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Canada “reduces to the essentials” diplomatic staff at its embassy in Haiti

Photo: Odelyn Joseph Associated Press A Haitian woman walks in front of the empty national penitentiary while a fire is underway on Thursday in Port-au-Prince.

Dylan Robertson – The Canadian Press in Ottawa

March 14, 2024

  • Canada

Canada has reduced the number of diplomats at its embassy in Haiti by more than half, citing an increasingly unstable security situation in that country.

“The security situation remains unstable,” Sébastien Beaulieu, head of security at Global Affairs Canada, told reporters Thursday.

He said most Canadian employees at the embassy in Port-au-Prince were flown by helicopter early Thursday to the neighboring Dominican Republic, where they will work remotely.

The helicopter also brought security experts who were already assigned to the embassy in Haiti, but who were overseas and found themselves unable to return to Canada when gangs took over control of the main airport in recent weeks.

This decision to limit Canada's diplomatic presence to only “essential employees” comes a week after other countries made the same decision. Since then, Canada had already closed access to the embassy and required its staff to work remotely.

Mr. Beaulieu would not say whether Canada had emulated the U.S. decision to deploy troops to protect its embassy, ​​but he said Canada had reduced its diplomatic footprint to better protect staff remaining in Port-au-Prince. .

“The withdrawal is also part of this logic, in terms of the ability to concentrate our security, our assets, our survival system, to support this core team which remains in place, he said declared. We are pleased with the measures taken to protect our core team and ensure their safety and security. »

Canada has been advising all Canadians in Haiti since October 2022 to leave that country, but Mr. Beaulieu said there were still “nearly 3,000” Canadians officially registered there.

Embassy staff are sending messages to these people and asking them to shelter in place, respect the curfew and stock up on water, food and medicine, because Haiti has lost most of its capacity to import goods.

Mr. Beaulieu declined to say how many diplomats had left and how many remained, citing security concerns. But he added that the rest of the staff is between 10 and 50 percent of the embassy's usual staff.

According to Global Affairs Canada data previously submitted to Parliament, the Port-au-Prince embassy had 15 Canadian diplomats and 37 local employees in July 2022.

Two days ago, Haitian Prime Minister-designate Ariel Henry agreed to resign once a “presidential transitional council” is formed to oversee a Kenyan-led international military intervention.

Canada has pledged $80.5 million for the mission and has offered to help train Haitian police, but will not send troops there. Kenya said it had suspended the mission's deployment until the transitional council takes power in Haiti.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed the mission with his Kenyan counterpart on Wednesday and suggested during a press conference on Thursday that Kenya was unsure whether to lead it.

“We hope they will lead a multinational security response force to help stabilize Haiti,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Windsor, Ont. “The human and security catastrophe that Haiti is currently experiencing is extremely difficult. »

Sylvie Bédard, acting associate deputy minister for the Americas, said after Trudeau's comments that Canada had no doubt that Kenya would follow through on its commitment. “We remain confident in the deployment of this mission,” she said.

Also read

  • A little hope in Haiti after the resignation of Ariel Henry
  • In Haiti, political parties under pressure to launch a transition
  • UN promises airlift to deliver humanitarian aid to Haiti

Haiti has been plunged into a deep security crisis since mid-2021, when gangs took control of key infrastructure. Violent clan wars caused the collapse of most of the country's medical and food systems.

Last December, the head of Canadian Joint Operations Command, Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, told The Canadian Press in an end-of-year interview that the government had prepared an evacuation plan for Haiti last year, but never used it.

Sébastien Beaulieu of Global Affairs says emergency plans are “continuously” updated and he would not speculate on what would prompt Canada to begin evacuations.

“No assisted departure or repatriation flights are planned for Canadians at this time. None of our partners operate such flights,” he said.

Canadians were evacuated from Israel following the Hamas attacks on October 7, and others were evacuated from Sudan last spring when fighting raged there.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116