Cablegate: Montreal Conference with the Haiti Diaspora (Mchd)

Published: Mon 13 Dec 2004 08:08 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.0. 12958:N/A
(DECEMBER 10-11, 2004)
1. (SBU) Summary. Members of the Haitian Diaspora from
Canada, the U.S. and Europe assembled December 10-11, 2004,
to participate in the MCHD. Canadian Prime Minister (PM)
Paul Martin emphasized, at the opening of the MCHD plenary
session, that his administration's initiative to invite
members of the Haitian Diaspora to participate in a
conference in Montreal, is the first-ever conference of this
kind that the Government of Canada (GOC) has conducted with
a diaspora of any kind. The Canadian Foundation for the
Americas (FOCAL) served as conference facilitator. GOC
officials, upset with a band of persistent pro-Aristide
supporters protesting outside the conference venue,
denounced allegations that the GOC is attempting to make
Haiti a protectorate. (Note: Government of Quebec (GOQ)
Premier Jean Charest, reportedly after a rift over the role
he would play in the event, was conspicuously absent and is
alleged to have banned his team from attending the full
slate of the Dec. 11 activities. End note.) Prominent
conference themes included: the need to improve security in
Haiti in order to move forward with projects (education,
democratic reform, health, women's issues, etc.), the plea
for the Haitian Diaspora to play a role (ie. provide
expertise) in reconstructing Haiti and the call for a "long-
term" commitment (in addition to spontaneous humanitarian
aid) to rebuild Haiti. PM Martin informed conference
attendees that his Administration continue work to maintain
a spotlight on Haiti in "La Francophonie". GOC Ministers
announced a plan to lead a Haitian Diaspora mission to Haiti
(possibly in January 2005). Florida Governor Jeb Bush,
invited to attend the conference, sent Deputy Chief of Staff
William W. Large to represent him at the MCHD. Montreal
Consul General (CG) Bernadette Allen attended the MCHD as
observer. End summary.
(U) Opening Night (Friday, December 10).
2. (SBU) FOCAL organizers appeared a bit overwhelmed by the
public response to participate in the MCHD. Several dozen
pre-registrants (including Montreal CG) among the 400 "by
invitation only" guests arrived at the venue to find their
names on the registration list at the check-in table, but no
credential to enter the conference reception. We initially
were asked to wait for credentials to be printed, but were
ushered into the reception hall an hour later (still without
credential), just a few minutes before the evening's
reception commenced. CG learned that a number of persons
who had not been invited to the conference managed to
infiltrate the evening's event by feigning to be members of
the media (showing credentials for "non-existent" community
newspapers or radio programs).
3. (U) A demonstration (about 150 persons) outside the
venue caught FOCAL organizers and many conference
participants by surprise. The daylong snowstorm did not
deter persistent Haitian-flag bearing, placard holding pro-
Aristide supporters from chanting, drumming and blowing
whistles throughout the evening. From five floors above
ground level, the non-violent, yet boisterous crowd could be
heard in the background as speakers took their respective
turns to welcome conference participants. Placards were
inscribed with epithets: "Death or Aristide", "Martin + Bush
= Accomplices", and the like.
4. (SBU) Reception speakers included: GOC Minister of
International Cooperation Aileen Carroll (Conference Co-
President), GOC Minister for "La Francophonie" Jacques Saada
(Conference Co-President), Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay,
Quebec Minister of Relations with Citizens and Immigration
Michelle Courchesne (on behalf of Quebec Premier Jean
Charest) and Haitian Ambassador for Haitians Living Abroad
Alix Baptiste. GOC Foreign Minister Pettigrew, unable to
attend at the last moment, sent videotaped remarks. All
speakers emphasized the critical needs in Haiti, noted the
devastating floods that Hurricane Jeanne inflicted in areas
such as Gonaives, praised the response of the Haitian
community in Canada (notably Quebec) in providing
spontaneous humanitarian aid to flood victims, highlighted
the importance of reconciliation and leaving differences
behind in order to move forward in Haiti, and expressed the
hope that the conference would result in identifying a cadre
of professionals committed to long-term work on concrete
projects to reconstruct Haiti.
(SBU) (Note: Initially billed to address conference
participants, GOQ Premier Charest was a no-show. In July
2004, he and Florida Governor Jeb Bush had highlighted
interest in a Quebec-Florida mission to Haiti, in a joint
press conference during the Florida trade mission to Quebec.
CG learned that Charest, reportedly not pleased with the
less than prominent role that the GOC had in mind for him at
the MCHD, pulled out of the event on opening night and is
alleged to have banned his staff from attending the next
day's slate of activities. CG was informed that Charest
arranged a private meeting with Interim Government of Haiti
(IGOH) Prime Minister Latourtue. End note.)
(U) Conference Day, Saturday, December 12, 2004
--------------------------------------------- ------
5. (U) The conference, which closed two hours later than the
scheduled 4:00pm closure, was divided into a morning plenary
session with a slate of speakers and an afternoon of
workshops. IGOH PM Latortue stayed to participate in the
conference luncheon. (Note: CG, seated at a table adjacent
to PM Latorture, did speak with Interim PM Latortue to
reiterate U.S. Government support and convey personal best
wishes for Haiti. He appeared genuinely pleased to learn of
USG presence at the conference. End note.)
6. (U) The speakers' for the morning session were:
a) Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin;
b) Interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue;
c) GOC Minister of International Cooperation Aileen Carroll
(Conference Co-President);
d) GOC Minister for La Francophonie Jacques Saada
(Conference Co-Pressident);
e) Special Representative and Chief of the U.N.
Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) Ambassador Juan
Gabriel Valdes;
f) IGOH Minister of Planning Roland Pierre;
g) Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Interim
Cooperation Framework Director Yves Petillon; and
h) a panel of seven representatives from Haitian Diaspora
organizations. The seven organizations and respective
representatives, including one each from the U.S. and
France, were:
(1) Regroupement des Organismes Canado-Haitien Pour Le
Developpement (ROCAHD), Mr. Eric Faustin;
(2) Point de Ralliement des Femmes D'Origine Haitienne, Ms.
Marlene Rateau;
(3) Conseil National des Citoyens et Citoyennes d'Origine
Haitienne (CONACOH), Mr. Keder Hyppolite;
(4) Alliance Gonaivenne de Montreal, Mr. Olthene Tanisma;
(5) Federation des Associations Regionales Haitiennes a
l'Etranger (FAHRE), Ms. Marie-Carolle Tertulien (in New York
(6) Agence Haitienne pour le Developpement Local (AHDEL),
Mr. Romel Louis-Jacques (in Paris); and
(7) Projet du Premier Congres Mondial de la Diaspora
Haitienne - Mr. Georges Anglade.
7. (U) Canadian PM Martin, noting that Montreal hosts the
largest concentration of Haitians (estimated at 125,000) in
Canada, remarked that Haitians have enriched the Canadian
mosaic and helped form the unique tie between Canada and
Haiti. He emphasized Canadian solidarity with the Haitian
people, highlighting Canada's deployment of a stabilization
force in March 2004 in response to the security crisis, the
spontaneous humanitarian support that Canada provided in
response to the recent floods in Gonaives and Canada's role
in ensuring that Haiti was given prominence at the
Francophone Summit in Burkina Faso. He spoke of Canada's
commitment to contribute to the European Union and
Francophone Summit project that will focus on improving
Haiti's judicial system through training of magistrates and
modernizing penal procedures. He stated that Canada will
join other countries in financing the 2005 elections, will
work with Hydro Quebec to replicate the success story of the
Jackmel electrification project (24/7 electricity) in other
regions in Haiti and, at the request of IGOH PM Latortue,
and will consider financing a rail route that would provide
a second transportation means from Port au Prince to the
south. He called for reconciliation and national dialogue
(to include Lavalas), noting that without securing the
peace, it would be difficult to move forward with
reconstruction in Haiti.
8. (U) IGOH PM Latortue, stating that only months ago he was
a member of the Haitian Diaspora (HD), made a plea for
members of the HD to help create a new Haiti. He said the
HD holds the key to changing the mentality in Haiti, stated
that it is time to recognize the collective interest above
individual ambitions and interests. He congratulated the
GOC for the conference initiative, noting that while there
is a large Haitian community in Florida, that never before
had a meeting of this kind between a government and the
Haitian diaspora been conducted. He stated that while
spontaneous humanitarian aid is not a bad thing, what Haiti
really needs is a long-term commitment that leads to durable
solutions. He spoke of the 2005 elections, emphasizing that
the leaders in the IGOH have no particular party
affiliations and that none of the current leaders would seek
political office in the upcoming election. He lamented that
past dictatorships had chased away a middle class with
expertise that could help build a stong Haitian nation. He
urged professionals in the HD to return to Haiti, even if
only for weeks or a few months to offer services or
expertise. He suggested, for example, that Haitians who are
serving as university professors in places like Yale,
Oxford, Univ. of Montreal and other places around the world,
could return to conduct summer seminars for university
students, if unable or unwilling to leave their current
professional positions. He added that HD expertise will be
needed for the 2005 elections (eg., supervisors, observers),
for job creation to enhance the economy beyond the close to
US$1 billion in remittances that the HD sends to family
members yearly. Moreover, he suggested that the HD could
help the economy by spending tourism dollars, such as
retirees escaping the Canadian winters to summer homes in
Haiti or youth vacationing in Haiti. He acknowledged that
there are security concerns in Haiti, but stated that the
media distorts the story and that much of the security
problems are localized. To further his plea for a return to
Haiti, he stated that "Israelis aren't afraid to return to
Israel", and questioned why Haitians should be afraid to
return home.
9. (U) MINUSTAH Ambassador Valdes informed the conference
attendees that MINUSTAH initially lacked adequate troop
strength to significantly reduce the violence and that
deployments had been difficult, including workdays with
16-hour shifts. He said the security situation has improved
with the 5000 troops in place and will soon be better when
the deployment level reaches 6300 troops. He reported that
the local police are dedicated, but that it has been
difficult for them to maintain security because the local
population has not liked the police and has not had trust in
the local police force over the years. He suggested that
Latin American countries sent troops to Haiti because Latin
Americans can empathize with Haitians, having shared similar
experiences in their respective countries' histories. When
asked whether or when MINUSTAH troops will "disarm the
thugs", Valdes responded that "taking away the arms is the
easy part, the tough job is building people's trust to have
a dialogue without arms." He added that at some point in
time, if necessary, MINUSTAH will cut off communication
between groups that promote violence and intimidate Haitian
citizens. When asked how MINUSTAH could aid a women's group
in Montreal that has been having difficulty getting its
several containers of goods delivered to Gonaives, Valdes
did not provide a response.
10. (U) The several HD organizations on the panel that
Canadian Special Advisor on Haiti Denis Coderre moderated
provided overviews on the types of expertise their
respective organizations could provide. Many spoke of the
possibility of providing professional skills in education,
health care, nutrition, promoting women's rights and human
rights. One representative suggested his organization could
offer a study to ensure the successful coherence of projects
for long-term success (such as a ten or fifteen year plan).
Many representatives expressed concern that Haitians in
Haiti may be resistant to help from the HD. The PAFHA
representative said that Haiti is not well-known in France,
that PAFHA is conducting an educational campaign to generate
interest in Haiti. There was consensus that a Haitian
middle class needs to drive development in Haiti.
11. (U) The afternoon workshops were designed around five
a) political governance,
b) national dialogue,
c) economic governance and institutional development,
d) economic revitalization and,
e) access to basic services.
Each workshop addressed three questions:
(1) In light of your theme, what role can the diaspora
(2) What conditions are needed to achieve a uccessful
intervetion by the iaspor?; ad
(3 In the log term, bearing in mind that the Interim
Cooperation Framework ends in 2006, what are the
perspectives for a long-term intervention by the HD?
(U) After each workshop revealed its results, the consensus
reached in the plenary wrap-up was:
a) that a survey of expertise within the HD is needed;
b) that there should be a moratorium on deporting
criminals presently in Canada and the U.S. to Haiti;
c) that the Haitian population in Haiti needs to be
prepared for the return of the HD, that the IGOH should
install a "welcoming organization", so that the HD is not
seen by the local population as a band of intruders;
d) that the HD needs to respect Haitians in Haiti and not
return as experts with arrogant attitudes;
e) that FOCAL should provide e-mail followups to the MCHD;
f) that the Interim Cooperation Framework should be
inclusive for all the HD groups;
g) that there should be continued inter-diaspora
coordination among Haitian groups in Canada, the U.S. and
h) that there should be humble and useful dialogue in the
development of concrete projects;
i) that there should be a creation of a HD Secretariat
(with financing) or permanent structure where members of the
HD can continue to send ideas and suggestions;
j) that youth should not be excluded or pushed away when
offering support and services to Haiti;
k) that women must be allowed to support reconstruction in
Haiti; and
l) that a long-term commitment (ten, fifteen or twenty
years) is needed for Haiti, not just a cycle of spontaneous
responses to humanitarian needs.
12. (U) In the closing of the conference, Canadian Special
Advisor to Haiti Denis Coderre and GOC Minister of "La
Francophonie" Jacques Saada, visibly angry about the
continuous band of boisterous pro-Aristide demonstrators,
emphasized they were addressing their remarks to the few
dozen persons who had protested throughout the day. Coderre
asked the demonstrators to "stop the hate", said it was a
"ridiculous lie" to suggest that the GOC is attempting to
make Haiti a protectorate. Saada said he twice tried to
speak with the demonstrators, but that some hurled insults
at him and others turned their backs on him. Saada also
announced that he and Coderre plan to organize an official
Haitian Diaspora delegation to Haiti, possibly in January
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