Answering the call to make our world a better place.

Open Letter to Hockey Legend Don Cherry

Dear Mr. Cherry,

You recently tweeted your objection over the aid money Canada sends to Haiti and posed the question, “shouldn’t charity begin at home?” Well, as a Habitat for Humanity Global Village team leader, I get that question all the time and- this may surprise- I agree with you. Times are tough. In addition to Canada’s health care challenges you mention in your tweets, Habitat for Humanity Canada states over 1.3 million Canadian families struggle to get by without a safe, decent and affordable place to live. Why should we send money or volunteers off to help fix other people’s problems, when we have problems to deal with at home?

The question then becomes, where does “home” begin and end?

The slight difference is that I believe Haiti is part of our home and we are just as connected to the Haitian people as we are to our First Nation neighbors or even our own nuclear families, therefore our imperative is to provide humanitarian aid and help alleviate suffering where ever it occurs, without regard to geography or even political differences.

I know you have a generous heart, Mr. Cherry, and have made a continual practice of supporting worthy causes – without seeking any publicity – but your uncharitable comments on Twitter influence your 124,000+ followers, then further reach their followers when they retweet your comments, and so on. This effect is called “going viral” and, suddenly, a single tweet can reach potentially millions of people around the globe. It’s fair to challenge how aid is disbursed, to demand accountability from the government on both sides, to question results, seek transparency and have clarity around long-term planning, but humanitarian aid and post-disaster recovery are not so simple that we can parachute in, after the worst earthquake in Haiti’s history, drop off a few tents, some bottled water and call it a day.

What many people don’t know is the humanitarian crisis is ongoing in Haiti, now at the third anniversary of the earthquake, intense hurricanes, flooding and what’s become the world’s largest cholera epidemic (which has already killed some 8,000 people in addition to the more than 230,000 who perished in the earthquake) but also from decades of desperate poverty, lack of basic healthcare, massive unemployment, illiteracy, political turmoil and environmental disasters. Haiti is literally the poorest country in the world- yet you can depart Montreal around 8am and get to the capital, Port-au-Prince, before lunch time, in less time than it takes to fly from Toronto to Vancouver. Is that close enough to be considered “home”?

You also might not know that Canadian businesses (along with the US and other developed nations) are profiting from Haiti’s recovery. Before the earthquake, Canadian companies Bank of Nova Scotia, Air Canada and Gildan Activewear Inc., and others had successful operations in Haiti. Today, while Haitian people live with open sewers and malnutrition, Canadian companies are “Seizing Global Advantage” in Haiti’s infrastructure and reconstruction projects, while lining up agriculture, food & beverage, information & communications technologies, service industries and capital investments. Haiti is being called a bonanza for foreign mining companies.

“Canadian explorer Majescor owns permits to explore 450 square kilometers. Last August its stock doubled in a single day after it a reported a high level of gold in some drill samples from Haiti’s northern coast. Canada’s Eurasian Minerals owns permits to 1,770 square kilometers—about 6 percent of Haiti’s entire land mass.” – Jacob Kushner, author of “Haiti’s Gold Rush”

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. On the contrary, if Canadian business invest in Haiti, they will need to hire and train skilled workers. Economic development and education are key for Haiti to lead itself out of poverty and it’s the best way to break the cycle of aid dependence. It is concerning to many, however, that Haitian people be paid a fair wage and natural resources are managed for sustainability and provide equitable returns. It’s a sad fact that desperate, uneducated people have sold their land and given up their rights. The challenges Haiti faces are complex and messy, but the people have dreams of a better future and they are willing to work hard to improve their lives, given the opportunity. When we know better, we must do better. This is why it’s crucial that Canada never turn it’s back on Haiti’s recovery.

Mr. Cherry, I’d like to offer you a trade. Call it a scouting trip for potential. I’ll come work with you on a Habitat for Humanity build in Toronto (or anywhere in Canada), if you’ll join me in building houses and hope in Haiti. You can see for yourself the real impact of aid money and what a safe, simple decent home can mean to a family facing extreme poverty. You often say that you think of yourself as a construction worker, not an entertainer. Well, no construction skills are needed to join a Habitat for Humanity build team, just an open heart and willingness to work hard. After all, doesn’t charity begin at home?

With warm regards and all the best for a great NHL season,

DJ Forza

Habitat for Humanity Volunteer

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5 responses

  1. Kari

    Touché, m’lady!

    January 13, 2013 at 2:05 pm

  2. Forza thank you. Much respect. Let’s hope the trade goes through

    January 15, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    • Thanks, Luke. It’s a sincere offer- hope he sees it!

      January 15, 2013 at 6:36 pm

  3. Forza thank you. Much respect. Let’s hope the trade goes through.

    January 15, 2013 at 6:35 pm

  4. Pingback: Untold | Project Chime

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