Canadian PM Trudeau announces aid for Haiti

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, takes part in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister of Haiti Ariel Henry
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, takes part in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister of Haiti Ariel Henry during the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Nassau, Bahamas, on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.
Sean Kilpatrick /The Canadian Press via Associated Press, file

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Thursday announced a raft of measures to help restore order in strife-torn Haiti, boost trade with the Caribbean and help it finance climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

A special guest of leaders at their summit in The Bahamas this week, Trudeau said Ottawa remains “very concerned about the ongoing unrest and instability in Haiti,” the most populous CARICOM nation grapples with “with unrelenting gang violence, political turmoil, and corruption.”

Trudeau met with regional leaders including Prime Minister Ariel Henry of Haiti on Thursday to discuss the crisis which has killed hundreds of people, including more than 100 police officers, seen dozens abducted and beaten, stores looted and buildings razed to the ground by fire.

Trudeau said the time is now to confront the situation in Haiti, noting that Canada feels for what occurs there because of the large Haitian diaspora and decades of close relations with the Caribbean.

He announced plans to deliver additional mine resistant ambush protected vehicles to local police to help them beat back gangs. Navy vessels will also be deployed off the Haitian coast to “conduct surveillance and gather intelligence, and maintain a maritime presence off the Haitian coast in the coming weeks. The toll of human suffering in Haiti weighs heavily on me. As Canadians, our fundamental objective is to ease this suffering and empower Haitians to chart their own future,” he told regional colleagues. The Candians has last month sent a high tech surveillance plane to overfly troubled areas to disrupt communication systems being used by local gangsters.

He said, as well, Ottawa will target local elites who have used their influence and resources to back criminal gangs and fuel instability.

“To date, Canada has implemented targeted sanctions on 15 individuals.

Today I am announcing a 6th round of autonomous sanctions against two more individuals,” as he applauded the establishment of a transitional council striving to bring back stability to the country. A grant of $10 million will be given to the International Office of Migration to provide help to Haitian women and children who are struggling along the border with The Dominican Republic. And we will invest an additional $12.3 million in humanitarian assistance. Together, with CARICOM, Canada and international partners can help Haitians bring an end to the crisis and build a better, and more hopeful, future for their country,” he said to applause from the audience.

On trade and aid, the PM said Canada will set aside $44.8 million in new money to help the region tackle climate change as Canada itself has seen the devastation from climatic events when Hurricane Fiona lashed its Atlantic coast last year.

Additionally, an approach will be made to the World Trade Organization to renew a waiver system, allowing Caribbean goods to enter Canadian markets duty free. “CARIBCAN was first announced by Canada at this same meeting in Nassau in 1985, so it is only fitting we renew that pledge here today,” he said.