Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is very concerned about the situation in Haiti. The violence of the last few days is yet another ordeal for the people of Haiti, who have already suffered so much this year. Peace must be restored so that the recount can be as transparent as possible. The Haitian authorities must do everything they can to ensure there is an unblemished democratic process.
The results of the presidential election announced on November 28 were 31% for Ms. Manigat, 22% for Mr. Célestin and 21% for Mr. Martelly. When these results were announced, violence erupted in the streets. The second round is scheduled for January 16, 2011.
As soon as the results were announced, Mr. Martelly's backers began to protest. Their candidate had been expected to reach the second round. His supporters erected barricades in the streets of Port-au-Prince. There were also clashes with UN forces. Mr. Martelly accused the elections commission of plunging the country into a crisis by publishing false results and claimed that they wanted to prevent him from finishing second and advancing to the next round. He called for non-violent demonstrations.
Most observers said the election was marred by widespread irregularities, just as the first round had been badly handled. More than half of the 19 candidates demanded that the result be cancelled. The United States expressed its concern that the result did not reflect the vote count from one end of the country to the other. President Préval appealed for calm and defended the result. I should point out that Mr. Célestin is Mr. Préval's hand-picked successor.
As a result of the violence, the interim electoral council (CEP) announced last Thursday that it would initiate a special process to review the ballots in the counting centres. In short, there will be a recount. This will be done by a joint commission consisting of the CEP, the candidates for the presidency, and national and international observers.
The political crisis has been deepened by the fact that the first two candidates, Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly, have said they will not participate in the process. In view of the circumstances and as a result of the violence, Canada announced last Thursday that it was closing its embassy in Port-au-Prince for an indefinite period.
In light of this, Canada must help Haiti ensure that its presidential election procedures are clear and transparent. Haitians have a right to have a democratically elected president with a mandate from the people to address the major challenges facing their country. Canada must also tell the Haitian government that it is prepared to help with any requests for human and material resources to properly carry out the election.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs shared the reaction of the Canadian government and his serious concerns regarding the democratic situation in Haiti. His government's message is that the Canadian government must help Haiti hold a clear and transparent election and that it will do so through multilateral organizations such as the UN, CARICOM and the Organization of American States. He also said that the international community cannot do everything, that it is up to the Haitian government and the Haitian people to ensure that the democratic process prevails and the recount of the initial votes is conducted calmly, transparently and quickly. He also added that Canada has offered to participate in the process as part of a joint commission. Furthermore, the minister declared that there would be no economic progress in Haiti without a stable government.
As he stated previously, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has spoken with President René Préval and his Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Bellerive. He expressed his concerns about the electoral irregularities and encouraged them to do what is necessary to correct them.
However, Canada must not let this political crisis lead it to neglect the other problems in Haiti.
It is worth noting that the earthquake caused considerable damage and that the scope of the reconstruction effort is unprecedented. Keep in mind however that the earthquake exacerbated a situation that existed well before disaster struck. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and its infrastructure is in many respects inadequate.
In 2009, the United Nations Development Program Poverty Index ranked Haiti 97th out of 137 countries. The scope of the reconstruction effort is commensurate with the poverty that existed in Haiti in terms of poor-quality building materials, the lack of a building code, no means of subsistence for a large segment of the population, and so on
The January 12 earthquake caused unparalleled damage: 222,570 people were killed and 300,000 injured; approximately 1.3 million people are still living in temporary shelters in the Port-au-Prince region and 600,000 escaped the disaster-stricken areas and sought refuge in other parts of the country; the capacity of the Haitian government was seriously diminished; it is estimated that approximately 60% of government, administrative, and economic infrastructure was destroyed; one-third of the 60,000 Haitian public servants died during the earthquake; over half of the 8,500 prisoners in Haiti escaped; 101 United Nations employees lost their lives; the court of justice, the departments of Justice and Public Safety, and the legislature were destroyed; over 105,000 houses were destroyed and more than 208,000 were damaged; 1.5 million people were left without homes; approximately 4,000 Haitian students died; and 1,234 schools were destroyed and 2,500 damaged.
The total damage is estimated at $7.9 billion: $4.3 billion in physical infrastructure damage and $3.5 billion in economic losses, which amounts to 120% of Haitian GNP; 70% of the damage affected the private sector.
The total funding required is $11.5 billion: 50% for social service sectors, 17% for infrastructure and housing and 15% for the environment and disaster risk management.
The Red Cross is working on providing aid to the Haitian people: 80,000 households have been given temporary housing; 95,000 people have received medical care; and 90,000 cubic meters of water have been distributed to 118 sites.
As a result of the earthquake, the legislative election scheduled for February 2010 had to be delayed, creating a climate of political uncertainty. President Préval wrote to the UN Secretary-General requesting that a study mission be commissioned to review options and potential timetables.
Overall, the situation has remained calm from a security standpoint. There has nevertheless being an increase in the number of sex crimes committed, most of them in camps for displaced persons.
The international community’s response in the wake of the earthquake appeared to be commensurate with the seriousness of the disaster. The scope of the reconstruction effort is, however, unparalleled. An independent expert, Michel Forst, who was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council to write a report on the human rights situation in Haiti, stated that:
The international community’s response to the humanitarian crisis was immediate and massive, with a clear determination on the part of all countries to do their best to furnish speedy succour to the people. It was only gradually that the magnitude of the disaster and the numbers of direct and indirect victims were realized. Even though the coordination of the international aid has been criticized, it is too often forgotten that the international community was confronted with an unprecedented situation and had to adapt itself gradually to the country’s parameters.
We also need to ensure that the money promised by the donor countries is effectively distributed in Haiti.
Bear in mind that at the last Haiti Donors Conference, which was held in Washington in April 2009, only 30% of the promised funds had been transferred to Haiti.
In terms of Canadian aid, Haiti is second on the list of CIDA's priority countries. In 2006, the Canadian government committed to sending $555 million in development aid to Haiti from 2006 to 2011. According to CIDA, the six donor and project priorities in Haiti since January 12 are housing, debris removal, response to the natural disaster, education, health and agriculture.
Since the devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010, the Government of Canada has announced a number of financial contributions to support humanitarian, recovery and reconstruction efforts in Haiti, in collaboration with its partners and the Haitian government. But many of these statements were contradictory. In some cases, it was not new money, but funds that had already been announced.
The Bloc Québécois cannot help but be disappointed and speak out against these repeated announcements of the same funds going into the various measures to aid Haiti. Quebeckers have clearly voiced their desire to assist Haitians in rising up again from this humanitarian crisis. We must not be stingy with our aid. We would have expected a firmer commitment from the Canadian government. It should have released more new money to help the Haitian people, who have already suffered too much.
For example, on July 12, 2010, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Cooperation announced that Canada would be giving Haiti a total of $1.1 billion. The timetable for that announcement started well before the earthquake, since it covers the period from 2006 to 2012.
This is how the $1.1 billion is being allocated. There will be $555 million from 2006 to 2011. In reality, the largest portion was spent before the earthquake, primarily to fund police and prison institutions, and the 2009 elections, which were massively boycotted. There was $400 million announced on March 31, 2010, and on July 12. It was promised that the funds would be paid out over the coming two years. That money is not needed in two years; it is needed immediately. There is $150 million for short-term aid following the earthquake. The reality is that the money has been paid out to organs of the UN and NGOs. It is difficult to confirm how much has been spent, and how. There was $30 to $45 million to the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, money that is yet to be paid out; and $40 million for debt relief, a large portion of which dates from the era of the Duvalier dictatorship and had to be paid to international financial institutions. This is not earthquake-related aid.
As well, the federal government announced that it would match the $220 million donated by Canadians to NGOs during the period from January 12 to February 16, 2010.
On March 31, in New York, CIDA stated that half of the $220 million, $110 million, was included in the $400 million announced, which was part of the $1.1 billion. In other words, the Canadian government decided that $110 million in aid to Haiti would therefore not be new money; it would come out of money already announced.
During this time, Haiti was struck by further misfortune: cholera. On October 22, 2010, President René Préval confirmed the nightmare: the severe diarrhea epidemic afflicting the Artibonite region was indeed caused by cholera.
As we all know, cholera is a viral disease that causes vomiting and diarrhea leading to severe dehydration. Cholera can rapidly lead to death, but it can be easily treated with antibiotics and rehydration. The virus is spread by water and food that are contaminated by fecal matter. Since then, the morality rate has continued to rise.
According to the most recent report, to date, 93,222 Haitians have been affected by cholera and 2,120 have died from the disease. Doctors Without Borders has confirmed that it has treated over 16,500 people, but the magnitude of the challenge is huge.
This epidemic is spreading especially quickly because Haiti has no permanent infrastructure to help control its spread. There are desperate needs. Haiti needs soap, chlorine-treated water, toilets and proper waste disposal facilities. In the current situation, these basic needs are not being met.
In response to the cholera epidemic, aid has been a long time coming. In late November, one month after the beginning of the outbreak, the UN confirmed that it had received only $5 million of the $164 million promised by the international community.
This cholera epidemic is also at the root of the recent violence in Haiti. According to a specialist's report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the source of this epidemic can be traced back to peacekeepers from Nepal. The UN still refutes this assertion. Haitians are therefore blaming UN peacekeepers and the international community in general for this outbreak.
The violence is also preventing humanitarian aid from reaching its destination. According to Oxfam officials, violence has prevented that organization from effectively distributing soap, rehydration salts and clean water. The violence has also hampered public awareness campaigns on proper hygiene practices.
Canada and the international community must do everything they can to fight the cholera epidemic that is devastating that country, which has already suffered so much.
In closing, I would like to quote a few lines that appeared in an article in the Haiti Press Network, a few lines that speak volumes.
The week beginning this Monday will be whatever politics allows it to be. If the politicians, candidates, diplomats, leaders and demonstrators so choose, Haiti will experience a normal week...to allow students to write their exams and merchants to get out their Christmas and New Year's decorations.
Ladies and gentlemen, the country needs to breathe in an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation.