September 14, 1988 (33rd Parliament, 2nd Session)


Roland de Corneille


Mr. Roland de Corneille (Eglinton-Lawrence):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to express my appreciation to the Minister for having sent to me a copy of her statement. I was happy both to read and to see her commitment to bringing additional financial aid to the people of Jamaica.
The most recent information that I have is that the population of Jamaica, which numbers, I understand, some 2.8 million, has suffered a tremendous amount of damage in terms of the fact that some .5 million people are homeless. This means that one out of six or even one out of five people in Jamaica is without a home. This means that there was tremendous destruction of some 100,000 homes, which we understand are badly damaged. These are the most recent reports that have come to my attention.
I have also learned that Mr. Edward Seaga, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, has indicated that the situation is very grave, that there are no telephones, in effect, operating, that 95 per cent of the people are living without electricity, that the sugar cane, banana and citrus crops have been totally devastated, and that they have declared in the United States-and we have, too, I trust-that that area is a disaster area.
I also understand that there are some 500 Canadians who are living and working there, some at the Bauxite Mining Plant and some at the Alcan Aluminum Plant, and I trust efforts are being made by the Government to assess their situation urgently.
We must address this issue of emergency as our first priority. But it is too human and too common for us to forget the ongoing needs of the people, after the disastrous storm moves on and media coverage stops, and other problems and other disasters in other parts of the world occur.
We must make sure that we keep this issue of Jamaica alive while showing concern for others in the Cayman Islands and in other islands in the Caribbean area, including Mexico, which is about to suffer devastation as well. What other human tragedies occur, of course, must receive our attention, but a special command post, I suggest, should be set up by our Government for aid to Jamaica in order to deal on an ongoing basis with the long-range economic and human disaster. Some of the steps announced by the Minister indicate a desire to be
September 14, 1988

helpful. I hope that a special command post will be established to deal with this specific crisis and this ongoing tragedy.
On a personal note, there are hundreds of people from Jamaica in my congregation of St. Hilda's Church in Toronto, thousands of people in my riding and hundreds of thousands in Toronto, who are of Jamaican origin. They are no doubt pleased to know that Canada and Canadians join them in wishing to help in this urgent and tragic situation. The Government and the people of Jamaica have already declared their own intention to face and meet this challenge alone, if necessary, but they are calling on their friends to join them.
We call upon our Government to carry on, after the attention moves away, extra long-range assistance and to provide regular reports from the Department of External Affairs on the problems in Jamaica and the efforts Canada is making on its behalf. It should not be just a passing matter. What is happening there should be reported from time to time in a regular way.
I am sure I reflect not only the sentiments of the Liberal caucus but the feeling of all Canadians when I express our anguish and sympathy and concern for the people of Jamaica, wherever they are, and to the anxious relatives and friends of Jamaican extraction, especially to our Canadian population of Jamaican origin.
What I have said about Jamaica, I feel should also apply to the Cayman Islands and to other areas which have been devastated and which have received less publicity. I trust our Department of External Affairs will commit itself to monitoring those problems and needs with the same dedication.

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