No to International Intervention

Haitian Community Objects to Canada’s Role in Haiti Crisis

Intervention in Haiti should not be in the hands of the West. Graphic Myriam Mouazzani

Three rows of chairs were placed in a half-circle.

Around 15 Haitians and other supporters were waiting for the assembly to start. Forty-five minutes later, the animator took the mic and asked,  to the few people sitting in front of him, “what should we do to get more people in our event?” 

On Nov.12,  the organization Solidarité Québec-Haïti led a group discussion with community members for the third week at the Saint-Damase church located in front of Crémazie Blvd.. This old church was transformed into a Haitian community centre named La perle retrouvée.

Everyone in this room had Haiti in mind. Many community members voiced their concerns about the humanitarian crisis in the country and to denounce the role played by the international community that led to this stage. They were strongly motivated to mobilize more people to the cause. 

According to the head of the United Nations integrated office in Haiti, Helen La Lime, the multidimensional crisis in Haiti pushed the country into humanitarian disaster. During the last few months, citizens have been taking over the streets of the country, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. After the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, Henry took on some of Moïse's responsibilities. Since then, the population has been protesting for a fairly elected government.

Organized crimes has become out of control. Gangs are seizing roads, restraining economic activities and kidnapping and raping civilians, according to a report from the UN integrated office in Haiti. Moreover, the increase of fuel price announced by the government triggered a gang war with the Haitian National Police in the past weeks. This led them to take control of many key installations in Port-au-Prince, such as the Varreux oil terminal. Then, to give more firepower to the police, Henry purchased military artillery from Canada. 

In addition to this uptick in violence, the report indicates that inflation exploded to 30.5 per cent in July. This put low-income families in a difficult situation as they couldn’t afford basic necessities. Furthermore, an outbreak of cholera has returned in the country after three years without any reported cases according to UNICEF

The threat of an occupation was looming over Haïti, when Prime Minister Henry asked for help from the international community to re-establish peace in the troubled country on Oct.7. That being said, invading the island was not unanimous among the world leaders. 

China’s UN representative, Geng Shuang, affirmed that sanctions were needed for the gangs and an embargo should be applied on small arms, weapons and ammunition intended for criminal use, but he disapproved of a military intervention. 

Many other political leaders are denouncing the corruption of Haïti’s government. On Nov. 4,  Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly announced that Canada will impose sanctions on “Haitian political elites who provide illicit financial and operational support to armed gangs.”

“The one who caused the problem cannot be the solution,” said Jennie-Laure Sully, member of Solidarité Québec-Haïti. A murmur of agreement echoed in the church after her statement. She explained that she could not imagine that the international community could bring a real sense of help to Haïti after all the harm and damage done to the country in the past. 

“They make us believe that it is impossible for Haitians to find a solution by themselves,”  Sully added. “We need to support what’s being done in Haiti [instead of trying to impose our decision].”

Historically, Haïti has been subject to multiple foreign military invasions. Many interventions were justified as bringing back peace and stability. These actions, however, left the country in a worse state than before. 

In 1915, the United States occupied the country until 1934. Afterwards, UN peacekeepers occupied the country from 2004 to 2017. Many cases of sexual abuse were reported during this period. Interventionists were also blamed for causing the spread of cholera, which developed into an epidemic, killing around 10,000 people, according to the UN.

Canada interfered in Haiti's affairs without being called out for way too long, denounced Solidarité Québec-Haiti. “The first insult to Haitian sovereignty from the Canadian government was the creation of the Core Group,” said Marie Scholl-Dimanche, an activist. She recalled that no Haitian participated in the Ottawa Initiative on Haïti meeting in 2003. 

The Core Group, composed of Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States has been meddling in Haïti’s politics for 19 years. Core group is responsible for urging Prime Minister Henry to take the reins in 2021. 

“There is no respect for Haitian sovereignty from Canada and the United States.” — Marie Scholl-Dimanche

Scholl-Dimanche strongly denounced the imperialist guardianship of the CORE group, opposing yet another occupation in Haïti.  

“HaIti has been the first Black country to gain independence, which is one of their greatest achievements and one of their biggest burdens,” said Frantz André, spokesperson for the Committee of People Without Status and member of Solidarité Québec-Haïti. He explained that Haiti is being shown as an example to other countries who are still under imperialism to restrain them from requesting their independence. 

André was surprised when representatives of the federal government reached out to him. They wanted his opinion on Canada’s actions going forward. André said his answer was that occupation would be strongly condemned by people and that it was not the solution. For him, Canada should only play a light supporting role.

On Nov. 9, the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau published a report highlighting “the need to support a Haitian-led solution to the current situation “[and] facilitate access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those affected, solicit contributions for Haïti, and hold those responsible for the unrest to account through sanctions.” 

Since the second half of the 20th century, the Haitian community in Canada has kept growing. According to Statistics Canada, 165,095 Haitians lived in the country in 2016. Keeping that in mind, what should Canada do to alleviate this well-established community in our society? 

Solidarité Québec-Haïti believes that Haitian problems should be handled by Haitians. The organization will be holding another meeting on Nov.26 to brainstorm about what they can do to amplify the voice of Haitians. Community members are invited to participate. 

This article originally appeared in Volume 43, Issue 7, published November 22, 2022.