Yesterday, I had the privilege to stand among some very beautiful, bright and generous people who gathered at the Montreal Olympic Stadium to welcome a few dozen men, women and children to Canada. These recent refugees arrived to Canada by way of the U.S. border, near Montreal, after incredibly long and sometimes perilous voyages across the American continent. Some of the Haitian natives travelled through as many as eleven countries, including: Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and the United States.
A son of Haiti who migrated to Canada in 1983, I understand all too well why my compatriots have taken great risks to come here in search of safe haven and a descent future for their children.
It is both tragic and sad that so many of our people, we, the descendants of displaced Africans who were kidnapped and enslaved in the Americas by European criminals, for over four centuries, are still running for our lives in 2017. In our flight, fellow human beings do not always have the necessary information to help them identify the threat from which we run. Instead, too often, it is us they regard as an unwelcomed disturbance, if not an actual threat, to their more tranquil and prosperous lives. Yet, run we must. From Haiti, from the Congo, from Mexico, from Libya…brethren, we are still running and running.
I attempted to help fellow Canadians realize they need not succumb to the paranoia being built around the recent arrival of refugees across the U.S. border. The few dozen children, women and men who are seeking refuge are obviously not criminals. Many reports have demonstrated with ample detail how the number of new arrivals is relatively low and quite manageable for the strong immigration infrastructure we have in place in Canada.
The Haitian community in Montreal is mobilized and doing its part to complement the smooth and timely interventions undertaken thus far by the Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments. There is no crisis here for Canada. However, these arrivals do constitute a reminder that real crises do exist and require our immediate attention, in several parts of our world.
As I mentioned to the crowd gathered at the Stadium, some of the very people who crossed the border in recent weeks may, a few years from now, become Canadian Olympic Gold medalists, the next Canadian astronaut or legal experts like Mr. Louis, this young paralegal who travelled from Toronto to offer his services to the refugees, himself a former border-crossing refugee from Haiti.
I am an asset, not a threat! I am an asset, not a threat! I am an asset, not a threat!
It seems, the African has been uttering these words since his 16th century arrivals on the American continent aboard, among others, the infamous slave ship ordered by Queen Elizabeth I: The Jesus of Lubeck.
When the Africans revolted in the 1790s, defeated the armies of Britain, Spain and France, to create the Republic of Haiti (1804), they offered asylum, freedom and Haitian citizenship to formerly enslaved Africans in the U.S. and to Polish and German soldiers who were enrolled by Napoleon Bonaparte in his slave making expeditions to the Caribbean (1804). When Haitians welcomed, sheltered and provided full assistance to Miranda (1806), Bolivar (1812) and Jose Marti (1892); When they offered shelter to hundreds of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany (1901, 1939), the African of Haiti never stopped telling the world: “I am an asset, not a threat!”.
Today, as I applaud Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Québec Prime Minister Philippe Couillard and their governments for the descent way in which the recently arrived Haitian refugees have been welcomed to Canada, I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to reiterate a call I have been making for several years now: there is an urgent need to reorient Canadian Foreign Policy towards Haiti.
A true paradigm shift must occur whereby hard-earned Canadian taxes no longer get diverted to support covert operations like: overthrowing a democratically elected “leftist” Haitian leader; forcing an independent nation to suffer a disastrous UN tutelage with the complicity of fraudulently established puppets who happen to be friendly to Canadian and multinational mining companies or sweatshops that refuse to pay workers a descent wage.
Welcoming refugees to Canada is great! However, stop interfering in Haiti’s domestic affairs and start giving Haitians good reasons to stay in a peaceful and prosperous homeland is the only sustainable solution.
Jafrikayiti (Jean Elissaint Saint-Vil) was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and currently lives in Canada. He hosts weekly radio programs in Ottawa and has been featured as political analyst on Canadian and international radio and television. He is the author of “LAFIMEN: Listwa Pèp Ayisyen Depi Nan Ginen”, CD1 (2003), CD2&3 (2006), CD4 (2010) – audio recordings narrating Haitian History in Kreyòl and “Viv Bondye ! Aba Relijyon!” (2000) – book in Kreyòl (Praise God Down with Religion) which deals with the history of Christianity and its influence on the lives of people of African Descent.
On his blog godisnotwhite.com, Jafrikayiti publishes regularly, in English, French and his native Kreyòl.