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CC-177 departing from Montreal International Airport after having repatriated Haitian Canadians

Operation Hestia is the name of the Canadian Forces humanitarian response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake which struck Haiti on 12 January 2010. Operation Hestia is the military component of an interagency response that also involves Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The headquarters for Operation Hestia were established in the city of Jacmel.[1]

Force composition

The Canadian Forces deployed approximately 2,000 personnel, along with a Naval Task Group from CFB Halifax, Nova Scotia, under the command of Maritime Command Captain Art McDonald, comprising:

The battalion of the Royal 22e Régiment deployed to Haiti can only remain on station until late-March, as they will need to deploy to California, for training, prior to deployment to Afghanistan.[2][3]

Withdrawal is expected to be complete by April.[4]

Mission timeline

The Athabaskan was deployed to the city of Léogâne and the Halifax was deployed to the city of Jacmel (Governor-General Michaëlle Jean's hometown[5]), arriving at their respective locations off Haiti on 18 January 2010.[6] Both naval vessels deployed their ship's companies as light engineering platoons, with the use of light equipment such as chainsaws, for relief operations in Haiti. They comprised approximately 500 sailors, and the ship's boarding parties were tasked with providing security to the sailors on shore.[7] Athabaskan and Halifax had departed CFB Halifax for Haiti on 14 January 2010.[8] Relief flights using CC-130 Hercules into Jacmel Airport started on 19 January, after having previously been scouted by CH-146 Griffons on 14 January.[9] The identification of Jacmel Airport as a possible site for use and the decision to use Jacmel was made by Major-General Yvan Blondin.[10]

8 Air Communications and Control Squadron installed runway lighting on 19 January at Jacmel Airport, enabling aircraft to land at night, with radar control of the airspace provided by the nearby HMCS Halifax. Opening the Jacmel airfield 24 hours-a-day was intended to help relieve congestion at Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince.[11]

As of 20 January 2010, 1,504 people were evacuated from Haiti to Canada on 17 flights. 1,727 Canadians have been located while 479 were still unaccounted for.[12]

On 22 January, the DART facility in Jacmel moved from next to the Saint-Michel Hospital to the harbour.[13] The DART field hospital was set up on the pier and was operating at capacity.[14] The DART's Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit, which produces potable water from whatever source is available, including sea water, was set up on a jetty in Jacmel.[15] Air traffic control was established at Jacmel Airport and, as of 22 January, the airport could accommodate a mix of 160 military and civilian fixed-wing and helicopter flights a day.[16] The 1st Canadian Field Hospital was deployed to Léogâne.[17] The Van Doos, have been deployed to Léogâne, to help with recovery efforts.[18] As of 24 January in Jacmel, the organization of refugee camps continued, with the start of construction of proper latrines. Food distribution was being delivered by the UN, with Canadian soldiers providing security, and Haitian Girl Guides and Boy Scouts handling crowd control and organization.[19] Canadian military firefighters were inspecting buildings in Jacmel to ascertain which were structurally sound and usable. A Canadian military clinic had been set up on the beach, with the Foces also establishing a tent city for those residents who had lost their homes.[20] Canadian soldiers were providing security for food distribution points in Léogâne.[21] On 28 January, Jacmel's the first post-quake baby was born at the DART clinic.[22] Late in January, plans were made with the U.S. to shift military flights from Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince to Jacmel Airport, to allow civilian flights into the capital's airport. It was expected that approximately 100 flights would be shifted to Jacmel. Canadian Forces were preparing for the increase in traffic, and were already dealing with degradation of the airstrip surface due to its current overuse.[10][23] The Canadian Forces have also started to monitor Jacmel-area orphanages to help protect against orphan-trafficking.[24]

After three weeks of operations, the Canadian Forces are "everywhere" in the Leogane-Jacmel Corridor.[25]

On 19 February, HMCS Halifax finished its operational tour, and left Jacmel.[26]

As of the 22nd February, military evacuation flights have ended, Canadians desiring to leave are now required to depart via commercial flights via Port-au-Prince International Airport, which have resumed. Over 4600 Canadians were evacuated on 48 flights. 50 Canadians are still listed as missing, while 34 have been confirmed as killed.[26] 1,681 members of the Canadian Forces still remain in Haiti.[27]

On 22 February, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon announced the start of a progressive drawdown of deployed Canadian Forces in Haiti.[28]

On 2 March, HMCS Halifax returned to CFB Halifax.[29]

On 5 March, it was announced that the 850 soldiers from CFB Valcartier of Joint Task Force Haiti (JTF Haiti, JTFH) would start gradually returning.[30]

As of the 7th March, 90 members of the Van Doos have returned home. It was announced that HMCS Athabaskan would end its mission on 10 March.[31][32]

On 9 March, the Jacmel dockside Canadian walk-in medical clinic closed, after treating more than 10,000 patients.[33]

As of 16 March, the Canadian military have vacated Jacmel.[34]

Athabaskan is expected to have returned to CFB Halifax on 17 March 2010.[35]

On 17 March, HMCS Athabaskan returned to port.[36]

On 1 April 2010, the Joint Task Force Support Element closes the mission and the last remaining Canadian military forces leave the theatre from the Port-au-Prince International Airport.


After a fortnight of operations, a survey showed significant approval of the operation as a fitting Canadian response.[37] The UN also expressed approval of the mission by Canada, but stated that the Canadian troops would not stay long.[38][39] After three weeks of operations, the Haitians of Jacmel are happy with the help the Canadian Forces are providing.[25] After five weeks, morale is high amongst Canadian Forces personnel deployed to Haiti.[40] After two months, the Haitian government expressed its gratitude for Canada's help.[41]

Many groups charge that the Canadian Forces departed Jacmel abruptly, leaving it in no condition to continue on as a receiving and distribution hub. After the pullout, the airport could no longer process international flights, as no equipment remained to operate the control tower, nor heavy equipment to process the planes, or security to police supplies at the airport. The seaport was left without heavy equipment to handle cargo on ships, and without security to secure the port.[42][43]

An internal governmental report on the operation after its conclusion noted that the DART team was not given priority in aid flights, and were left without equipment supplies or security that it needed to function at full capacity. It further stated that various media groups and special interest groups were bumping supplies and personnel for the operation off the flights into Haiti from Canada. Other less critical supplies from aid groups were bumping critical supplies and equipment. It also noted that although DART should be at full readiness, all the time, it was given byes on preparedness.[44]

See also


  1. CTV National News, airdate 27 January 2010
  2. Vancouver Sun, "UN picks Clinton to head Haiti aid co-ordination", Steven Edwards, 3 February 2010 (accessed 3 February 2010)
  4. CTV News, "GG receives warm welcome in Port-au-Prince", 9 March 2010 (accessed 9 March 2010)
  5. CTV National News, 18 January 2010
  6. Chronicle Herald, "HMCS Athabaskan, Halifax to be in Haiti early Tuesday", Stephen Maher, 18 January 2010 (accessed 18 January 2010)
  7. CBC News, The National, 18 January 2010
  8. CBC News, "Navy ships leave Halifax for Haiti", 14 January 2010 (accessed 22 February 2010)
  9. Globe and Mail, "Canada's big task in Haiti starts on small airstrip", Gloria Galloway, 19 January 2010 (Accessed 19 January 2010)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Winnipeg Free Press, "Canada earns its wings", Dan Lett, 30 January 2010 (accessed 31 January 2010)
  11. (French) Romandie, "Haïti : le Canada va rouvrir l'aéroport de Jacmel", AFP, 20 January 2010 (accessed 21 January 2010)
  12. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, "Operations Update"
  13. Globe and Mail, "A city struggles to escape from chaos", John Ibbitson, 22 January 2010 (accessed 23 January 2010)
  14. Toronto Star, "This Haitian town is singing Canada's praise", Brett Popplewell, 26 January 2010 (accessed 27 January 2010)
  15. CBC News, "Canadian clinic in Haiti running near capacity", 26 January 2010 (accessed 27 January 2010)
  16. Globe and Mail, "A city struggles to escape from chaos", John Ibbitson, 22 January 2010 (accessed 23 January 2010)
  17. Toronto Sun, "Mobile hospital ready to deploy to Haiti", Sean Chase, 22 January 2010 (accessed 26 January 2010)
  18. (French) LCN, "Des soldats de Valcartier prêtent main forte", QMI, 23 January 2010 (accessed 26 January 2010)
  19. Chronicle Herald, "It’s home, at least for now", Stephen Maher, 25 January 2010 (accessed 25 January 2010)
  20. Canadian Press, "Canadian relief efforts face rough terrain, bad roads in quake-struck Haiti", Alexander Panetta, 24 January 2010 (accessed 25 January 2010)
  21. National Post, "Desperate rush on food distribution", Sheldon Alberts, 25 January 2010 (accessed 26 January 2010)
  22. The Province, "Canadian military clinic delivers baby amid destruction in Haitian town", Andrew Mayeda, 28 January 2010 (accessed 28 January 2010)
  23. Washington Post, "US to help Haiti resume normal airport operations", Associated Press, 30 January 2010 (accessed 31 January 2010)
  24. The Gazette (Montreal), "Orphan-trafficking fears rise in Haitian camps", Andrew Mayeda, Ian MacLeod, 31 January 2010 (accessed 1 February 2010)
  25. 25.0 25.1 (French) France-Guyane, "L’aide humanitaire se fraie un chemin en province", 9 February 2010 (accessed 10 February 2010)
  26. 26.0 26.1 Canadian Press, "Canada stops Haitian evacuation flights, death toll set to jump", CP, 22 February 2010 (accessed 23 February 2010)
  27. Vancouver Sun, "Canadian pullout begins", CanWest News Service, 22 February 2010 (accessed 23 February 2010)
  28. The Gazette (Montreal), "Canada begins military withdrawal from Haiti", Juliet O'Neill, 22 February 2010 (accessed 23 February 2010)
  29. (French) SRC, "L'Athabaskan rentre au Canada", Radio-Canada, 17 March 2010 (accessed 19 March 2010)
  30. CNW, "Media advisory - Valcartier troops back from Haiti", Telbec, 5 March 2010 (accessed 6 March 2010)
  31. Toronto Sun, "Canadian troops preparing to leave Haiti", Christina Spencer, 7 March 2010 (accessed 9 March 2010)
  32. Globe and Mail, "Haiti will not be 'left behind,' MacKay says", Jessica Leeder, 8 March 2010 (accessed 9 March 2010)
  33. Globe and Mail, "Jacmel's unofficial department of public complaints", Jessica Leeder, 9 March 2010 (accessed 19 March 2010)
  34. Globe and Mail, "Jacmel's unofficial department of public complaints", Jessica Leeder, 16 March 2010 (accessed 19 March 2010)
  35. Canadian Press, "HMCS Athabaskan returning from Haiti, scheduled back in Halifax on Wednesday", CP, 15 March 2010 (accessed 15 March 2010)
  36. (French) RockDétente 107,3 , "Une deuxième frégate canadienne revient d'Haïti", Info Astral Media, 17 March 2010 (accessed 19 March 2010)
  37. CBC News, "Canadians approve of Haiti response: poll", 28 January 2010 (accessed 30 January 2010)
  38. (French), "L'ONU défend l'engagement militaire du Canada en Haïti", Agence France-Presse, 2 February 2010 (accessed 3 February 2010)
  39. (French) Metropole Haiti, "Haiti : Les troupes Américaines se retireront", Radio Métropole Haïti, 2 February 2010 (accessed 3 February 2010)
  40. Daily Gleaner, "Morale no problem for soldiers in Haiti - Lt.-Col.", Michael Staples, 23 February 2010 (accessed 23 February 2010)
  41. Canoe News, "Haiti's charge d'affaires thanks Canada for its help", Althia Raj, 17 March 2010 (accessed 19 March 2010)
  42. Globe and Mail, "Pulling the plug in Haiti", Rod Jamer, 25 March 2010 (accessed 27 March 2010)
  43. Globe and Mail, "Departure of Canadian Forces hampers Jacmel’s reconstruction", Jessica Leeder, 23 March 2010 (accessed 27 March 2010)
  44. CTV News, "Military rushed to Haiti without guns, ammo", Canadian Press, Friday Jul. 9, 2010 1:26 PM ET (accessed 12 July 2010)

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