Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
By way of introduction, I have with me Patricia Fortier, who is with our consular operations bureau, and Neil Reeder, who is the director general in our Americas bureau. I am the director general of our stabilization and reconstruction task force, and Leslie will introduce the CIDA colleagues.
I am very glad to be here today to discuss the measures taken by the Government of Canada following the earthquake that shook Haiti on January 11, 2010, as well as to discuss our response strategy in natural disaster cases in this region more broadly.
When natural disasters occur abroad, the Government of Canada tries to respond by using a set of proven and effective mechanisms and procedures intended to make our action coordinated and coherent. These mechanisms involve three main elements: first, standardization of operational procedures for managing interministerial coordination; second, release of information and decision-making; third, outlining of intervention possibilities available to the government. This also includes a standing interministerial task force, 24/7 monitoring measures, and exercises on lessons learned in order to continue steadily improving our capacity to respond to disasters.
Our procedures are tested regularly, and we ensure that staff is trained government wide, so that everyone's roles and responsibilities are known and there is no need to become familiar with them when a disaster occurs.
In essence, our bottom line is this: we've developed over the last decade a set of standard operating procedures across the Government of Canada that have served us extraordinarily well. I sometimes joke among my colleagues that it's not a Magic 8 Ball that you shake and then look at the standard operating procedures and it tells you the answer to the crisis. It doesn't necessarily tell us that, but what it has helped us to do, time and again, is to lay out a framework within which the Government of Canada can respond, so that colleagues across government know what's expected of them, so that our roles and responsibilities are clear, and so that we're not exchanging business cards after a crisis strikes.
How does this work in practice? To put it into context, every year Canada monitors hundreds of natural disasters abroad. Foreign Affairs has procedures and templates in place to consult with our missions on the impact of these disasters on the affected country, the majority of which don't require a whole-of-government response.
In this respect, it's generally through our colleagues at CIDA that we would respond to dozens of small and medium-sized disasters that don't garner widespread international attention. But in the case of significant natural disasters abroad, my organization, the stabilization and reconstruction task force within Foreign Affairs, is responsible for convening the standing interdepartmental task force on natural disasters abroad.
This task force is made up of core federal departments typically involved in a Government of Canada response, the core being Foreign Affairs, CIDA, DND, the Privy Council Office, and a few others, depending upon the circumstances. This task force can expand to include as many as 16 departments and agencies, depending upon the nature of the crisis. For Haiti we had 14 departments and agencies implicated. For Japan we currently have 16 departments and agencies implicated, because of the complexity of the crisis. The task force is essential for assessing the information coming in and helping to develop recommendations on how the Government of Canada can best respond.
There are essentially three conditions that activate a Government of Canada response to a natural disaster abroad. First is a request for assistance from the government of the affected country. Second is needs assessments from trusted humanitarian partners on the ground. The third is appeals by experienced humanitarian partners. There are a number of other elements that are also considered by the task force. These can include the magnitude of the disaster, the number of people that have been displaced, the number of people with urgent needs, and the existing capacity of the affected country. This is incredibly important. If you have a government that has an excellent preparedness system in place, you won't need to draw on as much international support as you will if you are dealing with a country that's already vulnerable and doesn't have strong coordination capabilities.
If the size and impact of a natural disaster is significant, then with the agreement of the government of the affected country, the Minister of Foreign Affairs can request the deployment of something called the interdepartmental strategic support team, the ISST, which will go out to the affected area. This team is led by DFAIT but it includes colleagues from CIDA and the Canadian Forces. Sometimes it can include the Public Health Agency, as was the case after the Indian Ocean tsunami. This ISST provides expert analysis on the situation and helps to outline options in support of international relief efforts.
With regard to the kinds of options the Government of Canada has at its disposal, we have over the last decade developed a robust tool kit that enables us to undertake timely and effective international responses. My colleague Leslie Norton from CIDA is going to elaborate on some of those tools in a few minutes, but to give you a feel for them, I can tell you that we can draw on financial support. We can provide this support to experienced humanitarian partners—the UN, the Red Cross, NGOs. We can fund and deploy Canadian civilian technical experts, and we can deploy emergency relief stocks.
If the disaster is too great for civilian international or local organizations to manage, then a scalable and modularized response package from the Canadian Forces can also be drawn upon by the task force. This can include a strategic airlift, naval assets, and engineering capabilities. In the event of a catastrophe such as the one we saw in Haiti, we can also draw on the medical and water supply capabilities of the disaster assistance response team, DART. The DART's deployment would be contingent on the ISST identifying it as a need and on discussions with humanitarian partners on the ground and the affected government.
I understand that my colleagues from the Canadian Forces have been invited to appear, so they will discuss this with you in greater depth. If there are any specific questions with regard to Haiti, Leslie and I would certainly be happy to respond to them.
The Government of Canada also has a couple of other tools at our disposal. On an ad hoc basis, depending on the nature of the crisis, we might draw on special immigration measures. We might pursue debt relief. As a tool for public engagement, a matching funds program has been used in the past when eligible dollars donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities are matched dollar for dollar by the Government of Canada. This is not something that is pulled out of the tool kit on a regular basis. It has been for exceptional circumstances in which an extraordinary response from the Canadian public is believed to be warranted. Beyond Haiti, it was most recently used in response to the floods in Pakistan.
So this whole-of-government approach that I'm outlining—the standard operating procedures, the templates, the training, the task forces—has really been recognized as an international best practice. In fact, the latest OECD DAC peer review of Canada specifically cited this approach as something that other donors should look at as a model for whole-of-government engagement. It has proven to be an effective framework for action in successive earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, and the cyclone season. It is something we get a lot of questions about from our other partners around the world, and it's an approach that served us well when the January 2010 earthquake struck.
The earthquake was the strongest earthquake to hit Haiti in more than 200 years. As you know, it resulted in more than 220,000 people confirmed dead and an additional 300,000 people injured. We estimate that about three million people were affected and require ongoing international support. Approximately 800,000 people are still living in camps for internally displaced persons.
In the hours immediately following this catastrophic event, the Government of Canada mounted a rapid and comprehensive humanitarian and consular effort. Although it was coordinated through DFAIT, as I said, the Government of Canada's task force on natural disasters abroad involved a wide range of government departments and agencies, and our objective was simple. It was twofold. First of all, we wanted to meet the needs of Canadians in distress, and then we wanted to make sure that we were supporting the United Nations and the Government of Haiti by being able to respond to the needs of Haitians who were trying to emerge from the crisis.
At the behest of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the interdepartmental strategic support team was dispatched immediately along with the DART recce team. They arrived within 20 hours of the earthquake. Team members undertook a rapid assessment of humanitarian needs, engaging the Government of Haiti, other donors, international organizations, and NGOs already on the ground. When they got there, It was clear to our team that the needs were going to be overwhelming and that a comprehensive, multi-faceted, whole-of-government response was going to be needed. The team's recommendation subsequently informed the contributions that Canada made to the international effort, and in this respect we deployed everything in the tool kit that I laid out for you. We dispatched everything possible that was available to us: our entire relief supply stocks, our expert advisers, Canadian Forces assets, the special immigration measures, and the debt relief. We facilitated the evacuation of some 4,620 Canadians. Ms. Fortier will be happy to follow up with you about that. We can talk about the other efforts in greater detail as well, and Leslie will speak to you about the humanitarian components.
One of the more visible elements of the response was the deployment of the 2,000 Canadian Forces personnel under Operation Hestia to support the Government of Canada's consular and humanitarian relief efforts. The use of Canadian Forces assets had been recommended by the ISST and was agreed to by the Government of Haiti. Their presence in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, and Léogâne as part of this whole-of-government response made a significant difference.
Stabilization and humanitarian experts from CIDA and Foreign Affairs were deployed alongside the 2,000 forces members in order to engage with local authorities, the UN, and NGO actors. I would say this was an important lesson that we collectively learned as a result of our experiences in Afghanistan--the importance of physically co-locating political and development officers when Canadian Forces personnel are deployed, so that you can have a comprehensive and integrated approach right from the beginning of an operation. This effort of having the three together helped to clarify needs and gaps in the international response and enabled us to work effectively with local actors and with international organizations to make sure we had the right mechanisms in place, and also, right from the beginning, to make sure we transitioned out the Canadian Forces to other international partners.
Canada also played an important political role in support of the Government of Haiti, one that focused on recovery and reconstruction. My colleague Neil Reeder can speak in more detail to the political and diplomatic support that Canada offered throughout the crisis, including the challenges we faced at the time. He can speak to the leadership shown by Canada's decision to convene the Montreal conference in the first weeks after the crisis, which was really a key moment, not only in terms of demonstrating Canada's solidarity with the people of Haiti, but also in terms of how we wanted to ensure that there would be effective international coordination in cooperation with Government of Haiti officials.
In terms of managing the transition from the emergency rescue phase to the reconstruction and development phase, we had to face many challenges during the emergency rescue phase immediately following the earthquake.
The airport had sustained heavy damage, and flights from and to Port-au-Prince were very problematic.
Our on-site partners, such as the Haitian government, the UN and non-governmental organizations, all suffered heavy human and material losses.
In spite of this, the international community, among others, with the support of donors like Canada, succeeded in providing basic assistance that saved countless lives.
The earthquake resulted in a near collapse of the already-vulnerable security system in Haiti. Against this backdrop, the Department of Foreign Affairs refocused its multi-year strategy and its programs for Haiti in order to take into account the fact that a major part of the country's security infrastructure had been disrupted.
Most of our previously implemented investment projects sustained only slight damage, thanks to the minute attention paid to the construction standards.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has also invested an additional $10 million in the Global Peace and Security Fund, which already had $15 million set aside for reconstruction projects.
We quickly implemented initiatives to respond to the urgent need for stabilization. We did so by providing 100 patrol vehicles to the Haitian national police, so that it could meet its mandate. We also added classrooms to the police academy in Port-au-Prince, provided national police officers with first-aid training and launched local justice initiatives for the earthquake victims.
In addition, to support the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, we sent an additional 50 police officers to Haiti for a total of 150, as part of the Canadian Police Arrangement, and additional Correctional Service of Canada officers. The two deployments aimed to meet the needs set out by the United Nations Security Council.
My colleague Isabelle Bérard could talk to you about the timely investments made by CIDA for the strengthening of development efforts.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, more than a year after the earthquake, international assistance is still required, both in the short term, to meet ongoing humanitarian needs--including those that emerged months later as a result of the cholera outbreak--and over the long term, to help the country rebuild not only its infrastructure but also its institutions and systems.
This is something that often gets lost: people forget the catastrophic circumstances that ensued. It would be as if a massive earthquake had struck a place such as Ottawa, all the ministries had collapsed, and Parliament Hill had been significantly damaged. The expectations that are then placed on a country and a government to be able to quickly turn it around and contribute towards reconstruction...it's quite a significant challenge.
In this respect, the Government of Canada has been clear and steadfast in its commitment to help meet humanitarian and reconstruction needs. Despite the political and development challenges that the international community is facing today in Haiti, Canada continues to move forward on the objectives we have set in partnership with the Government of Haiti and with other international entities. In this context, we continue to have at our disposal a robust and effective coordination and response capacity to address major natural disasters abroad, in the hemisphere and elsewhere.
I look forward to any questions you might have. Thank you.