Canadian Development Assistance to Haiti: An Independent Study


167 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-920494-34-X




Reviewed by Ross Willmot

Ross Willmot is Executive Director of the Ontario Association for
Continuing Education.


This detailed examination of the abrupt cancellation of Canada’s seven-year development assistance to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the most inegalitarian in the world helps explain why so many Canadians increasingly question their Government’s aid policy and procedures.

A few benefits (particularly in technical education and health care, where Canada has expertise) were realized, we learn, but surely not enough, particularly in tropical rural development where Canada has little. Too much of the $19 million Canadian spent went into the pockets of corrupt, rich Haitians.

Details are given about the contrasting successful activity in Haiti of some 140 Canadian non-government organizations, with “their ability to relate to the local population and to elicit its involvement and their long-term commitment.” The evidence lends weight to the study’s recommendation of the Canadian Government’s “incorporation of some NGO’s into bilateral projects using its own experience in government relations together with its greater influence to handle the co-ordination function.” To do this, “intelligent restructuring not bureaucratization” should be used. Tighter Government control over NGO activities in return for official support seems reasonable. A telling example is given of a NGO only spending $7,500 a year to maintain a volunteer in Haiti whereas the corresponding cost of a Government employee would exceed $100,000. The Canadian Government in Haiti seemed “more concerned with spending money than with understanding local problems and helping the people help themselves.”

Canada has comparatively few economic ties with Haiti, so its new trade-aid policy, if instituted early, could have prevented such costly investment in an unlikely prospect. The former basic needs approach of Canada, still supported by some, particularly in a country where the extremely rich oppress the extremely poor, is surely the wrong one unless our Government successfully exerts pressure on these corrupt rich to play their rightful part in developing their country and not in lining their pockets.


English, E. Philip, “Canadian Development Assistance to Haiti: An Independent Study,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,