Global affairs scholars too close to institutions they study

Should social scientists seek the truth regardless of whose toes may be stepped on and cite, up front, possible conflicts of interest regarding matters they study?

All academia disciplines certainly claim independence of thought and transparency are critical principles that guide good research.

So, what then are we to make of academic discussion of Canada’s foreign policy, which is dominated by individuals with ties to the very decision-making structures they study?

The highly regarded Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) is a prime example.

The oldest global affairs school in Canada, Carleton University’s graduate program was established in 1965 with $400,000 ($5 million today) from long-time Senator Norman Paterson, a grain-shipping magnate.[i] During World War II his company provided vessels for Atlantic convoys and Paterson was a major player within the Liberal Party.

Twice under-secretary of External Affairs and leading architect of post-World War II Canadian foreign policy, Norman Robertson was the school’s first director. Unhappy in a diplomatic post in Geneva, External Affairs colleagues secured Robertson the NPSIA position.[ii] During his time at Carleton, Robertson continued to be paid as a “Senior Advisor” to External Affairs, overseeing a major review of a department concerned about growing criticism that it was acting as a U.S. “errand boy” in Vietnam.[iii]

The initial chair of Strategic Studies at NPSIA was a former deputy minister of Veterans Affairs and Canada’s principal disarmament negotiator between 1960 and 1968.[iv] Lieutenant-General Eedson L. M. Burns left government to take up the Carleton post.[v]

Three months after stepping down as prime minister in 1968 Lester Pearson began teaching a seminar on Canadian foreign policy at NPSIA. In a foreword to Freedom and Change: Essays in Honour of Lester B. Pearson, Senator Norman Paterson wrote, “the idea of creating a School of International Affairs in Canada and thoughts on how Lester Pearson might spend part of his time after retiring from public life became intimately bound together in my mind.”[vi]

After Pearson died in 1972 his friends raised funds to establish the Lester B. Pearson Chair of International Affairs at NPSIA.[vii] A former Canadian ambassador to Egypt and the USSR, as well as secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Arnold Cantwell Smith, was the first Lester B. Pearson chair.[viii]

The close association between NPSIA and Global Affairs continues. Former Canadian ambassador to the UN, president of the Security Council and director of the government-created Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security, William Barton gave $3 million to establish a chair at NPSIA in 2008.[ix] The NPSIA faculty includes numerous former Canadian diplomats, including ambassador to Washington Derek Burney, long-time diplomat Colin Robertson and former ambassador to Jordan, Egypt and Israel Michael Dougall Bell.[x] A former director of DND’s Directorate of History, Norman Hillmer, security analyst Stephanie Carvin and special advisor to the external minister Gerald Wright are also faculty members.[xi]

NPSIA is but one example of the foreign-policy government apparatus’s influence in academia. Into the late 1960s individuals who’d worked in the military’s historical sections dominated academic posts in military history and associated fields while current or former DND and Global Affairs historians remain influential within academia.[xii]

DND has also instigated a handful of “security studies” programs and its Security Defence Forum funds more than a dozen of these university initiatives. Similarly, the Canadian International Development Agency spawned and financed various “development studies” programs.

Is it any wonder that critical discussion of Canadian foreign policy is almost non-existent? Or that much of what does exist seems more like cheerleading than serious academic research?

Canadians deserve better from the institutions they rely upon to tell them the truth.

A version of this article first appeared in The Hill Times


[i] Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (

[ii] J. L. Granatstein, A Man of Influence: Norman A. Robertson and Canadian Statecraft, 1929-68, 371

[iii] Ibid, 372/374

[iv] E. L. M. Burns (

[v] Ibid

[vi] Michael Fry, Freedom and Change: Essays in Honour of Lester B. Pearson, Foreword

[vii] Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (

[viii] Ibid

[ix] William and Jeanie Barton Chair in International Affairs (

[x] Faculty (

[xi] Ibid

[xii] Tim Cook, Clio’s Warriors, 210/221

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Filed under A Propaganda System

Mainstream media finally reveals truth about Rwanda’s dictator

It was a tough week for Romeo Dallaire, Louise Arbour, Gerald Caplan and other liberal Canadian cheerleaders of Africa’s most bloodstained dictator. 

Last Tuesday’s Globe and Mail described two secret reports documenting Paul Kagame’s “direct involvement in the 1994 missile attack that killed former president Juvénal Habyarimana, leading to the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people died.” In other words, the paper is accusing the Rwandan leader widely celebrated for ending the genocidal killings of having unleashed them.

Another front-page story the following day quoted Marie-Rose Habyarimana, who was studying here when her father was assassinated and is now a Canadian citizen, highlighting the absurdity of the official story. “They have been hypocritical”, she told the Globe and Mail. “Two Hutu presidents and a Hutu army chief were killed in a plane attack, and we were supposed to believe that Hutus were behind this, as though they would naturally sabotage themselves. Those who really wanted to see the truth, who could have looked deeply, could have seen through these attempts to lie and deform history.”

(According to the official story, Hutu extremists waited until much of the Hutu-led Rwandan military command was physically eliminated and the Hutu were at their weakest point in three decades, before they began a long planned systematic extermination of Tutsi.)

On a personal level it was gratifying to see Canada’s ‘paper of record’ finally report something I’ve been criticized for writing. A few days before the Globereport, I received an email from a York University professor telling me: “I tried earlier this year to arrange a launch for your book Canada in Africa, but it was met with some serious opposition. You’ve been branded, rightly or wrongly, a Rwandan genocide-denier. I am sorry, but I don’t think speaking at York is going to work out.”

My sin for that university’s “Africanists” was to challenge the Paul Kagame/Romeo Dallaire/Gerald Caplan version of the Rwandan tragedy. Contrary to popular perception, the genocide was not a long planned attempt to exterminate all Tutsi, which even the victors’ justice dispensed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) effectively concluded. Instead, it was the outgrowth of a serious breakdown in social order that saw hundreds of thousands of Tutsi slaughtered by relatively disorganized local command. But, Kagame’s RPF also killed tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of Hutu.

Both directly and indirectly, the RPF was implicated in a significant proportion of the bloodshed during the spring of 1994. Christian Davenport and Allan Stam, US academics initially sponsored by the ICTR, found a strong correlation between RFP “surges” — advances in April 1994 — and local bloodbaths. In 2009 Davenport and Stam reported: “The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR [Armed Forces of Rwanda] seemed to escalate as the RPF moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased.”

Somewhere between several hundred thousand and a million Rwandans were killed over 100 days in mid-1994. The US academics concluded that the “majority of victims were likely Hutu and not Tutsi.”

The official story of the Rwandan genocide usually begins April 6, 1994, but any serious investigation must at least go back to the events of October 1, 1990. On that day, thousands of troops from Uganda’s army, mainly exiled Tutsi elite, invaded Rwanda. The Ugandan government accounted for these events with the explanation that 4,000 of its troops “deserted” to invade. These troops included Uganda’s former deputy defence minister, former head of intelligence and other important military officials. This unbelievable explanation has been accepted largely because Washington and London backed Uganda’s aggression, which according to the Nuremberg Principles is the “supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

The rise of ethnic enmity and breakdown of social order was caused by many factors. The 1990 Uganda/RPF invasion displaced about one million Rwandans, nearly 15% of the population. Six months before the spring 1994 bloodletting, Burundi’s Tutsi-dominated army assassinated its first elected Hutu president. The political killings sparked significant violence and the flight of hundreds of thousands of mostly Hutu Burundians into Rwanda. This further destabilized the small country and elevated animosity towards Tutsis, who were accused of refusing to accept majority rule.

Rwanda’s 1959-61 Hutu revolution saw the majority group gain political control while the Tutsi minority maintained control of Burundi after independence. Historically, the Tutsi, who speak the same language and practice the same religion as the Hutu, were distinguished based upon their proximity to the monarchy. In other words, the Tutsi/Hutu was a class/caste divide, which Belgian colonialism racialized.

The breakdown of social order was also tied to economic hardship brought on by the low price of coffee and foreign-imposed economic adjustments. No longer worried about the prospect of poor coffee producers turning towards the Soviet Union, the US withdrew its support for the International Coffee Agreement in 1989, an accord Ottawa was never enamoured with. The price of coffee tumbled, devastating Rwanda’s main cash crop. Largely because of the reduction in the price of coffee the government’s budget dropped by 40 percent. When Rwanda went in search of international support, the IMF used the country’s weakness to push economic reforms at the same time as donors demanded political reforms.  The Path of a GenocideThe Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire notes, “political adjustments were pushed on Rwanda at the same time that Canada required Rwanda to adopt a structural adjustment approach to its economy.” As in so many other places, structural adjustment brought social instability.

In the years leading to the mass killings, Canada began tying its aid to a “democratization” process, despite the country being under assault from a foreign-supported guerrilla group, the RPF. Ostensibly, because of human rights violations, Ottawa cut millions in aid to Rwanda. 

The RPF benefited from the role Canada played in weakening the Habyarimana government. Ottawa also played a more direct part in Kagame’s rise to power. Taking direction from Washington, Canadian General (later Senator) Romeo Dallaire was the military commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, which was dispatched to oversee the Arusha Accords peace agreement. As I detail in this article, which the York professor presented as evidence of my “genocide denial”, Dallaire backed the RPF.

A widely celebrated Canadian also played an important part in covering up who downed the plane carrying both Rwandan Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, as well as the chief of staff of the Rwandan Defence Forces, another official responsible for the “maison militaire” of the Rwandan president as well as the chief of the military cabinet of the Rwandan president and two Burundian ministers.Canadian Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, who left the bench to head the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, wasn’t interested in evidence suggesting the RPF was responsible for Habyarimana’s assassination. According to French government investigators and the National Post, she refused to investigate evidence implicating the RPF in shooting down Habyarimana’s airplane. In 1996 former ICTR investigator Michael Hourigan compiled evidence based on the testimony of three RPF informants who claimed “direct involvement in the 1994 fatal rocket attack upon the President’s aircraft” and “specifically implicated the direct involvement of [Kagame]” and other RPF members. But, when Hourigan delivered the evidence to her in early 1997, Arbour was “aggressive” and “hostile,” according to Hourigan. Despite initially supporting the investigation surrounding who shot down the plane, the ICTR’s chief prosecutor now advised Hourigan that the “investigation was at an end because in her view it was not in our [the ICTR’s] mandate.”

When the ICTR prosecutor who took over from Arbour, Carla del Ponte, began to investigate the RPF’s role in shooting down Habyarimana’s plane the British and Americans had her removed from her position. Del Ponte details her ordeal and the repression of the investigation in The Hunt: Me and the War Criminals.

A French magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguière, who spent eight years investigating the death of the three French nationals operating the presidential jet, issued nine arrest warrants for high-ranking RPF officials (French law prohibits issuing an arrest warrant for a head of state, excluding Kagame from the investigation.) Bruguière concluded that Kagame rejected the August 1993 Arusha Accords and that he needed Habyarimana’s “physical elimination” for the RPF to take power. Bruguière’s detailed investigation on behalf of the French family members of the jet’s crew showed that “due to the numerical inferiority of the Tutsi electorate, the political balance of power did not allow [Kagame] to win elections on the basis of the political process set forth by the Arusha Agreements without the support of the opposition parties. … In Paul Kagame’s mind, the physical elimination of President Habyarimana became imperative as early as October 1993 as the sole way of achieving his political aims.”

A number of high-profile liberal Canadians have legitimated Kagame’ s dictatorship and repeated invasions of the Congo. It’s long past time Dallaire, Arbour and Caplan answer for their actions and apologetics.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada in Africa

Israeli apologists blinded by ‘Zionist religion’

Israel apologists often complain about leftists “singling Israel out” or “obsessing” over the country, inferring a motivation of anti-Semitism.

Putting aside the obvious truth that “obsessing” over the plight of an oppressed people ought to be considered a compliment and campaigning on any issue amounts to “singling” it out, the accusation often represents what a Freudian analyst would call a “projection.”

It is the Israeli nationalists themselves who single out and obsess over that country.

In Understanding the Zionist ReligionNational Post columnist and Walrus Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Kay wrote, “At a recent large speaking event at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, for instance, a middle-aged woman proudly told the crowd that she spent eight hours a day on Facebook groups devoted to the subject. Other crowd members seemed to regard this as an admirable lifestyle choice. … Many Jewish retirees I know have quite literally made online Israel advocacy a full-time calling… In some cases I have observed, it is not an exaggeration to say that Zionism is not just the dominant factor in Jews’ political lives—but also in their spiritual lives.”

Beyond the psychological aspect, the argument Israel is treated unfairly by leftists collapses upon historical inspection. In fact, one could better argue that the Canadian left remains in debt to Palestinians and must make up for all the one-sided support it gave to the Zionist project over the decades.

For example:

  • At its inaugural convention in 1956, the Canadian Labour Congress called on the “government to lend sympathetic support to Israel’s request for defensive armaments, in order that Israel may match, in quality if not in quantity, the constant flow of Soviet bloc armaments into the Arab countries, and further appeals to our government to use its good offices in urging other free Western countries to do likewise.” The resolution was passed just before Israel invaded Egypt alongside former colonial powers France and Britain. What is especially disturbing about this resolution is that Canada had been selling Israel weapons for a number of years and was under (private) pressure from Washington to send Israel advanced fighter jets. I’m unfamiliar with the CLC ever calling for weaponry to be sent to another country.
  • Anger at decades of unwavering support for Israeli expansionism prompted a resolution to the CLC’s 1988 convention, which never made the floor, noting: “whereas in the past both the Federation and Congress have often been reluctant to allow debate on resolutions critical of Israel, often scheduling them so that they will not reach the floor. Therefore be it resolved that in light of the extensive killing and violation of Palestinian human rights by Israel, that the resolutions committee for the Canadian Labour Congress convention schedule resolutions so that the delegates can have the opportunity to debate this issue.”
  • Labour unions have also offered Israel unique financial support. With the new state having difficulty raising money on Wall Street, Israel Bonds were launched in 1951 to pay for infrastructure. According to a 2005 estimate, Canadian unions purchased $20 million worth of Israel Bonds annually. Economics was the main motivation for acquiring Israel Bonds but there was also “a historical bond between Israel and the unions,” said Lawrence Waller, executive vice president of State of Israel Bonds Canada, which to this day has a Canadian labour division that organizes annual dinners.
  • In 2000 Hamilton’s Jewish National Fund dedicated its Negev Dinner to Enrico and Joe Mancinelli from the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). The union’s pension fund began investing in Israel Bonds in the early 1980s and in 1999 Joe Mancinelli visited Israel to see the construction and infrastructure projects financed by Israel Bonds. “They have a longstanding relationship with and support for the state of Israel,” said Jewish National Fund Hamilton chairperson Tom Weisz to the Hamilton Spectator.
  • The Jewish National Fund reveals another way in which Israel is “singled out.” To the best of my knowledge it is the only openly racist organization “leftists” continue to associate with. Manitoba NDP Premier Gary Doer was honoured at a 2006 JNF Negev Dinner, as was cabinet minister Christine Melnick in 2011. During a 2010 trip to Israel subsequent NDP Premier Greg Selinger signed an accord with the JNF to jointly develop two bird conservation sites while water stewardship minister Melnick spoke at the opening ceremony for a park built in Jaffa by the JNF, Tel Aviv Foundation and Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable.
  • In 2013 Green Party leader Elizabeth May attended a JNF fundraiser in Ottawa. In an interview afterwards she lauded “the great work that’s [the JNF] done in making the desert bloom.”

An organization that explicitly discriminates in land use policies, the JNF is but one of hundreds of charities the Canada Revenue Agency authorizes tax credits for donations to a wealthy and far away country. A mid-1990s survey found there were more than 300 registered Canadian charities with ties to Israel and in 1991 the Ottawa Citizen estimated Canadian Jews sent more than $100 million a year to Israel and possibly as much as $200 million. How many registered Canadian charities funnel money to France or Sweden?

When leftists speak out on the issue, they are often “singled out” for abuse even by purported left organizations. A month ago, Elizabeth May expelled three members of the party’s shadow cabinet for publicly defending the Greens’ recent vote for “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories].”

Similarly, during the 2015 federal election the NDP blocked or removed a half-dozen individuals from running as candidates after it came to light they criticized Israeli violence. Not since Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis purged the leftist Waffle in the early 1970s has the party done anything similar.

The truth is that if Canada, the US and Britain had never “singled out” Israel for special treatment, Palestinians would have long had their homeland and the entire region would be more stable. Canadians blinded by the “Zionist religion” need to seek treatment before accusing others of what they do.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Message to reporters: Do you enjoy being duped?

When reading wild propaganda about Canada’s role in Haiti I often wonder if the reporter is a sycophant or whether they’ve been duped.

With the Caribbean nation set to hold its most credible presidential election in sixteen years Ottawa announced it was withdrawing support for the October 9poll. The Trudeau government’s decision to follow Washington in seeking to undermine the election was confirmed in an anti-Haitian screed titled“Canada showing Haiti some tough love”. In it CBC reporter Evan Dyer ignores Washington and Ottawa’s intervention in the 2010 election to bring far right president Michel Martelly to power and how their and Martelly’s attempt at a rerun sparked the popular backlash that postponed last year’s vote. Dyer also ignores Canada’s role in plotting, executing and consolidating the 2004 coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government or the fact his Fanmi Lavalas party has been effectively excluded from elections since.

Dyer describes Canada as “Haiti’s most loyal backer”, working tirelessly to advance democracy in the Caribbean nation. In a particularly embarrassing bit he turns Canada’s role in the post-coup election, which followed widespread political repression and excluded Haiti’s most popular political party, into a noble democratic exercise. Dyer reports:

In 2006, Canada’s then-chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, personally led a team of Canadian observers to Haiti. One of them, Cheickh Bangoura of Ottawa, was shot in the arm carrying out his duties in Port-au-Prince, but was back at his post observing the vote the next day.

Lauding Kingsley and Canada’s role in Haiti’s 2006 election is comical. After widespread fraud in the counting, including thousands of ballots found burned in a dump, the country was gripped by social upheaval. In response, the chair of the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections released a statement claiming, “the election was carried out with no violence or intimidation, and no accusations of fraud.” Kingsley’s statement went on to laud Jacques Bernard, the head of the electoral council despite the fact that Bernard had already been widely derided as corrupt and biased even by other members of the coup government’s electoral council.

Kingsley’s connections in Ottawa put his impartiality into serious doubt. In addition, his close ties to the International Foundation of Electoral Systems (IFES), which received about 80 percent of its funding from the US government, helps explain his partisan statements. At the time of Haiti’s election, Kingsley sat on the board of IFES and a year after the election Kingsley stepped down from Elections Canada to become president of IFES. A University of Miami Human Rights Investigation that appeared more than a year before the election summarised the “multi-million dollar” IFES project in Haiti:

IFES workers … completely take credit for ousting Aristide. … IFES … formulated groups that never existed, united pre-existing groups, gave them sensitization seminars, paid for people to attend, paid for entertainment and catering, and basically built group after group. … They reached out to student groups, business … [and] human rights groups which they actually paid off to report human rights atrocities to make Aristide look bad. … They bought journalists, and the IFES associations grew into the Group of 184 that became a solidified opposition against Aristide…. Gérard Latortue, the [coup] prime minister, was an IFES member for a couple of years before the ouster of Aristide. … Bernard Gousse, the [coup] justice minister … in charge of prisons and police, was in [IFES] for many years.

Dyer is probably ignorant of this history. Someone at Global Affairs Canada likely fed him the bit about Kingsley to build their “we’ve tried to bring democracy to Haiti” storyline and Dyer didn’t bother looking into the sordid affair.

Dyer is not the first mainstream reporter to make a mockery of facts and logic when covering Canada’s role in Haiti. With evidence of the coup government’s violence mounting Marina Jimenez published an article puppeting the Canadian-backed regime’s perspective on the killings. In a January 2005 story headlined “Backyard Baghdad”, she wrote that ousted President Aristide “from his South Africa exile” is “funding” and “directing” a “war.” Jimenez reported about a purported pro-Aristide campaign to murder police officers, “Operation Baghdad”, but the story made no mention that independent observers said this was an invention of the coup government to justify their attacks on the pro-Aristide slums. Or that a month before her article appeared more than ten thousand pro-constitution demonstrators marched in Cap Haitien behind a banner claiming “Operation Baghdad” was a plot created by pro-coup forces to demonize Aristide supporters.

Efforts to communicate with the then Globe and Mail reporter had little impact. A year and a half later Jimenez would smear the author of a Lancetmedical journal study detailing widespread human rights violations in the 22 months after Aristide’s ouster. After the report received front-page coverage in the Montréal Gazette and National Post, with quotes from Haiti Action Montréal adding political context, Jimenez sought to discredit a study that estimated 8,000 were killed and 35,000 raped in Port au Prince. Jimenez quoted Nicholas Galetti, in charge of Haiti at the Canadian government’s Rights and Democracy, baselessly claiming the peer-reviewed study was “based on flawed methodology.”

Former Montréal Gazette reporter Sue Montgomery’s coverage of Haiti reveals how a journalist can be duped, but also the importance of pressuring journalists to investigate troubling claims about this country’s foreign policy. Given only two days to prepare for her assignment, Montgomery was ripe to be manipulated by the Canadian ambassador and Ottawa-funded organizations in Haiti. In “Parachute Journalism” in Haiti: Media Sourcing in the 2003-2004 Political Crisis Isabel Macdonald writes:

Montgomery recalled being given anti-Aristide disinformation when she called the Canadian embassy immediately after she had been held up by armed men while driving through Port-au-Prince days before the coup. Canada’s ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Cook, told her, ‘We’ve got word that Aristide has given the order to the chimeres [purported pro-Aristide thugs] to do this kind of thing to international journalists because he’s not getting any support.’ According to Montgomery, Cook had urged her to tell the other international journalists who were staying at the same hotel: ‘I think you should let all your colleagues at the Montana know that it’s not safe for them.’

Though she later realized the ambassador’s claim was ridiculous, Montgomery told other journalists at Hotel Montana (where most international journalists stay in Port-au-Prince) that Aristide’s supporters were targeting them. The ambassador’s disinformation also coloured her reporting in the critical days before and after the February 29, 2004 coup.

A few months after the coup I described Montgomery as “once progressive” in a piece criticizing her coverage of Haiti. The article sparked the hoped-for reaction, contributing to a re-evaluation of her position. Over the next year and a half she performed a 180° turn on the issue and during the 2006 federal election campaign Montgomery wrote an opinion piece titled “Voters should punish MPs for Haiti”. It argued that Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew and the prime minister’s special advisor on Haiti, Denis Coderre, should lose their seats for undermining Haitian democracy.

When seeking to understand coverage of Canada’s role in Haiti one should probe the structural forces shaping the flow of information. But, within the prevailing structural constraints individuals have some flexibility in whether they ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’ or serve power.

I invite readers to email Dyer (ac.cbc@reyd.nave) to ask if he was duped by Canadian officials.

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Mining companies receive Canadian ‘aid’

Significant sums in Canadian “aid” are spent promoting international mining initiatives.

In a press release last week Ontario-based Carube Copper said it acquired over “500 square kilometres of the most prospective ground in Jamaica based on historic showings, the work completed and reported in 1993 by the Canadian International Development Agency (‘CIDA’).”

Canadian aid has facilitated similar work elsewhere. Researching Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation I discovered examples of Ottawa funding the collection of geological data in Tanzania, Angola, Cameroon, Niger, Uganda, Kenya and elsewhere. Long time West Africa-based freelance journalist, Joan Baxter, describes a chance encounter with Canadian geologists in her 2008 book Dust From Our Eyes: an Unblinkered Look at Africa. “Another CIDA employee I met one evening in Bamako [Mali] told me his work with CIDA had been a long-term project to map the mineral resources of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. When we spoke, he was on a two-year sabbatical from CIDA, working with Canadian mining companies that had taken out concessions in that country.”

Ottawa has financed various mining-related educational initiatives. CIDA sponsored the Zimbabwe School of Mines, a mid-1990s government-industry collaboration, and financed a Senegalese school for geomatics (combining geography and information technology to map natural resources), which received an added $5 million in 2012. In 2014 Ottawa announced $12.5 million for the Project Strengthening Education for Mining in Ethiopia “to develop more industry driven geology and mining engineering undergraduate programs” at Ethiopian universities. In 2012 CIDA put up $25 million for the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development (CIIEID), a university hosted think tank, which International Development Minister Julian Fantino told a Mining Association of Canada meeting would “be your biggest and best ambassador.”

While mining education and geological data collection indirectly benefit Canadian mining companies, millions of dollars have been ploughed directly into corporate social responsibility projects. Ottawa gave $4.5-million to Lundin for Africa, the philanthropic arm of mining giant Lundin Group of Companies, for its operations in Ghana, Mali and Senegal and put up $5.6 million for a project between NGO Plan Canada and IAMGOLD near the company’s mine in Burkina Faso. These aid projects are often about mollifying local opposition to mining projects. In 2012 CIDA invested $500,000 in a World Vision Canada/Barrick Gold project in Peru described as “tantamountto running a pacification program” while between 2003 and 2005 Calgary-based TVI Pacific dispersed tens of thousands of dollars in Canadian aid money to a community opposed to its mine on the Philippine island of Mindanao.

In the most significant boon to international mining firms, Canadian aid has helped liberalize mining legislation. Authors of Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries Alain Deneault and William Sacher cite Botswana, Zimbabwe, Guinea and Zambia among the countries where Canadian aid has shaped mining legislation. Gwendolyn Schulman and Roberto Nieto write: “Canadian cash, technocrats and know-how have also been involved in rewriting mining codes in Malawi, Ghana, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo (with, in this last case, civil war as a backdrop).”

In the best documented example, Ottawa began an $11 million project to re-write Colombia’s mining code in 1997. CIDA worked on the project with a Colombian law firm, Martinez Córdoba and Associates, representing multinational companies, and the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), an industry think-tank based at the University of Calgary. The CIDA/CERI proposal was submitted to Colombia’s Department of Mines and Energy and became law in 2001.

The “new code flexibilised environmental regulations, diminished labour guarantees for workers and opened the property of Afro-Colombian and indigenous people to exploitation,” explained Francisco Ramirez, president of SINTRAMINERCOL, Colombia’s State Mine Workers Union. “The CIDA-backed code also contains some articles that are simply unheard of in other countries,” added Ramirez. “If a mining company has to cut down trees before digging, they can now export that timber for 30 years with a total exemption on taxation.” The new code also reduced the royalty rate companies pay the government to 0.4 percent from 10 percent for mineral exports above 3 million tonnes per year and from 5 percent for exports below 3 million tonnes. In addition, the new code increased the length of mining concessions from 25 years to 30 years, with the possibility that concessions can be tripled to 90 years.

“Aid” has helped Canada’s companies dominate a global mining industry often mired in conflict and criticized for providing meagre benefits to local communities. It’s hard to understand why this would be considered “aid”.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

What else has a propaganda system like the NHL?

Recently veteran Montréal sports reporter Michel Villeneuve revealed that coach Michel Therrien told a small private group at a golf tournament he believed Max Pacioretty was the “worst captain” in the Canadiens’ history. Therrien, General Manager Marc Bergevin and owner Geoff Molson all poured cold water on Villeneuve’s report, which another journalist confirmed.

Angered by the team’s response, Villeneuve threatened to reveal other damning information about the Canadiens upon his return from vacation. Before that could happen Sportstalk 91.9 FM fired him. Afterwards Villeneuve told La Presse: “Have they been subjected to pressure from the Canadiens? Perhaps because they negotiated hard to get broadcasting rights for the Montréal Rockets games” (a Canadiens farm team beginning next year).

As the Villeneuve saga suggests, the Habs have leverage over local media. The relationship between sports departments at newspapers or TV stations and the team PR department is close. Reporters rely on the team for access to players and coaches. Journalists often fly on team-chartered flights. Trying to be too independent or overly critical of the team can result in problems for a reporter.

Villeneuve’s experience sheds light on why Montrealers overwhelmingly support the Canadiens, not the Boston Bruins or Anaheim Ducks (or for that matter the Sherbrooke Phoenix junior team). In recent years these teams have had more success, more Québecois players and play (arguably) a more exciting brand of hockey. Yet Montrealers overwhelmingly stick with the Habs.

The reasons for the popularity are multifaceted and historically rooted. The choice of “Canadiens” when the term was associated with Francophones, the 1955 Rocket Richard riot’s contribution to Québec’s Quiet Revolution and the Habs’ historic success have all contributed to the club’s popularity. But the primary reason is that a $1.1 billion US corporation, part of a $15 billion league, promotes itself to fill a stadium, sell broadcasting rights and license retail shops, sports bars, condo towers etc.

To sell its various initiatives the team advertises heavily in local media. Additionally, the Habs’ large marketing department feeds reporters and broadcasters with stories and statistics, as well as organizing events, fan forums, team history commemorations. In one of a long list of major marketing initiatives, the Habs partnered with Montréal on “the City is Hockey” campaign through the 2000s. It associated the team with Montréal architectural references and delivered educational kits to schools.

Alongside the city of Montréal, many local businesses drive support for the Canadiens. The TV and radio stations paying to broadcast games have a substantial financial interest in promoting the team. So do a number of other media outlets with Habs partnerships. Hundreds of bars and restaurants across the city have informal team partnerships. Hoping to draw fans in to watch games, they decorate with Habs memorabilia. Many other businesses seeking to profit from the team’s popularity — while simultaneously driving it forward — contract players or name products after them.

Ranking just after general news and provincial politics, 12% of Québec news in 2013 was about the Habs. Two years earlier a study found that players, coaches and executives were among the most covered personalities in Québec. Incredibly, 12 of the 25 personalities who received the most media coverage in Québec in 2011 were Canadiens.

Given the tightly controlled information network devoted to promoting Habs mania, the team’s popularity is not surprising.

As a former junior hockey player and devoted Habs follower, it really doesn’t bother me that I am being manipulated by a “propaganda system” designed to create fans.

But it does make me wonder where else in our lives we are being manipulated in a similar fashion.

This was first published in the National Observer.

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Anti-Palestinian coverage part of broader media pattern

Media coverage of world affairs mostly focuses on Ottawa/Washington’s perspective. While the dominant media is blatant in its subservience to Canadian/Western power, even independent media is often afraid to challenge the foreign policy status quo.

A recent Canadaland podcast simultaneously highlighted anti-Palestinian media bias and the fear liberal journalists’ face in discussing one of the foremost social justice issues of our time. The media watchdog’s discussion of the Green Party’s recent resolutions supporting Palestinian rights started strong with Canadaland publisher Jesse Brown laying out three “facts”:

  • In an editorial titled “[Elizabeth] May must renounce anti-Israel resolutions” the Vancouver Sun (reposted on the Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald websites) called Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) “an anti-Israel group that uses the fig leaf of Jewishness to lend support to Iran, deny the Holocaust, participate in anti-Semitic Al-Quds protests, encourage terrorism against Israelis and promulgate lies about Israel’s history, society and policies.” When IJV sent a letter threatening libel action Postmedia removed the editorial from its websites.
  • A B’nai B’rith article described left-wing news outlet as a “racist, white supremacist and antisemitic website”, which they erased after a media inquiry.
  • Not one of a “couple dozen” reports examined about the Green Party resolution calling for “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories]” quoted a supporter of the successful motion.

Instead of seriously considering these “facts”, one Canadaland panellist partially justified suppressing Green Party voices favouring the BDS resolution and opposed talking about pro-Zionist media coverage because it contributes to stereotypes of Jewish control over the media. Diverting further from his “facts”, Brown bemoaned anti-Semitism and how Israel/Palestine debates rarely lead to agreement while another panellist mocked people from small towns who express an opinion on the subject. Aired on dozens of community radio stations across the country, the episode ended with a comment about how people shouldn’t protest those killed by Israel if they don’t take a position on the conflict between “North and South Sudan”.

(“North Sudan”, of course, doesn’t exist. And the ongoing war in that region is between two political/ethnic groups within South Sudan, which gained independence five years ago. But, even if they’d gotten their Sudan facts right, the statement is akin to saying Canadaland shouldn’t discuss major advertiser Enbridge pressuring the Vancouver Province to remove a cartoon critical of its Northern Gateway pipeline project because the show didn’t say anything about Tata Motors removing ads from the Times of India over their auto reporting.)

After detailing stark anti-Palestinian media bias, the Canadaland panellists cowered in the face of the “facts” presented. They failed to discuss whether the examples cited reflect a broader pattern (they do), what impact this has on Canadians’ perceptions of Palestinians (it is damaging) or explain the source of the bias.

One wonders if this reflects the panellists’ anti-Semitism, as if they fear talking about coverage of Israel will reveal a “Jewish conspiracy” to shape the news. But, there is no ethnic/religious conspiracy, rather a powerful propaganda system “hiding in plain sight”. While Canadian media bias on Palestine is glaring, that’s largely owing to the depths of grassroots activism on the issue, rather than dynamics particular to the subject. In fact, Canadian media bias on all aspects of this country’s foreign policy is shocking.

While there are particularities, coverage of Israel/Palestine fits the dominant media’s broad bias in favour of power on topics ranging from Haiti to Canada’s international mining industry. The main explanation for the biased coverage is a small number of mega corporations own most of Canada’s media and these firms are integrated with the broader elite and depend on other large corporations for advertising revenue. Media outlets also rely on US wire services and powerful institutions for most of their international coverage and these same institutions have the power to punish media that upset them.

Discussing the structural forces driving media bias and how they interact with the Canadian establishment’s long history of support for Zionism/Israel is a lot for a radio segment. But, the Canadaland panelists could have at least explored some notable developments/dynamics driving anti-Palestinian coverage.

After buying a dozen dailies in 2000 Izzy Asper pushed the CanWest newspaper chain to adopt extremist pro-Israel positions. When Montréal Gazette publisher Michael Goldbloom suddenly resigned in 2001 the Globe and Mail reported “sources at The Gazette confirmed yesterday that senior editors at the paper were told earlier that month to run a strongly worded, pro-Israel editorial on a Saturday op-ed page”, which was written by the head office in Winnipeg and was accompanied by a no rebuttal order. The CanWest editorial demanded Ottawa support Israel even as Israeli government ministers called for the assassination of PLO head Yasser Arafat after 15 Israelis were killed. “Canada must recognize the incredible restraint shown by the Israeli government under the circumstances. … Howsoever the Israeli government chooses to respond to this barbaric atrocity should have the unequivocal support of the Canadian government without the usual hand-wringing criticism about ‘excessive force.’ Nothing is excessive in the face of an enemy sworn to your annihilation.”

In 2004 the CanWest head office was caught directing papers to edit Reuters stories to denigrate Palestinians. “The message that was passed down to the copy desk was to change ‘militant’ to ‘terrorist’ when talking about armed Palestinians,” Charles Shannon, a Montréal Gazette copy editor, told The Nation. “One definite edict that came down was that there should be no criticism of Israel.”

(One Reuters story was changed from “the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four-year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank” to “the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that has been involved in a four-year-old campaign of violence against Israel.”)

While Aspers’ interventions were crass, they elicited limited response since anti-Palestinianism pervades the political and media establishments. Both a reflection of this bias and propelling it forward, leading media figures have various links to Israeli nationalist organizations. In 2014 the president of Postmedia, which controls most of English Canada’s daily newspaper circulation, was chairman of the Calgary Gala of the Jewish National Fund, which discriminates against non-Jewish Israelis in its land-use policies. Paul Godfrey is not the first influential media figure fêted by the explicitly racist organization. In 2007 Ottawa Citizen publisher Jim Orban was honorary chair of JNF Ottawa’s annual Gala while prominent CBC commentators Rex Murphy and Rick Mercer, as well as US journalists Barbra Walters and Bret Stephens, have spoken at recent JNF events.

The Ottawa Citizen has sponsored a number of the racist institution’s galas. The paper has also covered JNF events in which the Citizen is listed as a ‘Proud Supporter’. In what may indicate a formal financial relationship the JNF promoted their 2013 Ottawa Gala in the Citizen, including running an advertisement the day after the event. According to the Israeli press, the JNF has entered financial agreements with numerous media outlets, including a recent 1.5 million shekels ($500,000) accord with Israel’s Channel 10 to run 14 news reports about its work.

Prominent media figures often speak at pro-Israel events. In 2015 editor-in-chief of The Walrus Jonathan Kay and Postmedia columnist Terry Glavin spoke on a panel with Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Fogel at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington DC. Conversely, Palestinian solidarity groups rarely have the resources to pay for high profile journalists and most leading media figures fear associating with their struggle.

While Israeli nationalist organizations prefer to draw influential media figures close, they also have the capacity to punish those challenging their worldview. Honest Reporting Canada organizes Israel apologist ‘flack’. The registered charity monitors the media and engages its supporters to respond to news outlets that fail to toe its extreme Israeli nationalist line. If pursued consistently this type of ‘flack’ drives editors and journalists to avoid topics or be more cautious when covering an issue.

In my forthcoming book A Propaganda System: How the Canadian government, media, corporations and academia sell war and exploitation I detail numerous instances of media owners interceding in international affairs coverage, as well as institutions drawing in influential newspeople and organizing ‘flack’ campaigns. But, there are two unique elements shaping Palestine/Israel coverage.

As a partially ethno/religious conflict the greater number of Jews than Palestinians (or Arabs) in positions of influence within the Canadian media does exacerbate the overarching one-sidedness. In a backdoor way Canadaland’s Jesse Brown highlighted this point when he describes Israeli family members influencing his opinion on the topic.

Another dynamic engendering anti-Palestinianism in the media is Israeli nationalist groups’ capacity to accuse Canadians’ standing up for a people facing the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism of being motivated by a widely discredited prejudice. At the heart of the ideological system, journalists are particularly fearful of being labeled “anti-Semitic” and the smear puts social justice activists on the defensive.

When a “couple dozen” articles fail to quote a single proponent of a Green resolution pressing Israel to relinquish illegally occupied land it suggests systemic media bias. Canadaland’s inability to contextualize this anti-Palestinianism reveals a media watchdog subservient to the dominant foreign-policy framework about Israel. 

And a sign of how bad coverage is of all foreign affairs.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel