Speaking in French, English and Creole - with tears frequently interrupting her speech - Governor-General Michaëlle Jean called on the world to help the "most vulnerable people in the Americas" in her native Haiti.
After a sleepless night, Ms. Jean said she was speaking as Governor-General, but also as a child of Haiti, as she expressed her anguish for the thousands of people who are trapped under the rubble or left with nothing.
With friends and family members still missing, she called for an urgent response to Tuesday's earthquake, applauding Ottawa's vow to focus on search-and-rescue operations in the short term.
"We know every minute, every hour can make a difference and draw a line between life and death," she said, saying how upset she was by the uncertainty affecting people in her native land.
"Like me, Haitian communities across Canada are heartbroken and overwhelmed by the magnitude of this catastrophe. The images and news reports are unbearable to watch. So much distress, suffering and loss."
Ms. Jean spoke slowly and made frequent pauses to regain her composure as she read a statement. She broke down in a short spell of tears toward the end, with an aide handing her a tissue.
While Ms. Jean is a spokeswoman for the Canadian government, she was also expressing the fears and the sadness afflicting all members of the Haitian diaspora.
She made a triumphant trip to Haiti a year ago, highlighting her remarkable journey from an 11-year-old immigrant all the way to becoming the Queen's representative in Canada.
But the former journalist has no plans to return in the near future, given that her visit would suck up resources currently directed toward helping a community in distress.
For the time being, she will focus on keeping in touch with Haitians, providing insight to the government on the most pressing needs in Haiti, and encouraging people all over to help the country's recovery efforts.
"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."
Ms. Jean said she had the longest of nights after the earthquake, unable to reach friends and family members because of failed phone lines. She finally received reassuring news from some people yesterday, including an uncle, but is still waiting for updates on others.
She said this latest challenge for Haiti is made even worse by the fact that the country was just starting to recover from a string of hurricanes and had a "glimmer of hope."
"It's as if an atomic bomb had fallen over Port-au-Prince. People are stuck in the rubble and there is nothing to help people get out. Hospitals, schools are destroyed. People are in the street with nothing," she said.
While the official text of her statement was in French and English, she added a few words for her fellow Haitians, which she later translated.
"I said in Creole, 'Women and men of Haiti, we must not lose hope. We are known for our strength and resilience, and need to stand courageously before this challenge that is affecting us again.' "Report Typo/Error