The Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network has released the following statement in solidarity with the people of Haiti:
Footnotes appear in the form of:(#)
Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network Statement: We recognize the Deep Roots of Haitian Resistance to Dictatorship and Imperialism and Ask Canada to Change Course in Relation to Haiti
The Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (ARSN) was founded in 1981. We work in solidarity with people standing up for self determination, social justice and for the Earth in the Americas.
Haiti is the only nation on earth that was born out of a rebellion against slavery. More than 200 years ago a rebellion of enslaved people and their allies in France's richest plantation colony of Saint Domingue led to the formation of the independent nation of Haiti, named after the Taino name for the island, Ayiti. The new constitution abolished slavery. Haiti’s hard won independence inspired freedom seeking people from far and wide and at the same time sparked a strong backlash from the United States and European empires, whose economies had been built on slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. A similar dynamic exists today, in which the popular liberation movement working for democracy and a more egalitarian society is constantly up against imperial powers that collaborate with a small Haitian elite to maintain an extremely exploitative system.
In the early 2000s, leading up to the bicentenary of Haitian independence, the Fanmi Lavalas government, with Jean-Bertrand Aristide as President, came closer than ever before to fulfilling those egalitarian and democratic dreams. The Fanmi Lavalas party was formed out of the Lavalas movement that had overthrown the “Baby Doc” Duvalier dictatorship in 1986. The Fanmi Lavalas government was one that was elected in a landslide victory in an election in which a high proportion of the eligible electorate participated. Despite foreign efforts to destabilize it,(1) the government was able to double the minimum wage, create employment opportunities that were taken up by thousands of people in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods, increase educational opportunities, improve the provision of healthcare, make investments in housing, and dramatically decrease the level of politically motivated violence.(2) On February 29th, 2004, (during a paramilitary insurrection that was almost certainly backed by the United States)(3) France, Canada and the United States overthrew the entire government, made up of about 7,000 elected officials from all levels of government. They were replaced by a brutal dictatorship led by Prime Minister Gérard Latortue. The occupation of Haiti by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti began soon after. The Core Group of nations and organizations have had inordinate influence over Haitian governance since then.
The history of the ongoing liberation struggle, more recent events in Haiti, and connections to racism in Canadian internal and foreign policy were discussed on March 20th, 2021 in Countering the Roots of Anti-Black Racism: From Atlantic Canada to Canada's Complicity in the Crisis in Haiti. This web based event in the Politics of Hope Series, hosted by the Global Social Justice Project of Cape Breton University, was sponsored by the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network, Unama’ki College and Black Lives Matter, Fredericton. The guest speakers: Georges Gabrielle Paul, Jafrikayiti and El Jones included in their speeches a clear picture of how the imperial control Haiti has been subjected to has led to dictatorship and corruption in Haitian governance, violence, inequality and the inability of the state to carry out basic functions of a state or provide basic services to its citizens.
In her speech, Georges Gabrielle Paul, a law school graduate, radio show co-host, activist and the founder and president of the Fondation Julia et Jade, who lives in Jérémie, Grand’Anse, Haiti, described the situation in Haiti in March, 2021 and what had led to it: "For about 10 years Haiti descend into what was precipitated ... as the international community decide to impose a puppet president upon the Haitian people, Joseph Martelly, Joseph Michel Martelly, an ignoramus, a drug dealer. With the advent of Martelly's successor, Jovenel Moïse, who's mandate ended on February 7th, 2020, we have witnessed the complete collapse of our institutions: justice, parliament, the Court of Auditors and now the police. All these institutions are concentrated in the hands of one man, Jovenel Moïse. Mr. Moïse, with the blessing of the international community, has taken our country hostage and he is literally killing us every day.”
Husoni Raymond, representing Black Lives Matter, Fredericton summed up one theme from the talk, referring to "the need for a global solidarity against anti-Black racism” and remarking that “even current days, the way in which colonization operates … businesses and governments still exploit the resources of countries and then look at them and think that they're poor and deserving of little or no financial aid, when in fact these countries are rich in resources but they're still exploited and exported to the ‘developed’ world which makes poor countries unliveable and then when people try to migrate for better lives for their families they're seen as pests."
In her speech, El Jones, a spoken word poet, educator, journalist and community activist living in Nova Scotia commented, “so we very much connect Canada's imperial history in places like Haiti to Canada's imperial history within our borders and so when I talk about Lavalle for example, the immigration detention centre… Though we do not keep numbers in Canada, anecdotally we know that the vast majority of people who are incarcerated in immigration detention are Jamaicans, Somalis, Nigerians and, of course, Haitian people who, as has been reviewed in the previous speech [by Jafrikayiti], are determined to be threats, always determined to be some special form of danger and we have persistently seen violence against Haitian people, not only in the United States, but also in Canada as well."
Jafrikayiti, a radio show host, author, artist, activist and Canadian Civil Servant originally from Haiti, told the story of an encounter he had with the kind of mentality that led to the 2004 coup: "I went to Haiti for the bicentennial, and on Dec 31, 2003, I was in one of the big hotels of Petionville in the lobby facing this man [Luigi Einaudi, who was the Organization of American States (OAS) Assistant Secretary General at the time](4) and Canadian envoy to the OAS, David Lee, who was with him. They looked drunk but that’s no excuse. Luigi Einaudi said ‘The real problem with Haiti is that the international community is so screwed up and divided that they are letting Haitians run Haiti.’ We asked him to repeat it and he did. Of course when we returned to Canada we published all kinds of stuff and the media refused to print the quote on account that there's a word ‘screwed up’ there that's not kosher. I said I cannot fix his words for him. That's what he said." The Haitians running Haiti who Luigi Einaudi was referring to were, of course, the elected members of the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Terry Gibbs, who represented the event host and the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network, opened by saying: "I think all of the organizers and the participants, and I'm sure many in this room, have been brought together sharing a deep belief in the power of education to transform things, the power of sharing knowledge and stories ... and mostly in the power of regular people to change things for the better, and that's always been true throughout history. So, when we have these events we're really hoping to build relationships, not just to talk about issues but to build relationships and solidarity going forward."
The solidarity Terry Gibbs highlighted is important because international meddling in Haitian affairs continues to this day. In fact, after the assassination of defacto President Moïse on on July 7th, 2021, the influence of the Core Group on the governance of Haiti became more direct, with the appointment of the new leader, Ariel Henry, being announced in a thinly veiled communique from the Integrated Bureau of the United Nations in Haiti.(5)
Canada hosted a virtual “international ministerial meeting on Haiti” on January 21st, 2022. In a news release about the meeting Global Affairs Canada said that “Canada and Haiti have long been united by a deep friendship.” This delusional way of looking at Canada’s relationship with Haiti totally ignores the dominating position Canada has put itself in regarding Haiti. Although the statement from the meeting acknowledges that Haitian civil society has a stake in the democratic process, only the illegitimate government was represented at the meeting by Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Jean Victor Généus, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Religious Communities. Ariel Henry was one of the Conseil des Sages chosen in a convoluted US influenced process. The Conseil des Sages in turn chose Gérard Latortue to be Prime Minister in 2004.(6) He could also be implicated in the assassination of President Moïse. In the statement about the meeting, Canada announced $50 million in funding for Haiti, the largest portion of which will go to the Haitian National Police, which has been used by several dictatorial governments to repress popular uprisings. On February 10th and 11th, 2022 the police confronted thousands of garment and other factory workers who were on strike demanding their wages be increased to 1,500 Haitian gourdes ($US15) a day. Bullets shot by police killed a journalist, Maxihen Lazzare, and wounded others including two journalists, Sony Laurore and Yves Moïse, during another day of mobilization of textile workers on February 23rd, 2022.
We would like Canada to recognize that the role this country has been playing in Haiti since at least 2003 has been extremely harmful. Canada owes Haitians a sincere apology and reparations. We need to openly examine all that Canada has done to Haiti. Thousands of people have died in part because of Canada's actions, so all of this would not be nearly sufficient, but it would open a path to a new way of relating to Haiti. We hope this process will be carried out with humility and respect for a people descended from those who overthrew Imperial France's rule over Saint Domingue and who suffered an abominable system of plantation slavery, and who have continued for more than 200 years to resist imperialism, often at the risk of their own lives.
We will end this statement with the words of Georges Gabrielle Paul: "We are fighting for our survival. Like George Floyd we say we cannot breathe because of the knee of this dictatorship upon our necks. We cannot breathe because of the weight of the racism by the international community. Yes, we dare to be free. We challenge White supremacists. We demonstrated to the whole world that we reject the exploitation of human beings on the basis of skin colour. We did so long before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written. We issued this declaration at the cost of our blood. We want the world to know that as much as the Canadian, the French, the Americans, we Haitians are moun...if you want to translate moun it’s human being."
(2) Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood, p.262.