18 January 2010

Regarding Haiti

Among the countries of the Western Hemisphere one is the poorest. There is poverty in all of the richest of these countries but one has more than the others: one is more unequal in its lack of equality. One always suffers more in a disaster because it subsists daily with less and is therefore more vulnerable to seismic and climatic events. Two hundred and fifty years ago this one was chosen by its colonial master (France), for its slaves and sugar, over the habitants and fur of its fellow colony to the north (New France/Canada).

Haiti was home to one third of the Atlantic slave trade throughout the eighteenth century and suffered brutally under Napoleon after rebellion only to labour further under a 12o year-long bill of debt to the French government for the loss of slave wealth and in recognition of its being the second oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere (see above): it is a colonial history of particular venality and cruelty. Their rich and successful neighbour next door (United States of America) also benefited from slavery but the plantation and factory owners were free to design a nation where they could live and prosper in their own image, even after they freed the slave population, eventually. There is much fanfare about American democracy and ingenuity but the profits rolled in because the land was stolen and so was the labour. The canadiens meanwhile, abandoned by the French Crown, were picked up by British colonial masters under and with whom they too were eventually able to grow wealthy. Assimilation and land and resource plunder are on-going colonial legacies in Canada.

From what once were tenuous, franco-colonial ties between Canada and Haiti, has grown a familial and cultural relationship with deep roots. These connections will be strengthened as Canadians and French and Americans assist Haitians to recover and rebuild. Haiti needs immediate, physical attention and unconditional acceptance into a modern global community still coming to terms with Post Colonial Stress Disorder. During good times and bad our lives and histories are entwined; if one suffers so do we all.

The history of slavery continues into contemporary times. Women and children, in the sex-on-demand or manufacturing industries for example, now suffer the same dehumanizing brutality and life threatening hazards known to captives three hundred years ago. The slave trade is rampant and worldwide.

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