MP Fantino sets record straight on Haiti

International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino wants to set the record straight on Canada’s role in Haiti: existing programs will continue and the department he is in charge of, CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency), will be “recalibrating and rethinking how we can continue to do our work”.
The minister and Vaughan MP caused a stir earlier this month when an interview he gave to Montreal’s La Presse suggested there would be a “freeze” on future CIDA projects in Haiti.
Reaction from, among others, former governor-general Michaelle Jean, who is United Nations special envoy to Haiti, was negative. Ms Jean said “if (aid) becomes a closure, that would be a catastrophe”.
Mr. Fantino’s  remarks were also criticized by United Nations and U.S. State Department officials on the ground in Haiti.
But in a telephone interview with The Citizen, Mr. Fantino stressed that “there was a misconception about an inaccurate headline,” which he said started everything. “Our care and concern for the Haitian people has been misunderstood and misrepresented.
“We are not going to cut off programs that we feel are meeting outcomes for the Haitian people. We are reaching the people most in need, people who need health assistance, who are hungry and homeless,” he said.
And Mr. Fantino had strong words for anyone who would put Canada’s contribution to Haiti’s recovery in a bad light.
“Shame on them. It’s unfortunate that people have run off without full information about what we’re going to do. These comments from (UN representatives and U.S. State department representatives) are irresponsible when matched with our commitment. We should be thanked upside down and sideways. We pledged $400 million over two years in March 2010 at an international donors conference and we are one of very few countries that
actually meets its commitments,” he said in defending Canada’s participation in the rebuilding effort in Haiti since a devastating earthquake killed upwards of 300,000 people three years ago, left 300,000 homeless and caused an estimated $12.5 billion in damage.
He reassured those who are worried about Canada’s future place in Haiti’s reconstruction and development.
“We are a good neighbour and we are not walking away. We should be proud, we have always risen to help the needy,” he said.
The minister had the chance to visit the Caribbean nation in late November and received a first-hand look at the destruction wrought by the earthquake and by Hurricane Sandy. He admitted to being “devastated” by what he saw.
“I can understand and appreciate full well the calamity of the earthquake and the number of people that have died and the destruction, but everyone rose to help out. Three years along we should have been making more progress.”
He said that, “going forward, first and foremost we will concentrate on humanitarian aid. If another hurricane or earthquake happens, Canada will be there. We will continue with our good programs resulting in good success and good outcomes. We need to be responsible stewards of Canadian taxpayers’ dollars.”


Author: `