Ministerial Statement on Haiti: Monday, February 22, 11:45 a.m.

(No. 75 – February 22, 2010 – 5:40 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 11:45 a.m. on Monday, February 22, 2010:

"Following the catastrophic earthquake which struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, the Government of Canada mounted a coordinated, rapid and comprehensive humanitarian response involving departments and agencies from across the federal government.

"DFAIT's Operations Centre has now responded to over 47,500 calls, and 1,897 Canadians have been located. Sadly, the number of Canadian deaths as a result of the earthquake now stands at 34 while 50 Canadians remain unaccounted for.

"Immediately following the earthquake, the Government of Canada began the process of evacuating Canadian citizens from the disaster zone. We have facilitated the departure of 4,618 people since the earthquake.

"With the resumption of commercial air service to Port-au-Prince on February 19, Canadians are now being advised to seek commercial means of travel to return to Canada.

"We continue to deploy consular, humanitarian, development, immigration and border services personnel and disaster-victim identification teams.  

"A six-member Canadian disaster-victim identification team is still working in Haiti today to facilitate the repatriation of Canadian victims of the disaster. 

"We extend our sympathies to those affected by the earthquake. Our thoughts continue to be with the people of Haiti and Canadians of Haitian descent who have been affected by this tragedy. 

"As you know, Canada was one of the first donors to respond to the crisis. To date, we have disbursed some $85 million in cash contributions.

"Canadian International Development Agency, through this funding, supported the delivery of relief supplies, the deployment of humanitarian experts to UN agencies, and also supported the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and the deployment of the field hospital co-managed by the Canadian and Norwegian Red Cross Societies.

"With this funding, we have been able to help meet the medical, food, shelter, and water and sanitation needs of those affected by the quake.

"As of February 12, some 14 major Canadian NGOs had raised a reported $154.4 million, of which $128.8 million is potentially eligible to be matched by the Government.

"And the generosity of Canadians continues. I was this morning at the Chelsea Elementary School in Chelsea, Quebec, to thank a group of students who have raised $2,000 for the earthquake relief fund.

"Some of these students gave up their birthday gifts, and replaced them by making donations in cash for Haiti.

"As we near the end of the Canadian Forces' planned 30 to 60-day emergency relief mandate, we are beginning the progressive withdrawal of Canadian Forces' assets.

"On February 20, HMCS Halifax and the 220 crew members left Haitian waters after making a significant contribution to Canadian humanitarian efforts in Haiti.

"The decision to begin withdrawing certain elements of the Canadian Forces from Haiti is part of a coordinated Government of Canada transition plan, and reflects the growing ability of the Government of Haiti, the United Nations and other humanitarian actors to play a leadership role in the delivery of emergency relief. 

"The Canadian Forces will continue to provide support and assistance through ongoing participation and collaboration with the United Nations Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

"In addition to Canada's commitment to meet ongoing emergency needs, we are now focusing on early recovery and preparing for the longer-term reconstruction task at hand.

"Last week, the RCMP deployed 34 police officers to Haiti, and future deployments to Haiti will be determined as the situation progresses, and will involve working closely with MINUSTAH.

"You will recall that Canada hosted a Ministerial Preparatory Conference on Haiti in Montreal last January.

"This has helped to set the stage for the New York conference on Haiti reconstruction expected to take place at the United Nations in early spring. 

"Critical to the success of this conference will be the UN-led Post-Disaster Needs Assessment team. Government of Canada officials are working closely with the UN, the European Union, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank in preparation for this assessment; there are eight Canadian experts on this team.   

"In addition, projects that DFAIT already had underway in the security and rule of law sector mean that we are well placed to help rebuild the capacities of the national police, prisons, and border and justice institutions.

"The Government of Canada is focused on how best to ensure immediate humanitarian needs continue to be met while adapting our longer-term investments to new post-earthquake demands.

"Thank you."

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Catherine Loubier
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
613-995-1851

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