MPs advise against military intervention in Haiti, but call for improved sanctions
OTTAWA — The House of Commons foreign-affairs committee is urging Ottawa not to send troops to clear out Haiti's violent gangs, but instead to beef up sanctions targeting that country's political and economic elite.
Members of Parliament on the committee say Canada should make clear its military will not participate in direct military operations on the ground — which means rejecting a request from Haiti's de facto prime minister, Ariel Henry.
Marauding gangs have filled a power vacuum in Haiti left after the 2021 assassination of its president, leading to widespread hunger, a collapse of basic health services and disturbing accounts of sexual violence.
MPs say in a newly published report that Ottawa should respond by focusing on humanitarian, economic and political efforts, as well as justice and security support in the Caribbean country.
They say Canada should empower the Haitian National Police to resolve the gang issue, which echoes demands from civil-society groups but is something the International Crisis Group says might not be possible.
The MPs also call for Canada to shift from funding stop-gap humanitarian aid to creating a longer-term strategy that would have predictable funding and aim for specific outcomes.
They say those outcomes should include the availability of recreational activities for children to learn and play, since gangs are causing schools to clause and are recruiting kids into what some MPs characterized as child soldiers.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada should play a key role in getting Haiti out of its crisis, which spiralled out of control shortly in the past two years.
But he says Canada would only be part of a military mission if that's what a plurality of Haitians ask for.
The Biden administration has in recent months lessened its pressure on Ottawa to take part in such an intervention, which it nonetheless says could help stem a regional crisis of refugees, guns and gangs.
Canada has been urging other countries to follow its lead by slapping economic sanctions on Haitians whom Ottawa accuses of empowering the gangs.
Trudeau argues this pressure will help bring about a political consensus on how western countries can be help Haiti.
Yet the MPs' Wednesday report urges Ottawa to "immediately address challenges with its sanctions regime, including the lack of transparency and information provided to parliamentarians, as well as the lack of resources allocated to investigations and enforcement."
The foreign-affairs committee made that same point in mid-February when it said it's unclear whether Canada's sanctions regime is actually working to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2023.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press