Haiti’s President Michel Martelly waves during the plenary session of the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Caracas, Venezuela on December 3, 2011.
JESSICA MURPHY | PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU
OTTAWA – It’s not often taxpayers hear “Thank you.”
But Haitian President Michel Martelly offered those words of gratitude to Canadians during a telephone news conference on Wednesday.
Martelly was referring to Canada’s contribution to rebuilding the Caribbean country in the two years since an earthquake shattered the capital of Port-au-Prince, killing more than 230,000 people.
“I want to thank the people of Canada for being there for Haiti,” he said.
Martelly became president eight months ago. He addressed his country’s long-standing reputation as one of the world’s most corrupt nations.
Donor funds won’t be pilfered under his watch, he promised.
“We are a new leadership,” Martelly said. “There is a new way of doing business.”
Canadians made $220 million in private donations to Haiti in the months following the deadly quake. The federal government pledged to match those donations.
Nearly $20 million of those funds are going towards resettling some 20,000 people still living in tents or under tarpaulins in a major public park – called Champs de Mars – in Port-au-Prince, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Wednesday.
Oda was in Haiti to visit Canadian aid projects and meet with the Haitian government to discuss long-term development issues.
The Canadian International Development Agency’s project will also register some 500 informal businesses that cropped up in the park in the past two years and create some 2,000 construction jobs.
Some 500,000 Haitians are still living in temporary shelter following the devastating earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010.
A cholera outbreak has also become endemic and 70% of the workforce is either unemployed or underemployed.
According to UN figures, only 53% of promised international funds have been paid out by donors as of September. Canada has so far sent 90% of promised funds to Haiti.