This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

Evidence of meeting #51 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was honduras.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Elissa Golberg  Director General, Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force Secretariat, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Leslie E. Norton  Director General, International Humanitarian Assistance Directorate, Multilateral and Global Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency
Lise Filiatrault  Regional Director General, Americas Directorate, Canadian International Development Agency
Isabelle Bérard  Director General, Haiti and Dominican Republic, Canadian International Development Agency
Neil Reeder  Director General, Latin America and Caribbean, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Jean-Benoit Leblanc  Director, Trade Negotiations 2 Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

4:30 p.m.

Director General, Haiti and Dominican Republic, Canadian International Development Agency

Isabelle Bérard

As you rightly pointed out, Elissa, the government lost 17% of its public servants. They were in the buildings at 16:53 on that day. They were mostly the managers and the directors, those with whom we normally have interactions. And 40% of the government infrastructure was destroyed. So we're dealing with massive destruction, as we pointed out a number of times.

The IHRC was set up, as you said, in April of last year, right after the New York conference. We've met five times since then. I say “we”; David Moloney, the executive vice-president of CIDA, is Canada's representative to the IHRC.

We were very lucky, in some sense. At the very beginning of the IHRC, we had the opportunity to meet with the former executive director of the reconstruction commission in Indonesia, the reconstruction commission that dealt with the tsunami. Just so we're clear, the reconstruction commission in Indonesia was set up to deal with a very small portion of Indonesia, with a fully functional government in its capital. The IHRC is totally different, and from that perspective, we're working in a very special situation. It's unique. We've never had the opportunity to work within these kinds of parameters.

The executive director of the Indonesian reconstruction commission was very clear about that. While their commission in Indonesia became fully functional after 18 months--it took them 18 months to get fully functional--a year later the IHRC.... It's not perfect. But you have to remember you're bringing around a table 14 Haitian representatives, governments from different countries, multilateral organizations, as well as donors whom I would qualify as non-traditional donors, countries that have never participated in development and want to share and be part of the experience. It's great, but it does make it a little complex.

That being said--as I said, we've had five meetings--the IHRC has a strategic plan. We have very specific objectives. We've approved projects. If you go to the site, you can get much more information on the IHRC.

We are starting to see the results of the preparation that started last April. For instance, if you look at debris removal, the objective for next October was the removal of at least 40% of the debris. We're doing well. We are halfway there. At its last meeting, the IHRC increased the target from 40% to 60%. We're convinced that with further financing, if other donors are interested in putting in some funding, we can achieve that.

On water and sanitation, we're reaching the targets that were set up last August and--

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

I'm going to have to cut you off here. We've gone over time.

We're going to move to Mr. Rafferty. Welcome to the committee.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and welcome, everyone. Thank you for being here today. I have met some of you before, and I look forward to asking you some questions.

In my short time available, I'm going to try to ask each of you a question, because I don't want you to have come for no reason at all.

Ms. Fortier, I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to ask you yet, but it's going to be something.

I'm going to ask a question or two about Honduras. One is, very quickly, how would you evaluate the political and economic situation right now? Not a big treatise, just a quick overview.

4:35 p.m.

Neil Reeder Director General, Latin America and Caribbean, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

In 10,000 words or less, exactly.

On the positive side, we can look at the elections yesterday. I think there was a big sigh of relief internationally. The elections went pretty well. There were some security incidents. Mr. Aristide came back. He did not make pronouncements on the election. He did not send his people into the streets. Generally speaking, Haitians voted. There were irregularities. Haitian electoral systems aren't perfect. But we think that overall it was a transparent, generally well-organized election. So on that side we feel good about Haiti.

If you had asked me on Saturday, no one was really certain where this was going to go. And obviously in that respect, we'll now look forward to the vote, to the count, and to the installation of a new president.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

I thank you for that great answer, but I was actually asking you about the political situation in Honduras.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

John, we're going to spend a half an hour from 5 to 5:30 on Honduras. You'll get a chance to ask away.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Okay. I'll leave my Honduras questions then.

4:35 p.m.

Director General, Latin America and Caribbean, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Neil Reeder

Yes. I'm wearing a Haiti hat right now.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Okay, we're doing the Haiti hat.

4:35 p.m.

Director General, Latin America and Caribbean, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Neil Reeder

It was a pretty good answer, though.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

It was; it was a great answer, and I appreciate it.

4:35 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:35 p.m.

Director General, Latin America and Caribbean, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Neil Reeder

We didn't get to the economy, which is something else, but I'll pass.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Okay, my Haiti questions.

Canada's commitment and Canadians' individual commitments to Haiti were enormous--this being one of the most generous populations of all countries in the world--but the total commitment and matching and everything still remains elusive for a lot of people. I wonder if you can assure Canadians that their financial giving has been matched, first of all, and that it has been spent, and that it has been spent in a worthwhile fashion.

Perhaps Ms. Norton or Ms. Bérard could respond.

4:35 p.m.

Director General, Haiti and Dominican Republic, Canadian International Development Agency

Isabelle Bérard

As you said, Canadians were very, very generous. They gave $220 million to charitable organizations. We are not responsible for the money that was given to those organizations. Each organization is responsible for reporting to those who have donated to them. We have committed to match those funds through our various commitments, so there's the $400 million for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance. As we speak, 88% of the matching funds have been allocated to various initiatives. We have to wait until March 31 to give you more precise information on how much has been spent, and we can get back to you on this. But I would say that certainly half of it will be spent by March 31.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Ms. Norton, here's a question for you. As far as Haiti is concerned, has someone in the Harper government ever written “no” on any request that CIDA has had? It's a rhetorical question.

So this is like an interview question. You know when you go to an interview and they ask you, what are your weaknesses--they do that in interviews, I think they still do--and it's always the most dreaded question. In terms of the reconstruction what have been the key challenges, not necessarily your weaknesses but the key challenge that you've really struggled with?

4:40 p.m.

Director General, Haiti and Dominican Republic, Canadian International Development Agency

Isabelle Bérard

I'd say that the first one is certainly capacity, the capacity of our interlocutors, mostly government but also local organizations with which we work. This is by far our most important challenge.

Of course, on the reconstruction itself, land titling and debris removal have been mentioned before. I'm sure you've heard that those are still important challenges we have to face.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

There'll be another storm season coming up in 2011. Do you feel Haiti will be prepared at that time for hurricane season, in the work you've done to prepare? I'm just thinking of the actual reconstruction and--

4:40 p.m.

Director General, Haiti and Dominican Republic, Canadian International Development Agency

Isabelle Bérard

Is the question about whether or not there'll be a storm?

4:40 p.m.

Director General, Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force Secretariat, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Elissa Golberg

What we can say is that we're very conscious of the fact that Haiti is disaster prone. We've been dealing with it over and over again. In terms of this coming hurricane season, the UN, for instance, has already--for a few months now--initiated its preparedness activities. It's been doing its contingency planning. It's been trying to think through how it would respond. That's one of our main partners. The embassy has been liaising closely with that team that's been pulled together to do the preparedness and the contingency planning.

Will it be able to weather it better? I would expect, and we should all expect, that it's going to face significant challenges. You still have several hundred thousand people who are without permanent shelter. You still have people who are in disaster-prone areas, in low-lying areas that are deforested. So the same challenges we had before the earthquake still exist.

What we're trying to do is make sure we're reinforcing the capacity of our international partners on the ground, but also our Government of Haiti partners on the ground, so they can at least be in a position to be more responsive to the events when they occur. This means better evacuation procedures and making sure the municipalities know what's expected of them.

A project that my team has been pursuing with St. John Ambulance is making sure we provide first aid training for all Haitian National Police so that in their role as first responders they're better capable of managing these crises.

What we're trying to do collectively is reinforce the institutions that are going to have to deal with a crisis, because a crisis is going to come.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Speaking of that, and governance in particular, you talked about the displaced people and there being hundreds of thousands, and that's unfortunate. One of the things I'd like to hear about from you is progress on tenure and land rights in the country. With the latest election, is there some hope that there will be some progress on that front?

4:40 p.m.

Director General, Haiti and Dominican Republic, Canadian International Development Agency

Isabelle Bérard

Land tenure is definitely a huge challenge, as I said. Of course, because of the electoral situation, since last November it has been a little bit challenging to engage the government on this issue. This being said, the IHRC has already approved--I'd have to look at my numbers--around five to seven different projects related to housing. Of course, built within those projects are initiatives related to land titling.

Yes, we are waiting for the new government to come in and to then start having a conversation, a more systematic conversation, on how to deal with this. But there are initiatives going on right now on setting the milestones so that we can move forward once we have....

4:40 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Would you say that this is probably the biggest stumbling block to placing displaced people?

4:40 p.m.

Director General, Haiti and Dominican Republic, Canadian International Development Agency

Isabelle Bérard

It is an important one, as is disposing of the debris, which is another big issue.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you, John.

We're going to end at that. We're going to move back over to Mr. Van Kesteren for five minutes....

We'll go to Mr. Goldring.