On election night, Papineau Bloc Quebecois candidate Vivian Barbot unseated 10-year Liberal incumbent Pierre Pettigrew. She ended an 80-year Liberal rule of the riding by a margin of 1000 votes, and by the same token, made history as Canada’s first Haitian Member of Parliament. Still Barbot, 64, a former teacher and president of the Quebec Federation of Women, said she couldn’t accept full credit for the win.
Pettigrew barely scraped by with 400 votes in 2004, and this time, his campaign was plagued with problems. He called separatists “a bunch of losers,” and a group protesting for Haiti ”a marginal group of Haitian Montrealers.” As minister of foreign affairs, he also spawned the Security Certificates that Arab and Muslim communities feel target them unfairly.
Today, Papineau’s fate seems to be resting securely in the hands of Barbot, a Haitian immigrant who came to Montreal for a better life at age 25. Residents hope she can breathe new life into the riding, something they say Pettigrew failed to do in his years in office.
The riding, comprised of Villeray, Park Extension and parts of St. Michel, ranks as the second poorest in Canada. With much of its population living in dire conditions, Barbot sees more problems than solutions. Yet, priorities have never been clearer.
“We know what we lack,” Barbot said, in an interview with The Concordian, “We don’t have parks, we don’t have gymnasiums for kids,” …