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

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 haitian.

Topics

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

10:40 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Major funding is needed, but beyond that, monitoring and reporting mechanisms are also necessary.

Haiti will never be the same again after the terrible earthquake in January. Haiti needs to be reimagined. Our approach to Haiti needs to be reimagined to instil confidence not just in the Haitian people, but also in the international community. The Haitian people need to know that the international community is there at its side like a brother, but at the same time, that the promised money is being distributed effectively. That requires significant involvement by the Haitian authorities and Haitian civil society.

In closing, there will have to be better coordination on the part of the various stakeholders, whether we are talking about foreign countries or NGOs on the ground.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

10:45 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for Honoré-Mercier on all his work and especially on his sensitivity not only to the Haitian community, but also to his whole community. I want him to share his expertise from the world of co-operation.

Like me, he travelled to Haiti, where that resilience could still be felt. When we saw a Haitian smile, we said he would make it, but since the events of January 12, the people seem to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. They are very fragile, but they are also experiencing a crisis of confidence where their institutions are concerned.

I would like to hear what the member has to say about how we can find a solution to the current electoral situation.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

10:45 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his excellent question. As he said, there is a crisis of confidence. In a way, the international community has to prove itself much like the Haitian institutions that are in place. Haiti has survived too many crises and has had too many problems related to democracy and the electoral process. This type of mistrust is therefore normal. We must show that we are there not to act as a substitute for anyone but to work hand in hand with Haitian partners and institutions.

I think that the example set by the NGOs is excellent. I had the opportunity to go to Haiti for the first time in 1994. I worked in international development for almost 10 years. I would say that the advantage that the NGOs have is their close relationship with the Haitian social activists, public and leaders, which allows them to develop a bond of trust. We can make big promises and contribute as much money as we want but it will not be enough without a relationship of trust. We have to start by building credibility and trust and the rest will follow.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

10:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his address this evening. I also thank other speakers tonight for their very insightful observations about the situation in Haiti. A number of them have been on the ground in Haiti and have had experience in that country. I have been to many countries over the years and some in that region but not in Haiti itself. Therefore, I cannot give an on the ground report as to how I saw the situation.

However, the country is a very poor country and has been for many years. When a country that does not have good resources and good infrastructure to begin with and then visit upon it a devastating earthquake, such as the one we saw last year, and, on top of that, the whole issue of political instability and the cholera outbreak, it is a recipe for a worsening disaster than what it currently has in its hands.

We have seen governments in the past respond to international tragedies that have occurred and all goes well for a little while when the issue is in the news and then it disappears from the news and we go on to another issue and the countries are left to fend for themselves. In this case, a lot of good has happened so far this year with Canadians responding in larger numbers than we have seen in many years and the government adding the matching funds idea, which I gather was not necessarily its idea. I think it has been tried before but it was a very well timed offer and as a result the government has indicated it has raised about $400 million through that effort, which is very positive. Now the issue is how it should be allocated or spent.

I believe the member for Edmonton Centre said that we do not want to be quick about allocating the funds because we want to ensure we get full value for our dollar. One of the reasons we are having a harder time raising donations from the public in all sorts of different charitable efforts is that the public in some ways has questions about how the money is being spent. People would like to have some feedback on how their money is spent. This could be a very good test case. The government and the minister should take it upon themselves to issue a report on how things are going with the donations that people have made. If people who contributed $100 or $200 to aid were to get some feedback on precisely what happened to their money, I think they would be much more willing to contribute once again the next year.

Given the magnitude of the problem and the fact that the situation in Haiti is getting worse, the proper approach would be for the Prime Minister to use his offices and his various channels to get world leaders to look at Haiti in the same way that the free world dealt with Europe and Japan after the Second World War. Every member in this chamber knows how much destruction there was in Europe and in Japan during the Second World War and yet, miracle of miracles, after the war we saw a full recovery in Europe and a recovery in Japan to the point where they became world powers in short order.

The question is, how did that come about? That came about with a concerted plan and, of course, a lot of money. The reconstruction of those devastated areas was done very successfully. Why do we not have the ability in this country collectively to replicate in a small way that experience?

In China there was an earthquake last year. I saw a CBC report, which I mentioned to the minister earlier today, where a Chinese official was giving a glowing report about Canada's participation in the reconstruction in China. The Chinese have a plan. Their plan is to reconstruct the buildings that I guess were built of brick and steel which were susceptible to collapse in earthquake conditions. The brick and steel are being replaced with Canadian lumber. To me that is a win-win situation. It will help us deal with our lumber issues. More important, on a long-term basis it will help the Chinese rebuild the cities that were devastated by the earthquake. When another earthquake comes about in the future, as it will, we will not be repeating the mistakes of the past.

A Conservative member talked about a church group that he is familiar with that has developed a new type of housing that they are looking at for the Haiti situation. I forget how he described the housing, but it certainly makes sense to me that it would be earthquake resistant and hurricane resistant. That is another liability the islands have in the Caribbean. For whatever it is costing them to put this housing together, that is a plus. To me, if it takes a few extra months to get it right and if we can rebuild in a smart way using best practices, then we are going to do well in the future.

Habitat for Humanity is very active. Former President Carter is involved in this. He has been involved in Habitat for Humanity in Winnipeg, rebuilding. I read all of the backgrounder information on the Haitian earthquake and it seems that almost every organization in the world is there. All of this is good because they can offer their expertise.

The question is, is anyone coordinating their efforts? Is there an overall plan? I am sure there is, it is just that I am not familiar with what overall plan would be.

The point is that we have to not only harness all those resources to get the job done and get it done right, but when stories come back to us out of the country about money that is stolen and misspent and construction that is done in a poor fashion, that is negative to our efforts for the future, because what happens is we lose support for the efforts we are trying to develop, in this case in Haiti.

I know my colleagues mentioned earlier, because I read Hansard, that no solution is going to work without getting the Haitians involved. I do agree that we cannot force a solution on them, and now they are in a political upheaval.

We cannot let the situation deteriorate to the point where there is anarchy in the country. If we follow this through and there is a breakdown of authority in the country, then it will have to resort to a military situation. I do not think we want to go there. We are not headed on the right track. Why are we having this problem? My guess is that people are waiting for results.

I have seen some news reports that indicate people are still living in conditions similar to those in refugee camps. Perhaps they may be safer than they would be in their houses if there were to be aftershocks or another earthquake. However, it cannot be a healthy situation for people to live there on a long-term basis.

The member who made the request for an emergency debate tonight was absolutely correct in his assessment of what needs to be done. It is important that we involve ourselves in the debate this evening. The question is what the final resolution will be out of the debate. If we simply have a debate and nothing happens afterward, then we have not really solved the problem.

I would have preferred to hear more concrete suggestions as to what should be done in this situation. It would have been good to have some sort of plan put forward by the Liberal Party, as a Liberal member made the request for the emergency debate. Maybe some option should have been given to the government as to where we should go from here.

Has the matching funds program run its course? I am not sure. I asked the member for the statistics and he gave them to me as best he could, but I do not know if the matching funds are still coming in or whether the program is finished. People are not thinking about it any more and have ceased donating.

What will be the status of the matching funds next year? Even though the situation might be as bad or even worse next year, are we looking at essentially no matching funds? As far as the people of Canada are concerned, it is already a past issue. It is a year old. They have given their $100 or $200 and have got their tax receipts. They have done their bit.

Where are the people in Haiti going to be one year down the road? Where are they going to be two years down the road? Are we simply perpetuating a situation that has existed for a long time and providing a band-aid solution? I have not heard any solutions yet from members of the opposition or the government. It has been more of an information gathering exercise to get an update as to where things are.

I want to indicate concern for the cholera outbreak. I am always interested when my hon. colleague from the Liberal Party participates in debates. I cannot remember her riding. She sponsored a debate recently on multiple sclerosis. She makes excellent speeches. I know she has been concerned about this issue as well

With the cholera outbreak on top of all the other problems in the country right now, this is not a very good situation. We have to get on top of that. The construction can wait a bit, but the cholera outbreak should be job one at this point. It has to be dealt with on a priority basis. Perhaps that is where the emphasis should be, that we deal with the cholera outbreak. We try to deal with the political instability there and get through that. Regarding the long term, I believe the minister is meeting with Hillary Clinton as we speak in Quebec and perhaps they will be addressing this issue. Perhaps they should be looking at a longer term solution in terms of major reconstruction.

We have to recognize that the world has been hit with a huge recession in the last couple of years. There are economies in Europe, such as Iceland, declaring bankruptcy. Ireland is in bad shape, as are Portugal, Greece and Spain. The United States is not in very healthy condition either. It might be a tough sell to be pushing a new version of the Marshall plan on these leaders at this point.

In the case of the Great Depression, members will know that the world economy languished in recession and depression for 10 years until a war started. All of a sudden there was a war and we were out of recession because we were building armaments and out shooting one another again. Maybe what is needed is a war, but a new type of war, a war on poverty. We could certainly start with Haiti's situation and put resources into Haiti to redevelop the country.

It brings me to another point. I have been in Mexico and Cuba many times over the years, and I can say that constructing buildings in Mexico or Cuba is not the same as building them in Winnipeg or Ottawa. In Winnipeg or Ottawa, buildings need a lot of insulation because of the very cold weather. In countries like Cuba and Haiti, they do not have that problem of having to build the buildings to deal with cold temperatures. My guess is that the construction costs on a per unit basis are very low when we are dealing with countries like those.

I think the minister is nodding but my eyesight is not what it used to be, so I cannot tell for sure whether he is nodding in agreement, but the costs are just not there in the same way they are in the northern climates. I do not know what the cost is for putting up mass units in these countries, especially when the profit motive is taken out of it. China has certainly been active, for example, in Cuba. The Chinese, in the last few years, brought brand new fridges into Cuba and basically delivered them to people's houses by the thousands. It was part of China's foreign aid program.

When we look at it on a non-profit basis, we look at where it is, we look at mass production, it seems to me that we should be getting a lot better value for our dollar than we apparently have been getting in the past.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:05 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, in response to the question from the NDP member, I will give a little clarification in reference to the matching funds he was talking about.

The matching funds program was for a duration of time and it has already expired. There is no other program that the Government of Canada has for matching funds. However, for the member's information, he can always donate to the Canadian NGOs working in Haiti and ask Canadians to donate to them for the excellent effort they are doing. The matching fund program is over.

Secondly, I think there needs to be some clarification on the money that has been pledged and the international effort that is there. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, the minister for CIDA and the American Secretary of State have said that this money needs to go through the reconstruction commission. In turn, it works with the Government of Haiti to identify the projects on the ground.

I do understand the frustration of everyone, and our frustration, that the process has slowed down due to the elections. We need to really push that program. Yes, the money is there, the effort is there, but the point is to push the Government of Haiti and the electorate to expedite the reconstruction process.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for clarifying the points. I assumed that the matching funds program was over.

The fact is that when we are dealing with organizations, for example, Habitat for Humanity, I am not certain whether they go into a country and actually build the buildings on their own or whether they have to pre-clear through organizations. I am sure that is what it is.

I think that is a concern for a lot of people. They are reluctant to believe that there is an efficiency in giving the money over to another organization who then gives it over to another organization. At the end of the day, there is no report back as to what we got for our money or a proper accounting. I wish that could be the case.

It seems to me the best way to do it would be to have individual organizations like Habitat for Humanity go in and complete its whole project without going through intermediaries. At that point we would know that we were getting full value for our money, knowing Habitat for Humanity's record in this field.

That would be my observation, but the member and the minister would know better than I as to what the proprieties and rules are in dealing with situations like this and whether everything must go through a central authority.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:10 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech which, in my opinion, was more a series of questions than an actual speech.

He referred to the Hansard, which he read just before arriving for the debate. I would like to know which document he was referring to because had he carefully read the debates that occurred just before he arrived, he would have noted that not only did the member from Bourassa move a motion for an emergency debate, but he also provided the government with various options. Naturally, it is not up to us today, as we speak, to determine what the government will decide to do and what Haiti must do. At present, we are making suggestions and my colleague from Bourassa made many. Quite a few others were made by various colleagues.

Therefore, I will return the question to my colleague. He had many questions. But does he have suggestions about what should be done with respect to the current electoral process? How can the crisis be resolved?

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, on two occasions I have dealt with that issue. I have said very clearly that I think we should be looking at a version of the Marshall plan where the world leaders got together to look at what worked to reconstruct Europe and Japan after the devastation of the second world war, if we are really serious about dealing with the problem.

We have been dealing with band-aid solutions, incremental solutions, not only with regard to this particular situation, but others for many years. If we were to look at best practices and examples of what actually works, then we could look at the Marshall plan. It was something that did turn Europe and Japan around after the devastation of the war. If it worked in those situations, why can we not at least look at in a situation like this?

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. There is no excuse for allowing Haiti's cholera disaster to escalate. Aid workers have tried to bring the outbreak under control but the disease continues to rage, especially in rural areas. The United Nations last week said that the death and infection tolls could be twice as high as officially reported. David Schrumpf who leads the Médecins Sans Frontières outreach teams in the north reports, “We often see only the tip of the iceberg as we know there are people who are dying from cholera in the rural communities”.

A Canadian doctor down there operates a clinic that has been operating 24 hours a day since November 22 because nearby hospitals are unable to handle all the cholera patients in the area. She says:

We are trying to get some beds, because right now we have patients basically on benches.... We are just struggling to get by, really it's a day-to-day thing.

What recommendations might my colleague make to the government in order to try to address this issue in rural areas?

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, since I listen to and rely on the hon. member for solutions to problems like this, I think she is in a better position to provide answers than I am.

As I have said before, this is a very serious problem, probably the most serious problem in Haiti. The citizens can wait a bit longer for construction projects and new infrastructure and so on, but they cannot wait for help to deal with a devastating cholera outbreak.

I am certain my colleague could tell me better, but I am sure that cholera is just one of the things that can happen. Other types of diseases are probably associated with it, so that if we let the cholera outbreak follow its natural course there will be another outbreak of something else, which will cause even more devastation.

We have to deal with problem number one right now, which is the cholera outbreak, and once we get that under control then we can worry about the political instability and the reconstruction efforts. There are ways to deal with the other issues, but the cholera situation is very disturbing and has to be dealt with right away.

That member is probably the best member in the entire House to understand these types of issues and explain the problem to people and tell them how to deal with it.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:15 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I asked my colleague a very specific question about the current political crisis and he is talking about the Marshall plan. The Marshall plan is not a response to Haiti's democratic crisis. The Marshall plan is a medium- and long-term solution, while the current political crisis is real and immediate. I would simply like to know if the member has solutions for overcoming Haiti's current democratic, political and constitutional crisis.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, questions are coming from a member of a party that cannot even get its own leadership to act in any concerted and consistent effort. That party has gone through a couple of leaders in the last couple of years.

I have given you answers to what has to happen in terms of reconstruction. I have given you answers with regard to the cholera outbreak, and certainly in terms of the political situation the government has to be—

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member is out of time. I will remind him to address his comments through the chair and not directly at his colleagues.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is regrettable that the situation in Haiti surfaces, or resurfaces, and touches the Canadian conscience only when there is a situation of crisis.

In that regard I want to commend my colleague, the member for Bourassa, for his constancy and commitment over the years. He has not just spoken at a time of clear and compelling crisis, but he has been there through the years, sounding the alarm, alerting us to what is happening in Haiti, calling upon us to mobilize our resources and the conscience of the international community in that regard.

Even before the earthquake that devastated Haiti, the cholera epidemic and the turbulent elections in its wake, Haiti was not only the poorest country in the western hemisphere by a significant margin, it was one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world.

Moreover Haiti, in recent years, has struggled with problems, whether they be ongoing political upheavals, health crises, severe environmental degradation, or an annual barrage of hurricanes that wiped out most of the country's food crops, destroying its irrigation system and causing acute hunger for millions, even before the devastation of the earthquake.

The deforestation and over-farming left much of Haiti eroded and barren, undermining its citizens' farming efforts, driving up food prices and leaving the country even more vulnerable to natural disasters, let alone the earthquake, again, in its wake. Its long history of political instability and corruption only added to the turmoil.

Accordingly, and this must always be appreciated, the member for Bourassa was warning us about all of these matters, before the earthquake, before the cholera epidemic, before the turbulence in the political culture. He warned us that Haiti faced significant developmental challenges that we ought to have been addressing all these years.

Even before the earthquake, et cetera, fewer than 30% of Haitians had access to electricity, with roughly half of the users tapping into the national grid illegally. There were longstanding problems with garbage and solid waste removal. Clogged canals presented serious and recurring risks of flooding. In a word, it is a hard to separate what is due to the poverty and hunger levels that predated the earthquake, and what is due to the earthquake and the cholera epidemic, which followed in its wake.

Approximately 80% of the people in this country lived on less than $2 a day even before the earthquake. It was that abject poverty, that hunger, that desolation that we had not been properly addressing and redressing before all of the recent calamities that have occurred and brought us to this emergency debate this evening.

Accordingly, the enormous difficulties that have confronted Haiti for decades have only been compounded by the devastation of the earthquake, the cholera outbreak and the turbulence of the election, which have added a sense of urgency to the critical issues that were there before but which taken together have the potential to derail efforts to rebuild the country and to address and alleviate the human suffering.

We are now in a serious crisis, and if we do not act immediately this crisis can begin to spiral out of control in many sectors and on many levels.

In summary, there are some 11 critical challenges that confront the international community in trying to suggest a framework for action for the rebuilding of the country, one that will help provide us an identification of the priorities so that we can move forward in concert with the resilience of the Haitian people.

The Haitians are a resilient and courageous people who have, regrettably, been plagued by terrible leadership, natural disasters and all that we have heard this evening, but a resilient people who, given the opportunity, can address and redress the human suffering that has befallen and besets them.

I will now go through some of these critical challenges at this point. First, one needs to establish a comprehensive rebuilding strategy and a set of priorities. While the Haitian government's action plan for a national recovery and development represented a good start, frankly, Haitians need, are waiting for and are asking for concrete guidance on everything from where displaced persons can resettle, to how the educational system will be rebuilt, to what the nature is of economic decentralization and private sector investment. Fundamentally, they want to know how they will be able to earn a living, how they will send their children to school, how they will be able to access health services and how they will deal with the daily emergencies that are besetting them as we meet.

Second, this also means building leadership and capacity in the government of Haiti. However, as I say this, we need to appreciate, as is well known and mentioned this evening, that the government of Haiti was decimated by the earthquake. It has lost civil servants, senior leaders and most of the ministry buildings. In other words, having lost so much of its own personnel in the earthquake, the government of Haiti finds itself with a limited capacity.

However, Haitians need to be reassured that their government can begin the rebuilding process in a cohesive fashion and executive a well thought out plan, underpinned by the presence of the international community, by the presence of the Canadian government in concert with other governments and the international community and with the local and international NGOs, some 10,000 of whom are there right now doing humanitarian work, helping out in matters of health, shelter building and the like.

Third, we need to empower the Haitian recovery commission. Simply put, the commission does represent an opportunity to change the way one can do business in Haiti. One can establish an expert teams-based approach that helps build a political consensus, but it will not be able to do it alone and will require the resources that have been referenced this evening by my colleagues, the member for Honoré-Mercier, the member for Bourassa and the like.

Fourth, we need to address the resettlement issue. The hundreds of thousands of Haitians trapped in temporary or informal settlements is a major recovery issue. We need to offer solutions for moving displaced people out of the dozens of tent cities that have cropped up. There is land available but land tenure issues and other complications need to be resolved. The longer Haitians continue to live in makeshift camps, the harder it will be to reintegrate them into communities and to take down the camps.

Fifth, we need to build democratic governments and legitimacy. There is a crisis of confidence, of trust and of morale, as my colleagues have mentioned this evening. At this point what is so necessary is to have a legitimate and authentic democratically elected government in order to lay a strong and sustainable foundation for Haiti's future.

Canada can play an important role here, an important monitoring role and an important advocacy role in ensuring that a forthcoming election can be democratically held with appropriate security, with proper training and with the identification of three person candidates, because that may be what is needed, as was referenced earlier this evening, at this point.

Sixth, donors need to speak with one voice and improve coordination. There is too much fragmentation in the donor community and too much disagreement with the necessary aid not necessarily reaching the required recipient.

That leads me to my seventh point, which is that there is a need to coordinate Canadian government assistance efforts with other governments, with the network of donors, with the United Nations and with the government of Haiti's own development framework lest the overlaps, the redundancies and the dysfunction prevent the aid from reaching the desired recipients and targets. As my colleagues have put it, oversight and accountability are essential mechanisms in that regard where the Canadian government can play an important role for that purpose.

With regard to our own involvement here, we have yet to deliver with respect to the aid that has been promised. We have yet to provide the necessary transparency with regard to the aid that needs to be delivered.

Close to a month ago the Liberal Party called for urgent action to confront the cholera crisis in Haiti, calling on the government to deploy emergency strategic support team to do a rapid assessment of where the disaster assistance response team, DART, should be offered, calling for the urgent delivery of aid money, calling for the appointment of a Canadian special envoy and calling for the immediate deployment of a CIDA assessment team to see how we could improve our response to the cholera epidemic.

Such a team could work in close communication with the strategic support team of DART and Canada could mobilize the international community, working with other international players to support the effort here that desperately needs to be put in place, because the time is urgent and regrettably and tragically the crisis is now.

Eight, we need to rebuild Haiti's decimated civil service. The bureaucracy and civil service suffered as we know a triple blow from the earthquake. Almost all the ministry buildings were damaged or destroyed due to their proximity to the epicentre of the earthquake. Huge numbers of civil servants were themselves killed in the course of the earthquake. As of today, most ministries are operating out of makeshift offices including tents. Computer systems are not functioning, electricity is threadbare and basic supplies are hard to come by.

In a word, the civil service has to be rebuilt. The delivery systems for delivering all that is needed in all the sectors to which I have referred must be rebuilt and mobilized and Canada has a role to play in this regard.

Nine, we need to maintain the security gains. Right before the earthquake struck security in fact was one of the success stories in the country, with neighbourhoods such Cité Soleil having gained significant stability. Regrettably, recently, as we know, not only has security become more difficulty, not only is there an increase in gang violence, but it has now become vital that the international community join together with the Haitian government to build the capacity of the Haitian national police and the key justice sector reforms to be advanced in order to confront prison abuses, indefinite pretrial detentions and human rights abuses.

As well, continued international support for the United Nations stabilization mission in Haiti is essential, though the international community must ensure that this United Nations stabilization mission is not itself over taxed in such a way that we defer to it matters which we have to undertake ourselves in order to ensure the job gets done.

Ten, we need to bring the broader Haitian community into the rebuilding process. It is crucial that Haitian civil society and those outside the governmental process participate in the reconstruction of Haiti. Rebuilding the country must not be politicized, but should be an inclusive process that attempts to build an equal and responsible and accessible society.

The government of Haiti must embrace civil society and Haitian non-governmental organizations and the private sector must be part of the rebuilding process. Without a broader inclusion of Haitian stakeholders, the formation of what has sometimes been referred to, and one could speak of this much more, before the recent earthquake, the cholera epidemic, the turbulent election, one spoke then of reimagining Haiti. I am not saying that so much now of reimagining Haiti. I think we now have to speak of saving Haiti and we have to mobilize all the resources for that purpose.

Finally, health concerns must be a priority lest the lack of making health a priority undermine the rebuilding efforts to which I have been referring, thereby eroding morale, trust, credibility and effectiveness. We need urgent action to confront the cholera epidemic, just as we need urgent action to confront the cross-section of health-related problems in Haiti.

Eleven months after the earthquake, Haiti is at a crossroads. It is faced with challenges in many areas: infrastructure, resettlement, job creation, education, health, environment, justice, security, and of course, democratic government and legitimacy. It must confront all these challenges with a necessarily reduced capacity because of the earthquake and the related devastation.

It is essential that Canada, the United Nations and the international community, including the international donor community, improve their involvement, their coordination and their relationship with the Haitian government and people so that an underresourced Haitian government, together with a resilient Haitian people, can make the important policy decisions that need to be made, and together with that resilient, patient people, can begin to alleviate the human suffering lest the kinds of crises that I have been describing begin to bring us into the area of catastrophe.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:30 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment my hon. colleague for a very thoughtful presentation, for an effective summary of the succession of man-made and natural disasters that have brutalized Haiti and Haitian society over the decades. I would also compliment my hon. colleague for his list of suggestions, suggestions that have been made in different forms by other colleagues on both sides of the House tonight and that all are worthy in their form.

I would remind my colleague, though, that at the Montreal conference shortly after the earthquake it was decided and there was consensus among the international community, NGOs and the Government of Haiti that the United Nations would be the coordinating body but that all final decisions would be made by the representatives of the people of Haiti, effectively the government of Haiti.

It is true that this year the succession of disasters on top of the earthquake disaster, the heavy rains, the cholera epidemic and now this election violence, each of these compounding the tragedy of the event before it, have left the Haitian people in, as the member properly described, a tragic situation, an even deeper tragedy than a year ago.

There is no shortage of money at hand, as the international community, with Canadians leading the way, has shared its charity in historic proportion, but the problem has been with the assignment of land, land title, the problems of rubble clearance, and reassignment of property for industries, any number of which are waiting in Canada to engage in housing. I wonder whether my colleague is suggesting that perhaps we should revisit the decision-making and implementation process with more forceful intervention by the international community.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:35 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with my colleague, as he first enunciated it as a matter of general principle, that we must first turn to the Haitian government, and in particular the Haitian people, but we need to be there for them and we need to be there with a sense of urgency. We need to do this with a sense of coordination, because right now we are lacking that coordination, and rather, witnessing fragmentation as between intergovernmental assistance, the role of the UN and the role of state actors, NGOs and the like. We need an overall coordinated effort, and I believe Canada can help in that overall coordination in respect of the identification of principles and priorities to help alleviate the human suffering.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:35 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity, as the debate is drawing to a close, to thank all members on both sides of the House. This debate has been very useful and constructive. It has given everyone the opportunity to propose some concrete solutions that will allow the government and Canada to speak with a single, united voice. I personally thought it was important to send a message to the people of Haiti to let them know that we have not forgotten them and we are here for them. It was important to have this kind of debate.

I have a question for my colleague, who once again, with his great depth and expertise, has demonstrated just how important these debates are. I wonder if he could comment on two things. First of all, how important is it for Canada to appoint a special envoy who could work full time to liaise with the international community and Haitian authorities. Second, in the context of the current election crisis, how could the international community become involved in the process while still respecting the sovereignty of a country and not interfering, all in an effort to create a positive environment in order to introduce democracy in Haiti?

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:35 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the idea of having a special envoy. There needs to be someone on the ground who can set priorities and provide humanitarian and other assistance.

Now, I will briefly summarize the four priorities in Haiti's national action plan. That can be a starting point for us. First, there is the whole issue of infrastructure, urban development and so on. Second, there are all the economic issues. Third, there are social issues such as education, health and so forth. The last priority concerns democratic governance, which also means justice, security, public administration and all essential institutions.

I think Canada can be a leader in working toward these four priorities and setting the policies to achieve them.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:40 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague is the last speaker and the debate is coming to an end, may I take this opportunity to thank the member for Bourassa for requesting this emergency debate to discuss the serious issue of Haiti.

I will take the opportunity to thank everyone from the opposite side who talked about the situation in Haiti. As I said, we are all in agreement that there is a need to do things for Haiti. We will be working together in the future toward ensuring that the things happening there are addressed jointly.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my ministers, including the Minister of International Cooperation and the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas, and everyone who took part in the debate.

Again, I am thankful to the member for bringing this issue up and I hope everyone will work together to address the situation.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:40 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, since I am the last person and effectively have benefited from that which has been said by my colleagues, particularly those still remaining as this debate now comes to a close, I just hope we do not come together only for an emergency debate and then leave this chamber and hope that somehow the emergency resolves itself without our participation, leadership and engagement.

We need to look at the question of Haiti not as something that strikes our conscience whenever an emergency arises, such as an earthquake, a cholera outbreak, hurricane devastation and the life, but we need to address the underlying concerns that cause the devastation that brought about such suffering from the earthquake, the cholera epidemic and the like.

We need to address immediately the political turbulence that has arisen with respect to the election and we have to come together as a Canadian government, as a Canadian community, with the international community to address the particular compelling concerns of democratic government and legitimacy, health issues and the whole gamut of priorities that I sought to identify, together with my colleagues, this evening.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

11:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There being no further members rising for debate, I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 11:44 p.m.)