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Haiti and Media


Extra, extra, read all about it … but only in ZNet. Here are just a few of the recent non- or under-reported stories involving Canada and Haiti.

Did you read in your local paper that in mid-May, 250 people braved a rainy Sunday morning in downtown Montreal to confront Canadian colonialism? The demonstration, at the conclusion of a conference for Land, Decolonization and Self Determination and in conjunction with the Haitian community’s flag day commemoration, was called to point out the link between the continued encroachment upon aboriginal land (in Kanehsatake and Grassy Narrows for example) and Canadian imperialism in Haiti. Did you see on your TV protesters chanting: “Native rights, under attack. What do we do? Stand up fight back” and “Canada out of Haiti” as they danced to Caribbean beats?

One other slogan was “Liberate the political prisoners in Haiti” which was of huge political importance as Haiti’s elected Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune, lay on his deathbed after a month-long hunger strike.

But of course, if you only read the mainstream media you’d be unaware that Canada is directly implicated in Neptune’s incarceration (just one of hundreds of political prisoners languishing in Haitian jails). Our government body that is supposed to “aid” poor countries, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), gave $100,000 to investigate and prosecute a “massacre” to which Neptune is the alleged “intellectual author.” The problem is, independent observers say, there was no massacre. According to Ronald St. Jean, an author of a book detailing the fabrication of the La Scerie “massacre,” if Neptune dies his blood is on Canada’s hands.

Of course the May 15 demonstration was just one in a string of Montreal mobilizations, mostly ignored by the mainstream media, against Canada’s destructive role in Haiti. Last week, a hastily organized demonstration of 100 people confronted Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew at his office while three weeks earlier 150 people voiced their displeasure at Canadian special advisor to Haiti, Denis Coderre’s North Montreal office.

You wouldn’t know it by reading the Globe and Mail or even listening to CBC, but many on the left are beginning to talk about the situation in Haiti as similar to Iraq and Palestine – all brutal occupations that have led to thousands of deaths. To commemorate Haiti’s May 18 flag day, anti-occupation groups held events from banner drops to information pickets to marches in Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax and around the world. The actions were in solidarity with the tens of thousands who took to the streets of Port au Prince and a number of cities outside Haiti’s capital.

The situation in Haiti has deteriorated to the point that many pro-coup groups, most recently student associations that called for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’ resignation, are now demanding the removal of installed Prime Minister Gerard Latortue. It is obvious, even to the casual observer, that the most destructive elements of Haitian society are reasserting their power behind the guns of UN troops. The real social advances of the 1994-2004 democratic period are being cast aside. Progress towards a functioning justice system is being reversed and state-sponsored political repression is being re-institutionalized through the Haitian National Police.

And, oh by the way, Canada is one of the big players imposing this mess on the Haitian people. All in the name of “aid,” of helping a “failed state” and “peacekeeping.”

How bad is it?

At the start of May, the perpetrators of the infamous April 1994 “Raboteau massacre,” during which dozens of pro-democracy activists were murdered, had their convictions overturned. This was payback to the former death squad leaders for their leadership role in the armed rebellion that helped oust Aristide 15 months ago.

On April 27 thousands of peaceful anti-coup demonstrators were fired upon by the Haitian National Police (HNP) and, according to Amnesty International, nine protesters were killed. Subsequent video footage posted on haitiaction.net shows the police planting a gun besides a dead demonstrator. The HNP has fired on demonstrators at least four times in Port Au Prince over the past few months; each time they claim protesters were armed or violent.

Since mid April, Cité Soleil, the largest and poorest slum in the country, has been a virtual prison with UN checkpoints controlling movement in and out. A recent UN military operation into the Cité left 20 dead in one weekend, according to UN officials. Community representatives in the Cité claim the actual figure was 100, mainly unarmed, residents. The situation in Cité Soleil is so desperate that in an amazing act of solidarity on April 20, thousands of demonstrators marched from the almost as impoverished neighborhood of Bel Air to bring bags of rice to Cité residents.

Malnutrition is on the rise throughout Haiti and especially in Cit̩ Soleil. General insecurity has also worsened with a sharp rise in kidnappings and rapes Рmany rapes are acts of political repression directed against Lavalas (the former elected government) activists or their daughters.

So why does this violence and misery in Haiti go unreported in the Canadian media? Could it be that the gatekeepers of our media don’t feel comfortable telling us about this particular “Made in Canada” product?

The uncomfortable truth is that the Liberal government was an important player in the campaign to destabilize and overthrow Haiti’s elected government. Our government participated in the loan/aid embargo, diverted funds from the elected government to the pro-coup “civil society,” held a crucial meeting with France and the U.S. to plan for Aristide’s overthrow and sent troops to “secure” the airport from which Aristide was forced out of his country.

Canadian support for the brutal interim government has been even more extensive. It includes sending troops (now police), huge amounts of cash, employing two high level officials in the de facto government and vital political support, notably the first-ever trip by a Canadian Prime Minister to Haiti.

And Canada’s hands in Haiti get dirtier with each passing day. Every time a high level Canadian official states their unequivocal support for the de facto government or UN Civilian Police spokesperson and B.C. native, Dan Moskaluk, justifies the Haitian police firing on protestors, the Canadian connection to Haiti’s killing field becomes clearer.

The first step in stopping this is information. That’s why it’s so important to get the story out. It’s up to the alternative media to do the job that the mainstream media won’t.

Yves Engler is author (with Anthony Fenton) of a forthcoming (August) book, Canada in Haiti: Waging war against the poor majority published by RED/Fernwood.

To join Canada Haiti Action Network listserv, email Kevin at kskerrett@cupe.ca

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