House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.

Topics

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

8:45 p.m.

Durham
Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, I thank the member across the floor for the suggestion and also for working with us to ensure that those people, in many countries, are being helped the best we can as Canadians.

I also appreciate the fact that he recognizes, in situations that are overwhelming for the governments in those countries, that both have to happen. In terms of short-term humanitarian relief, we are supporting the feeding of 400,000 children every day in Haiti, as well as trying to move ahead on reconstruction, respond to the cholera outbreak, and so on.

I know the member is very aware of another major disaster that we are also dealing with, which is the flooding in Pakistan. The United Nations has said that it is, in fact, by its estimation, the biggest humanitarian challenge faced by the United Nations. So things do change.

I also will take note of the member's suggestion. As the member knows, when the government went ahead on maternal and child health, we had a coalition and we worked very closely together. On the suggestion that the member has put forward, the challenge there is to make sure that the international community comes to recognize the presence.

I was just informed that the Canadian Red Cross was invited to the international table in Haiti, as the first NGO to be at the table with the interim commission in making decisions about reconstruction.

We are always looking for ways to improve our work.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

8:45 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson London North Centre, ON

I think that is right, Madam Speaker. However, with the humanitarian coalition in Britain, although they keep it at arm's length from DFID, they are still seen with DFID. So it is not just that they are acting independently. The moment that DFID gets involved in a place or something happens such as in Haiti or Pakistan, the international community already recognizes that particular group because of their workings with DFID.

What I would suggest is that I know there is a humanitarian coalition in Canada that is getting up and running; I would really like to see CIDA and the government give its support to help it to get us to the point where we can develop a better reaction immediately.

If that happens and CIDA recognizes that and works with that group, that group would get international recognition because of its work with the Canadian government.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

8:50 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Following on the member's suggestion that he has talked about, I would like to know how he sees international relief organizations involved in that. When he talks about humanitarian relief in the U.K., he is talking about British NGOs. What about our co-operation with international relief organizations, with which Canada likes to be in a multilateral forum?

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson London North Centre, ON

That is a valid point, Madam Speaker, and I think it is true that in the multilateral forum those things do happen. However, DFID is also working with them to help to co-ordinate those.

This is basically a way to get the citizenry engaged in the particular country in which the group is formed. It is not trying to solve the UN problems and all the coordination that goes along there, but I think we need citizens to be more engaged, because they are giving heavily towards this problem. I just feel that we need a better way of marshalling their forces together and educating them so that they can have more of an impact and feel that they are doing that in the country that they come from.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, we are here tonight to talk about the situation in Haiti. Haiti's precarious situation is known the world over.

We can look at some of the headlines that we saw last week.

I grabbed what was in the bin. They are English newspapers.

They say, for example, “Haiti on edge...”; “Haiti fears violence in election wake...”; “Haitians take to the streets...”; “The country is on fire...: Haiti virtually shut down yesterday as citizens took to the streets by the thousands to protest...[and] businesses, schools and the airport were closed”.

However, it is important to North Americans for Haiti to find a solution because of our proximity to that country and because of the number of Haitians living in Canada and the United States. Canada has always been prepared to answer the call when its friends and allies are in need.

There are literally thousands of Canadians who have family ties to Haiti, and these Canadians want us to live up to our reputation and take decisive action to help steer Haiti out of this crisis that threatens to tear the country apart.

These people are my constituents, my neighbours, my friends, and we cannot abandon them.

From the introduction of peacekeeping on the world stage by Lester Pearson to the introduction of the responsibility to protect doctrine in the UN by Paul Martin, Canada has always led when crisis threatened to tear lives apart. We invented peacekeeping and we invented the responsibility to protect doctrine; and since we have such a close relationship with Haiti, strengthened by bonds of family and friendship, Canada must rally the world to come together and lift Haiti out of the mire it is currently stuck in.

Regardless of party affiliation, Canadian governments have always stood for peace, justice, strong moral principles and a vigorous engagement in world affairs. As a Liberal who greatly admires the accomplishments of leaders such as Pearson, Trudeau, Chrétien and Martin, leaders who took the principles of their predecessors and built upon them with new ideas and initiatives, I know that Canada's role in Haiti should be as an unwavering partner who will propose constructive ideas, back up our promises and convince other nations to join us in fighting the good fight.

We need our actions to make a difference. We must succeed; we cannot afford to fail. The future and the life of an entire generation of people hangs in the balance and we cannot fail them.

The word most often used to describe the Haitian population is “resilience”. History has proven that. Many say that Haiti has just had a string of bad luck. Others say that it is cultural, and others say it is a curse. One thing is for sure, Haitians are fighters and they need our help now more than ever to continue fighting.

In my constituency, I see how proud Haitian Canadians are of their culture and heritage, and they are all proud Canadians. But when it comes to the Haitian community, like most ethnic communities, agreement on the nature of the problems they face, never mind the solutions, are never unanimous.

We had two round tables in the span of a few months with the Haitian community in Saint-Michel, in the east end of Montreal, right after the earthquake. Many problems were highlighted, and of course, there were differences in analyzing just the problems. Right away, there were differences along political lines. We also had gender differences: the women blamed it on the men, and the men obviously blamed it on the women. There were generational differences, where the young blamed it on the old and the old blamed it on the young. Finally, there were also people who blamed it on the fact that they had left 30 years ago or they had just left five years ago, and there were differences from that perspective.

Solutions proposed were broken down between short term and long term. Short-term problems immediately following the earthquake were simply finding shelter and food for those most in need. Long-term solutions dealt with infrastructure for such things as roads, bridges, water and sewage; but the other infrastructure problem that needed to be dealt with was the government, because citizens everywhere in the world rely on their government to some degree.

We should look around us in Canada. Everyday services are delivered. We have health care and simple things such as garbage collection. If we look outside, it is snowing in Ottawa. We have snow removal, police services, post office, licences, and so on. Canadians may complain about the cost or the delivery of those services, but even the Conservatives, who despise government, agree that we need government to deliver some services.

In Canada, we debate the amount of services that the government should deliver. In Haiti, the debate is which government can actually provide the minimal amount of services. We are talking about a government that cannot deliver the basic services. We are talking about a government where, when individuals go to get their birth certificate, it is not available. When they try to get their passport, there is nobody at the counter. When they try to mail a letter, they cannot get a postage stamp. When they go to make a deposit, they cannot find a bank that is open. When they try to withdrawal money at a bank, there is no money in the bank.

Those are basic services. Canada is a stable, successful democracy with a good track record of providing essential services to the population, regardless of which political party is in power. Today we are debating how we, as a successful and prosperous country, can assist Haiti in taking steps toward becoming a successful and prosperous country.

Haitians' political history is full of traumatic upheavals. Regime after regime in Haiti engaged in grossly corrupt activities that put the ambitions of those in power before the needs of the people. This has led to Haiti being underdeveloped, but what is more troubling is that this has diminished the ability of any political force to bring about the change necessary to put Haiti on a path towards sustainable development.

There needs to be a shift in Haiti's political culture to ensure that the old ways of doing business that have failed are replaced by new good practices that make it possible for Haiti to govern itself successfully and democratically.

To succeed in its reconstruction effort, Haiti needs an overhaul that brings stability, rule of law and a trust in its political system. We can see clearly in the protests taking place daily that there is no trust between Haiti's democratic institutions and her people.

Trust must be established so that any political force that forms a government after an election has the moral authority to actually lead the country. People will not follow a government that they view as illegitimate. Until legitimacy is woven into the Haitian political fabric, there can be no lasting peace or progress.

There is tremendous desire in Haiti to rebuild and move forward. The spirit of the Haitian people is not in question. What is required right now is to stop the chaos that threatens to tear Haiti apart. This cannot be done without the world being involved.

What is needed now is action to shore up Haiti's democracy and aid. Proper democratic institutions are not built overnight, but they are necessary to create a climate where a state can govern itself successfully, develop its resources, deliver services and change governments in a stable and orderly fashion.

Right now, Haitians are divided and angry because they feel that their democratic institutions are illegitimate. This feeling is the wound that must be closed if Haiti is to survive. Until that wound is closed, aid must flow to Haiti. Aid is a bandage, not a solution, but the bleeding must stop before the wound can be stitched.

Food, clean water, medicine, money, clothing and shelter, everything and anything at this point can contribute to reducing the suffering that is currently ravaging Haiti. The rebuilding process begins with aid. If aid can be delivered fairly and efficiently, it can create the calm space and good will between the Haitian people, the Haitian government and the international community, which is necessary to begin tackling more systemic problems.

Success breeds success. We need to get aid right and use that momentum to tackle the deeper issues I mentioned, and keep doing this until Haiti is ready to stand on her own two feet.

Given Canada's deep ties to Haiti, I ask the government to do whatever it can to assist Haiti by collaborating with our partners to provide lifesaving aid to Haiti during this difficult time and to do the work with the Haitian people and the international community to build democratic institutions in Haiti that work.

Message from the Senate
Emergency Debate

December 13th, 2010 / 9 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Before moving on to questions and comments, I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following public bill to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-10, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

9 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, I have been listening to the debate of the Liberal, Bloc and NDP. In general, everybody agrees with what has been said in reference to the problems and issues facing Haitians and the fault lines that have developed since the earthquake. I do not think anybody here does not agree with respect to the main aspects of what is happening.

Questions have been asked of the Government of Canada. As a responsible government, we have stated that Haiti receives the second-largest amount of our foreign aid. We are working with the international community.

Basically, the bottom line is when Haitians needed aid, Canada sent aid. The member is right. He has had his round table conferences with the Haitian community. As another of my colleagues has said, there are a lot of things we can do.

The main aspect of this is that we need to work together. This government has committed a tremendous amount of money, over $1 billion, to help Haiti. Haiti is a priority for the government. I want to assure members that we will continue working with it and everyone else to achieve what many of us are repeating tonight.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

9 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ensure that we understand correctly. In the headlines today, for example, I read that Canada was to discuss Haitian elections. I think we have to stop discussing and start acting, have Canada take a leadership position, take action and decide with the rest of the UN to do what is right and ensure that the proper results, whether it requires a recount, come out of the election.

Canada has to take a leadership position. It has to stop saying that it committing money but actually do it. That is all I am asking.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

9 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, the member has been saying that he is asking the Government of Canada to do this. He mentioned a headline that said we were in discussions. What it means is we are working with our international partners, we are working with the government of Haiti to address those issues of electoral irregularities. He needs to understand it is very important for Canada not to be by itself, but to be with its other international partners, including the current government of Haiti.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

9 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, once again, Canada should be taking a leadership role. It cannot be waiting for its international partners. It has to drag its international partners. I am asking for that.

Many promises were made after the earthquake to bring in Haitian refugees and Haitian immigrants. I have an office full of immigration files that could be processed overnight. These people have been asking to come to Canada for years and the files are still sitting in my offices. There are still constituents waiting for family members to come to our country. The government was supposed to react within 30 days, 60 days, 90 days. We are still waiting, one year later.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Edmonton East, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas.

First, I would like to commend CIDA, the Foreign Affairs and National Defence departments and ministries for an extraordinary effort in a time of absolute disaster. Understandably, those on the ground immediately following the disaster had to deal with missing loved ones, friends and colleagues and their supreme efforts must not go unnoticed or be forgotten.

Canada has a long-term commitment to Haiti and there is no other country that has been a better friend to the people of Haiti than Canada. Our strong, long-term relationship with Haiti strengthens our ties to the Organization of American States, the Caribbean community, the common market and key countries in the Americas, such as Brazil and Chile. Canadians care about Haiti. This is our hemisphere and we have family and personal ties there. It is also the poorest country in the hemisphere.

I had an opportunity to visit Haiti in 2006, well before the latest disasters struck. It was at the time, even then, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. At the time, elections were being conducted and were reasonably well managed, although the turnout was relatively low. Of note, even at that time the Haitian people had many desperate needs, with massive unemployment and civil unrest. The Haitian government was unable to cope with its country's human needs, coupled with large foreign debt, without massive amounts of foreign aid.

The countryside was denuded of foliage, creating widespread flooding in seasonal rains, bringing the remaining soil and silt and filling up the only substantial power damn, preventing the generation of electricity. Then the earthquake hit and now a cholera outbreak.

Haiti is vulnerable to natural disasters, as last January's earthquake and hurricane Thomas this fall attest. In addition, the current cholera outbreak has already resulted in the death of more than 2,000 Haitians and has reached the Dominican Republic and Florida as well. It is important to remember that rebuilding Haiti is a significant undertaking that will require a sustained international effort measurable in years, not in weeks and months.

While great needs remain, Canadian initiatives are making a difference in the lives of Haitians. Despite the extraordinary challenges Haiti has faced in the past year, our commitment to Haiti is long term. I am proud to say that Canadians themselves have demonstrated unprecedented support for Haiti in response to the earthquake that took place nearly a year ago. In fact, they donated $220 million to charitable organizations and the Government of Canada is matching their donations. Almost 60% of the matched funding has been allocated to initiatives in Haiti.

The international response has ensured that immediate lifesaving needs following the earthquake are being addressed. Canada is the second most important bilateral donor in Haiti after the United States. We have a long-term credible presence in Haiti that allows us to respond quickly and effectively when disaster occurs. For example, our health partners were instrumental in the early detection of the current cholera outbreak.

Canada's leadership, expertise and development assistance are valued by Haiti and the United States, as well as other key partners in this hemisphere. In fact, our credibility with Haiti lends us influence in new mechanisms set up for the coordination of humanitarian and reconstruction efforts such as the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission and the multi-donor Haiti reconstruction fund.

With a commitment of $1 billion over six years between 2006 and 2012, Haiti is Canada's leading development recipient in the Americas. Our long-term presence in Haiti means that throughout the country we have trusted partners to work with and mobilize in the event of a disaster. The situation in Haiti is too large and multi-faceted for Canada to make a difference alone, so we are working to ensure that our efforts and those of other partners are mutually reinforcing.

Canada is working with a number of international and Canadian partners, including the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Caribbean Community and Common Market and key donor countries in the Americas and Europe, such as the United States, the European Union and Brazil.

Canada's engagement in Haiti has demonstrated a whole of government approach. Our efforts have drawn on the skills of a number of departments, including the Canadian International Development Agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Finance Canada, the Canadian Border Services Agency, the RCMP and the Department of National Defence to achieve results for the people of Haiti.

On our response to the devastating effects of the earthquake nearly a year ago, Canada has now fully disbursed more than $150 million in immediate humanitarian assistance, contributing to the distribution of food aid for 4.3 million people and emergency housing and supplies to 2.2 million people.

Through our $400 million commitment, Canada is supplying daily meals to 400,000 school children, has provided $31.3 million to the multi-donor Haiti reconstruction fund and has earmarked $30 million for a call for proposals from Canadian organizations for short-term recovery and reconstruction projects in Haiti.

Some Haitian municipalities will receive technical assistance from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to improve their delivery of basic services, such as land management, roads, water provisions and garbage collection.

Here are some of the results that we and our partners have achieved since the earthquake struck on January 12: one million Haitians have been engaged in cash for work programs; over four million Haitians have received emergency food aid; we have provided medical care for 90% of displaced persons in Port-au-Prince; we have constructed temporary offices for the ministries of health and agriculture and for the secretariat of the interim Haiti recovery commission; and we have constructed a prison for 750 inmates and have deployed 25 Canadian prison experts.

We are now on track to meet the commitment we made at the International Donors' Conference in New York in March. However, there have been some challenges. As 30% of the public service died in the earthquake and 40% of the Haitian government's infrastructure was damaged, this has hampered the government's ability to respond to the basic needs of the population.

When assessing progress in Haiti, we need to remember the magnitude of the devastation and remember how long it took to rebuild in other similar situations. We all remember the tsunami in Asia. Following that disaster in 2004, right around Christmas time I might add, it took over five years to rebuild 139,000 houses in Indonesia. In fact, we need look no further than our closest neighbour when we want an example of how long reconstruction can take. As we all know, the United States of America, with all of the resources possible at its disposal, is still working to reconstruct New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.

Governance challenges in Haiti have been compounded by the current land tenure system and the lack of safe landfill sites to remove rubble from Port-au-Prince. Part of the reason that more than one million people still live in camps is that hey have no other place to go. Canada supports efforts to address these issues and continues to encourage the government of Haiti to undertake the needed reforms to clear the way for rebuilding.

Canada has been clear on our commitment to Haiti and it is long term. While great needs remain, Canadian initiatives are making a difference in the lives of Haitians.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, it is important to remember that there are thousands and thousands of children in homes and orphanages in Haiti, most of whom have at least one parent still living but have been placed in institutions because their families are finding it difficult to manage.

My question is about risk. Haiti is at particular risk because cholera transmission is closely linked to inadequate environmental management. Haiti suffered chronic water supply and sanitation problems even prior to the earthquake. Haiti was ranked last out of 147 countries for water security in 2002.

I am wondering what the hon. member thinks should be done immediately in the short term and what is needed in the long term to address water supply and sanitation issues.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Edmonton East, AB

Madam Speaker, I absolutely agree with my hon. colleague. The need in Haiti was desperate long before the earthquake struck. As I related, I was there in 2006 and I could see the difficulties and problems it had on sanitation and on water provisions. This has been an ongoing circumstance in Haiti for many years and the earthquake certainly did not help it whatsoever.

My understanding is that one of the problems in bringing back infrastructure, water facilities and sanitation facilities is the land tenure in Port-au-Prince where the land is tied up and people cannot get ownership and cannot move in equipment to start the reconstruction of the infrastructure that is needed. That is something that will need to be worked out because, obviously, to rebuild Haiti and Port-au-Prince with all its great needs, we need to start in the ground with the proper sanitation facilities and the proper water for the people.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

9:15 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity to go to Haiti with the hon. member for Edmonton East in 2006. We were part of the same mission. I had a chance to see how resilient the Haitian people are, despite all their challenges. They are a very happy people despite it all and they want to overcome the difficult situation they find themselves in. They are very welcoming and very charming. I was quite surprised by that. Despite all the problems they are currently going through, with the earthquake, cholera and problems surrounding the elections, I hope that these people will continue to have the resilience they need to get through this.

I want to know whether the hon. member shares this same hope and this same confidence that the Haitian people inspire in me. Does he believe as I do that they will overcome these challenges because they have the desire and resilience to do so?