Helping Haiti: Bibeau begins 3-day visit focused on improving health, empowering women
International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau travels to Haiti today to begin a three-day trip focused on improving health and empowering women in the disaster-plagued, impoverished nation.
She will meet with Haitian President Jovenel Moise to offer Canada's support and collaboration as he works to ease his country's reliance on foreign assistance to fund its social services.
"It's a new president and we want to support him. He wants Haiti to take its responsibilities and to lead and not see all these NGO's doing his business," Bibeau told CBC News in an interview.
"We want to see how we can work in this collaborative way for this transition for the government of Haiti to be more and more responsible for these services that should be under the responsibility of government, such as health and education and security."
Moise was sworn in as president in February 2017 after a lengthy electoral crisis that began in October 2015 when elections were annulled over allegations of fraud.
Bibeau said she is optimistic Haiti will make progress under the new leadership, but conceded it's a "long-term process."
Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world, according to the World Bank.
Canada provides about $100 million a year in assistance to Haiti. Bibeau said Canada has the expertise, technical assistance and knowledge to help in Haiti's health system "evolution."
Along with meeting government officials, the minister also will meet with Canadian aid workers in the field to fine-tune priorities and determine how better coordination and collaboration could maximize the impact of aid.
"It will help me and the team to identify where we should be more involved, or less involved, to make the greatest difference, especially for women and girls," she said.
Bibeau will also visit a training centre for midwives.
Sexual misconduct scandal
Her visit comes as the international development community reels from a sexual misconduct scandal that put Haiti in the spotlight.
Allegations have been levelled against Oxfam Great Britain's country director for Haiti, accusing him of using prostitutes and turning a home rented by Oxfam into a brothel after the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and caused extensive damage to infrastructure and the economy.
Six other people reportedly were dismissed or allowed to quietly resign over the allegations.
This week, Bibeau met with the heads of a dozen major Canadian aid organizations to discuss the scandal. She said she left the discussions feeling confident the groups have stringent prevention and response strategies in place.
Risking health, security
Those checks and balances may not yet be enshrined in smaller agencies, she said.
While no profession can pretend it's untouched by incidents of sexual misconduct, Bibeau said Canadian volunteers and humanitarian workers are doing an "amazing job" and should not be tainted by the scandal.
"They are risking their health, their safety to protect the poorest and most vulnerable," she said. "I take very, very seriously every case but I wouldn't want the public to think all humanitarian workers are predators. That is far, far, far from the reality."