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Canada evacuates some embassy staff in Haiti as violence engulfs capital

An armed member of the G9 and Family gang patrols a roadblock in the Delmas 6 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti on March 11, 2024. (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press - image credit)
An armed member of the G9 and Family gang patrols a roadblock in the Delmas 6 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti on March 11, 2024. (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press - image credit)

Canada has evacuated a portion of its embassy staff from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, by commercial helicopter charter due to rampant gang violence in the city.

In a written statement, Global Affairs Canada says that "due to the volatility of the security situation, the lack of reliable supplies and the need to support an effective presence in a volatile situation, Canada is temporarily drawing down to essential personnel at its embassy in Haiti.

"Relocated personnel will continue to fulfil their duties from a third country."

Some Canadian staff flew out of the capital this morning on a flight coordinated with the government of the Dominican Republic. Those staff members will now work from that country, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Republic of Haiti.

Canada's Ambassador Andre-Francois Giroux remains at his post in Port-au-Prince.

Canada's staffing reduction follows a similar move by the U.S. on Sunday, which saw U.S. Marines escort a portion of Washington's diplomatic corps out of Haiti. Other Marines remained in Port-au-Prince to provide the remaining staff with additional protection.

In a tweet, the U.S. State Department cited "heightened gang violence in the neighborhood near U.S. embassy compounds and near the airport."

German and EU diplomats also left Port-au-Prince on Monday. German Ambassador Peter Sauer and European Union Ambassador Stefano Gatto are believed to have departed by helicopter to the Dominican Republic, which granted them an exemption to cross a border that is officially closed to both ground and air traffic.

Close to 3,000 Canadian citizens are believed to be in Haiti, mostly in and around the capital. Global Affairs Canada has warned that evacuating them would be difficult. Port-au-Prince's main airport has been closed to flights since March 4 because it is within range of gang territory and has come under fire on several occasions.

No foreign country has yet organized any mass evacuation of its citizens. GAC has advised Canadians to "shelter in place" and respect a curfew.

"In these difficult times," said GAC, "Canada's embassy will continue to support Canadians who remain in the country, as well as Haiti and the Haitian people ... The embassy of Canada in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, remains temporarily closed to the public. However, we continue to provide consular services to Canadians requiring assistance in Haiti.

"Canadians in need of consular assistance in Haiti should contact the embassy by phone at +011 (509) 2-812-9000 or by email at prncecs@international.gc.ca."

GAC says it has so far received fewer than a hundred calls to that number.

Speaking to reporters at an event in Windsor, Ont., on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he's spoken to Caribbean and other world leaders about what he  called the "humanitarian and security catastrophe" in Haiti.

"It's obvious that with the ongoing challenge, as much as the international community will continue to have a role to play, if we want a sustainable solution it has to be led by Haitians themselves," Trudeau said.

He said Canada is working to forge a consensus "where the violence can be reduce, control can come back and there's a path toward full resumption of [Haitian] democracy."