Stop Canada’s Persecution of former-Lavalas MP, Jean Candio
By Richard Sanders, editor, Press for Conversion!
In 2006, Jean Candio, a former Haitian MP, received an odd Christmas present from the Canadian government—he spent two weeks in a Windsor-Ontario jail. The two main reasons he spent Christmas behind bars may seem surprising.
First of all, the government cited an Amnesty International document that reported unsubstantiated allegations by a CIDA-funded group called the National Coalition for Haitian Rights–Haiti (NCHR-Haiti). This “thoroughly discredited and partisan Haitian human rights group”1 had made numerous other totally-unfounded claims leading to the persecution of prominent politicians from President Aristide’s Lavalas Party. (See Richard Sanders, "The Canadian-backed Coup Regime’s Reign of Terror: How CIDA-funded NCHR Promoted and then Covered up Atrocities," Press for Conversion!, Sept. 2007. http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/61/3-19.pdf) In Candio’s case, they accused him of disrupting a church meeting in Pliche, Haiti, on November 2000.2
When these grounds evaporated, Canadian officials then claimed that Candio was a “senior official” in a government that “engages or has engaged in terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or genocide.”3 And, says Enver Villamizar, a Windsor activist helping Candio’s case:
“the immigration judge actually extended his prison time for one week stating that his association [with Aristide’s government] was proof enough to hold him.”4
As for the first excuse, Candio “can easily refute the allegations.... [and] notwithstanding wild allegations ...made on anti-Lavalas websites,”5 he has signed affidavits from witnesses testifying that he was not even in Pliche on the date of the incident. He also has a “police clearance showing that no case has been brought against him at any level in Haiti.”6
It is also worth noting that although Amnesty “published NCHR’s allegations against Mr. Candio,” it “never mentioned later investigations that exonerated him.”7
The second basis for Candio’s arrest—Canada’s labelling of Haiti’s government as terrorist—demonstrates extreme prejudice against “the massively popular movement that has dominated Haitian elections since 1990.”8
Candio was elected in 2000 with 91% of the vote. In the previous Lavalas government, he had been appointed a vice-delegate “responsible for education and community programs.”9 Both Aristide administrations were ousted in violent coups and many Lavalas officials—including Candio—fearing for their lives, went into exile.
Considering Canada’s key role in the 2004 coup, it is not surprising that our government would see Lavalas as a terrorist organization. In March 2004, just weeks after the coup, Canada’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met with top representatives of several CIDA-funded groups that whole-heartedly supported the Canadian-backed regime change in Haiti. Among them was Catherine Duhamel, Director of the International Center for Legal Resources (ICLR). In the midst of Haiti’s vicious, anti-Lavalas crackdown—when thousands were being murdered, jailed, raped or exiled by the Canadian-backed dictatorship—Duhamel told MPs that because of this “absolutely urgent” situation, “Canada should immediately take action to prevent alleged Haitian offenders from entering the country.” She then explained exactly who the “offenders” were, saying Canada
“should designate the Aristide regime, just as those of Duvalier and Cedras were, as the latter are already designated under our Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. That would mean that members of the Aristide regime would be ineligible for entry to Canada.”10
And this is exactly what the Canadian government did, although it really didn’t need any coaching from the CIDA-funded ICLR.11
Joe Emersberger, a Windsor-based activist with the Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN), summed up the government’s hypocrisy saying, in December 2006, that if it criminalizes “Candio’s association with Lavalas,” the Canadian government will have
“criminalized Haiti’s poor majority.... It is Lavalas opponents—not the beseiged Lavalas governments—who have committed gross and systemic human rights abuses; yet Mr, Candio sits in jail...not the dictator Gérard Latortue, nor his Canadian allies—Paul Martin and Pierre Petti-grew. Those who have trampled on the rights of the poor—like Gérard Latortue—are welcomed as statesmen by the Canadian government.”12
In January 2007, Candio’s lawyer, Paul Copeland, reported that the Canadian government had finally dropped its allegations that his client “was a member of a terrorist group.”13
Despite ill treatment by Canadian authorities, he and his family are still trying to gain refugee status here. They have good reason to believe it would be even worse for them in Haiti, or the U.S. In March 2004, Candio’s house “was burned to the ground,”14 killing his sister and her child.15 Candio’s cousin was also killed.16 The “death squads that murdered” them
“were headed by people who are currently mayors and other low level officials in Haiti who maintain their posts as a result of the de facto administration set up after the coup.”17
After fleeing to the U.S., Candio was detained there in March and April of 2006. The U.S. government then allowed him to “voluntarily leave the U.S. to go to Canada, where the plan apparently was to have Canadian border officials immediately deport him back to Haiti.”18 Candio had already “requested asylum in Canada well before arriving [and] the Government of Canada invited him to come for an appointment to receive his claim.”19 However, upon arrival at the border on December 13, 2006, Candio was subjected to “inter-rogation...by an individual claiming to be an interpreter, but who is widely believed to have been a U.S. security agent.”20 Thanks to pressure from CHAN activists, Candio was not deported and was freed from jail on December 28.
But the Canadian government is still thwarting his case. Several other Haitian refugee claimants—who arrived here after Candio—”have already had their hearings and been granted convention refugee status.”21 Meanwhile, Candio’s lawyer has “never had a response from the Refugee Board” to letters he sent in April and June, requesting an “expedited hearing.”22
CHAN is urging Canadians to call for an end to Candio’s legal limbo. Please ask the IRB to respond positively to Candio’s requests for an immediate refugee hearing:
• Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada <email@example.com>
Please CC your email to:
• Paul Copeland (Candio’s lawyer) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
• Joe Emersberger (Haiti Solidarity Windsor) <email@example.com>
For more information, contact Joe Emersberger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
1. Joe Emersberger,
"Canada's Haitian Political Prisoner," ZNet, December 27, 2006. <www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11722>
2. Open letter to Amnesty International Regarding Jean Candio, Canada Haiti Action Network. Dec. 27, 2006. <www.canadahaitiaction.ca/article.php?id=222>
3. Emersberger. Op. cit.
4. Enver Villamizar, Email correspondence with author, August 29, 2007.
6. Villamizar, Op. cit.
7. Joe Emersberger, "Amnesty International's track record in Haiti since 2004," Caribbean Net News, February 8, 2007. <www.caribbeannetnews.com/cgi-script/csArticles/articles/000058/005832.htm>
8. Emersberger, 2006. Op. cit.
10. Standing Committee, Foreign Affairs & International Trade, March 25, 2004. <http://cmte.parl.gc.ca/cmte/CommitteePublication.aspx?COM=8730&SourceId= 76218&SwitchLanguage=1>
11. Statistical Report on ODA - 2003-04 <www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/INET/IMAGES.NSF/vLUImages/stats/$file/Stat_rep_03-04.pdf>
12. Emersberger, 2006. Op. cit.
13. "Canada drops allegations against Haitian politician." <http://sumoud.tao.ca/?q=node/view/861>
14. Emersberger, 2006. Op. cit.
15. James Winter, "New Underground Railway Runs from Haiti to Windsor," Media & Propaganda Conference, May 15, 2007. <www.uwindsor.ca/units/commstudies/propaganda.nsf>
16. Paul Copeland, Letter to IRB Screening Unit, April 4, 2007.
17. "Update on the Case of ex-Haitian MP, Jean Candio." Aug. 18, 2007. CHAN email list <http://lists.cupe.ca/mailman/listinfo/chan>
19. Villamizar, Op. cit.
20. "Update..." Op. cit.
22. Paul Copeland, Letter to Ken Sandhu, IRB, August 7, 2007.
This article was published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade in Press for Conversion! (issue #61) September 2007.
HTML version: http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/61/12-13.htm
PDF version, as it appears in the magazine: http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/61/3-19.pdf
This issue of Press for Conversion! is entitled: "CIDA's Key Role in Haiti's 2004 Coup d'etat: Funding Regime Change, Dictatorship and Human Rights Atrocities, one Haitian 'NGO' at a Time." Here is the table of contents: <http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/61/61-TOC.htm>
The previous issue of Press for Conversion! (#60) was called:
"A Very Canadian Coup d’état in Haiti: The Top 10 Ways that Canada’s Government helped the 2004 Coup and its Reign of Terror."
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