World

Haitians 'not alone' after quake: Jean

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean arrived in Port-au-Prince on Monday morning and told Haitians they are "not alone" as they struggle to rebuild after a devastating earthquake in January.
Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean walks into the demolished St. Trinite church in Port-au-Prince on Monday where she was baptized as a baby. With her are her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, left, and Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin. ((Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press))

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean arrived in Port-au-Prince on Monday morning and told Haitians they are "not alone" as they struggle to rebuild after a devastating earthquake in January.

The 7.0-magnitude quake killed 200,000 people and left as many as 1.5 million homeless on Jan. 12.

Jean, who was born in Haiti, arrived in the country around 8 a.m. local time. She was greeted at the airport by President René Préval, who joined Jean on an aerial tour of the hardest hit neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince.

Préval also escorted Jean on a visit to the presidential palace, which was badly damaged in the quake. Addressing reporters outside the palace in Creole, Jean said she was struck by all the activity on Port-au-Prince's bustling streets as the capital starts to rebuild.

"I want the Haitian people to know: You are not alone," she said.

She said people around the world, particularly in Canada, will continue to care about Haiti as it struggles to rebuild.

In English, she said: "Mourning is one thing. Making sure that life triumphs over destruction is the focus."

Jean also stopped in Léogâne, the epicentre of the quake, and offered words of encouragement to those she encountered living at one of the tent cities.

Jean visits women's groups

Two women carry a bag of rice in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, on Feb. 18. ((Carlos Barria/Reuters) )

The Governor General’s visit coincided with International Women’s Day, and Jean also met with women’s groups on Monday to send a message about the role women can play in reconstruction efforts.

"It is up to you, the women, to be the pillars on which to rebuild, as you always have been, through your endurance, through the strength of your convictions and through your unwavering hope in the face of all adversity," she said.

Jean’s trip to Haiti will end Tuesday with a stop in her hometown of Jacmel, where she will visit Canadian aid projects.

After her trip to Haiti, Jean makes a one-day state visit next door in the Dominican Republic to thank that country for its efforts in helping Haiti.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a brief appearance in Haiti in February, and Defence Minister Peter MacKay wrapped up a two-day visit to Haiti on Sunday, where he joined 1,500 Canadian troops who are helping to rebuild the quake-ravaged country.

MacKay visited military personnel at medical facilities and temporary camps.

With files from Paul Hunter and The Canadian Press