Efforts to stage a multilateral military intervention in gang-ravaged Haiti are underway — but neither Antony Blinken nor Melanie Joly were willing to say publicly on Thursday whether Canada would be hired to lead it. United States
Efforts to stage a multilateral military intervention in gang-ravaged Haiti are underway — but neither Antony Blinken nor Melanie Joly were willing to say publicly on Thursday whether Canada would be hired to lead it.
The US secretary of state and his Canadian foreign counterpart met in Ottawa on the first day of Blinken’s two-day visit north of the border, his first in person since becoming the country’s top diplomat. the Biden administration last year.
They discussed Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, escalating women’s rights protests in Iran and Canada’s recently announced decision to seek membership in a US-led trade framework. in the Indo-Pacific, among others.
But tackling the crisis in leaderless Haiti, a place ravaged by looting gangs amid a worsening cholera outbreak, has taken on new urgency – especially after US officials designated Canada this week as a potential key player.
Such a mission would be “limited in scope,” Blinken said, and would focus on supporting overstretched police forces in Haiti so that security can be restored, humanitarian aid can be delivered and elections can be held. .
“We are talking among ourselves, but also … with many other countries about who might be willing to participate in such a mission, as well as who will lead it,” Blinken said at a press conference with Joly at his side.
“It’s an ongoing conversation that we both have, and that we have with others. So it’s a work in progress, and we continue to pursue it.”
Haiti, Joly said, now faces a “triple crisis” that has been developing since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021: a near total absence of public security, a worsening humanitarian disaster and a powerless interim government. .
Marauding and warring gangs have taken over key institutions in the capital Port-au-Prince and elsewhere, and are blocking access to a key oil terminal, exacerbating shortages of basic commodities, drinking water and of medical services.
To top it off, the country is facing a cholera epidemic. Haiti’s health ministry said Sunday it was aware of 2,243 people suspected and 55 dead – figures the UN said likely understate the extent of the disaster.
Earlier Thursday, Joly announced that Canada was undertaking an “assessment mission” to Haiti to get a sense of the situation on the ground, consult with regional partners and determine how best to “contribute to the international response.”
“We have said it many times: we will always support solutions that are by and for Haitians, because we believe that solutions are best, when… they are taken by them and we support them”, she said.
“We have to make sure that it’s, yes, Canada and the United States working with Haitians, but also with many other countries. At the end of the day, we have to make sure that there is a strong legitimacy for this approach.
Canada and the United States have already sent armored vehicles, and the United Nations is considering a military intervention to restore order, which has been approved by UN Secretary General António Guterres.
US officials say the resolution is expected to pass in early November and have specifically mentioned Canada as a candidate to lead such a mission.
“There are a number of countries that have the expertise to do this, and among those countries is Canada,” Blinken’s deputy for the Western Hemisphere, Brian Nichols, said earlier this week during a briefing. a press conference before the trip.
One important step Canada could take, Joly said, would be to impose sanctions on individuals and organizations that are involved in gang funding and anarchy.
“We need to make sure we have a strong approach to sanctions” alongside parallel efforts emerging in the UN Security Council, she said.
“The conversation about sanctions is good and alive, and we need to make sure those who benefit from the violence on the streets of Port-au-Prince are held accountable.”
Blinken and Joly also discussed the latest Canada-US irritant: a stalemate over the trusted traveler program known as Nexus, a bilateral effort between border officials to expedite screened visitors.
While Nexus offices in the United States – closed during the COVID-19 pandemic – have been open since April, Canada’s 13 enrollment centers remain closed because Customs and Border Protection refuses to send agents to staff them.
The agency wants its Nexus agents in Canada to have the same level of legal protection they enjoy at existing ports of entry like the land border and airports, but the federal government has suggested such changes would be impossible.
Both Blinken and Joly suggested on Thursday that the two close allies would be able to resolve the impasse sooner rather than later.
“We are in solution mode and we will find a solution, I am convinced of that,” Joly said.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 27, 2022.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press