Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Haiti on Monday, announcing that Canada will donate $12 million to temporarily house government departments whose buildings were destroyed in the earthquake.

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Haiti's President René Préval, left, welcomes Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday at the Canadian army base next to Haiti's international airport in Port-au-Prince. ((Dario Lopez-Mills/Associated Press))

The Canadian-funded base will include tents and hard-shelled temporary buildings. It is expected to be used for as long as a year, and will be installed after the Haitian government chooses a location.

"[This is] an important step toward recovery and reconstruction," Harper said.

The prime minister  landed in Port-au-Prince during the afternoon aboard a giant Boeing C-17 cargo plane, becoming the first G20 leader to visit the Caribbean country since the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The plane, which can land on short runways, carried relief supplies including water filters, medical supplies and aid equipment. It had been loaded Sunday night while the prime minister was returning to Ottawa from the Olympics in Vancouver.

Harper is scheduled to visit Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean's ancestral hometown, Jacmel, which was damaged by last month's earthquake. He'll then head to Léogâne, a hub of Canadian relief activity.

The prime minister is also to meet with Haitian President René Préval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

Harper will spend only one night in Haiti, sleeping on board the Canadian navy ship HMCS Athabaskan because of a lack of accommodation in Haiti's devastated capital.

Athabaskan is anchored off the coast, serving as a base for Canadian forces taking part in the relief effort.

With files from The Canadian Press