First wave of evacuees from Haiti headed to Canada
By Juliet ONeill
The Canwest News Service (Canada), January 14, 2010
(PHOTO: Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon (R) with Defence Minister Peter MacKay. Chris Wattie/Reuters Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon (R) with Defence Minister Peter MacKay.)
OTTAWA — The federal government is evacuating Canadians from Haiti and may institute a humanitarian immigration program to allow hundreds or thousands of Haitians into Canada.
The first 100 Canadians evacuated from Haiti by this country's military are en route to Montreal via the Dominican Republic and are scheduled to arrive at 11:30 p.m. ET Thursday at Trudeau airport.
'Over the next few days, we hope to evacuate as many Canadians as possible,' Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Thursday.
The evacuations were announced at a news conference along with the government's program to match individual Canadian donations to registered charities providing relief to earthquake victims in Haiti. Funds, which will be allocated to Canadian and international relief organizations already established in Haiti, will be matched up to a total of $50-million, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announced.
'Many Canadians are deeply concerned about the suffering and loss of life as a result of this catastrophe in Haiti,' Ms. Oda said in a written announcement. 'Canadian citizens have shown time and again their generosity with countries in urgent need, and our government is prepared to match their contributions dollar for dollar.'
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was examining the possibility of easing immigration rules to allow Haitians into Canada, where more than 100,000 Haitians live, many in Montreal.
Mr. Cannon said Quebec is looking into what it can do under its immigration program, suggesting the two governments would work together. No decision had been made as of Thursday morning.
The first group of what could be hundreds of Canadians air lifted out by Canadian Forces in coming days were travelling via the Dominican Republic.
About 6,000 Canadians live in Haiti, about 700 are registered at the embassy in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and more than 100 have taken shelter in tents at the embassy compound. They have food, water and power supplied by generators.
Mr. Cannon said the evacuations, in which injured and children are given priority, will continue 'as long as there is a requirement to be able to do it.'
The situation would ease when commercial flights are operating again after the U.S. military restores full service at the airport at Port-au-Prince.
'The first wave of evacuees has arrived in the Dominican Republic with approximately 100 Canadians on-board, and will continue on to Montreal to arrive late this evening,' Mr. Cannon said. 'They will be arriving on the Hercules aircraft that travelled to Haiti yesterday. Over the next few days, we hope to evacuate as many Canadians as possible as we continue our operations in Haiti.'
The new initiatives were announced as the first component of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), the Canadian military disaster operation, was en route to Haiti, carrying water purification equipment and other vital assistance.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said two ships, HMCS Halifax and HMCS Athabascan carrying a Sea King helicopter, were expected to leave Halifax on Thursday and would take four to five days to arrive with relief supplies. A C-17 transport aircraft, carrying a Griffon helicopter, was scheduled to head out from Trenton, Ont., Thursday.
Mr. MacKay said Canada is creating a 'substantial footprint' in Haiti with its quick relief efforts.