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Dangerous Instance of Mistaken Identity

Heroes Remember

Dangerous Instance of Mistaken Identity

One day we were doing reconnaissance we were down, my peer and myself, André Racine went, Luc André Racine, were asked to go down in the southeast of Rwanda when we arrived to go do some reconnaissance and try to find out what was going there because no peacekeeper had been there since the beginning of the war and the genocide on April the 6th. So, we took with us a little convoy of two vehicle and we went to, to make our trail down to, to that place in the southeast towards Butare and then on to Cyangugu and we must, between Butare and Kigali I suspect there is maybe something like a hundred kilometres, and we must have hit about a hundred roadblocks just on the way down there. I think it took us almost over six or seven hours just to get there. And one of the incidents on the way back up is that for some reason or another, and this one I like to make it a little sound funny, but some reason or another, someone in the, we were stopped at a convoy, someone in the convoy decided that General Dallaire was in the convoy, and, and, and they at the time, I think it was a government side of the house that was doing the roadblock and they had a some sort of a hatred for the general and someone decided that I look like him. So in the, so, he came by my vehicle with my buddy on the other side and, and he started asking question, oh you're General Dallaire and I, I said, "No I'm not." So here I am showing my, I think I showed him four piece of ID's before I could convince him that I wasn't the general, and then after a while, we got a little a little tension and my weapon was a little closer than, than it was when it started, and finally we were able to convince him that I wasn't General Dallaire so we could move on and... Interviewer: I can't imagine the fear at that point. I don't know, it's the fear or the control fear I guess, we knew we could get out of this without you know with just discussion. It's just a matter of being able to handle the individual who is, is sometime on the lower, lower ranking of, of the army that's looking at you and he's, you know, just what we describe a young soldier, a private or corporal with very limited education. If you're able to control his, because his as fear as you are, and if you are able to control a bit his fear and, and calm him down and then maybe be able to talk to the higher ranking, you can resolve those issue, and the fear is really when, when you have the fear really is when you start losing the fact that you are not controlling anymore the situation, either through discussion or, or, or act. Then, I think the fear factor gets really, really up there but... We had, you know, I had a weapon at my head once, but we were able to, to, to talk him down and I said, you know, push that away, we discuss and do things and, and, I mean, there is a response. Is when they start lacking response that now you know that the moment between the lack of response from the individual and now the action that you have to take to protect yourself, it's a, it's a very critical and, and dedicated moment that will change the rest of, of the day, the rest of the mission, if you have to act with a, with a certain, a certain certainty and, and, and draw weapons. So, from that perspective, you try to remain in control and not get to that point. So, you might have your weapon with you, but you not necessarily wanna project that kind of readiness or attitude that you're going to use it immediately. In fact, at that night, I went to bed and I realized how much danger, really, we had been throughout the day and what was happening that night and so I, I slept with a loaded pistol underneath my, underneath my pillow and, and a fully semi-automatic weapon, you know, charged on the side of my bed because I, I didn't know, and I realize then that I said I wanna go home. I wanna make sure I'm going home and I'm not in a body bag, I guess, would be the expression, and that's when I realized it really hit me that I was in the middle of, of hell, if the expression is, and that I had to make sure I get home.

Mr. St. Denis recalls being mistaken for General Dallaire while stopped at a roadblock during a reconnaissance mission to the south of Rwanda. He describes how he negotiated his way out of the situation, and explains how, although he remained calm at the time, it greatly affected him later that night.

Jean Yves St. Denis

Mr. Jean Yves St. Denis grew up in Rodden, Quebec. He decided university wasn't for him, so he enlisted with the Canadian Army after graduating from high school in 1986. Mr. St. Denis had a very diverse 21 year career with the Canadian military, serving in Calgary, Germany, Ottawa, Rwanda, and Valcartier. While in Rwanda, Mr. St. Denis worked closely with General Dallaire, and witnessed many atrocities which affected him deeply for a long time after his return to Canada. With three overseas peacekeeping missions to his credit, Mr. St. Denis retired from the military in 2004, at which time he began working for Shell Canada.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Jean Yves St. Denis
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Royal Canadian Horse Artillery

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