Letter to CBC 'Day Six' on One Year Anniversary of Earthquake

Vancouver BC
Friday, January 7, 2011

Hello CBC Day Six,

The members of Haiti Solidarity BC are pleased that your listeners chose Haiti as “Newsmaker of the Year” for 2010. The selection was clearly motivated by the same spirit of concern and generosity for Haiti expressed by Canadians in the weeks and months following last year’s earthquake.

We are less pleased with the description of Haiti’s ongoing needs that was provided by CBC news reporter Paul Hunter in your January 1 story accompanying the ‘Newsmaker’ announcement: http://www.cbc.ca/day6/blog/2011/01/01/newsmaker-of-the-year-haiti/.

Your host, Brent Bambury, noted early in the interview, “Things didn’t get better for Haiti as the year progressed; in fact, arguably it got worse.” This revealing statement was not explored by Mr. Hunter. In fact, while he explained well the drama and tragedy of the days and weeks following the earthquake, he gave an entirely different impression of the aid and reconstruction situation than the one suggested by Mr. Bambury. Regretfully, he failed to convey the urgency of the humanitarian crisis one year later, including why matters have ‘got worse.’

Mr. Hunter was asked, “What is happening with all of the millions of dollars that have been sent to Haiti? Where is it going, can you see any effect?” His answer was partial easily open to inaccurate interpretation. Describing Canadian aid, he said, “I’m telling you, people in Haiti know it (Canadians have helped)…They know that aid has come,” (and are grateful).

Canadian aid, he said, has provided food and water, and temporary shelter. “At the same time, there is a lot to be done,” he added, but did not elaborate.

The aid situation in Haiti is far more troubling than Mr. Hunter described. The Haitian people are, of course, appreciative of any and all help received. But they continue to live through an unimaginable humanitarian crisis in which aid has been insufficient and poorly delivered. Political interference from outside has made matters much worse.

This is not our prejudiced view, it is the view of hundreds, if not thousands, of people on the ground in Haiti—journalists, diplomats, aid workers, human rights workers and, of course, the Haitian people themselves. We invite you to read the website of the Canada Haiti Action Network (CHIP) to see an overview of this: http://www.canadahaitiaction.ca/. Among the stories you will find there are:
• A December 22 interview with the OAS’ ambassador to Haiti, Ricardo Seitenfus, in which he delivers a searing indictment of the United Nations military occupation force known as MINUSTAH.
• A December 28 commentary by Unni Karunakara, president of the International Council of Doctors Without Borders, severely criticizing the response to the cholera outbreak.
• An open letter by the Haitian members of Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission criticizing the exclusionary practices and lack of transparency of the Commission.

Listeners need only explore Mr. Hunter’s reporting in November to get some of the picture of the ongoing difficulties. In one report, he described Canadian-funded shelter assistance being built that will house 1,500 people once completed. Right across the street, he went on, was a tent camp housing 50,000 people in desperate conditions. Should Canadians and the world be content with such a pace for sheltering the nearly 1,5 million people left homeless by the earthquake?

He also reported extensively on the November 28 electoral fiasco. He and other CBC reporters variously, and accurately, described it as a “sham,” a “fraud,” etc. Canadians know this—they saw it on television, heard it on radio and read about it in the newspapers.

That electoral exercise was pressed upon Haiti by the big powers of the world, including the UN Security Council. The U.S., Canada and Europe funded it, to the tune of $28 million. The result has been a costly diversion of resources from humanitarian needs and a greater loss of control by Haitians over their sovereign political institutions.

Canada and the other powers in Haiti are working furiously to salvage the fraudulent election. But it was so poorly conceived and conducted that the vote count has now been postponed indefinitely. (For more detail on this, see our letters to Members of Parliament during the months of November and December: http://www.canadahaitiaction.ca/statements).

Concerning Canada’s aid to Haiti, we invite you to consult the “Aid Facts on Haiti” feature on the CHIP website. According to our figures, the Canadian government has delivered less than 30 per cent of the $200 million funding it promised to Haiti for 2010 at the March 31 UN donors conference. Much of Canada’s spending in Haiti since the earthquake—at least $58 million—has gone to the training and equipping of police and prisons.

As if all of this is not bad enough, the widely-reviled foreign military occupation, in which Canada is a leading participant, stands accused of visiting a deadly cholera epidemic upon the country.

We appreciate the hard work of CBC programmers, hosts and reporters over these past several months, including that of Mr. Hunter. We urge you to continue investigating conditions in Haiti as we mark the troubling, one year anniversary of the earthquake.

Roger Annis, Stuart Hammond
On behalf of Haiti Solidarity BC, affiliate of the Canada Haiti Action Network