‘Catastrophic’: Quebecers worry about family as they watch crisis unfold in Haiti

Maison d’Haiti. (Photo Credit: Alyssia Rubertucci, CityNews)

By Alyssia Rubertucci, Canadian Press, March 11, 2024

Gang leaders have attacked and seized most of Haiti’s capital, Port-Au-Prince, and laid siege to the airport, government buildings, and prisons.

Schools and businesses shut down, while tens of thousands of people fled the violence.

Many in Montreal’s Haitian community including some here at the Maison d’Haiti are worried about family and friends back home – like Stephania Dorvilus, who moved here from Haiti in November. 

“I want to cry because the situation isn’t normal,” said Dorvilus. “There’s so many people that told me they are hiding and that they’re packing their bags because they don’t know when the gangs will show up at their place.”

She describes what’s happening in and around Port-au-Prince as chaotic.

“It’s not normal that people have to leave their homes to seek refuge with their families.”

But one of her aunts hasn’t evacuated the affected region.

“We tried to reason with her but she’s not listening. She decided to stay in La Plaine, so we can’t do anything right now.”

The violence in Port-au-Prince is something Dorvilus says she was exposed to before coming to Canada.

“I left the capital to stay in Cap-Haitien because of the security issues, there were kidnappings, killings of young people,” she explained.

“Prayers won’t do anything for Haiti. The people have to stick together until this changes, because it won’t be changing tomorrow. I wish them nothing but luck.”

Wedne Colin says he feels like he’s leading a “double life,” living in Montreal but constantly worrying for his family in Haiti.

Colin says his family members have had to flee their homes several times to find a place that’s safe from the armed gangs that have seized control of the capital city.

Colin and Orlando Ceide, who both work at the Maison d’Haiti community centre, are two of the many Haitian Montrealers who are worried about loved ones amid the violent attacks that have paralyzed the Haitian capital.

Ceide says that while his family members in Haiti are far from the violence, the latest crisis is impacting the availability of basic services including food and health care.

Both men say the Canadian government needs to do what it can to help Haitians, including making it easier for them to leave and join their families in Canada.

They also believe Canada can play a supporting role in the diplomatic efforts to stabilize the country, but insist the solution to the crisis must be led by Haitians themselves.

Newcomer Rose-Marie Alexandre also fled Haiti last year because of gang violence.

“They were trying to kill me. I decided to leave the country to ensure my safety. I want Haiti to be like how it was before,” said Alexandre.

Haitian-born Quebec MNA Frantz Benjamin says this level of violence hasn’t been seen.

“Yesterday I gathered with 12 members of the Haitian community leaders in Montreal to ask the Canadian government to take strong leadership to help to solve the situation, to break down the violence, and first of all, we need humanitarian help. Food and medical supplies are needed for those children and women who have been removed from their home place in Port-au-Prince,” said Benjamin.

 

Posted March 14, 2024