The Current

Canadian doctor recounts 'hair-raising' experience trying to escape Haiti protests

Several hundred tourists, including dozens of Canadians, have found themselves trapped in Haiti as street demonstrations make it dangerous to move around the country. We hear from a Canadian who was trapped there and look at what's driving the unrest.

Protests left dozens of Canadians unable to reach airport

Roadblocks and barricades set up by protesters in Haiti have made it difficult to reach the airport in Port-au-Prince. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

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A Canadian doctor has described her "hair-raising experience" as she tried to make her way out of Haiti, amid the recent violent protests that have gripped the country.

"There were numerous roadblocks, some of them manned by angry demonstrators, some of them just consisting of burning tires and vehicles and trees," said Dr. Heather Dow, an emergency room doctor from Woodstock, N.B.

Dow was in Haiti as part of a medical team providing free healthcare to mountain villages, her seventh such trip to the Caribbean nation. As the unrest worsened, her group decided to head to the airport in the capital Port-au-Prince.

"We made our way through numerous of these roadblocks, sometimes negotiating with people, sometimes we had to pay, and then we finally made it to Port-au-Prince, about 30 minutes from the airport," she told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

At that point, they were told the road ahead was worse than what they had already faced, she said.

"I've never been in the middle of an angry mob that threatened physical injury to me before, that was certainly a new experience," she said.

Dr. Heather Dow, far right, with two of her fellow volunteers, Rachel Blaquiere, left, and Cathy Davies, centre. (Submitted by Richard Blaquiere)

Daily demonstrations have rocked the country since Feb. 7, as thousands take to the streets over skyrocketing inflation and accusations of corruption. The unrest has stopped humanitarian aid from reaching those who need it and also made it difficult for foreign workers and holidaymakers — including dozens of Canadians — from leaving.

Dow and her group were supposed to leave Haiti on Wednesday, but eventually managed to fly back to Canada, via a night in Portland, Maine, on Saturday.

After days of street violence, political chaos in Haiti appears to be on pause. And with more anti-government protests expected this week, Haitians in Port-au-Prince are scrambling to meet their basic needs, from food and water to medicine and gasoline. 3:25

Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant announced nine measures to alleviate the country's economic crisis on Saturday, but further protests are planned for the coming week.

To discuss the unrest, Tremonti was joined by:

  • Carel Pedre, Haitian journalist and media personality based in Port-au-Prince
  • Dr. Heather Dow, a Canadian doctor who was stuck in Haiti but returned home on Saturday
  • Jennifer Sydney, director of the theatre troupe Main dans la Main

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Produced by Jessica Linzey, Idella Sturino and Danielle Carr.


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