Harold Redekopp’s white man’s burden

A week after the Canadian government fell last year, I had to explain it all to a friend of mine, a recent convention refugee. She was incredulous.

No tanks? No troops? No tear gas?

Nope, nope, nope, and the guy who was ousted was laughing all the way down.

Whether you think its shameful that someone living in Canada’s largest city didn’t know this happened, or whether you think we should have been throwing Molotov cocktails is besides the point.

This is Canadian democracy, more than 150 years down the road.

And we all know how thankful we should be to live in such a peaceful, free, democratic society, blah blah blah, but until you’ve actually lived in a place where they are fighting for same, it’s hard to truly grasp.

I think the CBC’s Canadian Institute for Training in Public Broadcasting is a fantastic idea – helping emerging democracies develop their free press, public and private. So far it’s been to Niger, Barbados (home of the other CBC), and Haiti for the upcoming elections.

This is, I believe, Harold Redekopp’s baby, and he had a lot of interesting things to say on the subject.

But before the Institute we had been doing this for a while in places like Thailand, Nigeria, Cambodia, Namibia, and South Africa, where Arnold Amber was instrumental in helping them cover their first democratic elections after apartheid. All of it was done in fine CBC tradition, with more passion and guts than money.

And in fine, senior management tradition, the new Institute, essentially a formal version of what those pesky journalists had been doing for years, has not been well publicized, and few people know it even exists.

I’ve heard grumblings about the Institute. It’s clearly outside our mandate, for one. Should we even be doing it? Who should be paying for it? Did Harold play us? Are we playing Haiti?

Haiti is no South Africa. The latter was an easier fight to take sides on, while in the former, Canada has unequivocally fucked up. Democracy has been undermined and it’s kind of our fault.

And I wonder if the CBC didn’t indulge in a little Journalistic Imperialism, sending our men down there to show them how it’s done, and at the same time giving the whole alarming situation an alarming lack of coverage back in Canada.

And I wonder why it was not a bigger story on Radio-Canada, seeing how there is such a large and well-established Haitian community in Quebec. I know for a fact that they are now getting their Haitian news from other sources, now that their national broadcaster has left them in the lurch.

And I wonder why those CBC journalists who went to Haiti – Marc Bougault, Marc Gilbert, André Lachance, Jean Martin, Pierre Mignault and Derek Quinn – have been so quiet since they came back. Surely they must have something interesting to say?

Now, I know Canadian democracy isn’t perfect. And I know that the CBC isn’t perfect. In both, you can never be completely right.

But you can always make a better decision.

So let’s pray for a peaceful election in Haiti.

And as for Canada, and the CBC, I guess it’s “better luck next time.”

1 comment

  1. Justin Beach
    Posted February 6, 2006 at 9:42 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’ve heard so many conflicting and concerning reports about Haiti – I think that if the CBC is going to be the national public broadcaster that it should be policy that whenever Canadian soldiers are sent on a potentially dangerous mission that the CBC have correspondents on the ground reporting back on what is happening.

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