(Al Jazeera) Canada has sent a team to Haiti to assess the country’s deteriorating security situation, as the Canadian foreign minister met with her US counterpart in Ottawa to discuss a Washington-led proposal to send an international armed force to the Caribbean nation.
In a statement on Thursday, the Canadian foreign affairs department said a government delegation was in Haiti “to consult with stakeholders on options to support Haitian people in resolving the humanitarian and security crises”.
The delegation is also considering “how Canada can contribute to the international response” in Haiti, the ministry continued, in what was dubbed an “assessment mission”.
“Canada and the international community are concerned about the violence in Haiti, in particular against women and girls. Canada will not remain idle while gangs and those who support them terrorize Haiti’s citizens and we will continue to support law-abiding Haitians to put an end to the crisis in their country,” Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in the statement.
The announcement came as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made his first official trip to Canada to hold talks with Joly and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Haiti, which has seen rising gang violence and political instability since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July of last year, was set to be one of the main topics of discussion during Blinken’s visit to Ottawa and Montreal this week.
“The situation [in Haiti] is simply unsustainable,” Blinken said during a news conference alongside Joly on Thursday afternoon. “We’ll continue to work together to rally international support around helping the Haitian people find a way forward,” he said.
Earlier this month, Haiti’s acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry asked the international community to help set up a “specialised armed force” to quell the violence.
An ongoing gang blockade of a key petrol terminal in the capital, Port-au-Prince, has led to dire shortages of fuel and water, while violence is rampant. Hospitals have been forced to cut back on services due to a lack of electricity, which also is complicating the response to a new outbreak of cholera.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said this month that he believed “armed action” was necessary to ease the grip gangs have on the fuel terminal and to set up a humanitarian corridor to get supplies out. Guterres also had urged the international community to urgently respond to Henry’s request for assistance.
But many Haitian protesters and civil society leaders have rejected the prospect of international intervention, saying history has demonstrated that foreign forces bring “more problems than solutions”.
Some Haitians also say Henry lacks legitimacy and they have called for him to step down. The prime minister was chosen by Moise to take up the post shortly before the president was killed last year, and Henry has the backing of the CORE Group, which includes Canada and the US.
Last week, the UN Security Council passed a resolution establishing a “sanctions regime” against Haitian gang leaders, including Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, and their backers.