Haitian diaspora tries to stay hopeful, 10 years after devastating quake

When a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, Phanoune Malette was pregnant with her son and working in a local hospital.

On Sunday, exactly 10 years to the day of the disaster, Malette and her family took part in a religious service at Église évangélique baptiste d'Ottawa, a church on King Edward Avenue attended by members of the Haitian community.

"The worst thing is that, 10 years later, the country has yet to be rebuilt. There are still political situations. Natural disasters keep happening," she said in French.

"We have faith that only God can do something."

Like other members of the Haitian diaspora, Malette feels a mix of sorrow and hope. She said she's still hopeful Haitian politicians will find a path toward stability.

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Progress 'very slow'

Between 200,000 and 300,000 people were killed in the earthquake, and at least another 300,000 were injured. More than one million Haitians were left homeless.

Pastor Guy Pierre-Canel said he wanted to commemorate the disaster and offer comfort to his parishioners during his two Sunday services, while also praying for a better future.

"From what I'm hearing, from what I'm reading, I would say that the progress is very slow, too slow to my liking," he said.

"It will take a lot of help, a lot of hope, a lot of men and women of good will to [bring about] change, but change is possible. With God, change is possible."

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At the beginning of the 11:30 a.m. service, a young woman read a French-language poem commemorating the earthquake.

"Life was unfolding as usual, and no one was expecting the worst," it loosely translates. 

"Image the ground shaking while you're in the shower. Imagine the ground shaking while you're eating or cooking. Imagine the ground shaking while you're watching TV."

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Political unrest worries Haitian-Canadians

At nearby Sacré-Coeur Catholic Church in Sandy Hill, Rev. Joseph Lin Eveillard had a special sermon for the occasion.

With Frantz Liautaud, Haiti's ambassador to Canada, in attendance, Eveillard called on his government to take stronger action.

"Ten years later, what has been accomplished?" he asked in his French-language sermon. "Today, we pray so that our leaders may make [the appropriate] decisions so that this tragedy wasn't in vain."

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Brain drain hampering rebuild: ambassador

Asked by CBC about the ongoing instability, Liautaud said political turmoil has fostered a brain drain over the decades.

He said he believes members of the Haitian diaspora have a role to play in the reconstruction.

"Our brain is outside the country,'' he said, adding that some Haitian-born academics have been working on a plan to help rebuild.

Back at Église évangélique baptiste d'Ottawa, Pierre-Canel said church members and missionaries, including himself, have gone back to Haiti several times since 2010.

Another trip was planned for April, he said — but it had to be postponed because of the current unrest.