Canada's Parliament hears testimony on Haiti, October 18, 2011

October 18, 2011

The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Canadian Parliament held a two-hour session on Haiti today. You can listen (in English or French) to the session by going to this web link and clicking on the 'webcast' icon for "Meeting 6", October 18, 2011 (see full link below). The written record of this session will be published in the following days and can be accessed at the same web link.

Testimony to the session by invited witnesses from the government and its agencies consisted of a vigorous defense of Canadian policy in Haiti, including its role in MINUSTAH, in support of Haiti's police and prison institutions, and the post-earthquake aid and relief effort.
 
Witnesses from charities and non-governmental agencies defended their record in Haiti. Conrad Sauvé of the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) reported that the CRC will construct 7,500 temporary shelters in Haiti by sometime in 2012, at a cost of $43 million ($5,500 each), as part of the International Committee of the Red Cross' objective of constructing 15,000 t-shelters. He also told the Standing Committee that the cholera treatment center established by the CRC in Carrefour (district of Port au Prince) in December 2010 and closed in April 2011 continues to operate. A CIDA witness also made the same claim.
 
Invited witnesses to the session were the following:
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade: Jon Allen, Assistant Deputy Minister, Americas; Marie Gervais-Vidricaire, Director General Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force; Denis Robert, Director Haiti Task Force
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA): Lise Filiatrault, Regional Director General, Americas Directorate; Isabelle Bérard, Director General, Haiti; Leslie Norton, Director General, International Humanitarian Assistance Directorate
CARE Canada: Kevin McCort, President and Chief Executive Officer, Member of the Humanitarian Coalition
Canadian Red Cross: Conrad Sauvé, Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer, International Humanitarian Assistance Directorate
UNICEF Canada: Stephanie Kleschnitzki, Reports and Contributions Manager, Haiti
 
No critical questions of substance were directed at the witnesses by members of Parliament. Several NDP (largest opposition party in Parliament) members directed lengthy, critical questions at government witnesses over Canada's failure to construct a promised $18 million training academy for the Haitian National Police (promised in 2008--see Oct 12 news report here). The questions sought to embarrass the government, not to probe genuine human rights concerns for Haitians.
 
If any members of the Standing Committee have read the 17-page, August 4, 2011 report of the June, 2011 Canadian Delegation to Haiti, including the report's links to the many, recently published reports of Haitian and international medical, human rights and human development agencies, this was not evident. The Delegation's report can be read here (French language version here). It was e-mailed to all members of Parliament and the Senate in September.
 
Haiti Solidarity BC will write a letter to members of the Standing Committee in the coming days explaining our views of the testimony it received today.
 
Roger Annis
Haiti Solidarity BC, Vancouver BC
rogerannis(at)hotmail.com
 
Link to the October 18, 2011 meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Canadian Parliament: http://www.parl.gc.ca/CommitteeBusiness/CommitteeHome.aspx?Cmte=FAAE&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=1.