Haiti and Media
[Canada's involvement in Haiti]
by Yves Engler
ZNet, June 5, 2005
Extra, extra, read all about it ... but
only in ZNet. Here are just a few of the recent non- or under-reported
stories involving Canada and Haiti.
Did you read in your local paper that
in mid-May, 250 people braved a rainy Sunday morning in downtown
Montreal to confront Canadian colonialism? The demonstration,
at the conclusion of a conference for Land, Decolonization and
Self Determination and in conjunction with the Haitian community's
flag day commemoration, was called to point out the link between
the continued encroachment upon aboriginal land (in Kanehsatake
and Grassy Narrows for example) and Canadian imperialism in Haiti.
Did you see on your TV protesters chanting: "Native rights,
under attack. What do we do? Stand up fight back" and "Canada
out of Haiti" as they danced to Caribbean beats?
One other slogan was "Liberate the
political prisoners in Haiti" which was of huge political
importance as Haiti's elected Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune, lay
on his deathbed after a month-long hunger strike.
But of course, if you only read the mainstream
media you'd be unaware that Canada is directly implicated in Neptune's
incarceration (just one of hundreds of political prisoners languishing
in Haitian jails). Our government body that is supposed to "aid"
poor countries, the Canadian International Development Agency
(CIDA), gave $100,000 to investigate and prosecute a "massacre"
to which Neptune is the alleged "intellectual author."
The problem is, independent observers say, there was no massacre.
According to Ronald St. Jean, an author of a book detailing the
fabrication of the La Scerie "massacre," if Neptune
dies his blood is on Canada's hands.
Of course the May 15 demonstration was
just one in a string of Montreal mobilizations, mostly ignored
by the mainstream media, against Canada's destructive role in
Haiti. Last week, a hastily organized demonstration of 100 people
confronted Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew at his office
while three weeks earlier 150 people voiced their displeasure
at Canadian special advisor to Haiti, Denis Coderre's North Montreal
You wouldn't know it by reading the Globe
and Mail or even listening to CBC, but many on the left are beginning
to talk about the situation in Haiti as similar to Iraq and Palestine
- all brutal occupations that have led to thousands of deaths.
To commemorate Haiti's May 18 flag day, anti-occupation groups
held events from banner drops to information pickets to marches
in Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax and around the world. The actions
were in solidarity with the tens of thousands who took to the
streets of Port au Prince and a number of cities outside Haiti's
The situation in Haiti has deteriorated
to the point that many pro-coup groups, most recently student
associations that called for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide'
resignation, are now demanding the removal of installed Prime
Minister Gerard Latortue. It is obvious, even to the casual observer,
that the most destructive elements of Haitian society are reasserting
their power behind the guns of UN troops. The real social advances
of the 1994-2004 democratic period are being cast aside. Progress
towards a functioning justice system is being reversed and state-sponsored
political repression is being re-institutionalized through the
Haitian National Police.
And, oh by the way, Canada is one of
the big players imposing this mess on the Haitian people. All
in the name of "aid," of helping a "failed state"
How bad is it?
At the start of May, the perpetrators
of the infamous April 1994 "Raboteau massacre," during
which dozens of pro-democracy activists were murdered, had their
convictions overturned. This was payback to the former death squad
leaders for their leadership role in the armed rebellion that
helped oust Aristide 15 months ago.
On April 27 thousands of peaceful anti-coup
demonstrators were fired upon by the Haitian National Police (HNP)
and, according to Amnesty International, nine protesters were
killed. Subsequent video footage posted on haitiaction.net shows
the police planting a gun besides a dead demonstrator. The HNP
has fired on demonstrators at least four times in Port Au Prince
over the past few months; each time they claim protesters were
armed or violent.
Since mid April, Cité Soleil,
the largest and poorest slum in the country, has been a virtual
prison with UN checkpoints controlling movement in and out. A
recent UN military operation into the Cité left 20 dead
in one weekend, according to UN officials. Community representatives
in the Cité claim the actual figure was 100, mainly unarmed,
residents. The situation in Cité Soleil is so desperate
that in an amazing act of solidarity on April 20, thousands of
demonstrators marched from the almost as impoverished neighborhood
of Bel Air to bring bags of rice to Cité residents.
Malnutrition is on the rise throughout
Haiti and especially in Cité Soleil. General insecurity
has also worsened with a sharp rise in kidnappings and rapes -
many rapes are acts of political repression directed against Lavalas
(the former elected government) activists or their daughters.
So why does this violence and misery
in Haiti go unreported in the Canadian media? Could it be that
the gatekeepers of our media don't feel comfortable telling us
about this particular "Made in Canada" product?
The uncomfortable truth is that the Liberal
government was an important player in the campaign to destabilize
and overthrow Haiti's elected government. Our government participated
in the loan/aid embargo, diverted funds from the elected government
to the pro-coup "civil society," held a crucial meeting
with France and the U.S. to plan for Aristide's overthrow and
sent troops to "secure" the airport from which Aristide
was forced out of his country.
Canadian support for the brutal interim
government has been even more extensive. It includes sending troops
(now police), huge amounts of cash, employing two high level officials
in the de facto government and vital political support, notably
the first-ever trip by a Canadian Prime Minister to Haiti.
And Canada's hands in Haiti get dirtier
with each passing day. Every time a high level Canadian official
states their unequivocal support for the de facto government or
UN Civilian Police spokesperson and B.C. native, Dan Moskaluk,
justifies the Haitian police firing on protestors, the Canadian
connection to Haiti's killing field becomes clearer.
The first step in stopping this is information.
That's why it's so important to get the story out. It's up to
the alternative media to do the job that the mainstream media
Yves Engler is author (with Anthony Fenton)
of a forthcoming (August) book, Canada in Haiti: Waging war against
the poor majority published by RED/Fernwood.
To join Canada Haiti Action Network listserv,
email Kevin at email@example.com
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