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Canada, U.S. prepping 'scenarios' to respond if crisis in Haiti worsens, PM says

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly looks on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a media availability on Jan.11, 2023 in Mexico City.  (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly looks on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a media availability on Jan.11, 2023 in Mexico City. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is "preparing various scenarios" to respond if the situation in Haiti gets worse.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the North American Leaders' Summit in Mexico City, Trudeau was asked if Canada has enough personnel to lead a military assistance mission to the Caribbean country.

The prime minister didn't answer the question directly but insisted that Canada's efforts to date — providing armoured vehicles to the Haitian National Police, sanctioning Haitian elites believed to be supporting gang activity — are working.

Trudeau did say the government is working with the U.S. and other allies to prepare for a deterioration in Haiti's security situation by plotting out options.

"We're all very aware that things could get worse in Haiti," Trudeau said. "That's why Canada and various partners, including the United States, are preparing various scenarios if it does start to get worse."

Haiti has been mired in political turmoil since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July. Since then, gangs have taken control of a large portion of the capital Port-au-Prince.

Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press
Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press

A blockade of Haiti's main fuel terminal by the G9 alliance of gangs ended two weeks after Canada and the U.S. sent armoured vehicles to the Haitian police on October 15. That blockade had paralyzed transportation and industry in a country that lacks a reliable power grid and depends heavily on diesel generators.

But the gangs retain control of other territories they've seized, including the country's main courthouse.

Ariel Henry, Haiti's de facto prime minister, has asked for a foreign military force to enter his country and take on the gangs. No country has taken up his invitation yet.

CBC asked the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) for more details about the scenarios being planned for, and how much worse things would need to get before those plans are enacted. A spokesperson said the PMO has nothing more to add at this point.

A PMO readout of Trudeau's meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday said the two leaders discussed the ongoing crisis in Haiti and committed to providing ongoing support for the country.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Global Affairs Canada announced that another shipment of armoured vehicles was delivered to the national police in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

In a media release, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly called on other countries to step up their support for Haiti.

"Canada calls on the international community to follow our lead and help Haitian people as they face complex challenges and violence in their country," she said in the statement.

Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press
Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press

On Monday, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in Washington that Canada has asked to take a leading role regarding Haiti.

"Canada itself has expressed interest in taking on a leadership role," Sullivan said in response to a question about Haiti.

"What exactly the terms and parameters of security support looks like, what it means in terms of boots on the ground … the two leaders will discuss," he said, referring to Trudeau and Biden's meeting on Tuesday.

Sullivan also was asked if the U.S. plans to send troops to Haiti. He said they're not looking to "go down that road."