Category Archives: Canada in Haiti

Liberal ‘feminist’ policy funds Haitian police (for real)

An important component of Trudeau’s international branding has been his government’s purported “feminist foreign policy”. A recent aid contract to Haiti highlights the hollowness of these Liberal claims.

Under its Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) the Trudeau government has tendered a $12.5 million contract in operational support to the Haitian police. According to Buyandsell.gc.ca, “the Support for a Professional and Inclusive Police in Haiti (SPIP) Project will contribute to 3 of Canada’s 6 Feminist International Assistance Policyaction areas: (i) gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, (ii) inclusive governance, and (iii) peace and security. By strengthening the HNP’s [Haitian national police] institutional and operational capacities, the project will help stabilize the country politically and socially, and maintain peace and public safety in a fragile country, which are essential to sustainable development in Haiti.”

One must employ an extremely elastic definition of “feminism” to claim funding the Haitian police especially benefits women. Haiti’s Canadian trained and funded police force is what has sustained the repressive, corrupt and illegitimate Jovenel Moïse as President. Since a popular uprising began in July 2018 against Moïse the police have killed dozens, probably over 100 people, with nary any criticism from the Trudeau government.

But this is not the first time the Liberals have used funding under its Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) to pursue policies that have little to do with any serious definition of feminism.

Along with praise for Moïse, Global Affairs’ webpage about “Canada’s international assistance in Haiti” focuses on gender equity and during a February 2018 visit international development minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau, launched the first project under FIAP’s Women’s Voice and Leadership Program. “It’s a new president and we want to support him,” Bibeau told CBC before leaving on a trip that included a meeting with Haiti’s illegitimate president.

In June 2017 the Trudeau government released its FIAP, which is supposed to direct bilateral aid towards gender focused initiatives. Sixteen months later Chrystia Freeland convened a first ever Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with representatives from about 20 countries. At the September 2018 gathering in Montréal Freeland announced that the Liberals would appoint an Ambassador for Women Peace and Security, which Trudeau later said would “help advance Canada’s feminist foreign policy.”

But, the Liberals’ “viewed ‘feminist’ as a branding tool rather than a realignment of power relations”, noted Rafia Zakaria in a Nation story headlined “Canada’s ‘Feminist’ Foreign Aid Is a Fraud.” The Liberals commitment to feminist internationalism was paper-thin.

In July 2019 Ottawa joined Washington as the only other government to vote against a UN Economic and Social Council resolution stating, “the Israeli occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women and girls with regard to the fulfillment of their rights.” As the Liberals touted their “feminist foreign policy”, they sold armoured vehicles to the Saudis and deepened ties to other highly misogynistic Gulf monarchies. They also aligned with anti-woman Jihadists against a secular (if repressive) government in Syria.

Disregarding their promise to rein in Canadian mining abuses abroad also undercuts the Liberals’ “feminist foreign policy”. Sexual assault often plagues communities near Canadian-run mines and as the primary caregivers, women are disproportionately burdened by the ecological destruction caused by mining. At the same time, most mining jobs go to men.

Trudeau touted right-wing allies for being pro woman while seeking to get rid of leftist governments with stronger feminist credentials. The PM lauded far right Colombian president Ivan Duque for adopting “a gender-equal cabinet.” At the same time the Liberals sought to oust a Nicaraguan government in which women held more than half of all cabinet positions and 40 percent of the legislature. Canada’s feminist foreign minister also backed the overthrow of a Bolivian government, which adopted a series of legislative measures that greatly advanced women’s representation in politics.

Two days before launching FIAP the Liberals announced their defence policy review, which included a plan to increase military spending by 70% over a decade. The government committed $62 billion more to the military — already five times the aid budget — over 20 years.

The Canadian Forces is a highly patriarchal institution. Women represented 15.4% of military personnel in 2018. In 2015 former Supreme Court judge Marie Deschamps found a “culture of misogyny” in the CF “hostile to women.” Her officially sponsored investigation concluded, “the overall perception is that a ‘boys club’ culture still prevails in the armed forces.” Four years later Deschamps told a House of Commons defence committee there had been little progressin eliminating sexism within the CF.

Along with increasing military spending, the Liberals promoted the arms industry and their international sales. A male-dominated sector, Canadian weapons were sold to a number of violent, misogynist, governments. The Liberals deployed Canadian Forces on a number of aggressive missions. In Iraq, they boasted about killing a person with a three-kilometre sniper shot. A purveyor of violence, the Canadian military is the institutional embodiment of ‘toxic masculinity’. A genuine “feminist foreign policy” would seek to rein in — not expand — the CF.

The Liberals’ so called “feminist foreign policy” is another example of their ‘talking left and acting right’ agenda that is an insult to Canadian feminists, as well as all those who believe in a progressive foreign policy.

 

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Propaganda or principle? Trudeau on Venezuela and Haiti

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Haitian president Jovenel Moïse and Trudeau

Propaganda or principle? In the world of foreign affairs the latter is often claimed but the former is much more common.

One way to evaluate the seriousness of the Trudeau government’s stated objectives in seeking to oust Venezuela’s government is to examine their policy elsewhere in the Caribbean. While they talk about the constitution, democracy and human rights there, the Liberals ignore their stated ideals in Haiti.

The only reason corrupt repressive and illegitimate president Jovenel Moïse remains in office is due to the support of Ottawa and Washington. Since July 2018 there have been massive protests and strikes, including one that shuttered Port-au-Prince for six weeks, calling for Moïse’s removal. But, the US and Canada have continued to offer decisive diplomatic, financial and policing support. (A by-product of US/Canadian policy, Moïse benefited from the destruction of Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, in the 2004 coup and aggressive interference in the 2010 presidential election in favor of Michel Martelly, who is Moïse’s mentor.)

The constitutional and human rights situation in Haiti is deteriorating. Since the start of the year Moïse has governed by decree and has recently begun appointing local level officials. There haven’t been elections during Moïse time in office, so the mandates of most officials have expired.

Plunging the country into a greater constitutional morass, eight members of the provisional electoral council resigned last week (the other member stepped aside a few weeks earlier). They resigned in response to a letter from Moïse giving different social sectors four days to either confirm or replace their representatives on the electoral council.

Two months ago, nine gangs in Port-au-Prince brokered an alliance. Backed by Moïse, the “G9 and Family” accord is largely designed to deter protests and election organizing. InSight Crime writer Parker Asmann explains, “the G9 alliance has reportedly benefited from strong ties to the government of President Jovenel Moïse. The gang leaders are seemingly free from persecution so long as they help keep the peace in the neighborhoods they control. In exchange, Moïse’s government has found in them loyal foot soldiers quelling insecurity, stamping out opposition voices and shoring up political support across the capital.”

The mastermind of the G9 is Jimmy Chérizier, alias “Barbecue”. A former police officer, Chérizier was involved in a November 2017 police operation that left at least 14 innocent civilians dead in the neighborhood of Grand Ravine. Chérizier has also been accused of leading a four day killing spree that left as many as 71 dead in La Saline in November 2018 and a recent United Nations report named Chérizier in killings in the neighborhood of Bel-Air last November. After the La Saline massacre he was dismissed from the police and a warrant was put out for Chérizier’s arrest. But, the 14-year veteran of the force was recently photographed smiling next to a group of police.

Chérizier likely joined the police with a host of other thugs after Canada and the US took over the force following the 2004 coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide and other elected officials. Since then Ottawa has financed police facilities and Canadian police have trained their Haitian counterparts. Canadian diplomats regularly attend Haitian police ceremonies and praise the force. But, they rarely criticize their abundant abuses. In a Le Nouveliste interview last month Canadian ambassador Stuart Savage refused to answer a direct question about police repression. The reporter asked on “June 29 there was a demonstration that was suppressed by the police in Haiti. How does Canada, which works for human rights, which funds the National Police of Haiti, which helps the Haitian government, understand what happened that Monday?” Savage responded, “I am not aware of all the facts of this specific event. But I can tell you that in a democracy, the right to organize peaceful demonstrations is a given and must be respected. I hope that here and elsewhere this right will continue to be upheld, because it is necessary that people who have perspectives to share, to communicate, to convey, have a peaceful means to do so.”

Did Savage seek out information about the repression of a Nou pap dòmi rally, reported on by Le Nouveliste, and subsequently express Canada’s opposition to the police suppressing a protest? Not from what I could find. I searched in vain for anything critical of police actions on the embassy or ambassador’s twitter accounts. Similarly, there’s nothing about the widely discussed G9 gang alliance or the electoral council resigning. But, the Canadian ambassador in Haiti has taken the time to criticize the Venezuelan government. Savage’s last two tweets were about the Canadian government’s campaign to oust Nicolás Maduro’s government.

As respect for the constitution, democracy and human rights go from bad to worse in Haiti there is barely a murmur of criticism from Canadian officials. At the same time the Trudeau government claims it is defending said ideals in Venezuela.

 

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Commemorating US occupation of Haiti

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rebel leader Charlemagne Peralte

While remembering their past has not prevented history from repeating itself, it is not possible for the descendants of the world’s first successful large-scale slave revolt to forget the trauma inflicted by their northern neighbours.

One hundred and five years ago today a brutal US occupation of Haiti began. To commemorate an intervention that continues to shape that country Solidarity Québec Haiti is organizing a sit in in front of the US Consulate in Montreal.

On July 28, 1915 the USS Washington, with 900-men and 20 canons, docked in Port-au-Prince. US troops withdrew in 1934 but Washington largely controlled the country’s finances until 1941 and the Banque de la République d’Haïti remained under US supervision until 1947.

The occupation wasn’t Washington’s first instance of interference in Haiti but rather consolidated its grip over the country. Six months beforehand US Marines marched on the treasury in Port-au-Prince and took the nation’s entire gold reserve.

At the height, 5000 US Marines were stationed in the country of less than 3 million. US-led forces brutally suppressed a largely peasant resistance movement, killing 15,000 Haitians.

In one of many instances of overt US racism, a top commander in the occupation, Colonel Littleton (Tony) Waller, descendent of a prominent family of slaveowners, said, “I know the nigger and how to handle him.”

To suppress the anti-occupation movement the US employed the nascent technique of aerial bombardment. Most of the fighting ended when rebel leader Charlemagne Peralte was killed, pinned to a door and left on a street to rot for days at the end of 1919. The US military described Peralte as the “supreme bandit of Haiti”.

In a famous mea culpa, an architect of the occupation confessed he was in fact the true “gangster”. Describing himself as a “high class muscle man for Big Business” and “gangster for capitalism”, Marine Corps General Smedley Butler wrote in an article years later, “I helped make Haiti … a decent place for the National City Bank Boys to collect revenues in.”

Opposition to the occupation was fed by conscription. US authorities captured civilians and compelled them to work on public roadway, buildings and other infrastructure. One reason the Marines wanted new roads was to help them bypass rugged terrain to suppress the resistance.

During the occupation the US established a new military. Created to crush resistance to the foreign presence, the National Guard “never fought anyone but Haitians.” For the next 70 years it would be used by Washington and the elite against Haiti’s poor. Haiti’s current government is seeking to revive that force.

In general, the occupation devastated the peasantry. Wealth extracted from the countryside was overwhelmingly channeled to infrastructure in the capital and foreign banks. The occupation spurred migration to Port-au-Prince and out of the country.

The US instigated other major changes to rural ways. In 1918 they rewrote the constitution to allow foreigners to purchase land, which had been outlawed since independence. A number of US corporations took advantage of the changes. The US controlled North Haytian Sugar Company and Haytian Pineapple Company both acquired hundreds of acres of land while the Haitian American Development Corporation, Haytian Corporation of America and Haytian Agricultural Corporation acquired tens of thousands of acres.

Toronto-based Sun Life Assurance Company initiated its operations in Haiti during this period. Canada’s largest bank also benefited from the US occupation. In 1919 the Royal Bank of Canada became the second bank in Haiti. RBC hired former finance minister Louis Borno as a legal advisor and officials of the Canadian firm subsequently financed his successful presidential bid during the US occupation.

Unfortunately, Solidarity Québec Haiti’s sit in is not only about drawing attention to a dark chapter in Haitian history. Washington retains significant influence over the country. In fact, the only reason the corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Jovenel Moïse is currently president of Haiti is due to US (and Canadian) support.

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Québec’s not a counterweight to US dominance of Haiti

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Québec Premier Jean Charest and Haiti Prime Minister Gerard Latortue

Le Devoir’s Christian Rioux is right to highlight the ruinous nature of US power in Haiti. But, he’s wrong to focus on Black American cultural influence or to suggest Québec has challenged US power there.

In “Se rat kay kap manje kay” Rioux lays out his strongly Paris/Francophonie centric world view. Rioux’s claim that French ideals inspired the Haitian Revolution is offensive. While the French Revolution of 1789 opened some political space for the revolutionary slaves, the Africans of Saint Domingue repeatedly resisted the barbaric French-run plantation economy.

The Paris-based correspondent’s criticism of Black American cultural influence in Haiti is bizarre. While it is important to question all elements of the US’s immense power over that country, other manifestations of American power are far more damaging.

Rioux’suggestion that Haitians look to Québec as a counterweight to US/Anglo dominance is the most important element of his much-criticized story to unravel. To make his point, Rioux reaches back to the 1943 visit of Haitian president Élie Lescot to Canada. During his trip Lescot received an honorary degree from l’Université de Laval and was feted by Québec Premier Adélard Godbout. But, complains Rioux, Lescot received a much frostier reception from Prime Minister McKenzie King in Ottawa, supposedly reflecting Anglo indifference to Haiti.

But, Lescot’s presidency was largely the product of US influence in the country. A member of the small mixed-race elite, Lescot took power not long after the end of the US military occupation and throughout his time as president the US controlled the Banque de la République d’Haïti. In partnership with the US, Lescot expelled peasants from more than 100,000 hectares, razing their homes and destroying more than a million fruit trees in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to cultivate rubber for the US war machine. He deepened the US-created Army’s repressive Section Chief system in rural areas and Lescot was close to Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo who ordered the 1937 slaughter of 20,000 Haitians out of fear they were “darkening” his country.

Lescot’s visit to Québec, notes Sean Mills in A Place in the Sun: Haiti, Haitians, and the Remaking of Quebec, reflected the growing ties between Catholic, French speaking Québecers and the Haitian elite. They were generally hostile towards the overwhelming majority of Creole speaking, voodoo practicing, moun andeyo. In 1941-42 Lescot supported the Catholic church’s anti-superstition campaign that targeted voodoo practitioners for arrest, beatings and even death.

In 1946 Lescot was ousted in a worker/student/peasant uprising in what Laurent Dubois, author of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, describes as the first successful popular overthrow of a US-backed regime in the Americas.

Lescot’s ouster ushered in a social reformist government. The first black president since the US occupied the country in 1915, Dumarsais Estimé substantially increased the number of black professionals in cabinet and civil service positions.

Québec’s support for Lescot didn’t benefit most Haitians. Nor did it challenge US dominance over the country.

To take a more recent example, the same can be said for Québec Premier Jean Charest’s meeting with Prime Minister Gerard Latortue at his Montréal office in 2006. After living in Florida for many years, Latortue was installed following the US-led ouster of thousands of elected officials, including president Jean Bertrand Aristide, in 2004. Charest’s diplomatic support for Latortue reinforced, rather than undermined, Washington’s grip over the country.

Anyone genuinely concerned about Haiti must challenge US power there. As such, Solidarity Québec Haiti is rallying in front of the US Consulate on July 28 to mark the 105th anniversary of its brutal occupation. Washington — backed by Canada/Québec — continues to largely determine Haitian affairs. The only reason, for instance, the corrupt and repressive Jovenel Moïse remains president is because of US backing.

In a future column Rioux should look beyond the threats posed by hip hop and investigate the deleterious impact US diplomatic, aid, military and intelligence officials have had and continue to have in Haiti.

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Haiti petition challenges foreign policy apparatus

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While it may seem to be a simple call to release documents, Solidarité Québec-Haïti’s House of Commons petition is an indictment of Canada’s entire foreign policy/media apparatus.

In my research about Canadian foreign policy I have come across no equivalent to the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti”. In early 2003 the federal government organized a private meeting of US, French and Organization of American States officials to discuss replacing Haiti’s elected government, putting the country under UN trusteeship and re-establishing its army. In what was likely a government-organized trial balloon, a prominent journalist working for Québec’s top news magazine reported on it at the time. A year later what was reported/discussed largely transpired.

Nonetheless, after the February 29, 2004, coup the dominant media refused to investigate the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” and barely mentioned the meeting. A Canadian Newsstand search found not one single English language report about the meeting (except two opinion pieces by me and another solidarity activist that mentioned it). La Presse may be the only corporate newspaper to have reported on the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” in the 15 years after the coup. In that case progressive journalist Jooned Khan used space made available during Haiti’s February 2006 election upheaval to briefly mention the gathering on two occasions.

Recently a major media outlet looked back on the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti”. In a 45-minute report tied to the 10thanniversary of the 2010 earthquake Radio-Canada’s flagship news program “Enquête” reported on it. They interviewed Denis Paradis, the Liberal minister responsible for organizing the meeting, who admitted no Haitian officials were invited to discuss their own country’s future during the get together in 2003. They also interviewed Solidarité Québec-Haïti member Jean Saint-Vil who offered a critical perspective.

In a bid to build on this media breakthrough, Solidarité Québec-Haïti has launched a House of Commons petitionreferencing Enquête’s report and calling on the government to “Publish all documents relating to the ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti’” and to “Hold a hearing of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to learn everything there is to know about the ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti,’ including its link to the “Core Group.” Bloc Québecois MP Mario Beaulieu has sponsored it.

Just after the coup then NDP MP Svend Robinson requested minutes of the private meeting be made available.Subsequently, researcher Anthony Fenton placed an Access to Information request for all documents related to the“Ottawa Initiative on Haiti”. What he received was heavily redacted. In Haiti Betrayed, a powerful new documentary about Canadian imperialism, Elaine Brière notes that the government refused to release documents related to theOttawa Initiative on Haiti.

The meeting remains politically relevant. Enquête suggested the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti led to the creation of the “Core Group,” an alliance of foreign ambassadors that largely determines Haitian affairs. Solidarité Québec-Haïti is using the petition to pressure Ottawa to withdraw from the “Core Group”, which is the real power behind corrupt, repressive and illegitimate president Jovenel Moïse.

The petition requires 175 more signatures to be presented in the House of Commons, which will force the government to formally respond. If you are a citizen or permanent resident of Canada please sign it.

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Canada out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS

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“Qui se ressemble, s’assemble.” The English saying is “birds of a feather flock together.” Translated from Spanish: “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” The folk wisdom that who we hang out with tells a lot about us is reflected in numerous proverbs.

Whatever the language, who Ottawa chooses to hang out with tells us a lot about who Canada is in the Americas. The coalitions/institutions Ottawa is part of in the Americas speak of siding with the rich and powerful, of being part of the US Empire, of imperialism.

Recently Haiti joined the Lima Group of governments seeking to overthrow the Venezuelan government. Instigated by Canada and Peru in mid 2017, the Lima Group has successfully corralled regional support for the US-led campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro. The coalition has gathered on a dozen occasions — including a third summit to be held in Canada on Thursday — to develop common positions and strategize on regime change.

President Jovenel Moïse’s decision to join the Lima Group highlights the influence of another Canadian-sponsored imperial group of friends. Unlike the Trudeau government’s anti-Venezuela positions, Moïse’s steps towards the Lima Group have been controversial in Haiti. When his government first voted against Venezuela at the Organization of American States (OAS) 13 months ago it stoked the fire of popular discontent that nearly toppled him. Until recently Haiti benefited from the discounted Venezuelan Petrocaribe oil program, which Moïse and his acolytes pilfered, spurring massive protests over the past 18 months. More generally, Haitians overwhelmingly view themselves as anti-imperialist and are proud their ancestors aided South American independence leaders Simon Bolivar and Miranda to defeat Spanish rule.

As popular discontent has grown, Moïse has become increasingly dependent on outside backing. The only reason Moïse is president is because of the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”, which comprises the ambassadors of the US, Canada, France, Brazil and Spain, as well as representatives of the EU and OAS. Core Group representatives meet regularly among themselves and with Haitian officials and periodically release collective statements on Haitian affairs.

Last month Radio Canada’s investigative programme Enquête pointed out that the Core Group was spawned at the “Ottawa initiative on Haiti”. Held at the Meech Lake Government Resort on January 31 and February 1, 2003, no Haitian officials were invited to the private gathering where US, French, OAS and Canadian officials discussed overthrowing Haiti’s elected government, putting the country under UN trusteeship and recreating the Haitian military.

Since the subsequent February 2004 coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide the Core Group has heavily influenced Haitian affairs. But, taking office two and a half years after the coup, René Préval succeeded in carving out some room to govern independently of the Core Group overseers — joining Venezuela’s Petrocaribe, for instance — but the January 2010 earthquake devastated the Haitian government. Taking advantage of its weakness, the Core Group pushed for elections to be held months after the earthquake and when their preferred candidate was in third place they dispatched an OAS “Expert Verification Mission” that determined (without offering proof) extreme right-wing candidate Michel Martelly deserved to be in the second round runoff. In effect, the Core Group employed the OAS to reassert their primacy over Haitian affairs.

Headquartered in the US capital, the OAS has long been a tool of Washington’s and capitalism’s dominance of the region. A few months ago OAS electoral observers played an important role in the overthrow of Evo Morales, prompting Bolivia’s first ever indigenous president to label the organization “in the service of the North American empire.”

The OAS receives between 44% and 57% of its budget from Washington. Responsible for as much as 12% of the organization’s budget, Canada is the second largest contributor to the 33-nation group.

Unfortunately, interventionist/imperialist alliances reinforce each other. A representative of the OAS is part of the Core Group while the Core Group has driven Haiti into joining the Lima Group. At the same time the Lima Group’s success in stoking regional opposition to Maduro has enabled the OAS to take ever more hostile positions towards Venezuela’s government. Like a teenager getting involved with the “wrong people” this circle of “friends” has been a very bad influence. It has encouraged bullying, bribery and other anti-social imperialist behaviour.

The Lima Group and Core Group are wholly illegitimate alliances. While the Organization of American States is slightly more complicated, progressives shouldn’t hesitate to proclaim, “Canada out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS.”

 

 

Protests are being organized for Thursday and Friday in a number of Canadian cities against the Lima Group.

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Remembering the Earthquake in Haiti Ten Years On

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Ten years ago Sunday an earthquake devastated Haiti. In a few minutes of violent shaking hundreds of thousands perished in Port-au-Prince and surrounding regions and many more were permanently scarred.

It’s important to commemorate this horrifying tragedy. But this solemn occasion is also a good moment to reflect on Canada’s role in undermining the beleaguered nation’s capacity to prepare/respond/overcome natural disasters.

Asked my thoughts on Canada’s role in Haiti the day after the quake, I told reporter Paul Koring that so long as the power dynamics in the country did not shift there would be little change: “Cynically, it feels like a ‘pity time for the Haitians’ but I doubt much will really change,” says Yves Engler, a left-wing activist from Montreal who blames the United States, along with Canada, for decades of self-interested meddling in Haitian affairs. “We bear some responsibility … because our policies have undermined Haiti’s capacity to deal with natural disasters.”

Unfortunately, Canada’s response was worse than I could have imagined. Immediately after the quake decision makers in Ottawa were more concerned with controlling Haiti than assisting victims. To police Haiti’s traumatized and suffering population, 2,050 Canadian troops were deployed alongside 12,000 US soldiers (8,000 UN soldiers were already there). Though Ottawa rapidly deployed 2,050 troops they ignored calls to dispatch this country’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) Teams, which are trained to “locate trapped persons in collapsed structures.”

According to internal government documents the Canadian Press examined a year after the disaster, officials in Ottawa feared a post-earthquake power vacuum could lead to a “popular uprising.” One briefing note marked “secret” explained: “Political fragility has increased, the risks of a popular uprising, and has fed the rumour that ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, currently in exile in South Africa, wants to organize a return to power.” Six years earlier the US, France and Canada ousted the elected president.

Canada and the US’ indifference/contempt towards Haitian sovereignty was also on display in the reconstruction effort. Thirteen days after the quake Canada organized a high profile Ministerial Preparatory Conference on Haiti for major international donors. Two months later Canada co-chaired the New York International Donors’ Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti. At these conferences Haitian officials played a tertiary role in the discussions. Subsequently, the US, France and Canada demanded the Haitian parliament pass an 18-month long state of emergency law that effectively gave up government control over the reconstruction. They held up money to ensure international control of the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti, authorized to spend billions of dollars in reconstruction money.

Most of the money that was distributed went to foreign aid workers who received relatively extravagant salaries/living costs or to expensive contracts gobbled up by Western/Haitian elite owned companies. According to an Associated Press assessment of the aid the US delivered in the two months after the quake, one cent on the dollar went to the Haitian government (thirty-three cents went to the US military). Canadian aid patterns were similar. Author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster Jonathan Katz writes, “Canada disbursed $657 million from the quake to September 2012 ‘for Haiti,’ but only about 2% went to the Haitian government.”

Other investigations found equally startling numbers. Having raised $500 million for Haiti and publicly boasted about its housing efforts, the US Red Cross built only six permanent homes in the country.

Not viewing the René Preval government as fully compliant, the US, France and Canada pushed for elections months after the earthquake. (Six weeks before the quake, according to a cable released by Wikileaks, Canadian and EU officials complained that Préval “emasculated” the country’s right-wing. In response, they proposed to “purchase radio airtime for opposition politicians to plug their candidacies” or they may “cease to be much of a meaningful force in the next government.”) After the first round of the presidential election the US and Canada pushed Préval party’s candidate out of the runoff in favor of third place candidate, Michel Martelly. A six-person Organization of American States (OAS) mission, including a Canadian representative, concluded that Martelly deserved to be in the second round. But, in analyzing the OAS methodology, the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, determined that “the Mission did not establish any legal, statistical, or other logical basis for its conclusions.” Nevertheless, Ottawa and Washington pushed the Haitian government to accept the OAS’s recommendations. Foreign minister Lawrence Cannon said he “strongly urges the Provisional Electoral Council to accept and implement the [OAS] report’s recommendations and to proceed with the next steps of the electoral process accordingly.”

A supporter of the 1991 and 2004 coups against Aristide, Martelly was a teenaged member of the Duvalier dictatorship’s Ton Ton Macoutes death squad. He is a central figure in the multi-billion dollar Petrocaribe corruption scandal that has spurred massive protests and strikes against illegitimate, repressive and corrupt president Jovenel Moïse. A disciple of Martelly, Moïse is president today because he has the backing of the US, Canada and other members of the so-called “Core Group”.

There was an outpouring of empathy and solidarity from ordinary Canadians after the earthquake. But officials in Ottawa saw the disaster as a political crisis to manage and an opportunity toexpandtheir economic and political influence over Haiti.

On the tenth anniversary of this solemn occasion it is important to reflect not only on this tragedy but to understand what has been done by Canada’s government in our name and to learn from it so we can stop politicians from their ongoing strangulation of this beleaguered nation.

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OAS election observers subvert Bolivian democracy

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Organization of American States election observers have played an important role in subverting Bolivian democracy.

While some may find it hard to believe that a regional electoral monitoring body would consciously subvert democracy, their actions in the South American country are not dissimilar to previous US/Canada backed OAS missions in Haiti.

The OAS Election Audit That Triggered Morales’ Fall in Bolivia”, explained a New York Times headline. For his part, Bolivian President Evo Morales said the OAS “is in the service of the North American empire.”

After the October 20 presidential election, the OAS immediately cried foul. The next day the organization released a statement that expressed “its deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results [from the quick count] revealed after the closing of the polls.” Two days later they followed that statement up with a preliminary report that repeated their claim that “changes in the TREP [quick count] trend were hard to explain and did not match the other measurements available.”

But, the “hard-to-explain” changes cited by the OAS were entirely expected, as detailed in the Centre for Economic Policy Research’s report “What Happened in Bolivia’s 2019 Vote Count? The Role of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission”. The CEPR analysis points out that Morales’ percentage lead over the second place candidate Carlos Mesa increased steadily as votes from rural, largely indigenous, areas were tabulated. Additionally, the 47.1% of the vote Morales garnered aligns with pre-election polls and the vote score for his Movement toward Socialism party. The hullabaloo about the quick count stopping at 83% of the vote was preplanned and there is no evidence there was a pause in the actual counting.

But, the OAS’ statements gave oxygen to opposition protests. Their unsubstantiated criticism of the election have also been widely cited internationally to justify Morales’ ouster. In response to OAS claims, protests and Washington and Ottawa saying they would not recognize Morales’s victory, the Bolivian President agreed to a “binding” OAS audit of the first round of the election. Unsurprisingly the OAS’ preliminary audit report alleged “irregularities and manipulation” and called for new elections overseen by a new electoral commission. Immediately after the OAS released its preliminary audit US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went further, saying “all government officials and officials of any political organizations implicated in the flawed October 20 elections should step aside from the electoral process.” What started with an easy-to-explain discrepancy between the quick count and final results of the actual counting spiraled into the entire election is suspect and anyone associated with it must go.

At Tuesday’s Special Meeting of the OAS Permanent Council on Bolivia the representative of Antigua and Barbuda criticized the opaque way in which the OAS electoral mission to Bolivia released its statements and reports. She pointed out how the organization made a series of agreements with the Bolivian government that were effectively jettisoned. A number of Latin American countries echoed this view.

US and Canadian representatives, on the other hand, applauded the OAS’ work in Bolivia. Canada’s representative to the OAS boasted that two Canadian technical advisers were part of the audit mission to Bolivia and that Canada financed the OAS effort that discredited Bolivia’s presidential election. Canada is the second largest contributor to the OAS, which receives between 44% and 57% of its budget from Washington.

It’s not surprising that an electoral mission from the Washington-based organization would subvert Bolivian democracy. OAS electoral observers have played more flagrant role in undermining Haitian democracy. In late 2010/early-2011 the US/Canada used an OAS election “Expert Verification Mission” to help extreme right-wing candidate Michel Martelly become president. Canada put up $6 million for elections that excluded Fanmi Lavalas from participating and following the first round of voting in November 2010, forced the candidate whom Haiti’s electoral council had in second place, Jude Celestin, out of the runoff. After Martelly’s supporters protested their candidate’s third place showing, a six person OAS mission, including a Canadian representative, concluded that Martelly deserved to be in the second round. But, in analyzing the OAS methodology, the CEPR determined that “the Mission did not establish any legal, statistical, or other logical basis for its conclusions.” Nevertheless, Ottawa and Washington pushed the Haitian government to accept the OAS’s recommendations. Foreign minister Lawrence Cannon said he “strongly urges the Provisional Electoral Council to accept and implement the [OAS] report’s recommendations and to proceed with the next steps of the electoral process accordingly.” In an interview he warned that “time is running out”, adding that “our ambassador has raised this with the president [Rene Préval] himself.” The CEPR described the intense western lobbying. “The international community, led by the US, France, and Canada, has been intensifying the pressure on the Haitian government to allow presidential candidate Michel Martelly to proceed to the second round of elections instead of [ruling party candidate] Jude Celestin.” This pressure included some Haitian officials having their US visas revoked and there were threats that aid would be cut off if Martelly’s vote total was not increased as per the OAS recommendation.

Half of Haiti’s electoral council agreed to the OAS changes, but the other half did not. The second round was unconstitutional, noted Haïti Liberté, as “only four of the eight-member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) have voted to proceed with the second round, one short of the five necessary. Furthermore, the first-round results have not been published in the journal of record, Le Moniteur, and President Préval has not officially convoked Haitians to vote, both constitutional requirements.”

The absurdity of the whole affair did not stop the Canadian government from supporting the elections. Official election monitors from this country gave a thumbs-up to this exercise in what they said was democracy. After Martelly won the second round with 16.7 percent of registered voters support Cannon declared: “We congratulate the people of Haiti, who exercised their fundamental democratic right to choose who will govern their country and represent them on the world stage.” The left weekly Haiti Progrès took a different view. Describing the fraudulent nature of the elections, the paper explained: “The form of democracy that Washington, Paris and Ottawa want to impose on us is becoming a reality.”

A decade earlier another OAS election mission helped sabotage democracy in Haiti. After voting for 7,000 positions an OAS team on site described the May 2000 elections as “a great success for the Haitian population which turned out in large and orderly numbers to choose both their local and national governments.”

As the opposition protested the scope of Fanmi Lavalas’ victory, the OAS jumped on a technicality in the counting of eight Senate seats to subsequently characterize the elections as “deeply flawed”. The 50 percent plus one vote required for a first-round victory was determined by calculating the percentages from the votes for the top four candidates, while the OAS contended that the count should include all candidates. OAS concerns were disingenuous since they worked with the electoral council to prepare the elections and were fully aware of the counting method beforehand. The same procedure was used in prior elections, but they failed to voice any concerns until Fanmi Lavalas’ landslide victory. Finally, using the OAS method would not have altered the outcome of the elections and even after Jean Bertrand Aristide got the seven Lavalas senators to resign (one was from another party) the “deeply flawed” description remained.

Haiti’s political opposition used the OAS criticism of the election to justify boycotting the November 2000 presidential election, which they had little chance of winning. The US and Canada used the claims of electoral irregularities to justify withholding aid and Inter-American Development Bank loans to the Haitian government. OAS Resolutions 806 and 822 gave non-elected opposition parties an effective veto over the resumption of foreign aid to Aristide’s government. The OAS claims of “deeply flawed” elections played an important part in a multipronged campaign to oust Aristide’s government.

In an editorial responding to the coup in Bolivia, People’s Voice called for Canada to withdraw from the Washington dominated OAS. Internationalist minded Canadians should support that position.

But we should also recognize the blow Morales’ ouster represents to any effort to subvert the OAS. The Bolivian President’s removal is a further setback to the Latin American integration efforts represented in forums such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. A potential replacement for the OAS, CELAC included all Latin American and Caribbean nations. But Canada and the US were excluded. By helping oust Morales the OAS has taken revenge on a politician who pushed an alternative, non-Washington based, model for ‘Nuestra America’.

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The word they won’t use to describe Canada’s role in Haiti

 

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Molotov cocktail thrown at Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince

“Say my name, say my name
If no one is around you
Say baby I love you
If you ain’t runnin’ game
Say my name, say my name
You actin’ kinda shady
Ain’t callin’ me baby” —
Destiny’s Child

 

Something you can’t name is very difficult to talk about. Canada’s role in Haiti is a perfect example. Even when the dominant media and mainstream politicians mention the remarkable ongoing revolt or protesters targeting Canada, they fall on their faces in explaining it.

Not one journalist or politician has spoken this truth, easily verified by all sorts of evidence: “Sixteen years ago Ottawa initiated an effort to overthrow Haiti’s elected government and has directly shaped the country’s politics since. Many Haitians are unhappy about the subversion of their sovereignty, undermining of their democracy and resulting impoverishment.”

Last Sunday protesters tried to burn the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. Voice of America reported, “some protesters successfully set fire to business establishments and attempted to burn down the Canadian Embassy.” A few days earlier protesters threw rocks at the Canadian Embassy and demonstrators have repeatedly speechified against Canadian “imperialism”. In response to the targeting of Canada’s diplomatic representation in the country, Haiti’s puppet government released a statement apologizing to Ottawa and the embassy was closed for a number of days.

Echoing the protesters immediate demand for Jovenel Moïse to go, an open letter was released last Tuesday calling on Justin Trudeau’s government to stop propping up the repressive and corrupt Haitian president. David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Amir Khadir, Maude Barlow, Linda McQuaig, Will Prosper, Tariq Ali, Yann Martel and more than 100 other writers, musicians, activists and professors signed a letter calling on “the Canadian government to stop backing a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president.”

While a number of left media ran the letter, major news outlets failed to publish or report on it. Interestingly, reporters at La Presse, Radio Canada and Le Devoir all expressed interest in covering it but then failed to follow through. A Le Devoir editor’s reaction was particularly shameful since the leftish, highbrow, paper regularly publishes these types of letters. The editor I communicated with said she’d probably run it and when I called back three days later to ask where things were at, she said the format was difficult. When I mentioned its added relevance after protesters attempted to burn the Canadian embassy, which she was aware of, she recommitted to publishing it. Le Devoir did not publish the letter when it was submitted to them, although an article published in their paper two weeks later did mention it.

My impression from interacting with the media on the issue is that they knew the letter deserved attention, particularly the media in Québec that cover Haiti. But, there was discomfort because the letter focused on Canada’s negative role. (The letter is actually quite mild, not even mentioning the 2004 coup, militarization after the earthquake, etc.)

On Thursday Québec’s National Assembly unanimously endorsed a motion put forward by Liberal party foreign affairs critic, Paule Robitaille, declaring “our unreserved solidarity with the Haitian people and their desire to find a stable and secure society.” It urges “support for any peaceful and democratic exit from the crisis coming from Haitian civil society actors.”

In March Québec Solidaire’s international affairs critic Catherine Dorion released a slightly better statement “in solidarity with the Haitian people”. While the left party’s release was a positive step, it also ignored Canada’s diplomatic, financial and policing support to Moise (not to mention Canada’s role in the 2004 coup or Moise’s rise to power). Québec Solidaire deputies refused to sign the open letter calling on “the Canadian government to stop backing a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president.”

Even when media mention protests against Canada, they can’t give a coherent explanation for why they would target the great White North. On Wednesday Radio Canada began a TV clip on the uprising in Haiti by mentioning the targeting of the Canadian embassy and with the image of a protester holding a sign saying: “Fuck USA. Merde la France. Fuck Canada.” The eight-minute interview with Haiti based Québec reporter Etienne Côté-Paluck went downhill from there. As Jean Saint-Vil responded angrily on Facebook, these three countries are not targeted “because of the ‘humanitarian aid’ that the ‘benevolent self-proclaimed friends of Haiti’ bring to the ‘young democracy in difficulty’. This is only racist, paternalistic and imperialist propaganda! They say ‘Fuck Canada’, ‘Shit France’, ‘Fuck USA”’ because they are not blind, dumb or idiots.”

A few days earlier Radio Canada’s Luc Chartrand also mentioned that Canada, France and the US were targeted by protesters when he recently traveled to Haiti. While mentioning those three countries together is an implicit reference to the 2004 coup triumvirate, the interview focused on how it was because they were major donors to Haiti. Yet seconds before Chartrand talked about protesters targeting the Canada-France-US “aid donors” he mentioned a multi-billion dollar Venezuelan aid program (accountability for corruption in the subsidized Venezuelan oil program is an important demand of protesters). So, if they are angry with “aid donors” why aren’t Haitians protesters targeting Venezuela?

Chartrand knows better. Solidarité Québec-Haiti founder Marie Dimanche and I met him before he left for Haiti and I sent Chartrand two critical pieces of information chosen specifically because they couldn’t be dismissed as coming from a radical and are irreconcilable with the ‘benevolent Canada’ silliness pushed by the dominant media. I emailed him a March 15, 2003, L’actualité story by prominent Québec journalist Michel Vastel titled “Haïti mise en tutelle par l’ONU ? Il faut renverser Aristide. Et ce n’est pas l’opposition haïtienne qui le réclame, mais une coalition de pays rassemblée à l’initiative du Canada!” (Haiti under UN trusteeship? We must overthrow Aristide. And it is not the Haitian opposition calling for it, but a coalition of countries gathered at the initiative of Canada!)

Vastel’s article was about a meeting to discuss Haiti’s future that Jean Chretien’s government hosted on January 31 and February 1 2003. No Haitian representative was invited to the meeting where high level U.S., Canadian and French officials discussed overthrowing elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, putting the country under international trusteeship and resurrecting Haiti’s dreaded military. Thirteen months after the Ottawa Initiative meeting, US, French and Canadian troops pushed Aristide out and a quasi-UN trusteeship had begun. The Haitian police were subsequently militarized.

The second piece of information I sent Chartrand was the Canadian Press’ revelation (confirmation) that after the deadly 2010 earthquake, Canadian officials continued their inhumane and antidemocratic course. According to internal government documents the Canadian Press examined a year after the disaster, officials in Ottawa feared a post-earthquake power vacuum could lead to a “popular uprising.” One briefing note marked “secret” explained: “Political fragility has increased the risks of a popular uprising, and has fed the rumour that ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, currently in exile in South Africa, wants to organize a return to power.” The documents also explained the importance of strengthening the Haitian authorities’ ability “to contain the risks of a popular uprising.”

To police Haiti’s traumatized and suffering population 2,050 Canadian troops were deployed alongside 12,000 U.S. soldiers and 1,500 UN troops (8,000 UN soldiers were already there). Even though there was no war, for a period there were more foreign troops in Haiti per square kilometer than in Afghanistan or Iraq (and about as many per capita). Though Ottawa rapidly deployed 2,050 troops officials ignored calls to dispatch this country’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) Teams, which are trained to “locate trapped persons in collapsed structures.”

Of course, these two pieces of information run completely counter to the dominant narrative about Canada’s role in Haiti. In fact, they flip it on its head. But, these two pieces of information — combined with hundreds of stories published by left-wing Canadian and Haitian media — help explain why some might want to burn the Canadian Embassy.

Haiti is the site of the most sustained popular uprising among the many that are currently sweeping the globe. Haitians are revolting against the IMF, racism, imperialism and extreme economic inequality. It’s also a fight against Canadian foreign policy.

The latter battle is the most important one for Canadians. Solidarity activists should highlight Haitians’ rejection of 16 years of Canadian disregard for their democratic rights. And they should not be afraid to use the words that describes this best: Canadian imperialism.

 

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Remarkable Haitian revolt targets Canada

PROTESTS-HAIT

Haiti is the site of the most sustained popular uprising among many that are currently sweeping the globe. It’s also the most explicitly anti-imperialist, which is part of the reason why it has received the least coverage.

For six weeks much of Port-au-Prince has been shuttered in the longest in a series of strikes since the revolt began 15 months ago. There have been innumerable mass protests by diverse social sectors calling for president Jovenel Moïse to go.

Last week protesters reportedly threw rocks at the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. On Friday Radio Canada’s Luc Chartrand highlighted the widespread hostility towards the US and Canada: “The walls of Port-au-Prince are covered with graffiti against the UN and also against what everyone here knows as the ‘Core Group’, a group of donor countries, including Canada, the United States, European Union and the Organization of American States, without the support of which no Haitian president can remain in office long. During protests it is common to see people disparaging foreigners and symbols of their presence such as hotels.”

While Haitians have repeatedly criticized Canadian policy over the past 15 years, the Radio Canada report was a rare event in the dominant media. But the intensity of the popular uprising has been making it harder to ignore. The other reason is activism in Canada, an imperial centre. Solidarité Quebec-Haïti #Petrochallenge 2019 founder Marie Dimanche and I met Chartrand and a Radio Canada colleague before they left for Haiti and sent them critical information. They wanted to hear our point of view because Solidarité Quebec-Haïti has aggressively criticized Canada’s role in Haiti by among other means occupying Justin Trudeau’s electoral campaign office.

Since detailing some of Solidarité Québec-Haïti bold actions that generated coverage three weeks ago in “Canadian imperialism in Haiti in the spotlight” the group held a press conference covered by CTV and a rally at Trudeau’s office covered by Global, TVA and other news outlets. We also attempted to disrupt Trudeau’s final election rally, which prompted Radio Canada to describe 10 of us chanting “Canada out of Haiti”. At this point no Canadian journalist covering Haiti can reasonably claim to be unaware that there is criticism of Ottawa’s policy towards that country.

Adding weight to Solidarité Québec-Haïti’s criticism, 150 writers, musicians, professors and activists recently signed an “open letter calling on the Canadian government to stop backing a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president”. The signatories include David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Linda McQuaig, Amir Khadir, Will Prosper, Tariq Ali, Michele Landsberg and Yann Martel.

In another sign of dissent, the Concertation pour Haïti, a collection of mostly government funded NGOs who were cheerleaders of Canada/Quebec’s important role in violently ousting Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government in 2004, has called for a transitional government. Last week’s statement noted: “Haiti is at a pivotal moment. The current government is decried by the overwhelming majority of the population. Nearly all civil society groups have spoken out for the departure of Jovenel Moïse. …. However, the current government seems to have the full support of the international community … We invite Canada to make the right choice and use its influence in the international community to support” a presidential transition.

Despite growing challenges to its policy, Ottawa seems to be staying the course. On Wednesday a new Canadian ambassador was accredited at the national palace and reportedly “renewed Canada’s commitment to continue to accompany President Jovenel Moïse in his efforts to improve the living conditions of his people.” Earlier in the month the government put out an outrageous, if correct, travel advisory, warning Canadians that Haitian “police have used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse crowds.” Apart from this message to Canadians, the government has yet to directly criticize the killing of Haitian demonstrators by a police force that Canada has funded, trained and backed diplomatically since the 2004 coup. On October 15 the UN estimated at least 30 Haitians had been killed since mid-September. Most of them were likely killed by police.

Beyond its involvement with a repressive police force, Canada has provided financial and diplomatic backing to the neo-Duvalerist criminals subjugating Haiti’s impoverished masses. Two weeks ago Le Devoir reported that Canada has given $702 million in “aid” to Haiti since 2016. In February international development minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, who travelled to Haiti on multiple occasions, said “Haiti is one of the biggest development programs we have. Our ambassador in Port-au-Prince is in constant contact with the government.”

The Canadian Embassy has put out a stream of statements defending Moïse (though they are becoming softer). Amidst the general strike in February Bibeau was asked by TVA, “the demonstrators demand the resignation of the president. What is Canada’s position on this issue?” She responded by attacking the popular revolt: “The violence must stop; we will not come to a solution in this way.” But the violence is overwhelmingly meted it out by the Canadian backed regime.

At that time Canadian special forces were quietly deployed to the Port-au-Prince airport. The Haiti Information Project reported that they may have helped family members of President Moïse’s unpopular government flee the country.

Haitians are engaged in a remarkable popular revolt against Canadian policy. Solidarity activists across the country should try to amplify their message.

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