A letter to MPs about Haiti's election

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The following letter concerning the Nov. 28 electoral exercise in Haiti was e-mailed to all members of the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday, Dec. 15. On Dec. 13, the House of Commons in Ottawa held a rare debate on Haiti. You can read excerpts or the full transcript of that debate by going to the website of the Canada Haiti Action Network.

To: Members of the Parliament of Canada

Subject: Election in Haiti

Dear Member of Parliament,

We are writing to urge that as an elected Member of Parliament you direct a critical eye to the Canadian government's financing and endorsement of the Nov. 28 election in Haiti.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon has endorsed the election as legitimate. He told a press conference this week, "It is essential that Haitian political actors... demonstrate a firm commitment to... the integrity of the electoral process."

The minister says Canada will facilitate a recount of the ballots and support a runoff presidential election. The terms of that runoff are not yet clear. For example, will it respect the Haitian constitutional requirement that limits the number of candidates in a presidential runoff to the two top finishers in the first round? Furious discussions among the big powers in Haiti are taking place behind the scenes right now to sort out these and other details.

Please recognize that continued support for a flawed electoral process flies in the face of the near universal condemnation of what Canadians witnessed on television news or in radio and newspaper reports on Nov. 28. It was, as termed Monday by CBC Radio One national news, "A pretty clear cut case of fraud."

To cite another CBC radio report, "These elections are a sham. The United Nations knows it, the American government knows it, the Canadian government knows it. And yet, here we are busily talking about a vote recount." (David Gutnick, The Sunday Edition, Dec. 12, 2010).

CBC's The World At Six reported Dec. 13, "The U.S. and Canada have been accused in the past of interfering in Haitian elections and even orchestrating coups. But this time, both are supporting a Haitian decision to recount the presidential ballots even though observers say that won't deal with the bigger problem: the voting itself."

To our knowledge, no member of the Canadian Parliament is questioning the illegitimacy of this fraudulent electoral process. The debate among MPs last evening in Parliament was limited to how best to best salvage it.

We remind you of the many Haitian as well as international voices that said elections should be held in accordance with Haitian priorities, not those of foreign funders. The world should focus its attention and concern on humanitarian and public health urgencies.

We urge that Canada not support any "recount" of the Nov. 28 vote nor second-round runoff of its fraudulent result. Preconditions for fair elections, as voiced by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, among many others, must include:

• An end to the ban on participation in elections of political parties, notably the Fanmi Lavalas party of exiled former president Jean Bertrand Aristide.

• Proper voter registration and balloting facilities to be in place.

• A new and representative electoral commission.

We note that no reference to these, the most serious, flaws in the Nov. 28 vote were sounded in the Dec. 13 debate in Parliament.

We also urge you to reject any suggestion that international aid to Haiti be made conditional on this or that electoral outcome. The Nov. 28 election was urged and funded by foreign powers, including Canada. The victims of the earthquake and now the cholera crisis should not be punished for the follies of those who ignored the sage advice that national reconciliation and a plan for post-earthquake reconstruction are pre-conditions for holding meaningful elections.

Canada has done too little to help combat the cholera epidemic that was introduced to Haiti by soldiers of the United Nations military mission. Furthermore, only a fraction of the matching funds pledged by the government for earthquake relief have been released. Too few Haitian government ministries and social agencies, and too many police and prison agencies, have received funding from Canada.

As explained by the outstanding global health agency Partners In Health, relief and reconstruction in Haiti require the nurturing of public agencies to provide clean water, health care and education; to build housing and other vital infrastructure; and promote agricultural development. Please challenge the failed approach that Canada has followed to date. Haitians need meaningful aid, more of it, and less manipulation of their political sovereignty and democracy.

On behalf of Haiti Solidarity B.C. (affiliate of the Canada Haiti Action Network), Roger Annis, Bill Burgess, Stuart Hammond, and Melanie Spence

For more information on Canada and Haiti, and to learn more about the Canada Haiti Action Network, click here.

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