When RCMP Insp. Benoit Maure decided to further his education – eventually culminating in a master’s degree in social justice – he did so as way to improve himself and perhaps open up career opportunities down the road.
What he found instead was a hidden passion for writing.
It wasn’t something that Maure – a former White Rock resident and Surrey officer who now works in the RCMP’s ‘E’ Division – acted on right away, however. Instead, he continued to move forward in a policing career that took him from Surrey to Ottawa, where he served as the officer-in-charge of a federal unit, as well as to Guatemala, where he served for one year as a peacekeeper on a United Nations mission. Then, from 2009-2013 he was the Police Liaison Officer at the Canadian embassy in the Dominican Republic, before returning to Canada.
“I started from pretty humble beginnings. I’m from Montreal, and I joined the RCMP at 24 with a high-school education, but joining the RCMP gave me so many opportunities,” Maure explained.
Now, he’s written about those opportunities – as well as the stories of other peacekeepers – in a new book, Leading at the Edge: True Tales from Canadian Police in Peacebuilding and Peacekeeping Missions around the World.
“Policing has really given me a lot of motivation, and then when I started my education, it was all kind of a trigger for the book,” Maure noted.
“I have a lot of admiration for writers, for journalists – for people with writing ability. I really gained an appreciation for how difficult and how challenging it can be.”
The 10-chapter book includes Maure’s tales from Guatemala – that’s Chapter 3 – and also includes nine other peacekeepers’ stories, including one from longtime Semiahmoo Peninsula native, Staff Sgt. Major John Buis, whose mission in the former Yugoslavia from 1992-1995 is featured in the book’s second chapter.
“My Guatemala story was getting a bit dated, so I thought, ‘How can I make something that is interesting for people to read – and not just police officers, but anyone?’ That’s when I got the idea to go talk to other people, and have them tell me their stories,” Maure said.
The book has been vetted and approved by the RCMP, and additionally supported and endorsed by the Halifax Regional Police, Saskatoon Police and a slew of universities, including Harvard.
Buis, Maure noted, was instrumental in helping the author find other peacekeepers who were willing to have their stories told.
Other chapters in the book include a retired RCMP deputy commissioner’s tales from a UN mission to Namibia in the late 1980s; Sgt. Lorin Lopetinsky’s mission to Kosovo; retired Chief Supt. Rick Taylor’s time in East Timor; retired Cpl. Chuck Kolot’s 11-years in Sierra Leone; plus other stories from places like Sudan, Palestine, Haiti and Afghanistan.
“Not everybody wanted to share their stories. We had a bit of convincing to do sometimes,” Maure said.
“Some of these people had really challenging missions. And even though you try to take the positives out of every (mission), these are tough situations. Some of these officers saw horrible things and they faced situations that they never would have imagined facing in their entire lives.
“As peace officers and also as human beings, they were put to the extreme. Sometimes, you had to make life-or-death decisions. As police officers, we’re trained to make those decisions… but it’s never easy.”
A perfect example, Maure said, is in the book’s final chapter, which focuses on retired Det. Lt. Serge Boulianne’s time spent with the United Nations in Haiti, during the time of the devastating 2010 earthquake that ravaged the small island nation.
“After the earthquake, those who survived regrouped… and this officer was put in charge of a small medical centre near the airport in Port-au-Prince,” Maure explained, adding that being a fellow peacekeeper himself helped some of his interview subjects feel more comfortable discussing their experiences.
”It was very small and it was soon overwhelmed with people trying to seek assistance. It was his job to (organize) the people who would come. And eventually, the doctors told him, ‘If we take anyone else, we won’t be able to save the lives of the people who are here already.’
“So he had to turn away people who needed help desperately. You can only imagine what he went through, having to do that. You’re trained to serve and protect everyone – and now that’s out the window, so how do you deal with that?
“You have to come to a realization that you made the right decision – and he did make the right decision – but it gets to the core of you. So those officers who went through something like that, they were not always over-anxious to share those stories.”
The book has plenty of uplifting moments, too, Maure is quick to point out – using Buis as an example.
Buis, Maure explained, nearly lost his leg – and his life – after being shot in the line of duty early in his career. During his UN mission, he was in the area of the former Yugoslavia that is now Croatia when he met a Serbian man who had lost the use of both his legs after being shot during the country’s ongoing conflict, and was using a dilapidated wheelchair to get around.
“Nobody there cared about this guy. They were in an area with Croatians, this guy was Serbian… but John, as a peacekeeper, bonded immediately with him. He knew what it was like – he’d almost lost his leg, and he’d gone through all these operations,” Maure explained.
“He bonded with him, and tried to help him. He’d take him to the hospital, help him where he could. And for that individual, it meant the world because someone cared about him.”
Through the stories told in his book, Maure said he hopes to “educate and motivate” people to “try to make this world a better place, sometimes even one person at a time.”
“Policing is under a lot of scrutiny for many reasons, but… I wanted to pass along the message that it’s a noble profession,” Maure said.
“I joined because I wanted to help people – that was my goal. And joining the police gave me so many opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.”