Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday February 17, 2023
Trudeau to deploy navy vessels to Haiti for intelligence gathering
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a slate of new supports for Haiti in the Bahamas on Thursday including humanitarian aid and some naval vessels to help with surveillance.
But he stopped short of proposing the kind of military force its de facto prime minister is asking for, as experts urge him to put the brakes on growing discussions of foreign intervention.
Trudeau told a meeting of 20 Caribbean Community leaders that Canada will provide $12.3 million in new humanitarian assistance for the crisis-torn country and $10 million for the International Office on Migration to support migrants in the region.
“Our fundamental objective is to ease the suffering and empower Haitians to chart their own future,” he said.
“We need to continue to work and put the Haitian people at the centre of everything we do.”
Trudeau also promised to send Royal Canadian Navy vessels “in the coming weeks” to gather intelligence and maintain a presence off the Haitian coast, following surveillance flyovers earlier this year and an existing plan to send more armoured vehicles.
Ottawa will redeploy HMCS Glace Bay and Moncton from West Africa, said a senior government official who spoke on background pending an official release from the Defence Department. The official would not say whether Canadian military members would simply observe or be empowered to intervene.
And Canada is sanctioning two more Haitians, ex-interim president Jocelerme Privert and former political aide Salim Succar, adding to a list of 15 elites already barred from economic dealings in Canada because of alleged ties to the gangs that have taken over Haiti. Trudeau said he is pushing allies to step up and do the same.
Trudeau said he had a “constructive” conversation with de facto Haitian leader Ariel Henry this morning, who is acting as the country’s prime minister but was not elected to the role. National security adviser Jody Thomas was in the room and taking notes, as were Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the UN, and Sebastien Carriere, its ambassador to Haiti.
Henry took power after the 2021 assassination of former president Jovenel Moise.
During brief remarks open to media, he insisted to Trudeau, speaking in French, that he urgently wants the country to work toward transparent elections despite the deteriorating security situation.
Gang activity has ground Haiti’s economy to a halt and hastened a resurgence of cholera. A United Nations report last week detailed “indiscriminate shootings, executions and rapes.” Police have failed to contain the widespread violence.
Henry wants an external security force to quell the chaos, and the United States and United Nations have signalled their support for one, with Washington suggesting Canada could play a leading role. (CTV)