Canadians stranded in Haiti amid deadly protests hope for quick resolution
Dozens of Canadians in Haiti are unable to return home amid protests that have claimed several lives and blocked access to roads.
Tracey Hotta, a nurse and president of THMA Consulting, is part of a group on a mission to provide medical care to Haitians.
The nurses were supposed to return on Wednesday, she told Global News from Haiti, but got notice on Monday they wouldn’t be able to leave due to highway blockades that have cut off access to the airport.
Hotta, who lives in Toronto, said they are safe on a compound in Petit Paradise, about an hour and half from Port-au-Prince. They are rationing food and fuel, however, and one member of the group will running out of a required medication on Monday.
She said the nurses — six from Toronto, one from Montreal and another from Nova Scotia — have been able to lean on each other for support as they face the uncertainty.
“Nurses are very adaptable but we are starting to get worried now, in case it does get worse and we hear about the violence and everything that’s going on in Port-au-Prince,” she said.
Haitians have taken to the streets seeking the resignation of President Jovenel Moise for not investigating corruption allegations involving a Venezuelan subsidized energy program.
The protests have been happening for months but have escalated violently, resulting in several deaths.
The situation has become so serious that the Canadian Embassy was closed Wednesday, a day after Global Affairs Canada updated its travel advisory to advise against all non-essential travel to Haiti.
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Hotta said her group has been in touch with consular services, but noted that the Canadian government didn’t issue a warning until after the roadblocks went up.
“Response to our first emails and phone calls to emergency lines simply [advise] us to be careful,” she said in an email. “I’m not saying they left us hanging out to dry, but we are anxiously awaiting word from Ottawa on how our security might be secured and how we might get safely to the airport.”
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Another group of health care professionals from the Maritimes are in the same boat as the nurses, unable to leave Haiti due to the roadblocks.
Dozens of Quebec tourists are also confined to their hotel in Haiti’s Côte des Arcadins because their tour company said it could not guarantee safe transport to the airport.
A Quebec evangelical missionary group in Haiti was supposed to leave on Wednesday, but for now, they are staying put as well.
The group operates a medical centre and other programs in a rural area about 200 km west of Haiti’s capital, explained Michel Bougie, vice-president of Fondation Missions la Bible Parle, who did not travel with the group.
“The 26 people that are there right now are not in any immediate danger,” he said. “We still have food, there’s still water.”
“In Haiti, things can happen. So we know they can happen fast, but we also know that they can stop really fast.”
He said the group has operated in Haiti for two decades, through a coup d’état, the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. As long as the situation doesn’t last too long, he said, the group will manage.
Bougie said Haiti is a country of “extremely resilient people” in spite of such circumstances.
They “always end up giving us the lesson that they’re survivors,” he said.
— With files from the Canadian Press, the Associated Press and Rachel Lau, Global News
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