Prominent artists, academics and politicians demand end to Liberal’s support for dictatorship in Haiti

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Haitian President Jovenel Moïse with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Former UN ambassador Stephen Lewis, broadcaster David Suzuki, author Naomi Klein, Professor Noam Chomsky, poets El Jones and George Elliott Clarke, rock legend Roger Waters, Green MP Paul Manly, as well as former MPs Svend Robinson, Libby Davies and Jim Manly and more than 100 other academics, activists and artists, are calling on “the Canadian government to stop propping up a repressive and corrupt dictatorship in Haiti.”

The public letter sponsored by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute notes that “Jovenel Moïse has been occupying the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince in defiance of the overwhelming majority of the country’s institutions.” It adds that “the Canadian government must end its support for a repressive, corrupt Haitian president devoid of constitutional legitimacy.”

The public letter will be formally delivered to the office of new Foreign Affairs Minister, Marc Garneau, during a rally organized by Solidarité Québec Haïti and Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix on Friday February 19 at 12 PM (4060 Sainte-Catherine W.).

“The letter criticizes Canada’s training and financial support for a repressive Haitian police force that maintains an unconstitutional president in power”, said Bianca Mugyenyi, director of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute.

In recent days La Presse and Le Journal de Montréal have reported that a local Haitian consulate official, the spouse of governing party Senator Rony Célestin, purchased $6 million in Montréal area property. Many suspect the payments were made with ill-gotten gains.

“The recent revelations are fueling anger against the vast corruption of Haiti’s governing party”, said Mugyenyi “But, Moïse and his acolytes’ well documented corruption hasn’t deterred the Trudeau government from supporting the illegitimate President.”

“During Black History Month we should all be questioning Canada’s role in a country born in struggle to make Black lives matter”, concluded Mugyenyi.

Open Letter

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

It is time to change Canadian policy towards a nation born in struggle to liberate Africans from slavery.

The Canadian government must end its support for a repressive, corrupt Haitian president devoid of constitutional legitimacy. For the past two years Haitians have demonstrated their overwhelming opposition to Jovenel Moïse with massive protests and general strikes calling for his departure from office.

Since February 7 Jovenel Moïse has been occupying the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince in defiance of the overwhelming majority of the country’s institutions. Moïse’s claim to another year on his mandate was rejected by the Superior Council of Judicial Power, Haitian Bar Federation and other constitutional authorities. In response to the opposition selecting a Supreme Court judge to head an interim government after his mandate expired, Moïse arrested one and illegally dismissed three Supreme Court justices. The police were also sent to occupy the Supreme Court and repress those protesting, shooting two reporters covering the demonstrations. The country’s judges have launched an unlimited strike to force Moïse to respect the constitution.

Moïse has ruled by decree since January 2020. After the mandates of most officials expired due to his failure to hold elections, Moïse announced a plan to rewrite the constitution. Fair elections are unlikely under Moïse’s leadership as he recently pressured the entire electoral council to resign and then appointed new members unilaterally.

Having garnered fewer than 600,000 votes in a country of 11 million, Moïse’s legitimacy has always been weak. Since massive anti-corruption and anti-IMF protests erupted in mid-2018 Moïse has become steadily more repressive. A recent presidential decree criminalized protest blockades as “terrorism” while another established a new intelligence agency with anonymous officers empowered to infiltrate and arrest anyone deemed to be engaging in ‘subversive’ acts or threatening ‘state security’. In the worst documented case, the UN confirmed the Haitian government’s culpability in a massacre of up to 71 civilians in the impoverished Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline in mid-November 2018.

All this information is available to Canadian officials, however, they continue to fund and train a police force that has violently repressed anti-Moïse protests. The Canadian ambassador in Haiti has repeatedly attended police functions all the while refusing to criticize their repression of protesters. On January 18 ambassador Stuart Savage met the controversial new head of police Leon Charles to discuss “strengthening the capacity of the police.”

As part of the influential US, France, OAS, UN, Spain “Core Group” of foreign ambassadors in Port-au-Prince, Canadian officials have offered Moïse important diplomatic support. On February 12 Foreign Minister Marc Garneau spoke with Haiti’s de facto foreign minister. The post meeting statement announced plans for Haiti and Canada to co-host a forthcoming conference. The statement made no mention, however, of Moïse extending his mandate, illegally firing Supreme Court judges, ruling by decree or criminalizing protests.

It’s time for the Canadian government to stop propping up a repressive and corrupt dictatorship in Haiti.

A full list of signatories is available here

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