The Canadian response to Typhoon Haiyan continues to ramp up, with crews now on the ground, en route and preparing to depart to support disaster response in the Philippines.
About 30 Canadians, including Foreign Affairs officials and soldiers, were on the ground in Manila by Tuesday evening in Canadian time zones. Another 43 soldiers were stationed, waiting, in Hawaii – part of the Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, which has deployed to disasters in Haiti, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Turkey. Meanwhile, soldiers were dispatched from New Brunswick's CFB Gagetown to Ontario's CFB Trenton, DART's home base, in apparent preparation to send more troops.
But it's not yet clear where they'll go. Among the logistics being considered by Canada's team already on the ground is where to send DART – and where its hulking CC-177 Globemaster cargo plane can simply land.
"They are discussing, as we speak, with governmental and non-governmental sources in the Philippines as to how we can be most effective in the assistance that we are prepared to provide," Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said Tuesday, adding that DART "will be available on a moment's notice to deploy once that assessment has been given."
In the meantime, Canada's government has pledged $5-million in aid, and will also match any donations made by Canadians to charities collecting money for typhoon disaster response. The deadline to donate and receive matching government funds is Dec. 9, and federal officials were calling on Canadians to open their wallets.
"Right now, because we don't have all the facts on the ground, I would encourage Canadians to give money to registered charities. When we know more, there will be an opportunity to provide goods that will be needed in individual areas," Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said, speaking Tuesday at a press conference in his riding where the federal government outlined its plans.
The government's initial response – dispatching DART and committing the $5-million – has been praised by the two other parties, a rare moment where partisan Ottawa is united, calling to help the Philippines recover from the typhoon.
"This is just a massive humanitarian disaster that requires everyone working together, so I've been quite supportive of what the government's response has been to date," NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar said. But co-ordinating efforts with the Philippine government, as well as the international community, is essential to make sure aid gets where it needs to go, he added. During DART's response in Haiti, Canada and other foreign donors faced major roadblocks in getting assistance to the worst-hit areas.
"We'll just hope to see that there is the co-ordination on the ground. This was, of course, a huge issue in Haiti, just in the immediate aftermath. There was a problem in getting resources to the people who needed it. That sounds like we have the same problem in this case. We'll continue to monitor things," Mr. Dewar said, adding: "Hopefully we'll see the relief get to the people that need it."
Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan, who is her party's international co-operation critic, extended condolences to those who lost loved ones in the typhoon, while applauding the government's moves so far – calling DART and the funding commitment a "good start. But she said Canada needs to be prepared to do more as it becomes clearer what's needed to rebuild.
"Canada should be prepared to do more, and we don't want the government to think the money is the end of Canada's role in this event," she said.
The 43 DART soldiers waiting in Hawaii include medical crews and engineers, and the team is expected to head to Guam by daybreak Wednesday in Canada. From there, they'll deploy another few hours to the Philippines once officials who are already on the ground sort out where to send them. The soldiers are flying in a CC-177 Globemaster cargo plane that is also carrying supplies for the relief effort, including medical kits, a mobile command centre, an ambulance and a rough-terrain forklift. They're also carrying food, water, temporary shelters, hand tools, generators, communications equipment and land surveying equipment, the government said.
Meanwhile, the Gagetown soldiers are "likely elements of DART heading to Trenton for further deployment into the Philippines," one government official said.
"Our goal is to provide the Government of Canada with a range of humanitarian assistance and relief operations so that we are able to address areas where the needs are the greatest," General Tom Lawson, Canada's chief of the defence staff, said in a written statement.