You are absolutely right, Mr. Chair. I would like to thank those who work on this committee. Indeed, as the chair said, our interventions in other countries are highly complex, and we must always make multinational efforts in foreign affairs.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your invitation to be here today to speak about Canada's efforts in Haiti. This is perhaps one of the best examples of what you have just outlined as a situation where there are many countries involved in an effort to elevate the current situation and strife that is going on in Haiti today.
Canada's approach and expertise and long track record have, over the years, helped consolidate a leadership role in the international efforts to restore stability to a country that remains the hemisphere's poorest and most fragile state. We recognize the need for a long-term commitment from the international community to support Haitian priorities. We also realize the need for a more comprehensive approach towards emergency aid, security, rehabilitation, and long-term development.
Canada can continue to make a difference, building on past and recent investment to continue the leadership role that is expected by Canadians and Haitians and by key partners, including the European Union, Latin America, and the United States of America.
What happens in Haiti has an impact on Canada, the region, the US and our Caribbean partners. Haiti remains an important transit point for drugs and arms where organized crime and issues of illegal migration continue to pose significant challenges. The country's situation also poses health risks with the increased potential for the spread of disease in a region that is a key tourist destination for Canadians.
Canada's government-wide strategy has been focussed on creating and supporting conditions of success for Haiti's long-term reconstruction. There has been extensive cooperation and consultation between my department, CIDA, DND and the RCMP.
So, Mr. Chairman, what are the conditions here for success in Haiti today?
Security, first and foremost. The strengthening of democratic processes and governance must be combined, as always, with the key elements of human rights, reconstruction efforts, and political momentum. That is to say, there appears to be a focus amongst many of the international partners right now to help the situation in Haiti, so time is of the essence.
Security itself involves working closely with the United Nations stabilization mission in Haiti. DND and the RCMP have been supporting the pressing needs of security and stabilization by their presence. Restoring and maintaining security is also vitally important.
Up to 100 Canadian police are currently participating in the UN stabilization mission, which is mandated to ensure a secure environment, help restore law and order, and reform the Haitian national police. Canada maintains a strategic presence of key staff officers at mission headquarters, including the chief of staff and the commissioner position of the United Nations civilian police mission.
Canada is also working with Haitian authorities and our international partners to ensure that the new UN mandate for Haiti—replacing the one that will run out in August—adequately contributes to longer-term social and economic development needs that currently exist in Haiti.
Speaking to the democratic process and governance next, credible elections and the inauguration of an elected government were also key ingredients for long-term reconstruction goals and development in Haiti. Canada's contribution, both financial--over $30 million--and to the electoral process, is well recognized by Haitians and our international partners. Elections Canada, headed by Jean-Pierre Kingsley, led an international mission that included seven bilateral partners and some 130 Canadians as observers. Some of those included members of Parliament, as you're aware, including my colleagues Mr. Goldring and Ms. McDonough. I believe there was another member of the committee, if I'm not mistaken.
Haiti is Canada's second largest recipient of bilateral relations vis-à-vis aid and it is currently situated at about $190 million over the last two years. This is up $10 million from the original commitment.
In addition, Mr. Chair, $5 million was provided to support UN efforts to enhance electoral security, notably through the deployment of 25 Canadian police officers, experts, and the deployment of 3,500 national observers during that very critical period.
Outcomes of the February vote were reassuring, with an unprecedented 63% voter turnout, which delivered a strong mandate to President René Préval. This broad-based political support is a vital element to sustain longer-term stability and reconstruction.
Looking forward, Mr. Chair, Canada is committed to providing the necessary resources in helping re-establish effective public institutions, including law enforcement and the judiciary. That appears to be one of the key areas that still requires much attention and focus, and that is some of the lawlessness that goes on inside Haiti. So having a strong national police force and a judicial system of law enforcement is critical to the exercise.
With respect to human rights, I would like to underline that while progress was made in the area democracy, much needs to be done in the area of human rights. Haiti's weak legal system broaches human rights concerns through prolong detention without trial or sentencing.
In addition to our contribution of $190 million, Canada has played a lead role in developing and renewing the Interim Cooperation Framework with the Haitians and our international partners. In the coming days, my CIDA colleague, Minister Verner, will be briefing the committee and will provide further information in this regard.
Canada has worked to maintain Haiti as a top priority on the international agenda. We have made a point of pressing for continued engagement at the G-8, United Nations and Organization of American States and the Summit of the Americas Process. Canada is particularly pleased to see a leading role being taken up by our Latin partners, in particular, Argentina, Brazil and Chile as well as renewed engagement with the CARICOM.
Haitians taking ownership themselves over the current situation, Mr. Chair, is obviously one of the end goals. We have led efforts to bring the Haitian private sector to the table, that is, business and investment, most notably with a meeting in Ottawa last fall to discuss the minimal conditions required for economic recovery in the country. Again, this initiative met with good results, and we will be looking to a follow-up in the coming months.
On her recent trip to Haiti, Her Excellency the Governor General also engaged the private sector and civil society through an address to the Haitian Chamber of Commerce. I'm looking forward to meeting with the Governor General this week in advance of my own trip to Haiti in the coming week. I know she will have, for both personal and other reasons, much to impart from her visit, which was obviously highly publicized in Canada but, most importantly, well received within Haiti.
Capacity building, the role of parliamentarians, the role that the opposition plays in a Haitian parliament are also important experiences that members of this committee and those of you who participated in the electoral process can impart upon a Haitian parliament. More emphasis on social development is obviously what we look forward to in the future. All of this can happen with a more stable and sustained economy within the country.
Perhaps the most important lesson drawn from past efforts is the need for Haitians themselves to assume the leadership and responsibility for the implementation of their development agenda. The involvement of all sectors of Haitian society is key to putting all Haitians in charge of their future.
There is an upcoming conference that many of you may be aware of in July, where the international community will come together again to talk about the pledges that will be required in the coming days. That conference, I suspect, will garner a great deal of attention.
This leads to the comment on high-level political engagement. Visits of ministers and senior officials to Haiti and international conferences on Haiti are vital components of maintaining an international momentum that sends strong signals of the importance that we and others in the international community attach to stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Haiti.
In the last few months we've had an opportunity to demonstrate Canada's continued commitment to Haiti. I mentioned the Governor General's visit, but we also had the visit from former Prime Minister Latortue as well as from President Préval, who was here visiting Ottawa just a few weeks ago. At that time he made it very clear that his incoming government, which has yet to be sworn in, is very appreciative and is looking to Canada for this continued support.
I would also point out that the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, Peter Van Loan, also visited Brasilia in Brazil for an international conference on Haiti, which he was kind enough to attend in my absence and he has provided me updated information from that attendance.
We look forward, Mr. Chair, to robust Canadian participation in upcoming events such as the OAS general assembly in the Dominican Republic, which, as I mentioned, I will be attending, and the International Pledging Conference in July, in which Canada will be a participant.
Finally, next steps. As we have seen in the past and what appears to be approaching again, Haiti is at a crossroads. Significant obstacles continue to plague Haiti's prospects for recovery and reconstruction. Continued insecurity feeds on weak governance and institutional capacity and widespread corruption, exacerbating the deep and persistent social and economic development challenges.
The Haitian government must make efforts to reach out to opposition parties to include them in the consultations and evolve away from the highly adversarial nature of Haitian politics. Municipal and local elections should be held earlier rather than later to ensure the proper foundation for democratic development and provide the opportunity for Haitian citizens to have their say in the transformation of their lives.
The government must also take steps to develop and deal with a serious problem that continues to plague the country, that is, organized gangs that appear to be marauding in certain communities, providing terror and great instability to Haitian people.
Canadian leadership certainly does not mean going it alone, but what it does require is sustained political engagement and government-wide commitment to keep both Haitians and our international partners focused. We have learned from the failings of past international efforts in Haiti. We know that sustained international engagement, Haitian ownership and commitment, and broad, coordinated development cooperation are key ingredients for any success.
Lastly, Mr. Chair, now more than ever before, we must remain engaged with the new government in order to entrench the transformation process that will eventually ensure greater respect for human rights, the return of stability and the rule of law, and improve governance. It is a role that is expected of us from key partners such as the US and the European Union, and one that we can build upon for the development of the special relationships that we are working towards in the hemisphere.
The recent political developments as well as the actions and statements of President Préval give us cause for guarded optimism as we look forward towards the future of Haitians and of their country.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would be very pleased to take questions from members of the committee.
Thank you, Mr. Patry, for your question.
I believe what you're seeing now in Haiti is that Canada is assuming a leadership role. As far as the area of security itself is concerned, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, Canada is now playing a more active role on the security side; that is to say, we're engaged in more of the training. There are up to 100 police officers, RCMP and municipal, who are mandated to work with Haitian authorities and Haitian police, many of whom are in training, to effectively undertake the task, albeit a very challenging task, to restore law and order and stability in the communities themselves.
Canada holds the commissioner position there, as you know, and this is a very critical piece of the puzzle as far as Canada's contribution is concerned. That, I believe, being the biggest challenge, is going to take time. It's not as though you can simply impose security overnight without knowing that there will be engagement and resistance from those who are the beneficiaries of lawlessness. That is the same as is found in any country, including our own. Organized crime is an enormous undertaking to address, and there will be inevitable confrontations. And that is the sad reality in Haiti.
We have contributed specifically $5 million to the enhancement of security, so there has been money earmarked by Canada for security and training. That was particularly important, I would suggest, during the elections, which I think we should take as a telltale sign that increased efforts in the area of security can work. We saw in those elections increased participation, and enthusiasm on the part of the Haitian people to embrace the democratic process, and I think this again bodes well.
Yes, we can reflect on the past and some of the shortcomings that occurred. Some of the lessons learned are very important, but I think most importantly, to address your question directly, in the short term we can look at the recent successes and try to build on those, using the police and training officials we have there to continue to build on this foundation of stability. That is simply going to take hard work, training, and commitment on the part of those dedicated personnel who are there in Haiti doing the heaving lifting.
Thank you for your question. I will answer the last part of your question first. There was no embarrassment, nor any efforts made to downplay President Préval's visit.
I had very productive bilateral meetings with him. He attended a reception at which some members of the committee were also in attendance. I can tell you—and I hesitate to say this—his health was not good while he was in the country. It was very evident to me that he was making considerable effort to force himself to attend these meetings. He's very determined, and I think that is a tribute to his leadership and his efforts to help his country. For that reason, many of the meetings were cut short and he went back to his hotel to rest. That may be the reason that perhaps it didn't receive more attention through the media. I'm just telling you this was my observation.
I'm reminded that at the time of his visit, he had not yet been inaugurated. He was not yet officially sworn in as president, which may have contributed to some of the protocol.
With respect to your question on the deployment, yes, Canada is part of a UN-backed mission that went to Afghanistan in our largest deployment since Korea. We currently have 2,300 troops there on a rotation that has been ongoing. Approximately 14,000 troops have now gone through that deployment rotation. The goals are similar. As you know, and as you have stated, the goals are to establish stability in the region. I would again suggest that it is political decision-making in many cases as to where Canada's troops are deployed. The deployment in Afghanistan took place under a previous government, and we supported it.
The deployment that took place previously in Haiti was the decision of another government. There is no current request for an increased presence of Canadian troops in Haiti. Given the presence of the large UN force there, which is led by Brazilians, I would suggest that there is always a possibility, but it has not come. We do not foresee it coming any time soon.
As has been the suggestion by many, including members of this committee, our focus is currently on the developmental and democracy-building side. I believe that in the various stages in which Canada engages in our efforts in global international development, this is where the focus in Haiti is most wanting. To that extent, Canada is playing what has always been a traditionally very strong and powerful role, with emphasis on the development side. Because of the large diaspora of Haitians in Canada, I think this is something that Canadians take very seriously.
But we are not losing sight for a moment that stability is important. Again, that is justification for the presence of domestic police and the efforts to train and assist in the setting up of a functioning legal system that respects the rule of law and that has a judiciary.
There may in fact be more that we can do. I suspect that's very much the subject matter of this committee. Maybe we need to send more judges. Maybe we need to send a committee of parliamentarians to talk about the necessity of an effective, functioning Parliament, because I think this is going to be a coming challenge.
I'll leave it at that, Madame.
Let me begin, Mr. Goldring, by acknowledging and thanking you for the personal commitment and initiative you've shown. I know you've visited the region a number of times and have a long-standing commitment and a will to make a difference, not only in Haiti but in the Caribbean region.
The Government of Canada is certainly cognizant that it is going to take perhaps a sustained period of time to achieve the results. There have to be benchmarks. There have to be noticeable indicators within all of these areas of development--economy, democratic capacity building.... I would suggest that stability on the domestic policing side is perhaps where the greatest focus in going to be required, as you've noted.
You've been to these cities and communities. There is still a very determined group of individuals preying upon the citizens of Haiti, trying, I would suggest, to capitalize on this vulnerable stage Haiti is currently experiencing. There comes a point at which there is a tipping point, a point at which it can fall back if the international community doesn't propel it forward with all of these areas of development and support, and policing is perhaps the most important right now.
I don't want to be repetitive, but I think the elections were the surest sign that the people themselves are tiring of this ongoing struggle. Based on evidence and reporting I've received, I think there is a growing frustration within the country itself that these gangs--these bandits, as you referred to them--are continuing to control a lot of the communities. Even within the cities, in many neighbourhoods people are literally living in fear for their lives, so an increased effort on the policing side is the area in which Canada has made a concerted effort.
We've talked about the disarmament issue. Demobilization of those gangs is of critical importance, and then reintegration of those participants--after they have been taken to justice, if that's what is required--is going to be important. Penal reform, I would suggest, is also a big issue. The putting down of roots of a judicial system that will bring about a respect for rule of law and accountability is again going to be a long-term exercise, but it's starting, and it appears to me that it's starting to take hold.
I look forward to visiting the region as you have, seeing firsthand what that progress really is, and, more importantly, hearing from the individuals there about where Canada should continue its effort in the most focused and perhaps diligent fashion.
I thank you, Mr. Van Loan, for the question. I know you've just come from a conference at which this was very much the subject of discussion; that is, how we keep the international community front and centre in the effort, how we remind them that anything less right now will be another failure. It will result in Haiti again sliding into a state of chaos and lawlessness.
There are a number of occasions on which Canada can make that point, as you did in Brazil. There's the conference that's happening in the Dominican Republic this weekend, which I will attend. All of the major players will be there. Unfortunately, because of some of the internal disputes that were going on within Brazil and some other international events, many countries were perhaps not as well represented as they could have been. But there's this coming conference of the OAS in the Dominican Republic, as well as the International Pledge Conference in July, which may take place in Port-au-Prince or, depending on circumstances, may happen in Washington. That is the best forum, I would suggest, for Canada to not only show leadership in demonstrating that we are there for the Haitian people for the period of time that is required, but encourage others to similarly step up, put their money on the table, demonstrate in a tangible way that they are going to be there, and make the commitments that will be required in the short term and the long term.
Let me come back just for a moment to Mr. Goldring's point about economic development. It's only through that type of investment—and companies like Gildan Activewear are a perfect example—that Canada can also encourage the type of economic stability that's going to result. But they are co-dependent, because companies naturally will be reluctant to invest in a country where there is lawlessness and a high crime rate and risk.
That's another sad reality. Much of the natural beauty of what was once a beautiful Caribbean island has now, because of political circumstances, but because of the raping and pillaging of the resources of that country, been destroyed.
If you look by contrast at the Dominican Republic, which was not that long ago in relative world history the lesser of equals on that island, you see how tourism has flourished, how investment by large travel companies and Canadians and other business interests has flourished.
There is a very tragic dynamic in this shared island. Haitians only need to cast their eyes to the country with which they share the island to say, look at what can happen; look at how things could be and should be for us.
So back to your point, I think Canada has to continue to make intelligent and thoughtful interventions at these conferences to say why we're there, certainly expressing our commitment and encouraging others to follow suit.
I want to say how much I appreciated the opportunity to go to Haiti just before Préval's inauguration. I learned a great deal. I had some of my concerns reinforced and I changed my mind about some things. Hopefully that's what we all do when we go on a trip like that.
I have so many questions; I'm trying to boil it down.
I'm very glad to hear you stressing the importance of human rights and rule of law and so on, but I want to start with what potentially is an embarrassment, something we need to really deal with.
You will know that we had the privilege of meeting with Préval in Haiti with his senior adviser, Jacques Edouard Alexis. When Préval came to Canada just before his inauguration, Alexis was barred from entering Canada--to the monumental embarrassment, I think, of Canada--because he's supposedly “blacklisted”. I wonder if you can clarify exactly what that means.
Subsequently, by overwhelming majority of both the Senate and Parliament, Alexis was ratified as Préval's designate as prime minister. I'm just wondering if you can speak to how we're going to clean up our act in that regard and what it means.
Secondly, I share the guarded optimism, I really do. There's been a real sense of celebration thus far, based on the hope that people expressed, but at the same time, just horrendous human rights violations continue, including the imprisonment of political prisoners who have never been charged with anything. It seemed to me when we were there that one of the undercurrents is the need for that to be dealt with in a very serious way. Neptune, for instance, remains imprisoned. I had clear signals from people that he would be released before the inauguration. That appears not to have happened. I wonder what Canada is doing in that regard.
Thirdly, I think what we're attempting to do in terms of penal reform, in terms of prison reform, and in terms of judicial performance is very important. I have to say that I wasn't surprised to see, on the eve of the inauguration, a major riot in certainly the worst penitentiary I've seen in my life. I haven't seen great numbers, but these had absolutely unbelievable conditions. Teenagers who may have stolen chickens to save their families from starvation are imprisoned together with political prisoners--guilty of who knows what, and never charged with anything--together with murderers and drug dealers. Nobody really knows who is guilty of what, because nobody has ever been charged. We saw conditions in a prison where, to meet international standards, there should be four or six prisoners, but there were forty people there. They could barely stand up, and were allowed out for one hour a day from those conditions. I just wonder if you could speak specifically to that.
Finally, I want to say how impressed I was by the leadership shown by our police, by our military, by a small number of officials there. It was very refreshing to hear them making the point that security and economic development are interrelated. They pleaded the case, really, for both poverty reduction and environmental remediation. As they pointed out, we could end up salvaging a country that's unsustainable if we don't turn to that, which of course can be job-intensive.
I know I've raised four questions there. I would appreciate your comments.
Well, we certainly don't. But as I understand it--and there is much detail that's a bit sketchy because of the lack of due process and of a judicial system that operates fully in a manner to which we're accustomed--these are just allegations. So we are trying to walk that fine line between respecting Haiti's position on this and making our own independent assessment.
We are essentially in the position of basing our decision on entrance, for visa purposes, on information that's being provided to us by Haiti, which may or may not be accurate, because it hasn't been put to the test in a normal judicial hearing.
I don't think anyone would suggest that we should make the decision without input from authorities in Haiti. The problem is that because of their system of law, and even, as you know, because of the fragile state of their current parliament, which it is trying to set up and get in place, they don't have a justice minister; they don't have a foreign minister with whom I can engage in these discussions. I am hopeful that much of this is going to be alleviated when they have at least a functioning government and cabinet in place.
I'm answering this to the best of my ability without trying to put you off. But I'm suggesting that it will take time for us to be able to engage in a meaningful way with the government itself about its prime minister, which is a real anomaly, to say the least. But he was democratically put in place, which we have to respect.
There are other examples in the past of leaders who have faced similar accusations within their own countries. I think Mr. Martin is aware of some of those cases where African leaders have faced similar charges and have been permitted to come to Canada. So based on information that we have, and out of respect for the country in question, we have to make an informed decision. I think that in fairness, if this is an issue you want to pursue further, I'd certainly refer you to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. But he and I and others will be discussing this issue in the future.
On the equally delicate question of Mr. Neptune, this is again an issue that Canada has pursued. We've raised this issue. We continue to do so. Mr. Neptune, I also understand, is in the very vulnerable and difficult position of having deteriorating health problems while he's incarcerated.
You're right, there were undertakings given that he was going to be released, or at the very least given an opportunity to face an independent judicial hearing in proximity of the new government being sworn in. That has not been the case. But Canada has repeatedly raised this and will continue to do so. I will undertake to make inquiries when we go to the Dominican, and I'll be speaking directly to the president in the coming days.
You had a few other questions about prison reform and judicial reform. Having a legal system that operates, allowing the adversarial process to work, is all part of that overall capacity building that is still under way. I think Canada, as we have in the policing area, can show leadership, perhaps by dispatching personnel there. I think we have a very highly functioning and successful judicial system that Haiti can look to as a model. We have judges, both active, current judges and those who are retired, who I think are more than willing to share their expertise and their experience. So it's a matter of getting them there, or even perhaps having members of the Haitian judiciary come here, to engage in that exercise of training.
But I think most importantly, and what I've heard from you and others who've attended, and those within my own department who have been to Haiti, is that there is perhaps a growing sense of optimism in spite of all the.... My cell phone ring was very apropos to lighthearted music and a sense of optimism.
It shouldn't be false hope that we bestow upon the Haitian people. It's still going to take an incredibly important investment in so many of these areas. It's not just money, as you know. It's not simply a matter of turning over the funds and telling them to fix it themselves and use the money in their own discretion. I think there will have to be a lot of assistance in making the right decisions as to where the investments are best spent, both human resources and the financial commitment and, back to Madame Lalonde's point, giving the Haitian people a sense that they are taking charge of their own future. That, I think, will also build national pride and a sense of accomplishment.
I saw that. You and others had a chance to meet with René Préval. He strikes me as a man of great conviction, of great determination and a willingness to see his government do what others have failed to do, which is to finally succeed in pulling Haiti out of this spiral they've been in for decades.
I think the optimism is good, but it's really going to take a lot of continued sustained heavy lifting on the part of Canada and all the international partners, in particular those who are on the ground doing that work. The very least the Canadian government can do is continue to support them in every way possible.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
Since you've already introduced my good friend and colleague Mr. Jacques Bernard, as well as my friend and colleague from Elections Canada, I'll proceed and get into my text.
I will being in my mother tongue, and then I will switch to English.
It is a privilege for me to appear before this committee. I believe that this is the first time in several seasons since I have been in this position, that I am appearing before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
Today I will discuss briefly the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections (IMMHE), of which I am chair. I will review the beginnings of the IMMHE, the basic elements of the IMMHE model and what the mission accomplished. Like the International Mission for Iraqi Elections, set up in December 2004, the IMMHE represents a novel approach to international election monitoring and assessment. This innovative model on which the two missions are built focuses on the sustainability of democratic electoral processes and electoral systems, and the longer-term task of building the capacity of the country's electoral management bodies. The mission's approach is one of accompaniment—providing reports and advice on a continuous basis to the electoral management body: the Provisional Electoral Council or Conseil électoral provisoire.
The independence of the electoral authority is an essential characteristic. Such an approach cannot succeed if electoral management bodies are not at arm's length of the country's political authority.
This accompaniment is based on respect for the culture and history of the country. This is a very important element that we can discuss further. This approach is in continuation with the kind of partnerships Elections Canada has developed in the past, such as with Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute, since 1992.
In addition, it provides a base on which to build future cooperation and facilitates follow-up to recommendations, promoting standards of good practice in electoral administration.
Another unique feature of the mission is in its Steering Committee, made up of independent electoral management bodies from across the Americas. The independence that each member of the Steering Committee possesses in its own country bestows credibility and allows the mission to play an accompanying role—that is, provide ongoing guidance in developing the most appropriate electoral rules, a sound legal framework and effective administrative processes. Using internationally recognized standards and practices, the mission relies on in-depth expert assessments of numerous elements of the electoral process before, during and after the elections. These include: legal framework, voter registration, access to media and a complaints process. A total of 13 elements were examined—the full list is available on the IMMHE Web site. I will provide you with the address later on.
The model has worked well in bringing together two types of electoral expertise—that is, combining scholarly analysis with the store of experience and knowledge of leading practitioners.
I will now turn to the beginnings of the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections. In the spring of 2005, I was approached by the Department of Foreign Affairs and CIDA to explore the possibility of setting up an international election monitoring mission in Haiti. It was felt that there was a need to foster international support for the forthcoming presidential, legislative and municipal elections, which at that time were expected to take place in autumn 2005. Given Elections Canada's credentials, including our independence, our previous cooperation with Haiti (in the 1990s), and our excellent relations with other electoral management bodies across the Americas, I was asked to set up a similar model to what we had established for the Iraqi elections.
On June 15-16, an international forum was held in Montreal, under the auspices of Elections Canada. Participants included representatives of election management bodies from across the Americas, as well as the CEP, and representatives of the Organization of American States and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Following two days of discussions, the heads of eight independent electoral management bodies from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, and the United States formed a Steering Committee and agreed on structure and aims of the mission. That was the goal of the two-day forum. It was thus that the IMMHE was established.
I will now switch to English.
In early August 2005, the IMMHE established a secretariat in Port-au-Prince. Beginning in September of the same year, long-term observers were deployed throughout the country, two teams of two in 10 areas of the country, and provided weekly updates to the steering committee. In addition, expert assessors conducted in-depth studies of the 13 aspects that I've discussed over the elections.
The mission further deployed some 130 short-term election observers for both the February 7 and the April 21 rounds of elections. They were drawn from Canada principally, as well as from CARICOM countries and a small number from Japan. We coordinated with other observation missions in Haiti, both international and domestic, to ensure maximum coverage throughout the country. Of course, we constituted the major international mission in Haiti.
The IMMHE has issued several statements and reports, beginning in October 2005, with its interim assessment report, which examined the legal framework, the voter registration system, and electoral preparations. The most recent report was issued on April 24, shortly after the second round of legislative elections. We are now preparing the final report, which is to be released in the coming weeks.
All of the reports from our group are available on the website, and the address is in the notes that I provided to you in five languages. You will have understood that it's in English, French, Creole, Spanish, and Portuguese.
I brought along copies of those reports in English and French for committee members. They are available to you through the clerk.
The IMMHE worked very closely with the CEP, and more particularly with its director general, Monsieur Jacques Bernard. I would say that the emphasis should be on our relationship with Mr. Bernard throughout the whole procedure, since his assumption of responsibilities in late October, if I remember correctly. His leadership since that time has provided the momentum to ensure that electoral preparations were carried out and to coordinate the contributions of all stakeholders, including the OAS and the MINUSTAH. We provided advice and made substantive recommendations throughout the process through the good offices of Mr. Bernard.
Special mention can be made regarding our coordination with MINUSTAH, which was crucial in addressing security needs, a real concern for all of us, especially for the first round, as I'm sure some members will remember.
I would like to underline the excellent collaboration that the MINUSTAH leadership provided to us, especially through Juan Gabriel Valdés, as well as Gerardo Le Chevalier.
I would like to recognize the important role played by the OAS, which was responsible for setting up the voters list that registered voluntarily 3.5 million Haitians out of a total eligible population of 4.5 million, and for the leadership provided in that respect by a fellow Canadian, Elizabeth Spehar. She did this in her OAS capacity, not her Canadian capacity.
Another significant accomplishment of the mission was the involvement of CARICOM, and I wanted to underline that. It became an integral part of the mission, in good part due to the involvement of Danville Walker, the chief electoral officer of Jamaica, who is also vice-chair of the steering committee. On a number of occasions, he went to Haiti independent of our group, in light of his vice-chairmanship. For that, I am grateful to him.
I must say that bringing CARICOM into the picture, even though not as a formal step in the international community, has resulted in what we consider to be greatly improved prospects for Haiti's reintegration into the region.
The IMMHE has succeeded in attracting attention, by the way, beyond the region itself. When I met with U.K. foreign office officials in March of this year, dealing principally with our mission in Iraq, by the way, they expressed great interest and support for what we were doing in Haiti.
Officials from la Francophonie, with whom we also had special relationships, were also very pleased. Colonel Sangaré, who was on the ground in Haiti until recently, represented la Francophonie, as well as Madam Christine Desouches, who is responsible for electoral democracy matters for the la Francophonie.
In my view--and I'm here to discuss that--the IMMHE has provided an effective means of addressing both the short-term need to verify the legitimacy and the legality of the elections and the long-term need to foster democratization by strengthening the capacity of the Haitian electoral commission.
I suspect, Mr. Chair, that you would like to hear from my good friend and colleague Mr. Jacques Bernard at this time, before we go to the exchange portion of this visit.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm going to follow in the path of my good friend Jean-Pierre Kingsley and start in English, and then I'll switch to French later on.
Let me start by thanking the members of the committee for the opportunity to address them. I would also like to extend my thanks to the people of Canada, who have graciously agreed to contribute to the financing of Haitian elections. And of course, my special thanks to Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley and his team of both long-term and short-term observers for their advice and help to the Haitian provisional electoral council. They have contributed significantly to the success of the two rounds of elections.
These elections were very different from any previous elections in Haiti. One can say with certainty that they truly reflect the will of the Haitian people in that both the president and parliament were legitimately elected. I am glad to report that no one in Haiti contested the legitimacy of the polling process. The electoral process was transparent and open to all political parties as well as domestic and foreign observers.
While it is not possible here to describe the process in its entirety, we think it is necessary to highlight some of the new features that truly differentiate this election from any held previously in Haiti. We will mention only six innovations: the identify card, the electoral list, the voting centres, the tabulation centre, publication on the Internet, and the legal challenges to the results.
The identity card. I think it is very important to talk about the identity card, because for the first time in the history of Haiti we have registered 3.5 million citizens out of 4.5 million potential voters. The card is not only a voting card; it is also an identity card, and it's supposed to last 10 years, so we will be able to use it in subsequent elections. The card has not only the picture of the individual but also their fingerprint. When we did the matching of all 3.5 million fingerprints, we found only 5,000 duplicates. So to that extent, it was a very successful operation. Let me also point out that out of that 3.5 million people, 600,000 never had any documents to identify them positively as Haitian citizens. I think it is remarkable. It is almost a revolution in the history of Haiti.
From the data generated from the identity card, we built an electoral list that has not only the picture of the individual but also, in a bar code, the number of the identity card. So when the voters go to vote they can be identified not only by the identity card but also from the picture that is on the electoral list. A voter would sign next to his picture so that he wouldn't be able to vote twice. I think these are very significant innovations, because never before have we had them in any Haitian election.
Voting centres. Traditionally in Haiti we had about 13,000 polling stations, and nobody had any control of them. We had 13,000 polls, and we didn't have the logistical capability to monitor them. But what we did this time was to work them into 802 voting centres so that the CEP as an institution had the capability to monitor the 802 voting centres, and the observers, both domestic and international, were able to be there at one voting centre and monitor maybe 20, 30, 40, even 50 polling stations within the voting centres. Also, from a security point of view for the observers and for the CEP, it was a fantastic idea. But I'll tell you, the politicians were very much against it because they said the people would not walk so far to vote. But I think the numbers proved them wrong, because 63% of the eligible voters voted in the first round of elections.
Then we developed what we call the tabulation centre, which is a centre where we bring all the reports to compile them. It is very important because traditionally in Haiti that is where fraud is committed. But this time we controlled it. We entered the data twice by two independent operators, with no possibility of collusion between the operators, and only when the numbers matched would they go down to the servers to be compiled.
So we think this election legitimately reflects the will of the Haitian people. But in addition to that, we published all the reports on the Internet, not only the results of the election but each individual report per polling station, so that the candidate could sit in the comfort of his living room and compile his own results. And I think most of the Haitians overseas who are interested in what's going on in Haiti were very appreciative of the fact that they could go to the Internet on a daily basis and follow the election almost hour by hour.
The last thing I want to talk about is the legal challenges of the results. Before, the electoral council in any previous election would just announce the winner. This time the losers in the election could challenge the results in two different courts. They can go to a first level of tribunal at the departmental level, and if they're not satisfied with the outcome they can go to a second level of tribunal at the national level. And I must say that we did give a number of people who challenged the results the chance to present themselves. Once the rulings were made we didn't have any more challenges, nor did we have any more complaints in terms of the results published by the CEP.
So all in all, I think these elections were very legitimate, and I would say that the contribution of the IMMHE observation mission was significant to the success of these elections, because at the CEP we developed a working relationship with them, and it was a two-way relationship. We would give them information and they would tell us what they saw in the field, and that would allow us to correct a lot of mistakes in the field. Contrary to the other observation missions, we had a much closer relationship with IMMHE, and I must give it credit because, very frankly, it truly contributed to the success of the elections.
Now that we have a president and we have a parliament, unfortunately the process is not complete. We still have the local elections. The local elections can be divided into four categories: the municipal election for the mayors, the ASEC, CASEC, and the town delegates.
For the ASEC, CASEC, and town delegates, it's very difficult now to have this election, for a number of reasons. Number one, I will have to do a lot of redistricting. Number two, there is no legal framework for these people to operate, because we never had them before in Haiti. They came with the 1987 constitution, but for whatever reason, the Government of Haiti has always neglected to create the legal framework for these elected officials to operate. Number three, frankly, that would add about 9,000 more civil servants to the payroll of the government, a government that cannot even pay the people who are currently working in Haiti.
So there are problems that will have to be resolved before we can do the ASEC, the CASEC, and the town delegates.
For municipalities, I believe that it is absolutely necessary to hold elections for several reasons.
In Haiti, we have 142 communes, and there is a mayor for each commune. Therefore, there are 142 mayors in Haiti. This government structure has always existed. This legal framework has always existed, and there have always been mayors in Haiti.
What happens in Haiti when mayors are not elected? When mayors are not elected, the Department of the Interior appoints mayors. Once they are appointed, the mayors are answerable to the Department of the Interior. This situation is the most significant source of corruption in Haiti because taxes are collected by the communes and then funnelled to Port-au-Prince rather than remaining in the commune to serve the area's residents.
I believe, therefore, that it is absolutely necessary to hold municipal elections, even more so when mayors are appointed. The executive not only has political control over the country through the mayors, but it also has financial control over the whole country.
If we want to save the work that has already been done, it is absolutely necessary to hold elections as soon as possible so that the executive is not tempted to appoint mayors. I have been fighting for some time now to hold these elections.
I am coming back from Washington and I must tell you that we held several meetings with the State Department to encourage the Americans to help us finance these elections, because funding remains one of our most significant problems. The Americans have answered positively by giving us a certain amount, but we do not have all that we need to win these elections.
Given that you are privileged partners in the electoral process, through Mr. Kingsley and the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections, I must insist on saying that if we want to save the work that has already been done, we must absolutely, as soon as possible, organize municipal elections.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's not even necessary to take up the committee's time right now, but I wonder whether you might table--perhaps you're going to do so in any case with your final report--the statistics that would give us an opportunity to make the comparison between the previous election, both numbers of electors registered and the turnout, and this election. I think it's the combination of those two things that makes the achievement quite remarkable in terms of the level of participation. Separate from each other, the percentage turnout isn't as overwhelmingly impressive as when you take into account the number of electors who were actually registered.
You may want to comment, but I don't want to use up all my time asking questions.
Second, I'm more confused than ever about the status of what was clearly the provisional electoral commission. I had thought--and maybe I came away with the wrong impression--that by definition, because it was provisional until there was a duly elected government in place, that what would have been anticipated is legislation brought in to create...I don't know what it's called, but as we have in Canada, a totally independent, permanent Elections Haiti apparatus, as we have with Elections Canada. Could you clarify that?
The third thing is, I have to say, there is nothing worse than politicians who go somewhere for a few days and think they get a total impression. It's ridiculous, but it was really impressive how much you could sense a real hopefulness and pride people took in turning up at the polls with their identification, which meant they weren't facing all kinds of questions, and so on. There had been some criticism about the significant reduction in the number of polling stations, and a concern about whether this would limit access.
Could you comment on whether the recommendation would be to go with the 802, or is there some interim number between that and the previous 11,000 or 12,000, maybe even 13,000? I understand the reason for reducing, but it appears, as you've said, that it didn't severely reduce the number of participants, in fact, the opposite. Is there some recommendation about extending even more opportunities to vote, which would be based on more experience, more know-how, and so on, or would a recommendation be to stick with that?
I have one final comment. Against the backdrop of what clearly was a pretty positive experience, hundreds of political prisoners were languishing in prisons, invisible to the international community but not invisible to Haitians themselves. I think they were overwhelmingly supporters of Lavalas, not charged with anything, not entitled to any due process of law. It's hard to imagine that not being something you would comment on as part of the environment in which it's hard to say an election is completely fair and free. Somebody suggested, and it's not a bad analogy, it's like imprisoning the whole leadership of a political party in Canada and expecting that party to say yes, it was tough, but it was fair and free other than that.
I'm wondering if you chose not to comment on that part of the political landscape. It's hard to understand why it wouldn't be important to take note of this factor in the context in which you were trying to conduct this election.