The Canadian government will match dollar-for-dollar for eligible donations made by individual Canadians to Canadian registered charities.
Over the weekend, The Honourable John Baird, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, on behalf of the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, announced that the Government of Canada has established a Pakistan Floods Relief Fund.
“Canadians have shown that they are always ready to help those in need,” said Minister Baird. “In order to support their generosity, our Government will match their contributions dollar for dollar.”
“The Government of Canada will contribute an equivalent amount to the Pakistan Floods Relief Fund for every eligible donation by individual Canadians to Canadian registered charities between August 2 and September 12,” said Minister Oda. “This fund will provide effective and accountable financial support to experienced Canadian and international humanitarian and development partner organizations working on humanitarian assistance, early recovery, and reconstruction efforts in the affected areas.”
“The Harper government finally announced it will match, dollar-for-dollar, funds raised by Canadians to help Pakistan flood relief. However, there is a catch.” said MP. Jim Karygiannis. “The Harper government has put a condition on the plan – it will ‘match dollar-for-dollar every eligible donation by individual Canadians to Canadian registered charities’. “What about the hundreds of thousands raised by the Canadian Pakistan community. Does this money not matter?”
So far to the Consulate’s knowledge about $550,000 have been fundraised to help flood victims, says Mr. Imran Ali, the Counsel at the Consulate General of Pakistan, Toronto. Apart from monetary donations, various Facebook groups are fund raising to provide relief. Mr. Ali particularly noted the Facebook group called Tents from Toronto which has been quite successful.
The immediate need of flood victims is air transportation, tents, canned food and mineral water, says he says.
In a teleconference last week, Minister Oda acknowledged that “access to many parts of the affected areas” has become challenging since “roads are destroyed,” and bridges have been washed away by flood waters. The destruction of ground transportation is making it difficult to outreach the needy.
While discussions have been going on between the governments of Canada and Pakistan to dispatch Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to help bring clean water to the devastated regions, nothing has been decided so far. The Pakistani government is desperately seeking helicopters, even short-winged helicopters to reach people to provide relief.
Canadians have been critical of sluggish Canadian response to floods in Pakistan when compared to earthquakes in Haiti.
Pakistani origin Canadian Senator Salma Ataullahjan says traditionally “it takes longer time [for people] to respond to floods.”
“In Pakistan we’ve functioning government with strong military presence,” Minister Oda says, which is also one of the reasons why the response to floods in Pakistan has been slow when compared to the earthquake in Haiti.
As flood victims urgently need relief, government of Pakistan’s credibility has also resulted in lesser donations to charitable organizations.
Speaking of corruption allegations on the Pakistani government, Mr. Ali says “That trust deficit is always there where third world countries are concerned.” Most of the aid and assistance is arriving in Pakistan “through the reputable organizations, not necessarily into the coffers of Pakistan but the organizations along with the government,” he added.
Some of the areas stricken by floods were evacuated from the militants and extremists by the efforts of Pakistani Army last year. The international community is wary of the charitable organizations with links to militant organizations providing relief to flood victims.
Anthony Cordesman, who has advised the Obama administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the floods represent “a major opportunity” for Islamist groups to win further influence among people denied government services.
“If it continues, it makes Pakistan more and more vulnerable to extremism,” Cordesman, a leading security expert from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told AFP.
Minster Oda says “we’re aware of reports that charitable organizations” not necessarily associated with terrorist organizations “maybe” providing aid and assistance, “that is why Canada is working with its own partners, the organizations we’re familiar with.”
“When someone is dying, any person who is in the closest proximity will provide relief, that is natural,” says Mr. Ali. “There may be local social milieu providing relief, that is why it is essential that the government of Pakistan and the international community fill the void..to provide relief and rebuild..I’ve spoken to seven or eight organizations who are working right in the middle of the waters and they’ve all told me that there’re no signs of Taliban or any other terrorist organizations working there.”
In the short term, the Canadian government is aware of immediate needs of flood victims. However given the extent of devastation caused by the floods, the Canadian government “will be working with Pakistan and international community to assess the need” for a long term recovery and rebuilding efforts, Minister Oda says.
Given the mistrust Pakistanis have for the American government’s involvement in Pakistan and whether Canadian government would like to get more involved, Minister Oda says “in some areas we [Canada and the US] work together, in some we share information, so we don’t duplicate our efforts.”
She reiterated Canada’s strong partnership with Pakistan in the areas of education, training for teachers, economic growth and good government. However, Minister Oda says Canada always picks an area “where there is a great need” and “Canada’s support can be effective..and we can get real results.”
More than 1,500 people have been killed and over 320 million are affected in Pakistan in the wake of floods. These floods have affected people in all four provinces of Pakistan. Canada known for its humanitarianism has peaked its aid and assistance from initial $ 2 million to up to $ 33 million from the federal government. Another $8 million have been provided by Ontario government.
Author: Asma Amanat