It will take four to five years to rebuild Haiti from the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, the country’s Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said Monday. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, meanwhile, had a less optimistic estimate, predicting the reconstruction effort may take up to 10 years.
Both leaders announced their predictions at a conference in Montreal this week which centred around efforts to rebuild Haiti.
The conference, chaired by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, attracted foreign affairs ministers from over 20 countries, including United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and international organizations.
While delegates and official media convened at the International Civil Aviation Organization Building on University St. downtown, a small group of protesters, undeterred by the rainy weather, voiced their discontent with the conference.
Some protesters said they were worried the conference would put foreign economic interests ahead of the welfare of Haitians.
Speaking through a megaphone at the rally, Serge Bouchereau, a Haitian-born Canadian and long-time activist, said the time since the earthquake has been a challenge for many.
Though his close family is safe in Montreal, some friends in Haiti have died, and others are missing.
With a Haitian flag in one hand, Bouchereau announced the cause of the protesters: “We’ve come here to denounce the militarization of humanitarian aid. There are groups of people who have not received food, who have gotten nothing,” he said. “The world powers would rather bring a whole armada of soldiers [to Haiti] rather than distribute food, or go find victims buried in the rubble.”
Other protesters said they were unhappy with the foreign dinitaries present at the conference.
“We would have liked to have seen more representatives from Haiti,” said UniversitÃ© de MontrÃ©al student Nydia Dauphin, who has family still in Haiti. “I don’t think that reconstruction in Haiti should only be undertaken by bigger countries,” she said. “We need to make sure that the interests of the Haitian people are represented.”
While police said they expected 100 protesters, only around 30 had arrived half an hour into the protest.