Ukraine Service to Shelters Recognized
But as it turned out it was a surprise for the 12 Division officer resulting from his overseas service in Ukraine over the pandemic.
Inside the package was a scroll, medal bar, lapel pin and documentation informing him he was the recipient of the Order of St. John’s Provincial Chair Recommendation for creating an international network to support two women shelters in Ukraine.
In September 2020, Rennie was deployed to the Eastern European country for seven months as part of Operation UNIFIER (Ukraine) that is a key cog of Canada’s overall effort to help bolster the country’s security, stability and sovereignty. Toronto Police members have supported numerous missions to train police officers including in Jordan, Afghanistan and Haiti.
Nearly 12,500 Ukrainian security personnel have been trained by international police officers under Operation UNIFIER since its establishment six years ago.
Inspector Jim Gotell, the 12 Division Unit Commander, congratulated Rennie on behalf of the Service.
“It’s an honour for Jason to be recognized for his efforts in promoting equity in regards to opportunities for women in Ukraine,” he said. “I understand some of the challenges he must have faced with moving this initiative forward.”
Rennie, who served for six years as a Detective Constable with 12 Division Family Violence Unit, said the shelters support domestic violence victims and their children.
Shortly after arriving in Ukraine last September, Rennie started researching the country’s domestic violence laws, learning that domestic violence only became a criminal offence in 2019.
He reached brought together representatives from the Ukraine National Police, White Ribbon Ukraine and local shelters through a Zoom meeting.
“During that meeting, they got an idea of how the shelter systems work in Toronto and what has been successful,” he said. “A support network was created and representatives from Walnut and Harmony requested First Aid training that’s not taught in Ukraine to the general public. They don’t have the resources that we have in Canada.”
St. John’s Ambulance Canada is in the process of putting together First Aid Training material and supplies to ship to both shelters in Ukraine.
“Both shelters have obtained Standard First Aid CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training,” he said. “St. John Ambulance International, which is part of this support network, is currently engaged with the two shelters to provide them with additional First Aid training material as well as AED’s for each shelter.”
As a senior Military Police Reserve member, Rennie was embedded with the 25th Military Police Training Centre in Lviv.
“I was able to put my civilian and military police experience to great use,” he said. “I oversaw the basic police training course ensuring that best practices were being taught and upheld to Canadian and NATO standards. These courses included the public order, use of force, crime scene investigations and general patrol. I was also utilized as a subject matter expert during working groups in order to develop the advanced policing course.”
While the global pandemic made training in Ukraine challenging, Rennie was still able to get a lot done.
“Instead of face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings became the norm,” he pointed out. “This did put a strain on international partners in terms of conducting in-person training. Adjustments had to be done for some of the training requirements.”
Meeting and collaborating with Ukrainians were the highlights of his deployment.
“All the Ukrainian people were very welcoming, friendly and shared common values and interests,” he said.
This was Rennie’s second deployment.
Four years ago, he was in Kuwait for six months, overseeing police operations in that country, Iraq and Jordan.
“On that occasion, I was able to come back home for three weeks and spend time with my family,” said the married father of three children. “This was different as this was the longest time I was away from my family and that was because of the pandemic. It was stressful for them, but they endured with the assistance of video messaging and other social media platforms.”
Rennie also faced lockdown measures that confined him to his hotel room when not working.
Again, virtual connections were important. On Remembrance Day 2020, Rennie was able to take part in a video conferencing meeting with his children’s school.
“I was able to explain to the school what I was doing overseas, which was great for me and the kids,” he said.