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No Time for Democracy

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December 5, 2006

No Time for Democracy

Six years of Canada in Haiti

by Philip Neatby

Canada's involvement in Haiti since the 2004 coup d'état has been characterized by uncritical support of repression of poor Haitians, support for partisan and elite "civil society" organizations, and complicity in electoral fraud. Not by accident, Canada's official role in Haiti is couched in terms like "humanitarian assistance." This timeline, although far from comprehensive, outlines some of the key aspects of Canada's involvement in Haiti from the year 2000 to the present. --SN

wilson_meech_lake.png2002: Wilson House at Meech Lake, where the Ottawa Initiative took place.

can_helicopter.png2004: Canadian Forces helicopter flying above Haiti's Presidential Palace.
May 21 & July 9, 2000 Haiti holds the first and second rounds of Local and Parliamentary elections. Fanmi Lavalas, the party of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, wins overwhelmingly. The Organization of American States (OAS) initially proclaims the elections "a great success for the Haitian population." Most international election observers reach the same conclusions. Some opposition parties, with little base amongst Haiti's poor, contest the results of these elections, claiming fraud. Their accusations centre around eight Senatorial seats, which they claim should have gone to a run-off vote. From this point onwards, the political opposition, united under the US government-funded Democratic Convergence (DC), calls for the complete annulment of the May elections, despite the fact that by all accounts Lavalas was the clear winner.

Summer 2000
United States suspends all aid to the government of Haiti as a result of the "flawed" May elections. Subsequent to this, international aid donors, including Canada and the European Union, withhold over $400 million in aid and loans to Haiti, a country whose annual budget in 2001 was $361 million. Canadian and international "aid" continues to find its way exclusively to partisan anti-Aristide non-governmental organizations and political parties.

November 26, 2000
Aristide is elected president during Presidential elections with 92 per cent of the popular vote. DC boycotts the election.

June 8, 2001
Seven of the eight disputed Senators step down, following pressure from Aristide. The DC maintains its insistence that Aristide resign and that it lead a non-elected "transition" government.

September 4, 2002
The OAS adopts resolutions 806 and 822, effectively requiring the Aristide government to give the un-elected Democratic Convergence a veto on aid disbursements.

January 31, 2003
Canadian Secretary of State for Latin America and La Francophonie Denis Paradis convenes a meeting of the "Ottawa Initiative on Haiti" at the Meech Lake Resort. The invitees of the meeting include Canadian officials, US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Otto Reich, OAS President Luigi Einaudi, and officials from throughout Latin America. No Haitian representatives are present. In an interview conducted with the Quebec magazine L'Actualité, Paradis confides that the consensus within the meeting was that "Aristide should go." Paradis also says that military occupation might be necessary after an international intervention and that delegates contemplated bringing about the return of the Haiti's hated military, disbanded by Aristide in 1995.

July 2003
Haiti uses more than 90 per cent of its foreign reserves to pay $32 million in debt service to its international creditors, requiring Aristide's government to end fuel subsidies and slash spending on health and education programs.

December 2003
Relatively small protests demand Aristide be removed. Organizing groups are supported and funded by the US-funded Haiti Democracy Project.

February 5, 2004
A rebel force composed of members of the deposed military crosses into Haiti, taking control of northern Haitian cities and begins moving towards the capital. Pierre Pettigrew meets Paul Arcelin, paramilitary boss Guy Phillippe's "political lieutenant," in Montreal.

February 7, 2004
100,000 Haitians protest in Port-au-Prince, calling for the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide to fulfill his five-year mandate.

February 11, 2004
18 days before the coup. Internal government memos reveal that Canadian officials planned to invoke the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine to justify taking control in Haiti. Memos also seem to indicate speculation about working with members of Haiti's former military.

February 26, 2004
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham calls for Aristide to step down; US Secretary of State Colin Powell makes the same demand.

February 29, 2004
President Aristide is escorted by armed US Marines to the airport. Canadian Forces personnel are observed "securing the airport" by international journalists. Aristide later claims he was kidnapped by the Marines, an account corroborated by several eye-witnesses. Both Aristide and his wife are taken to the Central African Republic where they are held for several days; Canadian, US, and French governments authorize a "stabilization" force to be deployed in Haiti. Canada contributes 550 troops. An unelected "interim government" is imposed.

March–May 2004
Haitian police and ex-military members, often with the direct support of Canadian, US, and French troops, jail and murder Lavalas supporters and residents of poor neighbourhoods. A report issued by the National Lawyers Guild finds that the morgue in Port-au-Prince receives 1000 bodies during the month of March 2004 alone.

Summer 2004
Canada takes over the leadership of the UN Civil Police Force in Haiti, mandated to provide training and logistical support to the Haitian National Police (HNP), as well as oversee its vetting of new officers. Canada contributes 100 RCMP officers, and the UN CIVPOL will be lead by Canadian personnel throughout the next two years, when members of the ex-military become integrated into key command positions of the HNP. Canada's 550 troops withdraw from the country in August.

November 15, 2004
During a visit to Haiti, Paul Martin claims "There are no political prisoners in Haiti." At the time, the Catholic Peace and Justice Commission estimated that there were 700 political prisoners in the capital alone.

January 2005
A Canadian UN Civil Police Commander interviewed by human rights investigators claims that all he has done in Haiti has been to "engage in daily guerrilla warfare."

February-June 2005
Violence and targeted killings against suspected Lavalas supporters continue; following the killing of nine demonstrators on April 27 during a peaceful pro-Lavalas march, Canadian spokesperson Dan Moskaluk defends the actions of the HNP.

police_training.png 2005: RCMP officer training Haitian National Police recruits.

hnp_gunned.png 2005: Bodies of demonstrators killed by HNP forces in Port-au-Prince

political_prisoners_haiti.png2006: Released political prisoners at a press conference.
June 16, 2005 Canada announces that Elections Canada will oversee election monitoring for upcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Canada will spend $30 million on the 2006 elections, much of which will go to the Haitian government's electoral body, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP).

July 6, 2005
More than 300 heavily-armed United Nations peacekeeping troops carry out a major military operation in Cité Soleil, a densely populated residential neighbourhood. Twenty-three civilians are killed, including several children.

December 20, 2005
RCMP member Mark Bourque is killed in Cité Soleil.

February 7, 2006
Haiti holds Presidential elections. These elections are preceded by a campaign of voter discouragement within poor urban and rural areas, largely coordinated by the MINUSTAH Election Security Team, lead by Canadian Col. Barry Macleod. Despite this, turn-out is high, and exit polls give Rene Preval, former President and favoured candidate amongst Haiti's poor, a lead with more than 60 per cent of the vote.

February 13, 2006
Despite initial vote counts that show Preval above the 50 per cent mark , the CEP reduces Preval's total to 48.7 per cent. Protests flood Haiti's streets as poor voters cry foul; Preval declares that "massive fraud and gross errors" occurred. Thousands of ballots, most bearing a mark for Preval, are found by Haitian television reporters within a dumpsite, some still smoldering from failed attempts to burn them. During protests in the capital, MINUSTAH soldiers shoot into crowds of protestors, killing one. Protestors storm the Hotel Montana, the luxury hotel where the vote tabulation is taking place under UN supervision. Once inside, protestors hold a peaceful occupation of the hotel, some taking the opportunity to swim in the hotel's heated pool.

February 16, 2006
Rene Preval is declared the winner of the presidential election following negotiations between the CEP, his 'Lespwa' party, and international governments. A deal is brokered in which 85,000 blank ballots are not counted in the final tally.

March 10–12, 2006
Despite the outcome of the February elections, the Harper government welcomes outgoing Haitian President Gerard Latortue in a state visit to Canada. Protesters, who accuse Latortue of human rights abuses, dog Latortue during visits in Ottawa and Montreal.

May 1, 2006
Rene Preval makes a state visit to Canada. Canada bars entry into the country to several officials accompanying him. The Harper government keeps the visit quiet, and Canadian media scarcely report it.

May 14, 2006
Rene Preval is inaugurated as president of Haiti amid a break-out at the National Penitentiary of prisoners, most of whom have not been charged with any crime. Prisoners later claim that 10 are killed after MINUSTAH forces fire at unarmed detainees inside the prison

June 2006
Several high-profile political prisoners are released from prison, including So Ann Auguste and Yvon Neptune. Most of these individuals had remained in prison for two years. More than 4000 prisoners who have not been charged or tried remain in Haiti's jails.

September 2, 2006
The British Medical Journal the Lancet releases the results of a survey of human rights abuses within Haiti's capital during the 22 months following the 2004 coup. The study reveals that during this time period there were 35,000 rapes and 8000 murders. The vast majority of the politically-motivated murders, 4000 in total, are attributed to forces aligned with the interim government, such as the Canadian-trained Haitian National Police, and members of the former military. A significant number of physical threats and threats of sexual violence are attributed to MINUSTAH soldiers, including Canadian personnel.

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