Fernando Llano/The Associated Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hedged Wednesday when asked whether Canada was prepared to lead a military mission to Haiti and he declined to say whether Ottawa has run out of soldiers to deploy.
Canada’s top soldier, General Wayne Eyre, last year said the Canadian Armed Forces are “stretched thin” as demands at home and abroad mount. The military has faced recruitment problems, and last October, Gen. Eyre told MPs “the military that we have today is not the military that we need for the threats that are appearing in the future.”
Mr. Trudeau did not directly answer a direct question on whether Canada has troops it could send to Haiti. Canada’s largest military deployment right now is in Latvia on the western flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Canada has also committed to an additional military presence each year in the Indo-Pacific, including deploying three frigates there per year – up from two per year.
He did say however that Canada and its allies “are preparing various scenarios if it does start to get worse” in Haiti. The Prime Minister said a priority now is equipping the Haitian National Police to combat gang violence against Haitian citizens that is impeding the delivery of critical services and humanitarian aid.
“Canada has long been a friend of the people of Haiti and we will continue to be,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters as he wrapped up a Mexico City trip. “For the past three decades, we have engaged in Haiti in many different ways, in many different situations, with military support, with police support, with a range of supports, and we will continue to be there for the people of Haiti.”
He said he also felt sanctions that Canada has levelled against certain Haitian elites are working. Among others, Ottawa has accused Laurent Lamothe, the head of Haiti’s government from 2012 to 2014, of engaging in money laundering for Haitian street gangs.
“Right now, what is effective is empowerment of the Haitian National Police to solve the situation themselves, and support for the Haitian people – through humanitarian support and others, while at the same time we’re holding the political class and the economic class to account,” Mr. Trudeau said. “That’s what we will continue to do.”
Canada announced on Wednesday it had shipped more armoured vehicles to Haiti. A Canadian military aircraft landed in Port-au-Prince to transfer three armoured vehicles to the director-general of the Haitian National Police. This is on top of three armoured vehicles Canada shipped there last year.
The United States has reportedly asked Canada to lead a military mission to Haiti. Mr. Trudeau was asked Wednesday to explain what exactly the U.S. has asked Canada to provide. His answer did not include a military mission. He said conversations with the U.S. have focused on ensuring a “free flow of food, water, medicines and fuel to the Haitian people.”
Last month Deputy United Nations Secretary-General Amina Mohammed urged countries to urgently consider Haiti’s request for an international specialized armed force to help restore security in the Caribbean state and alleviate a humanitarian crisis.
Last fall, Mr. Trudeau said intervention could not occur unless there was a political consensus in Haiti – “unless all political parties in the troubled nation agree to it.”
He did not repeat this Wednesday but said he feels “the Haitian people themselves [should] be at the centre of the support, the building of stability, and the resolution of the crisis in Haiti right now.”
Mr. Trudeau met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday in Mexico City, the day after what’s known informally as a Three Amigos Summit, together with U.S. President Joe Biden.
Canada and the U.S. have both requested dispute talks with Mexico after alleging Mexico City is violating the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement by discriminating against Canadian and American investors by giving preferential treatment in its energy market to its state oil company and a national power utility.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau said Mr. Lopez Obrador is ready to find a solution.
“President Lopez Obrador was very open to meeting with different businesses, to working with our ministers and our civil servants to make sure the [energy] issues are resolved,” he told reporters.
Haiti is suffering from shortages of food, medicine and fuel, in part because of gang blockades of ports and frequent kidnappings. Canada and the U.S. are the two largest foreign-aid contributors to the country and have also laid sanctions against Haitian politicians they accuse of helping finance the gangs.
The U.S. is also eager to stabilize Haiti to stop the flow of Haitian migrants, who have shown up in large numbers at the southern border and in Florida. Last week, Mr. Biden announced a plan to turn back Haitians, along with citizens of three other countries, at the border.
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Fernando Llano/The Associated Press