Mr. Chair, what has happened in Haiti is a tragedy. It is a tragedy for democracy, for the Haitian people and for President Aristide. What has taken place is a coup d'état, the 33rd in the tragic history of that country, the poorest country in our hemisphere.
The elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has stepped down. He was forced out by France and the United States in an absolutely undemocratic, unjust and illegal manner. The CARICOM countries, the Caribbean countries, have demanded an independent international investigation into all of the circumstances surrounding the abduction of President Aristide. We in the NDP wholly support CARICOM in this.
What has happened in Haiti is an outrage. The trampling of democracy, ignoring international law, ignoring the pleas of CARICOM, the OAS and indeed President Aristide himself for assistance in resisting the brutal overthrow of his regime by those who had been trying since he was first elected in 1991 to overthrow that regime, the remnants of the Tonton Macoute, the thugs in the paramilitary, the drug dealers and others.
Instead of Canada responding to that call for assistance from the democratically elected President Aristide, we stood by, silent, complicit in the overthrow of his government.
Let it be clearly understood that CARICOM and the OAS put to President Aristide and to the rebels a plan that would have involved power sharing some days before the presidents overthrow. That plan was accepted by President Aristide, but it was rejected out of hand by the rebels. What happened then is shameful. Effectively the Americans, the French, hung President Aristide out to dry.
Therefore, we want to know what was Canada's position in those days leading up to the overthrow of President Aristide. Just as important, what was Canada's position some time before that?
For example, in late January 2003 the then Secretary of State for Latin American and Africa hosted a summit in Ottawa of la francophonie. It included France, representatives of the European Union and the United States to consider the Haitian crisis. Haiti was not even invited to that summit.
We subsequently learned through selected leaks by the minister that consideration was given then to regime change, to the overthrow of President Aristide, one year before it actually took place.
I am calling today for the tabling in the foreign affairs committee the minutes of that summit to let Canadians know exactly what role was played by our government at that summit and to what extent we were even then laying the groundwork, along with the United States and France, for the overthrow of President Aristide.
As well, let it be clearly understood that the opposition to the democratically elected president was funded to a significant extent by the United States. Certainly a number of American congress people have made that point very clearly, as have human rights groups such as MADRE and others.
Perhaps most significant in terms of the desperate poverty of the Haitian people is the fact that since 2002 CARICOM was pleading with the United States to release economic aid and previously approved loans to Haiti. In fact CARICOM foreign ministers made it very clear that unless those funds were released, Haiti faced catastrophe. They stated in 2002 that the actions taken by President Aristide at that time were in the right direction and that the release of funds would assist. They said that not doing this could lead to a deteriorating situation. The United States refused. It kept that devastating economic embargo which had such a destructive impact on the poverty of the people of Haiti, on the poorest of the poor, just as of course it has maintained an illegal embargo, an inhumane embargo on the people of Cuba.
This is a very important point because certainly Canada has stated that we support “a political resolution along the lines of the CARICOM-OAS action plan”. However, do we now support the call by CARICOM for an independent international inquiry into all the circumstances that led to the removal of President Aristide from office? What is Canada's position on that? I asked a question of a former Liberal minister, the member of Parliament from Edmonton. He said that he supported the call. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for Canada-U.S. said that he did not support the call.
What is the position of the Liberal government with respect to the call for an independent international inquiry into the circumstances that led to the removal of President Aristide?
I hope that the Bloc Quebecois will support this call for an international investigation into all the circumstances surrounding the illegal kidnapping in Haiti of President Aristide. I have not yet heard the Bloc position on this very important matter.
What is very clear, however, is his insistence that he did not step down voluntarily. President Aristide was forced to relinquish power by France and the United States.
We also, as New Democrats, condemn the position that is taken by the United States with respect to the repatriation of refugees, which is clearly in violation of the 1952 convention on refugees. What has happened in Haiti is a tragedy. It is also illegal, and we know the United States participated in similar actions in Venezuela in the past.
In conclusion, the NDP calls for the American forces to be replaced by a peacekeeping mission under UN auspices; as soon as feasible, the deployment of an international force mandated to disarm the paramilitaries and destroy the numerous arms caches; a long term solution that would be viable politically and economically for the problems in Haiti, this to include reparations. Noam Chomsky has written eloquently on the matter of reparations and their importance, particularly reparations by France.
We also call for Canadian support and participation in transparent and honest elections in Haiti; a return to full and complete democracy, which would be followed immediately by release of the $650 million in economic and medical aid to the Haitian government the United States continues to block; long term Canadian and international aid on the financial level in the form of training for a professional Haitian police force, and the international investigation I have already referred to into the circumstances surrounding the forced resignation of Mr. Aristide.
This coup d'état must be condemned by Canadians, by the Canadian government, and we want to know exactly what the role of the Canadian government was in this illegal coup.