MONTREAL – A prominent Haitian human-rights lawyer is calling on former federal cabinet minister Denis Coderre to apologize for allegedly lying about Canada’s involvement in the ouster of the Caribbean nation’s president 10 years ago.
Attorney Mario Joseph made the request Thursday during a visit to Montreal that coincided with the anniversary of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s removal from office on Feb. 29, 2004.
At the time of Aristide’s expulsion, Coderre was the Liberal minister responsible for French-speaking countries such as Haiti.
Coderre, who was elected mayor of Montreal last November, says he has nothing to apologize for.
Joseph, who has represented the ex-president, alleged that Coderre lied in the days before Aristide’s removal from office when he said Ottawa did not want the Haitian leader to leave.
by Sue Montgomery. Originally printed in the Montreal Gazette February 28, 2014
MONTREAL — Ten years after Haiti’s first democratically elected president was removed from his country in the middle of the night and dumped in Africa, Canada’s role — and that of Montreal’s current mayor — has been shrouded in secrecy.
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former priest from Haiti’s slums who is reviled by the elite minority and revered by the poor masses, claims to this day he was blindfolded and forced to sign a letter of resignation before being airlifted out and dropped in the Central African Republic.
The United States, Canada and France all claim he left voluntarily. They say they told Aristide that no one would come to help him — despite the trio’s signed commitment just four years earlier to do so — and that he, his family and supporters would be killed.
“In some ways, the competing stories are a distinction without a difference,” says Brian Concannon, a lawyer with the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. “It is hard to say that in that situation he had a meaningful choice.”
It was another blow to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere — made destitute by two centuries of racism, greed, revenge and a series of inept and corrupt governments backed by the United States. The Caribbean nation, which shares an island with the better-off Dominican Republic, has had 22 constitutions since winning its freedom in 1804 and lived through 32 coups — 33, if one counts the 2004 ouster of Aristide.
Now, Haitians want an apology from Canada, and particularly Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.
Step one for everyone trying to make the world a better place should be listening to those they wish to help.
This is certainly true in the case of Haiti, a long-time target of Canadian ‘aid’. But, while Haitians continue to criticize Ottawa’s role in their country, few Canadians bother to pay attention.
After Uruguay announced it was withdrawing its 950 troops from the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti last month, Moise Jean-Charles, took aim at the countries he considers most responsible for undermining Haitian sovereignty. The popular senator from Haiti’s north recently toldHaiti Liberté:
Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay are not the real occupiers of Haiti. The real forces behind Haiti’s [UN administered] military occupation — the powers which are putting everybody else up to it — are the U.S., France, and Canada, which colluded in the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’etat against President [Jean-Bertrand] Aristide. It was then they began trampling Haitian sovereignty.
The federal government is looking to significantly reduce the amount of aid it sends to Haiti, according to internal documents, saying it has fulfilled its post-earthquake commitments to a country that has long played a key role in Canada’s development strategy. A spokesman for the newly formed Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development said last week that future funding for the Caribbean country is “still under review.” But briefing notes obtained by The Globe and Mail show the government made plans to scale back its contributions to Haiti to about $90-million per year – a major drop in funding for a country that has been a Canadian priority for years.
“The Haiti program is planning against an indicative budget of $90-million annually, which reflects the level of funding prior to the 2010 earthquake, is commensurate with development needs in Haiti and Canada’s traditional role there,” say the documents, which were written in the fall of 2012.
By comparison, Canada gave about $205-million in overall assistance to Haiti during the fiscal year ending in March, 2012, including more than $150-million in direct aid from CIDA. It is not clear from the documents whether the $90-million refers to funding for Haiti from all federal departments or only to the portion that was previously managed by CIDA. In 2009, Haiti received about $198-million in total aid from Canada.
In February, the United Nations confirmed that a Canadian serving with the United Nations Police contingent of MINUSTAH had been accused of sexually and physically assaulting a Haitian woman. Yesterday, Marie Rosy Kesner Auguste Ducena, a lawyer with the Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network, told CBC news that, though the victim reported the assault to police, “nothing will happen… Women who will go to complain, you will see that maybe somebody will take the complaint and will say to her you will be called after. But in fact, the case will just be closed.” CBC notes that the “day after the incident, the man boarded a flight back to Canada, where he remains.”
This is but the latest in a series of sexual abuse allegations leveled against MINUSTAH personnel in Haiti. According to U.N. data, since 2007 there have been 70 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against MINUSTAH members, but as CBC news points out, “not one has ended up in a Haitian court.”