Vancouver activist slams Canada’s role in "undermining" Haiti

Although Vancouver resident Roger Annis concedes “there was no way to avoid the earthquake” that struck Haiti January 12, he said exiled Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide would “absolutely” have prepared his country better for the tragedy. However, in February 2004, Canada, along with the U.S. and France, supported a coup that forced Aristide to flee to South Africa.

“I have no doubt whatsoever,” Annis, coordinator of Haiti Solidarity B.C and member of Canada-Haiti Solidarity network, told the Straight by phone. “Aristide opened the country’s first medical school in 2003—the very first medical school. And what happened to that school? It was the barracks that the U.S. Marines used when he was overthrown in 2004, and then it was used by the UN occupation forces.”

Annis was part of a human-rights delegation to Haiti in August 2007, his second trip to the chronically impoverished Caribbean island nation. He admitted he was “overwhelmed” at what has befallen Haiti now—something he called a “monumental human catastrophe” whose death toll could soon exceed 200,000.

“Every country that has been culpable in the last 25 years for the undermining of Haiti’s economic and social infrastructure definitely shares some responsibility,” Annis added. “[Prime Minister Stephen] Harper’s new to the file. It was the Paul Martin [Liberal] government that sent troops into Haiti in 2004.”

Harper has “quite willingly” continued with the policies started by his Liberal predecessor, according to Annis.

The Straight attempted to contact federal foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon and long-time Vancouver Centre Liberal MP Hedy Fry—part of Martin’s 2004 federal government. Neither responded by deadline. In a media statement issued on January 18, Cannon stated: “Our number one priority remains to assist those in need.”

Annis said Canada and other countries involved in the 2004 overthrow need to be judged on what they have achieved for Haiti since that time.

“The real thing right now is look back on this first week of aid,” he said. “What kind of infrastructure did Haiti have to respond, and why didn’t it have one?”

On January 22, Annis will speak at a fundraiser forum called Help Hear Haiti, which takes place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Freddy Wood Theatre (6354 Crescent Boulevard). The event has been organized by Triple H, a coalition of UBC student groups. A representative from Médecins Sans Frontií¨res will speak, along with UBC president Stephen Toope, who will make closing remarks. All proceeds from the event will go toward MSF efforts in Haiti.




Jan 20, 2010 at 12:37pm

As a result of the political course he chose, Aristide, although swept into office by a mass movement for justice and democratic change, "came to resemble the opportunist politician who has defined much of the country's history." His legacy is likely to amount to little more than the unfulfilled hopes of the Haitian people and numerous obstacles to progress, including Haiti's traditional political culture, more firmly in place than ever.

Rainbow Pony

Jan 20, 2010 at 2:02pm

When kind of crap journalism is this!? Quote verbatim what one talking-head says, then don't give anyone else time/room to give their view.

Maybe this ought to be on the 'Opinion' page, but it is NOT news journalism.


Willis Avery

Jan 20, 2010 at 2:18pm

Annis is hack who writes for the 'Socialist Voice: Marxist Perspectives for the 21st Century'

Is this guy really a reliable source of astute political analysis?

What crap!

Ginger Goodwin

Jan 20, 2010 at 5:44pm

Read the book Damming The Flood by Pater Halward if you don't believe Annis. "Shoot the messenger" but that doesn't change the truth of the message. Aristide's government was elected and overwhelmingly popular. Canada helped overthrow it. That is reality.


Jan 20, 2010 at 6:14pm

The view that Aristide is just part of a long line of corrupt Haitian leaders is popular among academics (e.g., Yasmine Shamsie) trying to whitewash their support for the 2004 coup. Haitians rally for Aristide's return all the time; when was the last rally for the return of Baby Doc Duvalier, Latortue, or even in support of Preval?


Jan 20, 2010 at 6:31pm

check the facts...and you'll see Annis is write, however troubling those facts might be.


Jan 20, 2010 at 8:15pm

First attack the style of journalism and then attack the messenger, but never provide an alternative view that Annis presents in the Burrows article. I wonder why?

Annis raises a point when he asks us to look at why there was no plan in place, no central or local government plan to deal with emergencies even though the country had already been hit by four hurricanes in a row in 2008 and has a history of natural disasters brought on by deforestation.

All major cities in Haiti in 2008 were under water, resembling New Orleans after Katrina hit. In Haiti, foundations of buildings soaked in water for days, houses were damp with moisture...does this not weaken buildings already susceptible to tropical humidity?

Earthquakes had hit Haiti before yet no emergency plan for the worst case scenario. Does this not beg the question...just who is in charge of Haiti these days?

Or better yet, who wants to be and why?

Victoria Serge

Jan 20, 2010 at 10:54pm

I will take a socialist's perspective on Haiti over CNN and CanWest Global any time... The Canadian government was offered a chance to comment but they failed to return calls. Just like they have failed Haiti -- a country which they have systematically undermined through military and economic policy.

I am really glad to see this article and would encourage people to donate to urgently needed relief efforts. One excellent group is Partners In Health, their website is

The Hague

Jan 21, 2010 at 1:31am

I think it is fitting that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives wanted to answer questions about Canada's role in the 2004 coup in etat. This attack on the country fragile democracy has clearly contributed to the staggering death toll, and lack of emergency relief. Since there is, you know, essentially no Haitian public sector at all since the coup and after 6 years of military occupation. Since this happened on the Liberals watch, there should be a war crimes investigation against Paul Martin, Bill Graham, Pierre Pettigrew and company. And maybe even a civil suit by Haitian-Canadians.

Fred Williams

Jan 21, 2010 at 2:33am

You have to be careful when contributing to Haiti relief because there is so much control between he giver and the recipients. From the record, the Cuban medical assistance can be relied upon. It was denied in New Orleans but some of it got through to Haiti before the U.S. put the barriers up. The disaster is made worse all the time by military forces clamping down on a nation already suffering from death, grief and starvation, not to mention disease. I don't know what chance Haiti has, because they are kept in a constant state of disorganisation. Yet Haitians keep struggling against the oppression. That has to be an inspiration for us all.