Dangerous Hope tells the story of the rise of a grass roots movement for democracy in Haiti after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship and how Canada became involved in the derailment of that movement.
In 2009 I accompanied my partner to Haiti to work on clean water development projects in some of the rawest slums in Port-au-Prince. Like most Canadians we had bought into the dominant narrative of Haiti as an almost ungovernable, failed state. We understood the “rescue” mission that sent President Aristide into exile in 2004 as one of many acts in a sorry Haitian drama in which Canada, out of humanitarian motives, provided much needed assistance to this chaotic country.
But many people in the poor neighbourhoods we worked in recounted a version of the politics of the last 20 years that completely contradicted the Canadian narrative we had accepted. They described a series of popular elected governments that for the first time in Haiti's history delivered services to the impoverished majority – especially education, public health and rural development programs.
Back in Canada we learned more about the recent history of Haiti and how Canada became a part of planning and executing the coup of 2004. We learned how Canadian mainstream media and even some Canadian NGO's, though vocal in demonizing the government of Haiti before the coup, were virtually silent on Canadian participation in the coup and the mass killings and incarceration of civilians after the coup.
Formerly Canada's foreign policy towards Haiti was independent of the US. Canadian aid in the seventies supported health, agricultural and rural development in Haiti. The Canadian government did not actively support the Duvalier dictatorship militarily, with arms and training, as the US did. How and why did this change?
This film asks some hard questions. Why the gap between Canada's proclaimed humanitarian goals and our funding of undemocratic opposition to the elected government in Haiti? Why was Canadian aid cut to the country when they were demonstratively making progress on human rights and the rule of law? Why did Canada participate, along with the US and France, in an illegal and covert coup d'état in Haiti on the night of February 29, 2004?
This is the first time Canada has played a strategic and military role in the removal of a democratically elected government.
Dangerous Hope aspires to revisit this little known dark chapter in recent Canadian history and promote a discussion about Canada's actions in Haiti and the failure of our own democracy in allowing this to happen behind a veil of secrecy to this day.