Earlier this month, the Canadian government went to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to create jobs, economic growth and prosperity, not for local people but for “middle-class Canadian families.” The government-led trade mission to Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo was for 20 Canadians organizations, mostly construction and engineering companies, including SNC Lavalin.
Reconstruction in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake has involved massive foreign aid, foreign governments and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The number of NGOs in Haiti is estimated at over 10,000. But despite all the foreign money, approximately 400,000 Haitians are still living in tents or under tarps in displacement camps, where they are threatened by regular violence, disease and evictions. A cholera epidemic has killed 7,000 and infected half a million people, fueled by the lack of proper water and sewage systems.
Stephen Harper’s government is correct that Haiti’s limited infrastructure and development needs can create more export opportunities for Canadian companies, especially if foreign interests continue to set Haiti’s economic and social policy. The foreign-led reconstruction and development process has resulted the lucrative contracts and non-exploitative jobs going to foreign companies and workers, while Haitians get sweatshop jobs paying $5 a day.
In their new book, Paved with Good Intentions: Canada’s Development NGOs from Idealism to Imperialism, Nikolas Barry-Shaw and Dru Oja Jay discuss foreign development projects and how Canadian NGOs are used to promote Canada’s economic and political interests. An alternative to many foreign NGOs is the humanitarian work of the Cuban government. In Fast Facts: Revolutionary Health Care, Errol Black and Jim Silver discuss Cuba’s significant humanitarian response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake and other emergencies, a response that is mostly ignored by the mainstream media.
In January 2012, Mud and Water Radio spoke to Kim Ives, editor of Haiti Liberté, about foreign intervention and occupation in Haiti. The interview is available to download.