MONTREAL - It could cost as much as $5 million to fix the Canadian embassy in Haiti which was badly damaged in last month's earthquake, according to a federal contracting document.

A call for tenders has been issued while diplomats, struggling to maintain services at the embassy, have been working out of a garage or the few other parts of the building left untouched by the quake.

Built in 2004 at a cost of $20 million, the embassy compound is located in an upper-middle-class neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince and is among the most elaborate structures in the city.

Staff were chased from the building during the 7.0-magnitude earthquake, which led to the collapse of an atrium roof, made staircases unsafe, and dislodged ceiling panels.

After the disaster, the compound's plush gardens and swimming pool were crammed with evacuees fleeing to Canada, while its tennis court was turned into a military headquarters.

"The embassy building has been greatly affected by the earthquake," said Dana Cryderman, a spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs Department.

"Although the embassy building has sustained damage, it remains operational."

Employees have used a variety of creative means to keep that building operational, after the embassy was largely emptied out after the quake. Ambassador Gilles Rivard, for instance, set up an office in the garage.

The embassy building was further damaged when Port-au-Prince was hit by a 6.1 aftershock more than a week after the quake. It shook loose additional parts of the structure and scattered debris onto journalists who had converted an empty reception area into their impromptu media centre.

Hasty renovations have already been undertaken to allow embassy staff to treat the enormous demand for entry into Canada.

The federal government has now put out a call for tenders to conduct more extensive repairs, and it pegs the value of the work at $1 million to $5 million.

"In the interim, we have erected construction barriers dividing safe from unsafe areas of the Embassy," said Cryderman.

"(We have) created new openings and doors to provide access to safe areas since two staircases are temporarily in areas considered unsafe and are converting sections of the garage into offices."

Unlike Ottawa's $12-million contract to build a temporary home for the Haitian government announced last week, the contract to fix up the embassy will be submitted to public tender.

The opposition has accused the government of setting a bad precedent by sole-sourcing the other contract.

Government officials will meet Friday to review proposals for the embassy building. The Department of Foreign Affairs could announce the successful bidder by early March.

The request for proposals raises the possibility of constructing a brand "new embassy or compound site." But the government says such a drastic move is unlikely.

The project could include setting up semi-permanent housing for staff who have lost their homes or additional workers who have been dispatched to assist the embassy.

There are currently around 40 additional government workers in Haiti helping to ease the workload on the embassy's regular staff.

Embassy staff in Port-au-Prince processed 4,618 people who boarded flights back to Canada before the government announced earlier this week it had stopped evacuations.

About 200,000 people are believed to have died in the disaster.