British Crown to Pay Long Overdue Reparations

Exposing Imperialism in Haiti
March 7, 2017
From Khufu, Snefru, Huni and Djoser to Makandal, Dessalines and you
April 4, 2017

British Crown to Pay Long Overdue Reparations

MICHAELLE JEAN CALLED TO MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD

(British Crown to Pay Long Overdue Reparations) by Jafrikayiti, April 7, 2007

Dear Michaelle Jean:

First, let me offer you my congratulations as you enter a 19th month of tenure as Governor General of Canada.

Today, I write to bring two urgent matters to your attention:

1)     Reparations owed to the native peoples of Africa and of the Americas by the British Crown and its dominions, and;

2)     Canadian Foreign Policy as it impacts our native Haiti

Governor-General Michaellle Jean and Queen Elizabeth II

The British Crown Must Repair the Damage it Caused !

As commemorative events take place this year to mark the bicentenary of the 1807 British Act for the Abolition of the “Slave Trade”, descendants of the Africans who were enslaved by various European nation-states (from 1499 to 1888) [1] are exposing some crucial truths [2] pertaining to the histories and present realities of Africa, Europe, Canada and the rest of the Americas.

Unfortunately, due to conflicts of interest, many of the people who dominate these commemorative events tend to exploit them for the promotion of the most outrageous form of revisionist history. Indeed, these individuals don’t hesitate to blatantly flip reality up side down in order to hide or embellish the role their nation-states played in the ugliest period of recorded human history; one which saw the near successful genocide of various native peoples of Africa and of the Americas.

Dessalines was a Real Abolitionist, not Wilberforce !

Jean Jacques Dessalines (Founder of Abolitionist Republic of Haiti)

In a March 25th 2007 statement [3] , for instance, Prime Minister Stephen Harper boasts how: “On March 25, 1807, King George III proclaimed into law the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the culmination of a decades long campaign by courageous abolitionists, led by the great parliamentarian William Wilberforce”.  A simple verification of facts would inform Mr. Harper that the end of this vicious “trade” was the culmination of many battles which preceded the birth, let alone the actions, of one William Wilberforce. In fact, the man being heralded as a leader of “courageous abolitionists” wrote a pamphlet in 1807 in which he shamelessly declared: “It would be wrong to emancipate (the enslaved Africans). To grant freedom to them immediately would be to insure not only their masters’ ruin, but their own. They must (first) be trained and educated for freedom…”.

Truth be told, there were compelling military and economic imperatives that pushed Britain to adopt the 1807 Act, which merely rendered the so-called “trade” illegal but failed to abolish racial slavery on British territory [4] . Over a million captured Africans were still regarded by the British Government as legal human property and forcibly held captive for over another two decades.

In the year 1807, the only place in the Americas where racial slavery was abolished is the Island of Haiti. Four years before the British Act, in 1803, a population of African men and women, following decades of the deadliest armed struggle, defeated the armies of the slavers (Spanish, British and French) that held them in bondage on the island.

Slavery is forever abolished” declared article 2 of the first Haitian constitution. As early as April 1804, using the new nation’s meager post-war budget, liberator and founder Jean-Jacques Dessalines [5] secured the liberation of countless human beings (U.S. slave ship captains pocketed $40 per person released). Freedom and citizenship was awarded to the formerly enslaved men, women, and children immediately upon arrival on Haitian soil.  It is once again Jean-Jacques Dessalines who, in March 1806, gave refuge and military support to Latin American leader Francisco de Miranda. Haiti’s Alexandre Pétion would offer similar assistance to Simon Bolivar a few years  later. In return, the Africans of Haiti always made one simple request: that the Latin American revolutionaries free all enslaved Africans wherever they are victorious [6] .

Obviously, it is Jean-Jacques Dessalines and his comrades, not William Wilberforce, who deserve to be honored as the true pioneers of the abolition of racial slavery in the Americas. Suffice it to say that there were thousands of Africans and several notable Europeans like John Brown [7] and the Quakers [8] who helped Harriett Tubman [9] accomplish over 15 extraordinary voyages in the Underground Railroad who, at great risk to their lives, stood up everywhere in the Americas against the evil of racial slavery. Whether it is Nat Turner, John Brown and Denmark Vessey in the U.S., The Quakers and Harriet Tubman in Canada, Sam Sharpe in Jamaica, Delgresse [10] in Guadeloupe and thousands of other true abolitionists who rose up against racial slavery, we must ensure we honor their sacrifices and not insult their memory with a sacrilegious Wilberfest 2007

It is now a known historical fact that two British parliamentary committees on enslavement concluded that ‘if the British government didn’t bring an end to slavery in the colonies peaceably, then those [Caribbean] islands would soon be drenched in blood, [because] the slaves would in the end emancipate themselves’. Thus, in February 1833, a Bill went before a reformed British House of Commons which supported emancipation. It took yet another five years before enslaved Africans were finally ‘legally’ freed.

Africans are Speaking Up, Worldwide !

In England, by unearthing evidence such as the above, Operation Truth 2007 is countering the shameful attempts of the British State to falsify history.  Publications are coming out to adequately document how the so-called 2007 commemorations serve to purposefully suppress the role Africans played in the abolition of slavery while, at the same time, grossly exaggerating the dubious contributions of folks like Wilberforce.

The organized global enslavement, exploitation and murder of hundreds of millions of African people by Europeans was not the act of isolated individuals but a ‘legalized’ criminal act of gigantic proportions which was sanctioned by identifiable institutions, namely: the Christian church, the British Monarchy and other European-led governments which are still in place today [11] .

For example, in Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa [12] , we learn that, “as early as the 1560s, John Hawkins made three trips to West Africa and stole Africans whom he sold to the Spanish in America. On returning to England after the first trip, his profit was so handsome that Queen Elizabeth I became interested in directly participating in his next venture ; and she provided for that purpose a ship named the Jesus. Hawkins left with the Jesus to steal some more Africans, and he returned to England with such dividends that Queen Elizabeth made him a knight. Hawkins chose as his coat of arms the representation of an African in chains”.

In a compelling Declaration of Protest to the 2007 Commemoration [13] , the Ligali organization highlights how  “the subsequent political apathy following the 1807 declaration exposed the hypocrisy of the British government and the European abolitionists who called for the gradual emancipation of African people [“]

Further, the declaration reminds us, “… £20 million had been paid in compensation, not to the captured Africans and their families, but to the British slavers in the Caribbean to reimburse them for any loss of earnings”.

Madame Governor General, being yourself a descendant of the Africans who were enslaved on the island of Haiti, you are surely aware that, in a similar fashion, from  1825 to 1947 the French Republic crippled our nation of African abolitionists with a $150 Million Gold Francs ransom. [14]

In Canada, organizations such as the Global African Congress, Chaired by Mr. Cikiah Thomas, have written numerous letters [15] to Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prime Minister Harper, to the United Nations and various World Leaders, urging them to face the truth about the MAAFA [16] and its consequences without demagoguery.

A  coalition of organizations is working feverishly for the International Tribunal on Reparations for African People (ITRAP) [17] being held in Berlin, Germany, June 7-10, 2007. Berlin was chosen as the site of this meeting because it is deemed “’the scene of the crime’ where, in 1884-5, the colonial countries of Europe drew the illegitimate borders that continue to separate Africans and facilitate the theft of African wealth”.

The British Crown must stop evading its obligations through futile attempts at revisionism and projection. It must instead mobilize adequate resources to begin repairing the damage it has caused through its lead role in the kidnapping and enslaving of Africans [18] .

Madame Governor General, it is a fact that, in Canada [19] , thousands had owned enslaved human beings, exploited and abused them from around 1628 to about 1833. Historians tell us that slave owning was widespread among the emerging political and social elites of Upper Canada. Peter Russell, Matthew Elliot, and many other so-called “distinguished men” who sat on the Legislative Council of Upper Canada each owned dozens of slaves. Even the most conservative historians concur that there were over 4,100 documented enslaved people in Canada, of which 2,700 were aboriginal people, and 1400 Africans.

An apology for Canada’s participation in slavery and demonstration of your preparedness to enter into discussions on reparations with African Canadians would be most appropriate” wrote Mr. Cikiah Thomas of the Global Afrikan Congress in a February 14, 2007 letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Rather than respond to Mr. Cikiah’s insightful suggestion, in his March 25, 2007 statement, Prime Minister Harper boasts about  “the leadership of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe who persuaded the Legislature of Upper Canada to adopt the first meaningful restrictions on slavery within the British Empire in 1793”. Now, this is the same John Simcoe who would lead a tragically unsuccessful expedition against the Haitian revolution in 1796. Defeated by true abolitionists in Haiti, Simcoe [20] would leave for England in disgrace, the very next year. Like Wilberforce, Simcoe is hardly a “leader” in the abolition of racial slavery in the Americas.  Indeed, it is highly offensive and simply wrong that their deeds are being embellished in this fashion to the detriment of historical truth.

Sooner or later the hypocrisy must end. Currently, the Parliament of Jamaica is discussing the issue of Reparations. President Bharrat Jagdeo [21] of Guyana have recently made a public statement in which he underlies that “remarks about the horrors of the slave trade and slavery become meaningless and platitudinous” unless and until nation-states, like Britain, pay reparations to the peoples they have so profoundly scarred through the evil of State-sponsored and Church-blessed enslavement and commercial exploitation.

I’ve lost faith and trust in this elected system that governs Canada” wrote a First Nations participant, on the forum [22] titled “Belonging – From the Abolition of the Slave Trade to the Elimination of Racial Discrimination” which your office established to commemorate the passing of the 1807 Act.

This blunt expression of despair brings me to the second object of my letter: Canadian Foreign Policy as it impacts our native Haiti.

From Kashechewan to Cité Soleil: brothers and sisters are asking you and I to help end the hypocrisy, stop the bleeding and start the healing!

Canada is a rich country that has recently known nine consecutive budget surpluses. However it is also a country where the poor keep getting poorer and more vulnerable, budget after budget [23] .

This reality is difficult to accept as one considers how report after report, tragic disaster after tragic disaster expose the conditions of squalor in which many Canadians are forced to live in 2007. Yet, each budget speech includes pompous statements and dollar figures supposedly dedicated to “making poverty history” – not only in Canada but well beyond its territory.

On the one hand former residents of Kashechewan [24] (Canada) who are still traumatized by the contaminated drinking water disaster of April 2005, face the prospect of forced evacuation from their land;

On the other, para-governmental bodies [25] funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and senior members of the Canadian Arms Forces are justifying that Canada engages ever deeper in a colonial adventure in Haiti.  Apparently, on account of a so-called  “Responsibility to Protect” [26] (Haitians?). However, according to the Canadian Military Journal, “strong commitment to the sovereignty [and] independence … of Haiti” is a crucial barrier to the international engagement required to rebuild and reform the Haitian state” [27] .

Time to End the Hypocrisy, Stop the Bleeding, Start the Healing !

Dear Governor General, being among the privileged few Africans with a certain voice, it befalls us to help put an end to this hypocrisy !

We both know that neither the appalling poverty found in Haiti nor that which is faced by First Nations Peoples in Canada are recent phenomena due to “bad governance”, as is often posited by apologists of the violent conquest of this continent. The endemic vulnerability of the African and First Nations populations of the Americas stem from 500 years of inhumane colonial and neo-colonial policies.

Strategy consisting in throwing money and weapons, while patching up a brick school, a dispensary and a few prisons in return for shameless waving of a million Canadian flags  – is no solution at all.

Even when some relatively successful initiatives are undertaken by well-meaning foreigners working within the neo-colonial context, they cannot bring sustainable solutions to the huge and profound problems facing the impoverished native peoples.

Reversing the situation shall require us to adopt new policies and approaches, rather than rehashing the same old practices inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s “White man Burden”.

For instance, when taking stock of poverty in Haiti today, it is disingenuous to make light of the fact that in 1825, under the threat of re-enslavement, and with 12 warships armed with 500 canons, France blackmailed the African abolitionists of Haiti into agreeing to pay a bounty of 150 million Gold Francs for the lost of men, women and children they had deemed to be “French property”. That ransom (lowered to 90 million Francs), estimated at over $22 billion (USD) today, was in fact extorted from Haiti by France (meanwhile they sold off Louisiana which then represented 22 times the size of the entire island of Haiti for only 15 million Francs).

To say that the Charles X Ransom [28] had a devastating and lasting impact on our people would be a gross understatement. Decades after decades, Haiti had no money for social spending and development and had to close its rural schools, cut down its forests [29] , adopt the Rural Code which further systematized the class divisions (between rural and city folks) and bound the majority to work the land to pay off a hideous, racist and unfair debt.

Large-scale deforestation commenced. The timber was converted to cash through the export market. This is how the Haitian government generated revenue to pay for their indemnity to France. As evidence, Paryski writes, “In 1845 alone, 18,600 cubic meters of mahogany were exported from Haiti“.

A Very Canadian Coup d’État !
On February 29, 2004, the Constitutional Head of State who issued Haiti’s restitution demand, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was forced out of office amidst great controversy. Solid evidence now points to Canadian, French and American complicity in the illegal and violent activities surrounding this blatant coup d’état.

One year before the coup d’état, the Canadian government organized a high-level meeting of North American, Latin American and European powerbrokers to discuss possible regime change in Haiti. “The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” meeting was held at the government’s Meech Lake conference centre, between January 31 and February 1, 2003.

Since the first public leak of these machinations, Canadians of Haitian origin warned the Prime Minister not to engage is such a foolish adventure [30] .  Others have appealed for your personal intervention [31] . Instead of heeding our advice, successive Canadian governments have essentially pursued the agenda developed under “The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti”.

The Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) Press for Conversion Magazine published a March 2007 issue titled “A Very Canadian Coup d’état in Haiti” [32] . It reads, among other things, that “Canada has been instrumental in helping to devise, finance, implement and legitimize a destructive, neoliberal program—the so-called Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF)—that reversed many of the economic achievements put in place by the democratically-elected governments of Presidents Aristide and Préval.  The ICF’s economic-restructuring program—created largely by foreign “experts” linked to the World Bank, the UN, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Commission—benefited international and Haitian elites at the expense of the poor majority of Haitians”.

Author Randall Robinson (The Debt) summarizes well how the current machinations of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) serve to prolong the exploitation of the same impoverished peoples whose sweat and blood had fuel Europe and America’s development. “The IMF requires its African debtors to, among other things, cut their subsidies to African farmers, schools, and health care givers. As a result, school enrolments are falling across Africa. Inoculations are down. Infectious diseases are up”. What brother Robinson says here about Africa, applies all so tragically to Haiti.

What Alternatives am I Recommending?

“First, do no harm [33] . Then, try genuine solidarity [34] ”.

Contrary to the IMF style of “aid”, the Cuba-Venezuela model is, in essence,  what activists [35] for peace with justice have been advocating for several years. Unfortunately, successive Canadian governments have chosen to ignore this message and, Instead, have multiplied workshops, conferences, meetings (usually, with little or no Haitian participation) to coordinate even more “foreign aid” to Haiti. This, regardless of the overwhelming evidence that Haiti has, for far too long, been “aided to death” [36] by its self-appointed foreign friends.

Dear Michaelle Jean, as one sane and brave African named Toyin Agbetu exemplified during the recent Westminster Abbey event [37] , crumbs and token gestures will not do the trick. Until due reparations are made to descendants of the enslaved Africans, the British Monarchy, the Church of England, and their apologists will have a hard time getting us to dance happily with them over the bones of our ancestors.

Please Seize the Opportunity and Make a Real Difference !

So, as you accompany Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Latin America, over the coming weeks, please consider the points raised in this long letter which was, hopefully, found worthy of your time and consideration.

On the day of your inauguration, I expressed on Canada A.M. the hope that you shall surprise many by refusing to be a silent beauty, confined to pomp, ceremony and preservation of the status quo but proving instead to be a daring agent of positive change in our troubled world [38] .

Will this Canadian Governor General, whose personal coat of arms [39] bears the broken chain of the famed Unknown Maroon, become the Head of State who convinces the British Crown to pay the long overdue reparations to the native peoples of Africa and of the Americas?

If so, perhaps I am justified to imagine that both Your Excellency and Mr. Lafond will proceed to challenge the French government to follow suit, beginning with restitution of the Charles X ransom to Haiti?

And, in keeping with the spirit of “briser les solitudes”, shall you, Michaelle Jean, be the leader who offers Canadians the opportunity to adopt a new, truly representative title for their Head of State?

Hopeful as ever, I salute and embrace you dear sister, on this April 7, 2007, the 204th  anniversary of the passing of our beloved ancestor, Toussaint Louverture.

Your faithful compatriot who dares hope that you shall indeed make the opening for the first Grand Chief of Canada (a Nation at peace with history, in harmony with its First Nations, and at peace with humanity).

Ayibobo!

Jafrikayiti (Jean Saint-Vil), Gatineau, Québec, Canada

 

[1] Maria do Carmo Jeronimo who was born into slavery and freed at the age of 17, passed away in 2000

[2] Operation TRUTH 2007 is a campaign to put an African centred perspective on local and national government plans to commemorate 200 years since the Abolition of the so-called Slave Trade in 1807

[3] Statement by the Prime Minister on the bicentenary of the abolition of the “African slave trade”

[4] See Eric Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery

[5] See Mèsi Papa Desalin – Jean Jacques Dessalines, The Louverture Project

[6] See Eduardo Galeano’s The White Curse

[7] See William Loren Katz’ John Brown: A White Role Model

[8] See Quakers in the Anti-slavery Movement

[9] See PBS, Harriet Tubman, Africans in America

[10]   See Kesler Pierre’ Dessalines’s 28 April 1804 Proclamation (in which the liberator praises Delgresse )

[11] Which Europeans Trafficked in Slaves?, U.S. Department of the Interior

[12] How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney, 1973

[13] Declaration of Protest to the 2007 Commemoration, Ligali.org

[14] Open Letter to the People of France, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network

[15] Slavery: A Letter to Tony Blair by Cikiah Thomas, Global Afrikan Congress

[16] See MAAFA

[17] International Tribunal on Reparations for African People (ITRAP)

[18] Concerning Governor General Michaelle Jean’s Declaration in Ghana by Jafrikayiti

[19] Canada’s Slave Trade by William Gairdner

[20] Simcoe, John Graves, Yahoo Encyclopedia

[21] Guyanese president calls for slavery reparations, Tapei Times, 28 March 2007

[22] Belonging – From the Abolition of the Slave Trade to the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

[23] Social exclusion and the growing racialization of poverty in Canada

[24] The High Cost of Lousy Water: Crisis in Indigenous ‘Canadian’ Communities by Kim Petersen

[25] The Role for Canada in Post-Aristide Haiti: Structures, Options and Leadership, FOCAL

[26] Canadian Officials Initiate Planning for Military Ouster of Aristide, Haiti Progres, 5 March 2003

[27] The Case for International Trusteeship in Haiti by Major Michael T. Ward

[28] Ordonnance de Charles X, Windows on Haiti

[29] Roots of Deforestation Problem and Serious Effort to Face It (in Haiti)

[30] New Canadian Premier Gets Sound Advice on Haiti

[31] The Need to Speak Out: Canada’s Governor Generalship by Kim Petersen

[32] A Very Canadian Coup d’état in Haiti

[33] Haiti: the Damage Done, Dominion Paper, March 2007

[34] Chávez and Venezuela: Duty, not Charity, to Haiti by Wadner Pierre, March 19, 2007

[35] http://www.canadahaitiaction.ca

[36] CANADA IN HAITI WAGING WAR ON THE POOR MAJORITY by Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton

[37] This is a disgrace by Royson James, Toronto Star, March 28,2007

[38] Canada AM: Jean Saint-Vil, Ottawa Haiti Solidarity Committee, CTV (video)

[39] Coat of Arms of Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean Governor General of Canada

(These are actual photographs of British slave ships taken in the 1860s. Following the 1807 Act, the British Navy imposed on slaving ship captains a fine of 100 pounds per enslaved person found aboard. This also meant that thousands upon thousands of Africans were thrown to the sharks by slavers who attempted to avoid the fine. How much did the British Government profit from these fines? How many African bones are in the Atlantic ocean?).

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