Toronto Star's "Ottawa's Concern for Haiti Not Just Humanitarian"

Vancouver BC
January 26, 2011

Hello Mr. Walkom,

In your most welcome opinion article on Haiti, you write, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper was justly praised for his quick response to last year’s Haitian earthquake.” I must tell you that the descriptive “justly” is not substantiated by the facts.

Like the United States, Canada’s first response to the earthquake was a militarized one. The U.S. dispatched 20,000 soldiers. Canada sent 2,000. Some of the Canadians arrived in Haiti within hours; most arrived eight days later aboard HMCS Athabasca and Halifax.

In the overall scale of post-earthquake Haiti, the contribution of this “quick response” by Canada to earthquake relief was marginal. It ended a scant six weeks later. I am one the few writers in Canada who made an effort to fully analyze this. I invite you to read the facts I brought to light in an article I wrote last summer:….

Among the facts I reported is that Canada was one of the few wealthy countries of the world that did NOT dispatch its civilian disaster response teams to Haiti. The federal government said they were ill-trained and ill-equipped to handle a disaster of Haiti’s magnitude, a dubious and self-serving claim that I do not accept for one second.

Notwithstanding the important and selfless work of many disaster relief agencies and volunteers, Canada’s contribution to Haiti’s aid and reconstruction, like that of the rest of the wealthy world, is deeply flawed. What’s more, the Canadian government’s advocacy and financing of the fraudulent election of November 28 has deepened the humanitarian crisis in Haiti.

Why did Canada react to the earthquake with a military mission, and why has its aid and reconstruction assistance been seriously flawed? Because Canada and its allies are still pursuing the same flawed policies of subversion of Haitian sovereignty and social justice that have made Haiti so poor and vulnerable in the first place. They fear that the circumstances following the huge natural disaster would permit the Haitian people to retake the road of social justice that they and their elected governments have been seeking since the overthrow of the Duvalier tyranny in 1986.

Your column spells out some important aspects of this story; I see no reason for you to offer the Harper government undeserved praise.

On a related matter, you write that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ‘unseated’ in 2004. In reality, it was a foreign-organized and inspired coup d’etat, preceded by a punishing, three-year embargo. Canada was a key participant in both, along with the United States and Europe. (In some respects, the aid embargo of the year 2000 continues to this day; the Haitian government receives very little of the “billions” of dollars of promised aid.)

Canadians should not mince words that detract from the historical record in Haiti. The destructive behaviour of our government and its allies demands a serious accounting.

Roger Annis,
Canada Haiti Action Network