Haitian-Canadian filmmaker Michèle Stephenson’s documentary, Stateless, was the centrepiece film of this year’s Toronto Black Film Festival - which, due to COVID-19, was conducted online, It examines the strained relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the consequences, sometimes violent, for Haitian migrant laborers and Dominicans of Haitian descent who, despite having been born in the Dominican Republic, continue to be denied citizenship due to racism and xenophobia. A review by Sarah-Tai Black follows - a trailer is posted on The National Film Board of Canada’s Media Library and the documentary itself will follow.
Haiti often seems to be perpetually instable, at a crossroads, at an impasse. It is important to remember though that Haiti is full of talented young people who, if given the opportunity, go on to do great things. Haiti is sorely in need of new leaders in government, in civil society, and in the private sector. The Haitian Education and Leadership Program (HELP) has long provided scholarships to high performing students in Haiti who would not otherwise be able to pursue higher education. On 26 February, HELP Haiti will hold a webinar in which several successful alumni will speak about their experiences with the program. Think about participating and supporting their work. More information follows as well as the registration link.
There is no justice without a functioning judicial system and Haiti's is broken. Prisons are sorely over-crowded in part due to 80% of inmates being held for years with no trial. In addition, activists report a distrubing increase in illegal preventive detentions. Judges are few, overwhelmed, and often threatened. Haiti remains a fragile democracy and will remain so without justice and the rule of law. If the judicial system improves, then we will know that Haiti is, at last, changing for better. The full article by AP journalists Evens Sanon and Danica Coto is linked and follows below.
What comes to mind when you think of Haitian agricultural products? Perhaps rum, coffee and mangos which, truth be told, are very good. Haiti also produces very high quality cocoa although, like every export crop, it is held back from realizing its full potential by political instability and weak infrastructure. However, there is room for growth as Haitian cocoa holds its own against any of its other Caribbean and Latin America neighbours. The FECANNO cooperative along employees 4,000 farmers in Northern Haiti producing high quality cocoa. The full article by AFP journalist Amelia Baron follows.
Part of the reason we made this website was to highlight good work being done by good people, especially Haitians, for the betterment of the country. Haiti has many overlooked heroes, too many of whom pay the ultimate price for trying to bring about a more just society. Monferrial Dorval, former head of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association and international human rights champion, was assassinated on August 28, 2020. His legacy was remembered on 10 December which is International Human Rights Day. He was committed to the rule of law, human rights, and drafted a bill that would prevent Haitians in Haiti and abroad from not having citizenship due to gaps in civil registration and documentation. May his example be an inspiration to others.
During their years in power, the Duvaliers led a kleptocracy - stealing from the people to maintain extravagant lifestyles. They did not do so alone. Being anti-communist, they were long supported by the United States while Swiss banks hid millions of dollars from the Duvaliers and those close to them. In 2002, Duvalier funds in Geneva, Vaud and Zurich were frozen. In 2009, the Federal Office of Justice announced the money would be returned to Haiti although this was overturned the following year. These funds, which belong to the Haitian people, have yet to be returned. Doing so is long overdue.
Haitian women hold together families, communities, and the country. Despite this, violence against women and girls remains a persistent problem. The kindnapping, torture, and murder of a high school girl has infuriated civil society who are pushing artists, influences, and politicans to do more to prevent and respond. The girl, Evelyne Sincère, has become a symbol of injustice - but not indifference this time. If Haiti is to change, both civil society and the government will need to work tirelessly for the protection of women and girls. The best way to honor Evelyne is to prevent it from happening to anyone else. The full article by Miami Herald journallist Jacqueline Charles follows.
Weak governance and political instability continues to hinder progress in Haiti, but it is important to highlight what is working. For example, Haiti has cut malaria cases in half from 2010 by working with a range of international and national partners including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, the World Health Organisation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC Foundation, and the Carter Center. This is welcome news, especially for pregnant women and children under five who are most vulnerable. An update from the Haitian Minister of Health Marie Greta Roy Clement in the Miami Herald follows.
In the week leading up to the election, the Trump Administration has scaled up deportation flights to Haiti. Many were deported while they asylum cases were pending using a 1944 public health law, thereby sidestepping legal obligations to give asylum seekers a fair hearing. The 1944 law allows for emergency measures to prevent the introduction of communicable diseases. The reality is that the United States is the country most affected by COVID-19 and is placing Haiti at risk by deporting people who may be infected. Haiti's political instability and poor health care system leave it under-prepared to respond to a significant increase in cases. COVID-19 continues to be a tool for the Trump Administration to block asylum to the maximum extent possible - even for those already here. The full article by the Guaridan's Julian Borger follows.
Many of Haiti's roads are terrible - some major routes have been improved but overall it is far behind its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. Roads are important for the economy, getting goods to and from regional markets, for public health, getting people to health care facilities when they need care, and for disaster preparedness/response, being able to get national and international responders/commodities to where they are most needed. Due to the rough conditions, travel is more difficult and expensive than it should be. To get a better sense of what it is like to be a passenger or driver in Haiti, check out the documentary "Deadliest Roads: Haiti".