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Ward 11 Brian's Beat: Hurricane Matthew in Haiti

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Ah Haiti, beautiful, benighted Haiti. If there ever was a country that can’t catch a break, it is Haiti.

As we approach the seventh anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed an estimated 250,000 people, another natural disaster hits. This time, in October, Hurricane Matthew devastated the southwest of the country and one of the hardest hit areas is the same area that was destroyed by the earthquake.  And that is the very area in which I have been working over the past several years.

I have been working, through my Council appointment to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), to help re-build and support Haitian institutions since 2012. I welcome you to read my blog entries from my visit there.  Haiti represents an international partner in governance at the municipal level, and they have asked for the guidance and expertise of Canadian municipalities to help steady their governance model.

For perspective, entire towns were flattened, infrastructure across the country was reduced to rubble and a proud people had to start over. The international community came to the rescue, as we do, providing aid and pledges of money to help a devastated country in desperate need. The international community is good at that – rushing in to help in a time of crisis. But, soon the crisis passes and the eyes of the world shift to newer fresher crises around the world. And Haiti is left to her own crumbled devices.

That is where FCM, the City of Montreal and the Union des Municipalites du Quebec (UMQ) decided to step in. We have entered into a partnership with local Haitian governments, national and municipal, to work together to develop resilience at the local level. Our partnership, the Program de Cooperation Municipale Haiti/Canada(PCM) is concentrated on working with the local governments of the capital, Port Au Prince and the communities in the Region Des Palmes (Leogane, Gressier, Grand Goave and Petit Goave).

We are now in the second phase of the program, PCM2, a 5 year program to help build local governance structures to allow the municipalities to be in strong position to manage their cities and towns. We are also working to help establish some basic infrastructure, such as waste collection systems.  Our goal is that at the end of 5 years, these local governments become the model for the rest of the country.

The success of that goal, as I’m sure you can imagine, has been drastically hindered by the current situation Haitians find themselves in. It is incredibly difficult to build resiliency into a local government if they do not have functioning infrastructure.

Calgary has always stepped up to help people in times of need. We have always understood our role in the broader global community. Whether it is our response to floods in the Calgary area, fires in Fort McMurray or a tsunami in Banda Aceh, Calgary has been there, helping people get back on their feet, helping communities rebuild. That response can be reciprocal as well. Being an active and recognized leader globally, others lend us help when we need it. For example, when Calgary flooded in 2013, the City received funds from as far away as Cambodia: specifically from a cohort of orphans living in a group home. It was not their responsibility to help, but they did. We need to do the same.

Haiti, right now, needs us. Municipalities across Canada are banding together to lend direct financial support to rebuild infrastructure in the areas that we are already assisting.  I will be asking for the City of Calgary to join those municipalities with a direct contribution to support the rebuilding.  That needs to be in the form of money as well as technical expertise. We are lucky to have a person who works for the City of Calgary who has assisted in Haiti several times, lending his expertise in infrastructure to help rebuild after the earthquake.

I have been to Haiti twice and I have met the Haitians who are so desperately impacted by these disasters.  I have seen the value we, as Canadians, have added on the ground. In meetings with the Haitian ambassador to Canada, he has mentioned repeatedly how our project in Haiti is the best one in the country. I have heard from other countries about our program and how we are a model of response. And I have seen, on the ground, the difference that we are making.

Our c
ommitment will continue. We are blessed to have riches and stability that are the envy of others, unfathomable to many around the world. We have a long tradition of being there for others. I am incredibly proud of who we are as a city and as a country. Our small contributions can and do make a huge difference in other proud countries and communities such as Haiti.


 

This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.
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