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New report suggests violence has become much worse in Haiti since Canadian intervention

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Section: International News Geography: Latin America Haiti

September 7, 2006

New report suggests violence has become much worse in Haiti since Canadian intervention

by Dru Oja Jay

An estimated 8 000 individuals were murdered in the 22 months following the US- and Canada-backed overthrow of the government led by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a new report suggests. The study, based on randomized interviews with Port-au-Prince residents conducted by The Lancet, a prestigious UK-based medical journal, also estimated that 35,000 women were victims of sexual assault during the same period.

The report has revived criticisms of Canadian policy in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. At the time of the coup, documents acquired by the Dominion expressed the view that "President Aristide is clearly a serious aggravating factor in the current crisis," though officials at the time publicly denied backing the coup.

The findings, however, suggest that the situation for Haitian residents of Port-au-Prince became perilously worse after Canada intervened and Aristide was removed from the country. Specific reports of Canadian troops sexually harassing local women have been cited by the Ottawa Citizen, but some critics have called attention to Canada's broader responsibilities for the humanitarian crisis.

RCMP officers have been responsible for vetting and training the Haitian National Police, the force that The Lancet study cites as being responsible for significant and systematic human rights abuses.

"This study confirms what Canadian politicians such as Denis Coderre, Paul Martin and Peter Mackay have persistently denied: the interim government and their paramilitary allies waged a massive campaign of repression against Haiti's poor," Bianca Mugyenyi of Haiti Action Montreal said in a communiqué.

"Canada helped overthrow the elected government,...led the UN police contingent, yet refuses to take any responsibility for the vast human rights abuses," said Nik Barry-Shaw, of the same group.

Official response has been minimal; the Montreal Gazette quoted one government representative as asking for a delay in publication to provide time to address the findings.

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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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