The Haitians here are being held to ransom

Haïians here get ransacked


OTTAWA | Members of the Haitian diaspora in Montreal are being ransomed with hundreds of thousands of dollars by the criminal gangs that control Haiti, so much so that they are now calling for urgent intervention from Canada to put an end to the horror.  

“Every week, I receive a call from Haiti. I am asked: how much are you able to give? We are constantly being ransomed. All our money goes to that. We are no longer capable,” explains Joseph Flaubert Duclair, of the organization Debout pour laigue.

Since the fall, kidnappings have been legion in Haiti. To the point that in the capital, Port-au-Prince, people barricade themselves at home and do not dare to go out for days, even weeks, even if it means depriving themselves of food, indicates on the spot Fritz Alphonse Jean, the president of the citizen opposition group Montana Accord.

“The city is completely besieged. We are in prison”, breathes this ex-governor of the Haitian Central Bank, himself barricaded at home. Those who dare to go out and stray from the few security corridors are beaten, raped, killed or kidnapped.

Forced to mortgage the house

In this case, the ransom demands end up with their relatives abroad, who must organize fundraisers. Pastor Joseph Jr Clorméus of the Church of God of Prophecy says his followers are being asked for US$420,000 for the release of seven people. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, he points out.

“There are people who have mortgaged their homes, who are making loans, who are selling their property, people who must continue to work”, he laments.

If they do not pay, women and girls are subjected to collective rapes of an unspeakable bestiality and the children are enlisted as soldiers, says the pastor.

In this context, “a high percentage of the population is now in favor of some form of international intervention”, indicates Mr. Jean, even if his organization, the Montana Accord, is opposed to it since the previous foreign interventions in Haiti have failed to achieve a lasting peace.

Many members of the diaspora in Montreal have long been of the same opinion, but the current horror leaves no other choice, indicates Mr. Flaubert Duclair, who underlines that public opinion is tilting here as there (see text opposite).

Haitian police, not a solution

“We don't want a military invasion , but of an operational force which intervenes on an ad hoc basis, he pleads. It takes Canada to do that, we don't trust other countries. »

But Justin Trudeau instead announced ten days ago a check for $ 100 million to equip and train the Haitian police, so that they regain control of the situation. The sum is in addition to the $2 billion that Ottawa has already paid to the island since 2010.

For Mr. Flaubert Duclair, “it's madness to send that money” , given the collusion between a part of the police and the state with the gangs. 

“This check will fall into the hands of whom? asks Mr. Jean. 

Ottawa seems to be waiting for an illusory consensus 

OTTAWA | The Haitian diaspora is torn over the prospect of Canadian intervention in Haiti. But in the face of the horror, which has only worsened over the past two years, public opinion here and there is changing.

Pastor Joseph Jr Clorméus explains that the diaspora is impoverished to finance the Haitian crisis in spite of itself, since the ransoms it pays finance the gangs. She therefore has no choice but to ask for help to stop the vicious circle.

Mulry Mondélice, associate dean for research at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean, and expert in international law and diplomacy, believes that Ottawa must urgently emerge from immobility to avoid a large-scale massacre.

He emphasizes that the national police, sanctions and humanitarian aid cannot be the only solution in the face of such a violent urban guerrilla scenario.

The House of Commons International Human Rights Subcommittee has interviewed some 15 witnesses since November to make recommendations to Ottawa on what to do in Haiti. An arduous task since no consensus emerged.

Bloquiste MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, who initiated this process, believes that the priority should be to put pressure on Washington to stop the supply of weapons and ammunition, knowing that most come from the United States.

Then, “it is absolutely necessary for a local group to call for unity” and define a clear roadmap, because without that, “it would mean that we are deciding for the Haitian population”, he says.< /p>

Call for consistency

But waiting for a consensus in Haiti is illusory, says Mondélice. Rather, he says, Ottawa needs to be consistent and respect its own foreign policy, which involves defending human security and the rights of women and girls.

Being consistent would also, he says, mean listening to local people who overwhelmingly reject Prime Minister Ariel Henry's government. He took over the leadership of Haiti after the assassination of President-elect Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. Contrary to the Constitution, he made no move to organize elections.

The citizen opposition group Accord de Montana has been proposing for months to set up a transitional government which would organize a free and democratic election. But Ottawa ignores this outstretched hand.

“There must be a tactical force that provides support on the spot, in coordination with the Montana group,” said Frantz André, of the Comité de solidarité Québec- Haiti. But recognizing the Montana Accord would mean disavowing Ariel Henry's government. »

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