Canada offers expertise, DART assistance to Japan
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Thursday, March 17, 2011 8:35AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 4:13AM EDT
Canadians have privately donated millions for disaster assistance in Japan, while Ottawa has offered supplies, relief teams, as well as experts who can help with the nuclear crisis that has left a series of reactors at risk of meltdown.
Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spoken directly with the Japanese government to ascertain what type of assistance they require.
Canada has already sent blankets and masks to the disaster zone, which were urgently needed in the wake of the record 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan last week.
But Obhrai told CTV's Canada AM the prime minister has since offered the use of Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team, during a telephone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Wednesday.
Harper made it clear that "Canada is willing to step up" with its additional offer of assistance and the Canadian government is now waiting for a response from the Japanese government, Obhrai said from Calgary on Thursday morning.
The prime minister also offered to send Canadian experts to help Japan deal with the multitude of problems stemming from the disaster-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 (Dai-ichi) nuclear plant.
"We have the expertise in that area and our team is ready," said Obhrai, noting that Canada is still waiting to hear whether the Japanese government will accept the assistance.
Obhrai said the Canadian government trusts the information that Japan is providing about its nuclear problems, despite skepticism from some members of the international community that the situation is far worse than it is officially being portrayed.
"We do trust them," said Obhrai.
The U.S. has warned its citizens to stay indoors or leave the Fukushima area if they are within 80 kilometres of the troubled reactors at the nuclear plant. Japan has said it is only necessary for citizens to stay indoors if they are within 30 kilometres of the plant.
But Canadians are also giving money to charities and non-governmental organizations that have the capability to provide assistance in quake- and tsunami-ravaged areas.
As of Wednesday, Canadians had donated $6 million towards Red Cross efforts in Japan, according to Bas Brusche, a B.C.-based spokesperson.
Brusche said the donated money is being sent directly to the Japanese arm of the Red Cross, though the Canadian part of the organization is ready to send volunteers or supplies if asked to do so.
"We work through the Japanese Red Cross, and whatever we do as the Canadian Red Cross is built on that, we support the Japanese efforts already on the ground," Brusche said.
With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press