Haitian-Canadian activist Gilbert Mirambeau Jr. The graffiti on the wall translates as Where is the PetroCaribe money?
WE DON’T THINK ABOUT HAITI ANY MORE. More and more Canadians think we should. Particularly since it is not obvious that what we are doing there has helped at all.
The most recent effort to put Haiti back on our agenda centres on an 18-year old event—namely, a January 31, 2003 gathering hosted by Canada to set out what came to be called the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti.”
2003 meeting seals Haiti’s fate
Mario Beaulieu, MP, a member of the Bloc Québécois Caucus presented a petition to parliament on March 22 requesting that the federal government “publish all documents relating to the ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti’” and to “hold a hearing of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to learn everything there is to know about the ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti,’ including its link to the ‘Core Group.’”
USA, French and Organization of American States officials were at the two-day meeting to discuss Haiti’s future. No Haitian representatives were invited.
The discussions are thought to have included removal of the elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, re-creating the dreaded military and putting the country under UN trusteeship.
All of this was reported in the media in March 2003.
No one connected the dots
Thirteen months after the meeting U.S. Marines forced president Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of the country in the middle of the night with the help of Canadian special forces.
The news media took no notice of the potential links between the Ottawa meeting and the 2004 coup in Haiti that installed Jovenel Moïse as a dictator.
UN forces have been in Haiti for most of the past 17 years and the Haitian military has been re-created.
Moïse has had no use for democracy for 17 long years. Many groups and individuals have criticized Canada for supporting him in spite of opposition from the overwhelming majority of Haitians. He recently decided to extend his presidency beyond the legal February 7 deadline.
Criticism persistent and growing
Haitian community groups in Montreal recently formed La Coalition Haïtienne au Canada contre la dictature en Haïti to win even more support for a Haiti free of Moïse. Many Canadian organizations back the coalition.
The Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Union of Public Employees, all of Québec’s major labour unions and its main NGO coalition, as well as numerous other groups, also recently signed a statement on Haiti. It calls on Ottawa to “stop supporting” Moïse who has criminalized protest blockades as “terrorism” and established a new intelligence agency empowered to infiltrate and arrest anyone engaged in “subversive” acts.
A statement from Chris Aylward, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada states: “Tragically, Canada has been working against democracy in Haiti for two decades, all too often choosing to support right-wing politicians who have little concern for Haiti’s poor majority."
In recent weeks 500 hundred people signed a letter criticizing Canada’s “support for a repressive, corrupt Haitian president devoid of constitutional legitimacy.” Naomi Klein, David Suzuki, and Stephen Lewis, are among those who signed, as well as three current and three former MPs.
On March 21 Solidarité Québec-Haïti held a demonstration in front of Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau’s office in Montreal.
A look back at the origins of the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti will give us an insight into what we thought we should to do in Haiti, how we thought we could do it and whether or not it’s time to rethink it all and stand with Haiti’s impoverished majority today.
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