In the waning hours of July 1, 2017, Sgt. Mark Bloxham arrived in Jerusalem and celebrated what was left of Canada Day in the Middle East. Surrounded by fellow Canadians taking part in Operation PROTEUS, it would be a year to the day that he would make his return home.
Operation PROTEUS, Canada’s contribution to the Office of the United States Security Coordinator (USSC), is a critical part of Canadian effort in the Middle East peace process. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) serve the USSC team to assist the Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) build their capacity in training, logistics, and professionalism.
Sgt. Bloxham, holding both 25 years with the EPS and previous international policing experience, was selected by RCMP International Deployment Services to serve as a diplomatic attaché in an advisor and mentor capacity with Task Force Jerusalem. Within a week of receiving acceptance he was transported to Ottawa to meet mission partners, receive his kit, and undergo various administrative and security clearances. After 10 days of training and briefing with the CAF, Sgt. Bloxham was en route to his new home and a much more torrid climate.
Assigned to Rotation 18, CAF, Operation PROTEUS, Sgt. Bloxham was stationed in the occupied West Bank of Jericho, Palestine and worked out of the Palestinian Officer’s Academy (POA). His primary objectives were to assist in the professionalization of the PASF, specifically the leadership and tactics of the POA, while participating in the design and delivery of the Junior Officer Leadership Course. Collaborating with a multinational team and directly partnering with a British Army Captain, Sgt. Bloxham delivered leadership training and mentorship to 100 young officers between September 2017 and May 2018. Despite some intercultural challenges, the course was considered an incredible success and Sgt. Bloxham was exalted for his efforts.
“In a very short time he has gained the respect and trust, not only from his Dutch, British, Canadian, Italian, and American colleagues, but – more importantly – from the Palestinians,” wrote Lt. Col. Rense de Vries of the Dutch Army. “As such and in combination with his professional reputation, he is greatly respected and naturally considered an integral part of the POA.”
On May 13, 2018, 52 officers graduated from the second POA class and Sgt. Bloxham and his partners were awarded for their immeasurable services. When asked of the biggest takeaway from his mission, Sgt. Bloxham referred to the collaboration between him, his colleagues, and the PASF.
“I formed outstanding friendships with my international team and the members of the PASF, and they won’t be forgotten any time soon,” reflects Sgt. Bloxham. “Most assignments are coordinated through the United Nations, so it was an absolute honour and privilege to serve the Canadian Armed Forces, alongside other organizations, in such a unique opportunity. I had been working towards an international policing mission like this for the entirety of my career and the experience was life-changing.”
This year marks 29 years of Canadian police contributions to international peace operations. EPS has supported the United Nations’ overall mission of maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, and promoting sustainable development. Since 1989, more than 3,800 Canadian police officers have been a part of over 66 missions around the globe in collaboration with the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, European Union, and Canadian Armed Forces. In addition to those Canadian police officers, more than 125,000 Canadian peacekeepers have participated in dozens of international efforts over the past six decades.
Canadian police officers contribute to the development of the local policing agencies which in turn benefits the countries they serve. The deployed officers return to Canada with a broader understanding of other cultures and world issues, coupled with increased professional skills and abilities that they bring to their workplace and communities.
EPS members have served on peace keeping missions in Ukraine, Haiti, Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Jordan, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, and Palestine between 2000 and 2018.