Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's couple originally from U.S. and Zimbabwe saddened by Trump's remarks

St. John's residents say the U.S. president's comments are ignorant and upsetting — but not necessarily surprising.

Team Broken Earth founder 'profoundly disappointed' by 'shithole' comment

Tariro, left, and Ebonee Hicks are saddened but not surprised by recent comments attributed to U.S. President Donald Trump, in which he disparaged immigration from Haiti, as well as African nations that he referred to as 'shithole countries,' expressing a preference for immigration from countries like Norway. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

For St. John's residents, U.S. President Donald Trump's reported comments disparaging immigration from developing nations were upsetting — but not necessarily surprising.

Tariro Hicks, 34, originally from Zimbabwe, came to Newfoundland in May 2010, to work as a nurse for Eastern Health.

Upon hearing Trump's reported remarks — that he questioned the need for Haitian immigrants as well as wondering why the U.S. would bring in immigrants from African nations, which he reportedly called "shithole countries" — her response was, "It's Donald Trump."

"That was my first thought. I laugh at stuff like that, because I think people should really know that's Donald Trump," she said. "I would be surprised if I heard something nice come out of his mouth."

Didn't expect any better

She didn't expect anything better from him, she said, adding that at least she knows where she stands with Trump.

"We are in the First World countries, we are in the minority here, and most people, even though they don't say stuff, the way they treat you, or the way the system is made to treat foreigners, can be very relatable to what Donald Trump says," she said.

"The only difference is Donald Trump is actually saying it. The way foreigners sometimes are treated — it's not said verbally, but it's the same thing."

We as Americans voted in someone so ill-equipped for the job. His views have always been out there. And the sad part about it is there are so many people that agree with him.- Ebonee Hicks

She hopes Americans are learning from Donald Trump's presidency — especially those who didn't vote in the presidential election.

"Their vote is the only thing that's going to speak for them, and it's going to make a difference."

What makes her angry, she says, is having to explain something like this to her children — she and wife Ebonee are raising five children, including two of Tariro's from a previous marriage.

"I know they're going to have a good life, better than what they would have back home, no doubt," she said. "But at the same time, I don't feel like I'm equipped to make them understand how this world runs when it comes to different races. It almost limits their dream. What if they wanted to go to the States at some point in life, and they get that from the president? That limits where they feel like they can go safely."

Embarrassed the U.S. elected Trump

Ebonee Hicks — an American citizen who came to Newfoundland to be with Tariro — said she's embarrassed her country elected Trump.

"We as Americans voted in someone so ill-equipped for the job. His views have always been very out there. And the sad part about it is that there are so many people that agree with him," she said.

"It wasn't that it's new that people agree with him. People have always agreed with him. I've dealt with racism in the U.S.; it's not a new thing. It's just that if our president can say it, then we can say it. If our president thinks it's OK, then we do it."

Newfoundland orthopaedic surgeon Andrew Furey has made close to 20 trips to Haiti with Team Broken Earth, helping those affected by the 2010 earthquake which devastated the already impoverished nation. (Team Broken Earth)

Founder of Team Broken Earth disappointed by 'level of ignorance'

​For a St. John's orthopedic surgeon who founded a volunteer organization that has undertaken numerous medical missions to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, Trump's comments are upsetting to his team, not to mention friends and colleagues in the Caribbean country.

"Shithole countries" didn't sit well with Dr. Andrew Furey, who founded Team Broken Earth and has personally travelled Haiti more than 20 times to provide health care and help train local medical professionals.

U.S. President Donald Trump is facing criticism for remarks he made during an Oval Office meeting where he referred to developing nations such as Haiti as 'shithole countries.' (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

"I'm profoundly disappointed in the level of ignorance. It's quite upsetting," Furey told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"To have a county's representative like the United States … make a comment like that was truly hurtful."

Training local doctors

Furey first decided to pack up and leave St. John's when he saw news reports about the 2010 quake, and knew he could at least help people with some of their broken bones and other injuries.

Since founding Team Broken Earth, the effort has gone on to include a year-round presence in Haiti where 20 different teams a year travel to the country from Canada to not only set broken bones but to train local doctors on how to do the same.

Team Broken Earth is a team of Canadian doctors, nurses and medical professionals that regularly travels to Haiti to provide medical care and training for local health-care workers.

Speaking on the eighth anniversary of the devastating earthquake, Furey said there are still no words to describe the poverty and destruction he's witnessed in Haiti, which is why it's so painful to see a leader like Trump speak so low of the country.

"I thought of what they've gone through over the years, and not just the earthquake," he said.

"Historically, over time, being the first independent black nation with serious political turmoil … they faced more hardship as a culture and people than anyone else on earth."

Defending the Haitian people

Describing himself as not one to publicly speak out about international politics, Furey said after seeing what his Haiti colleagues are saying online he feels Trump's comments are worth public criticism.

"I don't usually comment on certain items like this but it was profoundly disappointing that he would have such a distinct misunderstanding of the Haiti culture and people," he said.

With files from St. John's Morning Show and Here & Now