Devoted followers of this blog might remember a photo I posted of activist and writer Yves Engler confronting Canadian Foreign Minister and coupster Pierre Pettigrew with a copy of the University of Miami Human Rights report aka ‘Griffin Report’, a harrowing and meticulously documented piece that shows the devastation in the wake of the coup. Pettigrew dismissed this as ‘propaganda’, without responding to any of the claims or evidence or photos. I suppose that is what one would expect from a vicious liar and a gangster (sorry for mincing words, I’m trying to keep this a family blog).
At a recent conference on Haiti in Montreal (June 17-18) where the future of occupied Haiti was being planned, Engler had another encounter with Pettigrew, the beginning of which is shown here:
It ended with Engler splashing Pettigrew’s hands with fake blood (cranberry juice, I believe). Engler was wrestled to the ground and arrested, spending the night in jail (charges were later dropped, except for disturbing the piece – I suppose they don’t want a trial and for Engler to have a platform). Pettigrew, after cleaning up, tellingly quipped about his favourite Calvin Klein suit. At least one letter-writer wondered in a Canadian daily newspaper about whether the CK suit was made in a Haitian sweatshop, where the minimum wage had been lowered since the coup.
Naomi Klein was in South Africa a few days ago and interviewed ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide, asking him his opinion on the incident:
Pierre Pettigrew just hosted a summit on the ‘transition’ and some Haitian
solidarity activists did an action where they put some red paint on [Foreign
Minister Pierre] Pettigrew’s hands to symbolize that Canada has blood on its
hands in Haiti. Does Canada have blood on its hands in Haiti?
President Jean Bertrand Aristide:
Some people in the Canadian government yes, they have Haitian blood on their
hands. But not Canada as all the people of Canada or as one country. I try
to make a clear distinction between the Canadian people who didn’t decide to
have their government going to Haiti, seeing Pettigrew and the others with
the Haitian blood on their hands.
Aristide also took some pains to distance himself from the action – no doubt wanting to avoid the constant propaganda about him pressing buttons from Africa and causing crimes halfway around the world. He told Naomi:
I don’t encourage people to go against any government in Canada or to go
against the de facto government in Haiti. I encourage them to resist in a
peaceful way while they are asking for my return.
There was a bit of tactical debate about Engler’s action, which I thought was wonderful. Some who wrote me wondered whether it would be counterproductive. I think not. I worry when tactics seem disproportionate – when the ‘punishment’ seems to exceed the crime. Pettigrew’s crimes so far exceed what Engler did or could do that it’s uncomfortable to make the comparison, so there’s no proportionality problem there. What about consequences? Because it was obviously a Canadian acting on his own initiative, it can’t be easily used to attack Lavalas or Haitians, so there is insulation for the victims. Engler made a calculation about the possible personal costs, and I think made a courageous decision. He could have faced jail time, etc. – but that would also have given him a platform from which to attack Canada’s horrendous actions in Haiti. As it was, he put the fact that there is opposition in Canada to what the Canadian government has done and is doing on the table in a way that had not been on the table before, despite efforts at mobilization and small (hopefully growing) efforts at organization and education. So, I’d have to say thanks to Engler, and look forward to seeing his book (with Anthony Fenton) on Canada in Haiti, which is coming out in the fall.