Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of committee.
It's my pleasure to be with you today to discuss a country of great importance to Canada and to the hemisphere. Canada has been active in Haiti for decades, but unlike other countries, we have no colonial baggage in that country. Our cultural and linguistic links to Haiti and our longstanding engagement has earned Canada a special relationship with that country--one of respect, one of friendship, and one of compassion. Canadians have shown great solidarity with Haiti, not only in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, but also through longstanding support to the poorest country in our hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world.
There is also, as you are aware, a large Haitian diaspora living in Canada that contributes to both Canadian and Haitian society. Canada's engagement is an important element of our Americas strategy, which seeks to support democratic governance, security, and prosperity in our neighbourhood. Haiti is also a shared priority with the United States and with a number of our other partner countries, including Brazil, France, and the EU.
Today I want to briefly summarize why Haiti is a priority for Canada, take note of the current political situation in the country, and briefly look at some of the opportunities to support positive reforms by President Martelly's government. In doing so, I want to highlight key aspects of Canada's ongoing engagement in Haiti through our Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force. My colleague, Lise Filiatrault, will take us through CIDA's reconstruction and development priorities and activities coordinated by her agency.
This presentation will not focus only on the aftermath of the earthquake. Despite the devastation of this catastrophic event, it did not cause but rather exacerbated and served to highlight some of the ongoing challenges that Haiti faces today.
Canada is acutely aware of the currently stable but always fragile security situation and precarious history of political instability in Haiti. This fragility makes Haiti vulnerable to corruption, organized crime, narcotics, and human trafficking. Instability and crime in Haiti are already being felt in Canada and in the U.S., as Haiti is a transit point for drugs from South America to North America and Europe. Such instability could also have significant negative effects regionally, and in particular in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, where more than 10,000 Canadians live and hundreds of thousands more vacation every year, and where there is currently over $3 billion in Canadian investment.
Democracy, good governance, and human rights are also issues of concern in Haiti. Canada has committed to promoting these values as part of our foreign policy more broadly, but also specifically in our Americas strategy. While these concerns are not new in Haiti, we seem now to be at a crossroads and may have an opportunity to make efforts to address them and to move toward a society where the rule of law prevails, all citizens are accountable, human rights are protected, and the promotion of prosperity and opportunity through increased trade and investment is possible.
An international consensus now exists to the effect that the lack of focus on political governance and rule-of-law reform in Haiti is one of the main reasons the country remains mired in poverty and underdevelopment despite more than 25 years of international engagement.
In Canada's view, these root causes of corruption, poverty, and instability must be adequately addressed in order to allow the international community's reconstruction and development efforts to fully succeed. While concrete results from international and Canadian development efforts in Haiti have been achieved--and Lise will walk you through some of our successes--it is our view that more needs to be done on governance and rule-of-law reform in order to reinforce the foundations of the Haitian state and support its continued development.
Canada is not alone in this analysis.
In addition to President Martelly's identifying the rule of law as a Haitian government priority, along with education, environment, and the economy, the most recent UN Secretary General's report on Haiti identified the rule of law as critical to long-term stability, development, and prosperity in that country. The UN report also called upon the Government of Haiti and the international community to work towards a rule-of-law compact, a plan to ensure sustainable rule-of-law reform in Haiti. Canada strongly supports this proposal and will work with the Haitian government, the UN, and our partners to realize it.
Canada has already invested significantly in the rule of law. DFAIT's START programming has supported Canadian priorities in security and justice with approximately $100 million since 2006, including $18.7 million this fiscal year. START projects have helped to reinforce Haitian institutions, including the Haitian National Police, corrections, and border services, in particular by building and equipping key security infrastructure and by providing training and mentoring to senior security sector personnel.
START projects also seek to increase access to justice and to ensure the foundations of a functioning justice system. Canada also contributes significantly to the UN stabilization force, MINUSTAH. Despite some recent criticisms, this mission remains essential to the stabilization and reconstruction of Haiti. While we supported a drawdown of some MINUSTAH forces to pre-earthquake levels, Canada believes that MINUSTAH should stay in place until it fulfills its mandate. In addition to five military officers, Canada currently deploys 138 police and 11 corrections officers, who provide mentoring and training to their Haitian counterparts. This represents Canada's largest contribution of personnel to an ongoing UN mission. A Canadian, RCMP Chief Superintendent Marc Tardif, is the head of the mission's civilian police component. START, in partnership with Public Safety and DND, are key partners in this mission.
The recent presidential elections in Haiti that witnessed the first transition of power in Haiti between two democratically elected presidents of opposition parties were a positive development. But that optimism was short-lived—President Martelly's first two candidates for prime minister were rejected by the Haitian legislature. Two weeks ago, however, the president's third candidate, Dr. Garry Conille, was confirmed. The following day, President Martelly appointed the head of the supreme court, a post that had remained vacant for seven years. This appointment, which the UN and the international community, including Canada, have been calling on Haiti to make for some time, is an essential step towards the establishment of an independent judiciary.
Finally, late last week, the Haitian parliament approved both Prime Minister Conille's cabinet and his political platform. These recent developments are a sign of the political will and positive intentions of the new Haitian government, but they are only first steps. We believe further reforms are necessary, including the need for measures to address problems of impunity and corruption, land title reform, and a lack of investor confidence.
In closing, I would like to recall that Canada's engagement in Haiti is consistent with our domestic and foreign policy priorities and reflects the interest of Canadians themselves. Haiti is also a shared priority with many of our hemispheric partners, with whom we work closely as principal donors and contributors. Canada's long-term vision for Haiti is one in which Haiti fulfills its potential for lasting security, democratic governance, and prosperity, a Haiti that can provide peace and stability, that can manage and recover quickly in the face of natural disasters, and that can generate employment opportunity and hope for all its citizens. With ongoing long-term support, this goal can be realized if we seize the political will in Haiti for change and focus on rule-of-law and governance reform.
Following the earthquake, Prime Minister Harper noted that it would take at least ten years of international engagement to support the reconstruction and development in Haiti. Canada remains committed to this effort.
I'll now turn the floor over to Lise Filiatrault, and afterwards we'd be very happy to answer any and all of your questions.