Sébastien Carrière writes an open letter to Haitians following his exit from the position of Canadian ambassador to Haiti

By Sébastien Carrière, Le Nouvelliste, August 14, 2023

As my tenure as Canada's Ambassador to Haiti draws to a close, and my departure from the country fast approaches, I'd like to bid you a final collective farewell, and leave you with my thoughts on Canada-Haiti relations.

I'd like to start by thanking everyone I've had the pleasure of meeting and working with during my two years in Haiti. Whether in Port-au-Prince, Okap, Limonade, Okay, Camp-Perrin, Maniche, Jérémie or Gonaïves, you always welcomed me with warmth and open-mindedness, and we exchanged sincere views.

I was honored to visit your development projects and celebrate your achievements with you, as well as to take part in your graduation ceremonies and cultural events. I've enjoyed visiting some of your many tourist attractions which hold unlimited potential, and I'm delighted to have set foot on some of your extraordinary historic monuments, including the majestic Citadelle and the Palais Sans-Souci. I enjoyed sampling your excellent local produce and Haitian dishes such as joumou soup on Sundays, lambi boucané (especially Chez Raymonde in Gelée! ), good Artibonite lalo and its world-class rice, and yon bon griot ak bannann.

My only regrets are that I didn't have the opportunity to visit all the regions of the country, and that we weren't able to accomplish as much with you as we would have liked because of the difficult situation in the country. Indeed, relations between our two countries have enormous potential for growth, which the current multidimensional crisis is preventing us from realizing.

In 2021, 4.6 million Haitians were living in a state of humanitarian emergency according to UN criteria. Today, the figure has risen to 5.2 million. This situation is unacceptable. The country is stagnating and the Haitian people are suffering. Kidnappings are on the increase, and what people are experiencing in the lawless zones controlled by gangs is simply unspeakable.

This is why Canada has redoubled its efforts over the past two years to help your country find the best possible way out of the crisis. But to be lasting, solutions must be Haitian, as we have said time and again.

Generally speaking, our action in Haiti has been focused on four main areas.

First: a substantial increase in our humanitarian and development aid, which doubled last year.

While humanitarian aid is aimed at meeting the urgent needs of the population, development aid is designed to help Haiti make lasting progress. Here are five examples, among many others, of Canada's support for Haiti and the results achieved:

Since 2018, Canada has funded the annual delivery of hot meals to 200,000 children in over 390 schools in all regions of the country. This support has helped children continue their education and made them less vulnerable to recruitment by armed gangs, which often draw their members from idle minors who have lost hope. This result was made possible by Canada's $40 million (CAD) support for the school canteen program implemented by the World Food Program (WFP). This funding has also helped to promote a sustainable local economy, by purchasing food from local women farmers and entrepreneurs. In fact, in 2022 alone, more than 70 agricultural producer organizations (APOs) supplied the WFP with over 2,000 metric tons of local produce (the equivalent of $3 million).

Strengthening the resilience of agricultural producers is essential if the Haitian population is to develop sustainable food autonomy. For this reason, in 2017 Canada launched a $50M initiative consisting of five projects to support the agri-food sector in the Sud and Grand'Anse regions. One of these projects, the "Projet MAIS" implemented by Papyrus S.A., aims to strengthen the corn and bean value chain in order to improve the resilience and livelihoods of 10,000 small-scale farming households in the South department. The project also aims to promote more sustainable and environmentally-friendly production methods and post-harvest practices. Thanks to a partnership with Les Moulins d'Haïti, the project facilitates investments, purchases and financing mechanisms for farmers. The results are promising: this year alone, 2,032 production contracts have been signed and almost 50% of farmers have benefited from credit.

Another priority is access to maternal health care to ensure the future of the Haitian population. Canada has been supporting this sector in Haiti for years. From 2018 to 2023, Canada provided $15M in funding for a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) project aimed at strengthening the profession and access to midwives. The project deployed 136 midwives, renovated 26 health centers and trained 300 staff to improve the quality of sexual health services and the integration of midwives in four previously underserved departments (Grand'Anse, Sud-Est, Nippes and Nord-Ouest). The project has also improved the sexual and reproductive health of 107,751 women, helping to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in vulnerable communities.
Strengthening access to justice and fighting corruption are priority challenges in bringing the country back to stability.

Since 2016, Canada has provided $22M in support of a project by Avocats sans frontières that aims to mobilize and support civil society in its role as a democratic counterweight, guardian of the rule of law, and pillar of inclusive and accountable governance. This project works to: 1) strengthen the Office de la Protection du Citoyen's work with women and minors, 2) build the capacity of civil society human rights organizations and lawyers representing victims of human rights violations, 3) increase civic participation and awareness among women and young people of human rights issues, the fight against impunity and corruption. This year, 2,019 people (including 628 women and 75 minors) benefited from legal aid, and 97 arbitrary detainees were released in the jurisdiction of Port-au-Prince. With the project's support, the Mouvement des Femmes haïtiennes pour l'Éducation et le Développement (MOUFHED) assisted 189 women and 2 minors, and filed habeas corpus petitions for 27 women detained for gang rape at the Cabaret civil prison.

Feminist foreign policy is at the heart of our action around the world, and Canada has been supporting the Voix et Leadership des femmes en Haïti project to the tune of $8M since 2017. This project, implemented by the Centre d'étude et de coopération international (CECI), aims to demonstrate the crucial role played by women's rights and feminist organizations in support of gender equality. This year, the project supported 34 women's rights civil society organizations (including 5 networks) in building their capacities. 1,497 survivors of gender-based violence were supported by the organizations supported by the project.

Second axis: Enhanced security assistance, to give the Haitian National Police (PNH) the means to fulfill its mission.

Last March, Prime Minister Trudeau announced an unprecedented $100 million contribution from Canada to the PNH, the tangible results of which are beginning to show on the ground. To date, $13M has been committed:

We increased our support to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) by $3 million for an anti-corruption project that will strengthen the HNP's capacity to fight financial crime.

We have increased our contribution to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) multi-donor trust fund for the HNP by $10 million, making Canada the largest contributor ($20 million in total). In the coming weeks, 250 motorcycles, 300 radios and 10 drones will be delivered to the PNH. A new tactical command center will also be inaugurated. A new vetting office was inaugurated earlier this summer.

Work to disburse the balance of the $100 million this year continues, in close discussion with the PNH to identify priorities, ensure that our actions correspond to real needs and are coordinated with other donors. Further announcements will follow shortly.

Other projects in support of the PNH announced in 2022 will begin their activities in 2023: $8 million to fight financial crime with the UNODC and $12.5 million to strengthen the PNH's institutional and operational capacities with Cowater International.

In addition, last May, Canada supplied $100,000 worth of solar panels to essential PNH offices such as DG PNH, Inspection Générale, Direction de la Logistique, CNAF and DCASG, so that they can continue to carry out their operations and respond to emergencies. Also last May, Canada partnered with HERO in a pilot project that trained 200 officers in tactical combat wound care and provided them with first aid kits. More officers will be trained in the near future, and we hope that this training will eventually be extended to all officers.

All these projects are in addition to the $150 million invested over the past 20 years in our cooperation with the PNH, for a grand total approaching $300 million. Canada firmly believes that the PNH is the sustainable solution to the problem of insecurity in Haiti, and will continue to place it at the heart of our security assistance strategy for the country.

Canada also welcomes Kenya's recently announced intention to lead an international security assistance mission in Haiti to help combat the gangs holding the capital and the country hostage. We stand ready to work with Kenya and all partners to ensure the success of any possible deployment under a UN Security Council mandate.

Third axis: Sanctions against gang leaders and certain elements of Haiti's political and economic elite in the hope of undermining the criminal underpinnings that are holding the country and its people hostage.

The purpose of the sanctions is to combat corruption and impunity, with a view to breaking the grip of the mafia state on the country and enabling the full emergence of a more responsible private sector and political class who are more inclined to play their respective parts in building democracy and the rule of law in Haiti.

These measures, which have so far targeted 25 members of the Haitian elite, send a clear message of non-tolerance towards corruption and other flagrant misconduct. In particular, these measures aim to cut off illicit financial and operational support to gangs so that law and order can be restored.

In my view, the sanctions represent an important paradigm shift in the international community's approach to Haiti, and this work will continue. Indeed, the European Union recently announced that it was following suit, as did not only Canada but also the United States of America, the Dominican Republic, Switzerland, Great Britain, and the United Nations.

The sanctions have created a climate of direct pressure on members of the elite to help resolve the crisis - as there is always a possibility that further sanctions could be imposed. Sanctions have had an immediate impact, as the last few months have seen a concrete engagement of the economic elite in political dialogue, a marked reduction in violent demonstrations and peyi lok, and a substantial increase in customs revenues. Sanctions alone do not explain all these positive developments, but they are a significant cause.

And it's all done transparently: the relevant Canadian laws and regulations, as well as full details of our sanctions regime, are publicly available at



Fourth axis: A strong commitment to increased political dialogue that listens to all voices.

This is happening not only in Haiti, but also in New York via our Ambassador to the UN Bob Rae, and around the world through the actions of our Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly and our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Canada's objective is to encourage Haiti's internal political dialogue in the search for a sufficient inter-Haitian consensus to put the country back on the road to democracy in a sustainable manner. For the security and economic challenges facing the country are inextricably linked to issues of politics and governance.

In this sense, Canada unreservedly supports efforts at dialogue aimed at reaching such a consensus, including those led by the CARICOM Group of Eminent Persons, which is still ongoing, and in which we encourage the active and sincere participation of all protagonists in the crisis. As I have often said and written over the past two years: No more politics as usual. And this applies to everyone.

In conclusion, I'll be leaving soon, and leaving is always difficult, especially when there's still so much to do. However, I remain optimistic that Canada's efforts will continue after my departure, to keep the Canadian-Haitian friendship alive and well. It has been a great honour for me to walk with you these past two years. Haiti is a country that inhabits us from the moment we set foot in it. Its people are endearing and inspiring. Once you've visited or lived there, it never lets you go. I know all about that. I can't wait to return one day, because as Mikaben used to sing:

Ayiti cheri pou jan m'adore w

Pa gen anyen k'ap jan mwen kite w

Thanks again for everything, and kenbe la.


Translated by CHIP editors


Posted August 17, 2023