Canada to coordinate Haiti security aid from Dominican Republic

Canadian foreign minister says a ‘joint security coordination cell’ will seek enhanced international response to crisis.

Community leader Nertil Marcelin goes door-to-door to hand out machetes to residents in an initiative to resist gangs in the Delmas district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti [Odelyn Joseph/AP Photo]

Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly has announced that the country will launch a “joint security coordination cell” to respond to the ongoing crisis in Haiti this summer.

In an announcement on Thursday during a ministerial meeting, Joly said Canada will lead the effort from Haiti’s neighbour, the Dominican Republic.

The cell will “enhance international efforts in security assistance, working closely with the Haitian National Police and the United Nations to foster a sustainable environment for long-term peace and security in Haiti,” Joly said in a subsequent tweet.

The foreign minister did not specify why Canada would in part work out of the Dominican Republic, which has deported tens of thousands of Haitians fleeing the crisis. She said a team would also work from Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince.

In addition, Joly explained that Canada will coordinate international aid including funds, equipment and technical support for Haiti’s embattled police. The country will also donate a further $13m to United Nations security and anti-corruption projects.

“The situation on the ground is extremely fragile and the needs are immense — they go beyond Canada’s or any other country’s capacity to address them alone,” Joly said, stressing the need for urgent, well-coordinated support.

Haiti has contended with multiple compounding crises in recent years, exacerbated by natural disasters and the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise. With gangs controlling large swathes of the country’s capital, the humanitarian community has struggled to respond to public health emergencies and a dire economic situation.

In response, the government of acting President Ariel Henry requested in October an international force to intervene and help its police force.

Meanwhile, the US has pushed Ottawa to take a leading role in the international response, but countries have been wary of sending troops, with some in Haiti rejecting the prospect of foreign intervention.

For his part, Henry has maintained that security must be established to hold credible elections. Since January, no democratically elected official has held power in Haiti’s federal government; Henry, meanwhile, was appointed by Moise shortly before his assassination.

During talks with Haitian civil society representatives this week, Henry said he would look to widen the composition of the country’s transition council with a view to making the government more inclusive.

Joly also announced sanctions on Thursday against Gracia Delva — a famous compas musician and former Haitian senator — and Prophane Victor, a former deputy.

Victor has been accused of providing support to a gang in the Artibonite region, which he represented politically, but he has denied the allegations. Joly did not give specific reasons for the new penalties, but they bring the number of Haitian political and business leaders sanctioned to 21.

The latest sanctions essentially freeze “any assets these individuals may hold in Canada and bars their entry to Canada”, Joly said in a tweet.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies