Citing “the current situation in Iraq,” RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval said the initiative is temporarily suspended. All Canadian police officers are safe and accounted for.
“When serving in missions abroad, Canadian police may be exposed to different risks due to the nature of their work, the location of their duty posts and other factors,” Duval said in a statement.
The development comes one day after Iranian missile strikes on two military bases in Iraq, which housed American and allied troops. Iran’s supreme leader called the attack a “slap” against the United States following the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
The 12 Canadian police officers sent to Iraq come from police agencies including Saskatoon, Halifax, Sûreté du Québec, and the Ontario Provincial Police.
“The RCMP, in consultation with our Canadian Police Arrangement and international coalition partners, constantly monitors and evaluates conditions and applies all reasonable mitigation efforts to ensure officer safety,” Duval said.
The Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) had two officers deployed when the mission was suspended. Each had roughly nine months left in their deployments at the time of the missile strikes.
Serving in Police Task Force – Iraq, SPS members have taught Iraqi officers skills like basic firearms handling and arrest procedures. They also provided more nuanced instruction in areas like gathering intelligence and understanding human rights.
During a December interview, Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper said the program has a global impact by improving international security. At the same time, Saskatoon officers receive valuable experience.
“It’s a leadership school,” Cooper said.
“I think it makes them better overall officers, to come back with some perspective on what Saskatoon police offer when you compare it to other places in the world.”
Earlier this week, the Canadian Forces said it had flown dozens of Canadian, American and other allied troops out of Iraq following the missile strikes.
Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance tweeted Tuesday that all Canadian military personnel were safe and accounted for.