The federal government has removed its cap on the dollar amount it will give to match Canadians' donations to the earthquake-ravaged country, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Saturday.

Harper told an Ottawa news conference that because "giving has exceeded our wildest expectations," it is necessary to remove the original $50 million cap on matching donations.

According to Harper, Canadians have so far donated more than $67 million, which has been given to a number of aid organizations, including $45 million to the Canadian Red Cross. Those funds, and any more raised, will be matched by the government.

"I want to recognize Canadians who have opened their hearts and their pocketbooks to the plight of the Haitian people," Harper said.

The $67 million figure does not include money raised by last night's Canada for Haiti telethon, which ran commercial-free on CTV, CBC and Global. Hours after the benefit finished, it was announced that $9.4 million had been raised. With the federal government matching that donation, the total raised was $18.8 million.

That money is to be divided among nine recognized aid groups such as the Canadian Red Cross, Care Canada, Plan Canada and UNICEF Canada.

Some adopted children on their way

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Saturday the first group of Haitian children whose adoptions by Canadian parents had been pending before the quake hit will arrive in Ottawa Sunday morning.

The children are scheduled to travel on an Air Canada fight that is due to land at 6:30 a.m.

Kenney said officials were spending Saturday notifying parents whose children would be on the flight.

According to Kenney, his department has identified 154 children whose adoptions had been approved by the Haitian government. However, members of his staff are still working with provincial ministries to get the final sign-off on the adopting parents.

Kenney said as children are approved to come to Canada, they will be brought to the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince before travel arrangements to Canada are made.

He also announced a new email address for Canadian parents who are already in the process of adopting a child from Haiti. The address, which is monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is

Earlier Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon had confirmed that 17 Canadians were killed in the Jan. 12 earthquake, and warned that total is likely to rise in the days and weeks ahead.

"The days ahead will not be easy for Canadians who are without news of their loved ones," Cannon said. "Our thoughts are with all of those families and friends affected by this unprecedented disaster."

According to Cannon:

  • 1,939 Canadians have been located
  • 236 Canadians are still unaccounted for
  • 190 Canadians are waiting to be evacuated at the Canadian Embassy compound in Port-au-Prince
  • 1,891 Canadians have returned to Canada on 21 military flights, including two that arrived Saturday morning in Montreal
  • 265 Canadians have returned to Canada on three commercial flights
  • 31,000 calls have been made to the Emergency Operations Centre