Canada has sanctioned two more Haitian “elites” over their alleged involvement in the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis, adding to the list of other individuals targeted by the federal government in recent months.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly announced on Friday that the federal government had sanctioned businessman Charles Saint-Remy, an associate of former president Michel Martelly, and former Haitian lawmaker Arnel Belizaire, freezing any assets they may hold in Canada.
A news release from the federal government says it has reason to believe both individuals are using their high profiles “to protect and enable the illegal activities of armed criminal gangs, including through drug trafficking and other acts of corruption.”
“Canada is continuing to fight against corruption in Haiti by imposing more sanctions against elites who are supporting the criminal gangs that are terrorizing the country,” Joly said in a statement.
“Canada will continue to work with the international community to support the people of Haiti so they can emerge from this crisis and restore peace and security in their country.”
The announcement brings the total number of Haitians sanctioned by the federal government since November 2022 up to 15. They include former ministers, politicians and others considered part of Haiti’s “elite” class.
INSTABILITY IN HAITI CONTINUES
Haiti has been embroiled in political and economic instability following the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moise, in July 2021.
Moise had served more than a year after the country failed to hold elections and the opposition called for him to step down.
Haiti is the first country founded by former slaves after achieving its independence from France through the Haitian Revolution between 1791 and 1804.
However, its history since has been punctuated by power struggles, harsh reparations imposed by France and a U.S. occupation.
Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake in 2010, which the government officially says killed more than 300,000 people, although other estimates have recorded a smaller death toll.
Haiti is also the largest recipient of development assistance from Canada in the Americas.
Since the 2010 earthquake, Canada has contributed $1.5 billion to the country as of 2021, including $345 million in humanitarian aid and $1.15 billion in development assistance
Ongoing violence in the past year, including killings, kidnappings and sexual violence, has raised concerns from the United Nations, which recently estimated that gangs control as much as 60 per cent of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
In January 2022, a journalist working for a Montreal radio station was killed in Haiti near Port-au-Prince.
The announced elimination of fuel subsidies by Prime Minister Ariel Henry in September 2022 added to further unrest, including the blockade of a fuel terminal by a former police officer turned gang leader, while the country experiences double digit growth in inflation.
On Jan. 10, the terms for Haiti’s last remaining senators expired, leaving it without a single lawmaker in either its House or Senate.
‘HAITI CAN’T WAIT’
The World Food Programme (WFP) said in October 2022 that a record 4.7 million people were facing acute hunger in Haiti.
Jean-Martin Bauer, WFP director for Haiti, told CTV News Channel on Saturday that the violence has made the delivery of humanitarian aid to the country more difficult.
He said the WFP was attacked twice in September, during which one of its offices burned down.
“It’s meant that humanitarian work in Haiti has become more complicated, it’s become more expensive, it’s become more difficult, but we are out there every day trying to get resources to the Haitian population,” Bauer said.
“Thankfully, we’re able to do that with our partners and this effort needs to continue.”
Canada on Wednesday announced it delivered armoured vehicles to Haiti to help the country’s national police, although Haiti’s Prime Minister Henry wants further support and has called for foreign intervention.
Bauer stressed that “Haiti can’t wait” and needs not only security but also humanitarian assistance.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday in Mexico City, during the recent summit between the leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, that the delivery of armoured vehicles to Haiti also includes humanitarian aid.
“We need to have the western countries add a humanitarian component to their intervention in Haiti to make sure that programs reach people now,” Bauer said.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press
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