Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Exploitation of Haiti and a Prime Minister in Crisis

This morning one of the Canwest reporters, Andrew Mayeda (:@amayeda), travelling with Stephen Harper on his visit to Haiti, tweeted this:
As reported, PM Harper's second day in #Haiti mostly a photo op. No questions from reporters ...

Was there really a need for a late breaking announcement, that our prime minister was once again exploiting a situation for photo-ops?

Or that he refused to take questions?

Maybe there should have been an interruption of regular programming to bring us this important announcement:

Stephen Harper's walls in the House of Commons no longer have room for new snapshots. An emergency meeting of Parliament has convened to discuss the construction of a special gallery that will better showcase the daily life of a self-image egomaniac.

From the very beginning, Stephen Harper has used this crisis for political brownie points. Initially, the Olympics were going to dig him out of his hole, but that was a bust, so back to Haiti.

A Little Recap:

Why is Haiti so Poor?

When the news first broke of the devastating earthquake, every story described Haiti as one of the poorest nations in the world? Why is that?

U.S. Foreign Policy. Plain and simple.

Ted Rall, author of the book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," wrote Why the Blood Is on Our Hands :
As grim accounts of the earthquake in Haiti came in, the accounts in U.S.- controlled state media all carried the same descriptive sentence: "Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere..."Gee, I wonder how that happened? You'd think Haiti would be loaded. After all, it made a lot of people rich.

Gerald Caplan wrote a piece for the Globe; The betrayal of Haiti, just prior to the Montreal conference.

What a grand old party it's going to be Monday when all those countries and financial institutions that have forever plundered, exploited and impoverished Haiti will gather in Montreal at the invitation of the government of Canada to decide its future ... But mostly this meeting is promoted by those who like to call themselves, and whom the media will call, the donor countries. What is important to note about most donor countries, including Canada, is that they have always extracted far more from the poor recipient countries than they've contributed. Poor countries, in reality, have been net donors to us rich folks.

It is very easy for us to now play the role of the benevolent uncle, while forgetting that we helped to steal all the family wealth.

Was Our Response Commendable or Suspect?

Almost from the beginning, first response teams began to report that the so-called humanitarian relief efforts, looked more like an invasion and occupation. Some tried to justify this by suggesting that soldiers were needed to prevent looting and restore order.

What the hell? Looting? Are you kidding me?

Survival was the priority and if people had to 'steal' to survive, it is not 'looting'. This suggests that our priorities were protecting corporate interests and not saving lives. Indeed, the fact that the planes of Doctors Without Borders, loaded with medical supplies, were turned away, makes you wonder.

As the Canadian Peace Alliance reported: Humanitarian relief urgently needed in Haiti, not militarization of aid
The Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA) urges its member organizations and supporters to give generously to the relief efforts responding to the catastrophic disaster in Haiti following last week's massive earthquake. The CPA also wishes to express its deep concern about the deployment of up to an additional 1,000 Canadian Forces to Haiti, announced Sunday by Defence Minister Peter MacKay, in collaboration with a U.S. mission of over 10,000 troops.

And Al-Jazeera news shared these concerns. Early reports from Haiti suggest that this militarization of the relief operation is both unwelcome and unhelpful.

Al-Jazeera news reported on the weekend that the U.S. military, which now controls the airport in Port-au-Prince, turned away several planes carrying physicians and supplies from Doctors Without Borders. A CARICOM aid flight and other humanitarian deliveries have also been turned away, with deadly results for the Haitian people ....

The fact that George Bush was heading this up is all the proof we needed, that there would be ulterior motives.

Protection of Vulnerable Children:

Soon after learning that Stephen Harper and his Reformers had rewritten our foreign policy, to exclude aid workers from protecting women and children from sexual exploitation, another element was brought into the picture.

Brett Popplewell wrote for the Star: Haitian children kidnapped and sold, aid workers fear

PORT-AU-PRINCE–Kidnapped children. Multiple rapes. Gang violence. A burgeoning black market. And the unknown whereabouts of 4,000 criminals. These are but a few of the problems overwhelming police and peacekeepers tasked with maintaining order in a post-apocalyptic Haiti. On Wednesday, the Star watched as a hungry mob turned violent when the World Food Program tried to dole out 1,266 bags of rice to the masses. Friday, the Star revisited the site and found some of those bags being sold at a marked up value of $40 a bag.

And Virginia Wheeler also sounded the alarm: Traffickers prey on hordes of Haiti quake orphans

THEY are orphaned, terrified and hungry - a lost generation facing fresh peril last night as hell-on-earth became a PARADISE for child predators. Babies and toddlers were among dazed kiddies being plucked by brutes from the rubble of earthquake-devastated Haiti.

Even those praying for sanctuary at medical centres set up in the stricken Caribbean nation were not safe - as aid workers warned child-trafficking gangs had sprung up across the shattered capital. Fifteen being treated were revealed to have been snatched by men later found not to be relatives ....

This is why the House should have been sitting. Harper made this a one man show, instead of using all members of Parliament to create a relief mission that focused on human aid, human rights and the protection of the most vulnerable.

After all, it was on Michael Ignatieff's suggestion, that the government matched funds donated by the Canadian people. Justin Trudeau spent almost every waking hour with Haitian-Canadians in Montreal. Jack Layton and the NDP used their website and contacts to raise money for Doctors Without Borders, The Humanitarian Coalition, the International Red Cross and UNICEF. Gilles Duceppe also rallied for funds and encouraged the Reformers to loosen the immigration policies to allow refugees to join their families.

See this isn't all about photo-ops. Sometimes you've got to roll up your sleeves, put partisan politics aside, and act like a Canadian. Stephen Harper has yet to learn that, and I doubt he ever will.


More Postings on Haiti and Harper's Underwhelming Response

Stephen Harper's Response to Haiti is Underwhelming and Suspect

Aid Workers in Haiti Live in Fear ... of Stephen Harper!

U.S. Troops Land in Haiti But Medical Supplies Turned Away. What in the Hell is Going on?

Why is George Bush in Charge of Haiti Relief? Shouldn't he be in Jail?

Update: Vulnerable Children and Why Stephen Harper Should Never Have Rewritten Our Foreign Policy

Harper: Take a Bow For the New Revolution - We Won't be Fooled Again

Vulnerable Children and Why Stephen Harper Should Never Have Rewritten Our Foreign Policy

A Nation Responds: Devastation in Haiti is Not About Politics CTV

The Crisis in Haiti Reveals More Than a Natural Disaster

Liberal Campaign to Raise Funds For Haiti Has Been a Success

I Wish Someone Other Than Lawrence Cannon Was Handling Haiti Relief

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