Once upon a time there was an island called Haiti

On that island they had some elections. They chose someone to be their President. Then some people from some other countries decided to get rid of that President and pick a new one. Some of the people from the island disagreed – so they were killed.

On that island they had some elections. They chose someone to be their President. Then some people from some other countries decided to get rid of that President and pick a new one. Some of the people from the island disagreed – so they were killed.

Some of the people (like Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew) from the other countries (like Canada) said they were ‘helping’ the island and wouldn’t use the word ‘coup’. They said they ‘didn’t know’ about all the atrocities and killings that accompanied the ouster of the elected President (sometimes called a ‘coup’, though not very often in this case, oddly).

One of these people (Pierre Pettigrew) was asked by a concerned individual about the coup. The conversation went, according to that individual, as follows:

Q: I recently went to Haiti, where everyone is asking: Why is Canada doing
this to us? There are politicians — senators, the prime minister — sitting
in jails. We’re training police officers that are terrorizing poor
neighborhoods, with the victims too afraid to go to the hospital…

Pettigrew: We didn’t train those officers!

Q: Yes we did.

Pettigrew: No we did not.

Q: We’re supporting the overthrow of a democratically elected government…

P: That’s not true at all! We’re supporting —

Q: Did we condemn the coup? Did you condemn the coup?

P: (more softly) No.

Q: OK, so we’re supporting it —

P: Look if you’re asking me to change Canadian government policy, the answer
is no. We’re supporting Prime Minister Latortue…

Q: So Canada supports coups, that’s our policy. We support coups! So if you
ever got overthrown, you obviously would regard that as legitimate…

[at this point he turns away, ignores me, and I get moved away by his

Later that day, Pettigrew was shown a copy of this report by another concerned individual. Here he is reacting to the report, courtesy of the dominion.


Anyone want to volunteer some text for the thought bubble above his head?

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

17 thoughts on “Once upon a time there was an island called Haiti”

  1. It is would be much harder
    It is would be much harder for Pettigrew to deny what is happening if progressives within the Canadian media (McQuaig, Salutin, Klein) spoke up.

    I never expected much from Salutin, but Mcquaig has been disappointment – so fixated on exposing the war in Iraq when most Canadians already oppose it.

    Canadian propaganda on Haiti is a house of cards that we should have blown over by now.

  2. McQuaig’s op-ed today in the
    McQuaig’s op-ed today in the Toronto Star was terrible. It is particulary disappointing that days away from the anniversary of the coup in Haiti she talks about Canada’s “gutsy refusal to go along” with missile defence.

    Martin feared public opinion more than the US on this particular issue. There was nothing “gutsy” going on here. Martin has little reason to fear public opposition to Canada’s involemmnet in Haiti – thanks in part to progessive writers like McQuaig.

    I hate saying this becasue I really admire a lot of McQuaig’s work. I used to look forward to her columns every Sunday.

  3. I still do… she’s still a
    I still do… she’s still a breath of fresh air in this political culture. Does she ever reply to your entreaties or suggestions that she write about it? I can’t imagine she is deliberately ignoring it – she probably just doesn’t understand how important it is or how bad?

  4. Yes, she’s replied,
    Yes, she’s replied, basically saying she would get around to it. It has been almost a year since she has written anything.

    I’ve not only pleaded with her to write about it but forwarded her a lot of information – Tom Griffen’s report, Kevin Pina’s reports, etc…

    As I’ve said to her this isn’t some US crime that Canada is politetly keeping quite about. We have been enthusiastically behind it – aided and abetted it – bragged about our good work as the corspes pile up etc…

    Here’ smy lastest entreaty (today’s). Can you tell I’m losing patience – beginning to fear I overestimated her? I’ve asked them to run it as a letter the letter. I won’t hold my breath.

    Martin feared public opinion more than the US on the issue of missile defence. There was nothing “gutsy” about his move. Moreover, his refusal to go along the US on some things has been paid for with the blood of Haitians. We are days away from the anniversary of the coup. Isn’t it time progressive writers like you who have a voice in the mainstream media, started mentioning Canada has offered up its “good name” [however undeserved] to help US backed murderers?

    Martin does not fear public opinion on Haiti despite how evil his policy has been. Why do you suppose that is?

  5. Justin,
    I’m very slow, so


    I’m very slow, so excuse me for asking for a clarification. Was the “concerned individual” yourself? If so, well done. If not, well done to whoever it was.

    I should probably know more about Haiti than I do, although in my defence I’m not sure if my government (UK plc) are involved. Any information on that front?

  6. Hi Disillusioned kid.
    Hi Disillusioned kid. Neither of the individuals in question were me. The one in the photo is Yves Engler, who has written much and well on the subject. The one from the transcript is Aaron Mate. I just didn’t give their names because I got the data off of a listserve and wasn’t sure if they’d want to be named in a big public way (the comments section is another matter).

  7. The AP report the Globe ran
    The AP report the Globe ran on February 25 stated that

    “Haiti’s first freely elected president was toppled Feb. 29 after a three-week rebellion led by former soldiers and a street gang but remains the most popular politician in the Caribbean country of eight million.”

    Shortly after the coup the AP relentlessly pushed the assertion that Aristide was unpopular.

    For example on March 11, 2004 they described him as a “once popular slum priest”.

  8. Justin: word up–I wrote to
    Justin: word up–I wrote to McQuaige about this specific issue.

    Her reply was a curt, “I’ll look into it”.

    That was months ago.

    No, she is being cowardly, no matter how much some of us welcome her critique of US for. policy.

    With Haiti, we are shining a spotlight on Canada’s support for pure facism. It sucks to smell one’s own shit.

    Linda is being a coward.

  9. I share Joe’s sentiments re:
    I share Joe’s sentiments re: McQuaig. I also have sent her a bunch of shit since the coup, she has replied to me much like she appears to have to Joe. On the first occasion, she refered me to Bill Schiller, foreign affairs person at the Star. I spoke to him and he assured me that he would look at whatever I had to send him (NLG human rights reports, IJDH, other pertinent stuff, etc.) and he never replied, even though he appeared to show interest in running a story initially. Ever since then McQuaig hasn’t replied to e-mails, and, like Naomi Klein (who we should not leave out of this thread concerning Canadian “progressives” who prefer to write about U.S. crimes while falling mercy to Canada’s own brand of exceptionalism), she has written nary a thing on the matter. Also, the “concerned citizen” handing Pettigrew the report also got shafted by Bill Schiller, dismissed, I think,as being “too opinionated” in his eyewitness report of Haitian realities and his recounting of in depth interviews with Haitians affected by the coup. Anyone who pleads ignorance at this point does so willfully.

    Also, for Disillusioned Kid, the UK government did help fund Haiti’s political opposition, something like $200k (every little bit helps!!) This came out in UK parliament some time ago. If I can dig it up, I’ll post the details later.

  10. poor pettigrew.. looks like
    poor pettigrew.. looks like every corner he runs to, he had to face a disgruntled constituent complaining about another part of the world…

    On Friday, February 26, Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Member of Parliament for Papineau held an open house at his riding office.

    Several members of PAJU (Palestinian-Jewish Unity) attended the event. Janet Weinroth, a PAJU member reported the following to imopa.

    The office was packed with many Haitian-Canadians who were there to tell Minister Pettigrew in no uncertain terms that they were very unhappy with Canada’s support of last year’s coup that ousted President Aristide (see “Unedited account of one activist’s questioning of Foreign Minister Pierre Pettrigrew”)

    Minister Pettigrew was visibly nervous and seemingly overwhelmed by the number of people who had shown up at his open house. With his expensive suit, coiffed hair and aristocratic demeanour, he seemed to be wondering what he was doing there surrounded by mere plebeians, all demanding his attention.

    After patiently waiting their turn in line, PAJU activists spoke individually with Minister Pettigrew telling him that Canada’s increasingly pro-Israel pronouncements and policies were unacceptable. (see: “Canada will never, ever waver
    in its support for Israel and our strong belief in Israel’s right to defend itself” and also the “Canada’s Foreign Policy” section at (www.imopa.ca ).

    Janet reminded him that Canada’s hard-working, omni-present pro-Israel lobby does not reflect the opinions of all Jewish Canadians but rather that of a foreign government. She implored him to listen to the voices of this growing sector of Jews, including ex-Israelis as well as Canadians of all backgrounds who are strongly opposed to the Israel’s brutal 38 year occupation of the Palestinian people and their land.

    Another PAJU member told Minister Pettigrew, “that it is all very well to say (as he does) that Canada is the only country that can speak to both sides and be listened to with respect. Unfortunately, Israel listens politely to Canada and then does exactly as it likes and continues the occupation. It sounds good to say that Canada backs negotiations between the two parties, but what kind of fair negotiation can go on between the worlds’ 5th strongest military power and an occupied people stripped of all heavy weapons”

    Minister Pettigrew was also reminded that Nelson Mandela, a towering statesman of our age and an expert on apartheid, has declared the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza to be exactly like what white South Africa had done to South African blacks. Mandela explicitly called the occupation apartheid.

    At this point Pettigrew, whose manner had become increasingly impatient, said, “Well, if that’s your opinion” …and ended the exchange, going on to
    another person.

  11. And so you now understand
    And so you now understand what is wrong with the Left putting its hopes in the hands of (small ‘l’) liberals. Even if they’re personally or professionally or ideologically nice. Even if they have overwork and burnout as half an excuse for dropping the ball.

    Fact is — their cushy, prestigious job is #1.

    Channel your efforts into the REAL alternative: the radical — even revolutionary — alternative media.

  12. Gringo, that seems like a
    Gringo, that seems like a false dichotomy to me. When I was discussing the Ward Churchill flap I touched on this issue. The main difference between people like McQuaig or Klein and myself, or Fenton, or Engler, isn’t a gigantic ideological gulf, just a matter of access to audience. We can’t rely on ‘liberals’, we can’t rely even on good people to get things in the mainstream media, and we can’t rely on the alternative media to reach huge numbers of people. That’s the world as it exists. As for where our efforts should be deployed, I think you’re right – building ‘mass alternative media’ is the goal, but in the meantime sending notes to a handful of people who are known to have decent values and some access to mainstream ouetlets doesn’t seem to me to be a waste of time. The effort is small, doesn’t detract from our alternative media work, and the payoff is potentially important.

  13. Looks like Salutin is
    Looks like Salutin is writing about Haiti, too bad the globe and mail only lets you read 2 lines of it online if you don’t subscribe….i wonder what he is saying…..

  14. Wonder no more,
    Wonder no more, Emery…

    Democracy if necessary, but not …
    746 words
    4 March 2005
    The Globe and Mail

    There’s a bone in my craw. It concerns the euphoria over the epidemic of democracy in Iraq, Palestine, Ukraine, Lebanon . . .

    The bone is called Haiti, perhaps you recall it? Island not nearly as far away, where it should be far easier to achieve noble ends than in distant, hostile regions. Actual Canadian police officers involved, part of a 7,400-strong UN force. Paul Martin visited last fall to show Canada’s ³long-term commitment to a strong democracy.² One senior Haitian justice official says a Canadian agency, CIDA, assigned him his post and pays him. A commander of a police unit from Quebec says what he does in Haiti is ³engage in daily guerrilla warfare,² largely by giving ³backup² to Haitian police operations in what are routinely called massacres. A month ago, The Globe’s Marina Jiménez wrote from there: ³More than 200 people have died in street violence in the past three months.²

    Consider two recent stories. On Feb. 19, ³gunmen stormed Haiti’s main prison . . . and drove away with jailed former prime minister Yvon Neptune² ‹ a supporter of former (elected) president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was spirited off by the U.S. and flown to Africa a year ago. As many as 500 of the 1,200 prisoners, most of whom had never seen a judge, may also have escaped. Witnesses said Yvon Neptune was forced into a car, but he reached UN officials and demanded a return to the (relative) safety of the prison, the site of earlier attempts, he says, to murder him. Five days ago, on the anniversary of the (latest) coup, Haitian police fired on a march demanding Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s return, killing at least three protesters.

    The connection to democracy? Well, in 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Canadian-educated priest who built a movement working in the slums, won Haiti’s first democratic election with 67.5 per cent of the vote. The U.S.-backed candidate came second with 14.2 per cent. It was called ³a textbook example of participatory, Œbottom up’ and democratic political development.² He was overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup in 1991, then reinstalled by U.S. troops in 1994 on condition he scrap his equalizing social policies and implement a brutal ³austerity² agenda. He agreed but still built more schools between 1994 and 2000 than had been built between 1804 and 1994. He was re-elected in 2000 with 90 per cent of the vote. A year ago, he was whisked off to Africa.

    Why is this instructive? Because Haiti was not a case where the U.S. had to impose democracy. It existed. And the U.S. wiped it out, twice. At the least, does it not raise the question: What is the U.S. motive elsewhere when it says its goal is democratization? I won’t speculate, but don’t you think it makes for an interesting discussion?

    It’s a question that also applies ‹ still using Haiti ‹ to human rights, often cited as another motive for U.S. intervention, as in Iraq or Kosovo. A recent stunning (and sickening: it includes photos) study by the University of Miami School of Law’s Center for the Study of Human Rights says, ³Life for the impoverished majority is becoming more violent and more inhuman . .. since the elected government’s removal. . . .The police, backed by UN forces, routinely carry out indiscriminate . . . killing operations. . . . Prisons fill with young men . . . denied due process. Partisanship and corruption,² it concludes, linking rights to democracy, ³occupy the electoral council’s attention, leaving little hope for free and fair elections.²

    The point is not that U.S. policy is opposed to democracy and human rights. More that those constitute means, rather than ends, which might be economic, military or ideological. If democracy serves the ends, fine. If not, screw democracy. You might even use democracy to destroy democracy, depending on your other goals. Democracy and human rights if necessary, but not necessarily democracy and human rights.

    By the way, I don’t enjoy this role. Marcus Gee gets to turn hand-springs in this space on Wednesdays (³Admit it: Bush aids democracy²) and Fridays I get to pout. I feel like the neighbour who interrupts a great party to say, Um, some of the cars parked outside are being tagged and towed.


  15. Justin,
    wish you had beaten


    wish you had beaten me to the punch before I gave the Glib & Stale five bucks. I try hard not to pay anything for mainstream media while not ignoring it.

    I wrote to Salutin, copied McQuaig, asking him for more Haiti articles. At least he’s taken a small step towards undoing the damage done by the paper he writes for.

    Hope he doesn’t expect standing ovationis for one article after a year of silence.

  16. nice, thanks for that,
    nice, thanks for that, justin. I don’t blame Salutin for the sad sad sad state of the globe and mail though. This has been an especially depressing if revealing week about how bad our mainstream media has become. From that disgusting CBC Haiti article, to the reaction of All of our mainstream media to the decision to stay out of missile defense and now to the new assault on marijuana decrim-im feeling a little queasy. nice to have blogs like this to turn to, keep up the great work. One other article which impressed me was this one:
    …..the comparisons to Mossadeq’s Iran seem way too accurate.

  17. The main difference between
    The main difference between people like McQuaig or Klein and myself, or Fenton, or Engler, isn’t a gigantic ideological gulf, just a matter of access to audience. We can’t rely on ‘liberals’, we can’t rely even on good people to get things in the mainstream media, and we can’t rely on the alternative media to reach huge numbers of people. That’s the world as it exists.

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