The defence department’s Disaster Assistance Relief Team will deploy to Haiti, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Wednesday, following Tuesday’s deadly earthquake.

The only question is when and how to balance the need for medical professionals to treat the sick and wounded against the need for engineers and infrastructure specialists who can prop up damaged bridges and buildings in a land where flimsy construction standards were no match for the sliding tectonic plates.

“We do have soldiers at Petawawa obviously ready to deploy,” MacKay said.

“Numbers, personnel, equipment ready to go, we do have people standing up, getting ready for those deployments and as information becomes available we’ll make the decisions.”

DART is a group of 200 Canadian soldiers specially trained to enter disaster areas around the world and provide drinking water and medical treatment until long-term aid arrives.

There are 750 Canadians said to be living in Haiti, including 82 police officers, seven corrections officers and five Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed as part of the United Nations stabilization mission in Haiti.

A Kitchener-Waterloo area nurse has been confirmed among the casualties of the earthquake. A Kitchener-Waterloo area nurse has been confirmed among the casualties of the Haiti earthquake.

The woman arrived in Port-au-Prince Tuesday as part of a team of seven Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada nurses to provide medical clinics, said Global Initiatives director Lou Geense.

“It’s pretty hard to grab a hold of,” said Geense. “Not only for our loss but the loss of hundreds and thousands of Haitian people and the people that we work with there.”

The identity of the woman is being withheld pending approval of the victim’s family. All six surviving members of the group, all from southern Ontario, are safe, said Geense.

The RCMP has released the names of two Mounties still not accounted for. They are RCMP Superintendent Douglas Coates (from Ottawa) and RCMP Sergeant Mark Gallagher (Halifax).

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to both officers and their families for their safe return. We would request that the media respect the privacy of both families during this difficult time.,” the RCMP said in a news release today.

Officers from municipal partner agencies across Canada as well as federal RCMP make up the Canadian deployment to Haiti – Canada’s largest overseas police mission. It is mandated for up to 100 officers, and the 82-officer contingent currently includes 13 Mounties. It is largely a Francophone crew, and they are stationed in areas all over Haiti, she said.

“We’re working closely with police and government partners to account for all Canadian police officers who have been deployed, that includes our partner agencies as well,” said RCMP Sgt. Pat Flood. “Our priority is the security and safety of our members in mission and providing support to their families here in Canada.”

“Canadian citizens continue to take refuge in the embassy compound. Tents, food, water as well as medical assistance are available on site,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said.

Haiti’s president, Rene Preval, said he believes thousands of people were killed in Tuesday afternoon’s magnitude-7.0 quake, and the scope of the destruction prompted other officials to give even higher estimates. Leading senator Youri Latortue told The Associated Press that 500,000 could be dead, though he acknowledged that nobody really knows.

Ottawa earlier announced Canada is contributing an initial $5 million to relief efforts and expects to dispatch life-saving supplies to Haiti.

A senior Canadian official will also head the International Red Cross’s relief efforts in the island nation.

“We are deeply concerned about the impact of this disaster on the people of Haiti,” said International Development Minister Bev Oda in a conference call from Bolivia with reporters.

Oda was to have made a stop in Port-au-Prince after her tour in the South American country. Instead she will be coordinating Canada’s response to the 7.0 quake, which is expected to have killed thousands.

The emergency cash infusion will go through multilateral aid groups on the ground in Haiti to provide emergency shelters, medicine, food relief and protection in the poorest country in the hemisphere. It will also fund a field hospital that the Red Cross is setting up along with funding from the Norwegian government, Oda said.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff immediately called for more aid, saying that $5 million is a good start, but urging Ottawa to dig deeper.

Speaking to University of Toronto students this morning, Ignatieff also said Canada should make changes to speed up its visa process to help families get relatives out of the devastated country. Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke Wednesday with Nathalie Gissel-Menos, Haiti’s head of mission in Ottawa, and offered both Canada’s sympathy and assistance, said a spokesman for the government.

“This natural disaster has hit a country with an extremely fragile infrastructure, where many buildings are already unstable, and where living conditions are often very difficult. I fear for its people,” Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, who was born in Port-au-Prince, wrote inher blog today.

“I would like all Haitians to know that they are not alone and that the people of Canada will respond to this emergency.”

Toronto Mayor David Miller said in a statement that members of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and the HUSAR (Heavy Urban Search and Rescue) team are standing by to help.

“On behalf of all Torontonians, I extend deepest condolences and sympathies to Toronto’s Haitian community and especially to those with family and friends in the areas devastated by yesterday’s earthquakes and today’s aftershocks,” he said. Miller has contacted the honourary Haitian Consul General in Toronto to determine how Torontonians can assist and he has asked Toronto’s Office of Emergency Management to determine the best way for the city to coordinate relief efforts, the statement said.

Oda also spoke with the Canadian ambassador in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, and she said the embassy in the capital has suffered damage. A senior Canadian Red Cross official will head the humanitarian agency’s international team being airlifted in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Jean-Pierre Tachereau, who heads emergency response for the Canadian Red Cross, said the situation on the ground is still uncertain because the power grid has failed and the agency is only getting bits and pieces of information.

He said the initial Red Cross team will include about 60 volunteers from 10 different countries.

In Ottawa, a government task force has been established to coordinate the activities of the government’s aid agency, the military and the foreign ministry.

That group is waiting for an initial assessment of the help required from aid groups that is expected to arrive later Wednesday. Meanwhile, Oda said a stockpile of relief equipment in Canada is ready to go but will be delayed until a thorough calculation of the humanitarian needs is completed.

The delay, though counterintuitive in the wake of such a disaster, flows from the world’s response to the Asian tsunami on Boxing Day 2005.

“One thing that the international community learned as a consequence of the tsunami is that if you take a little time to ensure coordination that the proper supplies and the quantity or number of the supplies is going to be in country as it’s needed,” she said.

In the world’s response to the tsunami, “everyone just assumed” their humanitarian assistance and relief supplies were needed without checking with aid workers on the ground.

“There were supplies that were needed that weren’t being provided and there was an overabundance and surplus that couldn’t be distributed in a reasonable manner,” Oda said.

Earlier, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister said a reconnaissance team would leave immediately to clear the way for the full Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART).

DART is a group of 200 Canadian soldiers specially trained to enter disaster areas around the world and provide drinking water and medical treatment until long-term aid arrives.

In addition to advance teams and DART, a C-17 aircraft full of medical aid and a pair of search-and-rescue helicopters will be sent.

“An inter-departmental strategic support team is also in route to Haiti to conduct a humanitarian needs assessment and identify action that Canada can take to support the relief and recovery efforts,” Cannon said.

Community efforts are already underway in Montreal, home to more than 100,000 Haitian immigrants.

“(An emergency committee) will be set up this morning with representatives of the government of Quebec and the Haitian community, to see what will be the priorities, what we can send, how we’ll co-ordinate with the federal government, and with Canadians who will be arriving in Haiti,” said Junia Barreau, vice-consul of the Consulate General of Haiti in Montreal.

Take our FREE Online Assessment Today!


Socialize with Abrams & Krochak