Canada says not concerned about human rights in Haiti

Human rights for Haitians? “Not our concern,” says Canadian embassy

by Roger Annis

On August 15, the two Canadian members of the Fondasyon Mapou/Haiti Priorities Project-organized human rights delegation to Haiti took our concerns about the disappearance and apparent kidnapping of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine to the Canadian embassy in Port au Prince. This writer was one of the two. Lovinsky had been accompanying and advising our delegation.

Lovinsky is a longtime and respected democratic rights figure in Haiti. He was forced into exile for two years by the illegal regime that took power in Haiti after the coup and foreign intervention of February 29, 2004. As of this writing, August 26, he is still being held for ransom by unknown kidnappers.

We went to the embassy in order to report to the ambassador or his representative our grave concerns about the danger to Lovinsky’s life and the threat to democracy in Haiti that his kidnapping represents. At each level of the embassy administration, we were asked if the person we were concerned about was a Haitian citizen. When we answered “yes”, we were met with a rolling of the eyes. Only when we insisted on being heard were we shuffled on to the next administrative level.

After getting through three levels of administration, we were finally able to sit down with a consul (political officer). We told him we were requesting two things of the Canadian embassy. One, we wanted a clear statement by the embassy condemning the kidnapping of Lovinsky Pierre Antoine. Two, we wanted the embassy to use its influence over the Haitian National Police and judicial system to ensure that all necessary resources were being mobilized to achieve Lovinsky’s safe release. We asked that resources of the RCMP be made available to an investigation, if requested. For the past three years, the RCMP has spent considerable money and person-power training the Haitian National Police.

The answer we received was a flat “no”. Our discussion with the consul was brief, but his message was clear. To paraphrase the consul, “Lovinsky is Haitian, and we don’t care about the human rights of Haitians.”

“There are many kidnappings in Haiti, we can’t become involved in every one of them,” he told us. But we weren’t asking the embassy to “get involved in every kidnapping.” We were asking it to express an opinion on a kidnapping of a well-known and respected political and human rights figure. Surely, Lovinsky’s disappearance boded ill for the democracy that Canada says it wishes to assist in Haiti?

Once the consul expressed his view, we asked to speak to his superior. We were told that the Canadian ambassador was out of town. The consul went to ask the second in command, Lagos Arendas, if he would see us. The answer was “no.” We left a phone number in case Arendas would wish to contact us. He never phoned.

The consul told us that Canada’s knowledge and activity in the Haitian judicial processes was very limited. But this claim is contradicted by the photo display that adorns the second floor of the embassy. There, more than thirty photographs are posted that praise the extensive Canadian police role in Haiti. In fact, the photos on the wall are EXCLUSIVELY devoted to Canada’s police role. There are no photos of Canadian-funded social projects in Haiti, such as schools or medical centers.

The Canadian embassy DOES concern itself with human rights in Haiti. But the lesson of our visit is that the embassy is only concerned with the rights, read privileges, of its friends and allies among Haiti’s wealthy elite. When President Jean Bertrand Aristide was in power, Canada never ceased to complain about alleged human rights violations by his government. President Aristide’s government (elected by an overwhelming majority of the Haitian people) faced a total cut-off of aid and development funds from Canada, the U.S. and France in response to complaints from Haiti’s wealthy elite that it was systematically violating human rights. Canada funded a so-called human rights agency, the National Coalition of Human Rights (NCHR) that issued biased and sometimes fraudulent reports.

I urge readers of this report to contact the foreign affairs department of the Canadian government and voice your concern about the continued disappearance of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. Please ask that all the necessary resources that Canada can bring to the investigation of his kidnapping be made available, and that Canada go on record against any form of violence or intimidation against Haitians for expressing political views.

The toll-free phone number of the Department of Foreign Affairs is 1-800-267-8376