The federal government has sent armoured vehicles and other supplies to Haiti to help police fight a powerful gang amid a pending request from the Haitian government for the immediate deployment of foreign troops.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that by providing the equipment, Canada is supporting the restoration of security in Haiti.
The co-ordinated shipment is a joint operation between Canada and the U.S.
A standoff between a gang federation and Haiti’s government is testing how much power both sides wield and threatens to further derail a paralyzed country where millions of people are struggling to find fuel and water.
Trudeau said in a statement posted online the equipment will be used to fight against violent criminal gangs and help improve security.
“Our two countries remain committed to supporting the Haitian National Police’s work of protecting and serving the people of Haiti. And together, we’ll continue to support the restoration of security in Haiti,” his statement said.
Canada said in a statement with the U.S. it remains committed to supporting the Haitian National Police and its effort to train more officers.
“This equipment will assist the HNP in their fight against criminal actors who are fomenting violence and disrupting the flow of critically-needed humanitarian assistance, hindering efforts to halt the spread of cholera,” the statement said. It noted the delivery was purchased by the Haitian government, though a sum was not disclosed.
The equipment arrived more than a month after one of Haiti’s most powerful gangs surrounded a fuel terminal and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
Demonstrators also have blocked roads in major cities to protest a sharp rise in fuel prices after Henry announced in early September that his administration could no longer afford to subsidize fuel.
The gang, known as “G9 and Family” is demanding positions in Henry’s Cabinet, according to the director of Haiti’s National Disarmament, Dismantling and Reintegration Commission, speaking to radio station Magik 9 on Thursday.
Henry and 18 members of his Cabinet appealed nearly a week ago for the deployment of foreign troops to quell violence and end the fuel blockade.
The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to discuss the issue and receive a report from a UN office in Haiti on Monday.
Gang demands are nothing new in Haiti, and they have grown more prominent since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, but previous threats were quickly dealt with by police and assisting U.N. peacekeeping forces.
The U.N. is reporting an estimated 60% of the country’s capital city Port-au-Prince is controlled by gangs.
Haitian officials have warned the international community that the situation is dire, noting that a recent cholera outbreak could also worsen due to the limited availability of water and other basic supplies.
On Friday, UNICEF warned that nearly 100,000 children younger than five are already suffering from severe acute malnutrition and are vulnerable to cholera: “The crisis in Haiti is increasingly a children’s crisis.”
Later in the day, a report from U.N. agencies and international aid groups said a record 4.7 million people in Haiti are facing acute hunger, including 19,000 in catastrophic famine conditions for the first time, all in the gang-controlled Cite Soleil slum of Port-au-Prince.
It is also becoming a crisis for women. The United Nations Population Fund said Friday that 30,000 pregnant women are at risk because roughly three-fourths of Haiti’s hospitals are unable to provide services due to a lack of fuel.
In addition, gangs are increasingly raping women and girls, as well as boys and to some extent men, to exert and retain control over territory, according to a U.N. Human Rights report released Friday.
Helen La Lime, the top U.N. official in Haiti, told reporters that human rights abuses including rape and sexual assault have reached alarming levels.
With files from Associated Press
David Fraser, The Canadian Press