I would like to start by thanking you for giving me another opportunity to speak to you briefly about the activities of Rights and Democracy, this time as regards Haiti. We must thank all of you for the committee's commitment to promoting democracy. It is no accident that it was in Canada that the heads of state of the Americas decided in 2001—at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, to be specific—to establish a democratic charter for the hemisphere: the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
Article 1 of this Charter, which, by chance, was adopted on September 11, 2001, reads as follows:
||The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it. Democracy is essential for the social, political, and economic development of the peoples of the Americas.
Rights and democracy are at the heart of the matter when it comes to Haiti. Rest assured that we follow your proceedings and that they are a great inspiration to us. I am delighted to have with me Ms. Danièle Magloire, who coordinates the activities of Rights and Democracy in Port-au-Prince. So you will have an opportunity to hear from her and to ask her questions.
In preparing for my appearance before you today, I of course consulted your report of December 2006, to which you referred, Mr. Chairman. I would like to quote three brief passages from it.
The first is a quotation from Peter MacKay, who was the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time. This is what he said:
||The government intends to remain in Haiti for as long as necessary in order to complete the reinforcement of international efforts undertaken with other partners. Our work is not done. Canada will therefore be there for an indefinite period of time.
The second quotation is taken from recommendation 7 in your report. It concludes as follows:
||Canada should also work with and lend support to civil society organizations. A long-term aid strategy for Haiti must include both government and civil society.
The last quotation from the report is once again from Mr. MacKay. It reads as follows:
||Perhaps the most important lesson drawn from past efforts [by donors] 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.
I do not intend to read every word of our presentation, which you have received. Rather, I would like to speak more generally about our activities in Haiti and explain why we have adopted the approach we are using there. The title of our presentation, "A Citizen-Centered Rights Approach to Democratic Development in Haiti" was chosen quite deliberately.
As we know, democracy was restored to Haiti in 2006. This was a long, difficult and courageous process. The task of the current government in Port-au-Prince remains—and Haitians are the first to say so—an enormous one. In order for this effort to be sustained, it must produce the results the people expect. This new democracy must produce some concrete results. In order for that to happen, we feel this democracy must be supported and sustained. That is what we are trying to do, but it is particularly important that it be supported within the country.
I think Ms. Magloire could confirm that, left to its own devices, the government will not be able to do everything that is required in order for the country to overcome its difficulties. If it is left alone, it will not succeed. This government needs the engagement of civil society, that is to say all the relevant resources that can be found and identified in Haiti. Everyone is going to have to put their shoulder to the wheel.
I should point out that the government itself wants the support and assistance of civil society. And that is exactly what we have opted to do. We have chosen to work with civil society which, I repeat, is working in partnership with the government. Civil society often represents the best-skilled in the country. Because of the dictatorships of the past, many people have fled the country, and at the moment, many competent engineers, lawyers and other professionals are not to be found in either government or Parliament. Today, they are still part of civil society. That is why it is so important to work with them.
A program we established in Port-au-Prince about two years ago is designed to give civil society the tools it needs to dialogue with the government, to develop action strategies with it and to develop concrete government policy proposals. So we are working to make civil society in Haiti a constructive player. I am not talking about developing tough guys or protesters, but rather about developing civil society, which, in a constructive way in keeping with the government's wishes, will work with the government.
That is the main focus of our activities. The report contains a fairly specific description of all the areas in which we have started working. We can talk about women's rights or the establishment of a civil state. I know that one of the committee members is interested in this right to identity. You have no idea how many people in Haiti have no identity. As far as vital statistics go, they are dead, they do not exist. How can they exercise their rights and become part of society if they do not exist? This is something we have looked at.
Let us talk about the involvement of young people. We have brought some young Haitians to Canada to see how young Canadians participate in democracy here through their involvement in political parties, but also at the municipal and regional levels.
I will stop my description of the program here, because you will find full details about this in the report.
Have we been effective? You have spent considerable time on this—it was the starting point for your study two years ago. Are we effective? We have been there for so many years, and the problem still exists. Have we been effective? By chance, at this very moment the programs introduced by Rights and Democracy are being audited. The legislation that created our organization provides that programs must be reviewed every five years by an independent agency to determine whether or not they are effective.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has given this job to a private firm. A few days ago, we received its findings about our work in Haiti. I'd like to quickly read some of the findings made by this auditing firm that went to Haiti to look into our programs there. It states:
||Rights and Democracy's programming manages to integrate human rights and democratic development in a convincing fashion;
||The focus of R&D's programs lie at the very heart of Haiti's national concerns;
||Some of the results of R&D's activities are already being felt among the target groups;
||R&D's activities help build an interface among the representatives of civil society [...]
In the opinion of these outside auditors, apparently the program meets its objectives and works as a link between the government and Haitian civil society. This is a crucial time for us because we are coming to the end of our budget, and the financial year has just begun.
I must tell all committee members that we are rather concerned, because the program we submitted to the Canadian International Development Agency has still not been approved. Will the little office we established be able to survive? We do not know yet. There is some urgency to the situation. In any case, the auditors said that the greatest risk facing the program would be that the office not survive. That would be a risk to the project, to Rights and Democracy and to the Government of Canada.
I would like to thank you for your patience. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I would suggest that Ms. Magloire be given the floor briefly. Thank you very much.
I'd like to thank the committee for its welcome today. I would like to describe the situation and say how important it is to strengthen civil society in a country like Haiti, where so much blood has been shed.
Everyone, including the international community, and particularly the United States and Canada, agrees that Haiti can be described as a fragile or frail state. This is not just an adjective. Once it has been categorized as such, we have to understand what that means. It simply means that this state is unable to carry out its duties and responsibilities. Even though we know this is a frail state facing many difficulties, there are people living in this country. And the people are its main assets. The people of Haiti have already demonstrated their desire to be involved.
I would just point out quickly that the principle of participation is enshrined in the Constitution of Haiti. Whenever there are upheavals in Haiti, they are mainly of a political nature. Despite the fact that this is a very poor country, there are no hunger riots there. Every time the people have mobilized, it was to demand a right or to speak out against the violation of a right. Hence the importance and necessity of elections. It is clear, however, that democracy is not established solely by means of formalities, procedures. A number of practices must be introduced so that they can be given a firm foundation. The way to do this is to get the commitment of the people of this country to this process.
Even before Rights and Democracy established its small office in Haiti in 2006, Haitian society had set the tone through a number of commitments. I want to make particular reference to the women's groups—le Mouvement des femmes haïtiennes pour l’éducation et le développement. I would mention in passing that today, April 3, is the anniversary of the social women's movement in Haiti. This movement took the initiative to try to develop other approaches. It is all very well to make demands, but that does not go far enough. We will have to be able to set forth proposals that are not magical or spectacular, but that actually take into account the country's capacity and resources.
Things are going badly in Haiti. We and our partners have our responsibilities, but it is clear that the main responsibility lies with the people of Haiti. In light of that, organizations have developed ways of working with the state. Things are going badly, but it is our state nonetheless. It is ours, and no one else's. Therefore, it is up to us to build it.
Once again, words are not enough. We have to develop work methods. When Rights and Democracy wanted to set up an office in Haiti, it was my honour to be contacted as someone who works for human rights. That is the approach I put forward, and it was accepted. We are not talking about establishing a new little NGO or new organizations, but rather to work with the existing ones in order to strengthen them and give them the tools they need to build democracy, which is so fundamental. Of course, there are some results, but what is even more important is the process itself. As some philosophers say, democracy is first and foremost a way of travelling. One either travels alone, or with the people, so that when the support disappears, the people can carry on themselves. There is no doubt that some mistakes have been made, but we are sure we are moving in the right direction.
I would like to speak generally about what we are trying to do. I will just refer to two major areas of activity. The issue of justice, beyond any questions of procedure, involves solving human rights problems about which human rights advocacy groups and civil society groups are aware. We must ensure that the electoral process and justice procedures respect human rights, so that the state can establish the rule of law democratically. It seems superfluous to say this in Canada, but a state must be genuinely democratic.
I am here today to ask you to continue supporting this type of approach because it works. It may be a small project, but as we say in Haiti, "little by little". But let us take the time to build and to do things that will last.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
I should like to say at the outset that the Parliamentary Centre welcomes the commitment and attention of this committee to the challenges facing Haiti and pledges its support to the work it is undertaking to ensure Canadian policy and programs effectively address these challenges.
The president and CEO of the centre, Robert Miller, came before you as you were developing your report cited by the president, “Canada's International Policy Put to the Test in Haiti”, which was tabled at the end of 2006. At that time, a few months after what were undoubtedly historically significant and successful presidential, legislative, and local elections in the country, the committee acknowledged that these elections were only the beginning, though a vital step, in building sustainable democratic institutions and good governance in Haiti, where such institutions have always suffered from the neglect, public alienation, dysfunction, and organizational weakness that characterize fragile states.
In light of this, we informed the committee at the time that the parliamentary secretary would launch a significant support program for the Haitian Parliament with $5 million over four years, between 2007 and 2010. This program is currently up and running and I would like to discuss it with you briefly today.
This initiative is part of the theme of governance and strengthening of the state, one of the three aspects of Canadian cooperation in Haiti, and seeks to contribute to reinforcing political governance and the national dialogue through the creation of strengthened and permanent capacity of the legislative power. It includes four program components: development of the capacities of parliamentarians, namely deputies and senators and parliamentary staff; the improvement of relations between the executive and the legislative branches through the promotion of dialogue between these two arms of the state; the opening of Parliament to citizens; and more effective management and operations of the two houses of Parliament.
As you know, the history of Haiti has not been favourable to the parliamentary instrument created at independence, over 200 years ago, as the army of the will of the people. And yet, the current Constitution of 1987, drafted at the end of the long authoritarian Duvalier regime, set in place strong a legislative power. The long-term result being sought by the current project is to ensure that the legislative function becomes a credible, reliable, effective, visible and present element in the national political space, on a permanent basis.
At the end of the project, our success can be judged by the extent to which the current Parliament will have managed to transfer the reigns of power to its successor in a positive political climate that respects the Constitution, something which has never happened in modern-day Haiti.
The project provides for points of entry related to the normative functions of any Parliament to legislate in an orderly fashion, to control government action and to represent the will and interests of the public.
With a few rare exceptions, all the parliamentarians elected in 2006 are neophytes in public administration and the positions to which they were elected. Through the speakers of the two parliamentary chambers, that is the Chamber of deputies and the Senate, we're reinforcing the ability of these respective commissions to assume their mandate. We put at their disposal spaces for them to hold their meetings in a structured environment which, unfortunately, does not exist at the permanent site of Parliament. We provided support and training sessions to explain in-depth how the work of the commission should operate. This training also applies to the methods and work tools during the plenary sessions of the Senate and the Chamber of deputies.
It's important to point out that these activities bring together elected officials and parliamentary staff to discuss the duties they share. Creating a positive and effective joint working environment is an important objective of the project, because that relationship has been traditionally characterized by contempt, mistrust and tension between two parties.
Right now, we are supporting the special commission that was formed to review and approve a new elections bill aimed at the next elections to renew one-third of the Senate and the creation of local and departmental assemblies. This is an important initiative insofar as it will ensure the positive continuity of the process of restoring democratic institutions which was begun in 2006.
The project also seeks to strengthen the effective functioning of Parliament at the level of political representation within these bodies. As you know, Haiti does not have what we would recognize as a stable political party system. Still, it is necessary for political groups to be able to come together efficiently within the parliamentary setting to debate and form their positions.
As a first step towards this objective, the project has decided to provide physical spaces for party caucuses to be able to meet together for this purpose. I might mention that this action to directly support the political groups within Parliament, which was not foreseen in the original scope of the project, is in line with the recommendations that this very committee made last year in its report, “Advancing Canada's Role In International Support For Democratic Development”. This is an area to which the Parliamentary Centre is giving increased attention in its programming.
With respect to the very important representative function of Parliament, and specifically parliamentarians, I would like to mention several activities the project has been engaged in. With the assistance of Radio Nationale D'Haïti, and in partnership with the Canadian NGO Réseau Liberté incorporée, a portion of the daily sessions of the Chambre des députés has been broadcast live to the population since the end of January. This objective is to inform the public of the parliamentary agenda and the manner in which Parliament works, and so hopefully improve its image as an important institution working in their interests.
This is the first time such a continuing activity has been undertaken in the country, because traditionally, only the appearance of the head of a state or prime minister before the joint session of the National Assembly has been broadcast.
In addition, the project is working alongside other donor agencies in planning for the holding of parliamentary committee hearings in local communities at the level of départements. Devising the proper methodology and organization of such public consultation is a complex and sensitive process, particularly as Haiti has almost no experience and tradition in this area as far as Parliament is concerned.
One of the areas being considered currently is that of education, given the government's intention to reform the current education system's legal basis, which will eventually have to be approved by Parliament. More generally, there is a need to insert Parliament into the process for implementation of Haiti's recently approved national poverty reduction and growth strategy. This strategy essentially constitutes the country's new national development plan, replacing the previous interim cooperation strategy. This strategy will be discussed at an international donors' pledging meeting this April 25.
It has to be noted that up to the present, in the drafting and public consultation that preceded adoption of this strategy, Parliament as an institution, and its members as representatives of local populations and groups, was not involved by government. With the beginning of process for implementation of the strategy, including its integration into the national budget, whose approval is one of the important functions of Parliament, our project intends to seek ways for formal and continuing evolution of the relevant parliamentary commissions in this area with respect to the local communities. This topic is one in which the Parliamentary Centre has substantive experience already in other parts of the world.
Finally, an area of work for bringing Parliament closer to citizens involves the manner in which Parliament organizes itself to deal with gender issues, and in a complementary fashion, to support women's voices in parliamentary affairs. The project has indicated its commitment to the support of the creation of a women's parliamentary caucus on a more formal basis than what currently exists, and to work with such a group on an agenda for promoting gender equality themes in the legislative and other processes, including extending this work into a broader gender network involving outside organizations alongside parliamentarians.
I wish to thank the committee for having given us the opportunity to explain some of the details of the project for supporting the Haitian Parliament that we, at the parliamentary centre, have the privilege of managing. I will do my utmost to respond to the questions of members of the committee to the best of my ability.
Good afternoon, everyone. At the outset, I'd like to beg your indulgence. I arrived last night from Madrid where I gave a talk involving Spain and Canada and dealing with cooperation with Latin America. I'm suffering a bit from jet lag. One interesting point for this committee, there were a number of discussions on the role of Spain in Haiti. Spain expressed its will to deploy more efforts in this regard.
I can return to that in the question and answer period, as I just returned. It's not in my prepared remarks, which will be distributed.
I would like to start off by again thanking the committee for their interest and their invitation to appear, but I would also like to start by drawing attention to something we mentioned the last time I came before the committee two years ago, something that was lost in the plethora of issues that were on the table at the time.
FOCAL, as well as other institutions and analysts involved in Haiti, was concerned with a multitude of issues at the time, and some of the most salient and pressing ones I think were lost a couple of years ago. In order for that not to happen again, I would like to start out by stressing something, which I will return to at the end, and that's the fundamental importance of significant work on the economic growth and job creation front. This is something that really has gotten lost. We've spent a lot of time working on the very important issues of governance, democracy, and promoting elections. I do not want to take away from the work that we have done here, especially that Canada has done in this area. It is critically important. However, we cannot forget the economic growth and the job creation side.
I don't know if anyone saw The New York Times Sunday edition two Sundays ago. There was an article about the impact of the commodity boom and the resulting macro-shocks that have hit small island states especially hard. We've seen food riots throughout the developing world, but in the Caribbean the effects of the commodity boom and the resulting macro-shocks have really been quite severe. They've hit Haiti too. Interestingly, though, in the article that focused on Haiti, they talked about the rehabilitation of the Duvalier legacy in Haiti. There was a certain nostalgia in looking to the past. Given the lack of economic progress, the lack of real improvements in the everyday conditions of people's lives, we're seeing a questioning of the gains that have been made.
I'd also like to point out that on the political side, while we have seen impressive gains with governance and with democracy, still a lot needs to be done. We've recently witnessed the vice-president of the Senate of Haiti being forced to leave the country under somewhat difficult circumstances. This is an issue that, again, warrants our attention, but I will return to economic growth and job creation at the end.
I would like to meet the mandate of the committee meeting by talking about the present situation in Haiti. My colleagues have done an excellent job reviewing the governance issues and the human rights issues, so I'd like to explore some of the other areas that are critical and that will be increasingly critical for Canada. The first of these is a reflection on MINUSTAH, and the role of MINUSTAH and what's been accomplished. This is the United Nations peacekeeping force in Haiti.
I was just in New York, at the UN, at a meeting organized by a Spanish think tank for an analysis of how well MINUSTAH's done and where it's going in the future. Two interesting points emerged for our consideration here. One is to think about what has actually occurred with MINUSTAH and what this means for the future of the hemisphere and future peacekeeping operations in the hemisphere.
We've had a mission in Haiti for over four years, with thousands of troops on the ground, essentially for one purpose, and that is to chase down a few gangs with guns. The major part of what we would think of as a traditional peacekeeping operation—going after insurgents and separating armed parties with political agendas—was accomplished very quickly in Haiti. The first mission, Operation Secure Tomorrow, or, as we called it in Canada, Operation Halo, by the United States, Canada, Chile, and France, actually pretty much succeeded in disarming the insurgents who came across the border. What's remained in the ensuing years has been a domestic police operation.
If you think about this, the amount of money, the number of troops, and the amount of time going into Haiti to conduct what is essentially an operation against criminal gangs that, in comparison with other criminal gangs in the Caribbean, are not very strong, not very professional, and not very well armed, should give us real pause about the future of the hemisphere and our engagements and what we'll be looking at in the future should we face another situation with a weak—failing, failed, fragile, whatever term one wishes to use—state.
The situation of security in the hemisphere is changing drastically. Gone are the days of guerrilla insurgencies. Even the FARC in Colombia has transitioned into what has been called a terrorist organization or a narco organization. It is less a political movement and less a political ideology.
As we face this sort of situation more and more in the hemisphere and become engaged in future peacekeeping operations, we should not think that they will be what we traditionally think of—separating armed groups, removing guerillas, or separating armed combatants. They will be more domestic police-keeping operations. We need to keep that in mind as we look ahead.
Another issue with MINUSTAH is the role of Latin America. This is of profound significance. We faced the situation, when the United States, Canada, Chile, and France first went in, of neither the United States nor Canada being able to commit the number of troops needed, for as long as needed, in Haiti. We are extremely fortunate in this regard. We make a point at FOCAL of expressing this sort of gratitude and thanks every chance we get. We are extremely fortunate that the Brazilians, the Chileans, the Argentines, the Uruguayans, the Peruvians, and others were able to step up when we, the United States, and others could not. We're indeed fortunate that they were able to take on an unprecedented role for them, not simply participating in the UN peacekeeping operation but putting enough troops in to take leadership. This has had a profound impact on the region.
When Brazil first went in and led the mission going in, there was much apprehension in Brazil and in the southern cone, and some derision elsewhere in Latin America. No one thought the Brazilians were going to succeed. Everyone thought they were going to fail. It's turned out to be just the opposite. They've succeeded where others have failed. This success has emboldened them and Latin American countries to consider taking on more responsibility in Haiti. We need to be really aware of this, to encourage and thank the Brazilians, and to encourage the continued role they're playing in Haiti.
It's also important to consider that this probably spells the end of northern hegemony in terms of UN peacekeeping operations. The Brazilians and their allies have been successful once. There's a feeling that should the situation arise again and the conditions are right, they could probably play this sort of role again.
This presents for us an interesting opportunity, and one that I'm very glad the government has seen, I think, and CIDA especially has seized upon, in reaching out to the Brazilians, the Chileans, and the Mexicans, who, even though they cannot participate in peacekeeping operations, are interested in joining their Latin American colleagues in taking on more of a developmental role in Haiti.
As I'm sure CIDA will talk about when they come up, we're looking to have a visit of Latin American development officials in Ottawa next week, and to work with them in explaining how we do development in Canada and looking to reinforce what they're trying to do in Haiti.
Another issue we need to think about—moving from Latin America to focus on Canada—is the public commitment to our engagement in Haiti by the Canadian public. This is something we're extremely worried about, at FOCAL and elsewhere. It seems hard to imagine, but in some ways it seems we've done a worse job communicating on Haiti than we have on Afghanistan.
I travel quite a bit in Canada and talk to communities, NGOs, business leaders, and local government officials about Haiti. It's a sideline of mine, not an official poll. I'm just really curious about the perceptions on Haiti. This has come out of the work we've done, conferences we've had, and conversations with other think tanks.
There are essentially four questions I generally ask. I'll go through them very quickly.
First, what do you think is the current situation in Haiti? The answer I get to that uniformly is, “Oh, Haiti? It's a basket case. Nothing's going right. It's the most dangerous country in the hemisphere. People are being shot every day. Nothing positive is happening.”
Next, are you aware that security has improved, that there is a functioning government, that the homicide rate in Haiti is lower than next door in the Dominican Republic? The response I get to this is, Vous blaguez. C'est impossible. “You're joking. You've got to be kidding. This can't be true.”
Next, do you think Canada should be involved in Haiti? The answer I most often get is, “Well...I guess so.”
Finally, why do you think Canada should be involved in Haiti? The answer I most often get is, “I don't know. Because we've always been there? Because it's the poorest country in the hemisphere?”
These responses—“I don't know”, “I guess so”, and “Because”—are something you'd expect from your teenage son or daughter over dinner. They're not what you'd expect when asking the country about our second-largest aid commitment in the hemisphere.
So in the longer term, it may not be just the fragility of the state in Haiti that's worrying, but also the fragility of our commitment in this country. We really need to see Haiti become more than an all-Canadian government strategy or approach. It really has to become an all-of-Canada approach. That will mean an effective and persistent communication and outreach strategy on Haiti.
Finally, there are two other issues. You'll hear a lot about issues of disbursements, especially from the Haitian side. We've done extensive research and talked to folks at the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Our indication is that the disbursement issue is really not a major problem. The Inter-American Development Bank has bent over backwards, and then some, to move disbursements. They've applied resources, both financial and human, to make sure that disbursements in Haiti move faster than they do anyplace else in the hemisphere. There's really not much more they can do at their end. The problem and the holdup is at the Haitian end.
On the economic growth and job creation front there are two ideas. On the things we can do, a lot of this will be more of a symbolic nature. Our trade with Haiti is not very significant compared to that of the United States or the Dominican Republic. We would rank fifth or sixth in foreign trade. But there are things we can do that send very important signals, especially to the partners. Even though we have a very open trade regime for Haiti and we have granted exceptions and allowed Haitian goods to come in, we can do more.
We're suggesting a unilateral trade agreement with Haiti, with a complete opening on the Canadian side to all Haitian goods and imports—obviously the sanitary and other requirements would be left. On the Haitian side, the International Monetary Fund already ranks Haiti as the most open economy in the hemisphere, so there's not much more we could demand from them on their side. But we could take the lead by opening up completely. This would send an important signal to the United States, which is looking at the HOPE and HERO legislation—special trade exemptions for Haitian goods. The United States exemptions are very limited. I think 3.5% of Haitian exports would be subject to special tariffs.
From our end we can do more. Haiti is also the only country in the western hemisphere that has special WTO exemption for these types of agreements, as one of the poorest countries in the world. So we wouldn't have to worry about other Latin American countries piling in asking for the same thing. This is something that would apply only to Haiti.
Finally, on trade and aid, we've put a lot of emphasis on trade agreements promoting growth, economic development, and equality in the region, but we seem to have forgotten about Haiti. So this would address that issue.
On the Dominican Republic, we should look at our negotiations and discussions with them and ask if they can do more vis-à-vis Haiti. The United States did that with the Jordan free trade agreement; we could do something similar with the Dominican Republic. Would the Dominicans like it? They might not, but then the Peruvians probably weren't thrilled about the CSR agreement we put in on that agreement, and the Colombians probably aren't thrilled about the side agreements we're putting in on human rights, environment, and labour with that agreement. But we have a history of doing this. We can do this with the Dominican Republic agreement. This is something we should consider.
Finally, in two weeks, on the 16th and 17th, we have a delegation from the Haitian private sector coming to visit Ottawa. This is something that has never really happened before. Leaders of the progressive private sector visit Washington, D.C, every year on fact-finding missions to meet congressmen, senators, and U.S. government officials. This is the first time they're coming to Ottawa. Many of you have been contacted about that, and we hope to see you in two weeks.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I'd like to ask our guests to respond to us in writing. The five minutes allocated for questions and answers will not allow us to obtain all the answers we would like. And yet we would like to obtain them.
My question is for Rights and Democracy and for FOCAL. First I'd like to congratulate Mr. Hubert, even though he occupies an acting position, and wish him every success. I'm also very pleased to note the presence of Ms. Magloire and the fact that for the past two years, Rights and Democracy has had an office in Port-au-Prince.
Mr. Hubert, Rights and Democracy also supports the Groupe d'Appui aux Rapatriés et Réfugiés with a view to "achieving the right to identity through universal registration of civil status and national identification".
Last month in Washington, you presented the results of your research in the framework of a partnership with the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Centre for Human Rights. Could you provide us with a few details on this research as well as the recommendations?
I'm also going to ask Mr. Dade a question.
I read with great interest your special report last November by a joint delegation to Haiti by FOCAL to Inter-American Dialogue, Haiti: Real Progress, Real Fragility.
As we're all aware, Canada is very involved in Haiti's elections. In your report you said:
||Haiti's political stability is threatened by the possibility of elections that are subject to indefinite postponement.
We know there were five elections in the past 18 months in Haiti, at a cost of $15 million U.S. each, meaning $150 million, and the sixth one, last December, was postponed and resulted in the death of another senator. That means we're left with 19 senators out of 30, and there's no possibility of any amendment to the constitution.
My question is about this senatorial election. Could this bring instability to Haiti again? And do you think any work is being done right now by the Haitian government to amend their archaic constitution? Because if you want to amend their constitution, the amendments need to be adopted by two-thirds of both houses, then ratified by the following Parliament, and then they come into effect following the third Parliament. That means nothing is going to be done.
They need to change this constitution. Do you know if they have done any work on this issue?
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you for the invitation to address this committee and speak to the progress made in Haiti since the government's response was tabled in February 2007. I will provide a brief overview of the current situation and highlight some of the positive trends we are seeing, as well as some of the key themes of our engagement in Haiti going forward.
It has been a full year since the government responded to your committee's report, and we have had the opportunity to witness some concrete advances in the situation facing that country. Canada is playing an important role in sustaining these improvements through our commitment, our ongoing support for and policy dialogue with the Haitian authorities, and our continued leadership role in mobilizing the international community to stay the course.
However, stability across all sectors remains fragile. We must constantly remind ourselves of the need to anticipate progress on an incremental scale in Haiti, and of the need for continued vigilance and flexibility in our approach. Three broad themes inform Canada's commitment to Haiti: democratic governance, security and prosperity.
We are fortunate that the current Haitian government enjoys legitimacy as a result of a credible electoral process. Since his election in 2006, President René Préval has been able to build on his resounding victory with an emphasis on political inclusiveness and an obvious desire to tackle the country's numerous social and economic problems. The result is a political stability (however fragile) unknown in Haiti since 2000. Préval's own reputation, as an honest broker and untainted by corruption, has helped enormously. There is palpable will to bring about positive change.
The most dramatic and visible improvements in Haiti are in the security situation. For the first time in years, government control over marginalized areas in urban centres has been re-established, notably in Cité Soleil and Martissant, once lawless zones under gang control. Progress has been so significant that Prime Minister Harper was able to visit Cité Soleil during his July visit to Haiti, the first such visit by any foreign leader.
This is thanks to strong leadership on the part of President Préval, and the essential contribution of MINUSTAH. These achievements continue to be built on through efforts by Canada and others to strengthen Haiti's capacity to take on security challenges. My colleagues, both from the RCMP and from the department, will discuss this in greater detail. Further, our lessons learned in Haiti, including past withdrawal of UN troops before the job was consolidated and completed, argue for continued Canadian support for a long term MINUSTAH presence, and a mandate that equips the mission to respond adequately to the needs on the ground. From that perspective, we were particularly pleased with the October renewal of the mandate for 12 months, with a renewed focus on border management.
The good-news story in Haiti continues with the significant macro-economic advances that were initiated in 2004. Inflation has been brought under control in the 8% to 10% range, although, of course, as Carlo Dade mentioned earlier, the situation with the world food prices is bringing a new challenge to Haiti. The exchange rate is stable and foreign reserves have doubled. In 2007, for the third consecutive year, the Haitian economy enjoyed a positive growth rate of 3.2%.
However, these positive developments, combined with improved prospects for private investment and massive international investment in infrastructure, have as yet failed to bear fruit in terms of new jobs and improved living conditions for the Haitian population. The challenge facing the Government of Haiti is to ensure visible peace dividends to the local population, a challenge to which Canada remains firmly committed as a means of ensuring sustainable and positive return on our investment there.
We have seen that Canada's presence in Haiti resonates with our partners in the hemisphere and it is an important element of the government's re-engagement in the Americas. Our commitment to the Haitian government and the Haitian people is an opportunity to demonstrate all that Canada has to offer to the hemisphere, to fragile states, to stabilization, to reconstruction and long-term development. Haiti is also a challenge to Canada's ability to deliver on our promises, to bring focus and real leadership to bear in all these areas.
Inherent in this is the risk to our credibility in all these areas if we do not leverage the resources necessary to ensure the success of our current engagement and that of our partners in Haiti. As Prime Minister Harper remarked during his visit to Haiti:
||...the security of our entire region will be enhanced by greater stability in Haiti, and a stronger Haitian economy will serve our goal of expanded trade and improved employment opportunities for people throughout the Americas.
The past 12 months have firmly established Canada's leadership role in Haiti. We have the trust of the Haitian government and the respect of the international community. A series of high-level, high-profile visits to Haiti started with the Prime Minister in July 2007, and they have included the ministers for foreign affairs, CIDA, and public safety, all departments engaged in this whole-of-government effort, and further reinforcing our leadership.
During his visit Prime Minister Harper announced an increase of the Government of Canada's contribution towards the reconstruction of Haiti, for a total of $555 million, from 2006 to 2011. This commitment is only surpassed by Canada's aid commitment to Afghanistan.
The whole-of-government character of the Canadian effort was further reinforced very recently with the launch of the bilateral Canada-Haiti expanded consultations. These took place last week, when an 18-strong delegation, including representatives from five government departments and three agencies, as well as the Government of Quebec, travelled to Haiti for high-level dialogue and an exchange of views with the Haitian authorities on the priorities moving forward.
Established donors like the U.S. and the EU appreciate the contribution we are making in stabilizing one of the world's most fragile states, as well as the experience we bring to an effort that seeks to distinguish itself from past failed attempts there. Unique to our current engagement is the fact that for the first time Latin American troops comprise a majority of the UN force in Haiti, a point that Carlo Dade also underlined. These same countries are now initiating development activities in Haiti, again something that our CIDA colleagues can address and which was also mentioned by Carlo. Emerging donors in our own hemisphere, such as Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, are increasingly looking to us as a partner and a guide for their involvement in Haiti.
Our common-cause commitment to Haiti can therefore be in turn leveraged to further reinforce bilateral objectives with those countries. Thus Canada's engagement in Haiti is having a real impact in the country but also more broadly in the region.
Through our commitment to a sustained, long-term engagement and leadership in Haiti, Canada is shown to be a driver and active partner in the promotion of prosperity, security, and democratic governance in the hemisphere. These are themes that we intend to carry forward as we continue to bring focus to bear in our commitment to making a real difference in Haiti.
Thank you once again for this opportunity to discuss our current engagement in Haiti. My colleague, Robert Derouin, from DFAIT's Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, will be able to answer specific questions you may have regarding Global Peace and Security Fund disbursements in Haiti, particularly in light of recent initiatives announced by Minister Bernier during his visit in February. I am also joined by colleagues from CIDA, who will elaborate on our development programming, within the context of Haiti's National Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. Our RCMP colleagues will then speak to Canada's deployments to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, and Canada's contribution to police reform.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
In the interests of brevity and because I've distributed a text of my presentation, I'll cut directly to the chase. If we could accept the fact that the security situation in Haiti has indeed improved, I'll jump over a number of paragraphs and go right to giving you a brief resumé of our current commitment to Haiti.
Currently, sir, we have 76 serving police officers of a commitment of 100 on the ground in Haiti. In addition to that number are 19 contracted agents with policing experience who also assist on the ground in the development of the Haitian National Police. Having recently secured important commitments from policing partners around the country, in particular among our policing partners in Quebec, we anticipate the Canadian policing contribution to the MINUSTAH will be elevated again to the authorized strength of 100 serving police officers during the summer of 2008.
For the information of the committee members, the serving police officers include 21 members of the RCMP, 23 members of the Sûreté du Québec, 24 of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, two Ontario Provincial Police officers, two Service de sécurité publique de Saguenay officers, one from the Durham Regional Police Service, one from the Service de police de Saint-Jérôme, and one from the Service de la sécurité publique de la Ville de Rivière-du-Loup. Seven of those members are women police officers, which I think gives a good accounting of our police services within Canada, indeed. It is perhaps to a lesser degree, but certainly seven women police officers represent almost 10% of those numbers.
Also, Mr. Chair, I think the committee might be interested to know that although our numbers are down to a certain degree in the total number of almost 1,900 serving police officers, in the mission Canada continues to have very key roles. Indeed, Canada holds the position of deputy commissioner of operations, senior mentor and advisor, and senior mentoring unit for the police for the city of Port-au-Prince. We are in charge of the Bureau de la lutte contre le trafic des stupéfiants, the counter-narcotics unit. We're also in charge of the anti-kidnapping unit. We also contribute to border management, the academy, and la formation de la police nationale. Also, we're involved in a financial integrity and assets management project within the Haitian National Police. Finally, Mr. Chair, the vetting and registration of the HNP is also a responsibility of a Canadian police officer. Indeed, the vetting program continues to be an important program for MINUSTAH.
I think I could leave it at that and leave the remainder of the time to questions, Mr. Chair.