Survey of News in Canada on Haiti, Nov 25, 26

November 26, 2010

Hello CHIP list,

Canadian media is turning considerable interest and attention to Haiti because of the impending election and the worsening humanitarian crisis. Below is a brief survey of what is being said, and what is planned in the coming days. We understand that an interview with Nicole Phillips of the IJDH in Haiti will be broadcast this evening on CBC’s As It Happens, in all times zones at 6:30 pm local time. Go to CBC to listen live: If you’re on the west coast, you can listen to the 6:30 pm broadcast in Atlantic Canada that begins at 2:30 pm your time, etc. You can also go to the website of As It Happens next week to listen to the podcast.

1. CBC coverage

CBC radio and television turned their attention yesterday to reporting on the aid situation in Haiti. The reports were less than satisfactory.

Television’s The National evening broadcast last night had Paul Hunter investigating why not enough aid has come to the assistance of the Haitian people. His report consisted of the story of a Canadian charity project whose water purification equipment has been held up in the Port of Port au Prince for many months by the port bureaucracy. Hunter only spoke to the charity director, not to the port authority, so it’s not possible to consider possible context. Let’s assume the tale is accurate; we have heard others like it. But in the absence of broader context, the impression created is that much of Haiti’s failed aid and relief effort comes down to an uncaring and bureaucratic Haitian government. That is inaccurate and unbalanced.

The broadcast then switched to a report on Canada’s single largest aid project in Haiti—the contracting by the Canadian Red Cross, with matching government funds, of the manufacture of wooden, pre-fab shelter to a company in Quebec and its final assembly in Port au Prince. Erection of the shelters is underway. But the report noted the shelters will house 1,500 people; across the street is an internally displaced persons camp housing 50,000.

Red Cross spokesperson Conrad Sauvé acknowledged that aid is too little, too slow. But in his opinion, it’s the best that can be done. “The (post-earthquake) emergency phase has been done really well,” he said. Reconstruction is “more complex.”

The broadcast then looked at Canadian aid money. $220 million was donated by Canadians to charities in the one month following the earthquake, and that amount was matched by the federal government. $146 million was spent in the first two months, said the report, which is based on government reports. Since then, expenditure of most of the money is “just beginning.” The report did not say so, but much of that is sitting in Red Cross coffers. The report did NOT explain that the single largest expenditure of Canadian money in Haiti since the earthquake has been equipping Haiti’s police force and prison system, to the tune of at least $58 million. Canadians, one supposes, must damn well rest in the dark when it comes to certain matters.

This morning, CBC Radio One’s Connie Watson reported from Deschappelles, two hours outside of Port au Prince. She visited the orphanage of a Canadian Christian charity, Hands Across the Sea. According to Watson, it’s a model charity that spends all of its collected funds in Haiti and is fully transparent in its fundraising and spending. And it sounded convincing. But is the reporter arguing that all Haiti needs is more of the same, to be multiplied how many times over until all Haitians are lifted out of poverty? She should read Tim Schwartz’ “Tragedy in Haiti,” a 2009 book that looks at the racket of charities and orphanages in Haiti. Sure, there are honest people doing charitable things in Haiti, but charity is no model for building a society of social justice; in Haiti’s case, it’s been a model of social destruction.

A Radio Two report this morning had reporter David Commons making a very banal report. WE learned that whoever gets elected (selected) this coming Sunday will have a formidable task in front of him/her.


2. Globe and Mail report on election

The national daily Globe and Mail publishes today a two-page spread on the election. It consists of brief interviews with the five candidates that polls show to be leading—Céant, Manigat, Baker, Martelly and Celestin. The newspaper continues its embargo on reporting the exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas from the election. Read the article here,

Céant is the leading candidate among those with a background in the Fanmi Lavalas Party. He has drawn attention because he favors the return from exile of Jean Bertrand Aristide and says he would facilitate that. According to the Globe, he also wants former tyrants that have ruled Haiti to return in the same spirit, including Jean-Claude Duvalier and former military rulers Namphy and Cedras.


3. Editorial in Toronto Star Says Don’t Fault the UN for Haiti’s Crisis

The following editorial appears in today’s edition of the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation daily newspaper. The Star has a reporting team in Haiti but has not published much from it yet. This will change in the coming days.

Cholera crisis: Hard-hit Haiti needs help again

Editorial, Toronto Star, November 26, 2010

The heart-rending suffering we’ve seen is just the beginning. As many as 10,000 Haitians may die from cholera unless the world acts faster to contain the contagion. That’s the grim news from health authorities as they struggle with a virulent but manageable disease that already has killed 2,000, and it hasn’t yet reached its peak.

“We need doctors, nurses, water purification systems, chlorine tablets, soap, oral rehydration salts, tents for cholera treatment centers and a range of other supplies,” says Nigel Fisher, a Canadian who is the UN humanitarian coordinator in Haiti.

The UN’s plea for $164 million is nowhere close to being met. Ottawa has provided just $1 million. But it could draw more from the $220 million fund it set up to match private donations to Haiti. So far it has spent only $130 million of that total.

As Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says, the crisis is “nightmarish,” and Ottawa is in a position to send practical material help.

That could take the form of deploying a military mission complete with medical staff and field hospitals, bankrolling civilian medical volunteers, or sending planeloads of supplies such as chlorine tablets, antibiotics and rehydration kits.

While time has already been lost, there’s no likelihood of this crisis burning out soon. The outbreak is still spreading and may take a year or more to work its way though Haiti’s 10 million people.

The UN and its agencies are mobilizing a nationwide grassroots Public Health Brigade that would educate people on personal cleanliness, improve public sanitation, train caregivers, distribute disinfectants and set up care centers and rehydration clinics. Canada could help defray the costs and contribute supplies.

Cholera needn’t be a death sentence. The disease is spread by fecal matter. And millions of Haitians have little access to clean drinking water, safe toilets, and the cash to buy even such simple necessities as soap and water-disinfecting chlorine packets. Those hit by cholera’s violent onset can die within hours from vomiting and diarrhea. Yet most who get early medical care survive, with the help of antibiotics, intravenous fluids, salts and sugars.

Making that care available is the critical priority.

Some fault the UN for not tracing the cause. In a tragic irony Nepalese peacekeepers are suspected, though experts aren’t yet sure.

But the UN has had its hands full assisting President Renée Préval’s shattered government, tending to 1.5 million refugees from the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed 250,000, and keeping the peace in the run-up to national elections on Sunday to choose the government that will preside over reconstruction. And since the outbreak began last month, the UN’s focus has, rightly, been on helping the victims.

That’s where Canada’s focus should be, too.


4. Liberal Party Leader Voices Concern on Haiti, Says More Military Needed

Ignatieff urges mission to Haiti to evaluate cholera situation

By Peter Rakobowchuk, Canadian Press

The Toronto Star, November 22, 2010

In this article, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff says more aid is needed for Haiti. He suggests that a mission should be sent to Haiti to evaluate further needs. But the country already has a full-blown “mission” there, called its embassy. Is the embassy not doing its job? Apparently not. Ignatieff is right, but the mission needed is an all-party mission of the Canadian Parliament that can come back with some hard-hitting recommendations for how Canada can and should get more resources to Haiti.

Ignatieff thinks the Canadian military should send a large force back to Haiti, evidently unaware of how little it contributed the first time it was there. See my October, 2010 article on that subject:… As the Canada Haiti Action Network has said from the get-go, Haiti doesn’t need more guns and soldiers. It needs earthmoving equipment, shelter, potable water systems, medical supplies and professionals, and lots, lots more. It also needs countries and militaries like Canada to cease interfering in its internal affairs, overthrowing its governments, financing flawed elections and strangling its national economy. So get to it, Mr. Ignatieff!


5. La Presse newspaper

Montreal’s La Presse is the largest French-language daily newspaper in Quebec and North America. It has a special, online section of coverage on the election:

The rest of its coverage on Haiti is grouped in sections that are random and difficult to follow chronologically:


6. Report from Cap Haitien

From an e-mail message to the Corbett mail list (Haiti information mail list in operation since 1994), on November 24:

From Cap Haitien:

We are sending this out because of the situation here in Cap. It started last night on the road between Plaine du Nord and Limbe. It was a very bad situation there, but has escalated into a really bad situation from Cap all the way out to the Plaine du Nord turnoff. They are throwing rocks and bottles and are burning tires and even vehicles now. We heard that one of the magistrates was killed, but do not have positive confirmation on that. All of this to tell you that we have asked MFI (Missionary Flights International—RA) to delay the flight for tomorrow. Yes, there is a very slight possibility that it could calm down, but we do not want to take it for granted. We do not want people to travel into the mess and get hurt. At this point in time it is a very explosive situation. With all the problems Haiti has had recently, tempers are at an all time high. We can hear some of the problems from here in our house. The decision was reached by several people connected with MFI here in the Cap area. We will try to keep you updated on how things are and what the plans are. Please keep praying.