Members of Canada’s Haitian community, largely based in French-speaking Quebec, are in shock following news of the Haitian president Jovenel Moïse’s assassination.
The former president, first elected in 2017, was killed and his wife was injured after a group of gunmen entered his residence early Wednesday, according to Haiti’s Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph.
Moïse’s death comes at a very turbulent time for Haiti, which is struggling to grapple with escalating gang violence and anti-government protests.
While Haiti’s government and other international leaders are scrambling in the wake of Moïse’s death, several Haitian-Canadians are now becoming increasingly concerned for the future of the Caribbean country.
Haitian Montrealers shocked by Jovenel Moïse’s assassination
“It was a real shock because we didn’t we didn’t expect that and well, it was horrible because it’s not a very democratic way to get rid of a president,” said Marjorie Villefranche, the executive director of La Maison d’Haiti — a Haitian community group based in Montreal.
According to Villefranche, Moise’s assassination now leaves an even deeper vaccum in power and politics in a country already wracked by political and economic instability.
Moïse first became president in 2017, but has ruled by decree for more than a year after he failed to hold elections. Many have accused his government of corruption, pushing for him to step down.
Widespread protests against Moïse’s rule and a resurgence of COVID-19 have left Haiti paralyzed in recent months.
On the other hand, gang violence in Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital, has intensified rapidly. Last month, over 14,700 people were displaced after gangs set fire to their homes and ransacked them.
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Sherly, a Haitian Montrealer who did not want to disclose her last name, said that the news has both shocked and frightened her family still living in Haiti.
“That’s my country, it makes me sad,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. Only God knows.
“I’m afraid because I have some like family over there, my mom, my sister, my brother.”
Jean-Michel Baptiste, another Haitian Montrealer, said that the news “hurts.”
“Because it’s not something that you hear everyday … especially that its happening in my country, that’s why I say it hurts.”
Jean Emmanuel Pierre, the news director of a Haitian radio station in Montréal, said that he couldn’t get over such an outcome to Haiti’s crisis.
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Pierre said that there have been constant protests and “grumblings” against the president since the country’s rising inflation resulted in widespread riots in the summer of 2018.
“It is true that the country has been in a crisis for more than two and a half years,” he said.
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Both Pierre and Villefranche said that they were expecting Moïse to leave power peacefully and exit the country. To them, such an assassination was not expected whatsoever.
Pierre, who visits Haiti at least twice a year to catch up on news there, said that the population’s reaction there was similar to his.
“People didn’t react, the streets are empty whereas there were protests regularly against power,” he said.
“There are no joyous manifestations or anything, because the president didn’t leave, he was assassinated”
— with files from Phil Carpenter, Mike Armstrong and Annabelle Olivier
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