Ministerial Statement on Haiti: Friday, January 15, 8:30 a.m.

(No. 18 - January 15, 2010 - 1 p.m. ET) The following is an edited transcript of a statement made to media by the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the situation in Haiti. The statement was made at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada headquarters at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, January 15, 2010:

"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all Haitians at this time. There are no words to describe the situation in Haiti. We extend our most heartfelt sympathy to families and friends of those who have been affected.

"The RCMP confirmed with great sadness the death of Sergeant Mark Gallagher who died while serving on the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Sergeant Gallagher's body was found in the collapsed building where he was housed.

"Last night, we welcomed the first wave of Canadian evacuees who arrived in Montreal.

"According to the latest consular information, there are four confirmed Canadian fatalities. In addition, there are 13 Canadians injured and more than 550 Canadians have been located. A total of 1,415 Canadians are missing in the affected area.

"About 50 Canadians continue to take refuge at our embassy in Haiti, and another 50 are being assisted elsewhere in Haiti.

"Since yesterday, 272 Canadians have been evacuated onboard three separate Canadian Forces flights. We have mobilized additional consular staff to neighbouring Santo Domingo, as well as our embassy in Port-au-Prince, to assist with evacuees.

"Yesterday, there were at least three flights into Port-au-Prince, carrying humanitarian goods, personnel and equipment. In the coming days they will be joined by the HMCS Athabaskan and Halifax, which set sail yesterday and will provide additional personnel, equipment and helicopters.

"My colleague, the Honourable Jason Kenney, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister, has agreed to exempt foreign nationals travelling on non-commercial aircraft, which are stopping to refuel in Canada on their way to provide assistance to Haiti, from the requirement to obtain a temporary visa. 

"Yesterday, one flight from China transited through Vancouver International Airport returning from Haiti. At Gander International Airport, a flight from Russia refuelled en route to Haiti.

"We greatly appreciate the outpouring of interest from Canadian emergency management first responders requesting to be considered for deployment to Haiti to assist with the relief efforts.

"Given the pressures being placed on the already fragile Haitian infrastructure and transportation congestion, effective international coordination is important.

"We would encourage individuals who have an interest in being involved in the disaster response to liaise with expert Canadian humanitarian agencies that are already involved in the response effort, and which have local contacts to determine how best your expertise might be used. The fastest and most effective way that Canadians can respond is by providing cash donations to reputable agencies.

"As was noted by the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation on January 14, the Government of Canada has established a Haiti Relief Fund. CIDA is coordinating the shipment of supplies that includes blankets, buckets, jerry cans, hygienic supplies, kitchen utensils, tarpaulins and mosquito nets.

"I also met with the Haitian community in Montreal yesterday. I had the opportunity to reassure them that the federal government is doing everything that can be done to aid Haiti and Haitians affected by this catastrophe. I updated the community on measures the government has taken.

"I want to say that I was quite moved by meeting each of them, as the emotions and uncertainty about their loved ones was palpable. Again, I understand the worrisome situation affecting everyone impacted by the disaster.

"This is a very difficult period, and some of the images we see are unbearable for everyone. The Government of Canada stands by all of you.

"On the diplomatic front, I spoke with UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain LeRoy last evening. We both agreed on the importance of coordinating efforts.

"He welcomed the offer to send more police officers from Canada to Haiti. This would help the UN police cope with several operational challenges. Mr. LeRoy also thanked Canada for its outstanding collaboration through the Canadian Mission in New York.

"We continue to hold multiple calls with other countries because it is central and crucial that international efforts be coordinated. Canada is working closely with the UN and other donors in Haiti to make sure that our efforts are channelled to the people, especially those most in need.

"Moving forward, our priority remains to assist each and every Canadian in Haiti. Thank you."

For more information, including advice on how to help those affected by the disaster, please visit Canada's response to the earthquake in Haiti.

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Natalie Sarafian
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
613-995-1851

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-995-1874