Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to depart today for the Bahamas, where members of the Caribbean Community are gathering to discuss regional issues, including a deepening crisis in Haiti.
Trudeau is participating as a special guest at the summit of 20 Caribbean leaders in Nassau, as the group celebrates its 50th anniversary.
His office says the trip will allow leaders to consider political, security and humanitarian assistance to Haitian people and “Haitian-led solutions to the ongoing situation.”
The country is embroiled in crisis, with violent gangs jockeying for territory in capital Port-au-Prince and international watchdogs reporting rampant sexual assault, kidnappings and a worsening health emergency.
Haiti’s unelected prime minister Ariel Henry, who is expected to participate in the Nassau meeting, has asked for a foreign military intervention — and the United States has suggested that Canada lead one.
But the Canadian government has so far kept its powder dry, instead searching for a “consensus” on the ground and levying economic sanctions against elites accused of supporting gang activity.
Emmanuel Dubourg, Canada’s only Haitian-born federal member of Parliament, suggested in an interview that the government is not leaving anything off the table as it considers how to help.
“We are trying our best to have that consensus to have a diplomatic solution,” the Liberal MP said.
“But we also heard that the national police is under-armed, and the situation, it’s really difficult there. So we are discussing all types of options to help people in Haiti.”
Dubourg added that a discussion about Haiti is likely to play into Trudeau’s conversations with U.S. President Joe Biden in March, when he is expected to visit north of the border.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said in French on Tuesday that Canada would continue working with the U.S. and other allies to help improve the situation on the ground.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also responded to questions about Haiti in French outside the House of Commons, saying that he thinks it’s important to work with Haitian people on a way forward rather than “forcing a solution” as a foreign country.
Trudeau was last expected to join the Caribbean leaders at a meeting in February 2020, but cancelled the trip amid criticism of his government’s handling of anti-pipeline blockades in Western Canada at the time.
More than two million Canadians travel to the countries represented in the group every year, and Canada’s two-way trade with them totalled nearly $6 billion in 2021.
The prime minister is expected to return to Ottawa late Thursday evening.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2023.