By RON FANFAIR
Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor David Onley has assured Haiti’s honorary Consul General in Toronto, Dr. Eric Pierre, that this province is standing by his country’s people in their darkest hour as they seek to rebuild their lives after the January 12 devastating earthquake that has claimed thousands of lives.
“More importantly, we will continue to stand with you in the months and years ahead,” Onley told Pierre at last Sunday’s Black History Month kick-off brunch in Toronto.
“So many Ontario and Canadian non-governmental organizations I have been in contact with, sometimes several times a day, continue to speak about the resilience and courage of the Haitian people that we have been touched by.”
Onley, who said a member of his church was killed in the massive earthquake, praised the federal and provincial government’s response and Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best for “her eloquent remarks in recent days in terms of matters related to Haiti”.
Ottawa has committed an initial $155 million in aid to Haiti and Canadians, through private donations, have contributed $67 million in financial resources that will be matched by the federal government.
Pierre acknowledged the generosity of Canadians who have made contributions.
“The outpouring of solidarity has expressed itself in concrete gestures that hurt in the pocketbook,” he said. “It’s important that we make financial contributions to Haiti in their moment of dire need and show them that the money we are sending is actually a vote of confidence in their honesty and in their ability to manage their own future.
“When the world needed Haiti more than 200 years ago, my ancestors gave their courage, determination and, more importantly, they gave their flesh and blood to the world. Right now, Haiti needs you. We are not proud to be begging and we are not proud to be asking for aid and assistance, but this is the reality right now. So we will accept it as it is
“Imagine yourself being in Haiti from the day of the earthquake. Imagine the pain, suffering, stench and desperation? You are part of an international chain of solidarity with the Haitian people.”
Haiti’s Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive was in Montreal last Monday for a one-day international conference to assist the damaged country’s reconstruction.
He praised the international community for its response and said that tourists are welcomed in Haiti.
Royal Caribbean Cruises, one of Haiti’s largest foreign investors, has resumed calls on Labadee as the Caribbean nation battles to recover from the earthquake. A private resort leased to Royal Caribbean International, the port located on the country’s north coast has been a major revenue earner for Haiti since 1986, contributing approximately US$6 to the Haitian government for each tourist.
“For me, it’s a marvelous image,” said Bellerive. “It shows people still believe in Haiti and that’s extremely positive and reassuring.”
Lelei LeLaulu, a director of the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMex) supports Royal Caribbean Cruises’ decision to resume calls to Labadee.
“We may have had our differences of opinion about the true value of the cruise industry to Caribbean destinations, but there is absolutely no doubt in our minds of the enormous economic and psychological value of Royal Caribbean’s resumed cruises to Haiti,” he said.
Royal Caribbean has said it will donate US$1 million to Haiti’s relief efforts.