By Haiti Action Network
HALIFAX (May 19, 2005) – APPROXIMATELY 70 people gathered in downtown Halifax, Haiti Flag Day, to protest the illegal Canadian occupation in Haiti. Stops were made at the offices of Canadian corporate profiteers operating in Haiti. Speakers from various sectors throughout the city spoke about the need for continued solidarity against the brutal, illegitimate government in Haiti.
Among those in attendance were representatives of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Nova Scotia Cuba Association, the Halifax Central Education Committee, and the Global African Congress – NS. The event, organized by the Halifax Peace Coalition and the Haiti Action Network, also received support from other trade union, student, and Latin American solidarity organizations.
Canada has been instrumental in legitimizing and directing the actions of the current illegitimate government in Haiti. Last year, the democratically elected leader of the country, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was ousted from power in a coup of ex-military thugs. US Marines “escorted” Aristide from his home at gunpoint, and forced him onto a jet bound for the Central African Republic. International reporters observed Canada’s elite Joint Task Force 2 troops securing the airport from which Aristide was flown that day. Since this time, Canadian RCMP officers have been leading the training of the Haitian National Police. The HNP, according to recent reports from the Harvard school of law and the Miami Center for the Study of Human Rights, is currently waging a brutal campaign of murder, massacre, and imprisonment of poor Haitians associated with Aristide’s Lavalas party.
Canadian officials have also lent political support and funding to the brutal government in power at this time. On November 15, 2004, on a state visit to Haiti, Paul Martin made the blatantly false claim that “there are no political prisoners in Haiti,” crudely ignoring the fact that there are perhaps over 1000 political prisoners in Haitian jails, including former Lavalas government ministers, such as Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. Few have been charged with any crime.
The Halifax march wound its way down Spring Garden, stopping briefly at the offices of SNC-Lavalin, an engineering firm, and Nortel Networks, a fairly affluent telecommunications firm. Both corporations have profited substantially from the free market policies imposed by the Latortue government in Haiti. In particular, SNC-Lavalin has gained contracts in Haiti which are partly financed by “aid” dollars of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). CIDA, a government agency, also played a large role in destabilizing the Aristide government from 2000-2004, and is currently paying the salaries of at least two high-level ministers within the government of Haiti.
The march ended up at Parade Square, just as storm clouds were beginning to gather.
Although local media failed to focus much coverage on this march, due partly to the wake of “Belinda week” within the mainstream media, several reporters were present at the event.
Elsewhere in Canada, activists in Vancouver picketed the office of Liberal Minister of Industry David Emerson. In Ottawa, the CIDA office was picketed, and the French Embassy was presented with petitions demanding restitution of $22 billion stolen from Haiti between 1804 and 1945. Events also took place in Montreal, Toronto, and Charlottetown.
In Haiti, 10,000 attended a massive march in Port-au-Prince, demanding an end to repression, and a return to constitutional government. Although the march occurred without incident, police attacked crowds in poor neighborhoods following the event. In an interview conducted with the Vancouver Co-operative Radio yesterday, journalist Kevin Pina reported that at least two people were killed in Pietonville, when police opened fire in a local market.