(OTTAWA) The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee is urging Ottawa not to send Canadian troops to root out Haiti’s violent gangs, but instead to toughen sanctions against that country’s political and economic elite.

MPs on the committee say Canada should make it clear that its military will not participate in direct military operations on the ground – which would mean rejecting a request from Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

Armed gangs have filled a power vacuum in Haiti left after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, leading to widespread starvation, a collapse of basic health services and disturbing accounts of sexual violence.

They say Canada should empower the Haitian National Police to address the problem of armed gangs, which echoes demands from civil society groups, but which the International Crisis Group says may not be possible.

MEPs also call on Canada to move from funding for interim humanitarian assistance to creating a longer-term strategy that would have predictable funding and target specific results.

They say those outcomes should include the availability of recreational activities for children to learn and play, as gangs force schools to close and engage in recruitment that some MPs call a child soldier operation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada should play a key role in pulling Haiti out of the crisis.

But he said that Canada would be part of a military mission only if it is a request from a plurality of Haitians.

Canada has urged other countries to follow its lead by imposing economic sanctions on Haitians whom Ottawa accuses of empowering armed gangs.

Mr. Trudeau argues that this pressure will help build political consensus on how Western countries can help Haiti.

Yet Wednesday’s MPs’ report urges Ottawa to immediately address “flaws in its sanctions regime, including the lack of transparency and information provided to parliamentarians, as well as insufficient resources for investigations and execution”.

The Foreign Affairs Committee made the same point in mid-February when it said it was unclear whether Canada’s sanctions regime was really trying to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.