Obama wants to keep talking Haiti with Jean
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Saturday, February 21, 2009 7:23PM EST
Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean has been invited to stay in touch with U.S. President Barack Obama on the challenging conditions facing people living in Haiti -- a conversation topic that she brought up with the leader when he visited Ottawa earlier this week.
But if the Governor General takes the president up on his offer -- and especially if she visits Washington to do so -- it will take some serious leg work by Rideau Hall staffers to keep the lines of communication open between the two dignitaries.
Spokesperson Marthe Blouin told CTV.ca that whenever the Governor General takes a trip -- however brief it may be -- it takes an immense amount of planning.
"Preparing a visit to Washington for the Governor General, it takes normally months," Blouin said in a brief telephone interview on Saturday.
"Depending, of course, on the type of the visit: Would it be official, would it be a state visit? So, it's normally months and sometimes almost a year of preparation," she said.
But it was an open invitation the president offered, Blouin said, when he said he wanted "to keep in touch with the Governor General concerning the issue of Haiti."
The Governor General was the first to shake hands with Obama when he arrived in Ottawa earlier this week.
Jean, along with her husband, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, greeted the president as he stepped off the last of the stairs from Air Force One and onto the tarmac at Ottawa International Airport.
After what The Canadian Press described as "an animated conversation that went beyond the formal dictates of protocol," the Governor General introduced the president to a handful of other dignitaries, including Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States.
After posing for some photos, the president strolled past a line of Mounties -- which, on the official White House blog, staffer Jason Djang noted were "sans horses" -- and the procession headed inside the airport, where Jean and Obama had a private chat that lasted about a half-hour.
That's when the topic of Haiti came up, when the Governor General told the president about her recent trip to the country in which she was born.
As Blouin described the conversation to reporters earlier this week, Jean told Obama that the situation in Haiti is "terrible" as a result of "the food crisis and it's even worse after the hurricanes and tropical storms ... and even worse with the economic crisis and the recession."
That's when the president indicated he would like to stay informed about the issue.
According to the White House blog, the president's "extended meeting with the Governor General" wrapped up around 11:32 a.m., when Obama headed to Parliament to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
With files from The Canadian Press