An Open letter to the Canadian government,
Canada is at a crossroads in its long relationship with Haiti. The Trudeau government must choose between continuing to support a corrupt, incompetent and murderous government led by Dr. Ariel Henry, or implementing the oft-repeated phrase: a Haitian solution.
The Haitian solution is the "transition de rupture" supported by the Montana Accord - made up of a wide range of representatives of civil society, opposition parties and the private sector, who have reached a broad consensus. Canada must now stop supporting Ariel Henry's government and throw its full weight behind this coalition, which is the only viable proposal for a transition that would enable Haitians to hold free and fair elections. To continue to support the current Prime Minister is to condemn the country to corruption, impunity, continued gang domination and worsening food insecurity.
At the root of the current unrest is a legitimate, broad-based civil society movement that began campaigning in 2018 for the government to investigate funds loaned by Venezuela, known as the PetroCaribe funds. This movement was met with a riposte from an entrenched economic elite linked to the ruling Parti haïtien tèt kale (PHTK), which fiercely opposes any change to the status quo and funded a campaign of gang violence in the working-class neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, where the PetroCaribe movement was strong. Since the La Saline massacre in 2018, in which over 70 civilians were killed and raped by armed gangs, the violence has intensified and gangs now control the entrance to Port-au-Prince, killing and raping with impunity.
It is tempting for some to believe that a heavy-handed international military intervention will put the gangs out of action and allow Haiti to return to a more normal situation. This will not be the case. Those who have followed Haiti over the years know that the UN and OAU international missions have failed to put the country on the road to progress and stability. Haiti's institutions remain weak, and the powerful sectors behind the gangs oppose any real change that would challenge their economic and political privileges.
The time has come for Canada to consider Haitian proposals, including those from civil society, and to reflect on and evaluate its role in past peacekeeping missions. This time, it must not limit these discussions to the political class, but include all sectors, including civil society. The lessons learned should make it possible to formulate proposals for a more constructive role in the medium and long term, one that will be more inclusive of all Haitians and contribute to real and more lasting solutions in Haiti.
In order to move forward now, we recommend the following priority actions for Canada:
- End support for Ariel Henry's government, whose legitimacy has been widely contested since his rise to power, and support the Montana Accord;
- Strike a blow against impunity by supporting an international commission to investigate and punish the perpetrators of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, and by supporting Haitian justice in emblematic cases such as the assassination of Judge Monferrier Dorval in 2020;
- Offer technical assistance to Haiti in the PetroCaribe corruption case, whose file has been completed by the Superior Court of Auditors and which could enable the State to recover at least some of the misappropriated funds;
- Impose sanctions on Canada, including the cancellation of visas and the freezing of assets of those who finance and control the gangs.
For the time being, Canada's strategy is to strengthen the capacities of the Haitian national police. Ottawa has provided funding of around $30 million by 2022, and recently gave the go-ahead for the sale of Canadian armoured vehicles for its police, but it needs to go further, particularly in recognizing the legitimacy of solutions put forward by Haitian civil society.
Canada should also use its role and influence within the Core Group to ensure that its other members also follow the same course of action in Haiti.
Marc Édouard Joubert
Pour information :
Hélène Gobeil, 438 828-2965
Translated by CHIP editors
Posted June 17, 2023