“The only way to save Haiti is to put it under UN control,” noted a recent Globe and Mail headline. Robert Rotberg, founding director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Intrastate Conflict, demonstrates a scarcity of imagination and knowledge in making his colonialist appeal.
Highlighting an openly colonial streak in Canadian politics, prominent voices have repeatedly promoted “protectorate” status for Haiti. In 2014 right-wing Quebec City radio host, Sylvain Bouchard, told listeners, “I would transform Haiti into a colony. The UN must colonize Haiti.” During the 2003 “Ottawa initiative on Haiti” conference to plan the ouster of elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide US, French and Canadian officials discussed putting the country under UN trusteeship while a 2005 Canadian Military Journal article was titled “The case for international trusteeship in Haiti”.
In a Canadianized variation of the protectorate theme, constitutional law professor Richard Albert penned a 2017 Boston Globe opinion titled “Haiti should relinquish its sovereignty”. The Boston College professor wrote, “the new Haitian Constitution should do something virtually unprecedented: renounce the power of self-governance and assign it for a term of years, say 50, to a country that can be trusted to act in Haiti’s long-term interests.” According to the Canadian law professor his native land, which Albert called “one of Haiti’s most loyal friends”, should administer the Caribbean island nation.
In a similar vein, L’Actualité editor-in-chief, Carole Beaulieu, suggested Haiti become the eleventh Canadian province. In an article just after the 2004 coup titled “Et si on annexait Haïti?”, she wrote “Canada should annex Haiti to make it a little tropical paradise.”
At the less sophisticated conservative end of the political spectrum André Arthur, a former member of Parliament, labeled Haiti a “hopeless” and “sexually deviant” country populated by thieves and prostitutes that should be taken over by France as in the “heyday of colonial Haiti” (“belle époque de l’Haïti colonial”). “There is no hope in Haiti until the country is placed under trusteeship”, bellowed the Quebec City radio host in 2016. “We will never dare to do it, political correctness, it would be racism to say: So you say to France: … ‘For the next thirty years, you are the owner of Haiti, put it right. Kick the asses that need to be kicked.”
In his Globe commentary Rotberg displays a startling level of ignorance about Haitian affairs. While writing that “Haiti needs to become a ward of the United Nations”, Rotberg fails to recognize that the UN and foreign powers have dominated Haiti over the past 18 years. Haitians widely view the head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), Helen LaLime, a US diplomat, as colonial overseer. In 2019 BINUH replaced the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), which replaced La Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti (MINUSTAH) in 2017.
MINUSTAH was responsible for countless abuses during its 13-year occupation, which consisted of 8,000 foreign troops and 2,000 police. After helping oust thousands of elected officials in 2004, 500 Canadian soldiers were incorporated into MINUSTAH as it backed up a coup government’s violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters between March 2004 and May 2006. The UN force also killed dozens of civilians directly when it pacified Cité Soleil, a bastion of support for Aristide. The UN force was responsible for innumerable sexual abuses. The foreign forces had sex with minors, sodomized boys, raped young girls and left many single mothers to struggle with stigma and poverty after departing the country.
Aside from sexual abuse and political repression, the UN’s disregard for Haitian life caused a major cholera outbreak, which left over 10,000 dead and one million sick.
The 2004 coup and UN occupation introduced a form of multilateral colonial oversight to Haiti. The April 2004 Security Council resolution that replaced the two-month-old US, France and Canada Multinational Interim Force with MINUSTAH established the Core Group. (Unofficially, the Core Group traces its roots to the 2003 “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” meeting where US, French, OAS and Canadian officials discussed overthrowing Haiti’s elected government and putting the country under UN trusteeship.) The Core Group, which includes representatives of the US, Canada, France, Spain, Brazil, OAS, EU and UN, periodically releases collective statements on Haitian affairs and meet among themselves and with Haitian officials. It’s a flagrantly colonial alliance. After President Jovenel Moise was killed 15 months ago, for instance, the Core Group effectively appointed Ariel Henry prime minister through a press release. Implicated in Moise’s assassination, Henry has overseen the country’s descent in chaos.
Those calling for foreign control of Haiti ignore its loss of sovereignty since the 2004 coup. By what standards was the usurpation of Haitian sovereignty successful? By basically any metric, 18 years of US/Canada, UN, Core Group influence in Haiti has been a disaster. But imperialists don’t simply ignore the damaging impact of foreign intervention. In a stark demonstration of how power affects ideology, the more Haitian sovereignty is undercut the more forthright the calls to usurp Haitian sovereignty.
As has been said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Take one minute to email Canada’s foreign minister and opposition critics to say, “No Canadian military intervention in Haiti”. On November 1 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute will host “Crisis and Uprising: Canada’s Role in Haiti”