By Boychuk, Regan
CCPA Monitor , Vol. 14, No. 3
OUR LESS THAN STELLAR FOREIGN RELATIONS:
Canadians generally have a very positive impression of their country's role in world affairs, but Canada's relations with Haiti challenge that perception. It would be wrong to say that Canada has done nothing positive on the world stage, but we need to take a much closer look at the reality of Canadian foreign policy and its consequences. More often than many Canadians might like to believe, our government's international role is nothing to be proud of.
A major factor contributing to the negative and destructive role Canada has too often played in international relations can be attributed to our relationship with the United States. While one might be tempted to think that Canadian subservience to the U.S. is a recent development and/or that it is mainly a characteristic of conservative governments, that is not the case. Both Liberal and Conservative Canadian governments, for example, played an unsavory role in the U.S. war against Vietnam for a great many years. Canadian foreign policy is largely bipartisan, not varying much no matter which of the major parties form the government.
We see that today in Canadian policy on Haiti. When the Liberals were pursuing "regime change" in Haiti and then propping up a brutal puppet regime, there were no complaints from the Conservative opposition benches, and there has been no discernible change in Canadian policy on Haiti since the Conservatives assumed power.
Thirty-five years ago, a new phase in the economic history of Haiti was initiated during the last years of "Papa Doc" Duvalier's dictatorship when offshore assembly for U.S. corporations was introduced. "Low labour costs had undoubtedly been the single most important factor influencing the location of assembly industries in Haiti," economist Monique Garrity wrote in 1981. She added that workers were "closely supervised and controlled by the government," and that "this is [was] not a negligible advantage to the American firms" since the Haitian government maintained "wage rates at very low levels."
Even the World Bank admitted that the "assembly industry [was] largely outside the Haitian economy" and "[made] no fiscal contribution." Fewer than 20% of full-time workers (including government employees) actually received the official urban minimum wage of $3 a day, despite productivity comparable to the U.S. Between the 1970s and 1980s, when international aid poured into Haiti, absolute poverty there is estimated to have increased 60% per cent, affecting from 50-to-80% of the population.
The establishment of export-oriented assembly plants coincided with the start of international economic and military aid from many Western nations, including Canada. During Papa Doc's rule, an estimated 65% of all government funds was spent on state security, while much of the rest was lost to personal use and Haiti was the only country in the world to experience almost no growth during most of the 1950s and 1960s. Only the U.S. had been willing to support such a regime, and even the U.S. funnelled most of its military aid through Israel in order to spare itself embarrassing questions.
But in 1971 Papa Doc died and was replaced by his son, known as "Baby Doc." With workers closely supervised and controlled by the government, which maintained wage rates at very low levels, doing business with the Baby Doc's regime was clearly enticing to the West. Within four years of Baby Doc's inauguration, official aid disbursements increased almost tenfold. Belgium, France, and the Netherlands started disbursements in 1973; Canada, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank followed in 1974, and West Germany began significant disbursements in 1976. The transfer of power from father to son had served as the pretext for justifying a vast increase in aid to the Duvalier dynasty. But Baby Doc was no better with international aid dollars than his father. The U. …