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Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean pauses during a statement on the situation in Haiti at the department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa on Wednesday. ((Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press))

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean, who was born in Haiti, said she spent a difficult night trying to get through to family, friends and Canadian diplomats on the island country following Tuesday's earthquake.

She said she's been trying to get through to Haiti since 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"We're seeing a major catastrophe for people who are of Haitian origins," said Jean, who came to Canada when she was 11.

The governor general made the comments Wednesday during a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Nathalie Gissel-Menos, the head of Haiti's diplomatic mission in Canada.

"We feel devastated because there are so many things that we are seeing that have been destroyed that represent so much in our culture, our history," Jean said. "To see so much suffering, so much distress, is just unbearable.

She did find it reassuring to see the humanitarian response coming from Canada and other countries.

Canada has pledged to send its disaster response team to the island, and is deploying HMCS Halifax and HMCS Athabaskan.

Harper said the first priority is to help those people who can be saved.