CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 7 . . . .November 25, 2005
Since 1975, the Indonesian army's invasion of East Timor has resulted in 250,000 East Timorese deaths-much of this in deliberate slaughter. When the army left, East Timor was supposed to celebrate its freedom and return to normal. However, given the horrors of the occupation, this would not be an easy task. In order to help in its reconstruction, Canada sent 14 police officers to East Timor on a nine month tour of duty.
Women on Patrol focuses on Donna Doyle and Martine LeRoyer, two female members of the multi-national United Nations Police force established to maintain order and help train East Timorese police officers.
While this film is both shocking and disturbing, it is also movingly beautiful. With the two officers as the focus of the film, one can see not only the job the police officers have been sent to do, but also the personal impact this work has on them.
In any country, the police have to deal with disturbing characters and situations. However, in East Timor where people have seen or been subjected to all sorts of atrocities, they are numb to what would be seen in Canada as horrific. Both officers were attached to the Vulnerable Persons Unit where they were to deal with crimes which included domestic abuse, rape, robbery, assault and murder. In one case, LeRoyer fresh from interviewing a child who had been raped by her father and now has a baby, is shocked that the girl is so passive. She compares this situation to a rape case she had in Montreal where the victim was understandably distraught and crying. Here, the girl is silent. LeRoyer sums it up as: she was raped; no one was killed; life goes on. She also wonders who will support this family now that the father has been arrested. Clearly, this is difficult for her to understand.
The film works on several levels. The most obvious is the natural beauty of the land. Many shots feature beautiful vistas, smiling children and touching scenes as the officers deal with the people. This is a country that should be at peace. However, juxtaposed to this are scenes of violence, accounts of brutality, images of bodies, and forewarnings of bad things to come. The Canadian tour of duty coincided with the Independence Day celebration in May 2002. While this should have been a time of great joy, the days that led up to, and then followed, the celebration were very tense.
One can clearly see that both officers love their job. The demands made on them and the conditions under which they had to live would destroy many. Yet, at the end of the tour, LeRoyer is saddened to learn that her application to extend her tour has been rejected. Doyle is happy to be reunited with her husband who was also on the same tour in a different part of the country. She feels that she has done a good job, and that feeling is echoed by the people with whom she served.
As a conclusion, the film shows both officers on the job in Edmonton and Montreal. There is snow on the ground, a far cry from the sometime 50 degree Celsius tropical climate of East Timor. Both feel that they have become better police officers and better people for having served in East Timor.
Women on Patrol has great applicability in a World Issues or Civics class. It could be used in Career Counselling, but the graphic scenes and descriptions may be disturbing to some students.
Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.