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Canadian & US military should not treat victims of Haiti’s earthquake like enemy combattants

January 19, 2010- The Canada Haiti Action Network is deeply concerned about the militarization of the relief efforts in Haiti and exaggerated reporting of ‘looting’ and violence. This increases the danger of violent treatment of the victims of the earthquake.

“Officials and many media reports are focusing excessively on the supposed unlawfulness of Haitians,” says one of the group’s representatives in Toronto, Niraj Joshi. “But starving and traumatized people who take food and water from destroyed stores should not be depicted as criminals. We fear that such demonization may lead to violent responses by military forces.”

Many poor neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince have yet to see any assistance. Yet reports from CHAN’s colleagues and friends say that human solidarity and a calm determination to survive prevail throughout the earthquake zone. This is also what many international news agencies are reporting.

Meanwhile, Canada’s emergency relief teams have been sent home, told they will not be deployed. “Like Washington, Ottawa has prioritized sending its military to Haiti over disaster relief”, explained Roger Annis, a spokesperson for the network in Vancouver. “Are Canadians comfortable with that choice? We ask the government, what is the purpose of the strong show of military strength?

“Earthquake victims need food, water, medical treatment and shelter, not more guns pointed at them.”

Nearly six years ago, some 500 Canadian troops were dispatched to Haiti as part of a mission that consolidated the overthrow of elected government in Haiti and forced its elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, into exile. He remains in exile in South Africa. At the time, some Canadian forces allegedly participated in the campaign of political persecution of Aristide’s followers that followed the overthrow.

For more information: Roger Annis in Vancouver at 778 858 5179, or Yves Engler in Montreal at 514 618 2253.

Representatives of the Canada Haiti Action Network are available to speak to media in cities across Canada. Consult the “About CHAN” page on the CHAN website: http://canadahaitiaction.ca/

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