Canada withdraws non-essential staff from Haitian embassy due to security concerns

OTTAWA — Canada is temporarily withdrawing non-essential staff from its embassy in Haiti in response to an outbreak of gang-related violence in the country and a severe fuel shortage.

And while Global Affairs Canada says the embassy in Port-au-Prince remains open, all Canadians are urged to avoid non-essential travel to the country.

The decision to evacuate some Canadian diplomats and their families comes as Haiti’s government and police struggle to control gangs that have been blocking fuel distribution terminals for several weeks.

On Tuesday, senior Haitian government officials acknowledged the widespread lack of fuel at a press conference and said they were working to resolve the situation, although they did not provide details.

Defense Minister Enold Joseph said the government was investigating the disappearance of 30 fuel tanks sent to the southern region of Haiti, adding that he had observed gasoline being sold on the black market.

In addition, the newspaper Le Nouvelliste recently reported that truckers have been kidnapped and tankers hijacked.

The fuel shortage comes as Haiti is still recovering from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in July. It has threatened the country’s water supply, which depends on generators, and hospitals in Port-au-Prince and beyond.

On Wednesday, Doctors Without Borders warned that shortages have forced it to cut medical care since last week, with staff only treating patients with life-threatening illnesses.

The aid group said its hospital and emergency center will run out of fuel for generators in three weeks or less if new supplies do not arrive.

The situation has also led to soaring food prices in a country of more than 11 million people where more than 60% of the population earn less than $2 a day. Meanwhile, a gallon of gasoline, when available, currently costs US$15.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 12, 2021.

— With files from the Associated Press.

Michelle J. Kelley