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Volume Ten, Number Two   March 2005

Canada plays dirty role in Haiti

Dan Keeton

Canada, along with France and the United Nations, is complicit in the violence that rocks the Caribbean nation of Haiti, an U.S. filmmaker and journalist told Vancouver audiences in a recent visit. Rather than supporting the year-old U.S.-led occupation and training Haiti's murderous police forces, it should be working to return the ousted president who represented the interests of the country's poorest citizens, said Kevin Pina.

In a talk with local trade unionists, Pina charged that the mainstream media distort the events in Haiti, which occupies the western side of the island of Hispanola and has been called the poorest in the Western hemisphere. Singling out the Globe and Mail for particularly distorted reporting, Pina noted the depiction of Lavalas supporters – the party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide – have been depicted as "criminal" gangs waging war against law and order. On the contrary, the murder and pillaging are wrought by police and pro-government gangs, he charged.

Pina, with the U.S.-based Haiti Action Committee, said Canada is also funding electoral reform that is anything but democratic through CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) while the RCMP train its police forces.

U.S. governments have been hostile to Haiti since it became in 1804 the first Black republic and the first to abolish slavery following its war of independence with France. In 1805 the U.S. declared the state "the greatest threat to U.S. interests at home and abroad," Pina related. The U.S. also occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934.

In 1990 Aristide, a priest and liberation theologian, became Haiti's first democratically elected president. "He advocated a rise in the minimum wage, a national literacy program, and reorganization and investment in the the agriculture industry," states a fact-finding study by the Ecumenical Program on Central America and the Caribbean. Aristide was overthrown and exiled in a U.S.-backed coup in 1994, and returned to office on the promise that he would institute harsh economic reforms stipulated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

"Ironically, 10 years later it would be his inability to implement these programs to the satisfaction of the U.S. which would result in his second forced removal as President," states the Ecumenical report.

At the trade union talk local Haiti activist Anthony Fenton reported that two Montreal firms have gold and copper mining interests in the country. Fenton said Aristide had been heeding farmers protesting the threat mining posed to the island nation's agriculture.

Pina, who has produced a film, Haiti: The Betrayal of Democracy, said, "The RCMP and the [Paul] Martin government boast of their role in assisting and training the Haitian police. What they don't [talk about] are the massacres where Haitian police go into popular neighbourhoods [supporting Aristide]. They are massacres designed to terrorize.

"The RCMP has never made public what exactly its rules of engagement are in training the police." The Martin government and the RCMP have "washed their hands of responsibility for these massacres," he charged.

CIDA, meanwhile, has hired consultants to help write "draconian," changes to Haiti's election code, said Pina. "Basically, it's a code establishes mandatory they did in 1980 El Salvador.

"They are terrified that if they don't have long lines at the polls to justify what they've done in Haiti, then the jig is up."

In January the World Social Forum, meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, called for the return of Aristide "and the democratic process to Haiti." The Canadian Peace Alliance scheduled demonstrations across Canada, including Vancouver, where an event was set for February 26 at the U.S. Consulate.

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