Introductory Remarks by Minister Cannon at Ministerial Preparatory Conference on Haiti

No. 2010/1 - Montreal, Quebec - January 25, 2010

Check Against Delivery

My dear friends, I am delighted that we are meeting here today, in Montreal, home to the largest Haitian diaspora in Canada and also one of the largest in the world.

Before we proceed, I would like to take a moment to thank the International Civil Aviation Organization for making these facilities available for this meeting in such short order.

Secretary General Benjamin, your cooperation and that of your staff is deeply appreciated.

Canada’s commitment to Haiti was and is a key aspect of its foreign policy. United by language, culture and a shared history in the Americas, our countries have a unique bond.

The current disaster reminds us of the importance of friendship and solidarity in times of hardship.

Indeed, we have with us this morning representatives from a variety of backgrounds who, albeit filled with deep sadness, are resolutely determined to help Haiti.

They include nations large and small, both aid donors and those whose commitment has been evident in their contribution to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti [MINUSTAH]. In addition, we have with us multilateral and regional organizations, international financial institutions, members of the Haitian diaspora, and civil society, all gathered in this room.

We come together to support our friends the Haitian people, as they seek a new and better future for a country that has already suffered more than we can imagine.

My heart goes out to the Haitian people, all of whom have lost loved ones and who continue to suffer from the devastation caused by the earthquake.

The voices that should inspire us today are those we will never hear again. Those buried in the rubble.

My thoughts and unstinting support go to the families and friends of those who went to Haiti for their love of humanity, to make a difference, but who will never come home.

I would like us to take a moment to remember our friends and colleagues from the United Nations, whose commitment to do good in the world will not be forgotten.

In the face of such sacrifice, we have no other choice but to advance the cause that meant so much to them. We must pick up their torch and carry on as they would have wished.

Their contribution and example will live on.

Less than two weeks after the awful tragedy that struck Haiti and touched the whole world, I wish to thank you, Friends of Haiti, for so quickly agreeing to participate in this meeting.

Prime Minister Bellerive, I wish to express my admiration for the courage you and your government have shown during this difficult time. We—Canada, the Group of Friends, the international community, the NGOs— are committed to supporting you not only during this crisis but also afterwards.

A key consideration that is clear to me, and which was widely shared by the foreign ministers present today when we spoke by phone a week ago, is the importance that we accord to Haiti’s sovereignty and independent voice as we marshal our efforts.

Your role is key, and your voice is clear. We stand ready to help.

All of the governments and organizations gathered here today have responded quickly and generously to the crisis in Haiti. For our part, Canada is working closely with your government, the UN and the international community in support of a coordinated and effective response to the disaster. To date, Canada has announced $135 million in humanitarian assistance, which is being allocated to UN agencies and trusted partners with experience in Haiti.

Canadians have responded generously, and have to date donated $67 million to a matching fund announced by the government.

Prime Minister Harper called for the swift deployment of the Disaster Assistance Response Team [DART] which is now fully operational in Jacmel, one of the cities which bore the major impact of the earthquake. The Canadian Forces are providing water and medical assistance to the local population and at the request of the Government of Haiti are bringing the airport back to full operational capacity.

These Canadian men and women are part of a deployment of some 2,000 personnel in support of humanitarian efforts in Haiti.

Canadian authorities at all levels, federal, provincial and municipal, are ready to contribute to Haiti’s reconstruction. The mayor of Montreal, Gérald Tremblay, whose city is twinned with that of Port-au Prince, has offered his city’s services and expertise to help the cities and towns of Haiti.

In a crisis, it is often municipalities that have to deal with the urgency of situations. We must keep in mind the specific needs of municipalities, large and small, and ensure that they have adequate resources.

We must also recognize, applaud and support the efforts of non-governmental organizations, a number of which are represented here this morning. These organizations are often on the front line, assisting and standing by the Haitian people during these trying times. They make it possible for humanitarian aid to reach those that need it most. They have been in Haiti for some time and are now needed more than ever to help Haitians resume their normal lives.

We also have with us today some members from the private sector who have given generously to the humanitarian appeal but will also play an important role in Haiti’s future. They will be accompanying and supporting us in rebuilding the national infrastructure of ports, roads and power generation and in re establishing essential services from electricity, to banking and communications.

But money is not enough to meet the needs Haiti faces right now, and will continue to face as it rebuilds a nation that has been confronted with unparalleled challenges.

That goodwill must now be channelled into a deliberate effort that is founded on sound and strategic planning, and that builds on Haitian government priorities for relief, recovery and reconstruction.

In so doing, we recognize the need for effective and accountable solutions. They must be grounded in an appreciation of the full range and diversity of the Haitian reality, and a commitment to stay the course to help the Haitian people usher in a better future for themselves and their children.

Soon we must move from short-term humanitarian response to reconstruction, from search and rescue to the prevention of disease and longer-term medical treatment and assistance. Even now in the midst of inconceivable devastation, we must begin to plan—to give hope where there is despair by joining with the people of Haiti to develop a common vision and plan for a better life and future.

It is here that shared commitment is not enough. Clear vision, coordination and adherence to key principles of aid effectiveness will be essential to accelerate our efforts and avoid duplication.

We have created a space here in Montreal for open dialogue and communication in anticipation of a major conference on reconstruction. With civil society, the diaspora, international financial institutions, multilateral organizations, donor countries, and most importantly the Haitian people.

Our combined resources and commitment must, and will, lead to coherent and consistent support for a long-term recovery plan for Haiti. This will be based on the priorities voiced by the people of Haiti.

We owe it to Haiti, to the living and the lost, to see this through in all its complexities. I look forward to the results of our deliberations, and assure all those who have traveled so far and sustained so much to bring us their news that we will, together and united, build back better.

And now I have the honour of giving the floor to Jean-Max Bellerive, Prime Minister of Haiti and head of his country’s delegation today.

The Prime Minister and I have had several exchanges lately. Only six weeks ago, when this catastrophe was still unimaginable, I welcomed him to Ottawa, where I reiterated Canada’s desire to work with Haiti towards a better future.

Prime Minister, I welcome you today in strikingly different circumstances, but I would like to reassure you that Canada and, as you can see, your friends and allies, remain steadfast in their commitment to Haiti.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.