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.
The federal government is signalling a profound shift in its approach to foreign aid that could see Canada’s international development agency align itself more closely with the private sector and work more explicitly to promote Canada’s interests abroad. International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino will outline his vision for the agency’s future in an address to the Economic Club of Canada Friday morning (Nov 23), his first major speech since taking the job several months ago. The Canadian International Development Agency funds humanitarian aid and long-term development projects intended to help people living in poverty.
Mr. Fantino’s remarks will focus on the role private companies – particularly in the mining sector – can play in helping CIDA achieve its development objectives, part of a controversial change in emphasis for an agency that has historically been careful to differentiate between its work with corporations and non-governmental organizations.
Jean-Claude Duvalier spent his first full day in his homeland holed up in the Karibe, a luxury hotel with a swim-up bar, day spa and room service. He met with supporters before cancelling a news conference, leaving long-time Haiti observers absolutely bewildered as to the motives behind the deposed despot’s return after nearly 25 years spent in exile.
Speculation over 59-year-old “Baby Doc’s” return ran the gamut from a secret plot by Haitian President René Préval to divert attention away from a fraud-filled election to an international conspiracy to destabilize Mr. Préval himself. Virtually the only thing analysts seem to agree on is that Mr. Duvalier’s apparent reasons for returning are false: “I’m not here for politics,” he told Radio Caraibes. “I’m here for the reconstruction of Haiti.”
If Canada is to play a positive role in Haiti’s future, we must know what the situation actually is, and why.
Recently I described how Haiti came to be in such wretched shape, thanks to its own brutal leaders and the interventions of France and the United States, a story that is rarely told in the mainstream media. What follows is more recent information about Haiti, shortly before and after the earthquake, all of it publicly documented yet little of it known.
For a serious government, there are important lessons to be learned here.