Evidence of meeting #18 for Subcommittee on International Human Rights in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was haitian.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Patrick Auguste  Master in Business Administration, Université du Québec à Montréal, Association of Human Capital of Ethnocultural Youth of Tomorrow
Morgan Wienberg  Co-Founder and Executive Director, Little Footprints Big Steps
Chalmers LaRose  Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Université du Québec à Montréal; Royal Military College of Canada, As an Individual
Philippe Dieudonné  Master of Project Management, As an Individual
Chantale Ismé  Feminist Activist and Community Researcher, Coalition Haïtienne au Canada contre la dictature en Haiti

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sameer Zuberi

Mr. LaRose, could you please just give us one last sentence and then close it up? We've reached our time.

9:25 a.m.

Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Université du Québec à Montréal; Royal Military College of Canada, As an Individual

Dr. Chalmers LaRose

The international community must continue to engage with Haiti in order to protect human rights and help those who are suffering.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sameer Zuberi

Thank you, Mr. LaRose.

Over to you, Mr. Brunelle‑Duceppe.

9:25 a.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for being with us and taking part in this extremely important study.

Mr. LaRose, I'm going to follow up on the question Mr. Dubourg asked you. You said that approaching the current crisis in Haiti from a human rights standpoint would be the wrong thing to do. You said that, although Haitians were suffering extreme human rights abuses, the crisis in Haiti called for a different approach.

9:25 a.m.

Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Université du Québec à Montréal; Royal Military College of Canada, As an Individual

Dr. Chalmers LaRose

Addressing the problem from a human rights standpoint is always an exercise in damage control, as it's called. It's a band-aid solution. It covers up the wound, but it doesn't fix the problem. It's a superficial response that doesn't address the underlying issue. What Haiti needs desperately right now is a solution to its security problem. Once that's been dealt with, the focus can shift to human rights violations.

Resolving the crisis in Haiti requires a phased approach. The immediate focus has to be on putting out the fire. Once that's done, related issues will need to be addressed, followed by the most complex issues. The strategy, as far as I'm concerned, has to be to put out the fire, first, and, then, to deal with issues such as the food crisis, the human rights crisis and the energy crisis. The focus can shift to all of that once insecurity is no longer a problem.

I think Haitians, themselves, should be the ones to address the security crisis. In other words, we should provide Haitian security forces with the equipment and logistical support they need to respond to the security crisis in Haiti. From there, we can put the security problem in Haiti back on the table, by increasing the size of security forces and, at the same time, mobilizing Haiti's armed forces. They are the ones who should be ensuring the country's security, not foreign forces.

In my view, that's what is important.

9:25 a.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. LaRose, we're faced with two contradictory views, as we've seen in recent weeks. On one hand, the Haitian government has asked for help, and the U.S. is calling for an intervention force, even asking the Canadian government to lead the force. On the other hand, people argue that Haitians, themselves, have to be the ones to resolve the crisis, that a Haitian solution is the only way to resolve the current crisis. In other words, the solution must fully take into account the sovereignty of the people.

Can you tell us more about outside actors or international powers that are influencing the events in Haiti right now?

Is there a direct connection with the issue before us?

9:25 a.m.

Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Université du Québec à Montréal; Royal Military College of Canada, As an Individual

Dr. Chalmers LaRose

Yes, there most certainly is. From the outset, there has been a direct connection between domestic and outside forces, in Haiti. That's why I began my presentation by providing some context on how the country of Haiti came to be. That history has had enormous ramifications when it comes to the relationship between domestic and outside forces. The country was completely shut out from the rest of the world for at least a century. During the geopolitical struggle between 1900 and 1915, the Americans came into Haiti and established an army, as well as a whole society, that catered to them.

Consider the sequence of events following the collapse of the Duvalier regime in 1986 up to the U.S.'s intervention in 1994 and the return of President Aristide. Those events led to the intervention of the UN, which provided its support.

As someone who researches international relations, I would say a conscious and rational effort was made not to give Haiti the ability to deal with its own security. A totally disjointed security apparatus was established in Haiti. What was the motive behind that? I have no idea.

Why does the international community always think it should intervene in Haiti when there's a security problem? Why not let Haiti, itself, find a lasting solution to its security problem?

Those are the questions we should be asking.

9:30 a.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

In that case, what role should Canada play?

It is it better not to intervene, than to intervene?

Is there a way to intervene that wouldn't undermine Haiti's sovereignty?

November 4th, 2022 / 9:30 a.m.

Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Université du Québec à Montréal; Royal Military College of Canada, As an Individual

Dr. Chalmers LaRose

Thank you for the question, sir.

Since you are asking me a question about Canada’s foreign policy, I would say that with regard to the Haitian issue, Canada must develop a measured and respectful foreign policy. Canada should also find its own way in this crisis and not simply seek to be a subcontractor for the United States.

It is essential for Canada’s approach to reflect its own values, its own vision of human rights, security and the world. It must not lag behind the United States in trying to solve a problem in Haiti.

I think that, currently, Canada cannot afford to develop a capricious foreign policy, that is, to try to develop a power policy, which would not necessarily be in keeping with the nature and traditions of Canadian policy.

Canada cannot take the lead in intervening in Haiti, as this would be counterproductive and run counter to its own morals.

That said, in my opinion, Canada should continue to develop normalized relations with Haitian society through its traditional policy instruments; in other words, its organizations, the projects it develops in Haiti and its support for Haitian police. At the same time, in my opinion, if Canada deems it necessary, it could also focus on the issue of Haiti’s armed forces to try to remobilize them.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sameer Zuberi

Thank you, Mr. LaRose.

For the last questioner, we have Monsieur Boulerice.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank the witnesses for being here with us today as part of this important study.

Québec has had a privileged relationship with Haiti for several years. Many Quebecers in Canada are of Haitian origin. There are therefore many institutions, especially in Montréal, some of which are in my riding of Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie, which I must highlight. We have the Bureau de la communauté haïtienne de Montréal and the Centre N A Rive. There’s also the Maison d’Haïti, which is not my riding, but it is not far and has a representative who will come and speak to us soon.

These emotional and geographic connections with Haiti are such that the horrible situation the country is going through is even more painful to watch. It hurts us as Montrealers and Quebecers.

We are seeing a state fail on every level. Many things have been said. For my part, I want to emphasize security and a transitional government that will move towards elections. The priority, I think, is citizens’ security. Nothing can be done if people are constantly attacked, murdered, raped, threatened and kidnapped. Corruption and street gangs are both very serious problems. On the New Democrat side, our conclusion is that we want to ensure stability and security for the Haitian people by and for Haitians, without imposing anything.

What concrete role can Canada play to promote stability and return to greater security for all Haitians, without interference?

I’d like to hear from all three witnesses on this.

Mr. Auguste, would you like to start?

9:35 a.m.

Master in Business Administration, Université du Québec à Montréal, Association of Human Capital of Ethnocultural Youth of Tomorrow

Patrick Auguste

Thank you, Mr. Boulerice.

To re-establish trust, I propose that, first of all, Canada publicly admit guilt on behalf of the international community for the harm done during previous interventions. I am talking about trust with transparency.

The second step would be to work as a team, by creating a joint committee that includes foreign representatives. Canada could take the lead, and it could include local Haitian representatives—more than just government authorities. This joint committee could be open to the general public and the Haitian diaspora. A dozen people could be around the table to really lead this initiative. Starting with mistakes made in the past, everyone must make an admission of guilt and make an effort and arrive at some improvement.

Concretely, when it comes to security, I think the gangs, among others, play a political role. If we succeed in reestablishing a climate of trust, the gangs and guns will mostly fall silent, in my opinion.

Now, how do we move forward on the ground? We have to reinforce institutions and Haitian police. We need a plan for three, four or five years. For example, we have to reinforce justice, which is on its knees, and give people some space by freeing the streets, little by little.

What will be the result? We could succeed, over a period of three to five years, in putting this country back on the right track. However, every single actor will have to make an admission of guilt. Right now, they’re all blaming each other: foreigners; the United States; Haitians; people from the Duvalier era, who are still there; the people from Aristide's new era, who are there. They’re all accusing each other and they are all guilty. No one is perfect.

I think that this approach will reassure youth and the diaspora, and encourage everyone to work together. The Haitian problem cannot be solved by any single one of these parties, and especially not only on the Haitian side.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Thank you very much.

Ms. Wienberg, I would like to hear your opinion on the issue of security and the role Canada could play to contribute to stabilizing the Haitian state.

9:35 a.m.

Co-Founder and Executive Director, Little Footprints Big Steps

Morgan Wienberg

Thank you for the question.

I think that security has been raised. In my opinion, we do need to address the human rights issues, which are critical, at the same time as we address security and consider the long-term impacts of our interventions.

We are talking about over 100,000 internally displaced people. These are not people living in shelters; these are people completely exposed in public locations. They are dying of famine and all of the human rights violations we talked about. These need to be addressed immediately. This is why people on the ground who would not favour an international intervention are actually asking for it. It's because they are so desperate for some relief.

However, as we address these immediate needs, we need to keep in mind the long-term impacts, which is a mistake that has been made in the past with international interventions. The Haitian government cannot be the voice that foreign governments are listening to, because it's very clear that the Haitian government is not acting in the interests of the Haitian people.

I love the previous witness's idea of involving community leaders—not just Haitian authorities, but civil society as well—who are already active in helping their communities in times like this with the very minimal means they have.

We also have to make sure that we're building the capacity and—I think Mr. LaRose also mentioned—addressing the security issue. Just removing the gangs will not resolve the root cause of the issue. There are influential families and politicians who are puppeteering these gangs. They are paying citizens to protest and cause chaos and roadblocks in their communities. If we don't have sanctions against those individuals, we will see this same situation repeated again and again after the humanitarian crisis is seemingly resolved.

We really have to look at that.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Thank you, Ms. Wienberg.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sameer Zuberi

You have 30 seconds left.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

I want to highlight the interesting suggestions made by Ms. Wienberg and Mr. Auguste. They will help us continue this study constructively.

Thank you.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sameer Zuberi

Thank you, Mr. Boulerice.

We will now suspend the sitting for a few seconds. Before that, however, I would like to thank all the witnesses for being here today. You may submit an additional 10‑page brief.

If you want to do that, it will be translated and published on our website. However, everything you have said has been included in evidence and will be used for our work.

We will suspend just for a minute, not longer, and continue to our second panel.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sameer Zuberi

We will now resume the meeting.

Thank you to the witnesses for being here today.

We'll begin with Philippe Dieudonné, master of project management, who has joined us in person and will be testifying as an individual. We also have Chantale Ismé, a feminist activist and community researcher at the Coalition haïtienne au Canada contre la dictature en Haïti.

Mr. Dieudonné, you have the floor for five minutes.

9:45 a.m.

Philippe Dieudonné Master of Project Management, As an Individual

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the committee, good morning.

I'll spare you having to listen to me on matters that have already come up here and talk instead about the impact of insecurity on the lives of the Haitian people.

The current insecurity is a consequence of poor governance and a people in dire straits because of the absence of social and economic investment on their behalf. When people are left uneducated and children have to fend for themselves on the street, the outcome is inevitably insecurity and the end result is a host of industrial-strength delinquents. I'm talking about thieves, assassins and kidnappers who run a reign of terror to subsist, in the pockets of the powerful: state leaders, political leaders and even corrupt businessmen. Unfortunately, those in power use these vulnerable children to enforce the reign of terror and maintain chaos to defend their own interests.

There is a dilemma with respect to foreign intervention, meaning that some people are opposed to it and others support it. Those who are against it give a variety of reasons: French colonization, American occupation, the American intervention of 1994, the cholera that resulted from the MINUSTAH, dysfunctional institutions, etc. These positions are sometimes justified, but one might well ask what was done at the national level to stop these hardships from continuing to demoralize the country.

You are already aware of all the people being displaced, and the killings that have been happening lately. There is a serious shortage of responsible leaders. The Haitian people are left to their own devices. There is no guidance and no real control over the country. Without wishing to repeat myself, there is no oxygen or dialysis available in hospitals, no drinking water, nothing. You can't even buy water, a basic need. Nothing works in Haiti.

I'm going to tell you about my suggestion. I think I've heard everything here, but there's a much more important proposal. If there is to be an intervention, it would require a transitional structure made up of capable and honest sons and daughters from the Haitian diaspora. It takes real technicians who are prepared to play a role in implementing something like the Marshall plan. Why not? There are resources in Haiti. Let's develop medium-term, rather than immediate, win-win agreements to at least enable Haiti to develop ways of addressing our problem.

If a full-scale military intervention were needed and Canada was to participate, it would have to make sure of a number of things.

Firstly, it would have to be a full-scale military intervention guided by national authorities, and by honest, capable and upright people from the Haitian diaspora who would engage in the mission to guide it.

After that, enough soldiers would be necessary to truly deal with the short-term insecurity problem.

It would also be important to avoid becoming a victim of information asymmetry. There's a lot of talk, it's true.

It would have to involve soldiers who are not from countries where they were used to receiving $2,000 or $3,000 a year. If they come to Haiti, they're going to receive $2,000 or $3,000 a month. And what will they do? They'll start over. They'll arm the gangs as they did in the past, to be able to stay in the country. That will further aggravate the gang problem. That's not what we want. We want to work together. So it takes soldiers to be there on a short-term mission, as I just said, to quickly improve the situation.

There would also have to be serious sanctions on those who do not comply with values commensurate with rights and freedoms, like pedophiles.

Drones and other weapons will have to be used to capture the bandits. The international community certainly has the power to do that. Just recently, an Iranian general was struck by a drone; the Haitian gangs would not be able to avoid them.

Drones can find them, put them out of business and block their sources. The funds and bank accounts of people in civil society, business people and politicians can be blocked from where they are sending munitions to Haiti. And 86% of weapons and ammunition are from the United States. It's therefore important to work with the United States upstream to put a stop to this situation.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sameer Zuberi

Thank you, Mr. Dieudonné.

We will continue now with the second witness.

Please go ahead for five minutes.

Please look at me. I'm going to give you a hand signal for one minute and for 30 seconds.

9:50 a.m.

Chantale Ismé Feminist Activist and Community Researcher, Coalition Haïtienne au Canada contre la dictature en Haiti

You said, “the second witness”. I didn't know who the second witness was. I had the impression there were three people.

I'd like to begin by thanking you for this invitation, and for giving me an opportunity to speak about what's happening in my home country, and in particular, to talk about the hopes of the Haitian people and what they want.

I would like to bring you, the members, a strong message from the people of Haiti, not only from within, but from the diaspora as well, about their categorical denial of any aggression there. We officially oppose any form of intervention, no matter what it might be labelled, what its content might be, or the colour of the boots it wears.

The people of Haiti are historically living with the disastrous consequences of multiple interventions since the European invasion in 1492. Examples include the genocide of the Taïnos, which led to the coming of captives from Africa, the debt imposed by France on the country's independence in 1825, the theft of the Republic of Haiti national bank's gold reserves, which have never been returned since the American occupation of 1915‑34, the dispossession of the peasants and their forced and orchestrated migration, the destruction of state institutions, and the replacement of the national army by a stateless police force. The unspecified reasons for these invasions were always hidden behind vaguely expressed desires to come and help Haiti, whether to bring it civilization or to restore peace.

Today, the Core Group, under the leadership of Canada and others, would like once again to respond to an unconstitutional and illegal demand from an illegitimate government condemned by the people of Haiti, to counter insecurity and deal with the humanitarian crisis.

Needless to say, Haiti is currently facing one of its worst crises, one that is affecting every sphere of society. However, the crisis is nothing new; it is the outcome of politics imposed upon the people of Haiti through the efforts of local lackeys from the world of politics and the private business sector. The structural adjustment policies that are destroying Haiti's economy are a few examples of this. One piece of evidence for this is the recent criminal measure imposed by Ariel Henry's government to increase the price of fuel by 128% on a people already in distress, at the request of the International Monetary Fund, supported by the Core Group.

For over 20 years, the Canadian Armed Forces and police forces like the RCMP have been part of the various United Nations peacekeeping missions to Haiti, including the United Nations mission in Haiti, UNMIH, in 1993, and the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, BINUH, in 2019. The role of this most recent force in the country until 2022 was to promote and strengthen political stability and good governance, police professionalism, reduced community violence, and gang violence.

The outcomes of all these missions were inconclusive. They did not achieve any results in terms of their own objectives. Not only that, but all they brought to the people was suffering and an increase in vulnerability: rape, fatherless children, prostitution. Those who perpetrated these crimes were never arrested, or required to appear in court.

We wonder about the sudden desire to stamp out this crisis, which arose out of the policy implemented in Haiti by the countries of the Core Group, including Canada, which never took into consideration the demands of the Haitian masses, and which observed a deathly silence in the face of the abuses of all kinds they had to bear.

Nothing was ever said about the massacres, the hundreds of kidnappings that ruined the middle class, further pauperizing the working classes, casting doubt and despair on families; nothing was ever said about the systematic and savage repression of demonstrators and others by the national police established under the tutelage of the Canadian Forces; nothing was said about initiatives to federate and give legal status to the very gangs we want to fight today; nor was anything said about the massive influx of weapons and ammunition from the United States. The list is endless.

In light of these facts, the Coalition haïtienne au Canada contre la dictature en Haïti, the CHCDH, In keeping with the desires of the people of Haiti, are asking the Canadian government to resist any form of intervention in Haiti that risks provoking genocide in working-class neighbourhoods under the control of heavily armed gangs; to stop supporting the illegitimate government of Ariel Henry; to stop providing indirect support to gangs through government puppets, including Ariel Henry's; to support a Haitian solution to the systematically ignored crisis, including the Montana accord that brought together the strengths of the nation, the outcome of a broader consensus that advocated a clean break.

The CHCDH is also asking the Canadian government to co‑operate in respect and dignity towards Haiti's constitution and sovereignty, based on real needs expressed by local stakeholders, through technical assistance from the national police and training in human rights, through support for the judicial system to bring justice to the population in connection with the many different massacres and the misappropriation of the PetroCaribe fund, and through support for the reparations demands of families who have recorded 10,000 deaths from cholera and 800,000 infections.

Honourable members, the people of Haiti, who are still standing and fighting despite hundreds of years of being denied justice and suffering from glaring social inequalities, exhort you to listen and respect their will.

Thank you.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sameer Zuberi

Thank you, Ms. Ismé, for your testimony.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I have a point of order—

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sameer Zuberi

Right now we're having bells ringing.