Since the early 1960s, large numbers of Haitians have emigrated from their native island nation. Changes in federal immigration legislation in the 1970s in both the United States and Canada enabled immigrants of colour a facilitated entry into the two countries, and this factor contributed to the arrival of Haitians to the North American continent. These newcomers primarily settled in cities along the eastern seaboard, in Boston, Miami, Montréal and New York. The initial motivator of this two-wave Haitian migration was the extreme political persecution that existed in Haiti under the iron-fisted rule of the Duvalier dictatorships and their secret police (popularly known as the “tontons macoutes”) over a thirty year period from the late 1950s to the mid 1980s.

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