OTTAWA – A man eulogized as the “face of international policing for the RCMP” was laid to rest Wednesday with full police honours after perishing in the Haitian earthquake earlier this month.
Hundreds of Mounties in red serge packed a downtown church to pay last respects to Chief Supt. Doug Coates, who died serving with the United Nations on Jan. 12 in Port-au-Prince.
“Doug was a good man doing important work in a dangerous place,” said RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, the first of eight speakers to giving glowing tributes at the funeral.
Coates, 52, was one of two Mounties who died in the quake along with at least 19 other Canadians. Another 147 Canadians are still missing.
He leaves behind a wife and three children.
Funeral services for RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher are to be held Thursday in Woodstock, N.B.
Coates was sent off with all the pomp and ceremony that can be accorded a career officer with a sterling international peacekeeping reputation.
Four mounted horsemen in full dress kit led a procession of hundreds of uniformed police from a historic downtown military drill hall past the National War Memorial and the national peacekeeping monument to Notre Dame Basilica.
Several dozen staff of the United States Embassy lined the route as the procession passed. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews joined Elliott outside the basilica for the arrival.
Eight Mounties carried Coates’ coffin – draped in Canadian and United Nations flags – up the stairs to the church.
An overflow crowd of a couple of hundred more uniformed police watched the proceedings on two giant TV screens in the ballroom of a nearby hotel.
Coates did his first deployment in Haiti in 1993, when he had to be evacuated from the country because of security threats. He was back the next year, helping establish five police stations in the Grand Anse region.
He was seconded for a time to the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Ottawa, the Australian Federal Police and headed up the RCMP’s International Peace Operations Branch before heading back to Haiti last June to lead operations for the UN stabilization mission.
Coates was remembered by a friend and colleague, retired chief superintendent David Beer, as a pioneer advocate of international police missions “in the face of cynics and skeptics” both within the RCMP and outside the force.
He worked, said Beer, “in the word’s most treacherous and star-crossed places,” to provide security and peace of mind to those who could count on neither.
Coates’ remains were recovered from the rubble of the collapsed UN headquarters in Port-au-Prince following the massive earthquake that levelled much of the island nation’s infrastructure, killing tens of thousands.
“The one consolation is perhaps to know that he died as he lived, in the service of peace,” said Elliott.