Mr. Speaker, it has been one week since the explosion of roughly 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that was stored for God knows why in the Port of Beirut for several years, a disaster that cost the lives of some 170 people and injured more than 6,000. We are talking about one of the largest explosions in history. It was one disaster too many for a country that has been going through an economic, financial and social crisis for several years, not to mention the current health crisis that, unsurprisingly, has thrown every country and their population into a state of uncertainty.
The Bloc Québécois wants to express its condolences to the families of the unfortunate victims of this explosion, its best wishes for a rapid recovery to the injured, and its solidarity with all the Lebanese people. The courage and resilience they have shown in overcoming this new ordeal, as well as the many challenges they have met throughout their history, is something to behold.
I commend the government's decision, in response to the call by the Bloc Québécois, to commit to matching Canadians' and Quebeckers' donations and to launch the Lebanon Matching Fund. Quebec was deeply moved by this disaster, which is reminiscent of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy that the Leader of the Bloc Québécois and I witnessed first-hand, since at the time we were Quebec's ministers of the environment and public safety respectively. Quebec has a large Lebanese community, so it is only natural that we ask the Canadian government to show a bit of the same generosity as Quebeckers and Canadians.
Initially we identified the Red Cross, whose expertise and effectiveness in this type of situation are world-renowned. The government instead chose to transfer a portion of its aid through a coalition of humanitarian organizations with contacts on the ground. No matter, the important thing is that the aid gets to the people who need it.
That said, why did the government cap the amount that could be paid out by that group at $2 million, and why did it restrict the time for accepting donations to between the 4th and 24th of August? Why did it take the government over 24 hours to announce any assistance, which was initially rather modest? Why limit access to just 12 Canadian-based international aid agencies and not include local NGOs, which, facing the inertia of public authorities, are already on the ground and mobilized as we speak, ready to provide the medical assistance and the food needed by the people? Why was the Canadian Red Cross not included on that list?
The solidarity shown by everyone, people of all political stripes, over the past week has been remarkable. However, solidarity is not enough. Adequate, responsible, direct assistance is needed to help the Lebanese people, who will certainly figure out how to overcome this new hardship, as they have always done, supported by the steadfast friendship and support of Quebec, Canada and all caring nations.