January 29, 2010

Canadians have been following closely the events in Haiti since the tragic earthquake happened there two weeks ago.  We have all been shocked by the scenes of devastation and the suffering of the Haitian people.   In response to this crisis the Government of Canada acted quickly.  Our diplomats, aid officials and Canadian Forces personnel are now playing a leading role in the international relief effort.  I like to take this opportunity to update you on Canada’s whole-of-government approach to the crisis. 

We continue to be focused, first and foremost, on accounting for those Canadians still missing.  Our Embassy in Port-au-Prince and consular officials in Ottawa are using all available means to locate the missing so that they can be reunited with their loved ones. 

As of the morning of January 27, there are twenty one confirmed Canadian deaths, 147 Canadians are still unaccounted for and approximately 2869 Canadians have been evacuated.  Adoptions already in process when the earthquake struck are being fast-tracked and 85 children have so far been united with their families in Canada. 

Citizenship and Immigration Canada is speeding up processing of Haitian immigration application.

Over 1,800 Canadian Forces personal have been deployed to Haiti to help with disaster relief and aid efforts.  The Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) with three Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units (that are capable of purifying water from any source), a field hospital along with six helicopters are now in Haiti.  The ships HMCS Halifax and HMCS Athabaskan are deployed off the coast of Haiti with their compliment of helicopters, 500 naval personal and supplies.  Our transport squadrons of Hercules, Polaris and CC-177 Globemaster heavy lift aircraft bring in needed food, equipment and supplies every day.

We have also deployed Foreign Affairs and Canadian International Development Agency staff, who work side-by-side with our Canadian Forces personnel in Jacmel, Léogâne and Port-au-Prince.  Their role is to assist our humanitarian relief   partners in their work, and to ensure effective coordination with the United Nations, the Government of Haiti, NGOs and other governments.

The Government of Canada has earmarked a total of $135 million to date for humanitarian assistance, relief and reconstruction efforts and is matching dollar for dollar donations made by individual Canadians to charities and NGOs working in Haiti.  So far, over $67 million has been donated generously by Canadians and that will be matched by the Government. 

In thinking about the long term future of Haiti, Canada hosted an International Conference in Montreal on January 25.  It served as the first step in establishing a clear and common vision within the international community for the early recovery and longer-term reconstruction of Haiti.  Last September, Canada canceled all debts Haiti owed us and we are asking the international community to follow our example by forgiving Haiti’s debts so they can focus all their resources on reconstruction.

I would like to finish this article by saying thank you to everyone in Central Alberta who has donated recently to the charity or organization of their choice.  We can all be proud of the outpouring of generosity and support Canadians and their Government have shown during Haiti’s hour of need.

Until next time. . .

Earl Dreeshen, MP
Red Deer