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Canada is evacuating ‘most vulnerable’ citizens from Haiti: Joly – National

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Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says Canada has airlifted 18 Canadians out of Haiti, as assisted departures began from the Caribbean nation on Monday.

“We know the security situation has deteriorated in recent weeks,” Joly said.

“Now the gangs have taken the airport leaving no way to leave Port-au-Prince without putting families in danger.”

Joly told reporters in Ottawa that Global Affairs Canada (GAC) is prioritizing the most vulnerable Canadians in Haiti first, this includes those with urgent medical needs or have children.

She said that officials have reached out to fewer than 100 Canadians in Haiti so far, and 30 have expressed interest in leaving.

Canadians are being flown by helicopter to the Dominic Republic at this point, and Joly said that due to visitor restrictions in the Dominican, this option is only available to Canadian citizens with a valid Canadian passport.

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According to GAC, there are currently 3,039 Canadians in Haiti registered with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service. It also said their Emergency Watch and Response Centre has responded to 245 enquiries since March 3, mostly on general travel information and the overall security situation.

This comes after Global News reported that Canada’s elite special forces, Joint Task Force Two (JTF2), had deployed a unit in Haiti at Canada’s embassy in the capital Port-au-Prince, according to sources.


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Local Haitian media captured images of JTF2 members at the embassy.

Global Affairs Canada told Global News Friday that military members are currently working with the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince to assist with “contingency planning,” but did not offer further details.

On Saturday, Joly told Global News in Montreal that Canada’s ambassador to Haiti, André François Giroux, will remain in the country as a way to send an important message to Haiti, to Canadians in the country and to the rest of the world.

Joly said she is in contact with Giroux “every two or three days.”


Click to play video: 'Canadian ambassador to stay in Haiti amid ongoing violence: Joly'


Canadian ambassador to stay in Haiti amid ongoing violence: Joly


 

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The United States is using helicopters to get citizens out of the Caribbean nation, due to rising gang violence in the midst of a leadership power vacuum.

Earlier this month, unelected Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned from Puerto Rico after he was apparently unable to return to the country while an eruption of violence forced airports to close due to the political and social turmoil.

Under his administration, armed gangs massively grew their wealth, influence and territory, eventually leading Henry to request an international security force in 2022 to stop the unrest. He initially turned to Canada and the United States to request they lead it.

Now, there is a nightly curfew and state of emergency as the country grapples with continuous gang attacks and dwindling supplies of basic goods.


Click to play video: 'The West Block: March 17, 2024 | Canada’s role in supporting Haiti as gang violence engulfs Port-au-Prince'


The West Block: March 17, 2024 | Canada’s role in supporting Haiti as gang violence engulfs Port-au-Prince


Giroux previously told The West Block that Canada has evacuated some non-essential consulate staff from the embassy. He stayed behind along with other essential personnel that cannot work remotely.

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The ambassador said that means there is still Canadian support for citizens who are in Haiti and embassy resources like food, water and medicine don’t have to be shared as widely among staff.

— with files from Global News’ Eric Stober, Naomi Barghiel and Mercedes Stephenson.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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