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Canadian crimes in Haiti: Beyond complicity

Human RightsLatin America and the Caribbean

Photo by Roosewelt Pinheiro

In light of the graphic and well documented human-rights reports_coming out of Haiti, the Canadian government has a number of serious questions to answer. Namely, if “order has been restored” since the “resignation” of President Aristide, then why have several thousand Aristide supporters been killed, while tens of thousands more have been forced to flee, forced into hiding, or imprisoned after February 29?

None of this context has found its way into the corporate media, owing to the general whitewash of Haiti’s reality. While the historical record might prove otherwise, it is doubtful that Canada has ever been so heavily implicated in an illegal intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean as it has in the case of Haiti.

On January 17, 2003, Canada hosted a meeting, the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti,” where the coup was discussed and preliminary plans for it were shored up (L’Actualité, March 15, 2003). This meeting was hosted by Denis Paradis, then Minister for Latin America and La Francophonie, and was attended by several highlevel diplomats from the EU, France, El Salvador, the OAS and the United States. A follow-up meeting, this time with a White House official in El Salvador, was attended by Marc Lortie a couple of months later.

While the Liberals were planning the Haiti coup, they were also debating whether or not to participate in the illegal Iraq war. Evidently, Chretien was “pre-emptively” mending fences over the decision not to participate. All along, the U.S. knew that Canada (and France) would play an instrumental role in their imperial redux into Haiti.

Paul Arcelin, self-styled “intellectual author” behind the “rebel uprising,” met with Pierre Pettigrew on February 5, just weeks before the coup. Why was Pettigrew meeting with a known coupplotter? What was this meeting about? Days after the coup, Arcelin told the Gazette’s Sue Montgomery that he had discussed “the reality of Haiti” with Pettigrew, who “promised to make a report to the Canadian government.” Pettigrew, who is no stranger to Haiti given that his riding is home to the highest concentration of Haitian- Canadians in the country, had to have known about Arcelin’s criminal past. In 2003, Arcelin was arrested along with Guy Philippe for plotting one of several coup attempts. While denying this at the time, and getting released by Dominican authorities, Arcelin admitted to Montgomery that he had for two years been plotting “10 to 15 hours a day” to overthrow Aristide with Philippe.

Not a single mainstream publication has challenged the “official” position on Haiti. Accordingly, the public has no idea of the atrocities being carried out in their names. Recently the Commander of the Canadian Forces in Haiti, Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Davis, acknowledged publicly in a July 29 teleconference call that at least 1,000 bodies had been buried in a mass grave by the State Morgue within three weeks of the coup.

Davis also defended (rather than denied) the actions of multinational forces on March 12, when 40 to 60 civilians were slaughtered. According to several eyewitnesses, what took place was a nighttime military invasion. The invasion is now known to Haitians as the Belair Massacre. Davis did not challenge the fact that occupying forces killed these people and carted away the bodies in ambulances brought to the scene in anticipation of the carnage. There is still the outstanding question as to whether or not Canadian troops were involved in this massacre. Despite official denials about their presence in Haiti, Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 “secret commando” forces arrived four days prior to the coup, were photographed on March 3 and were, reportedly, “armed to the teeth.”

Disturbingly, several mainstream journalists heard Davis make these admissions but have thus far refused to publish the information. Any investigation into this grave matter will have to include the corporate-owned media, who appear to have violated virtually every ethical standard they purport to uphold.

The magnitude of this catastrophe is difficult to measure. Even in crude financial terms, the amount of tax dollars Canada has spent on military operations and “security” in Haiti–over $230 million thus far–has eclipsed that of the well publicized “sponsorship scandal.” Of course, no price can be put on the massive loss of human life, which is the direct consequence of Canada’s actions. While a poor Haitian’s life may be disposable to the Liberal government, it is protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several other internationally recognized (and ratified) charters.

The Canadian government must come clean over this dirty secret and the wall of silence must be broken. All the implicated individuals must be held to account, including coup front-man Bill Graham, recently moved to Minister of Defence; former Parliamentary Secretary Denis Coderre; Paradis, recently relegated to the backbenches; Foreign Affairs Minister Pettigrew; and, of course, Paul Martin.

Anthony Fenton is an independent journalist and activist living in Vancouver. He traveled to Haiti between March 22 and April 2 with the Quixote Center.

This article appeared in the September/October 2004 issue of Canadian Dimension .


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