Quebec's Haitian community leaders says Haiti rebuild will fail if Haitians aren't listened to

Ninette Piou, left, Frantz Voltaire, centre, and Marjorie Villefranche, right, are all among the community leaders calling on Canada to change its approach toward Haiti. Canada has said it supports implementing a change in leadership. (Mélissa François/CBC)

By Joe Bongiorno, CBC News, March 12, 2024

Haitian community leaders in Quebec are warning that chaos will continue to reign in Haiti unless Haitians — on the island and in the diaspora — are given a seat at the table in the international initiative to stabilize the country. 

Officials from Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and other countries met in Jamaica yesterday to discuss solutions to the crisis, as the heavily armed gangs who control most of Haiti's capital threatened civil war. The situation has been deteriorating since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021.

On Monday, Haitian President Ariel Henry announced he will step down once a transition council and temporary replacement have been appointed.

In response, the Concertation haïtienne pour les migrants (CHPM), a group made up of community organizations advocating for better integration of Haitian asylum seekers in Quebec and Canada, called on Canada to change its approach toward the island nation. Canada has said it supports bringing in new leadership. 

"We are not optimistic at all," Marjorie Villefranche, CHPM spokesperson and Maison d'Haïti director, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

According to Villefranche, there's little reason to be hopeful of a turnaround with foreign countries "naming people to rule the country without the consent of the population."

Frantz Voltaire, director of the Centre international de documentation et d'information Haïtienne, Caribéenne et Afro-Canadienne (CIDIHCA), said that neither international operations, large sums of money nor foreign forces  — will deliver stability without Haitian knowledge and participation.

Kenya had said it would deploy some of its police officers to the Caribbean country but today announced it was suspending the police operation until a new administration assumes leadership in Haiti.

In recent years, large numbers of Haitians have fled natural and man-made disasters in the country, but they need to be part of the future, Voltaire said, adding that many have proposed solutions that have been largely ignored, especially since the country was rocked by a devastating earthquake in 2010.  

"How can we rebuild this country if you can't count on the expertise of Haitians living abroad? How can you rebuild  without the expertise of people living in Haiti, mainly because they are those who are [most] concerned?"

Voltaire says Canada hasn't helped Haiti by supporting the unelected Henry for the past two years, in which time the country spiraled further into violence.

What Canada and others in the international community need to do, Voltaire said, is support Haitians in rebuilding and reforming the country's police force, justice system and penitentiary system.

Only once the country's institutions are made anew, can there be a real electoral process, he said.

Chalmers Larose, a professor of international relations at the Université du Québec à Montréal, says the current situation is "delicate" and leaves more questions than answers.

Larose says the current plans for stabilization and a political transition doesn't match the reality on the ground. What's being proposed, he said, doesn't adequately address the underlying security problem and the socio-economic needs of the local population.

Whether from Kenya or another country, boots on the ground in Haiti can't be successful without clarity about who is in charge, he said. 

But one thing Larose is certain of is that elections aren't in the cards anytime soon.

"I don't think the elections are on the horizon for now," he said. "We can't have an election this year."


Posted March 14, 2024