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ottawa's response

Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon delivers a speech in Ottawa on Tuesday January 12, 2010.

The Canadian government is pledging $5-million immediately to help with emergency shelter, medical, food, water and sanitation for earthquake-stricken Haiti.

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announced the measure this morning on a conference call with reporters. Ms. Oda also said the Canadian government, through the Red Cross, is working with the Norwegian government on a field hospital.

She said the immediate need is to "support the first responders" on the scene and to ensure the safety of all Canadians there. She said there was some damage at the Canadian embassy, but so far there are no reports of any Canadian deaths.

Within 30 minutes of the first reports of the earthquake in Haiti, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Defence Minister Peter MacKay and their officials were beginning to plan Canada's response.

Ms. Oda, who is in charge of CIDA, was also involved in the planning. They haven't stopped since, working through the early hours of this morning; they're operating on about three hours sleep today.

"Still very grim reports and horrific damage," a top Harper government official said of the situation in Haiti this morning.

Stephen Harper's cabinet ministers were holding a priorities and planning committee meeting. The PMO never gives out the schedule for cabinet meetings, so it is not clear if this was planned or whether ministers were brought together to discuss the crisis.

As well, there were meetings this morning between Mr. MacKay and the NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is visiting Ottawa today. And there have been more internal discussions as the military is trying to figure out how to get "assets" there, according to the senior official.

So far, the government has sent a C-130 Hercules plane with medics, firefighters, a search and rescue and reconnaissance team. It left just after 9 a.m. ET. Their job is to assess the needs of the devastated country. They have also brought along some basic supplies and equipment for extracting people.

The official said a C-17 (a huge cargo plane) will likely follow as well as a Navy ship with a helicopter and more supplies, including Canadian Forces engineers.

Mr. Cannon and Mr. MacKay are to hold a press conference before noon to update the Canadian response.