Canadian Armed Forces Jean Michel Desbiens holds his eight-month-old son Xavier before leaving the base for Haiti as his six-year-old daughter Alexanne (bottom) looks on today at CFB Valcartier Que. Photo by The Canadian Press
The federal government is boosting its monetary and manpower contributions to Haitian earthquake relief as donations by ordinary Canadians top $40 million.
Canada has committed up to $135 million to the relief efforts and is ready to deploy more police to help stabilize the increasingly volatile situation if needed, government ministers said Tuesday.
Some 2,000 Canadian soldiers, sailors and air crew, including two warships, have arrived in or are en route to the towns of Jacmel and Leogane, about 40 kilometres southwest of Port-au-Prince. It could take two weeks to get the full contingent on the ground.
Leogane was at the epicentre of the Jan. 12 quake and 90 per cent of the town is flattened. Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean has childhood ties to Jacmel, a seaside town right along the fault line.
"The road to Jacmel is severely damaged and the port rendered inoperable, isolating it from the world," Defence Minister Peter MacKay told the daily briefing on Canadian efforts in Haiti.
"A journey that would normally take four hours by road now takes at least eight. When the DART reconnaissance team first entered the area several days ago, they were in fact the first people from Port-au-Prince to visit Jacmel since the earthquake struck.
"The situation is dire. . . . Many people are injured, deprived of food and water, and unable to access essential services."
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Canada is constantly re-evaluating its role and stands ready to commit more police and security forces to Haiti as soon as UN authorities "signal that conditions allow this." There were more than 80 Canadian police officers working in Haiti before the quake hit.
"We need to move beyond reconstruction to build a new Haiti," Cannon said. "We are loyal neighbours and partners of the Haitian people, and this is what we're focused on."
Twelve Canadians had been confirmed dead by Tuesday; another 699 were missing as the estimate of the total number of people killed by the magnitude-7.3 quake topped 200,000.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said four of the Canadian dead were government employees who "paid the ultimate price of service to their country."
"Canadians are united in sorrow at the untimely passing of their countrymen," Harper said after his new cabinet was sworn in.
International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Canadians have contributed more than $40 million to earthquake assistance and Ottawa will match those donations.
The federal government is also contributing $60 million to UN efforts in Haiti, $39 million of it to food security through the World Food Program. The WFP expects to provide more than 100 million meals to quake victims over the next 30 days.
Oda said $15 million of the UN-designated money will go to UNICEF for health, nutrition, protection and water-and-sanitation services.
The Canadian funds will also go to various other UN groups in Haiti, including the International Organization for Migration, the UN Population Fund and the World Health Organization.
Additional contributions, on top of the $5 million initially distributed for critical relief supplies such as food, tents and blankets, as well as water, sanitation and protection include:
- $11.5 million to six Canadian non-governmental organizations: CARE Canada, Medecins du Monde Canada; Save the Children, Oxfam Quebec, World Vision and the Canadian Red Cross Society.
- $8.5 million to the emergency appeal of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for water, sanitation and health services to about 300,000 quake victims.
- About $1 million for an emergency field hospital, along with 10 Canadian medical and technical professionals, operated by the Norwegian Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross.
The field hospital can provide surgical and medical care to as many as 300 quake victims a day.
Numerous hospitals in the Haitian capital have collapsed, and those that are open are full. The field hospital includes modules for surgery, first aid and triage, a ward of 70 beds, a community health unit and a psychosocial support unit.
MacKay said Canada has airlifted 293 tonnes of relief goods into Haiti so far, including three water purification systems, each of which can produce more than 136,000 litres of clean water daily.
"As the Canadian Forces mount this extraordinary effort to assist Haitians on the ground, Canadians continue to pledge their support both monetarily and spiritually to the people of Haiti," MacKay said.
"Together, we will be able to help see our Haitian friends through this crisis and start on the road to recovery."
Canadian troops will remain in Haiti for two to three months, at most, said MacKay. Other departments, such as Foreign Affairs and CIDA, will pick up where the soldiers leave off, he added.
"The efforts undertaken will continue," Cannon said. "I want to reassure everybody here that we're not just in there for two months and then 'up, we're off.'
"We've been there before; we're in there now, and we're in there for the long haul."
MacKay said Canadian efforts are centred on Jacmel and Leogane at the request of the Haitian government, and units will deploy to Port-au-Prince, where violence and looting have taken hold, on an as-needed basis.
"They're not going to be limited only to Jacmel and Leogane, but this is the primary area of operations, this is where they'll have a staging point."
Canada is hosting foreign ministers from the Americas, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and possibly Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, in Montreal next Monday. The conference will begin long-term planning for Haiti's reconstruction.
Said Oda: "This is not just reconstruction; it is building a new Haiti. We're going to be starting from scratch."