OTTAWA – Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Friday that Haitian authorities had given approval for Canadians to adopt Haitian children and that the first 86 children could be brought to Canada by plane as early as this weekend.

“Those will be the first children to arrive here in Canada,” Kenney told the media. An aide to the minister said it is not known yet which Canadian airport will be the site of the arrival.

Kenney said Ottawa is aware of another 68 applications from Canadians to adopt Haitian children. The government in Port-au-Prince has authorized the adoption and departure to Canada of these 68 children as well but the applications are in an earlier stage in the approval process in Canada.

The federal government has asked provincial authorities to move quickly to complete their certification of the would-be parents so these children can also be brought here quickly, Kenney said.

Canada and other nations helping earthquake-battered Haiti face nothing less than the “rescue of a shattered society,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

But Harper vowed that Canada would stand by Haitians in the long-term and “help them find their way to hope.”

“Canadians have been profoundly moved by the suffering of their fellow human beings in Haiti. Canadians have asked us to do everything in our power to help,” he told members of the Conservative caucus Friday morning.

Hours before Harper spoke, a ramp ceremony was held at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for Sgt. Mark Gallagher and Supt. Doug Coates.

They were among the 16 Canadians confirmed killed in the quake, in which some 200,000 people are estimated to have died.

Gallagher was remembered as a policeman with a common touch, while senior UN officials paid tribute to Coates’s humility and professionalism.

More than 200 people attended the ceremony, including Canadian and Jamaican soldiers and Chinese police officers.

The bodies are expected to arrive later today at CFB Trenton, east of Toronto — the same base where the remains of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan are repatriated.

Harper said Canada’s response to the disaster has been “unprecedented,” led by the armed forces, diplomats and aid workers.

“Their challenge in the coming days and weeks as part of the multinational relief effort amounts to nothing less than the rescue of a shattered society,” Harper said

“The even larger task in the months and years that will follow is to rebuild Haiti to transform its unimaginable grief into a sustained hope for the future,” he said.

Three hundred and six Canadians remain unaccounted for as rescue efforts continue to probe collapsed buildings, and 1,892. More than 1,700 Canadians have been evacuated from the island nation.

Ottawa estimates there were more than 6,000 Canadians in Haiti when the magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck on Jan. 12.

Canada has committed some 2,000 soldiers to the relief efforts, including two ships, helicopters and a disaster assistance team. Nearly 1,000 Canadian soldiers, sailors and aircrew are already on the ground or off the coast of Haiti.

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