It happened quick and in the very heart of Canadaâ€™s capital. Early this morning of June 29, 2005 when colleague Kevin Skerrett and I arrived to cover the story, for a brief moment, we worried that other news media had somehow scooped our insiderâ€™s information. Cameras and various recording materials left little standing room for the many journalists crowded in the waiting room at Rideau Hall.
Adding panache to the situation, a dedicated staffer quietly enters the waiting room and hushes that Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and the first of two distinguished guests are about to meet. They will allow us to record the brief encounter but no questions are allowed. So, we complied.
Within a matter of minutes, Robert Hans Tippenhauer enters the room and hands over the envelope to Mrs. Clarkson. Those in attendance barely noticed when, a visibly nervous Tippenhauer drying his hands on his suit, referred to â€œcelui qui me prÃ©-dÃ©cÃ©daitâ€ (the one who has â€œpre-deceasedâ€ me!). â€œUh ! Mon prÃ©dÃ©cesseur!â€(the one who preceded me), he quickly corrected, before proceeding to tell the Governor General about his high school days spent in the province of QuÃ©bec. Aside from this suggestive Freudian slip, Tippenhauer did relatively well. He and Mrs. Clakrson exchanged a few words, smiled and posed happily for the cameras and - the deed was done. Officially, the Dominion of Canada and its Queen had accepted the credentials of the new â€œAmbassadorâ€ of Haiti to Canada.
Knowing that there were skeletons in Tippenhauerâ€™s closet, I reiterated to the friendly Rideau Hall staffer the official request to interview the new “Ambassador”. This shouldnâ€™t be difficult to obtain considering, as we had by then realised, all the other media present came to cover the new U.S. Ambassador who was next to present his credentials to Mrs. Clarkson. After an hourâ€™s wait, Kevin and I were told that Mr. Tippenhauer declined our request. Reason? â€“ too busy – no can do, no time! So, we decided to take our time and patiently waited by the entry along with the other reporters.
Contrary to schedule, Wilkins, the new U.S. Ambassador, was the first to come out. He took all sorts of questions, including one which he dodged about his impression on Canadaâ€™s performance in Haiti. Then, came « Ambassador » Tippenhauer, the former Chair of the Canadian-Haitian Chamber of Commerce, of whom Vancouver-based journalist Anthony Fenton wrote: â€œShould the Canadian government accept Tippenhauer’s credentials, it will mark Canada’s clearest official alignment with Haiti’s right-wing elitesâ€. With his May 16, 2005 ZNET article titled â€œThe Canadian Corporate/State Nexus In Haitiâ€, Fenton was the first journalist to break news of Tippenhauerâ€™s nomination. A revelation that shocked many, especially members of Canadaâ€™s Haitian community, who had fresh in mind how, following the Feb. 29, 2004 coup that toppled the democratically elected President of Haiti, Tippenhauer played a key part in a series of diplomatic blunders that led to Haitiâ€™s post-coup regimeâ€™s total ostracism by its Caribbean neighbours. Tippenhauer, a Port-au-Prince based businessman of German extraction who was also playing the role of Jamaica’s honorary consul in Haiti at the time, had decided on Mar. 15, 2004 to raucously announce his resignation from that honorary position. This, in protest to the decision by the Jamaican government to temporarily host exiled former President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Haitians have not forgotten this recent episode where it effectively took a brazen rescue mission lead by Jamaicaâ€™s Prime Minister Percival Patterson and Black American author and human rights activist Randall Robinson to facilitate Aristideâ€™s return to this hemisphere and reunification with his two young daughters. The children were not in Haiti the night of the coup, when U.S. Marines surrounded the presidentâ€™s residence and took him and his wife in an unmarked white plane to the Central African Republic where they knew no one.
So, as Robert Hans Tippenhauer made his way to the exit, I scrambled to decide what to ask him first. Should I ask him why activists in Montreal keep accusing Canadaâ€™s Foreign Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, of aiding criminals in Haiti? Should I ask him why the non-elected government that he represents is often characterized by Haitians everywhere as being an illegal, brutal puppet regime, imposed on them by the U.S., France and Canada? Should I ask him why the Caribbean Community, Venezuela, the 53 nations of the African Union, Nelson Mandelaâ€™s African National Congress, prominent Congressmen and Congresswomen from the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus… all refuse to recognize his regime in Haiti? Should I ask him to comment on the fact that countless activists from PEI to Victoria, B.C. have accused Canada of participating in a racist coup that brought to power through violent means a group of Haitians who happen to be, like him, of European origin?
So, I began:
Q: Your nomination was not ratified by the Haitian Senate. Some contend it is illegalâ€¦?
Tippenhauer: Well, everyone is entitled to his own opinion which I do respect. However, there has been an accommodation with the « international community » to provide our country with an interim government that will, indeed, permit us to achieve credible and honest elections and make it possible to hand power on February 7th to a President who would have been elected by the Haitian People.
Q: Therefore, in the interim, during the transitional period, the Haitian constitution is not being followed because it stipulates, for instance, that « the President of the Republic, following approval by the Senate, names ambassadors»?
Tippenhauer: But, this is an exceptional case because, we do not have a government â€“ at that time. We did not have an elected government. Itâ€™s only now, you know that and we are doing all that is possible for us to do in order to have a government and precisely where the president will swear in on February 7, 2006. And, we are working towards that.
I was not sure whether the â€œAmbassadorâ€ had just acknowledged representing a non-existent government. But, knowing that even in Washington, D.C., the regimeâ€™s representative, Mr. Raymond Joseph, bears the title of ChargÃ© dâ€™Affaires, I pursued…
Q: But, the normal procedure would have been to name a « ChargÃ© dâ€™Affaires » since you are not constitutional…?
Tippenhauer: No! You are the one who says that I am not constitutional.
Q: But, itâ€™s the Constitution thatâ€¦?
(showing him a copy with the relevant section highlighted in yellow)
Tippenhauer: As it now stands, the Constitution is somewhat…uh! An exception was made because, as I have told you and am repeating it, there has been an international consensus, you know, to go over this difficult and fragile transition that we are currently subject to – that the country is subjected to. And, precisely, to allow the country to have a president who is elected and who will be elected – an elected government…
â€œA legitimate one !â€, I tried to interject.
Tippenhauer:… coming from elections, you know that will take placeâ€¦uh! at the end of this year.
Thus, Robert Hans Tippenhauer, who was fraudulently named Ambassadeur Plenipotentiaire de la RÃ©publique dâ€™Haiti on June 29, 2005, confirmed that the Constitution of the Republic he represents has effectively been put on hold. He came close to saying it in so many words. But, even more important than his statements, it is Tippenhauerâ€™s actions that have the most dire consequences for millions of people.
My colleague Kevin Skerrett probing Tippenhauerâ€™s views on the well-documented dreadful Human Rights situation in post-coup Haiti, asked him about the countryâ€™s most recognizable of over 1000 political prisoners:
Q: Mr. Tippenhauer, former Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune is still in jail and his health situation is quite serious and we hear that no evidence has been presented against him. What can you tell us about his situation?
Tippenhauer: Well, uh! As far as his situation, he is at the disposition of Haitian justice which, precisely, by the separation of the justice from the legislative and â€¦ the executive, Haitian justice is independent. And, he is in the hands of Haitian justice.
Q : But, what is your reaction to the condemnation by Amnesty International and by Juan Gabriel Valdes, chief of MINUSTAH (U.N. Mission in Haiti), on Mr. Neptuneâ€™s situation? Your reaction?
Tippenhauer: And, what is that reaction?
Q : Mr. Valdes recently declared that Mr. Neptune’s situation is a violation of his rights. And, this is consistent with comments made by Mr. Fagart as well as several others.
Tippenhauer: I am totally ignorant of this declaration. Therefore, I cannot comment on it.
Such were the reflections of the man officially confirmed this June 29, 2005, â€œAmbassador of the Republic of Haitiâ€ by Her Majesty the Queen of Canada.
Along with all the other unlawfully appointed leaders of Haiti, Tippenhauer is now fully habilitated to take state-binding decisions, including signing multi million contracts, on behalf of an impoverished people that never had chosen him to be their representative. Not surprisingly, among the beneficiaries of lucrative contracts with Haitiâ€™s illegal regime are Canadian companies: SNC-Lavalin and Gildan Active Wear.
If the corporate incentives to lend a blind eye to the illegal nature of this regime are plain enough, what might be the mid-to-long term impact of Prime Minister Martinâ€™s pro-coup Haiti policy on Canadaâ€™s image in the Caribbean? Can our Department of Foreign Affairs truly pretend not to have realized the evident flaws in the â€œcredentialsâ€ presented by Mr. Tippenhauer?
In a sensitive area like foreign affairs is it not important to be mindful of perceptions? If Haitian-Canadians taking part in recent Ottawa call-in shows are any indication, the response of the Haitian community to the nomination of Tippenhauer is unequivocal: â€œHe does not represent usâ€, â€œHe is no ambassadorâ€, â€œHis nomination is illegalâ€. Such reactions were rather predictable since it is no secret that the Tippenhauer family counts some of the most prominent supporters of the coup that toppled Haitiâ€™s constitutional government in 2004. In addition to Robert Hans Tippenhauerâ€™s own reactionary credentials, his nephew, also named Hans Tippenhauer, a former member of the Washington establishment’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and a sweat-shop magnate is a key member of the E.U. and USAID- funded Group of 184 opposition front. He is credited to be the first to have assigned the term â€œfreedom fightersâ€ to the murderous paramilitaries, some of whom are convicted criminals, who paved the way to the coup. Tippenhauerâ€™s Group 184 is prominently led by two other white businessmen operating sweatshops in Haiti, Charles Henri Baker and the American Andre Apaid.
Considering all these facts, accepting Tippenhauer’s credentials, not only mark Canada’s official alignment with Haiti’s right-wing elites, it also gives credence to the disturbing allegations of an insidiously racist dimension to the 2004 overthrow of Haitiâ€™s elected government.