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29067: Fenton (News) Canadians threatened us: Haitians (fwd)

From: Anthony Fenton <fentona@shaw.ca>

Copyright 2006 The Gazette, a division of CanWest MediaWorks
Publication Inc.
All Rights Reserved
The Gazette (Montreal)

September 2, 2006 Saturday
Final Edition


LENGTH: 971 words

HEADLINE: Canadians threatened us: Haitians



Canadian troops with the United Nations in Haiti made death threats
during house raids and made sexual threats against women while drunk
and off-duty, according to Haitians interviewed as part of a
meticulous human rights survey by U.S. researchers in December 2005
published Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet.

The study, which estimated that 8,000 Haitians have been murdered and
35,000 women and girls raped in Port-au-Prince alone since the ouster
of then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in early 2004, did not
mention Canadians specifically, blaming only Brazilian and Jordanian
troops for making threats.

But in an interview yesterday, the study's lead author said Haitians
pinpointed Canadians as among those UN military personnel who
threatened them physically or sexually.

"Canadians were definitely blamed for death threats and threats of
physical and sexual violence," said Athena Kolbe, 30, an expert on
Haiti who speaks Creole. She has visited Haiti often and is doing her
master's degree at Wayne State University's School of Social Work, in

One family was interviewed at their home in Delmas, an eastern suburb
of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

"Canadian troops came to their house, and they said they were looking
for (pro-Aristide) Lavalas chimeres, and threatened to kill the head
of household, who was the father, if he didn't name names of people
in their neighbourhood who were Lavalas chimeres or Lavalas
supporters," Kolbe said by phone from San Francisco. "And he refused
to, because, as he told us, he didn't know anyone."

How did he recognize the soldiers were Canadians? "From the flag on
the uniform," Kolbe said.

How did he remember the incident so precisely? "Because the family
was traumatized by it."

That incident was alleged to have taken place around the time of
Aristide's departure in February 2004.

In another incident, "one woman said a Canadian soldier tried to have
sex with her, that this soldier was drunk and she didn't want to, and
that he was threatening her and grabbing at her when she didn't want
to," Kolbe said.

The woman was out with her friends near a Canadian base, on a street
where drunk and off-

duty Canadian soldiers in uniform tried to pick up local women.

Of the women in the peer-

reviewed study who complained of sexual threats, drunk and off-duty
Canadian and U.S. soldiers were most often blamed, Kolbe said. "But
regarding Brazilian and Jordanian troops, a lot of the sexual threats
were actually when they were on patrol."

Canada sent 450 soldiers and other personnel along with six CH-146
Griffon helicopters to Haiti in March 2004 as part of a UN
peacekeeping force of 6,700 military personnel and 1,600 police. The
Canadian soldiers left in August of that year, but Canada still has
66 police officers in Haiti leading the UN's police force.

The Lancet survey - which questioned 5,720 randomly selected Haitians
living in and around the capital about their lives in the 22 months
since Aristide's fall - found that 97 said they had received death
threats, 232 had been threatened physically and 86 sexually. One-
third of the perpetrators were criminals, about 20 per cent were
Haitian National Police and other government security agents, and
another 20 per cent were foreign soldiers.

Most soldiers were identified by the flag displayed on their UN
helmet or on their uniform sleeve over the upper arm. Other UN
personnel were harder to identify by country; they had blue helmets
but no flags.

The allegations of misconduct indicate that UN troops in Haiti need
to be reined in, Kolbe said.

Canadians would likely have been more frequently cited if the study
hadn't been restricted to the greater Port-au-Prince area, where
Canadian troops patrol less than elsewhere in Haiti, Kolbe added.

Told of the allegations after Kolbe related them late yesterday
afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence said
they sounded specific and serious but needed verification before any
comment could be made. "Is there any way that you could give us time
to comment?" said Lt. Adam Thomson, asking publication of the
allegations be delayed until after the Labour Day weekend.

Also in Ottawa yesterday, Rejean Beaulieu, the Foreign Affairs
department spokesperson for Haiti, refused comment, offering instead
only an off-the-record, not-for-attribution "deep background
briefing" on Canada's role in Haiti.

Earlier, Beaulieu referred questions to the UN, which he said "should
be in a better position to answer since our people in Haiti were and
are working under this umbrella."

In Montreal, a spokesperson for Premier Jean Charest - who visited
Haiti in June 2005 and received its controversial prime minister,
Gerard Latortue, at his Montreal office last March - also declined
comment. "The type of relationship we have with Haiti is through
humanitarian projects," not peacekeeping or policing, which is
Ottawa's jurisdiction, Hugo d'Amours said.

Ridiculous, retorted Marie-Dominik Langlois, co-ordinator of the
Christian Committee for Human Rights in Latin America.

"There are lots of humanitarian projects in Haiti that only serve to
legitimize so-called community leaders" who had a role in the
undemocratic removal of Aristide, and Quebec is involved with them,
she said.

But one Montreal Haitian community group took an opposite view.

"Impunity (from justice) reigns like a king in Haiti, but in my
opinion things would be even worse without the UN presence," said
Marjorie Villefranche, director of programs at the Maison d'Haiti, a
St. Michel community centre founded in 1972 that serves some of the
70,000 Haitians here.

"There has been an acceleration of violence. But it's an acceleration
caused by armed groups, not foreign soldiers. The real mistake was
that the UN didn't disarm everyone when they arrived."

jheinrich@ thegazette.canwest.com