There is a consensus there?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: The next one is that the committee consider the fifth report of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights concerning Iran at a later date. This is saying that the subcommittee has given us the report, that there's consensus, and that the committee will continue its study of the fourth report of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights concerning human rights in China once it has finished consideration of the committee report on democratic development.
Do we have a consensus on that?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: That is carried.
We have two motions that were on the order paper for today. Neither of the presenters of those motions are here, so we will need unanimous consent in order to deal with those motions. My understanding is that we may not get unanimous consent. If that's the case, then we would wait until Madam McDonough is here to present her motion and Mr. Goldring. Mr. Goldring's motion appears first and then Madam McDonough's.
Do we have unanimous consent to proceed without Madam McDonough here?
An hon. member: No.
The Chair: Not seeing unanimous consent, we will wait until Madam McDonough is present. I know there were also amendments to the motion that were going to be brought forward, and I know Mr. Dewar was willing to speak to those. I note for the record that he was willing to speak to those amendments, but we will wait.
That concludes the committee business.
This is meeting 60 of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Thursday, May 31. It's a special meeting today. This committee has concluded a study on Haiti, and today we go back and revisit the subject of Haiti. We have a significant update on the situation in that country.
We have as our witness, from the United Nations, Mr. Boucher, the Canadian Ambassador to Haiti; Andrew Grene, special assistant; and Edmond Mulet, the UN's special representative of the Secretary General for the UN stabilization mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH.
We very much appreciate the opportunity to hear from the three of you today. I can say that Haiti is a country about which I think all of us learned much more when we did our study, and we have much more concern and compassion for what's going on in Haiti.
We would like to hear your remarks and, if you would be willing, have you take questions from our committee.
Again, welcome, and we look forward to what you have to say.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. President, I am honoured to appear before this distinguished committee.
It is a privilege to meet with the representatives of a nation that has so illustrious an engagement in the work of peacekeeping. As a former parliamentarian myself in my home country in Guatemala, I particularly welcomed the opportunity to meet with legislators. It is a personal pleasure for me as head of MINUSTAH to acknowledge the remarkable contribution that Canada has made and is making in Haiti.
Your country played a key role in helping to stabilize the situation in Haiti in 2004 through its participation in the Multinational Interim Force. Your compatriots are playing an equally vital role in current stabilization efforts. Canadian peacekeepers and our civilian police and military components have shown exemplary dedication, courage, and professionalism. They include our current Deputy Police Commissioner, Colin Farquhar, and our military Chief of Staff, Colonel Tom Tarrant, both of whom have provided outstanding service to the mission, as have a number of former senior officials from Canada.
Alongside this as a lead donor to Haiti, Canada has provided extraordinarily generous support for the long-term work of institution building, which is indispensable for the sustainability of stabilization efforts. Canadians have also shared invaluable expertise and know-how, including the members of this Parliament, who I understand will host Haitian counterparts early next month.
Canada's multifaceted engagement testifies to your country's attachment to Haiti and its determination to help. It also speaks to your continued commitment to multilateralism and to United Nations peacekeeping. On behalf of the United Nations, I would like to convey our deep gratitude.
Mr. Chair, it may be useful to begin our discussion today with a brief update on the latest developments in Haiti and some general thoughts on what we see for the future. Today, working closely with the Haitian leadership, MINUSTAH is making significant strides toward helping Haiti move beyond crisis to reach a sustainable level of stability, but we have a long way to go. It is crucial that we stay the course.
In line with the multifaceted approach that was endorsed in this committee's most interesting and thoughtful report on Haiti, we are supporting the civilization of Haiti through four areas of activity: strengthening of political consensus and governance, maintenance of security and stability, reinforcement of institutions related to law and order, and enhancement of the social and economic fabric. Progress in each of these areas is crucial, and all are linked and interdependent.
I would like to outline some of the main challenges we see in each area and our views on how they can be addressed. The creation of a political consensus is at the core of achieving stability in Haiti. Important advances have been made in this area over the past 12 months. Headed by President René Préval, a leadership has emerged at national and local levels that enjoys an historically exceptional breadth of support and has made a concerted effort to reach out to all elements of the political spectrum. President Préval's recent announcement of anti-corruption measures shows his determination to maintain the confidence of his electorate.
But this new consensus is fragile, and in order to survive it must overcome depolarization, socio-economic division, changing alliances, and power plays that are endemic to Haitian politics. The strength of these dynamics could be seen at the end of last year and the beginning of this year when attempts were made to oust Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis or members of his cabinet. These attempts were forestalled by an effective dialogue launched by President Préval with parliamentarians, but the ongoing potential for a reversal is clear from political pressure now being placed on the Minister of Justice.
The choice of national leadership is, of course, a domestic issue. However, a sudden change in leadership could set back progress and reform programs and could undermine the potential for growth of a new culture of political cooperation and compromise. In this context, MINUSTAH and the wider international community have an important role to play in promoting dialogue and understanding. This could include encouragement from fellow parliamentarians to Haitian counterparts to play a constructive role at a critical moment in their country's history.
International support for Haiti's democratic process is also expected to include assistance for a further set of senatorial elections this coming fall, in keeping with constitutional provisions. This will require further financial assistance in an area where Canada has already been extremely generous. In addition, it will be important to advance with the creation of permanent electoral bodies, an area where the Organization of American States will also have a key role to play.
At the same time, we must seek to support the development of governance capacity at the national and local levels. MINUSTAH is providing advice to different ministries on decentralization and local government, public service delivery, civil service regulations, and local financing. The mission is also seeking to assist the customs service to improve efficiency, accountability, integrity, and security in its work. However, real progress will depend on sustained bilateral support, including in the areas of training and infrastructure. Again, we would welcome Canadian support.
On maintenance of security and stability, significant progress has been made in security in recent months. Problems in this area dominated much of the coverage given to Haiti over the previous three years. However, it should be noted that Haitian political support and ownership was indispensable to progress in this area. Little could be done until a legitimate and credible national authority was in place and publicly endorsed such an approach. These circumstances emerged last December when, after sustained efforts to engage in peaceful negotiations brought few results, President Préval gave a green light to go ahead. It then became possible to make significant inroads in dismantling the organized gangs that effectively held sections of Port-au-Prince hostage and projected a long shadow of fear across the capital and the country.
Some 700 gang members have been captured over the past three months. A number of key gang leaders have been placed in jail. Areas that were off limits before now, such as Cité Soleil and Martissant, are now accessible to the state. This progress is important, not only because it limits the ability of the gangs to attack security forces, but also because of its positive impact on public confidence in the ongoing transition process.
However, this progress should be seen as an opening battle for security for Haiti. The war for definitive stability has barely begun. Even if the few square kilometres of Cité Soleil have been returned to government control, national security structures are still not present or effective in most of the country, leaving a vacuum that risks being filled by disruptive or non-official forces. The area along the land and sea border is unguarded and subject to penetration by arms and drugs traffickers who in turn generate additional instability. The state's inability to manage its borders also undercuts the government's ability to earn its own revenue, representing a major long-term threat to stability.
Furthermore, the potential for renewed violence within the country remains very high. Haiti's poor and unemployed population includes many individuals, some of them former rank-and-file gang members, who have ready access to weapons and who see few other prospects for advancement. Influential actors may seek to engage such potentially disruptive elements for a mixture of criminal and political motives.
We have already seen an emergence of violent criminality in areas of Port-au-Prince and other parts of the country, which have not previously been threatened. We were reminded last month of the potential for political violence when the Prime Minister and other ministers were assaulted by a stone-throwing crowd in Gonaïves, a city that has historically served as the flashpoint for destabilizing movements in the country.
The long-term solution for this threat must include political and socio-economic measures, as well as the creation of Haitian security capacity.
In the short term, it is essential to consolidate progress made thus far through continued efforts to respond to and pre-empt violent activity and to deepen and expand the security presence in the country. It is clear that despite current reform efforts, which I will describe further in a moment, the Haitian security apparatus will not be in a position to shoulder additional tasks at this time. In the short term, there will be no alternative to maintaining a substantial and well-equipped international security presence for the coming year.
MINUSTAH will revert to the UN Security Council with specific recommendations for force requirements in the fall, after we have further clarified the precise tasks that need to be undertaken, bearing in mind the evolving security situation on the ground and the availability of complementary efforts by bilateral actors. In broad terms it will be essential that we stay the course and that member states resist any premature pressure to reduce the mission's capacity in a way that could imperil the gains that have been made to date.
International assistance to contain and respond to immediate threats to security will allow us to pursue our efforts to strengthen national rule of law institutions, which represent a key element in any peacekeeping operation's exit strategy.
Significant progress is being made in efforts to strengthen the Haitian National Police. A vetting and certification process has begun. The HNP, the Haitian National Police, with MINUSTAH support, is now recruiting and training some 1,300 new police officers every 14 months. A traffic directorate has been reformed and is currently operational in Port-au-Prince, and the development of the HNP's capacity in finance and personnel is in progress.
At the same time, much more remains to be done. MINUSTAH and the international community must work together with the Haitian authorities to support the development of a more effective criminal investigation function to strengthen the HNP leadership at all levels, to build discipline and morale within the service, to enhance its policing and human rights values, and to establish better relationships with the communities and build the confidence of citizens.
Priorities for the coming year will include development of the capacity of the inspector general and chief, steps towards the establishment of a new police academy, and the refurbishment and re-equipping of commissariats within provinces' departments. In these areas, too, Canada is playing a key role, and we look forward to your continued support.
In the area of justice reform, progress has been somewhat more difficult. Drawing on support from MINUSTAH, the Minister of Justice has drafted three bills currently before the legislature that are intended to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and that would represent a key element in the reform of the Haitian justice system. Again, encouragement to Haitian parliamentarians to move decisively in this area would be welcome.
In addition, on March 27, President Préval launched a dialogue with all interested sectors on the reform of the justice system. A 12-member follow-up commission has met regularly since to establish a synthesis of previous reports on justice reform, to identify the bottlenecks within the justice system, and to set a list of concrete, urgent actions. These efforts should assist the articulation of a new, comprehensive, and overall strategic plan to reform justice, which can be endorsed by all key stakeholders.
In the area of corrections, progress has also been limited to date. MINUSTAH's corrections unit, which is headed by a Canadian, Lisa Quirion, and includes a number of Canadian experts, has been providing advice and support to corrections officers. Significant donor initiatives have been undertaken to increase penitentiary space. However, the current situation remains unacceptable in terms of security and human rights.
Urgent priorities include a political decision by the Haitian authorities to convene a commission on detention that can expedite the release of detainees as appropriate. At the same time, the mission is assisting the Haitian authorities in preparing reconstruction and rehabilitation projects to increase cell space for inmates and to improve inadequate structures.
Donor support will be essential to meeting infrastructural and training needs in justice and corrections if a solution is to be found to this pressing problem. Again, Canada has been a particularly active and generous actor in this area, and we hope this can continue.
The fourth element we are working on right now is the enhancement of the social fabric and recreation of a working economy. This area must underpin all the others. Political collaboration, security, and institutional viability will all ultimately stand or flounder on the rock of social and economic recovery. Any real progress towards economic revitalization will demand extensive engagement, far beyond the capacity of a peacekeeping operation, drawing on the synchronized efforts of UN agencies, bilateral contributions, and private enterprise.
Budgetary support from donors will remain crucial to maintaining momentum and bridging the gap in order to increase national revenues and promote public expenditure management. As Haiti's economic programs are defined, the country should be enabled to qualify for irrevocable debt relief. And it is essential to encourage and facilitate the renewed engagement of private enterprise in Haiti.
Mr. Chair, all of us in MINUSTAH are encouraged by the progress that has taken place in our efforts to promote Haiti's stability. We are grateful for the excellent cooperation with the national authorities and for the generous support of the international community, including Canada, making this possible. But these advances should be seen as a reason to redouble our efforts and not as a basis to prematurely lower our guard or reduce our engagement.
Substantial challenges lie ahead in fostering political dialogue, maintaining security, building institutions, and fostering economic development. I am confident that working together, in collaboration with regional organizations and the wider international community, we can overcome them and help the Haitian leadership and people reach the level of stability they require and deserve.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Mulet, Your Excellency.
Since my last visit, things have improved. From your presentation this morning, we gather that the improvement is above all in security. You have succeeded in cleaning up Cité Soleil and the surrounding area. In one sense, Haiti, especially Port-au-Prince, is a little more livable. But kidnappings and other crimes are still very common.
You told us about good governance, about security, law and order, and social and economic problems.
My first question is about 90% of the parliamentarians being new and maybe only five or six of the 30 senators having any parliamentary experience; all were rookies, in a sense.
The Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, that I head, has organized seminars for women and for parliamentarians. Relations are difficult, because I am not yet sure that Haitian parliamentarians understand a parliamentarian's role. They have passed some laws that deal with it, but that's all. I am not sure they understand what accountability means either. They want to pass a law in order to be sure that they can say anything they want. Here, while we can say anything inside the House of Commons, outside, we can be sued. They want to be able to do it everywhere in the country without being sued, using the excuse that they are parliamentarians. So we clearly see the difficulties.
Let me turn to elections. You said that there will be more elections for the Senate. As this is the French system, where one third of the Senate at a time is re-elected after a certain number of years, it costs an enormous amount of money. Is there a way to amend the constitution? It also takes two rounds, like in France.
We know that their constitution goes back to when Haiti was created. That too is the French system, going back to the Napoleonic code; it is antiquated and archaic. For example, if a woman is raped, she cannot go to court because DNA evidence is not accepted because it did not exist in Napoleon's time. It is as simple as that.
If we want to amend the constitution, where do we start? Is it possible to do? I understand that an amendment to the constitution must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the two chambers, and then by the next parliament, and that it will go into effect with the parliament after that. So a constitutional amendment can take 10 years. It is much more difficult than in Canada, indirectly.
Are the parliamentarians ready? I would like to know a little more about that.
All donor countries are being asked for a lot of money, but the money is going to be spent on elections again. In my opinion, money should be put where it is needed, with the people. Is there an agreement among donor countries? For example, Canada has said that it may possibly look after building a new parliament building. I have visited their parliament building, and I do not know if it is twice as big as this room. Proceedings are held there with a hundred people. Is it possible for the donors to come to an understanding? One could be responsible for the law-making, another for the justice system, another for security. I would like to know which of the donor countries is doing what to help Haiti get on its feet.
Thank you very much.
Yes indeed, since your last visit, the security situation has greatly improved, certainly in Port-au-Prince. As I said in my presentation, we have arrested more than 700 gang members since January. The key gang leaders are in prison. Only one is not, Amaral, but it is only a matter of days before we find him. All the others are behind bars. I am not just talking about Cité Soleil, but also about Martissan, another district of Port-au-Prince that was run and controlled by gangs. We now have a permanent presence, and a lot of success.
We are now also moving into other parts of the country. In Gonaives, for example, I deployed troops and SWAT teams last week because the situation was worsening. Last Saturday, we arrested Gonaives' biggest gangster, Ti Will. There was even a demonstration for his release in front of the police station. So we had to send a helicopter and more troops to get him and bring him to Port-au-Prince, because the situation was quite tricky.
The security situation is improving, but it is still very fragile. It is going to take some more time to develop the capabilities of the Haitian national police. Graduations from the police academy occur only every seven months. At the end of July, we will have 647 new police officers on the streets. It is a process that is still going to take time.
When it arrived, the United Nations mission was responsible for stabilizing the country because it was on the brink of civil war. Next, the mission had to put in place a legitimate government, the result of democratic elections. We were able to organize elections with Canadian money and the support of other countries. There were five elections last year: presidential, senatorial, first and second rounds for the legislature, and re-runs, plus repeats. There were municipal elections on December 3, and, a month ago, there were more elections. One cycle has just finished and elections must be held again in November.
As you rightly say, one third of the Senate, which is made up of 30 people, must be re-elected. A national election, with first and second rounds, must be held to elect ten people to the Senate, and that is going to cost...
Thank you for being with us, gentlemen. It is a pleasure to see you again. I really appreciate what you are doing for Haiti, the more so because I come from the country myself, specifically from Artibonite, the region where all the revolutions are born. But in spite of the fact that I come from Haiti, I have not been closely involved for some time, having been forced to leave the country when I was quite young.
Francine, you are probably more familiar with the current concerns in Haiti.
But, of course, one never stops being Haitian. When I take part in discussions on Haiti as part of my work as a member of Parliament, it is always with emotion and a great deal of interest.
With all that has been said, two aspects that you briefly touched on seem almost absent from the current situation. At least, that is how it seems to me, looking in from the outside. To an extent, this is about national reconciliation. Mr. Boucher alluded to it briefly. As far as I can see, no efforts are being made in this direction. I am well aware that everything has to be done, but the fact remains that the everything includes the Haitian people. As you know, there is enormous economic disparity, there is dissension and even hatred among different factions. Considering everything that we are doing in Haiti, I am a little surprised to see that this aspect is not being considered.
I could parody Mr. Bush—I think it would be for the first time—who spoke about winning hearts and minds. I would rather say reconciling hearts and minds. In my opinion, this idea does not figure largely enough in what is being done for Haiti and with Haitians. Of course, none of these efforts will be successful unless the people themselves decide to get involved. At the moment, the people are a little alienated—and here I am not talking about those who are forming the government—by the fact that white people are acting on their behalf, and that the government is their puppet. It is as if Haitians do not see, individually and collectively, why they need to become involved. In that context, I think that a kind of national reconciliation could result, in terms of concrete action, in people taking ownership rather taking handouts.
Unfortunately, Haitians have become beggars through the years. That is what happens when you cannot take care of yourself. It is particularly so from a macroeconomic point of view. On a personal level, it results in individuals who are suffering and who keep waiting for foreign aid, at all levels.
Then there is the elimination of the debt. In the Haitian mind, that debt is enormously important. People talk a lot about the current debt, and I remember that, at the World March of Women, women said that they had never signed anything and were not responsible for any debt at all. That is the extent to which they do not feel part of it.
People forget Haitian history, the fact that the country paid for its independence in gold. This has a direct effect on the present situation. We paid the debt when things were going relatively well, but it had enormous consequences, including in the minds of the people. Haitians are very proud of having paid the debt, but I find it stupid. Here in 2007, I feel that we never should have paid. But we did.
As for the debt that has accumulated since, I think that foreign countries are partly responsible. They should be capable of very quickly establishing something that would allow Haiti to come to terms with those two elements. We paid the debt, and it caused us an immense problem. If you know the kind of aid to provide to foreign countries, especially to a country that is still in sharp decline, would you not think that eliminating the debt could act on hearts and minds, and facilitate that reconciliation?