On January 12, 2010, an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck Haiti, close to the capital Port-au-Prince. The quake killed approximately 200,000 people and injured more than 300,000. Major infrastructure was destroyed, and power and communications were severely disrupted.
Canada was one of the first countries to respond to the crisis, pledging $5 million within 24 hours to meet urgent humanitarian needs.
The following day, on January 13, Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, followed by calls to other world leaders, to discuss the deployment of a coordinated response.
Within hours of the earthquake, the Government deployed civilian and military emergency management experts to Haiti to begin a significant humanitarian response. This included:
- Approximately 85 expert personnel deployed from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAIT), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the Canadian Border Services (CBSA), Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), including search and rescue technicians, medical and logistics personnel, engineers, and humanitarian and disaster victim identification experts.
- Nineteen Canadian humanitarian technical experts deployed to support trusted humanitarian agencies on the ground, including ten Canadian medical staff deployed to support the joint Canadian-Norwegian Red Cross Field Hospital funded by CIDA.
- Some 2,000 Canadian Forces personnel are deployed to Haiti. Operation HESTIA includes the HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Halifax, a Sea King helicopter, six Griffon helicopters and the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), a field hospital with surgical capabilities, and C-17 and CC-130 Hercules aircraft.
- Cash contributions were made to facilitate rapid action by trusted and experienced humanitarian agencies:
- $5 million for urgent humanitarian needs.
- $60 million to the UN appeal to fund basic necessities and services provided on the ground by UN agencies including the World Food Program, UNICEF, the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Organization for Migration, the UN Population Fund and the UN Department of Safety and Security.
- $11.5 million to support critical relief efforts by Canadian NGOs such as CARE, Médecins du Monde, Save the Children, Oxfam Quebec, the Canadian Red Cross Society, the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation (CECI) and World Vision.
- $8.5 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' appeal for the provision of humanitarian assistance.
More than 4,000 Canadians have been evacuated from Haiti on military and commercial flights.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada is helping reunite family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been seriously affected by the disaster and has implemented a series of special immigration measures. As a result of a decision to expedite existing adoption applications, 183 Haitian children have now arrived in Canada.
Canada also is making available additional police, corrections officers and military personnel to MINUSTAH, the United Nations Mission in Haiti.
On January 25, the Government of Canada hosted the Ministerial Preparatory Conference on Haiti in Montreal, which was attended by foreign ministers from the Group of Friends of Haiti, major donors and key regional and multilateral partners. The conference contributed to establishing a clear and common vision for the recovery and long-term reconstruction of Haiti. The United States will host, and Canada co-chair, a pledging conference of international aid donors at the United Nations in New York this spring.
On February 6, G-7 Finance Ministers committed to forgiving Haiti's debt and agreed to work with multilateral institutions toward the forgiveness of Haiti's debt as soon as possible. Canada announced on July 2, 2009, that it would forgive all outstanding bilateral loans to Haiti.
Haiti is the largest recipient of Canadian development assistance in the Americas. Canada has been working on several fronts to help reduce poverty in Haiti and has allocated $555 million over five years (2006-2011) to reconstruction and development efforts in Haiti.
Canada and Haiti officially established diplomatic relations in 1954 when Edward Ritchie Bellemare was appointed Chargé d'Affaire of the Canadian Embassy in Haiti. Over the years, relations between both countries have been further cemented with the growth of a substantial Haitian community in Canada as well as the continued presence of Canadian development organizations in Haiti.
Haiti and Canada are members of the United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS) and La Francophonie.
For more information, please consult the following websites:
- $5 million for urgent humanitarian needs.