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The Role of the Diaspora for Resolving Crises and Giving a New Start to Haiti
By Pérard Joseph
Haiti is living a particularly difficult moment in its history. This torn nation, which seeks to break its chains in order to live in harmony-in peace and in dignity-has an advantage : its diaspora.
Disseminated throughout the Antilles, North America, Europe, Africa, and Latin America, this diaspora is an incontrovertable force, a major element in the search for paths to solutions for Haiti's growth.
Today, the Haitian diaspora is estimated to represent around two million people, which is about one quarter of the total Haitian population (8, 270,000). In the United States, the Haitian diaspora is principally grouped in New York, Boston, and Miami. Between 1959 and 1967, around 300 technicians and professionals emigrated each year; the U
nited States became the principle destination of permanent emigration. The 1970s were particularly marked by the Haitian 'Boat People' in Florida. This emigration continued until the early 1980s : in 1984, already more than one-half million Haitians were counted in the United States; New York and Miami constituting the main points of entry.
The rest of the diaspora is dispersed throughout Europe, the Caribbean and in Canada. In France the first Haitian immigrants were intellectuals who arrived in the 1960s. It was between 1980 and 1995 that the Haitians arrived on a grand scale in metropolitan France : in 2000, the Haitian community in France comprised 40,000 people-not including Haitians residing in French territories and departments overseas. The Caribbean has about 40,000 Haitians working in French and Dutch territorities. More than 100,000 Haitians and people of Haitian descent reside in Cuba ; 25,000 in the Bahamas, and 500,000 in the Dominican Republic.
In Canada, the Haitian community
numbers more than 150,000, spread among all the Canadian provinces and territories, including Nunavut. However, 95% of this community lives in Quebec. The majority are established in Montreal, but Quebec Haitians also reside in Hull, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Trois Rivières, and elsewhere. In the other Canadian provinces, Haitian communities and associations reinforce the francophone minority in cities such as Ottowa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
The Haitian diaspora is defined by two essential characteristics: its ties to its homeland and its dynamism.
The diaspora community's interest in Haiti is very keen and the community has generally shown a great deal of sensitivity towards the situation in their homeland; it has demonstrated strong solidarity on more than one occasion.
The financial contribution by Haitians living abroad -transfers going to family and friends living in Haiti- is estimated to be, on average, $650,000,000 US per year in the last decade. Around 80% of this co
ntribution, or $560,000,000 US, came solely from the United States, and represents much more than what Haiti received in foreign aid. In comparison, the Haitian national budget is around $400,000,000 US. Paradoxically, while the country continues to die, the savings held by Haitians living in the United States-approximately 15 billion dollars US-rest in American bank accounts. Why not envision the repatriation, if only partial, of this financial wealth in the form of investments, direct, indirect, or otherwise, to finally fuel Haiti's economic take-off once the crisis is resolved?
The members of the diaspora are disposed with a number of other resources besides monetary: knowledge, know-how, expertise in numerous domains, and networks of professionals which can serve the development of Haiti. A just return , when one considers that Haiti had invested some two billion dollars US into the professional training of the 1960s generation, of which many migrated and provided their expertise mostly to the adv
antage of their adoptive countries. This brain drain of doctors, nurses, professors, engineers, and so on, has made Haiti fragile, and it continues to pay the price today.
And what if the diaspora considered converging the power of its own force towards development projects in Haiti? In this society where everything is possible except national consensus, the diaspora can play a key role in initiating a truthful dialogue, carrying with it an innovative societal project.
In this Bicentennial year of our independance, as an eloquent and convincing gesture, all Haitians of the diaspora, and particularly those in Canada, should implicate themselves more actively in the larger Haitian solidarity movement. Other peoples, particularly the Jews in regard to Israel after the Second World War, have done so. Why not Haitians for Haiti, second republic of the Americas and first black Republic in the world?
Comité québécois pour la reconnaissance
des droits des travailleu
rs haitiens en République dominicaine
5174 rue Drolet, Montréal (Québec)