"Haitian Paradox" or Dark Side of the Security-Development Nexus? Canada's Role in the Securitization of Haiti, 2004-2009

Article excerpt


Drawing on analysis of government records obtained using Access to Information Act requests, the author examines the securitization of Canada's aid program to Haiti between 2004 and 2009. The author discusses how Canadian agencies, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), and the Canadian International Development Agency, were involved in capacity-building initiatives that focused on police reform, border surveillance, and prison construction/refurbishment across Haiti in the aftermath of a coup that ousted the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The author demonstrates how these efforts at securitization resulted in what officials referred to as the "Haitian Paradox," whereby reorganization of the Haitian National Police force led to higher arrest rates and jail bloat, creating conditions that violated rather than ameliorated human rights. While the securitization project may have been based on the rule of law and human rights in Canadian policy makers' official discourse, in practice these securitization efforts exacerbated jail overcrowding, distrust of police, and persecution of political opposition. The author therefore demonstrates one way that international development, aid, and criminal justice intersect, with emphasis on the transnational aspects of RCMP and CSC activities.


security, police reform, prisons, development, borders, Haiti, Canada


One myth stemming from the 2004 coup d'etat in Haiti was that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled a popular uprising. This myth can be partly attributed to the fact that while Aristide was involuntarily on a tarmac under the military escort of US, French, and Canadian forces, the international media reported solely on a band of armed rebels storming the capital under the leadership of Guy Philippe. (1) On the ground, the coup involved an alliance between a small group of well-armed rebels and Haitian elites, (2) while the force of the coup was coordinated internationally by government agencies in the United States, Canada, and France. (3)

Although Canada played a limited military role in the coup, Canadian diplomatic and financial assistance was vital in supporting the postcoup government under Gerard Latortue. Canadian development funding was funneled to security apparatuses to solidify Latortue's rule. Drawing from the results of access to information (ATI) requests with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), we detail how a securitization project, coordinated by federal Canadian agencies, aided in efforts to cement the legitimacy of the interim government. We define securitization as a material process whereby conflict is reframed as danger and risk. (4) While securitization involves discursive (5) elements, we use the example of Canadian involvement in Haiti to show how securitization can transfigure aid work by augmenting police and other criminal justice agencies.

We aim to understand the dynamics of what Jensen calls the "security-development nexus" with a focus on Haiti. (6) Our approach involves examining how security and development efforts integrate and overlap in particular contexts. As a result of geopolitical shifts from the US-initiated Global War on Terror, aid programs have undergone transformations. (7) Aid efforts from the 1990s that focused on human security have been reframed by discourses of national security. Canada's postcoup funding to Haiti provides one example of how security has become the capillary for delivery of foreign development aid. Similar to the securitization of aid in Russia (8) or numerous African (9) countries, and the link between the securitization of immigration (10) and incarceration, Haiti's securitization of aid has focused on strengthening several pillars of the criminal justice system: constructing and refurbishing Haitian police forces, prisons, and border checkpoints. …


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