Evidence of meeting #6 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was haiti.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jon Allen  Assistant Deputy Minister, Americas, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Lise Filiatrault  Regional Director General, Americas Directorate, Canadian International Development Agency
  • Marie Gervais-Vidricaire  Director General, Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Isabelle Bérard  Director General, Haiti, Canadian International Development Agency
  • Denis Robert  Director, Haiti Task Force, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Leslie Norton  Director General, International Humanitarian Assistance Directorate, Canadian International Development Agency
  • Kevin McCort  President and Chief Executive Officer, Member of the Humanitarian Coalition, CARE Canada
  • Conrad Sauvé  Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Red Cross
  • Stephanie Kleschnitzki  Reports and Contributions Manager, Haiti, UNICEF Canada
  • Pam Aung Thin  National Director, Public Affairs and Government Relations, Canadian Red Cross

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

I want to welcome everybody to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. This is meeting number 6, and pursuant to Standing Order 108.2, our briefing is on the situation in Haiti.

To all our witnesses, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy days to come here and brief us with regard to the situation.

Mr. Allen, I'm going to get you to introduce the colleagues you brought with you from the Department of Foreign Affairs. I believe you're going to be speaking.

Then, Lise Filiatrault, could you introduce your group as well? I believe you have an opening statement.

Mr. Allen, I'll turn it over to you.

Welcome. The floor is yours.

8:50 a.m.

Jon Allen Assistant Deputy Minister, Americas, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Today I have with me Marie Gervais-Vidricaire, director general of the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force. They're our bankers, the people who provide the funds that enable us to do rule-of-law institution-building in Haiti. I also have the director of the Haiti Task Force, Denis Robert. He has much experience and has worked through the earthquake. My colleague, Lise Filiatrault, from CIDA is also here.

8:50 a.m.

Lise Filiatrault Regional Director General, Americas Directorate, Canadian International Development Agency

Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, I am accompanied by Leslie Norton, director general of international humanitarian assistance, as well as Isabelle Bérard, director general for the Haiti program in CIDA.

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Mr. Allen, let's start with you.

8:50 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Americas, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Jon Allen

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of committee.

It's my pleasure to be with you today to discuss a country of great importance to Canada and to the hemisphere. Canada has been active in Haiti for decades, but unlike other countries, we have no colonial baggage in that country. Our cultural and linguistic links to Haiti and our longstanding engagement has earned Canada a special relationship with that country--one of respect, one of friendship, and one of compassion. Canadians have shown great solidarity with Haiti, not only in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, but also through longstanding support to the poorest country in our hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world.

There is also, as you are aware, a large Haitian diaspora living in Canada that contributes to both Canadian and Haitian society. Canada's engagement is an important element of our Americas strategy, which seeks to support democratic governance, security, and prosperity in our neighbourhood. Haiti is also a shared priority with the United States and with a number of our other partner countries, including Brazil, France, and the EU.

Today I want to briefly summarize why Haiti is a priority for Canada, take note of the current political situation in the country, and briefly look at some of the opportunities to support positive reforms by President Martelly's government. In doing so, I want to highlight key aspects of Canada's ongoing engagement in Haiti through our Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force. My colleague, Lise Filiatrault, will take us through CIDA's reconstruction and development priorities and activities coordinated by her agency.

This presentation will not focus only on the aftermath of the earthquake. Despite the devastation of this catastrophic event, it did not cause but rather exacerbated and served to highlight some of the ongoing challenges that Haiti faces today.

Canada is acutely aware of the currently stable but always fragile security situation and precarious history of political instability in Haiti. This fragility makes Haiti vulnerable to corruption, organized crime, narcotics, and human trafficking. Instability and crime in Haiti are already being felt in Canada and in the U.S., as Haiti is a transit point for drugs from South America to North America and Europe. Such instability could also have significant negative effects regionally, and in particular in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, where more than 10,000 Canadians live and hundreds of thousands more vacation every year, and where there is currently over $3 billion in Canadian investment.

Democracy, good governance, and human rights are also issues of concern in Haiti. Canada has committed to promoting these values as part of our foreign policy more broadly, but also specifically in our Americas strategy. While these concerns are not new in Haiti, we seem now to be at a crossroads and may have an opportunity to make efforts to address them and to move toward a society where the rule of law prevails, all citizens are accountable, human rights are protected, and the promotion of prosperity and opportunity through increased trade and investment is possible.

An international consensus now exists to the effect that the lack of focus on political governance and rule-of-law reform in Haiti is one of the main reasons the country remains mired in poverty and underdevelopment despite more than 25 years of international engagement.

In Canada's view, these root causes of corruption, poverty, and instability must be adequately addressed in order to allow the international community's reconstruction and development efforts to fully succeed. While concrete results from international and Canadian development efforts in Haiti have been achieved--and Lise will walk you through some of our successes--it is our view that more needs to be done on governance and rule-of-law reform in order to reinforce the foundations of the Haitian state and support its continued development.

Canada is not alone in this analysis.

In addition to President Martelly's identifying the rule of law as a Haitian government priority, along with education, environment, and the economy, the most recent UN Secretary General's report on Haiti identified the rule of law as critical to long-term stability, development, and prosperity in that country. The UN report also called upon the Government of Haiti and the international community to work towards a rule-of-law compact, a plan to ensure sustainable rule-of-law reform in Haiti. Canada strongly supports this proposal and will work with the Haitian government, the UN, and our partners to realize it.

Canada has already invested significantly in the rule of law. DFAIT's START programming has supported Canadian priorities in security and justice with approximately $100 million since 2006, including $18.7 million this fiscal year. START projects have helped to reinforce Haitian institutions, including the Haitian National Police, corrections, and border services, in particular by building and equipping key security infrastructure and by providing training and mentoring to senior security sector personnel.

START projects also seek to increase access to justice and to ensure the foundations of a functioning justice system. Canada also contributes significantly to the UN stabilization force, MINUSTAH. Despite some recent criticisms, this mission remains essential to the stabilization and reconstruction of Haiti. While we supported a drawdown of some MINUSTAH forces to pre-earthquake levels, Canada believes that MINUSTAH should stay in place until it fulfills its mandate. In addition to five military officers, Canada currently deploys 138 police and 11 corrections officers, who provide mentoring and training to their Haitian counterparts. This represents Canada's largest contribution of personnel to an ongoing UN mission. A Canadian, RCMP Chief Superintendent Marc Tardif, is the head of the mission's civilian police component. START, in partnership with Public Safety and DND, are key partners in this mission.

The recent presidential elections in Haiti that witnessed the first transition of power in Haiti between two democratically elected presidents of opposition parties were a positive development. But that optimism was short-lived—President Martelly's first two candidates for prime minister were rejected by the Haitian legislature. Two weeks ago, however, the president's third candidate, Dr. Garry Conille, was confirmed. The following day, President Martelly appointed the head of the supreme court, a post that had remained vacant for seven years. This appointment, which the UN and the international community, including Canada, have been calling on Haiti to make for some time, is an essential step towards the establishment of an independent judiciary.

Finally, late last week, the Haitian parliament approved both Prime Minister Conille's cabinet and his political platform. These recent developments are a sign of the political will and positive intentions of the new Haitian government, but they are only first steps. We believe further reforms are necessary, including the need for measures to address problems of impunity and corruption, land title reform, and a lack of investor confidence.

In closing, I would like to recall that Canada's engagement in Haiti is consistent with our domestic and foreign policy priorities and reflects the interest of Canadians themselves. Haiti is also a shared priority with many of our hemispheric partners, with whom we work closely as principal donors and contributors. Canada's long-term vision for Haiti is one in which Haiti fulfills its potential for lasting security, democratic governance, and prosperity, a Haiti that can provide peace and stability, that can manage and recover quickly in the face of natural disasters, and that can generate employment opportunity and hope for all its citizens. With ongoing long-term support, this goal can be realized if we seize the political will in Haiti for change and focus on rule-of-law and governance reform.

Following the earthquake, Prime Minister Harper noted that it would take at least ten years of international engagement to support the reconstruction and development in Haiti. Canada remains committed to this effort.

I'll now turn the floor over to Lise Filiatrault, and afterwards we'd be very happy to answer any and all of your questions.

Thank you.

9 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you, Mr. Allen.

You have the floor, Ms. Filiatrault.

9 a.m.

Regional Director General, Americas Directorate, Canadian International Development Agency

Lise Filiatrault

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to update the committee on the work of the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, in Haiti

Haiti is one of CIDA's countries of focus and, in each of the past two years, has been the largest recipient of the worldwide aid from CIDA. It is the largest recipient of ongoing development assistance in the Americas.

CIDA's work in Haiti, one of the least developed countries in the world, is multifaceted. CIDA responds to immediate and urgent humanitarian needs and addresses medium to longer-term development needs including improving access to basic services such as health and education, supporting economy development, reinforcing the capacity of the Haitian government, and fostering security and stability.

To enhance the sustainability of our work in a fragile state such as Haiti, CIDA seeks to ensure complementarity between humanitarian assistance and long-term development efforts thereby generating mutually reinforcing results.

And we also work closely with our Government of Canada partners to build capacity in Haiti such as in the security sector, border management and government revenue management.

CIDA's thematic priorities, namely stimulating sustainable economy growth, securing the future of children and youth and increasing food security, guide CIDA's work in Haiti.

Following the January 2010 earthquake, Canada was one of the first countries to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Haiti. In total, Canada disbursed $150.15 million in support of immediate humanitarian needs resulting from the earthquake, and pledged another $400 million in March 2010 and at the International Donors Conference in New York to support the Haitian government's Action Plan for National Recovery and Development of Haiti and priorities.

This two-year $400 million commitment is being delivered through several government departments, including CIDA, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Department of Finance. Canada has already disbursed two-thirds of this pledge and has put in place firm commitments to meet the rest of this goal by March 2012.

In response to the earthquake, individual Canadians donated a total of $220 million to registered Canadian charities, an amount that CIDA, on behalf of the Government of Canada, is matching through the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. To date, 98% of this fund has been allocated.

In more recent months, CIDA has provided $8.5 million in additional humanitarian assistance to address the ongoing cholera epidemic.

Concrete progress has been made in Haiti since the earthquake. More than half of the persons displaced by the earthquake have left camps, and half of the debris has now been removed.

CIDA's work in Haiti is helping produce tangible results. For example, 400,000 school children receive a daily nutritious meal; 330,000 women now have access to trained medical professionals when they give birth; 369,000 Haitians have access to credit and financial services; more than 40,000 children now have access to refurbished or rebuilt schools, receive school supplies, and have their school fees paid; and more than 80,000 families are now more food-secure as a result of increased agricultural productivity and income.

While progress has been made, more needs to be done. We are closely monitoring humanitarian needs, which remain elevated, and with DFAIT we are working closely with the new Haitian government to ensure that our programming remains aligned with the Government of Haiti's priorities and the needs of Haitians.

Canada has been a proactive member of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which is the main body responsible for coordinating reconstruction efforts, and Canada will continue to work with the Government of Haiti and its Canadian and international partners to ensure that reconstruction efforts are coordinated, effective, transparent, and accountable.

As you know, Minister Oda travelled to Haiti last week, where she met with President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Garry Conille. She also visited some of CIDA's projects to assess progress and results achieved. Minister Oda reiterated the Government of Canada's long-term commitment to Haiti and discussed with the president and prime minister Haiti's national plans and priorities to ensure that reconstruction efforts advance and that Haiti is on a sustainable path towards long-term development.

The minister visited three CIDA projects—a maternity hospital, a transitional shelter, and a water and sanitation project—and met with a number of Canadian partners delivering our initiatives in Haiti for an in-depth discussion on the results they have achieved and the lessons they have learned on the ground. Our monitoring so far indicates that Canadian initiatives are making a difference in the lives of Haitians.

Thank you very much.

My colleagues and I will be pleased to respond to your questions.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you.

I think we'll probably have time for two rounds of questioning today.

Let us start with Madame Laverdière .

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you all, and former colleagues notably, for the very interesting presentation this morning.

I think I'll switch to French.

Thank you very much for your presentation and thank you for having underlined that we are in Haiti for the long-term. I remember that, when I was working on those files, a 10-year period had been mentioned. At that time, even the experts were often referring to at least 20 years or a generation. It seems to us that it is worthwhile to make this investment over a generation so as not to have to face the same problems every 10 or 20 years.

That being said, I am interested by your comments on what Canada does about the rule of law. I have heard many comments, especially one which I totally approve stating that the rule of law is essential to ensure security in a country.

As far as what Canada does in that area is concerned, I have mainly heard things relating to security forces, border management, police and correctional services. However, we should also deal with the fundamental issues of the rule of law, such as human rights, institution-building, especially in the legal area, impunity issues and the fight against corruption.

I would like to know a bit more about what Canada does in those fields.

9:05 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Americas, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Jon Allen

Thank you. If you do not mind, I will answer in English.

I'll turn the floor over to Marie Gervais-Vidricaire to add more.

In the first instance, we have tended to focus on institution building to try to ensure the police, corrections, and border services have the infrastructure, training, and mentoring they need to be able to help deliver on the key issues that you mentioned, Madam Laverdière, which are human rights, impunity, and anti-corruption.

We are of course doing some work in terms of providing legal access to those who suffered in the earthquake. In terms of police training, it includes human rights. Those are key elements.

We have to create a base on which everything else can then follow. We are responding in many respects to the basic needs of the Haitian government in trying to build up those institutions in the first instance.

We couldn't agree with you more that human rights, impunity, and corruption are issues that have to be tackled. We want to be able to do that, as do our international partners.

9:10 a.m.

Marie Gervais-Vidricaire Director General, Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

I would add two comments.

You heard a while ago that, since 2006, Canada has spent close to $100 million through our program called the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force. Of that amount, close to $65 million have been spent on projects relating to police training and reinforcement, infrastructure building, repairs, etc.

Secondly, in answer to your question, I would refer to a new project that we have set up, with a $1 million budget, with the cooperation of what is called UN Women. The goal of this project is to improve the effectiveness of the Haitian police when it is faced with situations of violence against women or children, so that it be better prepared, especially when dealing with persons who have been displaced by the earthquake.

There are therefore some very different projects but some are specifically aimed at improving the human rights situation, especially as it relates to women.

9:10 a.m.

Isabelle Bérard Director General, Haiti, Canadian International Development Agency

On behalf of CIDA, allow me to flesh out somewhat the activities of the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force.

Of course, we have tools allowing us to support the central agencies of the government, that is to say the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Planification and Cooperation, and the General Secretariat of the Primature, which is the Prime Minister's Office. With tools such as PAT and PARGEP, we provide technical support to planning activities and to financial matters and we try to help the members of those ministries better to implement legislation and manage institutions.

This completes the list of the activities of the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

We have heard a lot about our partners, such as the United Nations and the OAS which, I believe, is still active in Haiti, as well as important partners such as the United States and hemispheric partners such as Brazil and Chile.

Could you tell us how our work is coordinated with those organizations, with those important partners?

9:10 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Americas, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Jon Allen

Thank you.

Yes, as you indicated, we do work very closely with the UN and the OAS. The OAS was instrumental in providing electoral observation during the most recent elections. The UN, of course, is the organization behind MINUSTAH. Brazil, one of our partners in the hemisphere, has the largest contribution to MINUSTAH and heads that for us. We had the chief of staff to the head of MINUSTAH.

We operate both formally and informally with our friends. There is a Friends of Haiti group. On a regular basis, we get on the phone with our American, EU, Brazilian, and Spanish counterparts, either in times of crisis when we're trying to ensure that the election results will be representative of what the voters desired, or just in terms of trying to coordinate our rule of law and our institution-building efforts. So both at the UN on the ground--our ambassador in Haiti, Henri-Paul Normandin, has regular meetings with his colleagues--and informally on the phone, we are working.

I think it's very true to say that we're all on the same page on this. We all realize that Haiti requires development, but we all are of the view that we have to try to fix the basics in order to be able to deal with its crucial issues and those that you've mentioned. What we're trying to do is ensure that we don't have a lot of overlap and that we're filling gaps where they're needed and not duplicating. We're working with the international Haiti Reconstruction Commission in that regard as well. So it is a team effort, with all of us I think pulling in the same direction.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

That's all the time we have. We'll have to try to pick it up on another round.

We're going to move to Ms. Brown.