The Canadian government is escalating efforts to help Haiti’s national police, deploying a long-range military aircraft to provide intelligence on the country’s menacing gangs.
The Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft, a CP-140 Aurora, was observed patrolling Haiti’s airspace on Saturday much to the surprise and curiosity of many Haitians.
Canada’s Minister of National Defense Anita Anand and the Minister of Foreign Affair Mélanie Joly confirmed the presence of the long-range patrol aircraft in a statement on Sunday. Its deployment, they said, is part of Canada’s efforts to support the Haiti National Police and to “disrupt the activities of gangs in Haiti and demonstrate Canada’s commitment to the Haitian people.”
“This Canadian patrol aircraft will provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability to bolster efforts to establish and maintain peace and security for the people of Haiti,” the statement said. “The CP-140 aircraft has already deployed to the region and is currently operating over Haiti. It will remain in the region for a number of days.”
Last October, Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry made a formal appeal for the deployment of a specialized international force to assist the overstretched Haiti National Police confront increasingly powerful gangs that now control most of the capital. The request was supported by the United Nations secretary-general and the United States, which doesn’t want to lead such a force but would like for Canada to do so.
Following the request, the Ottawa government sent a high-level delegation with military and police experts to Port-au-Prince to assess the security situation and see how Canada can contribute to the international response. That short visit was followed by another fact-finding mission, this time led by Canada’s United Nations ambassador, Bob Rae, in December.
Despite the visits and engagement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the matter — he’s spoken to Henry, Caribbean leaders, including Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness who last week said his nation would be willing to participate in a multinational deployment, and most recently President Joe Biden during a North American Leaders Summit in Mexico — there appears to be little enthusiasm by Ottawa to deploy its troops. Instead, the country has focused on issuing financial sanctions against Haitians they believe are enabling gangs — 15 so far, while the Biden administration has issued four — and reinforcing the ill-equipped police force to fight criminal gangs,
During an appearance before a U.N. Security Council meeting last month, in which foreign diplomats continued to appeal to Haiti’s political class to find a consensus on the country’s governance absence an elected leader or any lawmakers, Rae spoke of continued efforts by Canada to help the police. His comments came a day before seven police officers were killed in three separate gang ambushes in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley, just north of the capital. The killings, which would spark rioting and a strike that same week, were the latest police killings to haunt the country.
Some 78 police officers have been killed, most of them in gang ambushes, since Henry took office in July 2021, the Port-au-Prince-based National Human Rights Defense Network said. Fourteen of the deaths occurred last month, the deadliest month for the force in recent memory. The deaths were the latest blow to a force already suffering from high-rates of attrition and low morale as they increasingly become targeted by heavily armed kidnapping gangs.
“We need to do more, that’s clear. We also need to do things differently than in the past,” Rae to the Security Council. “We need to learn from the history of large, outside military interventions in Haiti because they have actually failed to bring about long-term stability for Haitians. Canada believes profoundly that all of the solutions that we look to, must be led by Haitians and by Haitian institutions and that’s the only way we’re going to be able to create an impact on the current violence that will be sustainable and that will actually last.”
Rae said Canada wasn’t actually thinking about doing some things, but his nation was actually “doing some things we didn’t think could be done.” This includes working with the Haitian national police to better understand the gang crisis. The country is also increasing its assistance and financing to police.
“We’re not just talking about training, we’re not just talking about financing, we’re doing it. We’re also providing better equipment, because that’s required,” he said. “And we have to make sure that the police force has the capacity to deal with the level of violence that’s being experienced in the country.”
© 2023 Miami Herald
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.