OTTAWA - Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean choked back tears Wednesday as she urged her "brothers and sister" in Haiti to be courageous in the face of a devastating earthquake.

Jean, who came to Canada with her parents as an 11 year old, also thanked the federal government for moving so quickly to help her former homeland.

"Like me, Haitian communities across Canada are heartbroken and overwhelmed by the magnitude of this catastrophe," she told a news conference.

"The images and news reports are unbearable to watch. So much distress, suffering and loss. We are also, of course, imagining the worst, situations no image can capture that only increase our feeling of helplessness.

"Now more than ever, it is time for us to show our solidarity with the most vulnerable people in the Americas, our brothers and sisters in Haiti, whose courage is once again being so harshly tested."

Jean saluted the "friendship and solidarity" of Canada and the international community. And she paid tribute to the Canadian police officers, soldiers, missionaries and humanitarian workers caught up in the disaster.

Tens of thousands of Haitians have been left without food, water, shelter and medical help in the wake of Tuesday's quake.

Canada is poised to send helicopters, ships, a disaster response team, supplies and $5 million in cash to help the country.