Canada's decision to review Haiti aid stirs controversy

Three years after the earthquake, tens of thousands are still homeless in Haiti, but outspoken Don Cherry has taken to Twitter to criticize how much money Canada has sent.

Hockey commentator Don Cherry suggests giving Haiti millions in aid is 'nuts'

Haiti funding criticized

11 years ago
Duration 2:57
Julian Fantino's comments that he's reviewing funding for Haiti, citing a lack of progress, elicited disbelief and disappointment from Haitian officials visiting Canada today

Canadian Minister of International Co-operation Julian Fantino has reiterated his concern that Haiti's bid to become self-sustaining isn't happening quickly enough, three years after a devastating earthquake struck the Caribbean nation, killing an estimated 300,000 people and leaving more than 1.5 million homeless.

"We remain concerned with the slow progress of development in Haiti, in large part due to weakness in their governing institutions," Fantino said in a ministerial statement released on Tuesday.

Fantino went further in an interview with Montreal's La Presse, published Friday — complaining about the garbage he said he saw everywhere during his November visit to Haiti and wondering whether Canada would forever be left taking care of Haiti's problems.

According to La Presse, Fantino said his department would continue to fund programs in Haiti that are underway, but that money for new projects was "on ice" for now.

In the Tuesday statement, posted on the website of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA,) Fantino insisted funds had not been frozen.

"We continue to make some progress on areas of long-term development that we have previously to and stand ready to offer our support for the people of Haiti in response to their emergency needs should further humanitarian crises arise," the statement reads.

Haiti still needs Canada, minister says

Haiti's Secretary of State for Communications Joseph Guyler Delva told CBC Montreal he was "a little bit shocked" by Fantino's position.

"We did not expect that from Canada," he said, adding that his country still needs Canada's support and called Haiti a "very important partner."

However, Delva said he understands why Fantino might be dissatisfied with Haiti's progress.

Haiti's tourism minister Stéphanie Villdrouin was in Montreal Tuesday to try to persuade Canadians to visit the country devastated by an earthquake in Jan. 2010. (Sophie Tremblay (CBC))

"We recognize, we admit, that in the end that's our responsibility to take the necessary measures to move the country forward."

Haiti banks on wooing tourists

Haiti's latest move is a bid to persuade Canadian tourists to visit the country —  both members of the Haitian diaspora who've made Canada their home as well as Canadians seeking a sun holiday.

Tourism Minister Stéphanie Villedrouin was in Montreal Tuesday promoting what she called a "door-to-door package," in co-operation with the charter airline Air Transat.

Both Canada and the United States have re-issued travel advisories for Haiti, warning their citizens about the risk of cholera, the lack of adequate health infrastructure and security concerns, but Villedrouin insists the situation is improving on all fronts.

"Now that the government is investing for the first time in tourism as [a means of] economic growth for the country, to create also the workforce ... give us this opportunity to showcase that Haiti, yes, could be a tourism destination, as it used to be."

Red Cross says progress slow but steady

The director of Haiti operations for the Red Cross, Jean-Philippe Tizi, agrees recovery has been slow in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Tizi said 300,000 Haitians are still homeless, living in camps.

"It is unacceptable," Tizi said. "Yet we have to highlight the fact we have collectively managed to find shelter solutions for more than one million people. So there has been a lot of progress."

Not enough progress for Don Cherry

Outspoken hockey commentator Don Cherry took to Twitter, meanwhile, to criticize the tens of millions in aid money Canada has sent to earthquake-battered Haiti .

The tweets were posted under Cherry's Twitter handle of @CoachsCornerCBC. He wrote that he and other Canadians like to help other countries, but asked, "Are are we nuts?" for giving Haiti $49.5 million last year.

Cherry, a Hockey Night in Canada commentator on CBC-TV who has about 18,000 Twitter followers, also asked why Ottawa would send so much cash to Haiti when the Canadian health-care system is stretched to its limits.

"As the old saying goes, charity begins at home," he tweeted.

"I’ll tell ya something. The working guy is getting kind of sick of people spending money like that."

Michaëlle Jean, Canada's Haitian-born former governor general who is a special envoy to Haiti for UNESCO, told The Canadian Press she hopes Fantino's funding freeze is just temporary.

But she acknowledged donor countries must rethink how they allocate aid money in Haiti to ensure the long-term rebuilding process is a success.

With files from The Canadian Press