Montrealers mark Haiti quake anniversary

Members of Montreal's Haitian community packed St. Joseph's Oratory for an emotional ceremony as the anniversary of the Haitian earthquake nears.

Members of Montreal's Haitian community packed St. Joseph's Oratory for an emotional ceremony that brought many to tears as the anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti nears.

About 2,000 people gathered at the Roman Catholic basilica for an afternoon mass to mark the one-year anniversary of the disaster. Montreal has the largest Haitian population in Canada.

The quake on Jan. 12, 2010, killed 200,000 people across Haiti, including 58 Canadians, and left hundreds of thousands more homeless.

Marie-Claudette Riaque, a Haitian-born Montrealer who lost several relatives in the disaster, said it was a difficult day of reflection.

"Nearly everyone who is from Haiti lost someone close to them," she said.

It doesn't help, Riaque said, that a year after the disaster there has been little progress in the country.

"What I really want is that we put our heart, all our skills and all our abilities, to help Haiti because Haiti needs our help," she said.

That kind of frustration is becoming more common, said Marlene Rateau, a native of Haiti who hosts a radio program about her homeland.

Rateau said many callers to her radio show complain about the lack of positive change.

"People would like things to go better," she said. "It seems that things are going nowhere, and we would like things to change very soon."

Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Haiti's consul general in Montreal were also in attendance. Charest said the ceremony was a reminder of both the fragility and perseverance of human life.

"We will not let the current problems discourage us," Charest said. "This is the right time to renew our commitment to Haiti."