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.