Canada temporarily halts new aid programmes for Haiti

OTTAWA, Canada, Thursday January 10, 2012 – Canada says it will not fund any new programmes in Haiti until it finds a better way of assisting the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to help itself.

International Cooperation Minister Julian Fantino, in an interview published Friday in Montreal’s La Presse, said he was disappointed at what he considered the lack of progress in Haiti during his trip to the country last November.

Canada has provided one billion dollars (one Canadian dollar = US$1.01 cents) in development assistance to Haiti since 2006 and Fantino warned that Canadian taxpayers cannot take care of Haiti’s problems forever.

Canada’s Haitian-born former governor general Michaelle Jean said she hopes Fantino’s funding freeze is temporary.

“Often when we say we will freeze (something), it’s sometimes a moment when we need to … refocus,” said Jean, now a special envoy to Haiti for UNESCO.

“I hope that is what this means — in all my heart, I hope that’s what this means,” she told The Canadian Press Friday, acknowledging that donor countries must rethink how they allocate aid money in Haiti which is still recovering from the massive 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people and left more than a million others homeless.

Jean said she would like to see countries like Canada continue to help Haiti, which is also grappling with a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 7,000 people.

“I don’t think we wish to break up a relationship as important as the one that exists between Canada and Haiti,” she replied when asked about the prospect of Ottawa halting all foreign aid to Haiti.

During his interview Fantino spoke about the filth and garbage he saw during his November visit to Haiti and wondered how a country with so many unemployed people had not found a way to clean it up.

Last November, Fantino told reporters that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) doesn’t exist to fund aid groups indefinitely and his job is to ensure Canadians get value for their overseas-development bucks.

In a statement issued Friday, CIDA said it would “continue to offer our support for the people of Haiti in response to their emergency needs should humanitarian crises arise.

“We also continue to make progress in areas of long-term development that we have previously committed to,” the statement added. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)