Tag Archives: Jovenel Moïse

Racial capitalism and the betrayal of Haiti

The richest Haitians

Domination by multinational corporations and “light skinned” local capitalists — that’s the story of Haiti as illustrated by one recent event.

The day after his already paper-thin constitutional legitimacy completely eroded Jovenel Moïse gave significant amounts of Haitian land to a light skinned oligarch working with Coca-Cola.

According to most Haitian constitutional authorities and institutions, Moïse’s presidential mandate ended Sunday, February 7, 2021. But the next day the official Le Moniteur published a presidential decree gifting 8,600 hectares of the country’s agricultural land reserve to produce stevia. Alongside land in the Artibonite and Plateau Central, Moise put up US$18 million for a new Free Agro-Industrial Export Zone run by the Apaid family. It’s outrageous, notes Le Regroupement des Haïtiens de Montréal contre l’occupation d’Haïti, that the state would offer land to a firm producing for Coca Cola rather than invest in local food production in a country where hunger is widespread.

Whether or not the officially named “Zone Franche Agro Industrielle d’Exportation de Savane Diane” moves forward, the decree is a stark example of “racial capitalism” in Haiti and why Washington and Ottawa are keeping Moïse in place. Unlike most Haitians, the Apaid family are not descendants of enslaved Africans. Born in the US, Andre Apaid Jr. is a sweat shop owner of Lebanese background.

Apaid led the Group of 184 “civil society” opposition to Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government. He reportedly financed the paramilitary forces led by Guy Philippe whose attacks created the pretext for US, French and Canadian forces to oust Aristide in 2004. (Days after Philippe told a local radio station in 2007 that Apaid funded his forces the US Drug Enforcement Agency raided Philippe’s home in the south coast city of Les Cayes.)

At the time of the coup Apaid also financed and armed a gang in the impoverished community of Cité-Soleil led by Thomas “Labanye” Robinson “to kill Lavalas supporters”. US lawyer Thomas Griffin interviewed Cité Soleil leaders and police officers who said Apaid “bought” Labanyè with US$30,000. He also reportedly enabled Labanyè’s wife to travel to the US and “keeps police from arresting the gang leader.” Various professionals and businesspeople told Griffin that Apaid was “the real government in Haiti.”

During the 1991-1994 coup against Aristide Apaid Jr.’s father, André Apaid Sr., was “one of the chief lobbyists in the U.S.” for the military junta. Previously Apaid Sr. was “close to dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier.”

During the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier Apaid Sr. founded Alpha Sewing. With Haiti’s population cowed and economic prospects in the countryside dire, ‘Baby Doc’ developed a relatively thriving low-wage assembly sector in the 1970s. Alpha Sewing eventually became the biggest sweat-shop operator in Haiti. The firm was, of course, hostile to any effort to increase the minimum wage.

One of the richest men in Haiti, Apaid Jr. is a leader among the community of Middle Eastern descent who dominate the economy. Gilbert Bigio, Sherif Kedar Abdallah, Reginald Boulos, Dimitri Craan and Reynold Deeb Saïeh are some of the businesspeople of Middle Eastern ancestry who generally work with North American and Dominican sweatshop, mining and other capitalists with even paler complexions. Apaid, for instance, was the prime Haitian subcontractor for Montreal based T-shirt maker Gildan Activewear, which has a major presence in Haiti. In April 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited an Apaid factory to tout its partnership with Gildan as an important model for Haitian economic development (Apaid was invited to a Canadian government conference on Haiti in Montréal attended by PM Paul Martin a few years earlier).

Washington has been important to the descendants of Middle Easterners who dominate Haiti’s economy. Partly to supplant European influence, Washington facilitated Arab migration to Haiti in the late 1800s. At the start of the twentieth century 60 percent of imported goods sold to the Haitian peasantry came from US manufacturers who supplied Syrian middlemen. When violence targeted the Syrian community US authorities advocated on their behalf.

One element driving the US-Arab migrant relationship in Haiti was that until the US rewrote Haiti’s Constitution in 1918 foreigners were restricted from owning land. This prompted some European businessmen, particularly Germans, to marry into prominent mixed-race families to be able to own property. But US capitalists were at a disadvantage compared to their European counterparts. US race politics deemed someone Black if they had ‘one drop’ of African blood. So even marrying an educated, upper class, mixed-race Haitian woman was considered unacceptable by most White US capitalists. US interests bypassed this dynamic working with migrants from the Middle East. And this legacy of racism still explains much of what happens in Haiti today.

Jovenel Moïse needs to go. So does the “racial capitalist” system of light-skinned local oligarchs working with foreign powers that supports Moïse.

 

On February 28 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting a discussion of Haiti Betrayed, a powerful indictment of Canada’s role in the 2004 coup and subsequent policy in the country. The film is available to watch for free for those who register in advance.

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Haitian official stashes wealth in Montréal

Senator Rony Célestin & new $4,25 million Montreal mansion

Recent media reports of a Haitian official stashing wealth in Montréal property ignore a key element of the story: Canada’s contribution to enabling Haitian corruption.

As a neo-Duvalierist regime becomes ever more dictatorial it’s also worth revisiting Canada’s history in facilitating fraud and money laundering in the hemisphere’s most impoverished nation.

Recently La Presse reported that the wife of a governing party senator, who works at the Haitian consulate in Montréal purchased a mansion in Laval. The story reported, “as the political crisis bogs down in Haiti, the wife of a senator belonging to the party of the contested president, Jovenel Moïse, has just bought a sumptuous $ 4.25 million villa in Laval, attracting a flood of criticism from Montreal to Port-au-Prince. The new property was paid off in full in one fell swoop, without a mortgage, and without their other house being sold, according to the Land Registry.” Two follow-up Journal de Montréal stories found that Senator Rony Célestin and his spouse, Marie-Louisa Célestin, spent $2 million more recently on property and businesses in the Montréal area.

La Presse’s Vincent Larouche should be praised for covering a story that had been circulating in Montréal’s Haitian community for days. But, a lot of important context is missing from the story, as Larouche must know. (15 years ago, Larouche wrote a nice review of my co-authored book on Canada’s role in the 2004 coup when he was with left-wing L’autre Journal). Senator Célestin was implicated in the 2019 killing of journalist Néhémie Joseph and threats targeting the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Unit. More broadly, Célestin’s political party was founded by corrupt and violent Duvalierist Michel Martelly.

But the broader Canadian angle is the most important omission. On Facebook, activist Jean “Jafrikayiti” Saint-Vil explained: “The PHTK regime headed by Michel Martelly and his self-described ‘bandi legal’ (legal bandits), came to power thanks to fraudulent elections organized, financed and controlled by the foreign occupation force established in Haiti since the coup d’état of February 2004. The planning meeting for the coup d’etat and putting Haiti under trusteeship was organized by Canadian Minister for La Francophonie Denis Paradis. The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti [January 31-February 1, 2003] succeeded in overthrowing the legitimate President as well as 7,000 elected officials from the region’s most impoverished country. The elected officials were replaced by bandits such as ‘Senator’ Rony Célestin of whom this article speaks.”

In a follow-up post Saint-Vil offers an alternative way of understanding Canada’s relationship to political corruption in Haiti. He asks, “Can you imagine [Hells Angels leader] Maurice ‘Mom’ Boucher and [serial killer] Carla Homolka installed as Senators in Canada by fraudulent elections led by a coalition of Haitian, Jamaican, Ethiopian diplomats in Ottawa?”

Few Canadians would be happy with such an outcome. But it’s a troublingly apt description of US, Canadian and French policy in Haiti.

This is not the first time Canada has been implicated in Duvalierist corruption. Before fleeing to the French Riviera, Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier emptied government bank accounts. The Royal Bank of Canada and other Canadian financial institutions assisted the young dictator’s theft. A US auditing firm hired to investigate and track down public funds concluded that Duvalier’s financial advisors “had set up an intricately concealed flow of money through a bevy of banks and accounts, most of them Canadian.”

The Royal Bank of Canada branch in Haiti assisted Duvalier. So did a Toronto branch of the bank. In Money on the Run: Canada and How the World’s Dirty Profits Are Laundered, Mario Possamai details Duvalier’s turn to Canadian institutions when Swiss banks froze Baby Doc’s accounts. At a Royal Bank branch in Toronto his attorneys converted $41.8 million in Canadian treasury bills, a highly secretive and respected form of money. Once converted, the Duvaliers’ assets could no longer be scrutinized.

In Canada: A New Tax Haven: How the Country That Shaped Caribbean Tax Havens Is Becoming One Itself Alain Deneault summarizes: “The dictator’s money was moved from Canada to Jersey [tax haven] where it was received by the Royal Trust Bank, a subsidiary of Canada’s Royal Trust Company. The deposit was made to an account that was part of a larger account held by the Manufacturers Hanover Bank of Canada, a financial institution with its headquarters in Toronto a few steps away from the Royal Bank of Canada where the whole operation had been set in motion. The operation became more complex with securities being split from their ownership records and further movements between the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Jersey, the Royal Bank of Canada in London, the Banque Nationale de Paris, and sundry Swiss institutions.”

Despite guidelines requiring banks to determine customers’ identity, RBC admitted it simply trusted Duvalier’s lawyers. Bank officials later claimed they would have refused the transaction had they known who the beneficiaries were.

This explanation is hard to believe. The only foreign bank in the country for a number of years, the Royal Bank financed projects by the Duvalier regime. Amidst the uprising against Jean-Claude Duvalier, Royal’s senior account manager in Port au Prince, Yves Bourjolly, joined a long list of prominent businessmen who signed a statement expressing “confidence in the desire of the government for peace, dialogue and democratization … at a time when order and security appear to be threatened.”

Over the years Canada has empowered many other corrupt and violent politicians in Haiti. In response to the Célestin story, intrepid tweeter “Madame Boukman — Justice 4 Haiti” noted, “Justin ‘Blackface’ Trudeau, like those before him, knowingly supports drug traffickers, money-launderers and assassins in Haiti. That is the only way Canadian mining vultures can loot Haiti’s massive gold reserves.”

This about sums it up.

 

On February 28 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting a discussion of Haiti Betrayed, a powerful indictment of Canada’s role in the 2004 coup and subsequent policy in the country. In the week leading up to the event the film will be available to watch for free for those who register in advance.

 

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Canada backs revival of Duvalierism in Haiti

 

 

Jean-Claude Duvalier’s son Nicolas with President Jovenel Moïse

The ghosts of dictators “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier still haunt Haiti. Canada seems willing to support a return of their methods in the Caribbean nation.

Sunday will be bittersweet for many Haitians. February 7 is usually a day to commemorate the defeat of the Duvalier dictatorship, but this year the date portends the revival of Duvalierism.

After a multi month popular revolt the three decade-long Duvalier dictatorship fell on February 7, 1986. “President for life” Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, who took over from his father at 19, was chased out of the country after 15 years.

Thirty-five years to the day Baby Doc fell a Duvalierist president who should be leaving office is extending his term against the wishes of most Haitians and constitutional experts. In his time in office Jovenel Moïse has restored many aspects of the brutal regime. He suppressed popular protests and instigated a gang alliance to instill fear in the slums. He has ruled by decree and criminalized protests as “terrorism”. Shortly after parliament was disbanded because Moïse failed to hold elections, the president selected individuals to rewrite the constitution in flagrant violation of the law. In November Moïse unilaterally decreed the creation of a new National Intelligence Agency with anonymous, legally untouchable, officers who, notes Kim Ives, “have the power not just to spy and infiltrate but to arrest anybody engaged in ‘subversive’ acts (Article 29) or threatening ‘state security’ i.e. the power of President Jovenel Moïse.” The agency may become analogous to Duvalier’s feared Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (Ton Ton Macoutes).

Moïse is the hand-picked successor of Michel Martelly. A supporter of the 1991 and 2004 coups against elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Martelly was a member of the Ton Ton Macoutes. As president, Martelly surrounded himself with former Duvalierists and death squad leaders who’d been arrested for rape, murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking. When Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti after 25 years, Martelly told the New York Times no one wanted him prosecuted except for “certain institutions and governments” abroad.

In fact Martelly was put in put in place by Washington and Ottawa not long after the deadly 2010 earthquake. In the 2010 election Ottawa intervened to bring far-right president Martelly to power (with about 16 per cent of the votes, since the election was largely boycotted). Canada put up $6 million for elections that excluded Fanmi Lavalas from participating. After the first round, Canadian representatives on an Organization of American States mission helped force the candidate the electoral council had in second place, Jude Celestin, out of the runoff.

Ottawa backed Martelly diplomatically and financially throughout his presidency, including when he sought to ensure arelatively obscure businessman replaced him. Since then, Canada has provided almost unquestioned support for Moïse. Canada has ploughed tens of millions of dollars into the Haitian police and prison system in recent years. They promoted a police force that violently repressed anti-Moïse protests.

It may be hard to imagine that Ottawa would promote the revival of such a notorious dictatorship. But it shouldn’t. Ottawa enabled a young Jean-Claude to take over after François Duvalier died. Canada was among the leading financial contributors to Haiti throughout Baby Doc’s 15-year rule. The aid supported the dictatorship. In “Canadian Development Assistance to Haiti: An Independent Study”, a 1984 report by the semi-official North South Institute, Edward Philip English writes: “It would be naive to pretend that this aid does not contribute to the support of the existing regime, at least in the short-run. It helps to legitimize the regime in the eyes of Haitians by demonstrating international approval and it generates projects and jobs, which the regime is careful to associate with itself as much as possible.”

English adds, “CIDA has placed Canadian advisors as ‘experts’ in several Haitian ministries.” In Spy Wars David Stafford and Jack Granatstein describe one of the individuals leading the CIDA program: “[Hugh] Hambleton lived in true grandeur in the capital, Port-au-Prince, working closely with officials of the notoriously corrupt and brutal government of its dictator, ‘Baby Doc’ Jean-Claude Duvalier.” Canadian officials even influenced who Baby Doc appointed finance minister. Three days before Baby Doc fled, Québec Premier Robert Bourassa refused to comment on whether Prime Minister Brian Mulroney should seek the dictator for life’s exclusion from an upcoming summit of the Francophonie.

Ottawa was even more openly supportive of maintaining ‘Duvalierism without Duvalier’ after the young dictator fell. In the four years after Duvalier fled Canada provided significant assistance to a series of military lead regimes. In November 1986 External Minister Monique Landry visited Haiti to meet government head General Henri Namphy. Canada announced $80 million in assistance over five years and Landry also invited Namphy to the Summit of la Francophonie in Quebec City the next year. As the violent, anti-democratic, nature of the military regime became undeniable Ottawa resisted shifting gears. In the face of significant criticism from the Haitian community and Québec left, Ottawa largely maintained its various forms of support to the military regimes.

Thirty-five years later not much has changed. After forcing Jean-Claude out Haitians struggling for a more just and democratic society face a similar predicament. They not only have to contend with the power of their own ruling elite but are also up against Canada and the US.

Canadians of conscience should support those mobilizing in Haiti today against creeping Duvalierism. It is the least we can do to make up for the shameful role this country has played in that impoverished nation.

 

Please email new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau to call on Ottawa to stop supporting president Jovenel Moïse who is reviving the spectre of the brutal Duvalier dictatorship.

 

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti, Justin Trudeau

Canada supports Unconstitutional Haitian Leader as it seeks to overthrow Venezuela’s President

Trudeau & Jovenel Moïse

Add this to the “you can’t make this stuff up” file: Canada’s foreign minister recently met his Haitian counterpart, who is part of a de facto administration illegally rewriting the constitution, to discuss Venezuela’s supposed democracy deficiency. Apparently, Ottawa wants a Haitian regime extending its term and criminalizing protest to maintain its support for Juan Guaidó as “constitutional” president of Venezuela.

Last week foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke with his Haitian counterpart Claude Joseph. According to Champagne’s tweet about the conversation, they discussed COVID-19, Haiti’s elections and Venezuela. Presumably, Champagne relayed Ottawa’s position concerning Venezuela’s recent National Assembly elections, which delivered a final blow to opposition politician Guaidó’s farcical presidential claims. In August Joseph met his US and Canadian patrons in Washington on the sidelines of an anti-Venezuela Lima Group meeting. In response Haïti Liberté’s Kim Ives noted, “what could be more ironic and ludicrous than Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse accusing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro of being ‘illegitimate and dictatorial’ while demanding that he immediately ‘hold free, fair, and transparent general elections’? But that is exactly the position of the Lima Group, a collection of 15 Latin American states and Canada, which Haiti joined in January 2020.”

Joseph is the representative of a prime minister appointed extra-constitutionally. His boss was picked by Moïse after parliament, which needs to endorse a prime minister, expired because the president failed to organize elections. Moïse is ruling by decree and pushing to extend his term by a year to February 7, 2022, against the wishes of most Haitians and constitutional experts.

Canada is essentially supporting Moïse’s bid to extend his mandate. Ottawa is also supporting an election process that most political actors in Haiti reject. In the summer Haiti’s entire nine person electoral council resigned in response to Moïse’s pressure and few believe a fair election is possible under his direction.

Canada is backing the elections and an illegal constitutional rewrite. After the call with Champagne, Joseph tweeted, “I had a fruitful conversation today with my Canadian counterpart François-Philippe Champagne. We discussed, among other things, Canada’s support for constitutional reform and the holding of elections in 2021.”

Moïse is seeking to rewrite the constitution. Soon after parliament was disbanded, he picked individuals to rewrite the constitution in flagrant violation of the law. Moïse appointed former Supreme Court justice Boniface Alexandre to head the constitutional rewrite. Alexandre was made figurehead “President” after the US, France and Canada overthrew elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. In another throwback to a period that saw thousands killed in political violence, Moïse recently made Léon Charles head of police. The former military man oversaw the police in the 17 months after the 2004 coup with Charles publicly referring to the “war” the police waged against the pro-democracy sector.

In another regressive throwback, Moïse unilaterally decreed the creation of a new National Intelligence Agency at the end of November. Kim Ives explains, “this secret agency’s completely anonymous officers (Article 43) will have false identities (Article 44), carry guns (Article 51), be legally untouchable (Article 49), and have the power not just to spy and infiltrate but to arrest anybody engaged in ‘subversive’ acts (Article 29) or threatening ‘state security’ i.e. the power of President Jovenel Moïse.” The new agency appears analogous to the Duvalier dictatorship’s Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (Ton Ton Macoutes) or the Service d’Intelligence National the CIA created after Baby Doc fled in 1986. Supposed to fight the cocaine trade, SIN members were involved in hundreds of murders in subsequent years.

Even most of Moïse’s foreign patrons have nominally distanced themselves from the new intelligence agency, which reach beyond the constitutional powers of the president. The Core Group, a US and Canada led alliance of foreign ambassadors that heavily influences Haitian affairs, released a statement critical of Moïse’s intelligence agency decree. (But, I could not find a mention of the Core Group statement on either the Canadian ambassador or Canada in Haiti Twitter accounts.)

Alongside the intelligence agency announcement, Moïse decreed new legislation “for strengthening public security”. It includes massive fines and 50-year jail sentences for individuals convicted of “terrorism” related charges, which include the common protest tactic of blockading roads.

As it seeks to overthrow Nicolás Maduro for purported human rights violations and democratic deficiencies, the Trudeau government has endorsed Moïse’s repressive measures. After a meeting with the president, Canada’s ambassador Stuart Savage tweeted on December 10: “Important discussion with Jovenel Moïse on this International Human Rights Day on the subject of democratic renewal, rule of law and food security.” Savage failed to criticize Moïse’s bid to extend his term, rewrite the constitution, establish an intelligence agency or label road blockades “terrorism”.

Even before these recent unconstitutional measures, partnering with Moïse to demand Maduro follow Canada’s interpretation of the Venezuelan constitution was laughable. Moïse is the hand-picked successor of Michel Martellywho the US, Canada and Organization of American States inserted into the presidency after the horrific 2010 earthquake. A relatively obscure businessman who had never held public office, Moïse benefited from two million dollars in public funds (ironically stolen from Venezuelan assistance) funneled his way by the Martelly administration. According to official figures, Moïse received 595,000 votes — just 9.6 percent of registered voters in the 2016 election. (For his part, Maduro received the support of 27% of registered voters in the May 2018 presidential election.)

Moïse faced an unprecedented popular uprising against his presidency between July 2018 and late 2019. The country’s urban areas were paralyzed by a handful of general strikes, including one that largely shuttered Port-au-Prince for a month. The only reason the unpopular president is still in office is because of diplomatic, financial and policing support from Ottawa and Washington.

Shining a light on Canadian policy towards Haiti makes clear that its bid to replace Maduro as President of Venezuela is not about democracy. Ottawa is completely comfortable with an undemocratic government in Haiti.

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Filed under Haiti, Latin America, Venezuela

Time to refocus from Hong Kong to Haiti

For those who support a truly just foreign policy comparing Canadian politicians’ reactions to protests in Hong Kong and the slightly more populous Haiti is instructive. It reveals the extent to which this country’s politicians are forced to align with the US Empire.

Despite hundreds of thousands of Canadians having close ties with both Haiti and Hong Kong, only protests in the latter seem to be of concern to politicians.

Recently NDP MP Niki Ashton and Green MP Paul Manly were attacked ferociously in Parliament and the dominant media for participating in a webinar titled “Free Meng Wanzhou”. During the hullabaloo about an event focused on Canada’s arrest of the Huawei CFO, Manly — who courageously participated in the webinar, even if his framing of the issue left much to be desired — and Ashton — who sent a statement to be read at the event but responded strongly to the backlash in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press — felt the need to mention Hong Kong. Both the NDP (“Canada must do more to help the people of Hong Kong”) and Greens (“Echoes of Tiananmen Square: Greens condemn China’s latest assault on democracy in Hong Kong”) have released multiple statements critical of Beijing’s policy in Hong Kong since protests erupted there nearly two years ago. So have the Liberals, Bloc Québecois and Conservatives.

In March 2019 protests began against an extradition accord between Hong Kong and mainland China. Hong Kongers largely opposed the legislation, which was eventually withdrawn. Many remain hostile to Beijing, which later introduced an anti-sedition law to staunch dissent. Some protests turned violent. One bystander was killed by protesters. A journalist lost an eye after being shot by the police. Hundreds more were hurt and thousands arrested.

During more or less the same period Haiti was the site of far more intense protests and state repression. In July 2018 an uprising began against a reduction in subsidies for fuel (mostly for cooking), which morphed into a broad call for a corrupt and illegitimate president Jovenel Moïse to go. The uprising included a half dozen general strikes, including one that shuttered Port-au-Prince for a month. An October 2019 poll found that 81% of Haitians wanted the Canadian-backed president to leave.

Dozens, probably over 100, were killed by police and government agents. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other western establishment human rights organizations have all documented dozens of police killings in Haiti. More recently, Moïse has ruled by decree, sought to extend his term and to rewrite the constitution. Yet, I couldn’t find a single statement by the NDP or Greens, let alone the Liberals or Conservatives, expressing support for the pro-democracy movement in Haiti.

Even an equal number of statements from a Canadian political party would be less than adequate. Not only were the protests and repression far more significant in Haiti, the impact of a Canadian politician’s intervention is far more meaningful. Unlike in Hong Kong, the police responsible for the repression in Haiti were trained, financed and backed by Canada. The Trudeau government even gave $12.5 million to the Haitian police under its Feminist International Assistance Policy! More broadly, the unpopular president received decisive diplomatic and financial support from Ottawa and Washington. In fact, a shift in Canada/US policy towards Moïse would have led to his ouster. On the other hand, a harder Canada/US policy towards Hong Kong would have led to well … not much.

The imperial and class dynamics of Haiti are fairly straightforward. For a century Washington has consistently subjugated the country in which a small number of, largely light-skinned, families dominate economic affairs. During the past 20 years Canada has staunchly supported US efforts to undermine Haitian democracy and sovereignty.

Hong Kong’s politics are substantially more complicated. Even if one believes that most in Hong Kong are leery of Beijing’s growing influence — as I do — the end of British rule and reintegration of Hong Kong into China represents a break from a regrettable colonial legacy. Even if you take an entirely unfavorable view towards Beijing’s role there, progressive Canadians shouldn’t focus more on criticizing Chinese policy in Hong Kong than Canadian policy in Haiti.

Echoing an open letter signed by David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Linda McQuaig and 150 others and the demands of those who occupied Justin Trudeau’s office last year, the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Chris Aylward, recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau critical of Canadian support for Moïse. It notes, “Canada must reassess its financial and political support to the Jovenel Moïse government, including police training, until independent investigations are conducted into government corruption in the Petrocaribe scandal and ongoing state collusion with criminal gangs.” The NDP, Greens and others should echo the call.

To prove they are more concerned with genuinely promoting human rights – rather than aligning with the rulers of ‘our’ empire – I humbly suggest that progressive Canadians hold off on criticizing Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong until they have produced an equal number of statements critical of Canada’s role in Haiti.

 

 

To learn more about Canada’s role in Haiti tune into this webinar Sunday on “Canada’s Imperialist Adventures in Haiti

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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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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti, Justin Trudeau

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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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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Canadian imperialism in Haiti in the spotlight

haiticanada

Solidarité Québec-Haiti #Petrochallenge occupy Justin Trudeau’s office

Sustained committed activism is unraveling the dominant media’s shameful blackout of Canadian imperialism in Haiti. But, the bias against putting Canadian policy in a negative light is such that small breakthroughs require tremendous effort.

On Monday 15 Haitian community members and allies occupied Justin Trudeau’s election office for a little over three hours. The Solidarité Québec-Haiti #Petrochallenge 2019 activists called on the PM to withdraw Canada’s backing of a repressive, corrupt and illegitimate president of Haiti. Trudeau’s government has provided financial, policing and diplomatic support to Jovenel Moïse whose presidency is dependent on Washington, Ottawa and other members of the Core Group.

The office occupation took place in solidarity with mobilizations in Haiti and elsewhere against Moïse and an apartheid-like class/race system enforced by Washington, Paris and Ottawa. In recent days massive protests in Haiti have demanded Moïse go. Last week protesters shuttered the Port-au-Prince airport, stopping Moïse from speaking at the UN and forming a new government. Over the past year, there have been multiple general strikes and massive protests demanding the corrupt president leave.

To convince us to end the sit in, the Liberals dispatched a backroom operator of Haitian descent. Chief of staff to Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, Marjorie Michel offered to have the government make a declaration on the subject within 24 hours if we left the office (the Montréal police and RCMP came to Trudeau’s office just after Michel to highlight what would happen if we didn’t leave). Midday Tuesday Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted a vague statement about the situation in Haiti, which at least didn’t endorse Moïse (unlike some previous statements).

Michel was clearly disturbed that Trudeau was asked “are you aware that your campaign office in Montreal is now occupied by Haiti solidarity activists and what would you say to those who ask why you back the undemocratic regime of Jovenel Moïse” at a concurrent press conference in Toronto. Global TV broadcast a somewhat perplexed PM responding to activist/journalist Barry Weisleder’s question about the hypocritical nature of Canadian policy in the Americas. Trudeau ignored the Haiti part of the question and criticized the Venezuelan government.

As a follow-up to the occupation of his office, we organized a last-minute 10-person rally on Wednesday outside a community boxing ring where Trudeau put on his gloves for a photo-op. We chanted loudly “Jovenel repressif, Trudeau complice”. The PM’s large RCMP detail called the Montréal police, which dispatched a dozen officers who arrested organizer Marie Dimanche. In one of the weirder rally/media situations I’ve seen, the police organized a protected pathway for the media inside the gym following Trudeau to get back on the election campaign bus. It was as if we were a threat to members of the media and it effectively blocked them from interviewing us.

Unlike previous Solidarité Québec-Haiti actions, the dominant media didn’t (almost completely) ignore our office occupation and follow-up rally. The Montréal Gazette published a good article on the sit in, which was picked up by a half dozen outlets. Part of it was translated into French and published by La Presse. Journal Métro, Ricochet and Telesur all ran their own articles on the office occupation. A few days later Le Devoir published a good article promoting our demand titled “Le Canada appelé à lâcher le président haïtien Jovenel Moïse.” A slew of Haitian news sites and community radio programs covered the occupation. As with previous Solidarité Québec-Haiti actions, they both received substantial attention on social media.

On August 18 a member of Solidarité Québec-Haiti interrupted Trudeau at a press conference to ask why Canada supported a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate president in Haiti. Since July 15 members of the Haiti solidarity group have interrupted two press conferences (and a barbecue) by Minister of La Francophonie and Tourism Mélanie Joly to call on the Liberals to stop propping up Moïse. Solidarité Québec-Haiti has also directly questioned Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg, Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and former International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau over the government’s policy in Haiti. But, even when media outlets were at these events, they mostly ignored our interventions.

From the Liberal’s perspective media silence is vital. Unlike the 2004 Liberal backed coup, which included significant demonization of Jean Bertrand-Aristide by the Haitian and Haitian-Canadian intellectual elite, few among Montréal’s Haitian establishment seem keen on defending Moïse. So, the Liberals have to justify their support for Moïse.

Through bold activism Solidarité Québec-Haiti has forced the dominant media to cover Canadian imperialism in Haiti. But, a great deal more work will be needed to force a shift in government policy.

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