Canadians of conscience who pay attention to
In a January 15 interview with Haitiâ€™s Radio SolidaritÃ©, Canadaâ€™s ambassador to Haiti, Claude Boucher praised the UN occupation forces (identified by the French acronym MINUSTAH), urging them to â€œincrease their operations as they did last December.â€
Boucherâ€™s reference to operations â€œlast Decemberâ€ is an unmistakable reference to the December 22 MINUSTAH assault on the slum neighbourhood of CitÃ© Soleil.
Marketed by its architects as an action against â€œarmed gangsâ€ blamed for a spate of recent kidnappings, 400 troops, backed by helicopters, entered a densely populated residential area at 4:30 a.m. Eyewitnesses and victims of the attack claim MINUSTAH helicopters fired on residents throughout the operation. The cardboard and corrugated tin wall houses were no match for the troopsâ€™ heavy weaponry and the raid left scores of civilians dead and wounded, including women and children.
Dubbed the â€œChristmas Massacreâ€ by neighbourhood residents a Reuters photo revealed a row of dead bodies and two distraught women carrying a wounded young boy. Agence France Presse indicated that at least 12 people were killed and â€œseveral dozenâ€ wounded, a casualty total over 40. A Haitian human rights organization, known by the acronym AUMOHD, reported 20 killed with an initial set of victimsâ€™ names.
The Association Haitienne de presse (AHP) reported â€œvery serious property damageâ€ following the UN attack, and concerns that â€œa critical water shortage may now develop because water cisterns and pipes were punctured by the gunfire.â€ Red Cross coordinator Pierre Alexis complained to AHP that UN soldiers â€œblocked Red Cross vehicles from entering CitÃ© Soleilâ€ to help the wounded.
MINUSTAH denies it interfered with the Red Cross and refuses to acknowledge any civilian casualties.
The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits military interference in the provision of medical assistance to the wounded as well as collective punishment and the deployment of military force in districts where civilians are likely to be victimized. International humanitarian law obligates all parties to military engagements (or territorial occupation) to extend protection to civilians.
In other words, the â€œoperationsâ€ that Ambassador Boucher praised may constitute war crimes.
This was a military assault carried out against a residential neighbourhood by a military force â€“ â€œpeacekeepersâ€ â€“ charged with protecting the population. We can only imagine the reaction if the Canadian army killed dozens of local residents by using helicopters and military assault vehicles with machine guns while conducting operations in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood of Toronto or Vancouverâ€™s Downtown Eastside and justified its actions as â€œcracking down on gangs.â€
The Toronto Star was the only English-language Canadian newspaper to run a Reuters article that reported nine killed in December. It seems as if the dead and suffering of an extremely poor Haitian neighbourhood can be safely ignored. And worse.
And that is what happened. A UN raid on CitÃ© Soleil on Thursday, Jan. 25 left five dead and a dozen wounded, according to Agence France Presse.
Canadian military and police continue to play a leadership role within MINUSTAH. The current Conservative government has pointed to our policies in
Why is this happening?
The reality is most Canadians know nothing about
lighter-skinned) Haitian elite has long exploited the country and worked with French and
In the past two decades the poor majority has tried repeatedly to take control of the Haitian government. But each time a new government challenged the power of the elite and tried to empower the poor majority it has been overthrown.
Sadly, it increasingly appears the “peace” being sought is reserved for the wealthy elite and their foreign backers.
Yves Engler is co-author of