Creative-i / What is Canada Doing in Haiti? By Jean Saint-Vil
The Ottawa Initiative
In contrast to Maclean’s pronouncement, a growing number of international critics insist that what is happening in Haiti is instead an odious imperialist crime in which Canada is shamefully complicit. These skeptics argue that in January, 2003 the Canadian government organized a meeting to plan the illegal and violent overthrow of the democratically-elected government of the small Caribbean nation for political, ideological and economic reasons. The meeting, called the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti,” was held at the government’s Meech Lake conference centre in Gatineau, Québec, on January 31 and February 1, 2003, one year before the February 29, 2004 coup d’état.
The extraordinary decisions taken at this gathering of non-Haitians were first leaked to the general public in Michel Vastel’s March 2003 article, published in French-language magazine l’Actualité. Under the prophetic title “Haiti put under U.N. Tutelage?,” Vastel described how, in the name of a new Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, parliamentarians of former colonial powers invited to Meech Lake by Minister Denis Paradis, decided that Haiti’s democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, had to be overthrown, a Kosovo-like trusteeship of Haiti implemented before January 1, 2004 while the US- subservient Haitian Army, the Forces armées d’Haiti (FAdH), would be reinstated alongside a new police force. The UN trusteeship project itself first surfaced in 2002 as mere rumor (or trial balloon?) in the neighboring Dominican Republic’s press.
While Canadian soldiers stood guard over Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, the president of Haiti and his wife were put on an airplane by US officials before dawn on February 29, 2004. According to world-renowned African-American author and activist Randall Robinson, who interviewed several eye-witnesses, the aircraft was not a commercial plane. No members of the Aristide government and no media were at the airport as Mr. and Mrs. Aristide were effectively abducted and taken to the Central African Republic against their will, following a refueling stop in the Caribbean island of Antigua.
Fenton notes that, of course, no reference to a coup or Ottawa Initiative is to be found in the Report or the Government’s response.
In “Canada in Haiti: Waging War on The Poor Majority,” written with colleague Yves Engler, Fenton documents various aspects of Canada’s involvement in the 2004 coup d’état. Of particular note is the role CIDA played in both the destabilization campaign that prepared the way for the coup and the PR campaign which followed. In Damming the Flood, a book published by UK-based Canadian author Peter Hallward, Canada is deemed to have executed “its client functions in rare and exemplary fashion”
in the eyes of the US, the ultimate leader of the multinational coup. “Canada’s foreign minister Pierre Pettigrew reportedly met with leading figures in the anti-Aristide opposition and insurgency shortly before the February coup and, as we have seen,” Hallward continues, “CIDA provided significant financial assistance to pro-coup pressure groups like the National Coalition for Haitian Rights-Haiti (NCHR-Haiti) and SOFA.”
Upon analysis, the case of CIDA’s funding to NCHR-Haiti is particularly disturbing in that it provides direct evidence of collusion between the highest level of Canadian government and a pro-coup NGO of much disrepute in the eyes of Haitians and international observers alike. NCHR-Haiti is said to have caused great harm to the cause of peace and justice in Haiti. Chiefly among NCHR-Haiti’s damages, critics often point to the wrongful jailing of Haiti’s Prime Minister Yvon Neptune for over two years on trumped-up charges that were – through the CIDA/NCHR-Haiti connection – essentially financed by Canadian tax-payers. NCHR-Haiti has been so discredited on account of the Yvon Neptune wrongful imprisonment scandal that its US-based parent organization demanded that it change its name, which has since been modified to Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH).