Sunday, October 24, 2010


(The Vancouver Sun) - By Peter O'Neil

MONTREUX, Switzerland - Canada and the French-speaking nations of the world will never abandon their responsibility to help Haiti rebuild after its devastating earthquake, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Saturday in his opening speech at the Francophonie summit in Switzerland.

He also announced as much as $1 million in additional aid to combat the outbreak of cholera in rural Haiti that has caused 140 deaths and sent more than 1,500 to hospital.

``The reconstruction will take time,'' Harper told leaders and representatives of the 56 members and 14 observer nations of the alliance of primarily French-speaking countries.

``But by sticking together we can help our Haitian friends rediscover hope, to help them reconstruct their villages and rebuild their lives.

``And I believe I speak for our organization (in saying) `Your friends in the Francophonie will never let you down.' ''

The new assistance will go to the rural Artibonite region, where the cholera outbreak began this week.

``Canada is concerned by the loss of life and the risk of this serious medical crisis spreading into further communities,'' Harper said in a statement.

``Canada will continue to respond to the needs of the people of Haiti, who are experiencing tremendous hardships in the aftermath of the earthquake that took place earlier this year.''

The release said the Canadian government has already committed more than $1 billion over the 2006-12 period to Haiti. The Canadian International Development Agency website says $770 million has been pledged since the earthquake in January, which killed nearly 300,000 people.

The new emergency aid will ``respond to this outbreak and prevent further water-borne disease,'' according to a news release.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest also spoke on the subject of solidarity with Haiti, but focused his speech on the need to promote and protect the French language.

``We Quebecers are the first line in the defence of the French language,'' he said, adding that the Francophonie is the only global institution that can protect the language.

He didn't mention his proposal to host a gathering of French-speaking nations in 2012 to focus solely language issues. It will be considered at the summit Sunday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy barely touched the Haiti issue, instead focusing forcefully on his proposals to reform the global financial system and reform the United Nations Security Council to include permanent members from regions such as Africa and South America.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, issued a statement saying La Francophonie has failed to follow up on commitments made a decade ago by French-speaking African countries to end armed conflicts.

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