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

3:30 p.m.


The Chair Dean Allison

I call the meeting to order.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), a study on the Canadian and international disaster response and the situation in Haiti is what we are going to talk about today.

I see we have some witnesses from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, as well as from CIDA. I believe we have Ms. Golberg, who is going to speak first, for 10 minutes or so. Why don't you introduce your team members, who are here to help you out or to be supportive?

Then I believe Ms. Norton is also going to be speaking for 10 minutes. I'll ask you to introduce your team as well before we get started.

Ms. Golberg, why don't you start? The floor is yours.

3:30 p.m.

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

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.

3:45 p.m.


The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you.

I welcome Ms. Norton.

March 21st, 2011 / 3:45 p.m.

Leslie E. Norton Director General, International Humanitarian Assistance Directorate, Multilateral and Global Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am accompanied today by my colleagues, Lise Filiatrault, CIDA's Regional Director General for the Americas and Isabelle Bérard, Director General of the Haiti Program.

Building on the presentation by my colleague, I will be highlighting the role of CIDA in response to natural disasters, with specific reference to our experience after the earthquake in Haiti, as well as to natural disasters in the region more broadly.

CIDA is the Government of Canada's lead agency for the provision of humanitarian assistance in developing countries. In this role, our efforts are focused on saving lives, alleviating suffering, and preserving the dignity of those affected by humanitarian crises. In 2010 alone, CIDA responded to 49 natural disasters, big and small, in the developing world.

As noted by Ms. Goldberg, in the aftermath of a natural disaster, the primary responsibility to respond rests with the government of the affected country. When a government lacks this capacity and requires international assistance, CIDA and other donors can consider support through a well-established and coordinated international response system.

CIDA's response is based on needs identified by expert humanitarian partners in a given context. These needs vary depending on, among other things, the scale and nature of the crisis and the pre-existing vulnerability of the affected population.

CIDA can draw on a number of targeted tools to support a Government of Canada response. Our selection among those tools depends in part on whether we are undertaking the sole response by the Government of Canada or are part of a broader, Whole-of-Government response.

CIDA's primary tool is the provision of financial support to experienced humanitarian partners that have proven capacities to deliver the needed assistance in a given crisis in a given part of the world. These partners include United Nations agencies, the Red Cross Movement, and Canadian and international non-governmental organizations. CIDA funding facilitates the quick work of these organizations to meet the urgent, life-saving needs of crisis-affected populations, including food, shelter, potable water, and health and medical assistance.

Over the years, CIDA has developed a range of additional tools to effectively prepare for, and respond to, rapid onset disasters. Among other things, it maintain a stockpile of relief items, such as blankets, tarps, hygiene and family kits, mosquito nets and water buckets, to meet the needs of up to 25,000 people. It supports the deployment of Canadian humanitarian experts to disaster settings, and it works with the Canadian Red Cross to establish a rapidly deployable field hospital based in Canada. Through this initiative, Canada is contributing to a faster, more effective emergency response system.

CIDA has also refined its programming tools to make our responses more timely. We created a draw-down facility with the Red Cross that facilitates the rapid start-up of relief operations for small natural disasters. This allows us to provide funds, generally within 24 hours of a request, to National Red Cross Societies, that is, local actors, from as little as $10,000 to $50,000 per emergency.

We also provide annual funding to flexible pooled fund mechanisms such as the United Nations Central Emergency Fund to enable our partners to rapidly conduct needs assessments and provide immediate support to disaster-affected communities.

Underpinning each of these mechanisms are the partnerships that we have with implementing agencies. We prioritize those who have demonstrated results in the past, have significant expertise, and work in accordance with established international principles, guidelines and codes of conduct. CIDA also coordinates our official response with the international community to ensure that there are no duplications or gaps in the global response effort and that the global response is proportionate vis-à-vis crises everywhere in the world.

Turning to Haiti, in response to the 2010 earthquake, the first CIDA staff were on a plane within 12 hours as part of the government's initial assessment team, as mentioned by Elissa--the ISST. As Elissa also mentioned, not only did the Government of Canada use all of its tool kits, but CIDA also used all of the elements of its response kit.

CIDA's humanitarian response to this earthquake was the largest in its history. Over $150 million in humanitarian assistance was provided within the first few months of the disaster through UN agencies, the Red Cross, and Canadian NGOs, to meet urgent and ongoing needs on the ground. This included emergency medical care, food, water, sanitation, shelter, and support for the logistics and coordination of the international response. Funding for protection services also addressed the heightened risk of abuse, exploitation, and sexual and gender-based violence for the most vulnerable and precarious camp environments.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, CIDA drew on its emergency stockpile of relief supplies to support the work of implementing partners and funded the deployment of 12 humanitarian experts to UN organizations and the Red Cross movement. CIDA complemented this assistance with the deployment of eight humanitarian staff to the field during the first five months of the response. These officers, including four CIDA staff who were embedded full time with the Canadian Forces during their deployment, played a key role by liaising with and advising Canadian Forces on humanitarian issues, supporting coordination efforts, engaging with international partners and monitoring programming, and informing future funding recommendations and decisions.

As the second-largest bilateral donor following the earthquake, Canada, through CIDA, has contributed significantly to the following achievements of the international response. A few examples are: 4.3 million Haitians received emergency food assistance; 1.7 million people were provided with safe drinking water; 300,000 families received emergency shelter materials; access to health and medical services was significantly improved; and children received protection and educational support.

In more recent months, CIDA has provided $7 million in additional humanitarian assistance to address the ongoing cholera epidemic that has resulted in over 4,500 deaths to date.

Canada's humanitarian assistance complements our long-term engagement in Haiti and has generated mutually reinforcing results. It is important to note that Canada has provided development assistance to Haiti for over four decades. Haiti is one of CIDA's countries of focus and the largest recipient of development assistance in the Americas.

CIDA's thematic priorities--namely, stimulating sustainable economic growth, securing the future of children and youth, and increasing food security--guide CIDA's work in Haiti. CIDA's longer-term development assistance program in Haiti is implemented in collaboration with trusted Canadian and international partners and is designed to meet the needs of the people, reinforce the Haitian government, foster stability, and improve security and access to basic services.

In addition to our immediate and considerable humanitarian response following the earthquake, Canada also demonstrated its commitment to Haiti in the medium and long terms by making a two-year, $400 million commitment to support the action plan for national recovery and development of Haiti and toward funding the priorities of the Haitian government. The action plan called for the creation of two coordination mechanisms: the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission and the Haiti Reconstruction Fund. Canada is a proactive and strategic member of both of these bodies.

The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, or CCRIF, a regional risk pooling facility, is an essential part of CIDA's multi-year, $600 million commitment to the Caribbean. The CCRIF paid out nearly $8 million U.S. to Haiti immediately following the 2010 earthquake.

As I noted earlier, I am joined today by Lise Filiatrault and Isabelle Bérard, who can answer any questions you may have on CIDA's development program in the Caribbean and Haiti.

While the 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic event, there were also many smaller-scale disasters to hit the Caribbean region in the past years. Since 2007, we've provided over $12 million in response to natural disasters in the Caribbean. CIDA's response to humanitarian crises in the Caribbean region reflects our principled approach and demonstrates our efforts to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of our assistance.

In recent years, CIDA has provided relief to those affected by hurricanes and tropical storms in Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and throughout the lesser Antilles, including Barbados, St. Lucia, and Saint Vincent and Grenadines. CIDA has responded to flooding in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua, as well as the 2009 earthquake in Honduras.

CIDA has also made significant investments in reducing disaster risks and vulnerabilities in the Caribbean region. I'll give you a few examples.

For over 20 years, CIDA has been supporting the Pan American Health Organization, or PAHO, for its emergency preparedness and disaster relief program in the Americas. Canada is currently managing the Caribbean disaster risk management program to strengthen regional, national, and community-level capacity for the mitigation, management, and coordinated response to natural hazards. Canada has also contributed towards the capitalization of the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, established to reduce financial vulnerability of participating countries to catastrophic natural disasters by providing access to insurance. Since 2007, the CCRIF has made over $33 million worth of insurance payouts to eight Caribbean countries, including, as I mentioned earlier, the almost $8 million U.S. to Haiti.

These are all examples of our commitment to providing a timely, effective, and appropriate response to meet emergency needs and to reducing the vulnerability of people affected by natural disasters. They also highlight CIDA's consistent efforts to strengthen our disaster response tool kit to remain well placed and well prepared to respond to humanitarian needs in the Caribbean region in the years ahead. Although catastrophic-scale disasters, such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake, shine a temporary spotlight on CIDA's humanitarian assistance, we are constantly responding, behind the scenes, to the many less visible crises where humanitarian needs are no less urgent and assistance is equally life-saving. It is this variety of crisis situations, large and small, and across many different contexts, which drives us to constantly adapt and refine our tool box of response mechanisms.

Thank you.

4 p.m.


The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

We're going to move right over to start with the Liberals.

Mr. Pearson, seven minutes, please.

4 p.m.


Glen Pearson London North Centre, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Let me just say at the outset, welcome, but I don't envy the tasks you've had in the last year. I realize it's very complex, and we appreciate how much you had to try to do to deal with all the subsequent difficulties that also happened after the earthquake in Haiti.

I'd like to start broadly, and I'll let some of my colleagues winnow down some of the more specific things.

We had the Red Cross in here on February 28, and they were telling us of many of their difficulties, but they were saying every dollar that's put in towards preparedness equals seven dollars in response. That makes sense to me. I've seen that elsewhere as well. I wondered if you could help me to understand how much CIDA is working towards that, and also how much of your ODA is put towards that particular aspect of preparation, especially in the Caribbean. I realize we've been in Haiti for decades. What are some of the lessons learned there?

It doesn't matter who answers.

4 p.m.

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

Maybe I can start to give an answer, and my colleague can complement the answer.

Obviously you've heard about the disaster response, but as you rightly pointed out, we also work on the sustainability and building the capacity of countries to be able to respond to those disasters, or prevent them as much as possible.

In the Caribbean program, one of our objectives under the development program is indeed to contribute to the region's ability to respond to those disasters. So we have a component that's called disaster preparedness and disaster risk management, which is one of the components of our ongoing programming in the Caribbean. It's through that component that we fund initiatives such as the CCRIF, which Ms. Norton mentioned, as well as a program that we have called the Caribbean disaster risk management program, and under that program, we provide a different type of support, a different mechanism. One is working at the community level to help the community deal with their resilience. Another component deals with supporting the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency to actually strengthen their own capacity as well as that of the countries to deal with disaster preparedness as well as risk response and better equipment to deal with it.

We also give some support to the Pan American Health Organization, looking at the health dimension, equipping the countries to look at health risk assessments—for example, how prepared the hospitals are to respond to risks.

Finally, we also work with the Canadian Red Cross under that component. So we do look at both the preparedness dimension and the disaster response, which is provided through the international humanitarian assistance program.

4:05 p.m.

Director General, International Humanitarian Assistance Directorate, Multilateral and Global Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

Leslie E. Norton

I would just add a couple of things. Sorry, I was expecting about three questions from you. That's why we sort of paused. I'm used to getting many questions at once, not just one.

We don't have immediately available the percentage of ODA that's committed to disaster risk reduction. We'll have to crunch some numbers and get back to you on that.

The numbers that were provided by the Canadian Red Cross are the numbers we have heard as well with regard to the importance of risk reduction at the outset. That's why Canada was very active in 2005 in the Kobe World Conference on Disaster Reduction. We were very happy to see that a lot of the Canadian language actually made it into the final document. So we are very actively engaged internationally on this. One of the commitments out of the Kobe document was to mainstream disaster risk reduction throughout all of our bilateral programming, and that's something we are actively engaged in. Every donor country, all the signatories of the Kobe document, are actively engaged in that.

From the humanitarian side, we don't focus on all of the elements of disaster risk reduction; we focus on the preparedness component. The Canadian Red Cross, for instance, might have mentioned the first responder initiative, which is the hospital that has been deployed into Haiti to help assist in the cholera response now. As part of that overall program, we're working to build a capacity of some of the national Red Cross societies in the Americas. It's one component of a three-pronged project. We also fund the preparedness activities of PAHO, the Pan American Health Organization. So we do have a number of projects, but we don't have a percentage for you.

4:05 p.m.


Glen Pearson London North Centre, ON

You said there was no target amount of money for ODA. I was in Washington recently speaking with some U.S. aid officials. They're looking at the environment and what is being said, and they realize there's going to be an increase in disasters as time goes on. I know you're better aware of that than I am. They are looking at more targeted responses to them

Considering how much we've invested in Haiti over four decades--this emergency was so terrible, and it's hard to prepare for something that is so devastating and that ruins that much infrastructure--I would like to know whether you'd consider more targeted funds in ODA towards preparation and development, specifically because of a growing frequency of natural disasters that will likely take up more and more of CIDA's budget as time goes on, especially as Canadians respond to these disasters.

I'm just wondering whether you think one of the lessons learned from Haiti is that there is a need to establish a more targeted fund out of ODA. That's just a question--one question.

4:05 p.m.

Regional Director General, Americas Directorate, Canadian International Development Agency

Lise Filiatrault

The one thing I would say is that there are many components to preparing for or preventing disasters. Some are related, for example, to better watershed management or natural resources management, and others are related to building the capacity of institutions that are directly related to disaster preparedness. I think the whole issue of better preparing and preventing disasters is one that has many ramifications. Through our ongoing programs with a number of countries under the bilateral program, we do address, depending on the focus of our assistance, one or another dimension of the countries as the countries assess themselves and the needs they are confronting.

For example, because the Caribbean is 12 times more prone to disasters than other regions, it came up as an area that was very interested in having Canada's support, and we are responding. In other areas, they may be asking for that kind of support from other donors, or they may be asking us to focus more on certain dimensions. I'm thinking of the Central America region, where we also provide some support, but it is linked more to issues of watershed management, for example. So depending on the specificities of the different regions, we may use different approaches.

With regard to having a specific fund, we are certainly aware of that suggestion, but as I said, there are many different responses that can be provided with the assistance we're providing.

4:05 p.m.

Director General, International Humanitarian Assistance Directorate, Multilateral and Global Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

Leslie E. Norton

I would just follow up on that by saying it's not always about money. Oftentimes, it's about how you do your programming. When we started speaking about gender 15 or 20 years ago, we had to make sure that gender was mainstreamed or integrated within our development work. It's now very much the same thing; we have to make sure we look at everything with a disaster risk reduction lens. So again, it's not always about money.

With regard to the commitment to targets, I think it's a policy decision for our minister to make. I just wanted to put on the table that it really is not always about money but about how we do our programming. It's about smart programming.

4:10 p.m.


The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Pearson.

We're going to come back for another round, so we'll get to the good doctor in the next round.

We're going to move on to Madame Deschamps.

4:10 p.m.


Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to thank our witnesses for being here today. Clearly, we have many questions about the events that have transpired since the earthquake.

I would like to go over a small part of your presentation, Ms. Norton. You said that, when the earthquake struck in 2010, CIDA used all the tools available in its emergency response kit. You also said, and I quote: “Funding for protection services also addressed the heightened risk of abuse, exploitation and sexual and gender-based violence for the most vulnerable in precarious camp environments.”

The Subcommittee on International Human Rights is currently studying the issue of sexual violence against women in countries in conflict or countries affected by a natural disaster.

I don't know whether you are familiar with Concertation pour Haïti, a roundtable on Haiti. This is an organization that brings together NGOs, civil society members and individual Quebeckers involved in international cooperation and human rights promotion. This organization's representatives said that, the day after the earthquake, CIDA called in all of its partners and told some of them that human rights and women's rights projects would no longer receive funding because those issues were no longer a priority in the earthquake's aftermath.

Could you clarify this for me? There seems to be a contradiction between what Ms. Norton is saying and what Concertation pour Haïti reported.

4:10 p.m.

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

Ms. Deschamps, I will first answer part of your question. Then, I will let my colleague, Ms. Norton, talk about issues related to violence against women.

We are vaguely familiar with Concertation pour Haïti. We know that it brings together a few NGOs, which meet to discuss certain issues.

We did hold a meeting with our partners following the earthquake. We wanted to do it after the earthquake struck. We met with all of our partners, told them that we were faced with a major disaster and discussed the appropriate course of action.

First, we asked for their suggestions and comments on how we should proceed. We wanted to figure out the best way to work with them. Then, during the meeting, we told our partners that our programming would be interrupted for a short period of time. Of course, I am talking about long-term and not emergency programming. We also said that we would determine how we could or wished to realign certain initiatives.

I don't remember exactly whether we discussed human rights or related topics. However, we had actually already told our partners that we wanted to look at how we could continue delivering our programs and meeting the population's immediate needs, given the circumstances. That is what we have done. We resumed our long-term activities very quickly, and most of those initiatives have continued. There were no particular issues in this regard.

4:10 p.m.

Director General, International Humanitarian Assistance Directorate, Multilateral and Global Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

Leslie E. Norton

In order to address the lack of protection in the camps, CIDA provided funding to the United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF, since these two UN organizations address violence issues.