Haitian leaders must respect democracy: Cannon

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says the international community "cannot do everything in Haiti" and urged the country's leadership rivals to respect the democratic process "with respect and calm."

House of Commons to hold emergency debate on Haiti

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says the international community "cannot do everything in Haiti" and urged the country's leadership rivals to respect the democratic process "with respect and calm."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon expressed concern on Monday in the wake of violence over Haiti's disputed presidential election. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))
Cannon, speaking to reporters on Monday in Wakefield, Que., would not directly answer whether international aid to Haiti should be suspended in the wake of an outbreak of violence over the impoverished Caribbean country's disputed presidential election.

But Cannon and his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, offered blunt warnings that the country risked further economic damage if its leaders did not work toward political stability.

"We are willing to consider what's going on," Cannon said during a joint news conference with Clinton and Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa at the end of the one-day North American foreign ministers meeting.

"But at the same time, it's important for the people of Haiti to assume their responsibility because, I repeat this, there will not be any economic progress if there is no government stability, and what is essential is to get the stability of the government."

Clinton, in turn, said the Haitian government should heed the "strong signal" from her former colleague in the Senate, Patrick Leahy, who suggested cutting off foreign aid to the central government until the impasse over last month's presidential elections is resolved.

A man carries water and sodas to sell last Friday after four days of protest in downtown Port-au-Prince. Haiti's electoral authorities said Thursday they would urgently recheck vote tally sheets from the country's troubled presidential elections. ((Kena Betancur/Reuters))
"It's essential that Haitian political actors fulfil their responsibilities and demonstrate a firm commitment to democratic principles, including the respect for the integrity for the electoral process," she said.

Leahy, whom Clinton called a strong supporter of American foreign aid and humanitarian relief, was "expressing a growing frustration" in the U.S. over the lack of coherent response from the Haitian government as the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake approaches.

'Major crisis' in Haiti: Coderre 

In Ottawa, House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken granted Liberal MP Denis Coderre's request for an emergency debate, held early Monday evening, on the "extremely tense" situation in Haiti.

The MP, who said Haiti has "practically ceased to function," reiterated the need for the federal government to create a special envoy to Haiti to work with all ministries and help get rid of red tape.

"A wave of violence is now raging all over the country and we must, as responsible parliamentarians, look at Canada's role in the outcome of this major crisis," Coderre said.

Coderre also suggested Canada send troops, such as the Disaster Assistance Response Team or DART, to provide additional security in Haiti. 

During the debate, Cannon acknowledged that "things aren't moving at the pace we're used to," but he said Canada is working with the international community through the Organization of American States and CARICOM, and that they're "calling on the Haitian government to do whatever they need to do to see this electoral process through, and proposing options at this stage won't help us find the solution."

The Nov. 28 presidential vote produced no clear winner and was marred by allegations of ballot box stuffing, voter intimidation and gun violence between supporters of rival parties in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Rival protesters again rioted in the streets after the country's electoral council announced the presidential ballots would be recounted in the presence of Haitian and international observers.

Canada will be part of a joint electoral observation team put together by the OAS and CARICOM for the scheduled recount, Cannon said.