[A bougainvillea blooms amid earthquake ruin in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. Photo by Meghan Bond]
There has been no shortage of terrifying news coming out of Haiti. A political vacuum after the 2021 assassination of Haiti’s president. Corruption. Gang control. Violence. Illegal weapons. Not enough food. Kidnapping. Murder. Rape. Are you wondering what’s next?
We are not here to deny the reports or to trivialize the very real suffering that is happening in Haiti every day.
We are here to listen, to learn, and (hopefully) to foster a deeper understanding of the complex history, current situation and culture of Haiti, and the perspectives of our Haitian partners.
During his visit to Canada in September, our Haitian guest Renaud Thomas (Director of Rayjon Share Care Haiti), had a lot to say about Haiti—what’s happening and why, potential solutions, and what hope he has for the future.
“I’m not the president but I can still drive some changes with my actions. And I think about what I can do to bring some changes in my country and bring some hope in the communities.” —Renaud Thomas
Looking forward, we’ll return to Renaud’s key messages to Canadians:
1- Port-au-Prince is not Haiti. Outside of the capital, many districts continue about their daily lives and business, growing and even thriving. We encourage you to read our Annual Report to learn more about the many Haitian-led initiatives that are strengthening communities for the long-term.
“[W]hen we talk about Haiti, we talk about Port-au-Prince…So it is true that things in Port-au-Prince are not going well, but in the other departments things are better…[W]e cannot reduce Haiti to 1/10 of its area. 90% of Haiti is doing well.”
2- Foreign intervention alone won’t solve the problems. Haitians must lead the way forward, granted the right to determine their future.
Like you, we’re anxiously awaiting news on the status and planned timeline of the proposed UN force to Haiti1. It’s possible that the force could help to restore some stability, and could, temporarily at least, impose limits on the power of the gangs that terrorize the capital. But the majority of Haitians have made it clear that they don’t welcome the force, and there are very valid concerns over the approach that will be taken, and potential exploitation and/or human rights violations.
Ultimately, the biggest concern remains that the proposed intervention will not address the fact that the Haitian people have not been given the opportunity to choose their own leader and their own path forward. It will not stop the fact that the international community continues to prop up an unelected leader. It will not end the deadly flow of weapons and drugs into Haiti2, and into the hands of gang leaders. It will not erase the pain caused by a history of abuse, control and political occupation by imperial powers (including the US, Canada and France)3, 4, 5.
“The first thing I would do would be to ask the international community to let the Haitian people decide, for them to be more involved in the country’s politics. Secondly, I would ask them to control the ports, the airports, and the shipment of weapons and munitions in Haiti.”
3- Change must come from within, as communities rise up and forge their own destinies. (Note: Change also is coming from within! Read our Annual Report!)
Also from the radio interview, Gabriel asked Renaud, “As a young man, what is your hope for Haiti which is as well a country of young people? What future do you see for Haiti?” Renaud replied:
“That’s a complex question… There isn’t one specific answer to this question. So, on my end, I see that what we are doing with the communities, educating young people, helping women to be independent and empowered, creating the values for people and bringing a prosperity that will help reforestation… So for me, this is the path that will lead to the change that we all hope for Haiti. So, in a word, I will say that for a positive change to happen in Haiti, it will have to come from the communities in the first place.”
Renaud’s words reinforce our confidence in our partners to effect real and lasting change—in the face of a complex and difficult reality.
We do want to draw attention to Haiti’s history, often silenced, and the many ways that the Haitian people have been denied the right to claim their identity and culture. (And we celebrate the many ways that Haitians like Renaud are reclaiming their identity and culture). We call on leaders and governments around the globe to ensure that the voices of the Haitian people are centred in any discussion about the future of Haiti, and their leadership in any plan of action.
There are lots of ways that Canadians can work with Haiti, and with Haitians, in respectful partnership and collaboration. We will make mistakes, but together we will continue to learn, grow and change. This is Rayjon’s mission, vision and plan. Your solidarity and support of Rayjon Share Care and our Haitian partners is a great place to start!
“Haiti will rise… The day will come when Haiti will be back to being a proud nation.” —Renaud Thomas