Canadian leader Justin Trudeau was in The Bahamas to attend the CARICOM Summit that brought to the table the increasing anarchy in Haiti and impact on regional countries. While at the 44th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom, the Canadian Prime Minister signaled Canada’s commitment to keep working with the region.
“Canada and Caricom are united in longstanding partnerships and shared priorities. There are a lot of challenges we need to work together on: supporting the people of Haiti, delivering climate action and improving resilience, finding new economic opportunities for our businesses and workers, and above all, putting people at the centre of everything we do,” was the concluding statement by Prime Minister Trudeau at the end of his visit.
The Dominican Republic has been dealing with the Haitian mass immigration issues for decades. Haitians cross the border to work in farms, construction and household jobs. Today, around 40% of the births at many public hospitals are to Haitians that cross the border to give birth in the Dominican Republic for free, given the collapse of services in Haiti. Furthermore, thousands of Haitian children go to school in border province public schools.
CBC Canada reported on 16 February 2023: “The fear that social and economic collapse in Haiti will drive new waves of refugees to other countries is shared by both Washington and Ottawa. Bahamian Foreign Minister Frederick Mitchell told local media that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been asked to take the lead. That’s one reason why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is attending the Caribbean summit this week.
But Haiti is also a hot potato tossed to Trudeau by the Biden administration, which has suggested to Canada and to other countries that Canada should take the lead there.
Whether it wants the job or not, the Trudeau government seems to have been saddled with it.
A statement from the Canadian Prime Minister office indicated that during the meetings, Prime Minister Trudeau worked with the Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders to ‘continue advancing support for the Haitian people amidst the crisis in their country, while also strengthening ties with the region, driving economic growth, creating good jobs, and fighting climate change.’”
The Canadian government announces that while in Nassau, the Prime Minister worked closely with leaders to help address the political, security, and humanitarian crisis in Haiti. He announced $10 million in new funding to protect Haitian women and children along the Haiti-Dominican Republic border.
Canada also committed $12.3 million to address the food and nutrition needs of vulnerable populations, help meet the safety and emergency sexual and reproductive health needs of vulnerable women and girls, prevent and respond to gender-based violence, and provide water, sanitation and hygiene to address and prevent cholera.
Prime Minister Trudeau also announced that Canada has imposed additional sanctions against two Haitian elites who provide financial or operational support to gangs and are inflicting violence on the Haitian people. Canada will continue to provide support to bolster the capacity of the Haitian National Police to respond to the crisis, including by delivering three additional Haitian-purchased Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.
On 16 February 2023, Canada announced that it would deploy two Royal Canadian Navy Kingston-Class ships to Haiti in coming weeks in response to Haiti’s request for assistance as violence continues to escalate in the country.
As a steadfast partner of Haiti, Canada will continue to support an inclusive political dialogue in Haiti, lay the foundation for free and fair elections, and help Haitians restore peace and security in their country.
During his bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Haiti, Prime Minister Trudeau urged Prime Minister Henry to bolster political consensus around the High Transitional Council.
In Nassau, Prime Minister Trudeau also announced $44.8 million in new initiatives to help support Caricom in addressing the climate crisis by protecting more biodiversity and improving climate resilience and disaster preparedness. The Canadian government said it would continue to advocate for small island and low-lying states in the Caribbean, who are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change like rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
The Canadian Prime Minister also announced $1.8 million in new initiatives to help tackle escalating regional security challenges, including by targeting illicit drugs, the opioid crisis, irregular migration, and strengthening border and maritime security.
He announced that Canada will be taking on the role of Chair of Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) Board of Governors in June 2023 and will host the Board’s Annual Meeting in Canada in 2024.
Concurrently, Foreign Minister Melanie Joy announced sanctions against former Haitian Presidents Michel Martelly, Jean-Henry Ceant and Laurent Lamothe for profiting from the violence in Haiti. She said these are part of a corrupted system. Canada pledged US$16.5 million — US$8 million to help humanitarian groups and US$8.5 million for actions to combat corruption at a time when the turmoil in Haiti has led to the collapse of the Haitian political system.
Joy spoke of how the political dynamics in Haiti over many years has been quite challenging, and that Canadian diplomats are working hard to pull together a consensus to allow international community to move forward.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed $10 million to support the International Organization for Migration to strengthen the protection and resilience of Haitian women and children along the Dominican Republic border and in Haiti, and an additional $12.3 million investment in humanitarian assistance.
“We’ve provided direct support to bolster the Haitian National Police so that Haiti has the tools and support to solve this situation, including deploying surveillance aircraft and vital strategic security equipment and vehicles and additional delivery of emirate vehicles in the coming days,” he said.