Canada still makes a difference in the world

Just ask storm-ravaged families on Panay Island in the Philippines

Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

“It was important that (Canadians) were willing to work away from the headlines. They made a huge contribution.” —Save the Children U.K.’s Mark Kane, who works in the Philippines

Whatever influence Canada has in global affairs, Matthew Fisher reminds us of a corner of the world where devastated families view the Canadian flag with appreciation. Fisher, a Postmedia reporter who pops up all over the world, reports from the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, a killer storm that held the world’s attention for a few days last November when it tore apart much of the Philippines.

Fisher tracked down Sen. Tobias Enverga, a Filipino-Canadian senator who’s spent a number of weeks in the country and was struck by Canada’s contribution. At the time, the federal government dispatched a Disaster Assistance Response Team that eventually comprised 319 personnel. The military sent three C-177 Globemaster III transport planes and a variety of helicopters and smaller vehicles to assist with relief on Panay Island.

The moment the DART landed in the Philippines, most folks back home moved on. But the mission was no one-day drop-in. Operation Renaissance 13-1, the name of the DART’s mission, ran more than a month, from Nov. 13 until Dec. 15. The team sent its resources to, among other places, Estancia, a town that was spared the abject destruction of Tacloban but remained in dire need of help. Fisher shot video of the tent city that, he says, remains home for about 125 families. Along the side of the tents, in familiar font, is the Canada logo so familiar back home.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s trip to Israel, and his party’s position on Middle Eastern affairs, prompted the usual conversations about Canada’s influence in the region. Yesterday’s debate in the House of Commons about Canadian condemnation of Ukrainian government action sparks discussion about how much influence Canada—home to a million people with Ukrainian roots—actually wields as the crisis worsens. But on an island in the Philippines, where a few hundred Canadians made life better for people hit by natural disaster, there’s no doubt of the country’s influence. Worth remembering.


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