Is Canada really going to invade Haiti?

The entire Canadian Army could provide just 11,000 front-line soldiers, roughly the same amount of personnel as the Toronto Police

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We almost forgot to mention that Elizabeth May is leader of the Green Party again, along with co-leader Jonathan Pedneault, a 32-year-old former Amnesty International staffer.  Since May's initial retirement in 2019, the party has been locked in a cycle of increasingly petty infighting that has utterly demolished their electoral support.  In the last federal election, then leader Annamie Paul infamously managed a fourth place finish in her riding of Toronto Centre.
We almost forgot to mention that Elizabeth May is leader of the Green Party again, along with co-leader Jonathan Pedneault, a 32-year-old former Amnesty International staffer. Since May’s initial retirement in 2019, the party has been locked in a cycle of increasingly petty infighting that has utterly demolished their electoral support. In the last federal election, then leader Annamie Paul infamously managed a fourth place finish in her riding of Toronto Centre. Photo by Reuters/Patrick Doyle

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TOP STORY

With their country increasingly overrun by gangs, Haiti’s political leaders are now calling for a foreign military intervention to restore order in the Caribbean nation.

While it’s usually the United States that does these kinds of things, this time the administration of US President Joe Biden suggested that Canada should do it – an idea that wasn’t immediately dismissed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Canada is very open to playing an important role, but we must have a Haitian consensus,” he said at a summit of La Francophonie in Tunisia.

But with the Canadian military plagued by critical shortages of almost everything as well as one of the worst staffing crises in its history, there are almost no circumstances in which it would be even remotely possible to mount a friendly invasion of Haiti.

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Just last month, chief of defense staff Gen. Wayne Eyre ordered a halt to all non-essential activities within the Canadian Armed Forces in order to address a staffing shortage that senior officers are now referring to as a “crisis.”

And that’s in addition to Canada’s usual deficiencies in kit and logistics. For one, the Canadian military is unique among G7 nations for having no amphibious capability, which might be a factor in its ability to supply and equip an expeditionary force stationed on a Caribbean island.

It’s telling that as NATO scrambled forces into Eastern Europe over the summer in order to counter Russian moves on Ukraine, the Canadian contribution was on the smaller end.

Canada deployed 700 troops into Latvia to shore up NATO’s eastern flank, easily making it Canada’s largest international military operation. But as of now, Ottawa conspicuously has no air or naval assets in the region.

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After Hurricane Fiona struck the Atlantic Coast, the military was so strapped for manpower that it couldn’t deliver on a request for 1,000 troops from the province of Nova Scotia. They managed only 500, most of whom were already stationed in the province.

Right now, the Canadian Army has roughly 23,000 active-duty personnel – and fewer than half of those are front-line soldiers. So, even if Canada scrambled its entire army into the Caribbean, that’s going to work out to about 11,000 people with guns.

For context, Ontario has a population roughly equivalent to that of Haiti, and they have more than 28,000 sworn police officers. Toronto alone has 7,600 uniformed personnel in its police force, in addition to civilian staff and auxiliaries. And Ontario has nothing like the more than 200 paramilitary gangs currently operating in the Haitian capital alone.

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In the 1990s it took a US force of 25,000 to conduct Operation Uphold Democracya UN-sanctioned mission to reverse a military overthrow of Haiti’s elected government.

Haiti is only five years removed from the last time that foreign boots were on its soil. From 2004 to 2017, the country was host to Operation MINUSTAH, a Brazilian-led UN peacekeeping mission that comprised roughly 5,000 soldiers and police, as well as civilian staff.

Notably, MINUSTAH was originally planned to last just six months, but ended up lasting for 13 years. It’s also remembered chiefly for the harms it inflicted on Haiti, including a deadly cholera outbreak and large numbers of illegitimate children left behind by deployed peacekeepers.

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Canada has a long history of spearheading military operations within larger coalition conflicts, most notably during the two world wars. More recently, Canadians led Operation Medusa, a successful 2006 mission to establish government control over a Taliban-dominated sector of Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province.

But it’s been more than a century since the Canadian Armed Forces have gone into combat on their own. Arguably the last time that Canada went to war without allies was in 1885, when 5,000 militia members were sent into Saskatchewan to crush the North-West Rebellion.

Setting aside the simple logistics of whether Canada could feasibly do battle with Haitian gangs, there are those within diplomatic circles questioning whether it would even be worth the effort.

I don’t think it would be good or effective to send an international mission; you have a lot of issues that need to be fixed before you send a group like that.… You never know when it’s going to end,” Gilles Rivard, a former Canadian Ambassador to Haiti, recently told Global News.

But Rivard noted that Trudeau did not commit to any kind of military intervention until it could receive the unanimous support of Haiti’s political leadership – which the former ambassador hinted was extremely unlikely.

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