Canada's Growing Role In Haitian
by Anthony Fenton
Haiti-Progres (ZNet March 21,
The Canadian government is following through
on its commitment to "take the lead" in Haiti on behalf
of the Bush Administration.
It has been almost one year since the
nature of this request was made explicit in Canada's Parliamentarian
Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. During one of several meetings
which took place about one month after the removal of President
Jean Bertrand Aristide, Carlo Dade of the Canadian government
funded hemispheric policy think-tank, FOCAL (Canadian Foundation
for the Americas), had this to say on April 1, 2004:
"The U.S. would welcome Canadian
involvement and Canada's taking the lead in Haiti. The administration
in Washington has its hands more than full with Afghanistan, Iraq,
and the potential in Korea and the Mideast. There is simply not
the ability to concentrate... [T]o really succeed in Haiti, you
need long-term attention at the highest levels... This is a chance
for Canada to step up and provide that sort of focused attention
and leadership, and the administration would welcome this."
Dade also made it clear that "this
was something of interest" to Assistant Secretary of State
Roger Noriega, and USAID Latin America administrator Adolfo Franco,
who had visited Ottawa just days earlier.
Dade's comments were somewhat facetious,
given that the Canadian government had already been playing a
key role in the pre-coup destabilization of Haiti's Lavalas government.
Most notably, Canadian MP Denis Paradis hosted a "high-level
roundtable meeting on Haiti" January 31-February 1, 2003
(see HaVti ProgrPs, Vol. 20, No. 51, 3/5/2003).
According to the original internal communiqués,
recently obtained through an Access to Information Act request,
the meeting was supposed to address "the current political
situation in Haiti." Notably, the affair was "envisaged
to be of a restricted and intimate nature." This, "in
order to facilitate a free exchange of views and brainstorming
among the invited participants."
Nowhere among the invitees were any Haitian
representatives. Aristide government officials were only told
about the meeting after Paradis leaked the details of it to L'Actualité
reporter Michel Vastel in March, 2003, which facilitated a predictable
period of "damage-control." Paradis told Vastel that
the themes of Aristide's possible removal, the potential return
of Haiti's disbanded military , and the option of imposing a Kosovo-like
trusteeship on Haiti, were discussed during the meeting. Vastel
published this information, which caused a considerable stir in
Haiti, the U.S., and Ottawa, forcing Paradis and the Canadian
government to deny that such things were considered. Paradis was
subsequently stripped of his position as Secretary of State for
Latin America, and was replaced as Minister of La Francophonie,
under whose auspices the meeting was hosted. Denis Coderre replaced
Paradis, and today functions as Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's
Special Adviserto Haiti.
Significantly, Vastel continues to stand
by the original article, claiming not only Paradis told him the
details but that French officials corroborated them. On January
31, 2003, both Vastel and French Minister Pierre-Andre Wiltzer,
spoke on the same panel, the title of which was "Obligation
morale internationale; Perspectives, idées nouvelles et
démarches B explorer." During a September 11, 2004
interview, Paradis repeatedly invoked the notion that he was misinterpreted
by Vastel, that the meeting could, essentially, be boiled down
to the "responsibility to protect," a Canadian-made
"humanitarian intervention" doctrine that, if adopted
by the UN through a process that Martin is now attempting to facilitate,
powerful countries would give themselves the right (or "responsibility")
to militarily intervene in a country that they deem to have reached
a state of "failure."
Whether or not military intervention
was discussed explicitly, as Vastel contends, or implicitly, as
Paradis insists, the important fact is that military intervention
did take place, Aristide was removed, the Haitian army has effectively
returned, and a de facto trusteeship is being imposed on the Haitian
JUSTIFYING THE INTERVENTION
In order to pull the intervention off
and assume thereafter a key "leadership role," the Canadian
government has gone to considerable lengths to cover, albeit poorly,
its tracks. This is a process that also has its origins in the
pre-coup period. Documents recently obtained from the Canadian
International Development Agency (CIDA) show that, with exclusivity,
organizations that are ideologically opposed to Aristide and Lavalas
are receiving Canadian government funding. The list includes the
likes of ENFOFANM, SOFA, Kay Fanm, GARR, CRESFED, PAJ, POHDH/SAKS,
and the Haiti branch of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights
In the months prior to Aristide's ouster,
virtually all of these organizations assisted the official Canadian
government policy toward Haiti. The most telling example of this
can be found in a document entitled "Haiti: a Bitter Bicentennial,"
which was produced by the similarly CIDA-funded "Rights and
Democracy," a "Canadian institution with an international
mandate." In September 2003, Rights and Democracy sent a
delegation to Haiti. Seeking to "make a contribution to"
resolving the "enduring crisis" in Haiti, Rights and
Democracy determined "several approaches to intervention,"
that might assist Haiti through the crisis. Besides providing
legitimacy for the political opposition fronts Democratic Convergence
and Group of 184, the report clearly lays the blame for Haiti's
political turmoil on Aristide and Lavalas.
While the details of the report are of
themselves interesting, herein it is the list of those organizations
that Rights and Democracy met with at the time that we should
find particularly revealing. But for a single representative of
the Haitian government, the remaining Haitians met with were aligned
with the political opposition. All the organizations listed above,
today receiving CIDA funding, are on this Rights and Democracy
list. It is possible that several of the groups were receiving
Canadian funding prior to the coup.
What is known for certain, and perhaps
most insidiously, is that NCHR received $100,000 for the specific
purpose of juridical, medical, psychological, and logistical assistance
for the "victims" of the alleged La Scierie massacre.
On March 9, 2005, HaVti-ProgrPs put NCHR into proper context in
this respect: "The illegal government has charged both [former
Prime Minister] Neptune and [former Interior Minister] Privert
with involvement in a supposed 'massacre' on February 11, 2004
in St. Marc, an event which reporters and human rights groups
almost universally agree never happened. Only the pro-coup U.S.
government-backed National Coalition of Haitian Rights (NCHR)
charges that some 50 people were slaughtered by pro-Lavalas partisans.
Pierre Espérance, the NCHR's Haiti bureau chief, says that
the remains of the supposed victims were 'eaten by dogs' to explain
the absence of any forensic evidence" (see HaVti ProgrPs,
Vol. 22, No. 52, 3/9/2005).
At this point it is doubtful that many
Canadian taxpayers are aware that they are funding such a partisan
and thereby illegitimate "human rights" organization
such as NCHR. In an independent report published around the same
time that the Canadian Embassy in Haiti announced the funding
for NCHR (April 14, 2004), the National Lawyers Guild laid out
NCHR's deficiencies as a human rights organization. NCHR "could
not name a single case in which a Lavalas supporter was a victim,"
and took the delegation to a room "where the wall was adorned
with a a large 'wanted' poster featuring Aristide and his cabinet."
Unanimously, the NLG report concluded: "We condemn the National
Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) in Haiti for not maintaining
its impartiality as a human rights organization."
Despite this, NCHR remains the most often
cited human rights organization in Haiti by the international
and local elite-owned media. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin
has echoed Pierre Espérance, who insists that "there
are no political prisoners in Haiti." Rather, the 700 or
more imprisoned without charge, are common criminals who just
happen to be Lavalas. On the whole uncritical of the hand-selected
Latortue government, the NCHR has played an critical role in legitimizing
the coup and keeping international public opinion confounded on
the issue of human rights abuses directed against pro-democracy
With several independent human rights
reports recently and exhaustively exposing the systematic repression
of perceived supporters of Aristide and/or constitutionality,
the NCHR is gradually being seen as naked, not unlike the emperors
on whose behalf they are working. In a March 11 press release,
the director of NCHR-New York, Jocelyn McCalla, who himself has
been criticized widely in the past for being partisan, publicly
distanced his organization from Espérance's Haiti-based
NCHR: "Neither Mr. Espérance, nor any member of the
staff of NCHR-Haiti, speak for or on behalf of the National Coalition
for Haitian Rights (NCHR), its board or its staff."
McCalla accused Espérance of "defending
a dysfunctional Haitian judicial system which delivers little
other than injustice." Here, McCalla was referring to the
continued detention of Neptune despite having "not been formally
charged" by Haitian authorities for his alleged involvement
in the "massacre" in St. Marc on February 11, 2004.
Neptune's three-week long hunger strike, which protested the "dysfunctional
Haitian judicial system" while demanding his and Privert's
unconditional release, came to an end when he was brought to a
UN hospital and treated for dehydration on March 11.
Author and co-ordinator of the Committee
for the Defense of the Haitian People's Rights, Ronald Saint-Jean,
has documented and analyzed the circumstances surrounding NCHR's
role in what he characterizes as the fabrication of the "massacre"
in St. Marc. (See: "A propos du "Génocide de
la Scierie": Exiger de la NCHR toute la verité,"
2004) Saint-Jean was in Ottawa and Montreal earlier this month
and denounced Canada's funding of NCHR, telling officials and
the press that if Neptune dies his blood is on Canada's hands.
The author is an independent journalist
based in Vancouver.
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