Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

People walk past the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, March 25, 2024.Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press

Canada has begun evacuating Canadians from the troubled Caribbean country of Haiti, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Monday.

At a news conference, Ms. Joly said evacuees with valid passports are being transported to neighbouring Dominican Republic by helicopter.

Fewer than 30 Canadians have said they have valid passports and are ready to travel. Eighteen left on Monday. The minister said 3,000 Canadians in Haiti are registered with her department and about 300 have said they would be possibly interested in leaving.

“The security situation is untenable at the airport and all commercial flights have been cancelled,” Ms. Joly said. “That is why, in these circumstances, it is important for us to bring Canadians to safety.”

Vulnerable Canadians, such as those with medical problems or families, have priority, she said.

Given Canada’s available helicopter capacity in Haiti, the minister said the closest place to go is the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. She is looking at other options but declined to elaborate.

Once in the Dominican Republic, Canadians will be able to access loans from her department to facilitate travel to Canada, Ms. Joly said.

Explainer: What’s going on in Haiti? Latest news from a Caribbean nation in crisis

Meanwhile, she said Canada remains committed to Haiti, noting she had spoken Monday with the ambassador in Haiti.

“Canada will remain in Haiti. We know that the Haitian people need us. We know that the situation is difficult, but Canadian diplomatic staff and locally hired staff are currently safe, and we will ensure that they will remain safe throughout the crisis.”

Haiti has been in a state of turmoil since foreign mercenaries assassinated then-president Jovenel Moïse in 2021, and armed gangs have seized control of much of Port-au-Prince, and are now jockeying for control of the city with political factions.

Ms. Joly confirmed that military personnel are protecting diplomats in Haiti. “That is why we are able to stay, and able to stay in the long run,” she said.

Given that only Canadians with valid Canadian passports will be eligible for the assisted departure, Ms. Joly said her department is looking at other escape options for other Canadians and family members, as well as permanent residents and their families in Haiti.

“Canada has a policy of not separating families. This is my priority,” she said.

The minister said her department was looking at options with other countries as a solution to helping individuals who might be the extended family members of Canadians. “That’s why we need other options with other countries,” Ms. Joly said.

Death threats and security concerns hinder creation of council that will choose Haiti’s next leader

Julie Sunday, assistant deputy minister for consular, security and emergency management at Global Affairs Canada, said the department is equipped to provide emergency travel documents out of the embassy in Haiti.

Ms. Sunday said there are a variety of reasons that people may be staying in Haiti. “They’re waiting to see if the security situation improves. There’s a range of issues. All of this to say that those who are in a vulnerable position and wish to travel in the coming days should contact us and we’re ready to support that.”

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a group of countries was close to agreeing on measures to stem escalating violence and restore stability in Haiti, after talks on deploying a multinational force and a transition council to oversee the country ahead of elections.

“I know we’re close to resolving it but there’s still more work to do and Canada will continue to be there with financial contributions, humanitarian contribution, and any sort of political support we can on continuing to move forward,” Mr. Trudeau said.

He made his comments after a multinational meeting in Jamaica that included neighbouring Caribbean countries, Canada, the United States and France.

On Haiti, Mr. Trudeau has said he supports a “Haitian-led solution” to the country’s challenges, with Canada being ready to support the Haitian people.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe