Diaspora in Montreal to build bridges


Joël Augustin, directeur du Front uni de la diaspora haïtienne

By Lila Dussault, La Presse, August 27, 2023

At a time when thousands of people are losing their lives in Haiti, representatives of the Haitian community from around the world are gathering in Montreal this weekend. Their goal: to bring the Haitian voice - and solutions - to the crisis. La Presse spoke to them.

Since Friday, nearly 200 members and leaders of the Haitian community, not only from the Caribbean but also from Europe and the United States, have been gathering at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) to make their voices heard.

Under the theme "Breaking Down Walls, Building Bridges", the International Convention of the Haitian Diaspora includes speeches, assessments and workshops designed to move beyond an inventory of the crisis and highlight concrete, joint actions.

Haiti is facing a major humanitarian and security crisis, particularly since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 2,400 people have been killed in Haiti. According to the United Nations, already almost twice as many as in 2022. At the end of July, Kenya said it was ready to lead a multinational force and deploy 1,000 police officers "to help train and assist the Haitian police in restoring normalcy in the country".

"Haiti is in such a state of disrepair, of breathlessness, that people are tired, and some say there are no more solutions," sums up Ginette Chérubin, Haiti's former Minister for the Status of Women and a member of the Montana Accord coalition.

"There's another current, to which I belong, that doesn't want to hear about international intervention, because there's already been so much of it", Chérubin adds

"And what did it achieve? It was a total failure," Pearl Hippolyte, vice-president of the Association Amitié France-Haïti, responds.

Some international missions have left Haiti with bad memories. This was the case when UN peacekeepers were accused of sexual assault. They were also at the root of a cholera epidemic some ten years ago, which killed almost 10,000 people.

Speaking with one voice

"There are many things that need to change in Haiti, where the state is not at the service of the nation and where international tutelage weighs heavily," analyzes Ms. Hippolyte. 'We need to free ourselves because we need to recover our sovereignty."

A break is needed in the current system to initiate a genuine transition," she adds, referring to elections to set up a legitimate government.

Since the assassination of President Moïse, the country has been led by the much-contested Prime Minister Ariel Henry. He was supported by the CORE Group, which brings together some of the most powerful ambassadors and international organizations in Haiti, including the Canadian ambassador.

During the Convention, the idea is to overcome the different points of view to speak with one voice. "We need to re-establish trust between the various Haitian civil society organizations," stresses Joël Augustin, director of the Front uni de la diaspora haïtienne, one of the largest groups in the United States.

And be heard

At the other end of the spectrum, the international community needs to listen to Haitian civil society, say the people we met. "We don't understand why it refuses to listen to Haitian organizations and expatriates", laments Mr. Augustin.

The aim of this weekend's Convention is therefore to develop leadership, denounce international inaction and demand "a real interlocutor, with real dialogue", adds Ms. Hippolyte. "We want to raise our voice, our real voice, because there's no more time to wait."

A summary of the discussions and workshops will be made at the end of the weekend, explains Kerlande Mibel, CEO and founder of the International Black Economic Forum and co-organizer of the event. The Convention could even lead to a "Declaration of Montreal", she adds.


Translated by CHIP editors


Posted Sept. 2, 2023