Canada ready to help bring order to Haiti: Cannon
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada is ready to do whatever it is asked to help maintain order in Haiti, but doubts that will mean sending more troops to the troubled Caribbean nation.
Cannon told CTV's Question Period on Sunday that Canadian soldiers and police officers are already part of a UN-led security force in Haiti, and Canada has not been asked to send more.
"We contribute well over 100 personnel to that effort and we're quite active in that country. We continue to do what we have to do in terms of building capacity with their institutions … but I doubt there'll be other requests," he said.
"And as we speak today, calm has been restored in the streets."
In Port-au-Prince, some shops were opening again, the airport took in cargo flights and fewer streets were blocked by barricades as the capital slowly emerged from two days of riots over a disputed presidential election.
Officials worked behind the scenes to find a solution to the political crisis even as demonstrators still clashed occasionally with UN peacekeepers and Haitian police, but overall conditions improved somewhat as all political factions awaited the results of a recount.
Preliminary results showed that two candidates -- former first lady and law professor Mirlande Manigat, and businessman Jude Celestin of the governing Unity party -- were the top vote-getters in the Nov. 28 election and will compete in a January runoff.
Two of the three top candidates have rejected a proposal by the country's electoral council to conduct a recount of the votes. Only Celestin, the ruling-party candidate, supports the proposal.
There is widespread agreement that the election suffered from serious problems. Thousands of voters were unable to obtain ID cards in order to cast a ballot. Others were turned away by polling station workers without explanation.
Election monitors also reported voter intimidation -- including murders -- and stuffed ballot boxes.
"I think the debate about whether or not to have a recount is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said Jeena Shah, with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
"It's not even clear the recount would provide short-term relief, given the opposition of two of the three leading candidates," she told CTV News Channel from Port-au-Prince. "What people are asking for is the organization of fair and inclusive elections, which we just did not have here."
The strongest objections are coming from the third-place finisher, singer Michel Martelly, whose supporters flooded the streets in protest after preliminary results indicated he had narrowly missed the runoff. Martelly has claimed that he actually won the election.
But even if the recount puts him in the runoff, the candidate known by his stage name "Sweet Mickey" said he would not compete if Celestin is still in the race. He says Celestin, a member of unpopular outgoing President Rene Preval's party, only made it to the runoff because his supporters committed fraud.
Martelly also said his supporters were not responsible for the violent protests that have paralyzed Haiti in recent days and blamed infiltrators from rival factions. Celestin, meanwhile, has called those who back him to take to the streets in nonviolent demonstrations. Manigat has stayed silent.
Cannon said he has spoken with Preval and expressed Canada's "concerns" over voting irregularities and urged officials to correct shortcomings in balloting.
"I got the assurances that this would be done," he said. "Obviously it is slow, it is extremely slow (and) there are problems."
People in Port-au-Prince, meanwhile, have been trying to get back to their daily lives while stocking up on provisions in case of further trouble. Long lines formed at gas stations and markets.
But many people, including UN staff and foreign aid workers, stayed off the streets, hampering efforts to help a country struggling with the aftermath of the January earthquake and a spreading cholera epidemic.
Despite the chaos, former Alaska governor and U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin arrived in Haiti Saturday as part of a humanitarian mission by the Samaritan's Purse relief organization.
Spokesperson Roseann Dennery says details about Palin's itinerary are not being released for security reasons, but the potential U.S. presidential candidate is expected to visit the Haitian capital and stop by cholera-treatment centres and other projects.
With files from The Associated Press