Government denies freezing Haiti aid
The future of funding for new aid projects in Haiti appears to be cloudy following a report that Ottawa was freezing money to the Caribbean country.
On Friday, Montreal's La Presse published a story quoting International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino as saying that he was disappointed at what he considered the lack of progress in Haiti during his November visit there.
According to La Presse, Fantino said that his department would continue to fund programs in Haiti that are already underway, but that funding for new projects was "on ice" for now.
The article, written in French, was accompanied by a headline that said funding for new projects in Haiti is frozen.
But a statement released by the Canadian International Development Agency Friday said that the report's headline was "not indicative of what was said by the minister."
"The minister has made clear that Canada is reviewing its long-term engagement strategy with Haiti to maximize taxpayer dollars based on results achieved, lessons learned and the needs and priorities of the Haitian government," it said.
"CIDA will continue to offer our support for the people of Haiti in response to their emergency needs should humanitarian crises arise."
The department noted that Canada has committed more than $1 billion to Haiti between April 2006 and March 2012.
"Canada remains concerned with the slow progress of development in Haiti due to its weak governing institutions and corruption," the department said.
Haiti continues to struggle to rebuild following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 that killed thousands, devastated infrastructure and displaced millions.
In a November telephone call with media during his visit to Haiti, Fantino told reporters that CIDA doesn't exist to fund aid groups indefinitely and his job is to ensure Canadians get value for their overseas-development bucks.
Michaëlle Jean, Canada's Haitian-born former governor general who is a special envoy to Haiti for UNESCO, told The Canadian Press that she hopes Fantino's funding freeze is truly just a temporary one.
But she acknowledged that donor countries must rethink how they allocate aid money in Haiti to ensure the long-term rebuilding process there is a success.
Fantino also remarked about the filth and garbage he saw during his recent visit and wondered how a country with so many unemployed people had not found a way to clean it up.
Jean believes it's hurtful for Haitians to hear comments like this about the condition of the country.
"Where do you want them to find the means to do it?" she said. "You think it gives them pleasure to live with this garbage? No, not at all. On the other hand, they are overwhelmed."
She added that tasking Haitians with the cleanup would be a good idea, but Haiti lacks the costly infrastructure to collect trash and dispose of it.
"I think Mr. Fantino has a good opportunity, now that he's found the garbage situation shocking," said Jean, noting that the Haitian government is working on a plan to clean up the country. "Maybe it would be a good idea to help Haiti in waste management."
With files from The Canadian Press