Diaspora

Canada looking at 'options' to help Haiti as it sends 'assessment mission': Joly – Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

Canada is looking at what the security situation in Haiti is, Joly said during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
OTTAWA — Canada is looking at “different options” to address the security, humanitarian and political crises in Haiti, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Thursday. 

“We want to make sure we have the right assessment,” Joly said, referring to a team Canada has sent to Haiti on an “assessment mission.”  

Gangs in Haiti have blocked a fuel terminal in the country, a situation that has affected every-day life, closed businesses and is now threatening to shut down hospitals. This comes as the country deals with an ongoing cholera outbreak and political uncertainty.

“We will always support solutions that are by and for Haitians,” Joly said. “We need to work also with many countries around the world on this issue.”

Joly said the Canadian team is looking at what the level of organization currently exists within the Haitian police and what the security situation is, including what tools the government has to deal with the gangs. 

Joly’s comments came during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Ottawa for his first official visit to Canada.

Blinken said the “knot that really has to be broken in the first instance” is security. “Haiti now faces a situation where gangs dominate important space in Port-au-Prince, the capital, as well as in other parts of Haiti, preventing assistance from getting through, everything from food and fuel and water,” he said. 

The U.S. has backed a UN resolution calling for a multinational security force in Haiti, and Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S. has called for Canada and the U.S. to take the lead in such a force. Joly didn’t answer Thursday when asked whether Canada would be ready to lead such an initiative.

Blinken said both Canada and the U.S. have been “talking to a variety of countries to gauge their interest and willingness to participate.” He said the “purpose of any such mission would be to support the Haitian national police in doing their jobs to make sure the state once again actually controls the country.”

Canada sent armored vehicles to the country earlier this month.

Former Canadian ambassador to Haiti Gilles Rivard said in an interview that the situation is “chaotic because there is a political vacuum.” Ariel Henry, who was appointed as prime minister shortly before President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in 2021, is acting prime minister.

“There are street gangs that are controlling oil terminals in Haiti and key infrastructure, there’s cholera, on top of that there is malnutrition, education problem and so on and so forth,” he said. “In Haiti at this moment you have what we call the perfect storm.”

But Rivard pointed out the idea of an international mission won’t necessarily be welcomed by Haitians. The country had a U.S. mission in place from 2004 to 2017, which brought cholera to the country and was accused of human rights abuses.

“An international military intervention is not supported by many, many, Haitians that are fed up seeing military intervention in their country without them having a word to say about that,” he said. “Even if the situation is a disaster, a lot of people don’t want to see foreign boots on the ground.”

Rivards said what Haiti needs is a road map for elections and eventually lead to more long-term stability. “Haiti is not there yet, even after 16 months of discussion after the assassination of the president.”

Blinken noted that under the current situation in Haiti, “people cannot move freely about, which would certainly make an election down the road impossible.”

Joly said Haiti needs “fair elections” but to have the right environment for that to happen the security and humanitarian problems have to be solved first.

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