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Canada launches program to help Canadians flee Haiti

Police officers take part in a confrontation with gangs near the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on March 21, 2024. (Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters - image credit)
Police officers take part in a confrontation with gangs near the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on March 21, 2024. (Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters - image credit)

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says Canada is launching an assisted departure operation to help vulnerable Canadians get out of Haiti.

Joly said Monday that Canada will transport eligible Canadians by helicopter from Haiti to the neighbouring Dominican Republic, where they can catch flights home.

Only citizens with valid Canadian passports are eligible; Joly said the government is exploring options for other Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families.

"Our goal, as the government of Canada, is always to bring them to safety," Joly said.

The most vulnerable Canadians, such as people with medical conditions or children, will be prioritized, she added.

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) says it has contacted Canadians in Haiti to inform them of the operation. Just under 30 people have expressed interest and are eligible to leave immediately.

Those attempting to get out of Haiti through the emergency program will have to reach the meeting point in Haiti on their own — which is one reason why some people aren't willing to leave within 24 hours, Joly said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly  listens to questions from reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill after Question Period, in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly listens to questions from reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill after Question Period, in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said the government is exploring departure options for Canadian citizens without valid passports, permanent residents and their families. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

"The situation may be very dangerous," she said, adding that the gathering point is in a "green zone," a safe place, which will make transporting Canadians to the Dominican Republic easier.

Eighteen Canadians left Haiti today, Joly confirmed. She is advising Canadians in Haiti who need help escaping to register with GAC. Information on how to register can be found on Joly's social media pages or on the GAC website.

Roughly 3,000 Canadians in Haiti are registered with the federal government, according to GAC.

The department said on March 23 it had responded to 245 inquiries since violence erupted earlier this month among rival gangs, closing the international airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and leaving foreigners stranded amid a wave of kidnappings, robberies and violent crime.