Open Letter to Valerie G: A Cry For Help


March 31, 2010

Dear Valerie,

It’s been a while. I haven’t seen you since since June 1974 in front of Hibbard Hall. Z. Chin, T. Cook, you and I were saying goodbye. I saw you in a recent alumni magazine and thought, I know that woman..

I’m living in Haiti. I’ve been here since 1985. Things are bad down here. If they weren’t this bad I would never be disrupting you from your busy schedule. The UN Donor Conference today is a sham. Please find a way to get the imput of everyday Haitians in the decision making process. I understand that Bill Clinton has been given this piece of the Foreign Policy Pie but unfortunately folks “trying to help” Haiti are being played by folks who have brought Haiti to the status of “Poorest Nation in the Western Hemisphere”. There has to be some fundamental change here.

I originally came to Haiti to play music and to research Rhythms. My mother, if you may recall is Haitian. As I said, I have been living here since 1985 and I’ve been through countless COUP’s, massacres, two US invasions, Two UN occupying forces, countless devastating hurricanes and now one indescribable killer EarthQuake. The two elections held here last year were fraudulent and yet no International Organization, including the UN, spoke out. I expressed those views to the UN Secretary General’s Spokesperson and at a meeting at the Supreme Court in Washington DC last year. I’ve visited Washington DC on numerous occasions in reference to Haiti. I’ld rather just play music and chill at my small but comfortable hotel but sometimes INJUSTICE rears it’s ugly head and I feel i have to make a stand and take some time from the pleasures I find in life.

My musicians are sleeping in tent cities. My hotel staff are mostly living in tents. I talk to the journalists, I talk to the Haitian People, I talk FOR the Haitian People, I talk to embassy folks, I talk to local grassroots organizers and I talk to diplomats. SOMETHING IS DEFINITELY WRONG DOWN HERE and I want things to get aired out before major decisions are made after this Donors Conference. I’m calling out to you. I hope you understand. Forgive me for anything I may have said or done..

This is a desperate Cry For Help..
Yours truly,

Richard Morse
Port-au-Prince, Haiti



UN report puts pressure on Canada to end Haitian slavery

34557: Durban (pub): UN report puts pressure on Canada to end Haitian slavery (fwd)

Friday, June 12, 2009 7:28 AM
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UN report puts pressure on Canada to end Haitian slavery

By Steven Edwards, Canwest News Service
June 10, 2009

UNITED NATIONS — The chief United Nations investigator on slavery signalled Wednesday that Haiti — the only nation born of a slave revolt — has entrenched child enslavement through its long-denounced “restavek” system.

The finding by Gulnara Shahinian after she toured the Caribbean nation raises pressure on Canada and other major aid donors to the country to focus more on eliminating the blight.

Named for the Haitian francophone Creole term meaning “stay with,” the system is supposed give parents unable to care for their children an opportunity to send them to more affluent relatives or strangers in urban areas. There, the children would receive food, shelter and education in exchange for “light” housework.

But Shahinian said the practice subjects children to multiple forms of abuse, including economic exploitation, sexual violence and corporal punishment. Hours of work typically run from early in the morning until the last adult in the home goes to bed at night, witnesses have said.

While family-to-family placements have long occurred, paid recruiters now scour the country looking for children to traffic both within and outside Haiti, Shahinian found.

The majority of the demand has also shifted in recent years from wealthy families to poor ones, she reports.

“This practice is a severe violation of the most fundamental rights of the child,” said Shahinian, an Armenian national.

“(It) reinforces a vicious cycle of violence. It should be stopped immediately.”

The International Labour Organization estimates that 300,000 children work as restaveks in Haiti, population eight million.

Shahinian reports children are delivered to work for urban families “as child slaves in domestic work and outside the home in markets.”

A UN summary of her visit says witnesses gave her “various accounts” of the practice as she visited the capital, Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes in the southwest, and Ouanaminthe on the northern part of the border with the Dominican Republic.

She “expressed deep concern,” says the summary. “She considers it to be a modern form of slavery.”

As part of the $555 million in Canadian aid to Haiti over five years, the Canadian International Development Agency has provided millions of dollars to cover school fees and lunches for thousands of Haitian youngsters from impoverished backgrounds.

But Shahinian said more needs to be done to give poor families the means to keep their children and send them to school.

“The issue should be put urgently on the highest priority agenda of the (Haitian) government and the international community,” said the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

Haiti is Canada’s biggest overseas aid focus after Afghanistan.

“The agency is aware of the restavek problem, and we’re investing in a wide range of programs that we believe will attack it and other ills in Haiti,” said Jean-Luc Benoit, spokesman for International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda.

Shahinian acknowledged that decades of political instability and a series of recent natural disasters “have further deepened poverty and enhanced human insecurity” in Haiti, the western hemisphere’s poorest country.

She also noted the Haitian government had taken some steps to try to protect the rights of restavek children, despite being cash-strapped.

But a law stating employers must pay people from age 15 for work has often resulted in restaveks being thrown onto the streets at that age.

Among a series of recommendations, Shahinian called on the Haitian government to place greater administrative focus on “vulnerable children.”

She also called on the government to ensure “compulsory and free primary education,” and to help children in rural areas gain better access to schools.

BelO – Lakou trankil