On February 29, 2004, Canada played an integral role in the illegal removal of one of Haitiâ€™s first democratically elected presidents, Jean Bertrand Aristide, effectively assisting in the propulsion of the U.S.â€™s neo-liberal restructuring of Haiti. Following the coup, at which Canada provided armed forces to oversee security at the airport where Aristide was forcefully pulled from the country, Haitians have faced grave human rights abuses, as reported by Amnesty International, Harvard University and other internationally recognized bodies. In addition to these abuses, the U.S., Canada and France, have worked to push through the establishment of an economic policy, created through the Interim Cooperation Framework, which would lock Haiti into a restructuring program, reported to be virtually irreversible by any future government.
As the puppet interim regime installed by the U.S. and Canadian governments illegally signs on to various international trade agreements that concretize and increase Haitiâ€™s odious debt, essentially placing the stamp on Haitians debt toll, the people are not reaping the benefits our government speaks of so proudly. Canada, since the coup, promised over $180 million, of which over $20 million has been issued by paying RCMP officers to â€œkeep the peaceâ€, which, as exposed in a report issued by Harvard University following a delegation visit to Haiti, has produced nothing more than thousands of dead poor Haitians. While the Government of Canada promises better essential services to Haitians, the people continue to live without electricity, clean water, adequate food supplies and proper education.
In the mix of all the turmoil facing the country, Canadian officials have claimed that elections tentatively slated, following several postponements, for December 2005 will be fair and democratic, not to mention overseen by our own Jean-Pierre Kinglsey, Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada . However, sources have now revealed that Haiti is far from being ready for elections, political prisoners, such as presidential candidate Father Jean Juste, rot in jail without charge, members of non-American supported parties are being repressed and even killed. With the level of injustices and discrepancies surrounding these elections, â€œdemocraticâ€ seems the furthest descriptor of upcoming Haitian elections from the truth.
Yet, with all of this boring down on the Haitian poor majority, the Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF), sponsored by the U.S., Canada and France, continues to enforce a neo-liberal economic policy centered around privatization and export-promotion on the already devastated country. And while Canada has boasted its support of this agenda, a key piece to the ICF has remained in the shadows, Canadaâ€™s recent announcement that it will sponsor Haiti to join the Caribbean Development Bank, on which Canadaâ€™s own Foreign Affairs Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, sits a Vice-President of the Board of Governors, the highest decision-making body of the private bank.
Canada, also a major investor in the Bank, will be paying Haitiâ€™s registration fee to join the Bank. In an interview with Denis Marcheterre, a senior Multilatral Financial Institutions speciliast with CIDA, he confirmed that this announcement was in fact made in order to fast track the signing on to the Bank by the non-elected interim government to ensure that Haiti becomes a member prior to upcoming elections. This move will effectively lock Haiti in to long-term debt, not decided on by the people of Haiti, but rather by the people who sit in Washington and Ottawa.
Canadaâ€™s mÃ©nage-Ã -trois with Haiti and the CDB neither begins nor ends with Mr. Pettigrew, as Canada was the first country to pressure Haiti into joining the Bank in 1998. By 1999, Haiti officially submitted their application, coincidentally the same time period when aid flows from Canada and the U.S. to Haiti began dropping. For the following four years, the CDB contested accepting Haiti for the reasons that it met neither the financial requirements nor did Haitiâ€™s government follow practices of â€œgood governanceâ€, so determined by the Bank. It was not until May 2003, the same month as the now famous Ottawa Initiative meeting where top Canadian officials and others decided that Aristide must leave Haiti, that Haiti was deemed to meet the conditions of â€œgood governanceâ€. And it was not until After Aristideâ€™s removal, seven years after pressuring Haiti to join the CDB, that Canada agreed to pay their registration fee. With both of those conditions now met, nevermind the fact that Haiti was being run by an unelected interim government, the country was deemed ready to receive the loans.
The ICF, which has made key recommendations to the CDB on programs to be coordinated and financed by the bank, was initially developed at that same Ottawa Initiative Meeting held in May 2003, comprised of top officials from Canada, including Pierre Pettigrew, the U.S. and other nations, yet conveniently excluding any Haitians â€” bears resemblance to slave-era control by â€œcivilized societyâ€ over the black majority. Only now, the shackles that bind are low-wages in sweatshops, export-development of Haitiâ€™s precious resources and enforced privatization on still popular publicly funded essential services and utilities, the last point highlighted in the CDBâ€™s records of ICF major recommendations, which includes â€œprivate sector developmentâ€.
The whips are slated to be held firmly in the hands of Canadian corporations, as confirmed by Mr. Marcheterre in a statement that Canadaâ€™s involvement in the Bank is in large part in order to ensure that Canadian corporations have the opportunity to win contracts in borrowing countries, such as Haiti, rather than promoting local employment and business development. The requirements imposed by the CDB for winning contracting bids, effectively the programs financed by the laons, have been established with little, if any, consideration for the climate facing Haitiâ€™s poor majority, such as determinants as to what a â€œwell-establishedâ€ company is or the ability for a violently devastated local Haitian company to compete against multinational Canadian corporations.
According to the CDBâ€™s own statements on competitive contracting and regulations for winning contracts, Haitian companies are from onslaught at a great disadvantage as they will be unable to meet the competitive bidding process against well-established Canadian corporations outlined by the CDB, which, for example, requires companies to have been well-established within the region for more than five years. This requirement alone excludes any up-and-coming Haitian companies or any companies that have been ravaged by the current post-coup forces from being able to obtain work through the CDB. This type of contracting, rather than promote Haitian companies to participate in the rebuilding of this devastated country, suggests not only that existing rich Canadian corporations will enter Haiti for rebuilding purposes and then leave, but also that CDB, a bank promoted by Canada seemingly a far cry from the sustainable development models so widely promoted by Canada elsewhere.
With Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs palying a key role in the establishment of policies for one of the region’s main private lending institutions, and Haiti’s unique history as a recipient of Canadian development assistance, we can better understand the importance attached to the CDB and the urgency with which Canada is rushing through the finalization of Haiti’s CDB membership prior to any democratic elections that might produce a less enthusiastic or pliant government. With the government of Canada slashing its aid to Haiti in the years leading up to the 2004 coup, and the possibility of a new Canadian-dominated conduit for Canada’s lending to Haiti in the CDB, there emerges a significant risk that this little-noticed institution will in fact prove to be of â€œdevelopmentalâ€ benefit only to Canadian corporations and private lenders. Such an outcome, marketed as a component of Canada’s â€œoverseas development assistanceâ€ to Haiti, would only serve to further lock-in Haiti’s underdevelopment and continue its history of victimization at the hands of the powerful.