Like other Canadians, Canada’s business community is deeply saddened by the unfolding tragedy in Haiti. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and wounded, and much of the civil infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and churches, has been destroyed. Even before the earthquake, Haiti was already the poorest country in the hemisphere, and many of its homes and businesses have now been reduced to rubble.
In addition to the excellent work being undertaken by Canadian relief agencies and governments, individual citizens and businesses are looking for ways they can help. The Canadian Chamber has written to our counterparts at the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie Haïtiano-Canadienne to express our sympathy and our solidarity with Haiti’s business community. We have also been in touch with the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to offer to pass along information about how our members across Canada can help.
We’ll let you know of any further advice or requests they may have once they’ve had a chance to assess the situation and determine what needs to be done. For now, however, they stress that the fastest and most effective way to help is by donating money to the relief organizations that have the knowledge and infrastructure to deliver assistance where it’s needed most. A list of those organizations is available on the Department’s web site at this address: http://chamber.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=7ff6d535f16100c2e37d2ef8b&id=61df0b1520&e=e281945acb. For its part, the federal government is earmarking up to $50 million to match Canadians’ donations to charities aiding relief efforts in Haiti.
At this point, the government is giving similar advice to businesses. While they may request contributions of specific goods or services in coming days, right now the fastest way a business can help is by donating to established humanitarian agencies. The information it has prepared for businesses can be found here: http://chamber.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=7ff6d535f16100c2e37d2ef8b&id=5221604379&e=e281945acb
The site also provides companies with information regarding how they can advise the Canadian government of resources they have in disaster-stricken areas that could be of assistance, for example heavy equipment.
A number of Canadian businesses had employees in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. Friends and relatives in Canada seeking information on Canadian citizens believed to be in the affected area should contact Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada at 1-800-387-3124.
Canada’s Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, is a former citizen of Haiti who knows first-hand of the devastation caused by the earthquake. As she has said, “Now more than ever, it is time for us to show our solidarity with the most vulnerable people in the Americas, our brothers and sisters in Haiti, whose courage is once again being so harshly tested.”
Canadians have always responded to tragedy with compassion and generosity. I know that their response to the disaster in Haiti will be no exception.