Montreal remembers Haitian quake

Montreal's large Haitian community is joining others across Quebec at various events Wednesday to mark one year since the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Community hosts various events to mark tragedy's 1st anniversary

Haitians observe a moment of silence Wednesday afternoon in Montreal. ((CBC))
Montreal's large Haitian community joined others across Quebec at various events Wednesday to mark one year since the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

The quake struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, and resulted in the deaths of 230,000 people, including 58 Canadians.

Doors opened Wednesday morning at Maison d'Haiti, a Haitian community centre in Montreal's North End, for an open house with literary readings and a children's choir.

Maison d'Haiti was the first place many Haitian-Canadians called when they couldn't reach their families a year ago today.

At 4:53 p.m. ET Wednesday, a minute of silence was held at the community centre and at several other locations to mark the moment the quake hit Haiti.

Haitians gather Wednesday at Maison d'Haiti in Montreal's North End. ((CBC))
In Montreal North, an interfaith service was planned for Wednesday evening at the city's community and cultural centre. Member of Parliament Denis Coderre, religious leaders and victims of the earthquake who spoke at the event.

A gathering of about 200 was also held at La Perle Retrouvée Haitian cultural centre in Montreal's St-Michel district, and there was a service at St-Joseph's Oratory to remember victims.

According to Statistics Canada, the 2006 census estimated Montreal's Haitian community at 85,000. It has grown by at least 3,000 since last year's earthquake.

A sombre day

Emotions overwhelm a man holding a Haitian flag at La Perle Retrouvée Haitian cultural centre in Montreal's St-Michel district Wednesday. ((CBC))
Haitian-Canadians and others affected by the tragedy gathered Wednesday to support each other on a sombre day.

"I was really sad and I was wondering how could I go through the day," said Maison D'Haiti director Marjorie Villefranche.

"Then I watched the TV and saw the people in Haiti, dressed very well, going to the mass. I said, if they are strong I have to be strong too," she said.

Villefranche said Haitians are discouraged by the slow pace of reconstruction in their home country, but she said they're still patient.

Guirlène Charles-Joseph, who was in Haiti when the earthquake struck, moved to Québec with her young daughter last October. She still has trouble riding Montreal's Metro or taking an elevator.

"It's all closed in, and the way it moves makes me think of the earthquake," said Charles-Joseph.

She said today would be very difficult as she relives what she went through, but at least she is surrounded by other Haitians.

Fundraisers for Haiti

Haitians raise funds in Montreal's Metro stations Wednesday. Straw hats are a common sight among Haitian farmers. ((CBC))
There were also fundraisers held in the city, including in Montreal's Metro transit system.

Volunteers from Action S.O.S. Haiti were up early Wednesday morning collecting money in 12 Metro stations to help single mothers in Haiti.

Wearing straw hats, a common sight among Haitian farmers, they raised money to buy chickens and chicken coops for 40 single mothers in Petit Goâve, Haiti.

"Helping one woman, it's almost probably helping five to 10 people," said Montreal North borough Coun. Monica Rincourt, who was assisting with fundraising efforts Wednesday.

She said right now in Haiti women are often the subjects of abuse and there will be a one-year followup with each of the women.

Also on Wednesday, the association that represents Quebec construction managers (APECQ) announced Construction Without Borders, a project intended to create sustainable building projects in Haiti.