“Prime Minister Stephen Harper poses with Haitians in a Cité-Soleil hospital during a one-day visit to Port-au-Prince on Friday.” (Kena Betancur/Reuters)
The image of our Prime Minister in a Haitian clinic is meant to whitewash the shameful role Canada has played in Haiti. The clinic, obviously brand new from the looks of the roof, is also meant to show progress in a country that defies the conventional term of poverty. Neither I or the Prime Minister can know what the suffering is like, but I’ll bet he hasn’t seen the documentary film I have seen on the reality of Haiti.
Alan Freeman, for today’s online Globe and Mail, reported that “Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in the poorest nation in the Americas on Friday for a visit aimed at demonstrating Canada’s continued support for the Caribbean nation as it tries to overcome a heritage of destitution, violence and political instability.” What the Canadian public doesn’t hear about is WHY there is continuing “destitution,violence and political instability”. The emphasis of the article is on Canadian aid and our efforts to help the Haitian who just can’t seem to help themselves. This coverage is racist, condescending and just plain inaccurate.
According to Shirley Pate, writing for HaitiAnalysis.com, “[e]arly in the new millennium, the US, France, and Canada rolled out plans for the demise of Haiti’s democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide, a priest guided by liberation theology as a way to achieve societal advancement, worried the international community. During the 1990’s, President Aristide began to resist the structural adjustment programs that [International Financial Institutions] IFIs required as a condition for obtaining loans. Most structural adjustment programs rob countries of their social programs and steer national economies toward privatization. Aristide knew that not only were the IFIs’ loan requirements onerous, but acceptance of these loans would condemn Haiti, like other poor countries, to perpetual indebtedness.”
Aristide was overthrown, with Canada’s help, because he stood in the way of the continued exploitation of the Haitian people. It is an affront to all that is decent that Mr. Harper – a proponent of privatization – would have the gall to stand with the very poor of Haiti he is helping to exploit.
In an online July 16, 2007 article by Agence Haitïenne de Presse, it was reported that “[t]housands of people demonstrated Sunday [July15, 2007] in several Haitian cities such as Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien to mark the 54th birthday of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The demonstrators called for the former chief of State, forced to leave Haiti on February 29, 2004, by foreign powers, to return to his home country.”
” They appealed to the president[Préval] to include a thought for the poor and criticized the wave of dismissals that has begun under the plan to privatize public enterprises.” Clearly, things are not settled as far as Haitians are concerned.
During the “20 Years of Propaganda?” conference in May at the University of Windsor, I watched a documentary by Kevin Pina, entitled “Haiti:”We Must Kill the Bandits”“. The film was a shocking awakening to the brutality that occurred in Haiti, during and after the overthrow of Aristide, and even when the UN took over from American and Canadian soldiers.
(YouTube Trailer for “Haiti:We Must Kill the Bandits”)
Pina made clear in a question and answer session after the screening that Haiti represents the lowest common denominator for wages and working conditions, in this hemisphere. If the poorest of the poor struggle to improve their lot and defy the international finance community, then what would happen in Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and all the other low wage, countries large corporations require to produce our cheap goods?
Haiti is on the front line of the international competition for low wage workers. Having a freely elected, popular priest, steeped in liberation theology, was simply unacceptable to the wealthy elites in Canada and the United States. This time, Canada is not helping the people of Haiti, we are helping ourselves. As unpleasant as it is to confront, Canadians are part of the reason for the continued destitution in Haiti. The Globe article is merely propagandizing, using our “aid” as a soothing device to ease our consciences, when in fact, we have helped kill off any effective opposition in Haiti to the privatization of the country.