International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino has surprised Haiti by announcing in an interview with a Montreal newspaper that Canadian aid to the country is frozen.
Canada is one of Haiti’s largest aid donors, having contributed more than $250-million in 2010-11. The Caribbean nation, the poorest in the Western hemisphere, is still recovering from the devastating effects of a 2010 earthquake and, more recently, from Hurricane Sandy.
Haitian ambassador to Canada Frantz Liautaud said the first he heard of Mr. Fantino’s freeze on aid to Haiti was through this morning’s news. He’s already contacted the Canadian International Development Agency, the government aid organization that Mr. Fantino oversees, seeking clarification.
“I’ve had no communication from CIDA so far, but I’ve asked right away for a meeting with Mr. Fantino,” Mr. Liautaud said.
He said he called Canada’s ambassador to Port-au-Prince, who didn’t know about it either. “He also learned about it from the press,” Mr. Liautaud said.
In his interview with La Presse, Mr. Fantino said Haitians have to take charge of their own problems, and was quoted in French saying Haitian aid is “on ice at the moment.”
Mr. Fantino decried the fact that Haiti is still in dire condition even though Canada had provided $1-billion in aid since 2006. “Will we continue to do things the same way? I don’t think so. Because we are not getting the results that Canadians have a right to expect.”
The assertion that aid to Haiti is frozen surprised Mr. Liautaud. Mr. Fantino visited Haiti in November and had a long meeting with President Michel Martelly, who outlined his chief priorities. Mr. Fantino indicated a desire to help, he said.
He said he knew that Canada wanted to find a new approach to Haitian aid – in fact, Mr. Fantino’s predecessor, Bev Oda, told him that before she left office in June. But she insisted that despite the Harper government’s plan to cut the aid budget, aid to Haiti was not going to be reduced.The Canadian Ministry of International Development has nothing about this on its website yet.