Across Canada, people reacted swiftly to the massive 2010 earthquake in Haiti. As reports of major devastation on the ground went global, thousands in Canada mobilized to support the Haitian people through grassroots benefit concerts, telethons, and community collections in a historic expression of international solidarity and one of the largest disaster relief fundraising efforts in Canadian history.
In Quebec, home to one of the largest Haitian diaspora communities in the world, the earthquake clearly touched a collective nerve. On the streets in Montreal, Haitians held vigils to express collective loss and solidarity. Those who lost or were actively searching for relatives worked tirelessly to mobilize support, holding countless community fundraisers, cultural events, and donation drives.
Haiti’s brutal army was disbanded in 1995, yet armed and uniformed paramilitaries, with no government affiliation, occupy former army bases today.
President Michel Martelly, who has promised to restore the army, has not called on police or U.N. troops to dislodge these ad-hoc soldiers.
Given the army’s history of violent opposition to democracy, Martelly’s plan to renew the army “can only lead to more suffering”, says Jeb Sprague in his forthcoming book Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti, to be released mid August by Monthly Review Press.
The role of Haiti’s military and paramilitary forces has received too little academic and media attention, says Sprague, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He hopes his book will help to fill that gap.
Deep in Haiti’s northern mountains, a half-dozen supervisors at a mining exploration site spent their days playing dominoes at a folding table next to a helicopter pad. For weeks they waited in La Miel, off a dirt road deep in the countryside, for Haiti’s government to give them the go-ahead to search for the gold they believe is buried in the hills around them. Fig Newtons and water bottles filled the shelves of their staff tent. On a whiteboard, in scratchy handwriting, was a single-item to-do list for the week: Change $83,000 into Haitian gourdes.
A mile west, a team of locals with shovels widened a dirt road and lined it with a drainage ditch. They were paid by Newmont, the Colorado mining company working at La Miel, to prepare local roads for heavy mining machinery, which moved here when Newmont got permission to dig.