January 19, 2010

Victims are not enemys



(January 19, 2010) The Canada Haiti Action Network is deeply concerned about the militarization of the relief efforts in Haiti and exaggerated reporting on ‘looting’ and potential violence.

“There is an exaggerated focus on unlawfulness,” says one the group’s representatives in Toronto, Niraj Joshi. “Taking food and water from destroyed stores does not constitute looting,” she said. “It is an instinct of human survival, caused by the failure of the international relief effort to provide timely and effective assistance.”

Many poor neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince have yet to see any assistance. Yet reports from CHAN’s colleagues and friends in Port au Prince say that human solidarity and a quiet determination to survive prevail. Reports on CBC television and radio are saying the same thing.

Meanwhile, Canada’s emergency relief teams have been sent home, told they will not be deployed.

Roger Annis of CHAN’s affiliate in Vancouver commented, “Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs told the country on anuary 16 that its disaster relief teams are not equipped for Haiti, that only soldiers can do the job. Canadians have apparently been labouring under the false impression that its disaster relief teams are able to handle earthquake disasters.”

“Like Washington,” he said, “Ottawa has quite simply prioritized the sending of its military to Haiti over disaster relief. Are Canadians comfortable with that choice, and what is the purpose of this military show of strength?”

The group says that earthquake victims need food, water, medical treatment and shelter, not more guns pointed at them.

In February 2004, some 500 Canadian troops were dispatched to Haiti as part of a UN Security Council-endorsed mission that followed the overthrow of its elected government and exile of its elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide. As the AP news service reported today, there is a growing clamour in the poor neighbourhoods of Haiti for the return of the only president in their recent, troubled history that took measures to alleviate their suffering.

Representatives of the Canada Haiti Action Network are available to speak to media in cities across Canada. Consult the “About CHAN” page on the website below


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