The Current

How Quebec MNA Dominique Anglade carried on after 2010 Haiti earthquake killed her parents

On the 10th anniversary of the earthquake that killed both her parents, Dominique Anglade, a member of Quebec's National Assembly, reflects on that tragedy and what her parents gave to Quebec and to her.

Anglade lost 4 members of her family in the 2010 Haiti earthquake

Dominique Anglade gets a hug from CAQ MNA and junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant after she tabled a motion marking the 10th anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti on Dec. 5, 2019. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

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The anniversary of the January 2010 Haiti earthquake is not an easy day for Quebec Liberal MNA Dominique Anglade.

Anglade lost both of her parents, who were visiting the country, along with her cousin and her uncle in the biggest quake in the region in more than 200 years. It's believed that between 220,000 and 300,000 people died in the earthquake and its aftermath.

Last month, Anglade brought several fellow MNAs to tears in the National Assembly when she tabled a motion marking the earthquake's 10th anniversary, and spoke of the moment when her sister called to tell her their parents had died.

Anglade spoke to The Current's host Matt Galloway about that moment, and about what her parents' legacy means to her.

Here is part of their conversation.

Tell me about that moment in the National Assembly.

It was very emotional. And, you know, two days beforehand, I didn't know whether I was going to do it or not. I didn't know whether I was capable of speaking about this at the National Assembly. 

But then I thought that I also have the responsibility to do that. My parents were the two first Canadians to be identified in the aftermath of the earthquake. And I think this story is not only my story, but it's the story of hundreds of thousands of people that have been impacted by this earthquake.

A couple surveys the damage to homes in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Jan. 16, 2010. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Politics can be a pretty divisive participation to be in. We know that people have different sides that they're involved in. What happened in that moment after?

When you go into politics, regardless of what party you're from, you go in because you think you can change the world, change things. And I think we're all human at the end. So I had people from different parties coming to me and hugging me and I could see people being emotional across all parties. 

Although it was a very sad moment, it was also a very moving moment because people were all touched by the story.

Take me back a decade ago. When you first heard that there had been an earthquake in Haiti, what did you think? 

I was in a restaurant and I was having dinner and somebody called and said, "Oh, there was an earthquake in Haiti." And I go, "OK. My parents are there because they're on vacation, but I'll call them later."

An earthquake is not something that is necessarily terrible. But almost like five minutes later, somebody called back, said, "Did you see the earthquake or did you hear about it?" And then I started realizing, "OK, it's more serious than I thought."

I didn't have news, but it was not surprising, the lines were cut, and I had to wait until the next day to have news. 

And four members of my family had died. 

Earthquake victims buy groceries at an improvised store in Camp Corail, north of Port-au-Prince, in November 2010. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

What were those 24 hours like? I can't imagine seeing images, hearing about it, but not knowing the state of your family. 

Yeah, it was terrible. 

But, you know, we're a very resilient family. So I was trying to stay very active, calling people, finding solutions, reaching out.

And then [I got] the news. 

But then a few hours later, I spoke with my aunt who had lost her son, my cousin, who was 24 years old and passed away.

And she said, "You know, Dominique, the dead are dead. There's nothing we can do about that. There's so many more things that you need to do for the people that are alive."

She was so strong that I told myself, "Here I am in Montreal and able to have a positive influence despite everything that we're going through. So I'm going to try to find solutions for the other people that are in need, and we'll deal with all this afterwards."

Tell me about your parents. They sounded like remarkable people.

Both my parents were from Haiti. They moved to Quebec in 1969. I was born in '74. And the reason why I was born and raised in Quebec is because my father was a political prisoner under [former Haitian dictator François] Duvalier.

And he had to leave the country. And he came to Quebec and he co-founded the University of Quebec in Montreal. My mom became a teacher and they were very involved in their communities. 

My mom was very involved with female groups. And my dad [was] always involved in some kind of politics, because he ended up being a minister, in the end, in Haiti.

And I think it's their engagement values that — they were able to transfer that, or to convey those values to us. 

We're walking in their footsteps.

Anglade in Quebec's National Assembly in 2018. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

You talked about the impact that they had on Quebec society. How did their work shape who you are now? Because you were involved in engineering before their death, right?

That's probably the reason why I'm in politics today, because they've always encouraged me to think about what difference I can make in the world.

And politics is one way of doing that. So that's certainly the reason why I'm doing what I'm doing today.

And that advice, that motivation that your aunt gave you about the work that you can do to help the living — what did that mean to you in terms of where you are now?

It's something that I carry with me all the time. 

And even at the National Assembly, I shared the fact that [my father] had, after exile, after being sent to jail, and finally, he was sent to Quebec, but he wrote a letter to my mom and he said: "We're going to build tomorrows that look like our dreams."

So I thought, this is exactly what they've been able to give us as values, is despite what's going on, you always have to stand up and and fight for what you think is right.

Written by Allie Jaynes. Produced by Susan McKenzie and Julie Crysler. Interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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