Haiti was rocked three years after a major earthquake and is still struggling to get back on its feet.
Recently, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino informed the public, through a Montreal newspaper, that new assistance programs to Haiti had been frozen to allow time for a new approach to be considered. Fantino, who is six months into his new role, is apparently concerned about weak governing institutions and corruption in Haiti.
Yet Canadian aid groups, working on the ground, are slowly seeing some improvements. The Saskatchewan Red Cross and church volunteers in New Brunswick, for example, report some progress.
Canada has been one of the largest aid donors to Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas. This country provided $250-million in aid in 2010-2011 alone, and since the earthquake has spoken of making a major, long-term commitment to rebuilding Haiti.
Back in November, Fantino visited Haiti and met with President Michel Martelly. They discussed his priorities, according to Liautaud, and more help was promised.
Canada currently funds dozens of aid projects in Haiti, from building a school for midwives to money to provide school lunches to its $31-million contribution to the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, the main international rebuilding find. Many are funded for two, three or five years, but several are about to end. At this time, Canada funds feeding programs in Haitian schools, rebuilding through Habitat for Humanity Canada for close to 700 homes in a low-income, high-density area of Port-au-Prince, improved land use for up to 20,000 rural families, and health services for women and girls through the United Nations Office for Project Services.
Fantino’s attitude that existing aid to Haiti is enough does not represent the attitude of most Canadians. Work to rebuild the island is underway and needs to be supported. Haiti’s long list of troubles – the earthquake, cholera outbreaks, a hurricane last fall – hit the impoverished nation hard. We must remember that and never believe that Haitians themselves are at fault for all the troubles that have befallen them.
This weekend, there are a group of Canadians who are planning to spend a day or even the whole weekend in a national park. They intend to prove to the Environment Minister that this country’s national parks are valued in every season of the year.
The winter season was eliminated from Parks Canada's operations without consultation and Nova Scotians are amongst those most vocally opposed to this move. Nationally, all winter services for visitors – staff, maintenance and services - have been abandoned. The rallying event, Occupy Winter, is intended be a national weekend of celebration, active recreation, education, skiing, snowshoeing, and enjoying our national parks.
Since this past Thanksgiving weekend, there has be no camping and it will not re-open until May at Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site. In fact, this winter the main road is not plowed past the Visitor Information Center, so the only option is skiing or hiking.
This move takes place a year after Keji introduced heated overnight accommodations in yurts for the winter. Other forms of winter camping were available in the park last year, including 60 campsites and nine back country tenting sites.
Parks Canada and the federal government should get a message that Canadians want consultation about a fourth season in our national parks.