Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Ottawa expedites Haitian adoptions as troops assess damage in Jacmel

A Haitian earthquake survivor holds her child near a collapsed building in Jacmel on January 19, 2010.

Eight days after the earthquake, there are 643 Canadians still missing with 13 deaths confirmed in Haiti. In the midst of all this there was a 6.1 magnitude aftershock early this morning that damaged the Canadian embassy. No one was injured.

Canadian troops, meanwhile, have moved into Jacmel, the ancestral town of Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, finding that between 80 and 90 per cent of it is in ruins.

This was the grim picture provided today at the federal government's morning briefing.

Story continues below advertisement

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced, too, that the government will expedite adoption cases.

The pictures of Haitian orphans and stories of their plight are heartbreaking; many Canadians are inquiring about adopting children and those that were close to bringing children home are understandably worried.

Mr. Kenney cautioned, however, that only adoption cases that were already in the system will be expedited.

He said that about 100 cases have been identified and his department is working to contact the families involved. Provincial authorities have also been asked to provide lists of adoptive parents to the federal government.

As well, he said, his officials are contacting the Haitian government, which has been severely compromised, to receive confirmation to bring children to Canada.

"We cannot take Haitian children away without approval of the local authorities," he said, noting that orphans can't be taken from Haiti at this time as relatives or parents may eventually be found.

Today's aftershock at red exclamation mark below

Story continues below advertisement

<iframe width="600" height="350" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src=",-72.732239&spn=0.456029,0.823975&z=10&output=embed"></iframe><br /><small>View <a href=",-72.732239&spn=0.456029,0.823975&z=10&source=embed" style="color:#0000FF;text-align:left">Haiti Earthquake Aftershocks</a> in a larger map</small>

He said he didn't think the Haitian government would appreciate western countries attempting to "depopulate" Haiti.

There have been reports that orphans have already arrived in the Netherlands and the United States. But Mr. Kenney said they had approval from the Haitian authorities as the paperwork had been already been completed.

The Immigration Minister also warned Haitians hoping to seek refuge in Canada to be wary of paid immigration consultants.

"I would like to remind you that no paid immigration consultant can speed up the process and be vigilant with individual consultants," he said.

On the stabilization and relief mission, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Canada is ready to deploy more police if necessary to help with security. He said military escorts are required for the delivery of aid but that reports indicate overall security "remains stable with limited and localized violence."

Defence Minister Peter MacKay described the military operation so far, including upgrading the Jacmel airport to allow more Canadian flights in and out. There are now over 1,000 troops on the ground.

Story continues below advertisement

He announced, too, that the Canadian government has just entered an agreement with the Jamaican government to allow the huge C-17 strategic lift planes to land in Kingston.

Mr. MacKay referred to this as providing an "air bridge" as the C-17s are too big to land in Jacmel. Rather, cargo will be unloaded on to a Hercules, which will then fly from Kingston to Jacmel.

The Defence Minister added that the Jacmel airport will be upgraded with lights and radar systems. It will be in operation 24-hours a day and controlled by Canadian Forces. This will reduce the strain and congestion on the airport in Port-au-Prince.

"We must not lose focus that this is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions," he said. "Our hearts are with the Haitian people. … We view this as our duty to assist them in their time of need."

Report an error
About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.