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Protests Against Colonization Mark Haitian Flag Day in Canada

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Issue: 29 Section: Canadian News Geography: Canada, Latin America Haiti Topics: solidarity

May 31, 2005

Protests Against Colonization Mark Haitian Flag Day in Canada

by Dru Oja Jay

Haligonians march in solidarity with Haitians on Haitian Flag Day.
Every May 18th, Haitians celebrate their independence and freedom on Flag Day. That freedom was won over 200 years ago, when the majority slave population of Haiti revolted, successively repelling the forces of France, Spain and England before finally gaining independence in 1804. The nation's victory was far from sweet, and the world's only republic of ex-slaves faced two centuries of embargoes, invasions, gunboat diplomacy, economic exploitation, an oppressive elite and a string of US-sponsored dictatorships.

This year, Haitian and Canadian solidarity groups have targeted what they call Canada's central role in the dismantling of democracy in Haiti. Demonstrations were held in Halifax, Montréal, Ottawa and Vancouver, calling for an end to Canada's role in Haiti.

"Canada's current involvement in Haiti is that of a colonizer," said Magalie X, an organizer with Vwa Zanzet, a Haitian organization based in Montréal and Ottawa. Magalie says that Canada is lending support to the "illegitimate" Latortue regime, which replaced an entire democratically elected government in 2004. She also points out that RCMP officers are training the Haitian police who "kill the poor people of Belair and Cité Soleil."

During Flag Day protests in Haiti, police shot and killed three unarmed protesters. It was the latest in a string of incidents where police have fired on crowds of tens of thousands from poor neighbourhoods who were demanding the return of their elected government.

The Canadian-trained police force has killed at least a dozen unarmed protesters in recent months.

While Paul Martin has publicly called for the de facto government to allow for the participation of members of the ousted government in future elections, Canadian officials have been silent on the issue of police killing unarmed protesters.

Haiti-based independent journalist Kevin Pina has called the Canadian-sponsored plans for an election a sham, saying that fair elections cannot possibly take place in the context of widespread political repression. Other critics have taken the Canadian government to task for funding the political opponents of elected Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, who has been held without charge for several months.

Protests demanding "Canada out of Haiti" were held in Halifax and Vancouver. In Ottawa, the Canada-Haiti Solidarity Committee picketed Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) offices. According to committee member Kevin Skerrett, CIDA "has been funding highly partisan NGOs that are presenting themselves as independent and non-partisan actors."


Haitian flags at the "Land, Decolonization and Self-determination" march in Montréal on May 15.
"[The National Coalition for Haitian Rights] NCHR in particular, has been the primary source of completely unsubstantiated allegations against Yvon Neptune and other Lavalas leaders."

Skerrett said that the committee had received "not a single word of response" from CIDA to accusations of its complicity in an illegal coup in Haiti.

Skerrett said that groups like NCHR are receiving tens of millions of dollars from the Canadian government to prosecute former elected officials for an alleged massacre but pay no mind to reports of police repression and violence from the current government. The press, he adds, has been complicit in turning a blind eye to the government's record.

"It attracts no particular attention, because the right people are dying."

The group of Ottawa protesters also visited the French Embassy to "re-present, on behalf of Haitian people, the petition calling for reparations." Before being removed from office, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had demanded that France repay money that it had extorted from Haiti after its independence. The new Canadian-backed de facto government has dropped the demand.

According to Skerrett, "no one from the embassy was willing to physically accept the petition." Eventually, an RCMP officer who was guarding the embassy agreed to deliver the document.

A "march for decolonization and self determination" was held in Montréal on the 15th, with Haitian, indigenous and solidarity groups participating.

Dru Oja Jay

» Haiti Action Committee (Halifax): Haligonians to Join International Day of Solidarity with the Haitian People

» Indymedia Maritimes: Photos of the Haitian Flag Day May 18th Solidarity March

» Rabble.ca: Media ignores Canada's role in Haiti

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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