Trudeau’s extraordinary campaign to overthrow Maduro

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The effort Justin Trudeau’s government is putting into removing Venezuela’s President is remarkable. So is the utter hypocrisy of their campaign.

On Thursday Ottawa hosted the Lima Group, a coalition of countries supporting Washington’s bid to overthrow the Venezuelan government. A CBC headline noted, “Ottawa attempts to reboot campaign to remove Maduro from power in Venezuela.” For more than a year the Lima Group has openly pushed Venezuela’s military to overthrow the government. Thursday’s summit was the third held in Canada of a coalition instigated by Canada and Peru in mid 2017.

During the recent Munich Security Conference Trudeau discussed the South American country with a US Senate and House of Representatives delegation led by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. The Prime Minister’s release noted, “the Congressional delegation thanked Canada for its leadership on the Lima Group and for supporting Interim President Juan Guaidó and the Venezuelan National Assembly in their efforts to achieve a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela.”

Similarly, the Prime Minister discussed Venezuela at a meeting with Austria’s Chancellor on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. According to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Canada and Austria “have many shared goals such as the empowerment of women and our support for free & fair elections in Venezuela.” According to this formulation, the empowerment of half the world’s population is of similar import to purported electoral discrepancies in Venezuela.

Foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne also discussed Venezuela with International Crisis Group President Robert Malley at the Munich Security Conference.

Last month Venezuelan politician Juan Guaidó was fêted in Ottawa. The self-declared president met the Prime Minister, deputy PM, international development minister and foreign minister. Trudeau called him “Interim President Guaidó” and Champagne sometimes referred to him simply as “President”.

Over the past couple of years, the government has put out hundreds of press releases, tweets and public statements critical of the Venezuelan government. They hired a Special Advisor on Venezuela to oversee the government’s coup efforts and the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers gave Patricia Atkinson, Head of the Venezuela Task Force at Global Affairs, its Foreign Service Officers award in June 2019 for her role in overseeing a team of diplomats that organized Lima Group meetings, sanctions, etc. The government has implemented four rounds of sanctions against Venezuelan officials and it’s brought that country to the International Criminal Court, shuttered its Embassy in Caracas, funded opposition groups and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.

A look at Canada’s Lima Group allies highlights the hypocrisy of their campaign against Venezuela. The constitutional legitimacy of Honduras’ President is far weaker than Maduro’s; Far more dissidents were assassinated in Colombia last year; The government of Chile is facing greater popular contestation; The electoral legitimacy of Haiti’s President is much weaker; Honduras’ president has clearer links to drug runners; Violence is worse in numerous countries in the Hemisphere.

It is true that Venezuela’s economic downturn – and concurrent outward migration – is substantially worse than other Lima Group members. But, the sanctions imposed by the US and Canada have contributed to Venezuela’s economic collapse as much as any action of the government.

Canada is engaged in an extraordinary effort to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro. But, it isn’t designed to advance democracy or human rights in Venezuela.

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America, Venezuela

Trudeau government deepens ties to repressive Kuwaiti monarchy

 

1040x585_KuwaitAs many parents have warned their children, real friends do not encourage stupid, embarrassing, or life-threatening behaviour.

But because of our “friend” to the south, Justin Trudeau’s government has deepened ties to a repressive 250-year old monarchy in Kuwait and pursued other questionable policies.

After participating in the recent African Union Summit in Ethiopia Trudeau jetted off to meet the Emir of Kuwait, which has been part of the coalition bombing Yemen. The prime minister’s visit marked the most high-profile step in a bevy of diplomatic activity with a government where questioning the Emir or Islam is punishable with a significant prison sentence. During their meeting, notes the official press release, Trudeau “welcomed the long-standing friendship between Canada and Kuwait and thanked the Government of Kuwait for its support of our CAF [Canadian Armed Forces] personnel stationed in Kuwait as part of Operation IMPACT. The two leaders discussed recent developments in the region and agreed on the importance of working towards long term stability and security.”

Before the PM’s visit defence minister Harjit Sajjan had traveled to Kuwait City twice since December 19. In AprilSajjan also met Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah “to bolster and consolidate bilateral ties.” Three months earlier Governor General Julie Payette visited the Emir in Kuwait City. In November Payette sent a cable to the Emir to wish him well after an illness and the next month Assistant Deputy Minister of Global Affairs Peter McDougall met a Kuwaiti counterpart “to strengthen bilateral relations.” In August 2018 the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing regular consultations between senior officials.

At the Munich Security Conference last week foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne met his Kuwaiti counterpart Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah. At an event in the Canadian Embassy on Monday Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister Khaled Al-Jarallah described the “distinguished … ties between the two countries” and “continuous communication and common interests.” On Thursday Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Lawrence MacAulay attended a celebration at Kuwait’s Embassy in Ottawa for Canadians who fought in the 1991 Iraq war.

The inaugural Kuwait and Canada Investment Forum took place in April. Finance minister Bill Morneau and parliamentary secretary Omar Alghabra participated. At the time Alghabra wrote, “let’s celebrate and continue our efforts to grow the relationship between Canada and Kuwait in investments, trade and defence.”

So, why the budding romance?

Relations with Kuwait are important to Ottawa because of the Canadian Forces base there. About 300 Canadians are stationed in Kuwait to support the Canadian special forces deployed to Iraq as well as two intelligence and one Canadian air-to-air refuelling aircraft. Alongside 200 highly skilled special forces, there’s a Canadian tactical helicopter detachment, intelligence officers and a combat hospital in Iraq. Despite being labeled a “training” mission, the Canadians called in US airstrikes, provided up-to-date battle intelligence and repeatedly engaged the enemy. A Canadian even killed someone with a record-breaking 3.5-kilometre sniper shot. The Canadian Forces backed Kurdishforces often accused of ethnic cleansing areas they captured. Canadian special forces supported a multi-month battle to dislodge ISIS from Mosul that left thousands of civilians dead in 2017.

Alongside the special forces and air support operations, Canada assumed command of the NATO Mission Iraq in November 2018. A Canadian commands 580 NATO troops, including 250 Canadians. They train instructors at three military schools and advise Iraq’s defence ministry.

The Liberals failed to properly explain why Canada took on a second mission in Iraq. But, it was likely tied to weakening the influence of the Iranian aligned Popular Mobilization Forces, Shia militias that helped defeat ISIS. According to Scott Taylor, “Canada agreed to take command of the NATO-led training mission in Iraq because the Liberal government knew it could not sell the Canadian public on sending troops back into the war in Afghanistan. That is where the NATO leaders wanted Canadians, which seems an incredibly ironic twist in that we originally agreed to go into Afghanistan because it was not Iraq.”

Trudeau and Sajjan’s recent missions to Kuwait are part of the fallout from Washington’s decision to assassinate Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi Shia militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. After the January 3 killings some Canadian forces in Iraq were withdrawn to the base in Kuwait. Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution demanding foreign soldiers leave the country and Iran threatened to retaliate against US troops in the region.

The flurry of recent diplomatic activity is likely designed to reassure Kuwaiti officials of Canadian backing and to ensure Kuwait doesn’t back out of the base arrangement. The Trudeau government has happily deepened ties to a repressive monarchy to support US policy in Iraq.

To maintain foreign troops in Iraq the Trudeau government has also pushed back against the Iraqi parliament’s call for foreign troops to leave. After the country’s parliament passed a resolution calling for foreign troops to go, defence minister Harjit Sajjan sought to convince his Iraqi counterpart of the importance of Canada’s presence. Last week Sajjan celebrated Iraqi leaders willingness to keep Canadian troops. Additionally, Middle East Eye reported on Iraqi and US military officials holding a secret meeting “in the private residence of the Canadian ambassador to Jordan in Amman” to discuss pulling back US troops from Iraq.

Makes one wonder what else the Trudeau government has done or will do to support US policy in Iraq?

 

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Middle East, Military

Trudeau enables corporate Canada to exploit Ethiopia’s minerals

 

Unknown-1The Federal government wants Canadian corporations to profit from Ethiopia’s minerals.

During his recent trip to the Horn of Africa country Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). As I detailed in this article, bilateral investment treaties with African countries are overwhelmingly designed to solidify the position of Canadian mining interests.

Alongside the Prime Minister, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) deployed a week-long “Business Mission to Ethiopia.” Mining was one of three industries cited in their release about the mission. TCS officials regularly assist mining firms with market assessments, problem-solving, contacting local officials, etc. “The TCS plays a pretty big role,” explained Ben Chalmers, senior vice‑president Mining Association of Canada in April. Trade commissioners “stand behind us and give us the additional credibility that being associated with the Government of Canada abroad brings.”

On other occasions in recent years Ottawa has shown interest in shaping Ethiopia’s burgeoning mining sector. International trade minister Jim Carr met Ethiopia’s Minister for Mining at the 2019 Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto. In 2016 Global Affairs Canada launched a $12.5 million “Strengthening Education in Natural Resource Management in Ethiopia”, which was designed “to improve the employability of people … in natural resource fields like geology, mining and engineering. It works through universities and technical institutes to improve the quality of programs, align them more closely with the needs of the private sector.”

Concurrently, Global Affairs put up $15.3 million for a unique five-year collaboration between the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute (CIRDI) and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mines. That initiative was to modernize licensing system and includes support for a geological survey. CIRDI and the Ministry of Mines also collaborated on a short marketing booklet titled “5 reasons Ethiopia is the mining investment destination you’ve been looking for”, which describes “Ethiopia’s virtually untapped, diverse and vast mineral resources.” It also lauds “improving government policies and regulations” that have put Ethiopia “on the radar screen of international mining investors.”

Two weeks ago, CIRDI Director Isabeau Vilandre and Ethiopia’s Minister for Mining participated in the African Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town, South Africa. According to the event publicity, it was a “presentation on opportunities in the Ethiopian mining sector and its critical role in the country’s home-grown economic reform.”

Housed at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Polytechnique Montréal, CIRDI was established by the Stephen Harper government to advance Canada’s massive international mining sector. In 2012 the Canadian International Development Agency put up $25 million for CIRDI, which then International Development Minister Julian Fantino told a Mining Association of Canada meeting would “be your biggest and best ambassador.”

At the end of November Ethiopia announced new mining regulations. A Financial Post story headlined “Ethiopia vows to remove barriers to investment in mining” lauded the Canadian backed mining legislation. The story noted, “Ethiopia’s current law guarantees the government just a 5% minimum equity stake in projects – less than in many African countries.”

Canadian companies have shown interest in Ethiopia. The President & CEO of the Canadian Council on Africa(CCAfrica), a corporate lobby group, visited Addis Ababa recently to meet the Minister of Mines. Ethiopia’s state-owned airline sponsored and participated in CCAfrica’s “Unleashing Canadian Mining Ecosystem” conference in January, marketing a regular flight between Toronto and Adidas Ababa to the extractivist crowd. (At the start of the month CCAfrica and CIRDI announced a “Strategic Partnership”.)

Canadian firms are exploring a number of projects in a country that’s begun to throw its territory open to foreign mining firms. Vancouver based East Africa Metals has three gold and precious polymetallic licenses in the country.

On its site CIRDI lists “Who Benefits” from its project in Ethiopia. It claims the “Ultimate” beneficiaries are “the citizens of Ethiopia.” Justin Trudeau would make a similar claim about his push for a bilateral investment treaty and Ottawa’s mining projects in Ethiopia. It wouldn’t be true. He wants corporate Canada to profit from Ethiopia’s resources.

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Filed under Canada in Africa

Niki Ashton promotes anti-Palestinian activist

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If she had called Palestinians “towel heads” would that be too much? How about physically removing a Palestinian activist from a meeting? What’s the threshold at which left NDPers would stop promoting Cheri DiNovo?

A few days ago, Niki Ashton’s team sent an email to her list that included a prominent photo of the NDP MP with former Ontario MPP DiNovo. After I posted about it someone who attended the recent Ashton organized event in Toronto told me the ex NDP member of the Ontario Legislature was also given a prominent place in person.

But, DiNovo is decidedly anti-Palestinian. In July DiNovo boasted to vicious anti-Palestinian/Islamophobe Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy that she aided B’nai B’rith and the Jewish Defence’s successful bid to cancel an event by the Palestinian Youth Movement “to celebrate the artistic and cultural contributions of Palestinians in the diaspora.” Dropping her progressive standing further, DiNovo unfriended a number of individuals on Facebook who politely questioned her role in suppressing the Palestinian cultural event at the Toronto United Church in where she is the spiritual leader.
As I detailed after the suppression of the Palestinian Youth Movement event, DiNovo met Israeli consular official Galit Baram who posted a photo with her to the “Israel in Toronto” Facebook page and wrote in March 2018, “it’s always a good time catching up with our good friend and former MPP Cheri DiNovo. Great to see you again!”

In 2017 DiNovo met the co-chairs of the Knesset’s Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group Anat Berko and Yoel Hasson. A Lieutenant-Colonel in the IDF reserves, Berko openly disparaged African refugees and Palestinians. Berko put forward a bill to jail individuals who display Palestinian flags at demonstrations and in a 2016 Knesset debate made the ridiculous claim that the absence of the letter “P” in the Arabic alphabet meant Palestine did not exist since “no people would give itself a name it couldn’t pronounce.”

DiNovo regularly appears at events organized by the anti-Palestinian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. She attended “an FSWC presentation on the anti-Israel boycott movement” in 2015 at Queen’s Park and participated in FSWC events last May and November.

In 2010 DiNovo was the only NDP MPP who promoted a resolution condemning Israeli Apartheid Week at the Ontario Legislature. In response to criticism of her anti-Palestinian vote DiNovo defriended and erased the comments of dozens of individuals who criticized her on Facebook, prompting the creation of a number of Facebook groups by those defriended by DiNovo, which were then shut down after someone complained. In subsequent interviews DiNovo claimed she received a death threat for her anti-Palestinian vote and was quoted by the Jewish Tribune saying, “we Christians know our roots and we know, because we read our Scripture, that Jews are the Chosen People of the Chosen Land of Israel, so mazel tov.”

Three days after I emailed and private messaged Ashton – just after I posted about it publicly on Facebook – she responded to say, “I have always been clear on my position on Palestine. In fact our [upcoming] event in Montréal is Palestinian inclusive as Zahia El-Masri is one of the presenters.” Ashton is undoubtedly among the best NDP MPs on Palestine. Partly because of her position on the issue, I paid $5 to become an NDP member and asked some friends to vote for Ashton during the NDP leadership race.

That doesn’t change the fact that Ashton’s promotion of DiNovo is odious. I’m not saying Ashton should have kicked DiNovo out of her recent Toronto event or rejected her endorsement for leader of the NDP. But, she should not promote DiNovo in light of her anti-Palestinian activism.

This isn’t personal. Does anyone believe we can end Canadian support for Palestinian dispossession while pro-Palestinian factions of the NDP promote an individual who shuts down Palestinian youth cultural events?

While Ashton would be loath to publicly criticize DiNovo, at a minimum she should write her a private email saying something to the effect of: “I have been made aware of your anti-Palestinian activism. In the future I wouldn’t feel comfortable collaborating publicly until you changed your position on the subject.”

 

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Filed under Israel, NDP

Trudeau promotes mining exploitation in Africa

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The Trudeau government, just like the Harper Conservatives, has used Canadian foreign policy to protect the profits of wealthy mining companies against ordinary Africans desire to benefit from resource extraction.

During a recent visit Justin Trudeau announced negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with Ethiopia. FIPAs empower international investors by giving corporations the right to sue governments — in private, investor-friendly tribunals — for pursuing policies that interfere with their profit making. As such, they undermine governments’ ability to democratically determine economic and ecological policy. (Since few African companies invest in Canada there is little chance Ottawa will face a suit or feel domestic policy pressure as a result of a FIPA with an African country.)

The Liberals have signed FIPAs with Nigeria, Moldova and negotiated them with a half dozen more states. Following his participation in the November 2018 Africa Investment Forum, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Omar Alghabra, wrote: “To further help Canadian companies compete and succeed in this thriving region, the Canadian government has negotiated foreign investment promotion and protection agreements (FIPAs) with Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Tanzania. These agreements encourage increased bilateral investments between our countries by helping to reduce risk and by increasing investor confidence in our respective markets. We continue to advance FIPA negotiations with a number of other African countries.”

With African countries, FIPAs are overwhelming designed to protect mining companies. As an indication of how these bilateral investment treaties are driven by mining interests, the government has announced a number of them at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in Toronto. In a March 2017 release titled “International Trade Minister promotes Canada’s mining sector at Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention”, Francois-Philippe Champagne “announced that the Canada-Mongolia Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) is now in force. This agreement provides substantial protections for Canadian investors in Mongolia, where there are already significant Canadian-owned mining assets.” At the 2014 PDAC conference the Harper government announced they were signing a FIPA with Cameroon and negotiating one with Kenya.

There are many examples of Canadian mining companies turning to bilateral investment treaties to sue governments. As the Council of Canadians pointed out, “Canadian mining companies are using FIPAs with developing countries to claim damages from community opposition to unwanted mega-projects.”

At a broader level the aim of a FIPA is to counter “resource nationalism”. Having benefited from 25 years of privatizations and loosened restrictions on foreign investment, mining companies fear a reversal of these policies. These concerns can be somewhat alleviated by gaining rights to sue a government if it expropriates a concession, changes investment rules or requires value added production take place in the country. Writing in Canadian Dimension Paula Butler notes: “Canada appears keen to negotiate FIPAs with some of the most economically and politically vulnerable but resource rich African countries before they develop a taste for resource sovereignty.”

The deputy head of Africa forecasting at political risk firm Exclusive Analysis, Robert Besseling, told the Toronto Star in 2013 that resource nationalism was Canadian miners’ top concern. The paper described “a trend toward what some call resource nationalism that’s seen a number of African governments — after opening doors to foreign investors — begin to reverse or revise regulations. Under pressure from civil society groups and labour unions, governments are driving a harder bargain or changing the rules of the game part way through.”

Any government that increases resource royalty rates or nationalizes extractive industries is a threat to Canadian mining interests. Yet, large numbers of Africans believe natural resources should be publicly held, or at minimum, heavily taxed. Some simply want minerals to remain underground. Ottawa’s “goal” in signing FIPAs with African countries, note Paula Butler and Evans Rubara, “is to prevent control of mining policy throughout the continent from falling into the hands of nationalist, pro- African, pro-community political forces who will promote a vigorous ‘resource nationalism’ agenda.”

Or, to put it even more bluntly, the Trudeau Government, like the Harper regime, defends the profits of a few wealthy owners of mining corporations over the economic and social interests of millions of Africans.

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Filed under Canada in Africa, Justin Trudeau, mining

Canada out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS

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“Qui se ressemble, s’assemble.” The English saying is “birds of a feather flock together.” Translated from Spanish: “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” The folk wisdom that who we hang out with tells a lot about us is reflected in numerous proverbs.

Whatever the language, who Ottawa chooses to hang out with tells us a lot about who Canada is in the Americas. The coalitions/institutions Ottawa is part of in the Americas speak of siding with the rich and powerful, of being part of the US Empire, of imperialism.

Recently Haiti joined the Lima Group of governments seeking to overthrow the Venezuelan government. Instigated by Canada and Peru in mid 2017, the Lima Group has successfully corralled regional support for the US-led campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro. The coalition has gathered on a dozen occasions — including a third summit to be held in Canada on Thursday — to develop common positions and strategize on regime change.

President Jovenel Moïse’s decision to join the Lima Group highlights the influence of another Canadian-sponsored imperial group of friends. Unlike the Trudeau government’s anti-Venezuela positions, Moïse’s steps towards the Lima Group have been controversial in Haiti. When his government first voted against Venezuela at the Organization of American States (OAS) 13 months ago it stoked the fire of popular discontent that nearly toppled him. Until recently Haiti benefited from the discounted Venezuelan Petrocaribe oil program, which Moïse and his acolytes pilfered, spurring massive protests over the past 18 months. More generally, Haitians overwhelmingly view themselves as anti-imperialist and are proud their ancestors aided South American independence leaders Simon Bolivar and Miranda to defeat Spanish rule.

As popular discontent has grown, Moïse has become increasingly dependent on outside backing. The only reason Moïse is president is because of the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”, which comprises the ambassadors of the US, Canada, France, Brazil and Spain, as well as representatives of the EU and OAS. Core Group representatives meet regularly among themselves and with Haitian officials and periodically release collective statements on Haitian affairs.

Last month Radio Canada’s investigative programme Enquête pointed out that the Core Group was spawned at the “Ottawa initiative on Haiti”. Held at the Meech Lake Government Resort on January 31 and February 1, 2003, no Haitian officials were invited to the private gathering where US, French, OAS and Canadian officials discussed overthrowing Haiti’s elected government, putting the country under UN trusteeship and recreating the Haitian military.

Since the subsequent February 2004 coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide the Core Group has heavily influenced Haitian affairs. But, taking office two and a half years after the coup, René Préval succeeded in carving out some room to govern independently of the Core Group overseers — joining Venezuela’s Petrocaribe, for instance — but the January 2010 earthquake devastated the Haitian government. Taking advantage of its weakness, the Core Group pushed for elections to be held months after the earthquake and when their preferred candidate was in third place they dispatched an OAS “Expert Verification Mission” that determined (without offering proof) extreme right-wing candidate Michel Martelly deserved to be in the second round runoff. In effect, the Core Group employed the OAS to reassert their primacy over Haitian affairs.

Headquartered in the US capital, the OAS has long been a tool of Washington’s and capitalism’s dominance of the region. A few months ago OAS electoral observers played an important role in the overthrow of Evo Morales, prompting Bolivia’s first ever indigenous president to label the organization “in the service of the North American empire.”

The OAS receives between 44% and 57% of its budget from Washington. Responsible for as much as 12% of the organization’s budget, Canada is the second largest contributor to the 33-nation group.

Unfortunately, interventionist/imperialist alliances reinforce each other. A representative of the OAS is part of the Core Group while the Core Group has driven Haiti into joining the Lima Group. At the same time the Lima Group’s success in stoking regional opposition to Maduro has enabled the OAS to take ever more hostile positions towards Venezuela’s government. Like a teenager getting involved with the “wrong people” this circle of “friends” has been a very bad influence. It has encouraged bullying, bribery and other anti-social imperialist behaviour.

The Lima Group and Core Group are wholly illegitimate alliances. While the Organization of American States is slightly more complicated, progressives shouldn’t hesitate to proclaim, “Canada out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS.”

 

 

Protests are being organized for Thursday and Friday in a number of Canadian cities against the Lima Group.

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Latin America, Venezuela

Trudeau’s Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government is a sham

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Should peace groups challenge Canadian militarism by pushing clear, principled, demands or by promoting a militarist government’s bid to rebrand itself through a “peace” institute?

In a recent blog headlined “New Peace Centre needed to balance defence industry-funded think tanks”, the Rideau Institute promoted the proposed Canadian Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government. Since October four different Rideau Institute blogs have talked up the Liberals’ Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government. In their recent blog they linked to a January 29 Hill Times story headlined “A new Canadian peace centre could make a world of difference”. Authored by Rideau Institute head Peggy Mason and Senior advisor Peter Langille, the opinion piece called for the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government to be modeled after the former Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security (CIIPS).

In 1984 the federal government passed “An Act to Establish the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security.” Under the legislation CIIPS was obliged to carry out research proposed by the “designated” minister. Associated with peace researchers, CIIPS was run by former External Affairs and military officials. Its first chair was William Barton who worked at External Affairs for three decades, including a stint as Canadian ambassador to the UN. The organization’s founding director was Brigadier-General George Gray Bell, who spent three decades in the military, and its initial executive director was Geoffrey Pearson, son of Lester Pearson. A former ambassador to the Soviet Union and Mongolia, Geoffrey Pearson wrote, “I have been identified with the government most of my life.” (See my Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: the truth may hurt for an assessment of his famed father’s international policies.)

While the institute generally reflected the liberal end of the dominant foreign policy discussion, CIIPS coordinator of research Mark Heller supported Canadian participation in the first Gulf War. The organization also aligned itself with Canadian policy in other ways. Geoffrey Pearson described the motivation for organizing a conference on Canada–Caribbean relations: “I thought that Canada ought to pay more attention to the … British Caribbean countries, where we had traditional interests and potentially important influence.” But Canada’s “traditional interests” in the British Caribbean have often been characterized as “imperialistic”. Canadian banks and insurance companies have dominated the English Caribbean’s financial sector for more than a century and prominent Canadians repeatedly sought to annex these territories.

In 1992 Brian Mulroney’s government disbanded CIIPS. While some suggested the decision was a response to policy prescriptions the government didn’t like, Ottawa claimed its decision was strictly financial. The government’s official explanation gives a good sense of how they viewed the institute. “It will cost the government $2.5 million less annually, because instead of having the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security, we will have officials within the Department of External Affairs doing the same job.”

If its anything like CIIPS its doubtful the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government will push to withdraw from NATO, reduce military spending, end government support for arms exporters or withdraw Canadian troops from Iraq and Latvia. Instead the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government is likely to offer a public relations boost to a Liberal government promoting arm sales, NATO expansionism and increased military spending, not to mention brutal mining companies, anti-Palestinian positions, an unpopular Haitian president, a coup in Venezuela, etc.

It is unclear if Mason and Languille’s position is motivated by political ‘realism’, employment considerations, fear of political marginalization, discomfort with the depths of Canadian militarism or a desire to claim victory (the Rideau Institute is part of a coalition that suggested a similar institution). Or maybe they believe the peace movement should take whatever crumbs the Liberals drop from the table since they will be better than what a Conservative government offers.

The other side doesn’t have this attitude. As the recent Rideau Institute blog rightly pointed out the DND/arms industry funded Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI) doesn’t hold back from articulating militarist positions. Last month CGAI held a conference on Modernizing North American Defence that painted Russia and China as apocalyptic threats, wanting to “destroy” (Moscow) and “own” (Beijing) us. Despite their lack of moral legitimacy, the militarists forcefully convey their positions.

Antimilitarists need organizations that do the same. Certainly, it’s not too much to expect a “peace” institute to call for reduced military spending, an end to public support for arms exporters and Canada’s withdrawal from NATO. Does the Rideau Institute believe the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government will do that?

 

I will be speaking alongside Peggy Mason at the World Beyond War conference in Ottawa on May 27.

 

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Filed under Activism, Justin Trudeau, Military, NGOs

NGO coalition aligns with imperialism

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The Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) exists primarily to lobby for increased aid. As a result, the NGO umbrella group broadly aligns with Canadian imperialism.

When Justin Trudeau recently set off for an African Union Summit to build support for the government’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council the CCIC reiterated its call for increased aid. In an interview with Radio Canada International, CCIC CEO Nicolas Moyer suggested that if “Canada is back”, as Trudeau has previously stated, it needed to increase aid spending.

In November 2019 CCIC co-organized a Summit on Canada’s Global Leadership. The event included Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance, minister for international development Karina Gould, Trudeau advisor Bob Rae, former Trudeau foreign policy advisor Roland Paris, former head of the Canadian International Development Agency Margaret Biggs, former CSIS director Richard Fadden and others. Describing himself as a lobbyist for greater aid, Moyer said in an interview before the Summit on Canada’s Global Leadership that it was important to bring together different sectors of Canadian foreign policy because “there is no path which leads towards increased federal commitments to ODA [overseas development assistance] which can exist without a strong ambition for Canada’s role in the world. We need champions in other sectors that also want an ambitious and impactful foreign policy.” Willing to include the military as part of his grand foreign policy coalition, Moyer added, “it’s why I am looking forward to discussions at the summit, for example between Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance and Canada’s Ambassador for Women Peace and Security Jacqueline O’Neill.”

It makes sense that an organization focused on increasing aid spending would do-si-do with the military. Since the 1950-53 Korean War military interventions have elicited substantial boosts in aid spending. Call it the ‘intervention-equals-aid’ principle or ‘wherever Canadian troops kill Ottawa provides aid’ principle. The largest concentration of aid spending in Canadian history was in Afghanistan. During the 2000s $2.2 billion worth of development assistance was pumped into Afghanistan with NGOs flooding into the country alongside Canadian troops.

(No matter the popular portrayal, the primary objective of Canadian overseas assistance has long been to advance Western interests, particularly keeping the Global South tied to the US-led geopolitical order. Aid has also been designed to help Canadian companies and to co-opt internationalist minded young people into aligning with Canadian foreign policy. While most individual aid projects offer some social benefit, they’ve also helped justify the imprisonment of Haiti’s constitutional prime minister, rewrote Colombia’s mining code to benefit corporations, assisted Filipino landlords blocking much-needed land reform with violence, etc.)

More damaging than the CCIC’s dalliance with the military is its reluctance to criticize Canadian foreign policy. In September 2018 the CCIC co-organized a conference titled “Is Canada Back: Delivering on Good Intentions?” Publicity for the event noted, “Inspired by Justin Trudeau’s 2015 proclamation ‘Canada is Back’, we are presenting panels that illustrate or challenge Canada’s role in global leadership. Are we doing all that we could be doing in the world?” Formulating the question this way ignores the government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, backing for brutalmining companies, NATO deployments, antagonism towards Palestinian rights, efforts to topple the Venezuelan government, failure to end Canada’s ‘low level war’ on Iran, backing for an unpopular Haitian president, refusal to support nuclear weapons controls, promotion of military spending, etc.

Many progressive minded Canadians look to international NGOs as a counterweight to government abuses. Instead of challenging unjust Liberal policies, the CCIC has largely shilled for the liberal (aid) arm of Canadian foreign policy.

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Filed under Aid, imperialism, NGOs

Trudeau is buddies with murderous African dictator

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Justin Trudeau wants us to know he’s buddies with Africa’s most ruthless dictator.

At the recent African Union Summit in Ethiopia Trudeau met Paul Kagame. The Prime Minister’s press people released a photo of him laughing with the Rwandan President and announced that the two discussed the upcoming Commonwealth summit Trudeau is set to attend in Kigali.

On at least five occasions since 2018 Trudeau has been photographed with Kagame during one-on-one meetings on the sidelines of different international summits. At one of those meetings the PM “affirmed the importance of strong and growing bilateral relations” between Canada and Rwanda.

Canadian-based Rwandan dissident David Himbara has criticized the PM’s embrace of Kagame. In April 2018 he wrote, “the romance between Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Rwanda’s strongman Paul Kagame is difficult to fathom. For the past several months, the romance between the two and among their respective ministers has blossomed beyond belief.”

After amending the constitution to be able to run indefinitely Paul Kagame won 98.63 per cent of votes in Rwanda’s August 2017 presidential election. In response, Canada’s High Commissioner Sara Hradecky tweeted, “congratulations to Rwandans for voting in peaceful presidential election” and “Canada congratulates Paul Kagame on his inauguration today as President of Rwanda.” The latter tweet was picked up by the state propaganda organ New Times in a story titled “Heads of State, diplomats laud Kagame’s ‘visionary leadership’.”

If garnering 99 per cent of the vote wasn’t a clue that Kagame is a dictator, the High Commissioner could have taken a look at Canada’s ‘paper of record,’ whose Africa bureau chief had recently shined a critical light on Rwanda. At the start of 2016 the Globe and Mail reported on two new books describing the totalitarian nature of the regime.

“Village informers,” wrote South Africa-based Geoffrey York. “Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda — a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”

In 2014 York wrote an investigation headlined “Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents,” which provided compelling evidence that the regime had extended its assassination program outside of east Africa, killing (or attempting to) a number of its former top officials who were living in South Africa. After the initial investigation York reported on Rwandan dissidents who had to flee Belgium for their safety while the Toronto Star revealed five individuals in Canada who were fearful of the regime’s killers.

On top of international assassinations and domestic repression, Kagame unleashed mayhem in the Congo. In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead. Rwandan proxies repeatedly re-invaded the mineral rich eastern Congo. In 2012 the Globe and Maildescribed how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence” there.

Despite the regime’s violence, Governor General Julie Payette traveled to Kigali to meet Kagame in August. She lauded “the long-standing partnership between Canada and Rwanda.”

In November 2017 Rwanda’s Environment Minister visited Ottawa to meet her Canadian counterpart, Catherine McKenna, who lauded “our close friendship.” Later that year defence minister Harjit Sajjan hosted his Rwandan counterpart General James Kabarebe.

In 2015 Kabarebe was arrested in London under a Spanish indictment for war crimes committed between 1990 and 2002 in Rwanda, including the murder of two Quebec priests. Previously, Kabarebe had been the subject of an arrest warrant by a French judge for his role in shooting down President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane, which unleashed the genocidal violence in Spring 1994. A 2012 UN report claimed Kabarebe organized and armed deadly M23 rebels in eastern Congo, labeling Kabarebe “a central player in recruiting on behalf of M23” and noted that “he has often been in direct contact with M23 members on the ground to coordinate military activities.” After former Rwandan spy chief, turned Kagame critic Patrick Karegeya, was strangled to death in a South African hotel in January 2014 Kabarebe said, “when you choose to be a dog, you die like a dog, and the cleaners will wipe away the trash.”

The Rwandan government’s domestic repression, international assassinations and violence in the Congo are well documented. Yet I couldn’t find any criticism of Kagame by the Trudeau government. Instead, Ottawa provides about $25 million annually in assistance to Rwanda.

 

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Canada celebrates agents of Palestinian misery

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Ambassador Deborah Lyons with Canadians fighting in IDF Yaakov Herman, Robbie Kohos and Ayala Rotenberg

Canada is celebrating the agents of Palestinian misery.

Last month the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv held an event to celebrate Canadians fighting in the Israeli military. They invited all 78 Canadians in the IDF to the ambassador’s residence to demonstrate their appreciation. Referring to non-Israelis who join the IDF, ambassador Deborah Lyons told the Jerusalem Post, “Canadian lone soldiers are a particularly special group … This is something we want to do on a yearly basis to show our support.” At the event Canada’s ambassador said, “we both share a love of Canada and a love of Israel. We at the embassy are very proud of what you’re doing.”

A top diplomat organizing an event to celebrate Canadians fighting for another country’s military ought to generate criticism. Doing so while that force humiliates Palestinians at checkpoints in the West Bank, fires on protesters in Gaza and bombs Syria in violation of international law is an outrage that must be condemned.

The government has legislation designed to deter Canadians from joining other countries’ militaries. The Foreign Enlistment Act is supposed to prohibit Canadians from recruiting for a foreign army. It notes, “any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”

Similarly, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) restricts registered charities from supporting other countries militaries. CRA guidelines note, “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”

Despite these rules, ambassador Lyons celebrated Canadians fighting for the IDF. The event promoting the IDF was a nod to a network of Canadian organizations backing the Israeli military. In November 1100 people attended an Association for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada and Canadian Zionist Cultural Association event in Toronto. The Canadian Jewish News reported, “the evening featured heartfelt and captivating speeches from IDF commanders, as well as a performance by the IDF Ensemble.”

Two months ago, Herut Canada brought Israeli military reservists to a number of Ontario universities. At York their event sparked a high-profile confrontation.

A number of Jewish day schools promote the Israeli military. At Toronto’s Leo Baeck an Israeli emissary spends a year at the school and when they return, notes the Canadian Jewish News, “engages with students by way of live video chat from their Israel Defence Forces barracks dressed in their military uniforms.” Students also pay “tribute  to Israel’s fallen heroes” and fundraise for Beit Halochem Canada/Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel, which supports injured IDF soldiers.

At the other end of the age spectrum a group of 80-something Torontonians gather regularly to make hand-knitted tuques for IDF soldiers. They are part of the Hats for Israeli Soldiers initiative. Another organization that supports the IDF is Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans-Canada. Sar-El offers more concrete support to the IDF. Some 150 Canadians volunteer on Israeli army supply bases each year with an organization founded by an IDF general.

For its part, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (Canada) has sponsored “fun activities” for “lone soldiers”.Established by billionaire power couple Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers also supports non-Israelis in the IDF.

At its Toronto office, the Friends of Israeli Scouts’ Garin Tzabar program provides Hebrew lessons and support services, as well as help with transport and accommodation in Israel, for Canadian “lone soldiers”.  Nefesh B’Nefesh’s also helps non-Israelis join the IDF.

In November the Israeli consulate in Toronto announced a military recruiting effort. According to their announcement, “an IDF representative will conduct personal interviews at the Consulate on November 11-14. Young people who wish to enlist in the IDF or anyone who has not fulfilled their obligations according to the Israeli Defense Service Law are invited to meet with him.”

Sar-El, Nefesh B’Nefesh, Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans-Canada andAssociation for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada (through the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association) offer tax receipts for donations. In January of last year the Beth Oloth Charitable Organization, which had $60 million in revenue in 2017, had its charitable status revoked for supporting the Israeli military. Not particularly well known, the organization appears to have been a conduit for donations to different Israeli charities.

In response to a formal complaint submitted by four Palestine solidarity activists and Independent Jewish Voices Canada in fall 2017, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) began an audit of the Jewish National Fund for contravening Canadian charitable law. The JNF financed multiple projects for the Israeli military in direct contravention of CRA rules for registered charities. Despite the JNF openly supporting the Israeli military, the audit of its operations has gone on for two years. The CRA is undoubtedly facing significant behind-the-scenes pressure to let the JNF off with little more than a slap on the wrist. In 2013 Justin Trudeau attended a JNF gala and other Liberal cabinet ministers participated in more recent events put on by an explicitly racist organization that Liberal MP Michael Leavitt once oversaw. Ambassador Lyons attended a JNF event in Jerusalem in 2016 and another one in October.

Canadian charitable guidelines and the Foreign Enlistment Act are designed to deter Canadians from supporting other countries’ militaries. Yet Canada’s ambassador in Israel is celebrating Canadians fighting in that military.

How many Canadians consider that appropriate?

 

House of Mirrors — Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy will be released in March. To help organize an event for the Spring tour please email yvesengler (@) hotmail.com.

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Filed under Canada and Israel, Justin Trudeau, Middle East