In a surprise announcement, Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino told a Montreal newspaper that Canada has frozen funding for new aid projects in Haiti.

Fantino told La Presse that Canada has blocked any new Haiti aid until it determines a more efficient way for that country to take charge of its own destiny.

"It's on ice right now," he told the newspaper in a story published Friday. "We continue to fund some programs… But there is no new initiative at this time.”

He said Canada has contributed about $1 billion to Haiti since 2006 but it is now time for the country to solve its own problems.

Fantino’s comments surprised Haitian officials and drew criticism from various groups Friday, but the Canadian International Development Agency says Canada is still committed to helping the impoverished country devastated by a massive 2010 earthquake.

“Development funding for Haiti has not been frozen, contrary to the La Presse headline,” a CIDA spokesperson said in a statement issued late Friday.

The statement noted that Canada “moved quickly” to provide immediate disaster relief in Haiti after the earthquake struck.

“Canada remains concerned with the slow progress of development in Haiti due to its weak governing institutions and corruption,” CIDA said. 

“That is why Minister Fantino has made clear that Canada is reviewing its long-term engagement strategy with Haiti to maximize Canadian taxpayer dollars to improve the results achieved and better address the needs and priorities of the Haitian people. We continue to make some progress on areas of long term development that we have previously to and stand ready to offer our support for the people of Haiti in response to their emergency needs should further humanitarian crises arise."

The Canadian government has been hard at work lately explaining its controversial new approach to international aid, which ties economic benefits to Canada to aid dollars dished out. Critics say this will leave some of the world’s most-destitute nations without access to Canadian help.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, partially due to its tumultuous political history; it did not have a peaceful transition of leadership from one elected government to another until the mid-2000s. Much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, was destroyed in the earthquake, and the country was also recently battered by Hurricane Sandy.

Last week, Canada issued a travel warning for Haiti, warning potential visitors that the country is rife with kidnappings, robbery, lawlessness and cholera. The Haitian government responded furiously, saying the Dec. 21 advisory doesn’t take recent security improvements into account and further harms the country’s struggling industries.