Six Month Anniversary of the Earthquake on CBC

July 10, 2010

Hello CHIP mail list,

Yesterday, CBC Radio ended its long silence on Haiti, in style, with two reports on the theme of the six-month anniversary of the earthquake. One was a lengthy news report on the national daily evening news program,The World At Six. The other was a 25-minute interview onAs It Happens with Sue Montgomery, the Montreal Gazette reporter who was in Haiti in June and wrote a moving article upon her return, Haiti’s Camps of Despair.

You can listen to the interview at: http://www.cbc.ca/radioshows/AS_IT_HAPPENS/20100709.shtml. It aired on “part two” of the program.

Both reports, Montgomery’s in particular, provided important news and analysis of the grim conditions still prevailing for many earthquake victims. Montgomery says the conditions in the refugee camps are “appalling.” Echoing comments by Partners In Health and Doctors Without Borders in March, Montgomery told the AIH host, Peter Armstrong, “No one should have to live like this.”

Unfortunately, both reports fell short of describing why the earthquake relief effort has failed so many victims. Attention was focused on the actions of the Haitian government. Not a word was said of the Interim Reconstruction Commission, the body that holds the purse strings to reconstruction and whose foreign appointees, including its co-chairperson William Clinton, hold an effective veto over all spending and planning for relief and reconstruction.

Although the AIH host did mention the complaints of the Haitian government that it has received little international funding for earthquake relief, this was not explored in the interview and Ms. Montgomery’s comments appeared to accept the view that holds the Haitian government alone responsible for relief failings (I do not say that this is her view, merely that this is the overall impression created by her comments in this one interview).

Armstrong asked Montgomery, "How much interest do you think Canadians have now in Haiti, six months later?" This was a curious question, for surely, anyone in Canada following Haiti cannot doubt the ongoing concern of Canadians. CBC should instead be asking, "How much interest in Haiti  is thereon the part of the Canadian government?". It pulled its militarized earthquake relief mission out of Haiti very hastily, a mere six weeks after arriving. It did so in a very destructive manner, taking its air traffic control center and ship unloading lift capacities out with it. Canada walked away from conditions of untold misery in Jacmel and Leogane that the searing report by Jessica Leeder in today’s Globe and Mail describe all too well.

Since March, the government has announced $34 million for building prisons and training police; it has repeated what has become a string of broken promises to assist with building a hospital in Gonaives; and it has given the Canadian Red Cross some of the “matching” earthquake relief funds in the form of a job creation project in Quebec to build temporary shelters to be later assembled in Haiti. This is all grossly deficient for the conditions so movingly described by Montgomery, Leeder, and many other journalists and aid workers.

Hopefully, the CBC will probe deeper on Haiti. It would be especially good if it could look into two critical matters. One, what has become of Canadian earthquake relief? Why is the Red Cross not spending the several hundred million dollars that Canadians contributed or that the government matched? Why are some relief agencies in Canada unable to receive matching funds? Is it a requirement by the government that matching funds must be spent in Canada?

Two, what is the result of years of spending by the Canadian government on prisons and the judiciary in Haiti? Why are Canadian media not investigating the Canadian-funded justice system in Haiti, pre and post-earthquake, and the horrendous conditions that predate the earthquake and continue to prevail inside of Haiti’s Canadian-funded prisons? (For the latest prison horror story, see the AFP article that appeared in the July 1 La Presse.)

 

Solidarity,

Roger Annis
Haiti Solidarity BC (Vancouver)

cc CBC Radio News