Israel lobby attacks progressive internationalism

On Wednesday the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs attacked the left wing of the NDP. In a release titled “Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) appalled that disgraced former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn invited to spread toxicity in Canada”, CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel noted: “Jeremy Corbyn is toxic. The invitation to the disgraced leader is more evidence that Svend Robinson, Niki Ashton, Libby Davies and a few others want to take the NDP in a direction that is antithetical to basic Canadian values. This small group is actively undermining NDP leadership which is working hard to keep the NDP focused on the very important issues that Canadians care about.”

What prompted this release is an upcoming webinar NDP MP Ashton has organized with Corbyn to raise funds for the Progressive International, which came out of a 2018 meeting organized by Bernie Sanders’ movement. “Progressives of the world unite”, is a slogan of an initiative that includes Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Naomi Klein and Yanis Varoufakis.

CIJA’s release is an explicit effort to marginalize the left within the NDP in the lead-up to the party’s April convention, which will deal with widely backed resolutions in favour of Palestinian rights and against the IHRA’s anti-Palestinian definition of anti-Semitism.

CIJA’s release could also be read as a call on the NDP leadership to purge the left of the party. Perhaps the official advocacy arm of Canada’s Jewish federations feels emboldened to interfere in internal NDP affairs by recent actions of the party leadership. Ashton was recently demoted from her critic duties and a number of leftists, including former head of the Ontario Federation of Labour Sid Ryan, were blocked from running for the party during the last federal election. The initial reaction to the Ashton–Corbyn webinar from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and the party-aligned Broadbent Institute suggests CIJA may have willing allies inside the party in demonizing the left, just as happened in Britain. Working alongside the right wing of the Labour Party, the Israel lobby in the UK played a pivotal role in destroying the progressive movement Corbyn galvanized.

While this brazen interference in a left political party by supposedly non-political lobby groups may be shocking to some, it follows on efforts to destroy student unions. B’nai B’rith has been campaigning aggressively to defund student unions and associated organizations. In 2019 B’nai B’rith created a coalition of anti-Palestinian groups that called on Ontario students to take up “a unique opportunity to deny funding to” student associations. They are currently pressing the University of Toronto’s administration to withhold its graduate students’ union funding. B’nai Brith has also been granted intervener status on the side of the Doug Ford Conservatives in a court case between the Canadian Federation of Students/York Federation of Students and Ontario regarding the government’s move to force universities to grant opt outs for various student fees. To get a sense of the scope of their intervention into student life, B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn declared, “non-essential campus services have every right to function and provide the services they wish to, but they do not have the right to force their hands into anyone’s pockets…. CFS claims to represent all students, but we are here to give voice to the thousands of students who do not feel represented by them and have made it clear that they want no part in funding what this organization is financing. The court must also take their perspective into account, and we will do our part to ensure that it does.”

Of course these are the same tired old arguments right wing employers’ organizations have long used against worker’s attempts to organize effective unions.

But pro-Israel lobby groups’ chutzpah in attacking the left and union solidarity goes even further. During the remarkable student strike in Québec in 2012 B’nai B’rith “condemned” protesters purported “hate …that has outraged the Jewish community.” In 2016, the Canadian Jewish News reacted strongly after delegates at the NDP convention supported the leftish Leap Manifesto. They published an editorial and front-page story expressing concern at the growth of the left within the party.

It seems these pro-Israel lobby groups fear progressive challenges to the status quo. Perhaps they understand that these movements/politicians empower “internationalist” forces. Perhaps they fear solidarity — what we want for ourselves we wish for all — in political movements and unions inevitably leads to solidarity with all oppressed people, including Palestinians.

Whatever the reason, these groups have chosen to become overt enemies of people who are trying to build a better, fairer world where social justice for all reigns supreme. They have declared war on everyone who believes the world needs radical change — socialists, environmentalists, anti-racism activists, union organizers and more. They have chosen to be part of the problem, not the solution. Sad, but true.

 

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Broadbent Institute head smears Ashton, Robinson and internationalism

 

Broadbent Institute head Rick Smith should just be frank and say he hates Palestinians and doesn’t care about internationalism.

On Tuesday Smith tweeted that it was disturbing that NDP MP Niki Ashton was doing an upcoming fundraiser for the Progressive International with former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. In response to former NDP MP Svend Robinson tweeting, “I look forward to joining this great event with Niki and Jeremy Corbyn and supporting Progressive International”, Smith wrote “this is very unfortunate. In a recent report, the UK’s independent Equality and Human Rights Commission found serial ‘unlawful acts’ of antisemitism in UK Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”

After a wave of criticism Smith doubled down. He tweeted that the Conservative party aligned UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission “report is lengthy, detailed, and makes for sobering and distressing reading. This is not the sort of person that should headline a progressive fundraiser or occupy the time of Canadian progressive leaders.”

In case some readers are confused by what this battle over Corbyn is about, it boils down to hardcore Israeli nationalists attempting to impose their views on what constitutes anti-Semitism and internationalism on both the British Labour Party and NDP. Essentially the anti-Corbynites demand that Palestinian solidarity be defined as anti-Jewish and that foreign policy in Canada and the UK be non-partisan, which in practice means accepting the status quo.

In other words, despite its supposed “progressive” credentials, the Broadbent Institute is attempting to keep the NDP from moving to a more “internationalist” position in foreign policy. And this has been happening for some time.

At the 2018 NDP convention multiple Broadbent Institute players supported the party establishment’s move to suppress debate on the “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice”. At an early morning session prior to the main plenary Smith voted against allowing the full convention to debate the Palestine Resolution, which was endorsed by more than two dozen riding associations before the federal convention. The motion mostly restated official Canadian policy, except that it called for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”

The Broadbent Institute’s namesake was anti-Palestinian. In 1975 Ed Broadbent called the Palestinian Liberation Organization “terrorists and murderers whose aim is the destruction of the state of Israel”. During his time as leader of the NDP Broadbent called on the federal government to intervene to block Canadian companies from adhering to Arab countries’ boycott of Israel, which was designed to pressure that country to return land captured in the 1967 war.

Broadbent reversed the party memberships’ 1969 call for Ottawa to withdraw from NATO. After leaving party politics he headed the Canadian government’s equivalent to the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy, Rights and Democracy, for seven years.

Smith’s double standard on who is acceptable to speak at a progressive form is stark. In 2014 the Broadbent Institute’s headline speaker was Julia Gillard. The former Australian prime minister was viciously anti-Palestinian. In 2012, for instance, most of Gillard’s cabinet revolted against her plan to deny Palestine observer status in the UN. Australia ultimately abstained on a resolution backed by most of the world.

In 2014 the Broadbent Institute organized an event with Conservative Senator Hugh Segal. Former Chief of Staff to Conservative Ontario Premier Bill Davis and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Segal was at the time chair of the NATO Association of Canada and a member of SNC Lavalin’s board. The event was sponsored by Loblaws and General Electric Canada.

In 2016 Gloria Steinem spoke to the Broadbent Institute. Steinem was funded by the CIA in her early years and in her 2015 book she wrote, “in my experience The Agency [CIA] was completely different from its image; it was liberal, nonviolent and honorable.”

In 2019 Michael Coren spoke at the Broadbent Institute’s annual forum. From 2011 until the channel’s demise in 2015 Coren hosted an evening talk show on the hard-right Sun News Network, which spawned Ezra Levant’s Rebel News. Coren opposed same-sex marriages. During Israel’s destruction of Gaza in 2014 Coren wrote an Edmonton Sun column noting, “I hate the way the Marxists and their friends who supported Israel in the 50s and 60s now call Israelis Nazis. I hate the way Islamic fanatics pretend to care about the Palestinians when at the same time they slaughter their own people and use those same Palestinians as metaphorical and literal shields.”

The Broadbent Institute claims challenging Canadian foreign policy is outside its purview, which is in of itself a massive concession to the status quo. But it’s far worse than that. Informally the organization’s staff have interceded to suppress a modest Palestine resolution and to undercut the Progressive International.

The Broadbent Institute sucks up significance resources from individuals and institutions with far more universalist values than Smith. These individuals should consider reorienting their money to Canadian Dimension, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Rabble, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Independent Jewish Voices or some of the many other groups plugging away for a better, fairer world.

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Racial capitalism and the betrayal of Haiti

The richest Haitians

Domination by multinational corporations and “light skinned” local capitalists — that’s the story of Haiti as illustrated by one recent event.

The day after his already paper-thin constitutional legitimacy completely eroded Jovenel Moïse gave significant amounts of Haitian land to a light skinned oligarch working with Coca-Cola.

According to most Haitian constitutional authorities and institutions, Moïse’s presidential mandate ended Sunday, February 7, 2021. But the next day the official Le Moniteur published a presidential decree gifting 8,600 hectares of the country’s agricultural land reserve to produce stevia. Alongside land in the Artibonite and Plateau Central, Moise put up US$18 million for a new Free Agro-Industrial Export Zone run by the Apaid family. It’s outrageous, notes Le Regroupement des Haïtiens de Montréal contre l’occupation d’Haïti, that the state would offer land to a firm producing for Coca Cola rather than invest in local food production in a country where hunger is widespread.

Whether or not the officially named “Zone Franche Agro Industrielle d’Exportation de Savane Diane” moves forward, the decree is a stark example of “racial capitalism” in Haiti and why Washington and Ottawa are keeping Moïse in place. Unlike most Haitians, the Apaid family are not descendants of enslaved Africans. Born in the US, Andre Apaid Jr. is a sweat shop owner of Lebanese background.

Apaid led the Group of 184 “civil society” opposition to Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government. He reportedly financed the paramilitary forces led by Guy Philippe whose attacks created the pretext for US, French and Canadian forces to oust Aristide in 2004. (Days after Philippe told a local radio station in 2007 that Apaid funded his forces the US Drug Enforcement Agency raided Philippe’s home in the south coast city of Les Cayes.)

At the time of the coup Apaid also financed and armed a gang in the impoverished community of Cité-Soleil led by Thomas “Labanye” Robinson “to kill Lavalas supporters”. US lawyer Thomas Griffin interviewed Cité Soleil leaders and police officers who said Apaid “bought” Labanyè with US$30,000. He also reportedly enabled Labanyè’s wife to travel to the US and “keeps police from arresting the gang leader.” Various professionals and businesspeople told Griffin that Apaid was “the real government in Haiti.”

During the 1991-1994 coup against Aristide Apaid Jr.’s father, André Apaid Sr., was “one of the chief lobbyists in the U.S.” for the military junta. Previously Apaid Sr. was “close to dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier.”

During the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier Apaid Sr. founded Alpha Sewing. With Haiti’s population cowed and economic prospects in the countryside dire, ‘Baby Doc’ developed a relatively thriving low-wage assembly sector in the 1970s. Alpha Sewing eventually became the biggest sweat-shop operator in Haiti. The firm was, of course, hostile to any effort to increase the minimum wage.

One of the richest men in Haiti, Apaid Jr. is a leader among the community of Middle Eastern descent who dominate the economy. Gilbert Bigio, Sherif Kedar Abdallah, Reginald Boulos, Dimitri Craan and Reynold Deeb Saïeh are some of the businesspeople of Middle Eastern ancestry who generally work with North American and Dominican sweatshop, mining and other capitalists with even paler complexions. Apaid, for instance, was the prime Haitian subcontractor for Montreal based T-shirt maker Gildan Activewear, which has a major presence in Haiti. In April 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited an Apaid factory to tout its partnership with Gildan as an important model for Haitian economic development (Apaid was invited to a Canadian government conference on Haiti in Montréal attended by PM Paul Martin a few years earlier).

Washington has been important to the descendants of Middle Easterners who dominate Haiti’s economy. Partly to supplant European influence, Washington facilitated Arab migration to Haiti in the late 1800s. At the start of the twentieth century 60 percent of imported goods sold to the Haitian peasantry came from US manufacturers who supplied Syrian middlemen. When violence targeted the Syrian community US authorities advocated on their behalf.

One element driving the US-Arab migrant relationship in Haiti was that until the US rewrote Haiti’s Constitution in 1918 foreigners were restricted from owning land. This prompted some European businessmen, particularly Germans, to marry into prominent mixed-race families to be able to own property. But US capitalists were at a disadvantage compared to their European counterparts. US race politics deemed someone Black if they had ‘one drop’ of African blood. So even marrying an educated, upper class, mixed-race Haitian woman was considered unacceptable by most White US capitalists. US interests bypassed this dynamic working with migrants from the Middle East. And this legacy of racism still explains much of what happens in Haiti today.

Jovenel Moïse needs to go. So does the “racial capitalist” system of light-skinned local oligarchs working with foreign powers that supports Moïse.

 

On February 28 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting a discussion of Haiti Betrayed, a powerful indictment of Canada’s role in the 2004 coup and subsequent policy in the country. The film is available to watch for free for those who register in advance.

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Canadian backed police support dictatorship in Haiti

Canada is supporting a dictatorship in Haiti. And our government is not just offering some vague assistance, but rather is paying for the central instrument of that dictatorship’s repression. Ottawa is backing a violent police force that keeps Jovenel Moïse’s regime in power.

Last week a public letter was released criticizing Canada’s “support for a repressive, corrupt Haitian president devoid of constitutional legitimacy.” It was signed by three current MPs and three former MPs, as well as Noam Chomsky, David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Roger Waters, El Jones and 500 others.

The letter notes that Canada “continues to fund and train a police force that has violently repressed anti-Moïse protests. The Canadian ambassador in Haiti has repeatedly attended police functions all the while refusing to criticize their repression of protesters. On January 18 ambassador Stuart Savage met the controversial new head of police Leon Charles to discuss ‘strengthening the capacity of the police.’”

In November Moïse appointed Charles head of the police. The former military man oversaw the police in the 17 months after the 2004 US, France and Canada-sponsored coup against elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and thousands of other elected officials. At that time the US Naval Academy-trained Charles publicly referred to a “war” the police waged against the pro-democracy sector. A 2004 University of Miami human rights report found that Charles “routinely [gave] orders to stop political demonstrations” while an early 2006 Council on Hemispheric Affairs report noted that “he oversaw the gunning down of unarmed pro-Aristide Lavalas demonstrators by his own men, even … planting weapons on the innocent victims’ corpses.” Thousands were killed in political violence after the overthrow of Aristide.

Even before the 2004 coup Charles was close to the country’s oligarchs. He reportedly participated in a July 2003 meeting organized by leading sweatshop owner and opposition figure, André Apaid, where he tried to bribe “several Lavalas street leaders in Cité Soleil” to join the opposition. In “Loyal to Washington, New Police Chief Léon Charles Specializes in Counter-Insurgency Intelligence Gathering and Repression” Haiti Liberté editor Kim Ives writes, “under Léon Charles in 2004 and 2005, the Haitian police became a virtual private army of Haiti’s bourgeoisie, which provided officers with weapons and money.”

Charles oversaw the reincorporation of hundreds of human rights abusing former soldiers into the police force. At the time US officials privately reported, according to cables released by WikiLeaks, “Charles was unwilling or unable to discipline or arrest officers that everybody knows are corrupt and colluding with the kidnappers.”

Amidst significant criticism of his appointment, ambassador Savage met Charles. Even if one questions whether the meeting with Charles was designed to bolster a police force that’s maintaining a dictatorship, why exactly is Canada’s ambassador in Haiti meeting the head of the police? Does Guatemala’s ambassador in Ottawa meet the head of the RCMP?

Unfortunately the answer to why a Canadian ambassador would meet with the head of Haiti’s police is obvious.

Much to the delight of Haiti’s über class-conscious elite, Ottawa took the lead in strengthening the repressive arm of the Haitian state after the 2004 coup. Since then Canada has pushed to increase the size of the Haitian National Police (HNP) from 5,000 to over 15,000.

But the population has identified police as a leading threat to their safety. Haitian prisons are full of poor individuals in pre-trial limbo. In 2017 Le Regroupement des Haïtiens de Montréal contre l’occupation d’Haïti explained that the UN-US-Canada effort to “develop and professionalize the existing National Police… will actually translate into more repression of the Haitian people … The power to maintain order…is really the power to defend the status quo, the power to keep intact the dominant order…One cannot pretend to ‘reinforce’ the rule of law when the state, by its nature and orientation, exists only to defend without compromise the interests of the dominant class and of a certain political class.”

Canadian officials have previously suggested that strengthening the HNP was good for business. After meeting Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe in 2014 Canada’s International Development Minister, Christian Paradis, linked strengthening the HNP to “attracting private investment”. Paradis said, “we discussed the priority needs of the country as well as the increased size of the Haitian National Police (PNH), in order to create a climate to attract private investment.”

Through its diplomatic and policing support for Jovenel Moïse, notes the public letter, Canada is “propping up a repressive and corrupt dictatorship in Haiti.” More than that, it is supporting a police force (with the emphasis on force) that is imposing an extremely inequitable economic order.

Is this how Canadians want their “aid” dollars used?

 

On February 28 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting a discussion of Haiti Betrayed, a powerful indictment of Canada’s role in the 2004 coup and subsequent policy in the country. The film is available to watch for free for those who register in advance.

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Haitian official stashes wealth in Montréal

Senator Rony Célestin & new $4,25 million Montreal mansion

Recent media reports of a Haitian official stashing wealth in Montréal property ignore a key element of the story: Canada’s contribution to enabling Haitian corruption.

As a neo-Duvalierist regime becomes ever more dictatorial it’s also worth revisiting Canada’s history in facilitating fraud and money laundering in the hemisphere’s most impoverished nation.

Recently La Presse reported that the wife of a governing party senator, who works at the Haitian consulate in Montréal purchased a mansion in Laval. The story reported, “as the political crisis bogs down in Haiti, the wife of a senator belonging to the party of the contested president, Jovenel Moïse, has just bought a sumptuous $ 4.25 million villa in Laval, attracting a flood of criticism from Montreal to Port-au-Prince. The new property was paid off in full in one fell swoop, without a mortgage, and without their other house being sold, according to the Land Registry.” Two follow-up Journal de Montréal stories found that Senator Rony Célestin and his spouse, Marie-Louisa Célestin, spent $2 million more recently on property and businesses in the Montréal area.

La Presse’s Vincent Larouche should be praised for covering a story that had been circulating in Montréal’s Haitian community for days. But, a lot of important context is missing from the story, as Larouche must know. (15 years ago, Larouche wrote a nice review of my co-authored book on Canada’s role in the 2004 coup when he was with left-wing L’autre Journal). Senator Célestin was implicated in the 2019 killing of journalist Néhémie Joseph and threats targeting the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Unit. More broadly, Célestin’s political party was founded by corrupt and violent Duvalierist Michel Martelly.

But the broader Canadian angle is the most important omission. On Facebook, activist Jean “Jafrikayiti” Saint-Vil explained: “The PHTK regime headed by Michel Martelly and his self-described ‘bandi legal’ (legal bandits), came to power thanks to fraudulent elections organized, financed and controlled by the foreign occupation force established in Haiti since the coup d’état of February 2004. The planning meeting for the coup d’etat and putting Haiti under trusteeship was organized by Canadian Minister for La Francophonie Denis Paradis. The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti [January 31-February 1, 2003] succeeded in overthrowing the legitimate President as well as 7,000 elected officials from the region’s most impoverished country. The elected officials were replaced by bandits such as ‘Senator’ Rony Célestin of whom this article speaks.”

In a follow-up post Saint-Vil offers an alternative way of understanding Canada’s relationship to political corruption in Haiti. He asks, “Can you imagine [Hells Angels leader] Maurice ‘Mom’ Boucher and [serial killer] Carla Homolka installed as Senators in Canada by fraudulent elections led by a coalition of Haitian, Jamaican, Ethiopian diplomats in Ottawa?”

Few Canadians would be happy with such an outcome. But it’s a troublingly apt description of US, Canadian and French policy in Haiti.

This is not the first time Canada has been implicated in Duvalierist corruption. Before fleeing to the French Riviera, Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier emptied government bank accounts. The Royal Bank of Canada and other Canadian financial institutions assisted the young dictator’s theft. A US auditing firm hired to investigate and track down public funds concluded that Duvalier’s financial advisors “had set up an intricately concealed flow of money through a bevy of banks and accounts, most of them Canadian.”

The Royal Bank of Canada branch in Haiti assisted Duvalier. So did a Toronto branch of the bank. In Money on the Run: Canada and How the World’s Dirty Profits Are Laundered, Mario Possamai details Duvalier’s turn to Canadian institutions when Swiss banks froze Baby Doc’s accounts. At a Royal Bank branch in Toronto his attorneys converted $41.8 million in Canadian treasury bills, a highly secretive and respected form of money. Once converted, the Duvaliers’ assets could no longer be scrutinized.

In Canada: A New Tax Haven: How the Country That Shaped Caribbean Tax Havens Is Becoming One Itself Alain Deneault summarizes: “The dictator’s money was moved from Canada to Jersey [tax haven] where it was received by the Royal Trust Bank, a subsidiary of Canada’s Royal Trust Company. The deposit was made to an account that was part of a larger account held by the Manufacturers Hanover Bank of Canada, a financial institution with its headquarters in Toronto a few steps away from the Royal Bank of Canada where the whole operation had been set in motion. The operation became more complex with securities being split from their ownership records and further movements between the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Jersey, the Royal Bank of Canada in London, the Banque Nationale de Paris, and sundry Swiss institutions.”

Despite guidelines requiring banks to determine customers’ identity, RBC admitted it simply trusted Duvalier’s lawyers. Bank officials later claimed they would have refused the transaction had they known who the beneficiaries were.

This explanation is hard to believe. The only foreign bank in the country for a number of years, the Royal Bank financed projects by the Duvalier regime. Amidst the uprising against Jean-Claude Duvalier, Royal’s senior account manager in Port au Prince, Yves Bourjolly, joined a long list of prominent businessmen who signed a statement expressing “confidence in the desire of the government for peace, dialogue and democratization … at a time when order and security appear to be threatened.”

Over the years Canada has empowered many other corrupt and violent politicians in Haiti. In response to the Célestin story, intrepid tweeter “Madame Boukman — Justice 4 Haiti” noted, “Justin ‘Blackface’ Trudeau, like those before him, knowingly supports drug traffickers, money-launderers and assassins in Haiti. That is the only way Canadian mining vultures can loot Haiti’s massive gold reserves.”

This about sums it up.

 

On February 28 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting a discussion of Haiti Betrayed, a powerful indictment of Canada’s role in the 2004 coup and subsequent policy in the country. In the week leading up to the event the film will be available to watch for free for those who register in advance.

 

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Haitians right to be angry at UN

The United Nations may be necessary to build a better world, but that doesn’t mean the international body should be above criticism. The case of Haiti reveals how the UN can be part of the problem rather than the solution.

On Sunday tens of thousands demonstrated in Port-au-Prince against the foreign-backed dictatorship of Jovenel Moise. Reports suggest police began firing on protesters as they neared the UN headquarters. Ultimately, one protester was killed and a number of journalists injured. In response James North tweeted, “people elsewhere may not understand why the thousands of pro-democracy protesters would march toward U.N. headquarters. There’s a longer answer, but for now: Haitians believe, with good reason, that the U.N. helps prop up dictator Jovenel Moise.”

Alongside the US, Canada, Spain, France, Germany, Brazil and Organization of American States (OAS), the UN is part of the “Core Group” of foreign ambassadors widely believed to be the real power behind Moïse. The Core Group releases periodic statements concerning the country’s political affairs. The UN Mission, now known as Bureau intégré des Nations Unies en Haïti, has aligned with the US, Canada and OAS against the vast majority of Haiti’s population and institutions in endorsing Moise’s bid to extend his mandate as president. The international body announced it would give $20 million for elections that all the opposition parties reject since few believe a fair election is possible under Moise’s direction. In the summer Haiti’s entire nine-person electoral council resigned in response to Moïse’s pressure and then he unilaterally appointed new members.

As North alludes to, the UN’s current position is part of the international body’s pattern of hostility towards Haitian democracy and sovereignty. After the US, France and Canada ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and thousands of other elected officials in February 2004, the three countries soldiers were incorporated into a UN mission that backed up a coup government’s violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters. Subsequently led by Brazil, the UN force also killed dozens of civilians directly when it pacified Cité Soleil, a bastion of support for Aristide. The worst incident was early in the morning on July 6, 2005, when 400 UN troops entered the densely populated neighbourhood. Eyewitnesses and victims of the attack claim Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti (MINUSTAH) helicopters fired on residents throughout the operation. The cardboard and corrugated tin wall houses were no match for the troops’ heavy weaponry, which fired “over 22,000 rounds of ammunition”, according to a US embassy file released through a Freedom of Information request. The raid left at least 23 civilians dead, including numerous women and children. The UN initially claimed they only killed “gang” leader Dread Wilme.

Aside from its role in the coup and subsequent political repression, the UN’s disregard for Haitian life caused a major cholera outbreak, which left over 10,000 dead and one million ill. In October 2010 a UN base in central Haiti recklessly discharged sewage, including the feces of newly deployed Nepalese troops, into a river where people drank. This introduced the waterborne disease into the country. Even after the deadly cholera outbreak, UN forces were caught disposing sewage into waterways Haitians drank from.

UN troops were responsible for countless other abuses ranging from beatings to rape.

In August 2010 16-year-old Gérard Jean-Gilles, who ran miscellaneous errands for Nepalese troops, was found dead hanging inside a MINUSTAH base in Cap-Haïtien. Several days earlier, a Nepalese soldier publicly tortured a minor in the country’s second biggest city. The soldier, reported Haitian media, forced “his hands into the youth’s mouth in an attempt to separate his lower jaw from his upper jaw, tearing the skin of his mouth.”

UN troops had illicit sexual relations, sodomized boys and raped young girls. In mid 2017 a Canadian and British academic oversaw a study of 2,500 Haitians who lived near UN bases. They were asked “what it’s like to be a woman or a girl living in a community that hosts a peacekeeping mission.” Without being asked specifically about sexual relations with peacekeepers, 265 respondents talked of children fathered by members of the peacekeeping force, which were widely nicknamed “Pitit MINUSTAH”. Many single mothers were left struggling with stigma and poverty when the soldiers departed. Respondents described girls as young as 11 sexually abused and impregnated by UN representatives. Officially, UN soldiers are prohibited from having sexual relations with locals.

Canada’s biggest contribution to a UN mission over the past 15 years has been in Haiti. During that time and before the UN has been a tool of imperialism. Full stop. As anti-Aristide insurgents made their way to Port-au-Prince in February 2004, the international community ignored the elected government’s requests for “a few dozen” peacekeepers to restore order in a country without an army. On February 26, three days before removal, the OAS permanent council called on the UN Security Council to “take all the necessary and appropriate urgent measures to address the deteriorating situation in Haiti.” CARICOM called on the UN Security Council to deploy an emergency military task force to assist Aristide’s government.

Despite ignoring appeals for support from Aristide, CARICOM and the OAS in the preceding days, soon after US/French/Canadian troops ousted the elected government the UN Security Council passed a motion authorizing an intervention. In a three-minute Sunday night meeting — between 9:52 and 9:55 PM, according to the official UN summary — the Security Council “authorized the immediate deployment of [a] Multinational Interim Force for a period of three months to help to secure and stabilize the capital, Port-au-Prince, and elsewhere in the country.”

Today Haitians live with the results. If Canadians blindly promote an organization that has been a key organizer of repression and misery what should Haitians think of us?

 

On February 28 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting a discussion of Haiti Betrayed, a powerful indictment of Canada’s role in the 2004 coup and subsequent policy in the country. In the week leading up to the event the film will be available to watch for free for those who register in advance.

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The trouble with Canadian aid

Global Affairs Canada, international development studies departments and many NGOs are celebrating International Development Week. Lost amidst the salute to Canadian aid is the self-serving dark side of international assistance.

The primary objective of Canadian overseas aid has long been to advance Western interests, particularly keeping the Global South tied to the US-led geopolitical order. Initially conceived as a way to blunt radical decolonization in India, Canadian aid is primarily about advancing Ottawa’s geopolitical objectives. The broad rationale for extending foreign aid was laid out at a 1968 seminar for the newly established Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). This day-long event was devoted to discussing a paper titled “Canada’s Purpose in Extending Foreign Assistance” written by University of Toronto Professor Steven Triantis. Foreign aid, Triantis argued, “may be used to induce the underdeveloped countries to accept the international status quo or change it in our favour.” Aid provided an opportunity “to lead them to rational political and economic developments and a better understanding of our interests and problems of mutual concern.” Triantis discussed the appeal of a “‘Sunday School mentality’ which ‘appears’ noble and unselfish and can serve in pushing into the background other motives … [that] might be difficult to discuss publicly.” A 1969 CIDA background paper, expanding on Triantis’ views, summarized the rationale for Canadian aid: “To establish within recipient countries those political attitudes or commitments, military alliances or military bases that would assist Canada or Canada’s western allies to maintain a reasonably stable and secure international political system. Through this objective, Canada’s aid programs would serve not only to help increase Canada’s influence within the developing world, but also within the western alliance.”

Historically, military intervention has elicited aid. Call it the ‘intervention-equals-aid’ principle or ‘wherever Canadian or US troops kill Ottawa provides aid’ principle.

Ottawa delivered $7.25 million to South Korea during the Korean War. Tens of millions of dollars in Canadian aid supported US policy in South Vietnam in the 1960s and during the 1990-91 Iraq war Canada provided $75 million in assistance to people in countries affected by the Gulf crisis. In 1999-2000 the former Yugoslavia was the top recipientof Canadian assistance.

Hundreds of millions of dollars flowed into Haiti after Canadian troops helped overthrow the country’s elected government in 2004. In the years after the early 2000s invasions, Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti were the top recipients of Canadian ‘aid’.

Aid has also been designed to help Canadian companies expand abroad. With most aid “tied” to the purchase of Canadian products and services, the aid program was an outlet for surplus commodities and contracts for Canadian exporters.

The proportion of ‘tied’ aid has declined over the decades but Canadian aid still supports Canadian firms. After the earthquake in Haiti, for instance, CIDA and the Canadian Red Cross contracted Groupe Laprise and SNC-Lavalin to supply 7,500 temporary shelters. Almost all of the money was spent in Québec and the temporary shelters were of poor quality.

Indirectly Global Affairs also supports Canadian firms by channeling funds to sectors in which Canadian firms dominate. Canadian aid has helped liberalize mining legislation in numerous countries. 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 also reduced the royalty rate companies pay the government to 0.4 per cent from 10 per cent for mineral exports above 3 million tonnes per year and from five per cent 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.

The Trudeau government has channeled large sums of aid to international mining. In 2016 the Liberals put up $100 million for international projects titled “Enhanced Oversight of the Extractive Industries in Francophone Africa”, “Enhancing Resource Management through Institutional Transformation in Mongolia”, “Support for the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development”, “Enhancing Extractive Sector Benefit Sharing”, “Supporting the Ministry of Mines to Strengthen Governance and Management of the Mining Sector” and “West Africa Governance and Economic Sustainability in Extractive Areas.” They ploughed another $20 millioninto the Canadian Extractive Sector Facility “to promote knowledge generation and improved governance in the extractive sector in Latin America and the Caribbean.” The “Skills for Employment in the Extractives Sector of the Pacific Alliance” channeled $16 million into “industry-responsive training systems” in Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru where Canadian mining companies dominate mineral extraction.

In East Africa the government launched the $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.”

While the corporate and geostrategic components of aid receive some criticism, another dimension has received little attention. Aid is designed to co-opt internationalist minded young people into aligning with Canadian foreign policy. Part of this process is simply offering internationalist minded youth opportunities to do international charity work, which draws some away from challenging domestic political structures that contribute to ‘underdevelopment’. Government funding gives NGOs the ability to maintain an institutional structure, which most activist groups don’t have, that draws internationalist minded youth into their orbit. While they open many young peoples’ eyes to global inequity, government-funded NGOs simultaneously take up political space that would often be filled by those more critical of Canadian foreign policy.

While its funding crowds out oppositional forces indirectly, sometimes CIDA directly co-opts NGOs. After leaving her position as head of CIDA in Afghanistan, Nipa Banerjee explained that Canadian aid was used to gain NGO support for the war there. “Our government thinks they are getting public support and [NGO support] for their mission if they fund NGO programs,” she told the Globe and Mail.

International Development Week itself is a prime example of the co-optation of NGOs and development studies by the government. Each year they are given funds to organize events focused on promoting Canada’s good works. Seldom is heard a discouraging word. Criticism is not part of the program.

It is up to those who no longer believe in the myth that Canada is a force for good in the world to point out the truth.The primary purpose of aid is, and always has been, to advance the US-led geopolitical order and Canadian corporate interests.

 

On February 18 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is sponsoring a talk on “The Trouble with Canadian Aid: Reflecting on Canada’s International Development Week”

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Can NGOs be progressive despite dependence on Ottawa?

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”  Upton Sinclair

 

International Development Week (IDW) highlights how a large swath of ‘progressive” society has been co-opted into supporting Canada’s corporate, imperialist foreign policy. NGOs funded by Global Affairs call for ‘more Canada’ no matter what Ottawa metes out.

Justin Trudeau’s government has a long list of objectionable foreign policies. They’ve armed Saudi Arabia, backed brutal mining companies, deployed troops with NATO, undermined Palestinian rights, sought to topple Venezuela’s government, supported a coup in Bolivia, failed to end Canada’s ‘low level war’ on Iran, backed an unconstitutional Haitian president, increased military spending, refused to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, etc.

If the immoral character of these measures weren’t enough to make a progressive wary of aligning with Canadian foreign policy then what about the international community decisively rejecting them? Despite the government’s multi-year lobbying campaign, member states voted against Canada’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council last June.

While the Security Council defeat no doubt rattled many NGO employees’ confidence in benevolent Canada mythology, their dependence on government financing has proven too strong to shake things up significantly.

During International Development Week this year NGOs have once again jumped into bed with Global Affairs. Last Monday Québec NGO umbrella group Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale launched IDW with minister for international development Karina Gould speaking. Cooperation Canada (formerly Canadian Council for International Cooperation), British Columbia Council for International Cooperation, Manitoba Council for International Cooperation, Atlantic Council for International Cooperation and a host of other NGOs organized events focused on what the government officially describes as “Global Affairs Canada’s flagship public engagement initiative.”

Instigated by the aid agency 30 years ago, IDW is a celebration of Canada’s commitment to international development. Or, as the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation put it, IDW offers “an opportunity to explore how Canada and Canadians are making a difference around the world!”

Unfortunately, supposedly progressive NGOs aligning with Global Affairs is all too common. In November 2019 CCIC co-organized a Summit on Canada’s Global Leadership, which included Gould, Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance, Trudeau advisor (now UN ambassador) 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. In October 2018, Journalists for Human Rights organized a fundraiser titled “Find Out How Canada is Back!” with a keynote address from then Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau.

NGOs align with Global Affairs largely due to financial considerations. Aid officials have repeatedly slashed funding to organizations that challenge Canadian foreign policy, as detailed in Nik Barry-Shaw and Dru Oja Jay’s Paved with Good Intentions: Canada’s Development NGOs from Idealism to Imperialism. The Stephen Harper government cut funding to Kairos, Alternatives and others due to their political positions. Shortly after it publicly complained the government created a “chill” in the NGO community by adopting “the politics of punishment … towards those whose public views run at cross purposes to the government,” the CCIC’s $1.7 million CIDA grant was cut in 2012. This forced it to lay off two thirds of its staff. (CCIC was created with financing from CIDA to coordinate relations with the growing NGO network and build domestic political support for the aid program.)

In an earlier episode of CIDA’s “politics of punishment”, SUCO (CUSO’s French language equivalent) had all its funding chopped in 1984 after it campaigned on Canadian corporate ties with apartheid South Africa, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and other politically sensitive subjects. SUCO’s annual budget dropped from $6 million to $400,000 and staff levels fell from 45 employees to 4, leading to the collapse of the organization. CIDA delivered another blow to NGOs critical of Canadian foreign policy when it cut funding for the Development Education Animateur Program in 1975.

On the other hand, the Canadian aid agency has helped establish NGOs to undercut criticism. In 2007 CIDA gave Peace Build $575,000, which was on top of money from Foreign Affairs and the government-run International Development Research Centre. Largely focused on Afghanistan, Peace Build was a newly created network of NGOs viewed as a moderate counterweight to the more activist-oriented (and financially independent) Canadian Peace Alliance, which opposed Canada’s occupation of Afghanistan. Peace Build founder Peggy Mason was a former Canadian diplomat.

Two decades earlier CIDA encouraged the creation of a new NGO to undercut criticism of Canadian complicity with apartheid South Africa. In a history of the aid agency Cranford Pratt explains, “CIDA secured creation of the South African Education Trust Fund because it did not think the strong NGOs already active vis à-vis South Africa sufficiently sensitive to Canadian foreign policy concerns.”

Aid is not divorced from the government’s broader pro-corporate, imperialistic, international policy. While sometimes critical of Canadian foreign policy, NGOs’ reliance on government funding and charitable status hampers their political independence.

International Development Week offers an opportunity to reflect on the extent to which many progressives have been co-opted into Canada’s belligerent foreign policy.

 

On February 18 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is sponsoring a talk on “The Trouble with Canadian Aid: Reflecting on Canada’s International Development Week”

 

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Trudeau faces series of setbacks to corporate, imperial policies

As much as some Canadians would like to believe their country is a force for good in the world, the truth is more sobering. Extreme inequality is rampant and the Canadian government is an important supporter of corporate power and imperialism in global affairs. The good news is that the pushers of the unfair, unjust and immoral existing world order do not always get their way.

It is uplifting to tally some of the Trudeau government’s setbacks:

  • Last Friday the International Criminal Court ruled that it has jurisdiction over Israeli war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories, which should pave the way for a possible criminal investigation. A year ago the Trudeau government sent a letter to the ICC saying it didn’t believe the court had jurisdiction over Palestine. Its letter implied it could sever funding to the ICC if the court pursued an investigation of Israeli crimes. After the recent decision new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau released a statement criticizing the ICC decision.
  • On January 26 former Liberal finance minister Bill Morneau withdrew his bid to lead the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries after it was determined he had no chance of winning.
  • On January 22 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force, making weapons that have always been immoral also illegal under international law. Canada voted against holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination and boycotted the TPNW negotiating meeting, which two-thirds of the world’s countries attended.
  • On January 20 new US President Joe Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. The Trudeau government pressed the president-elect to break a direct promise and maintain a climate-destroying pipeline okayed by Donald Trump.
  • Since Venezuela’s new National Assembly began sitting on January 6 numerous countries have withdrawn from the US–Canada led campaign to anoint Juan Guaidó President. The European Union dropped its de facto recognition of Guaidó. As did the Dominican Republic. Even the Ottawa-led Lima Group has softened its stance. Last week Panama withdrew the credentials of Guaidó’s ambassador.
  • In October Chileans voted overwhelming to rewrite the country’s Pinochet-era constitution. The referendum was a blow to Canadian corporations operating in Chile and the Trudeau government’s alliance with right-wing governments in the hemisphere.
  • A week earlier Bolivia’s Movimiento al Socialismo won a decisive election victory that was a rejection of the Canadian-backed coup against Evo Morales a year earlier. The overwhelming results were also a blow to Ottawa’s bid to wipe out the remnants of the leftist pink tide in Latin America. (On Sunday an ally of leftist former President Rafael Correa, Andrés Arauz, gained the most votes in the first round of Ecuador’s presidential election.)
  • In June the international community decisively rejected Trudeau’s foreign policy. They voted against Canada’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council by a larger margin than a decade earlier under Stephen Harper.

People who support a fairer, more just and equal world should take comfort from these defeats for the Trudeau government’s pro-corporate and imperial policies. Proof that the bad guys are not invincible should offer hope for bigger victories to come.

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Will any MPs criticize Ottawa’s support for dictatorship in Haiti?

The Liberals’ commitment to a neo-Duvalierist dictatorship in Haiti is being tested. Hopefully Black History Month offers opposition parties an opportunity to finally echo growing grassroots criticism of Canadian policy in the hemisphere’s poorest country.

Since Monday a squatter has been occupying the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. On Sunday evening Supreme Court Justice Joseph Mecene Jean-Louis was appointed provisional interim President of Haiti by the opposition parties that say Jovenel Moïse’s mandate is over as the constitution states. But, Moïse has refused to leave, claiming another year on his mandate. He responded by arresting one Supreme Court judge and (unconstitutionally) dismissing three judges as well as sending police to occupy the Supreme Court building.

Moïse has been preparing for this moment for some time. In November he passed a decree criminalizing protests as “terrorism” and another establishing a new intelligence agency while in the summer he instigated a gang alliance to instill fear in the slums. Three months ago Moïse appointed Leon Charles head of the police. The former military man oversaw the police in the 17 months after the 2004 US, France and Canada sponsored coup. At that time Charles publicly referred to a “war” the police waged against the pro-democracy sector. Thousands were killed in political violence after the overthrow of elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Once again Ottawa appears to be backing Charles and a new war on civilians. A few weeks ago (Jan. 18) Canadian ambassador Stuart Savage met Charles to discuss “reinvigorating the police”. A few weeks earlier Savage met Moïse in another sign of the Liberals’ extensive support for the president.

Moïse has also built up the dreaded military revived by his patron, former president Michel Martelly. On Monday the military released a statement backing Moïse in the constitutional dispute and then proceeded to shoot two journalists at a protest, gravely injuring one.

There’s been push back in Canada to Justin Trudeau’s backing of Moïse’s authoritarianism. On Sunday 40 socially distanced demonstrators attended Solidarité Québec-Haïti’s “Rara” musical rally in Montréal against Canadian policy in Haiti and hundreds participated in its nighttime webinar titled “Non au retour du duvaliérisme soutenu par le Canada en Haïti!” Over the past week more than 300 individuals have emailed new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau (and all MPs) to call on Ottawa to “Stop Supporting the Return of Duvalierism in Haiti!”

On the weekend Le Regroupement des Haïtiens de Montréal contre l’Occupation d’Haïti released a statement declaring “No Canadian government support for the dictatorship in Haiti”. Additionally, the Concertation Pour Haïti, which includes Quebec’s major labour unions and a number of government-funded NGOs, demanded Canada “cease all support” for Moïse’s government, “which is increasingly criticized and denounced for its involvement in massacres and violence aimed at establishing a climate of terror, at destroying the opposition and at preventing the emergence of a real alternative.” The Concertation statement added that Ottawa should “cease all forms of support for the illegitimate electoral process and for the constitutional reform project that the authorities want to put in place, a process that does not respect the standards of independence required to establish the legitimacy of a government. The presidency, having failed to organize legislative elections provided for by the Constitution, now governs by decree, holding all the powers on its own.”

In the US Senior Senator Patrick Leahy and seven congresspeople called on the Biden administration to back a transition government. The congresspeople’s statement last week noted, “we feel it is essential that the United States unambiguously reject any attempt by President Moïse to retain power.”

In December the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Chris Aylward, sent a strongly worded letter to the PM critical of Canadian support for Moïse while earlier David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Linda McQuaig, George Elliot Clark and 150 others signed an open letter “calling on the Canadian government to stop backing a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president.” These statements followed on from multiple disruptions by Solidarité Québec-Haïti of ministers, including an occupation of Trudeau’s election office, over the government’s support for Moïse.

But, where are the opposition parties whose job it is to question and oppose government policy? With the exception of Bloc Québécois MP Mario Beaulieu – who sponsored a parliamentary petition critical of “the ‘Core Group’ that allegedly brought to power the governments of Martelly and Moïse, who have been accused of corruption and repression” – the silence has been deafening. I couldn’t find any statement from the NDP or Greens. Nor am I aware of left-wing MPs Paul Manly, Leah Gazan, Alexandre Boulerice, Niki Ashton or Matthew Green releasing anything. A number of these MPs have found time to criticize Chinese repression – where Ottawa has little influence – but have stayed silent when Canadian-trained, financed and diplomatically supported police kill Haitian protesters.

Two centuries ago the Haitian Revolution delivered a massive blow to slavery, colonialism and white supremacy. Is it too much to ask that during Black History Month these left-wing MPs (or their staffers) watch Haiti Betrayed or read some of the many articles critical of Canadian policy in Haiti and tweet their opposition to Canada’s role in reviving Duvalierism?

 

Please email new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau to call on Ottawa to stop supporting president Jovenel Moïse who is reviving the spectre of the brutal Duvalier dictatorship.

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti, Justin Trudeau