Cyprus and Bhutan — have contributed to the fund for a total of $536,000.
“Canada has not made a contribution, but continues to work with the UN to identify how we can most effectively promote and ensure a systematic response to SEA, including assistance to victims,” Natasha Nystrom, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, told the Star in an email.
“The SEA Trust Fund is one potential avenue that is being explored.”
The Canadian government has also designated an office “within the federal government” to respond to specific paternity allegations and support claims against Canadian peacekeepers. To date, only two paternity claims made against Canadian police peacekeepers serving in Haiti are known publicly.
Repeated requests for interviews with Global Affairs officials for this story were declined.
The Star reported earlier this month the UN is facing “glaring gaps” in accountability for peacekeepers accused of sexually abusing the people they’ve been sent to protect.
Internal reports prepared by Canadian staff at the UN noted the international body is beset by “turf wars” over jurisdiction when it comes to holding their own peacekeepers to account.
Canada has publicly acknowledged five such allegations, all against Canadian police officers serving in Haiti between 2013 and 2016. One officer, who was suspended for nine days after an investigation into his conduct, was singled out by former U.S. ambassador Samantha Power in a speech about the challenges of holding peacekeepers to account.
The internal Canadian reports, obtained through access to information law, said the UN’s system for dealing with the accusations is lacking “efficiency, transparency and coherency.” Part of the issue, the document stated, is a lack of action on the part of individual member states.
“As we continue to unpack how member states themselves can better approach this issue from pre-deployment training to punishing perpetrators to victims’ assistance, there must also be a greater willingness by individual countries to examine and address internal shortfalls,” the analysis read.
When a Canadian police peacekeeper is accused of sexual exploitation and abuse while on mission, it is the responsibility of the officer’s home police force to investigate that complaint. Until recently, the federal government had no formal mechanism for addressing complaints or paternity claims against Canadian police peacekeepers.
Last year, two Quebec provincial police officers retired before facing disciplinary headings for alleged sexual abuse in Haiti. By leaving, the officers avoided an investigation and any discipline by the force which no longer has jurisdiction over them.
Another of the five accused was an RCMP member, but the Mounties have refused to divulge any details due to privacy concerns.
The Liberal government has pledged 600 Canadian Armed Forces members and as many as 150 police officers for a new peacekeeping deployment in Africa. A decision on where, exactly, those peacekeepers would be stationed has not yet been made.
Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan have suggested the decision has been put off until Ottawa gets a feel for how the Trump administration will “engage in the world.”
“We want to make sure that we are working well with our allies and we are reflecting on the best way Canada can continue to help and play a positive role in the world,” Trudeau told a crowd in Calgary on Tuesday.