Star-studded telethon raises millions for Haiti

A crowd of people gathered in front of a big screen in the atrium of CBC Toronto headquarters last night, riveted by scenes of Haitian children suffering in makeshift hospitals.

Many turned away as on screen, a doctor tended the gaping wounds of a screaming child. Then, just as quickly, they turned back ready to be delighted by the Tragically Hip’s performance of “Fiddler’s Green.”

Friday evening Canada’s top broadcasters-CTV, Global Television and CBC Television-jointly hosted Canada for Haiti, a commercial-free fundraiser for relief efforts on the devastated island nation.

In between performances by Nelly Furtado, K’Naan, Metric and The Tragically Hip, Canadian celebrities such as Rachel McAdams, Donovan Bailey and Celine Dion called on viewers to donate.

“Do whatever you can-a dollar, five dollars. Whatever you can,” entreated Dion in a pre-recorded message.

Nigel Fisher, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada, also saw the fundraiser as an opportunity for celebration.

“It’s to raise funds, but it’s also … to thank Canadians because they’ve already been so generous,” he said.

Canada for Haiti aired from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. By the end of the night nearly 100,000 Canadians had collectively donated over $9 million.

Ottawa has pledged to match all funds raised by the event, up to $50 million.

All proceeds will be distributed equally between nine of Canada’s leading on-site, not-for-profit organizations including UNICEF, Oxfam, Plan Canada, Save the Children and World Vision.

In the end, though the crowd and the big names may have drawn some people to the event, the cause compelled them to stay-and give.

Paulina Naranjo stopped in after seeing the crowd as she passed by on her way home from the Ontario Hospital Association, where she works as an executive assistant.

“I saw these people and I remembered. It was a reminder that I had to make a contribution,” she said.

You can donate to Canada for Haiti over the phone at 1-877-HAITI (42484) or online at