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Results: 1 - 15 of 135
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the members of the committee for having me here today. I appreciate all of your highlighting what's going on in Pakistan with the extreme flooding there. Since mid-June of this year, extreme monsoon rains and flooding have taken a devastating toll on more than 33 million people in Pakistan. I will be happy to explain later on to you what the Pakistani leadership told me and how it took place.
This has left over 1,700 dead, including more than 600 children. As you know, protecting human life and dignity is a fundamental tenet of Canada's approach to the global community. Our humanitarian efforts are aimed at saving lives, alleviating suffering and maintaining the dignity of people affected by natural disasters.
Our early response to this flooding crisis included assistance on the ground in Pakistan through the Canadian Red Cross Society's emergency disaster assistance fund, and contributions to the United Nations central emergency response fund, meaning via things that were already in place.
Given the magnitude of the flooding and the slow pickup internationally, I authorized an initial amount of $5 million in humanitarian assistance on August 29.
Mr. Chair, we remain extremely concerned about the magnitude of this crisis, and that is why in mid-September I led a Canadian delegation, including three members of Parliament, to Pakistan to observe first-hand the humanitarian response under way and to gain a better understanding of what the people of Pakistan were going through and what the needs were. I can tell you that large parts of southern Pakistan are still under water. Almost 8 million people are now homeless or living in emergency shelters with little or no access to food and clean drinking water. Hundreds of thousands of homes and infrastructure have been destroyed. Crops, livelihood and livestock have been ruined. Food is scarce. Hunger is also looming. The need for assistance is dire.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, while we remain committed to fighting climate change and advancing women's empowerment and promoting regional peace and stability, we also recognize the dire plight of the people of Pakistan.
On October 4, the latest joint government of Pakistan and United Nations appeal was launched, increasing the original appeal figure from $160 million U.S. to $860 million. Anticipating the scale of needs, on September 13, Prime Minister Trudeau announced additional Canadian support and increased our total flood crisis response recovery assistance to $33 million, including a matching fund of up to $7.5 million with the Humanitarian Coalition. This enhanced response means that our government will match dollar for dollar donations made by individuals to the Humanitarian Coalition up to a maximum of $7.5 million. This funding that was generously raised by Canadians will contribute to essential rehabilitation efforts of flood-damaged areas like the girls' high school that I visited in the upper Chitral district in Pakistan.
While in Pakistan I also spent time assessing the needs of frontline workers and announced existing polio eradication programming, specifically the $20 million eradicating polio from Pakistan project, and to advocate for the support for female frontline workers who have been impacted by the floods and who are responsible for the unpaid care and care-related work.
Mr. Chair, we will continue to work with our partners to provide urgent, life-saving humanitarian relief on the ground, including clean drinking water, medical supplies, food and other essential services. We have a history of over 70 years of successful development co-operation with Pakistan. In the year 2020-21, our overall international assistance to Pakistan was over $100 million.
Canada's bilateral development support targets the following priority areas: women and girls, reproductive health and rights, girls' access to education, women's political participation and economic empowerment, COVID-19 relief and polio eradication.
We remain committed to this humanitarian effort to support the people of Pakistan in the days ahead and we know that there's much more to do.
Thank you.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Chair, the member asked a very good question. It's a question that I have also asked myself.
Having said that, first of all, to get a quick response is very important to making sure that we get the money flowing to what the actual needs are, depending on the disaster.
This does not preclude our supporting other organizations. Keep in mind, though, that when we do a matching fund, we have existing relationships and already have a system in place so we can move very quickly. There are a bunch of options we can take a look at, like organizations that we can have pre-existing agreements with.
Probably the most important thing that I want to emphasize here, Mr. Chair, is that even though we do a matching fund, let's keep in mind that we do provide additional support. This does not preclude any organization from looking at applying for funding for long-term projects.
I'll give you one example. One organization that I met wanted to look at matching funds, but when they talked about the support they could provide, it was for reconstruction of various schools. I told them that those things can be done afterwards and that right now, we're focused on saving lives.
We're guiding them to the right place.
We want to work with anybody who actually has the right mechanism and the right system in place, and try to find ways that we can best support them.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
First of all, we're not in any way trying to damage anything. In fact, we actually love the fact that Canadians and many organizations are coming together. There are so many causes out there. We want to encourage Canadians to do so.
However, when it comes to an emergency like the flood here, for example, we need to make sure that the right resources get to the right place at the right time. That's very important. For the first thing, especially in an emergency, that's probably the most important.
I'll give you an example, Mr. Chair, if you don't mind, to kind of outline it. The most important thing is actually trying to prevent it in the first place. In fact, I was told when I visited Pakistan that funding that was put into place for the early warning system, especially in the north, actually saved lives.
Then, you want to put systems in place for emergencies. That way, when an emergency occurs, it doesn't even require us to make a decision. The systems that are being put into place automatically respond.
The $5 million that we put into place—
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
I understand that, but what I'm trying to get at here is that the main priority is who can get the best resource to the right area. Trying to assess which organization can do what when you have lives that you have to save on the ground....
When an organization says it can and it can provide the emergency...we need to have those dialogues a lot sooner. We encourage people to have this conversation. Any time a new organization comes forward, we're happy to work with it.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
We actually did look at that model, in terms of what the analysis was. In some cases, it has its merits, but it also has its drawbacks.
For example, one key thing was that it took 200 days, originally when the matching fund was done, for the money to really start flowing to those organizations. It's because you're raising money. One of the key—
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Hear me out, Mr. Genuis.
For the matching fund that we had here, we had money flowing within 30 days. The key thing is that you have to do the assessment. As you know, at the end of the day, for any dollars we sign off on, we're accountable to Parliament. We're accountable to the taxpayer. For any organization that we give money to, we do have to do the due diligence. This is where we need to...for anybody who wants or any organization that wants to, it's easier to work and get the process sorted out early on, but again—
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll also highlight the fact that we knew that the monsoons were going to be a little bit more severe, but the thing is that the situation actually got worse. There was slow pickup inside the country, as I was briefed on, but also even in the international community. Normally, when it comes to....
What I try to focus on is what the actual needs are and where to move the money very quickly. We visited places where we had warehouses already in place with stores that actually had an impact immediately. Before anything, we already had systems in place. The $5 million was to look at the immediate needs to the various organizations. The next step was to do a very quick needs assessment based on the reporting that came. That's what we did in adding the additional $25 million of funding. That buys you enough time, as you work with other organizations.... Now, keep in mind that, proportionately, Canada did much higher than other countries.
The next step is that now that this gives us a little bit more time, there are still more emergency things we need to do. For example, we need to prevent disease, given the waterborne diseases. Some of the schools have to be rebuilt. We need to look winterization. We're looking at that now. Funding is already moving towards that. The Government of Pakistan has just finished their own needs assessment. We're reviewing that now. Then we'll look at the next tranche of funding to support them.
The next portion of it will be the longer term. How do we look at climate mitigation, adaptation and some of the bigger measures?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thanks. I'll give you the wave-tops view, and then I'll have Chris and the team get into a little more detail on it.
On this, first of all, I do want to state that even I publicly went out and stated that the most vulnerable on this planet end up suffering the impacts of a climate change that they had nothing to do with. Pakistan is in that situation, so we do need to support them.
I'll give you an example. Right now there's the Green Climate Fund. Canada contributed $600 million to that. Of that, $220 million went to Pakistan for this. This is funding that's already going. We will look at additional funding or additional support from the climate adaptation side to look at the long-term aspect of things.
Chris, do you want to add anything to that?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Actually, I had the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister, as well, when I was there, and I met with many other ministers. We need to look at what type of support to provide, but we also need to look at supporting them in other ways as well. This, I think, was an opportunity for me to get a first-hand look at not only what they're going through but also what the opportunities are.
I think there are a lot of opportunities that will come up, and I think that through this tragedy will come a greater opportunity for us to have greater people-to-people ties and even greater economic opportunity.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank the member for that question.
I also want to say that I'm so appreciative of this committee's focusing on Pakistan. Pakistan's flood did not get the attention it deserved from what was actually taking place there.
I want to let you know that I, too, am following Haiti very closely, and look forward to the work this committee does on it.
If members of Parliament are interested in [Inaudible—Editor] certain parts; I'm happy to take a look at those opportunities as well. In this case, just because of the time, we had to move very quickly. We have a few members of Parliament who are from Pakistan, so I was happy to work on that.
When it comes to the funding, the certain requests, there has been the needs assessment that recently came in. Requests come in different ways. Sometimes it's a case of working from our high commission directly to the high commission here through our multilateral organizations. There are many different ways that is done. In fact, we had a laundry list of things that were needed. This is one of the reasons why, when we do the initial providing of support....
Normally, that initial amount is actually a lot lower than what we provided, but because the pickup wasn't there, we went considerably higher. Also, by making that visit, one of the key things I also want to highlight is that Canada does care. We have a few members of Parliament who are of Pakistani descent. I also know everybody in this committee is for this.
We will continually take a look at where the needs assessments are. When it comes to our larger $5.3 billion, remember that was put into place for what we're doing internationally; so that work was already going on. We will take a look at what we can do for Pakistan, but as the needs assessment continues, we will look at a long-term adaptation piece. What is it down the road? We have to get the emergency piece out of the way first.
The reason I say this is that I was very happy with some of the work that was done after the previous flood. The money that was put in previously helped to save lives. I don't know how many times people came up to me and said, “Thank you very much for the funding that created the early warning system. It has saved lives.” They practised those drills in those villages in northern Pakistan , and hundreds of lives were saved. They appreciated that Canada listened to what those needs were, and we will continue to do just this.
We'll look at the next tranche of support. I know there's a key issue. We need to make sure that the vulnerable communities within Pakistan also get the appropriate support. We're going to take a closer look at that.
Then we need to take a look at not just what we can do from our own department, but at others as well, and more importantly what the international community.... I would say that Canada has been a very strong voice to bringing support to Pakistan, because it hasn't been highlighted. I was very happy that the Secretary-General from the United Nations also visited as well.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
I would be happy to meet with him offline.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Chair, I'm happy to answer these questions because, I guess, Afghanistan is next to Pakistan, so we can talk about it.
Mr. Chair, the member raises again a very good point. One thing I have stated is, yes, the current legislation does put constraints on us on how we spend that money. That's a reality.
I can tell you, just as I stated before, there hasn't been one dollar that we have held back in support. In fact, we have actually put forward $156 million. Nonetheless, those concerns are currently being addressed by my colleagues and we're looking at various options. When those options are developed, my colleagues and I will be able to say more.
Having said this, we are also looking at support for the Afghan refugees who are in Pakistan as well. We're going through some of that work before we can make public what we'll be supporting.
Thank you.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Chair, I'm happy to elaborate on the Afghan refugees who are in Pakistan because they were affected by the floods.
I actually did speak with the Prime Minister and other ministers about the situation. There are some people who are actually ready to leave, but Pakistan has to give them exit permits. We asked them to expedite that and I was assured by the Prime Minister that they will look at this. Then we'll look at the other support that we can provide.
When it comes to some of the budgetary considerations and what's within our ODA, I'll turn to Chris on that.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Chair, I'm actually really glad the member raises this issue.
One thing is that just because we have a $5.3 billion, it doesn't mean the other funding that we provide—whether it's for agriculture—does not include support to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Actually, something I'm really proud of is that through FIAP, which we launched in 2017, we're seeing the positive impact. For example, there's women entrepreneurship in agriculture. We have gone to many different countries—
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