Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is beefing up Canada’s embassy staffing in Haiti to work closer with security officials as Ottawa continues pushing the country’s political leaders to find consensus on how the West can help manage the ongoing crisis.
The news comes after Canada’s UN ambassador Bob Rae briefed ministers and bureaucrats on Tuesday about his visit to Port-au-Prince last week.
Rae met with political leaders and grassroots groups, whom Ottawa is pushing to find consensus on how to help the country.
Trudeau’s official readout of the Tuesday meeting notes an unspecified number of officials will form a team within Canada’s embassy “to better liaise and engage with Haitian security stakeholders” on how Canada can respond to local needs.
Haiti is facing a series of intractable crises, and violent gangs have taken over the capital of Port-au-Prince. A cholera outbreak has been worsened by gangs limiting access to electricity and clean water.
The country hasn’t had an election since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and Haiti’s prime minister has called for an international military intervention to clear the gangs.
Washington fears a refugee crisis in the region, and has said Canada would be an ideal country to lead such an intervention.
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Trudeau has said Canada will have a key role in how the West responds, but only wants to be part of a solution agreed upon by Haitians.
Montreal MP Emmanuel Dubourg, who hails from Haiti, said that his Liberal colleagues have grown increasingly frustrated in recent months with Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, while urging his opponents to try finding common ground.
“We asked a few things of Prime Minister Henry, to try to find a single agreement (and) work with all the partners to come up with proposals for us, and he never delivered the goods,” Dubourg said in a French-language interview.
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“When people say that, for example, the Canadian government supports Ariel Henry, well the reality is that it takes an interlocutor; someone has to talk, and the relations we have are diplomatic relations,” he said.
“For the moment it is Ariel Henry who is there, so we talk to Ariel Henry.”
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A coalition of groups proposing a two-year transitional government, known as the Montana Accord, has been jockeying for international support, arguing they can bring about legitimacy and get the country in shape for a viable election.
But Dubourg said he’s unimpressed by the group’s inability to form ties with Henry’s factions.
“We have to sit down and put a little water in our wine (and) try to find a happy medium, because this can’t go any further,” he said of the situation in Haiti.
“It’s really an extremely complicated situation, we can’t have simplistic solutions.”
Rae’s visit made waves in Haiti, with an interview making the front page of the country’s newspaper of record, Le Nouvelliste.
He echoed Trudeau’s remarks this week that Canada does not want to contribute to another failed intervention in Haiti, given the handful of Western attempts to bring about stability in the country over the past 30 years.
Among the people Rae met is Jacky Lumarque, the rector of Quisqueya University.
Lumarque told Radio France Internationale on Wednesday that Canada’s sanctions might help usher in the conditions needed to have that conversation.
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“If there is anyone today in Haiti in the political scene who is capable of creating the conditions for a real dialogue, it is the current Prime Minister Ariel Henry; it’s him who must give up something,” Lumarque said in French.
“If Mr. Henry fails to figure this out himself (his supporters) must make him understand; they must get him to find common ground.”
Lumarque said that would help establish legitimacy in the eyes of Haitians, and build up enough faith in his country’s institutions to allow for an eventual vote. Otherwise, Haitians will see it as yet more foreign meddling.
“Yes to elections, which are not decided by the (Organization of American States) or a syndicate of ambassadors; an election in which Haitians can vote,” he said.
© 2022 The Canadian Press