Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The Canadians killed in Haiti

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When estimates of the deaths from Haiti's earthquake work through the almost-incomprehensible totals of 50,000 to 100,000 dead, it almost seems wrong to focus on the relatively small number of Canadians lost in what is a massive tragedy.

But Canadian deaths are closest to the world we know -- and if nothing else, the Canadians who have died, and why they were in Haiti in the first place, is a sign of how fickle this world can be.

Take the case of Denis Bellevance. He was a computer science teacher from Drummondville, Que., in Haiti to give a lecture at Port-au-Prince University.

Or Guillaume Siemienski and Helene Rivard, both Canadian International Development Agency employees working to improve life in Haiti.

Supt. Doug Coates from Gatineau, Que., who was acting as police commissioner for the United Nations in Haiti, was a skilled peacekeeper who had represented Canada on a number of missions.

Sgt. Mark Gallagher, an RCMP officer mentoring Haitian police, had just returned to Haiti after spending the Christmas holidays with his family in New Brunswick.

Yvonne Martin, a retired nurse from Elmira, Ont., was working with the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada.

She was with a group and happened to go inside to change out of her bathing suit before dinner exactly when the earthquake happened.

If she had stayed by the pool, she would likely still be alive.

Mireille and Georges Anglade of Montreal were killed when their home on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince collapsed. Canwest News Service described their accomplishments like this: "Georges, a Montreal academic and one of the founders of the Université du Québec à Montreal, was a former Haitian cabinet minister and adviser to Haitian President Rene Preval. Mireille was a longtime advocate for women's rights in Haiti and had worked as a French teacher and a United Nations diplomat."

Philippe Rouzier, a former teacher at Université Laval, was working for the United Nations as an economist -- he died because he happened to be visiting his friends, the Anglades, and was killed in their home.

Frederick Jean-Michel of Laval, Que., died. His wife, Evelyn Guervil, 58, of Laval, was unharmed. Jean-Michel had just retired and the couple was in Haiti for a holiday.

There are still (hundreds of) Canadians unaccounted for in the country, and there are likely more who have died in the tragedy.

While the Canadian deaths represent only a small sample of the overwhelming tragedy, their circumstances give you reason to reflect on how the world can work -- and how capricious and unfair those workings can be.

Fifty-thousand deaths means 50,000 stories of lives lived, and ended too soon.

A staggering thought.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2010 A10

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