Tag Archives: Haiti

Haiti, one year later: The failure of Stephen Harper’s lip-service foreign policy

More than 230,000 are believed to have died in the earthquake in January, and more than 1 million remain homeless. A cholera epidemic broke out in autumn, and an election was held, its results still unclear.” – The Guardian.

One year ago an earthquake totaled Haiti, a country that was already a victim of history. Canadians, feeling the connection to a country with a large enclave with Canada and due to the fact that we are an international people, responded by donating to help with the relief effort. The Canadian army, as always, preformed admirably in the recovery effort. In a dark time, Canadians responded by opening their hearts, not ignoring the needs of others.

Our government initially did the right thing, offering to match donations and assuring Haitians that they had Canada’s support. These promises turned out to be quite hollow. The earthquake happened a few weeks after Stephen Harper prorogued parliament for a second time. I don’t think, nor would I ever accuse, that the government was using Haiti to change the channel on prorogation but the context is important.

Weeks and months later it was revealed that the Harper government was extremely slow in getting the money to Haiti, and recently it was revealed that the UN asked the government if Canadian troops could remain and they refused.

This is typical of Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. Our bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council was the diplomatic equivalent of a university essay written the night before, the Harper government’s petulance lost us a base in the UAE, and this Prime Minister spent 4 years ignoring China and India, and has done nothing to address human rights issues in China.

There is a dangerously false notion emerging that says that Stephen Harper’s government IS Canada and therefore criticizing the Harper government for its many foreign policy failures is “Cheering against Canada.” Conflating Canada with Stephen Harper’s government is wrong. The Conservatives were never given a foreign policy mandate from the Canadian people. Lawrence Cannon and Stephen Harper have never asked Michael Ignatieff or Bob Rae to collaborate on foreign policy issues (though both are respected in international circles.) I was relieved when Canada didn’t get a seat on the UNSC The Security Council is a series body and Stephen Harper’s government bases its foreign policy on winning votes from ethnic communities within Canada, not on Canadian international values and principles. This government has decided to turn Canadian politics into total war, thus politicizing every action it takes. When they lost the UN Security Council seat their first and only response was to blame Michael Ignatieff. The only people cheering against this country were the Conservatives who relished this failure as an opportunity to score cheap political points.

One final digression: The media has a perverse habit of treating the Liberal Party of Canada like it is the government. Liberals are ignored when they are announcing policy but they must deal infinitely more scrutiny than the Conservatives were given before they became government and to a degree now that they are messing up the country in power.

The Canadian action plan was all about building stadiums and putting up signs that served as photo-op backgrounds for the Prime Minister. Conservative foreign policy has the same potemkin qualities, they announce, they attack their opponents, then nothing is actually accomplished.

In a minority setting and in most cases Stephen Harper’s lip-service style of governance is benign. In the case of Haiti, it has real consequences.

Helping those suffering as a result of the earthquake in Haiti must remain non-partisan.

This week has been maelström emotionally and intellectually. Praying for the people of Haiti, a country that has suffered for a while, seems almost futile. This week I’ve been angry at God for the earthquake, I’ve been angry at myself for going to class and living normally while this is happening and sad that I am so impotent, I can’t help these people.

Michael Ignatieff/the Liberals have released a “Call to Action” with some solid suggestions such as: Fast-track immigration processing to reunite Haitian families, expedite family class visas, waive processing fees for new visa applications for family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents from Haiti, and suspend deportations.

The NDP have also done a great job providing information on what average Canadians can do to help the victims of the earthquake. (Here is just one link. Jack Layton, and many other NDP Mps are doing an amazing job on twitter.)

Prime Minister Harper/the Conservative Government have done a great job in responding to this crisis. Sending in DART as well as allocating $5 million to CIDA was the right thing to do and PM Harper acted quickly and calmly.

Governor General Michaelle Jean‘s message was heart-wrenching as are the photos and video of the aftermath.

In my current state of wrath I am pretty pissed-off that parliament is closed down. This is emergency is exactly why you don’t shut down the HOC for three months. I don’t mean this to be a partisan attack on Prime Minister Harper’s government. The government should be lauded for competently and efficiently reacting to this crisis.

This isn’t a time for division and partisanship towards the Canadian Government’s work helping the people of Haiti. There are many Haitian-Canadians but that does not and should not matter. Though the majority of us cannot even begin to comprehend their suffering, we are all Haitians.

Important links:

Red Cross Canada

World Food Program

Hill Helps Haiti

Caritas International Donation Website

CBC Coverage of Canadian Government’s Haitian Relief Efforts