Documents reveal that Canada praised Haitian sanctioned for alleged connections with gangsters

A Canadian diplomat and an RCMP officer praised and thanked a sanctioned Haitian businessman who Global Affairs accuses of having connections to gangsters, after he allowed a helicopter airlift of Canadian citizens and police at his luxury golf course last month , suggest emails provided by their lawyers.

Emails attributed to Consul Catherine Brazeau show her telling businessman Reynold Deeb in French that his assistance was “exceptional” and giving him “a big thank you… on behalf of the entire embassy team.”

The emails also suggest that Deeb, whose activities Global Affairs says protect and enable “armed criminal gangs,” received travel plans and passenger lists for helicopter flights transporting Haitian National Police officers to and from his Petionville Club, a golf course in Puerto Rico. -The prince.

“I don’t know how to thank you, director,” a person described as an RCMP liaison officer writes to Deeb in French after the flights. “Everything went well despite the challenges we faced.”

Canadian lawyers for Deeb, an executive at a major Haitian import firm, say the emails will be used as evidence in a Federal Court challenge over Deeb’s inclusion on Canada’s sanctions list. Deeb is one of 28 people sanctioned under Canada’s (Haiti) Special Economic Measures Regulations.

“It is unclear why the Government of Canada was simultaneously requiring Mr. Deeb to use his property and maintaining sanctions against him,” his application for judicial review says.

One of Deeb’s lawyers, Geoff Hall, said the “quite remarkable” emails show that Canadian officials were grateful and “complimentary” toward his client for allowing use of his property, “which is actually contrary to “law of sanctions for Canadians for using property of those who are sanctioned.”

Global Affairs did not immediately respond to questions about the emails.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said sanctions under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “are not worth the paper they are printed on when he refuses to maintain them,” and that it was “no surprise that his government sought help from an individual in Haiti under Canadian sanction”. “.

Deeb calls their inclusion on Canada’s sanctions list “erroneous” and says those who are sanctioned suffer “serious damage to their reputation,” have travel restricted and are denied financial services and employment opportunities.

It has not been sanctioned by the United States, the European Union or the United Kingdom.

But it was sanctioned by Canada “in response to the egregious conduct of Haitian elites who provide illicit financial and operational support to armed gangs,” Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly announced on December 5, 2022.

“Canada has reason to believe that these individuals are using their status as high-profile members of the economic elite in Haiti to protect and enable the illegal activities of armed criminal gangs, including through money laundering and other acts of corruption,” said Global Affairs Canada. in a press release at the time.

“The sanctions that Canada has imposed are aimed at putting pressure on those responsible for the current violence and instability in Haiti. These people must stop providing funds and weapons to criminal gangs in Haiti.”

Deeb denies being involved in gangs. He says in an application filed with the Federal Court last month that the minister denied his attempt to lift the sanctions on March 21 this year, the same day Brazeau first contacted him about the evacuation flights.

“The Canadian Embassy would like to request the assistance of your organization, The Petion Ville Club SA, to facilitate an exit assistance project for some of our Canadian citizens here in Port-au-Prince,” an email to Deeb, attributed to Brazeau, reads .

The email says the embassy was trying to arrange “some helicopter flights” for Canadians “who need urgent consular support.”

“This is not for evacuation purposes, but rather to provide an option for Canadians who have urgent and priority support needs and need to leave the country.”

The email to Deeb asks if the golf course would grant access for “helicopter landings and departures.”

“If possible, we would like to start offering this exit assistance to Canadians as early as this weekend,” he says.

Deeb responded to Brazeau the next day. “I will be happy to collaborate with the embassy to ensure the necessary arrangements for the successful execution of this operation to evacuate your fellow citizens,” Deeb’s email reads.

Global Affairs Canada said April 26 that it had helped nearly 700 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and family members leave the country.

On April 12, Deeb wrote to Brazeau regarding the termination of helicopter operations.

“We have done everything possible to make this delicate and dangerous operation a complete success. I remain at your disposal should it be necessary to resume flights,” Deeb wrote.

The response came the next day. “Your team has been exceptional and we thank you once again for all the support provided to the embassy. We have completed our operations so far, although we do not know what the future will hold in the coming days or weeks,” Brazeau said. . “Thank you very much again and let’s stay in touch for any news.”

The emails also show correspondence between Deeb and an RCMP liaison officer in early April, requesting use of the golf course for flights carrying members of the Haitian National Police “listed in the attached manifest.”

Deeb’s emails show he allowed the flights to take place. “I hope you are well and that everything went well with the helicopter transport of the members of the Haitian National Police from the Petion-Ville Club to Cap-Haitien for their training,” Deeb writes. “I am at your disposal for any other requests you may have in the future.”

The RCMP officer thanked Deeb for his help.

The Canadian Press is not naming the officer because his role in Haiti is not publicly identified. He declined to comment on the emails.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2024.

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