Ministerial Statement on Haiti: Wednesday, January 20, 8:30 a.m.

(No. 34 - January 20, 2010 - 1:30 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 the National Press Theatre at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 20, 2010:

"The situation remains fragile in Haiti, with a number of challenges.

"A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti this morning, and several buildings were damaged. We spoke to our ambassador in Port-au-Prince, and he informed us that our embassy has suffered further damages on the second floor. All are fine; there were no injuries.

"According to the latest consular figures, I can confirm that the number of fatalities has now reached 13—up one from yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones. In this time of grief, our government continues to respect the privacy of families who have lost a loved one.

"The number of Canadians unaccounted for in the affected areas is at 543; down from 665.

"The number of Canadians located has risen to 1,681, up from 1,641 yesterday.

"We continue to use all available means to locate Canadians so they can be reunited with their loved ones back home.

"Our latest information indicates that additional Canadians are expected to arrive at the compound, where 56 Canadians are now taking refuge.

"There have now been 16 flights back to Canada, including one that just arrived this morning in Montreal, returning a total of 1,441 evacuees since the beginning of the crisis; yesterday's number was 1,206.

"To date, our Emergency Operations Centre has received more than 28,600 calls; the total yesterday was 28,300.

"The UN has indicated that immediate priorities for the wider humanitarian response continue to be medical assistance, shelter, water, food and sanitation.

"Although military escorts are required for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, MINUSTAH [the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti] reports that the overall security situation in Port-au-Prince remains stable, with limited, local violence and looting occurring mainly in areas that were categorized as high-risk prior to the earthquake.

"The UN Security Council unanimously approved an increase of troops and police to MINUSTAH.

"This resolution was co-sponsored by Canada and other members of the Group of Friends of Haiti, and will add 2,000 troops to the 6,940-troop level under MINUSTAH, for a total of up to 8,940 troops. It will add 1,500 police to the current level of 2,211, for a total of 3,711 police.

"Canada is working closely with the UN on this issue, stands ready to send more police officers, has communicated that to the UN, and the UN will call on us only when conditions to deploy allow.

"The extra troops are essential to escort humanitarian convoys, and secure the routes, as well as for a reserve force in case security deteriorates further.

"Canada is also concerned about recent reports of relief frauds.

"We are working closely with our allies to ensure that all contributions meant for victims of the Haitian earthquake go to trusted charitable organizations.

"Canadians who wish to file a complaint of suspected fraud can call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

"The RCMP website also offers precautions to make sure your donations benefit the people and organizations you want to assist in Haiti.

"We continue to work closely with the Government of Haiti, the United Nations and other missions toward an effective and coordinated response to this disaster.

"My officials and I are also actively working on setting up the ministerial conference on Haiti, to be held in Montreal January 25 with the aim of building a better Haiti."

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

For information on avoiding fraud, please visit the RCMP's Earthquake in Haiti: Watch out for charity scams.

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Natalie Sarafian
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada