Let the children come — but first let’s see that their immediate needs are met.
As Canadians and the rest of the world begin to respond, that most important message we can convey to Haiti — through our actions — is that of hope.
Amidst the unbearable devastation and suffering caused by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake one week ago, Haiti needs to hear the universal message that there will be better days ahead.
And for some Haitians, a better future awaits them not in their impoverished and now destroyed homeland, but elsewhere.
In Canada, there are many willing to open their hearts, homes, communities and churches to Haitians. Before the earthquake, there were an estimated 380,000 orphans in Haiti under the age of 18, according to UNICEF. There will be more now.
As time passes, newly-orphaned children will hopefully be reunited with their extended families in Haiti. Others will have no such fortune, and face a very dim future in a country that today is now incapable of responding to even basic human needs.
About 100 Canadian families were in the process of adopting children from Haiti before the earthquake. Some very anxious would-be parents, including some in Central Alberta, are now almost desperate in their concern about trying to bring their chosen children home.
Sadly, the status of those adoptions is now unclear. Normally Haitian courts must approve adoptions, but offices there that processed applications were destroyed, and the Haitian judge who approved adoptions was killed in the earthquake.
The difficulty is, while the Canadian government has decided it will now give priority consideration to Canadians trying to adopt Haitian children, who is there in Haiti who can get the ball rolling?
Essentially, there is no Haitian government anymore. How can any country expedite these adoptions when Haiti must give final approval? These issues will be worked out no doubt, but unfortunately not overnight.
As each hour passes, security in Haiti deteriorates. The logistics of getting aid to Haitians is enormous and not nearly as quick as anyone would like.
Aid cannot be delivered effectively when those who are trying to provide it are unsafe themselves from civilian violence in a country where the death toll could be 100,000 or higher, where bodies are being taken by dump truck to mass graves, and where disease will soon take hold.
Troops, equipment and supplies are starting to arrive in Haiti from many countries, including Canada. Canadians have responded as well by donating money to help with relief efforts.
Still, it will be a long time before Haitians see any semblance of what their lives were like before the earthquake.
The first priority for Canada in Haiti is to help bring food and clean water, medical aid and stability to all of Haiti, including, and especially, the children.
Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 403-314-4332.