Recent Feature Articles

By: Letter signed by *, The Guardian, Feb. 13, 2018

In 2008 some of us had written to Barbara Stocking, then Oxfam chief executive, objecting to a report that it sponsored, Rule of Rapists in Haiti, which labelled Haitians as rapists while hiding rapes by occupying UN forces. The year before, 114 soldiers had been sent home for raping women and girls, some as young as 11. No one was prosecuted. We wrote: “NGOs like Oxfam have known about rapes by UN forces, as well as by aid and charity workers, for decades. It’s the pressure of victims, women and [children] in the most impoverished communities, who had the courage to speak out that finally won … public acknowledgement.” There was no reply.

The latest revelations of sexual abuse by major charities (Report, 13 February), are but one facet of NGO corruption. The people of Haiti were the first to free themselves from slavery, but the colonial “masters” they defeated – France, Britain and the US – have continued to plunder and exploit, including through imported NGOs. Haiti has more NGOs per square mile than any other country and it remains the poorest in the western hemisphere. Corruption begins and ends with neo-colonial powers.

While celebrated for “doing good”, NGO professionals do well for themselves. They move between NGOs, academia and political appointments, enjoying a culture of impunity while they exercise power over the poorest. The Lancet described NGOs in Haiti as “polluted by unsavoury characteristics seen in many big corporations” and “obsessed with raising money”.

Figures for earthquake relief range from $10bn to $13.4bn. Some of us who visited Haiti have seen little or no sign of that money. The…

By Eli Rosenberg, Washington Post,  Feb. 9, 2018

The charity Oxfam admitted Friday that some of its employees engaged in sexual misconduct while doing disaster recovery work in Haiti, after an explosive report in a British newspaper detailed allegations that staff members were throwing “Caligula”-like parties with prostitutes at a guesthouse the charity had rented for them.

The Times of London’s investigation, published Thursday, also detailed allegations that Oxfam’s country director used prostitutes, as part of the raft of misconduct alleged to have occurred while the organization deployed to help the reeling island nation recover after a devastating 2010 earthquake.

Prostitution is illegal in Haiti; the age of consent is 18.

“This behaviour was totally unacceptable, contrary to our values and the high standards we expect of our staff,” Oxfam, one of Britain’s largest charities, said in a statement on Friday.

The Times’s report was based on sources familiar with the organization’s work in Haiti around that time as well as a report summarizing an internal Oxfam investigation into the allegations from the time.

The organization’s country director admitted having prostitutes come to the villa that Oxfam had rented for him, according to the internal report as cited by the Times. The director was not fired but offered a deal, the Times reported. He was allowed to resign, provided he cooperated with the investigation.

The Times reported that the organization’s inquiry was limited by its desire to keep it out of…

By Janine Jackson & Jake Johnston, Counterspin, Jan. 24, 2018

Janine Jackson: Donald Trump’s vituperative language was his own, as he lamented the presence of Haitians in the United States, including the 60,000 whose temporary protected status he was ending. But when CBS News described Haiti as “a shamble, made worse by a corrupt government,” or the Washington Post declared its “chronic instability rivals its profound poverty as a source of suffering,” they were likewise reflecting a particular story US elites tell about Haiti and its relationship to the US.

Journalists like Jonathan M. Katz at the Washington Post and Amy Wilentz at The Nation noted the galling absence of basic history from public conversation, the decades of repeated invasions, occupations and exploitation and a special animus towards a country where former slaves gained independence.

It’s been said that Haiti needs new narratives. The prevalent one, that says the country is inherently chaotic and corrupt, and the US and UN are just helpers doing their best, could be upended by simply steadier, contextualized reporting on events.

Our next guest has reported on Haiti for years now. Jake Johnston is a research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and lead author for CEPR’s Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog. He joins us know by phone from Washington, DC.

 

Welcome back to CounterSpin, Jake Johnston.

Jake Johnston: Thanks for having me.

Jackson: Let’s get right to the story that you’ve just reported for CEPR and The Intercept. What can you tell us about what happened last November 13 in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood Grand Ravine?

Johnston: So this was an anti-gang operation planned in conjunction with the local police department and United Nations mission in Haiti, called…

By Dady Chery, News Junkie Post, Jan.13, 2018

One would think that, now that the despised 14-year long United Nations Mission for the (de)Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH) has been forced to shut down, Haiti would be on the road to some modest, sustained, recovery from the devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. It is not. The Republic of Haiti has never been in greater danger than it is now.

 

From MINUSTAH to MINUJUSTH

The proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far,” is actually West African. It should resonate with Haitians, who have lived with colonists long enough to know that they can tone down their rhetoric as they prepare to administer their coup de grace. Consider for example the U.S. State Department’s press release on the inauguration of the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) on Oct. 16, 2017, one day after MINUSTAH’s departure. “The United States is a longstanding partner of Haiti,” the press release coos, but it goes on to prove that the old master has not become a partner, with another statement: “We commend MINUSTAH for the contributions toward advancing Haiti’s long-term security, democratic development, and economic growth.” This is not something anyone would say except a colonial master who is satisfied with his work. According to the UN’s own situation report in May 2017, Haiti, a country of about 10 million people, had more than 2.35 million people who were “severely food insecure,” 143,110 severely malnourished, 49,691 still internally displaced…

By Jake Johnston, The Intercept, Jan. 10, 2018

At 5 o'clock on the morning of November 13, more than 200 Haitian police officers raided the Grand Ravine area of Port-au-Prince. There was a series of loud explosions, followed by gunfire. For the next six hours, the commotion didn’t stop. The neighborhood was under siege.

What had started as an anti-gang operation in a poor and largely forgotten neighborhood — in a poor and largely forgotten country — ended in the summary execution of innocent civilians on a school campus.

The police officers were working with the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti. It was launched in October, a reboot of a previous mission that had begun in 2004, when thousands of U.N. troops were sent to Haiti following a coup d’etat, tasked in part with restoring stability and reinforcing national police capacities.

And though the U.N. mission issued a statement days after the raid calling for a prompt investigation by Haitian authorities, it did not publicly acknowledge its own role in the operation. But in late December, a U.N. spokesperson confirmed to The Intercept for the first time that the mission had helped plan the raid, though it distanced itself from the civilian deaths.

“The reported civilian death[s] were not part of the planned operation but of a unilateral action conducted by some [Haitian police] officers after the conclusion of the operation,” the spokesperson, Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, wrote in an email. The raid of the school, according to the U.N. statement, was done without authorization, without alerting the police hierarchy, and outside of…

By Jason Markusoff, Maclean's, Jan. 10, 2018

New York City never proved to be what the songs had promised to Eugene Mabon. The 30-year-old Haitian couldn’t find work. He got kicked out of the first home that took him in and had to live off a friend’s charity. He’d already tried finding a better life in Brazil, but gave up after three years doing factory jobs for a pittance. His journey north to America took him by plane, bus and foot, through jungle, through water. And Statue of Liberty City proved a lousy place to land.

In August, he heard the same thing as thousands of fellow Haitians in the U.S.: Canada was welcoming, more stable, altogether better, and its open door lay across a ditch on the Quebec-New York line. “I believe that once you’ve lived here for a couple years, you become a good man and can live a good life,” he says.

The first few months of that life featured sporadic temp gigs (including at a dollar-store distributor) and a shared studio apartment in Montreal. On a mid-December Tuesday, he donned his baseball cap and heaviest coat to slog through a 20-cm Montreal snowstorm to a job fair where a plastic kayak manufacturer offered dozens of assembly and labour crew positions for up to $14.86 an hour. The north-end community centre Maison d’Haïti was crammed with more than 100 fellow Haitian migrants waiting for hours to fill in applications and hear the job pitch from human-resources officials in French, and the centre director’s clarifications in their native Creole.

For these newcomers, the future is as slippery as their first Canadian snowstorm. Would they find decent work in this new country? Would they be allowed to stay, accepted as refugees from Haiti? When will they get to plead their cases before the Immigration and Refugee Board? And if they fail, what then?

Those migrants looking to Canada’s leaders for some…

By Alison Northcott, CBC News, Jan. 2, 2018

Like many asylum seekers who have recently arrived in Montreal, Junior Amisial is eager to build a life in Canada.

Originally from Haiti, the 31-year-old had been living with his wife and three children in Florida for two years, but crossed the border illegally from the U.S. into Quebec in August.

They are part of a wave of thousands of people who have left the U.S. to seek asylum in Canada in the past year.

While he waits for his hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board to find out if his refugee claim will be accepted, Amisial has found an apartment, a school for his kids, applied for a work permit from the federal government and is now looking for a job.

"Having a job is the first step," he said. "I can start working in Canada to get off of social assistance and start paying taxes to improve my life."

 

Quebec labour crunch

Quebec is in the midst of a labour shortage brought on by an aging population and economic growth. The province's unemployment rate was 5.4 per cent in November, one of the lowest rates in Canada, and Quebec's lowest in decades.

It means employers across several sectors are desperate for both skilled and unskilled workers, and some see an opportunity in the recent wave of asylum seekers like Amisial.

By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, Dec. 27, 2017

Five features characterized the year 2017 in Haiti: “corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption, and corruption,” to paraphrase President Jovenel Moïse.

He made that formulation memorable by saying in September that those were the five main problems Haiti faces. Such straight-faced hypocrisy adds to the surreal nature of 2017, where the most patently corrupt politicians pretend to lead in the fight against corruption.

“I alone have the solution for the question of corruption,” Moïse declared on National Television on Dec. 3. “Nobody else!”

Having won the controversial, anemic elections of Nov. 20, 2016, Moïse assumed office on Feb. 7 under indictment for money-laundering, which was painstakingly detailed in a 68-page report in August 2016 by the government’s Central Financial Intelligence Unit (UCREF). Moïse tried to fire UCREF’s director general Sonel Jean-François in April, but his proposed replacement refused the post. Finally Moïse succeeded in replacing Jean-François with a lackey on Jul. 6, prompting the ousted UCREF chief to say: “We have a dictatorship taking shape.”

The next day, Moïse also replaced Lionel Constant Bourgoin as head of the government’s other watchdog agency, the Anti-Corruption Unit (ULCC), with Maj. David Bazile, who sits on…

By Medhi Hasan, UpFront, Dec. 26, 2017

The issue of immigration continues to divide public opinion around the world, but the Canadian government says it is charting a different course.

Canada is regarded as a role model for its acceptance and treatment of immigrants, at a time when many countries are closing their borders and anti-refugee sentiment is high.

Watch the interview

When asked, however, why the number of refugees went down from 55,000 to 40,000 in 2017 in the midst of an ongoing and massive global refugee crisis, the country's immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, says: "2016 was an exceptional year because of the Syrian refugee response. We always knew that would be an exceptional year. But if you take out that year and you compare 2017 with our previous years, you will see that the numbers are higher."  

With regards to US President Donald Trump's travel ban, Hussen doesn't believe a similar policy would be put forward in Canada.

"I would call it a wrong-headed policy if the opposition in Canada proposed such a measure, but I don't think they would," says Hussen.

In this week's Headliner, we speak with Ahmed Hussen, a former Somali refugee who now serves as Canada's immigration minister, about the country's ambitious immigration policy.

 

Posted Dec. 30, 2017

By Meagan Campbell, Maclean's, Dec. 18, 2017

A sixth borough of New York City might just exist; it could be a realm called Limbo. Twenty thousand Haitians live throughout other neighbourhoods but in a state of temporariness, waiting every couple of years to see if the federal government will allow them to renew their temporary protective status—and stay in the United States—for a processing fee of US$495 per person.

In subway stations, a Brooklyn advocate named Herold Dasque distributes flyers asking New Yorkers to lobby government officials to extend the Haitian status America-wide, at least one more time. “You will have 50,000 Haitians who will try to go in hiding,” says Dasque about the consequences of terminating the designation. “They will not go to work, not go to church,” he says. “You don’t go outside.”

Dasque’s campaign didn’t sway the Department of Homeland Security. It announced in late November that it will end the temporary protective status for Haiti, though it will delay deportations until July 2019.

Since the U.S. first warned in May 2017 that it might end the protected status, thousands of asylum seekers, many of them Haitian, have headed for Canada. In 2018, even more are expected to follow, adding pressure to an already backlogged refugee processing system.

Canadian members of Parliament have already begun meeting face-to-face with Haitians and officials in New York, as well as in Florida, attempting to end illegal crossings into Canada—17,000 asylum claimants from around the world were intercepted by the RCMP this year.

Among the recipient cities and towns, Montreal converted its Olympic Stadium into an emergency shelter in August, and about two weeks before that the Canadian Forces set up tents in Cornwall, Ont. As Canada attempts to warn asylum seekers against going…