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Haiti : Depictions of Aristide in 2010 Quebec Mainstream Media

posted by darren ell Haiti Topics: haiti, Aristide, Canada, quebec

February 16, 2010

Haiti : Depictions of Aristide in 2010 Quebec Mainstream Media

One decade since the last round of disinformation about former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide kicked into high gear, Quebec mainstream print media has proven itself impervious to historical fact. According to columnists, editors and political cartoonists in Quebec’s most influential print media, Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a lunatic, a dictator on par with Baby Doc, a last-ditch hope for desperate Haitians, and a danger to Haiti. Here’s some of what the chroniclers of our time have been saying to the majority French population in Quebec. The translations to English are mine.

The principle columnist on Haiti for La Presse in Montreal has been Vincent Marissal, a popular figure on the Quebec media landscape. Reporting from Port-au-Prince, he mused about who should replace Préval (a failed leader who he feels should be replaced with no democratic process) :
« Obviously, several leaders are totally inappropriate, but as long as the opposition doesn’t find someone capable of rallying people and creating a concensus, it will be wasting its energy. It’s not for nothing that we see banners and graffiti demanding the return of Aristide. People are looking for a glimmer of hope, even if it means looking into the darkest corners of their recent past. »(1)

Actualité is Quebec’s version of Macleans magazine. In the March 1st issue (released mid-February), dedicated to Haiti, journalist Michel Arseneault chose to interview Haitian geographer Jean-Marie Théodat to talk about reconstruction. When asked whether Aristide could play a role in the reconstruction, Théodat responded : « None whatsoever ! He is neither a doctor nor a nurse. If he returned, it would be like adding another layer to the destruction already caused by the earthquake. » (2)

Actualité also included a brief history of Haiti in their coverage. Here is how the second term of Aristide and the extraordinary crimes that followed his removal are characterized : « In December 2000, Aristide is re-elected during a strongly contested election. Haiti is ostracized from the international community. In 2004, a vast insurrection and pressure from the US push Aristide to resign. In 2006, René Préval is elected president. » (3)

The Haiti columnist for Le Devoir - Montreal's high-brow newspaper - is François Brousseau. He is the only mainstream journalist I have found in Quebec so far that talks of the kidnapping of Aristide and who uses the words « Canada » and « ouster of Aristide » in the same sentence. However, for him, Aristide suffered from megalomaniac tendencies : In his commentary, Brousseau speaks of «… the dark episode of February 2004 … when the US of George Bush, together with Canada and France as sidekicks, apprehended the elected president in his home and sent him into exile, a Jean-Bertrand Aristide with all his very real errors, prey to his visions. » (4)

Quebec caricaturists reacted to Aristide's request to return to Haiti following the earthquake. Serge Chapleau, caricaturist for La Presse, portrays a feeble Aristide waving a feeble Haitian flag. The caption reads : « When it rains, it pours, » or a similar translation is: « bad things come in twos. » In Sherbrooke’s La Tribune, caricaturist Hervé Philippe portrays Aristide holding a halo above his head and we read the following : « The former Haitian president in exile, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, capitalizes on the chaos in Haiti to stage a comeback by posing as the Messiah. » In Gatineau’s Le Droit, caricaturist Bado shows us Baby Doc riding a wooden horse yelling « If Aristide can do it, so can I ! » (5)

A sad state of affairs. Much work remains.

(1) Vincent Marissal. “En attendant la secousse politique.” La Presse. February 6, 2010. http://www.cyberpresse.ca/opinions/chroniqueurs/vincent-marissal/201002/06/01-947024-en-attendant-la-secousse-politique.php

(2) Michel Arseneault. “Il faut rebâtir par le bas!” Actualité, March 1, 2010, p. 20.

(3) Jean-Frédéric Légaré-Tremblay. “Les jalons de l’histoire.” Actualité, March 1, 2010, pp 20-21.

(4) François Brousseau. “Commentaire – les damnés de la terre.” Le Devoir, January 14, 2010. http://www.ledevoir.com/international/actualites-internationales/281069/commentaire-les-damnes-de-la-terre

(5) “Caricatures du 10 au 16 janvier, 2010.” http://photos.cyberpresse.ca/51-7566/caricatures/caricatures-du-10-au-16-janvie/?unique=2906046047280319#enVedette/0/recherche/Rechercher%20un%20album/0/onglets/51/0/album/7566/189413/

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