Calling Trudeau a terrorist is not that outrageous

Is calling the Prime Minister a “white supremacist terrorist” hate speech?

Black Lives Matter – Toronto spokesperson Yusra Khogali’s description of Justin Trudeau as a “white supremacist terrorist” at a recent rally against Islamophobia has sparked significant backlash. Right-wing media are using it to attack BLMTO while liberal commentators have called on Khogali to resign as spokesperson. A number of individuals have even labeled Khogali’s comments hate speech.

Fortunately, Chuck D of Public Enemy took to Twitter to push back against calls for Khogali to resign and a Toronto Now piece by Shantal Otchere defended the “white supremacist” part of her statement. The case for labeling our handsome PM a “terrorist” may be less solid, but it’s worth exploring.

In the only effort to justify the “terrorist” tag on Trudeau I’ve seen, Vancouver-based writer and activist Daniel Tseghay pointed to the PM’s arming of Saudi Arabia’s monarchy on Facebook, which is clearly intentionally causing death and serious bodily harm by use of violence in Yemen, not to mention sections of its own population. Not only has the Canadian Commercial Corporation signed a $15 billion Light Armoured Vehicle contract with the reactionary regime, Canadians are also training the Saudis to use the vehicles, sold Riyadh other arms and has backed them diplomatically. The Trudeau government has all but ignored Saudi violence in Yemen, which has left over 10,000 civilians dead and millions hungry.

In another part of the Middle East, a Canadian fighter jet reportedly killed 10 and injured 20 Iraqi civilians on November 19, 2015. While the Trudeau government later withdrew Canadian bombers, two Canadian reconnaissance aircraft and an in-air refuelling tanker are still part of the Iraq/Syria mission, which is bombing without Damascus’s permission. The Trudeau government also tripled the number of Canadian special forces on the ground. Two hundred highly skilled soldiers have provided training, weaponry and combat support to Kurdish forces accused of ethnically cleansing areas of Iraq they’ve captured.

Another 200 Canadian troops are in the Ukraine backing up a force responsible for hundreds of deaths in the east of that country. While it was the previous government that dispatched these troops to the Ukraine, the Trudeau government is ramping up Canada’s military presence in the region. Four-hundred-and-fifty troops will soon be part of a Canadian-led battle group in Latvia and up to a half-dozen CF-18 fighter jets are on their way to the region, which is partly designed to embolden far-right militarists in the Ukraine.

Do any of these activities constitute terrorism? There are certainly decent arguments to be made.

And, while it’s unclear whether Trudeau merits the “terrorist” label 16 months into his term, history suggests it may well fit before he leaves office. Trudeau’s Liberal predecessor Paul Martin is an excellent candidate for the “T” tag because of his role in overthrowing Haitian democracy and supporting a coup regime responsible for thousands of deaths and rapes. For two years, a Canadian-financed, Canadian-trained and Canadian-supervised Haitian police force terrorized Port-au-Prince’s slums with Canadian diplomatic and (for half a year) military backing.

By delivering Washington’s bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership another Liberal prime minister also arguably warranted the “T” label. Lester Pearson had Canadian International Control Commission officials spy on the North for the U.S., approved chemical weapon (Agent Orange, Purple and Blue) testing in Canada and provided various other forms of support to Washington’s terror campaign in Indochina.

One could also make the case that Louis St. Laurent deserved the “T” tag for dispatching 27,000 troops to a war in Korea that left up to 4 million dead. At one point the U.S.-led forces stopped bombing the north when they determined no building over one story was still standing.

While the “terrorist” label may be jarring, strong language by activists directed at the PM is at worst jarring. Sanctimonious commentators who constantly rush to defend power, on the other hand, allow prime ministers to get away with activities that arguably meet the definition of terrorism.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Israel apologists claiming to support refugees are hypocrites

It is strange how supporters of Israel are responding to Donald Trump’s Muslim and Syrian refugee ban. Some have applauded it, effectively acknowledging that Israel cheerleading is a right wing cause. Others have sought to be seen taking the side of anti-racism and religious tolerance, all the while ignoring Israel’s terrible treatment of Palestinian, Syrian and other refugees.

The case of Bernie Farber illustrates the difficulties this left/liberal camp faces. On Facebook the former Canadian Jewish Congress president and self-styled refugee rights advocate recently wrote, “while Trump is barring Syrian refugees…” and contrasted the move by posting a Times of Israel story titled “Israel said readying to take 100 orphaned Syrian refugees.”

In fact, Israel has an appalling record on helping with Syrian refugees. All the other states bordering Syria have accepted thousands of times more people fleeing the conflict. Over two million Syrian refugees are in Turkey. Far poorer and less populous than Israel, Jordan has around one million Syrian refugees while Lebanon has over one million. Even Iraq, which has three million internally displaced, has over 200,000 Syrian refugees.

Despite signing the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 refugee protocol, Israel announced in 2011 it would block anyone crossing into the Golan Heights, which violates the principle of non-refoulement (not forcing those seeking asylum to return to a country in which they are likely to be persecuted). Instead of adhering to its international legal responsibilities, Israel re-fortified a 90-kilometre fence in the occupied Golan Heights and laid new minefields to deter crossings. It also added a 30 km long fence on part of its border with Jordan partly to block Syrians from coming through that country and in 2013 completed a 200 km barrier along its border with Egypt largely to stop East African migrants (Israel already has a fence on its border with Lebanon and another one in the West Bank).

A June 2016 Financial Times story titled “Israel: walled in” depicts the numerous barriers the country has erected partially to deter refugees. The British paper quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling for Israel to surround itself with fence “to defend ourselves against wild beasts” in the region.

Now, six years into the conflict, Israel is saying it will take 100 Syrians. Only someone afflicted by ‘Israel worship’ could claim to support refugee rights and applaud this disgraceful record.

In a September 2015 story titled “One country that won’t be taking Syrian refugees: Israel” the Los Angeles Timesquoted Netanyahu’s rationale for shutting the door on those fleeing the humanitarian tragedy. Netanyahu claimed his country’s “lack of demographic and geographic depth” made it impossible to accept any refugees. (With 60% of Israel’s population, half its landmass and a sixth of its GDP, Lebanon has taken over one million Syrians.)

In Ynet Netanyahu’s former Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy, Yoaz Hendel, elaborated on why “Israel can’t take in refugees.” Hendel writes, “the demographic threat is real, and the need to preserve the Jewish nation state’s character as a democracy doesn’t allow for large minorities. The current numbers of Muslims pose a complicated challenge even without additions.”

In effect, Syrian refugees threaten what Farber et al. euphemistically call Israel’s “right to exist”. As non-Jews, particularly Arabs, they threaten the Jewish supremacist character of the state. Any Jew living comfortably in Toronto or Montréal, whose family migrated to Canada from Eastern Europe a century ago, can immigrate to Israel tomorrow. But, Israel lacks the “demographic and geographic depth” to offer temporary (or permanent) shelter to individuals fleeing a conflict 50 km away.

Israel’s response to the humanitarian tragedy on its border reflects its status as a 19th century European colonial outpost. Even the European and North American colonial states that spawned and promoted Zionism have become more racially and ethnically accommodating. There are some 200,000 Syrian refugees in Germany, 5,000 in Britain, 15,000 in the US and 40,000 in Canada.

Israel has taken fewer Syrians than countries 10,000 kilometres away. Venezuela announced it would accept 20,000 Syrians while Brazil proposed a multi-year plan to take up to 100,000 Syrian refugees.

Despite its unconscionable record, Farber found cause to applaud Israel. Rather than contrasting Trump’s ban with Israel’s openness, if the former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress truly embraced universal human rights he would criticize the US president for mimicking Israeli policy.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Canada’s largest PR machine troubled by a few ‘toxic’ stories

The media is unfair to the military, according to the Chief of Defence Staff. During a speech to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade last week General Jonathan Vance slammed “very toxic narratives” in reporting on the Canadian Forces.

“If you’re paying attention to the news today, there are some very toxic narratives about the armed forces,” Vance said. “The narrative that seems to prevail right now is if you join the armed forces, you are going to be sexually assaulted, raped or you’re going to suffer from PTSD at some point and may commit suicide.”

Reporting the truth is toxic?

With the largest PR machine in the country, the CF aggressively always protects its image and promotes its worldview. As I detail in my latest book A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation, the military runs a slew of journalistic, academic and cultural initiatives. The military produces dozens of publications and its numerous websites make articles, speeches, reports and other types of information easily accessible to the public. The Canadian Forces also employs YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to promote its positions and recruit new members.

In 2010-11 the Canadian Forces admitted to spending $354 million on public relations and related military commemorations. Six hundred and sixty-one staff members worked on this effort. According to another 2011 report, the Department of National Defence’s Public Affairs department had 286 staff.  Public Affairs Officers’ write press releases, organize press conferences, monitor the news, brief journalists, befriend reporters and editors, or perform various other media-related activities. A large proportion of the news stories about the military are based on CF statements and events.

But that clearly isn’t good enough for the Chief of Defence Staff. After taking charge of the CF, Vance immediately sought to reinforce their influence over news coverage of military affairs. In fall 2015, Ottawa Citizen military reporter David Pugliese revealed Canada’s top soldier’’ call for the “weaponization of public affairs.” Vance proposed a plan to induce positive coverage and deter critical reporting. Journalists producing unflattering stories about the military were to be the target of phone calls to their boss, letters to the editor and other “flack” designed to undercut their credibility in the eyes of readers and their employers.

While the “weaponization of public affairs” slogan was novel, Pugliese pointed out in a blog that “Vance isn’t the first to attempt to bring pesky journalists to heel. It was quite common for officials working for then Defence Minister Peter MacKay to phone editors of various publications to complain about reporters.”

The CF didn’t stop at complaining to journalists’ bosses. The top brass repeatedly asked the military’s National Investigative Service (NIS) to investigate reporters’ sources. In 2011 NIS investigated prominent CTV journalist Robert Fife after he uncovered documents about Chief of Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk spending over $1 million in public funds flying to hockey games and a Caribbean vacation. Pugliese described this as a blatant “intimidation tactic by the NIS against a journalist who was clearly not playing military cheerleader.”

In a similar incident, NIS spent more than a month investigating how Pugliese obtained information about a major Pacific Ocean military exercise in spring 2012. While the Ottawa Citizen defence reporter said the information came from a U.S. Navy release, which the NSI investigation ultimately supported, DND officials believed Pugliese was tipped off by a friendly Public Affairs Officer. Esprit du Corp editor Scott Taylor pointed out that the investigation had nothing to do with operational security. “No classified information was divulged. No operational security jeopardized. No Canadian sailors’ lives were put in peril as a result of Pugliese’s rather innocuous story, but [defence minister Peter] MacKay’s timetable for release [of the information] had not been strictly adhered to.”

According to Taylor, NIS was employed on at least four occasions to investigate the source of information for stories. Yet in none of these instances was classified material reported.

The military is sensitive about embarrassing leaks. A July 2014 Embassy story titled “DND points to ‘challenges’ with former soldiers talking to media” reported on ministerial briefing notes concerning the problem of “leaks.” A year earlier the CF required soldiers wounded in Afghanistan to sign a form saying they wouldn’t criticize senior officers on Facebook or other social media. Former soldiers are a concern since active CF members are restricted in what they can say publicly or post online.

An extremely centralized organization, the people at the top of Canadian Forces want to control everyone and everything.

To paraphrase a widely circulated quote: when you’re accustomed to shaping coverage, a bit of criticism can feel like a “toxic” media environment.

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Filed under A Propaganda System

Conservative hopefuls in pro-Israel circus, but real action is in NDP race

The Conservative party leadership campaign has unleashed pro-Israel quackery, but it is the NDP race that could have greater impact on Canada’s Palestine policy.

Aping Donald Trump, former Conservative minister Kellie Leitch recently asked her Twitter followers to “join me in calling on the Government of Canada to immediately move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.” This would likely contravene international law.

For her part, former cabinet minister and fellow leadership candidate Lisa Raitt dubbed the recently passed UN Security Council Resolution (2334) on Palestine “disgusting”. Offering Israel a diplomatic blank cheque, Raitt said her government would make sure Canada’s voice was heard “loud and clear all over the world as Israel’s best friend and ally – no matter what.”

Another former member of cabinet running to be party leader labelled most of the world anti-Semitic. Chris Alexander called Resolution 2334, which passed 14-0 with a US abstention, “yet another round of UN anti-Semitism.”

A Facebook ad for former foreign minister and leadership frontrunner, Maxime Bernier, was titled “my foreign-policy is simple: put Canada first”. It linked to a petition saying, “foreign policy must focus on the security and prosperity of Canadians — not pleasing the dysfunctional United Nations … which for years has disproportionately focused its activities on condemning Israel.” Evidently, putting “Canada first” means advancing Israel’s diplomatic interests.

While ‘I heart Israel’ and ‘I really heart Israel’ bile flows out of Republican Party North, it is the NDP contest that’s more likely to shape the Palestine debate going forward. Since party members rejected leader Thomas Mulcair, who once said “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances”, the Canadian Jewish News has run an editorial, front-page story and column expressing concern about how the NDP’s leftward shift will impact Israel policy.

As the NDP race revs up expect Palestine to be debated in a way that troublesIsraeli nationalists. 

“Sid Ryan for NDP Leader”, a website launched to enlist the former head of the Ontario Federation of Labour to run for the head of the party, notes: “Sid Ryan’s advocacy for the Palestinian people, starting in his days in CUPE where he endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, shows that an NDP leader could muster broad support for a process where Canada is non-aligned, expresses solidarity with Palestinians and other oppressed nations in the Global South, and champions a foreign policy based on peace, democracy, social justice and human rights.” If Ryan enters the race. his support of Palestinian rights will set the bar fairly high on this important international issue. 

Another individual discussing a run, Jagmeet Singh, was the only member of the Ontario legislature to speak out against an Ontario legislature vote to condemn BDS in December. Singh criticized a Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs backed motion supporting the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” and rejecting “the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.” Cognizant of party members’ support for Palestinian rights, Singh likely had a federal leadership bid in mind when he addressed the Ontario legislature.

The only individual officially in the race, Peter Julian, has said little on the subject. As a former critic and NDP House Leader, Julian needs to clearly distance himself from Mulcair’s shadow on the issue or it will dog his campaign. 

Another sitting MP who will likely seek the leadership, Charlie Angus, has been more vocal on Palestinian rights. At the start of last year he criticized an effort to condemn BDS in the House of Commons and in 2014 Angus denounced the “undue influence” that sponsored tours of Israel were having on MPs. During Israel’s onslaught on Gaza in 2014 Angus wrote on his Facebook page: “Our thuggish prime minister pumps his chest while people die in Gaza. He may think there are votes to be had by cheering on Netanyahu from the sidelines.”

The Green Party’s recent stand in favour of Palestinian rights demonstrates that progressives want action on the issue. Despite opposition from the media and popular party leader Elizabeth May, Green members voted overwhelmingly to support “economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes” to pressure Israel. Progressives are less and less likely to be confused or intimidated by pro-Israel groups and their media lackeys. At this point a backlash against an NDP candidate’s support for Palestinian rights would likely increase their chance of winning the leadership. (In a somewhat relevant parallel, Jeremy Corbyn seems to have benefited from pro-Israel media attacks during his bid to lead the British Labour Party).

The considerable disconnect between the corporate media and engaged progressive opinion on Palestinian rights makes it important for the solidarity movement to politicize the subject when politicians are seeking the support of progressive party members. It is during the leadership fight that the Palestinian solidarity movement has the most leverage to force politicians to articulate a clear position.

In this vein, I suggest a modest Palestine litmus test: no NDP leadership candidate deserves support if they fail to call on the federal government to adhere to UN Resolution 2334. Passed by the Security Council, it has the force of international law (unlike General Assembly motions) and its narrow focus should make it fully palatable to mainstream opinion (it says nothing about the rights of Palestinians ethnically cleansed in 1948 or the inequities faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel). Resolution 2334 “reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” 

For NDP candidates the relevant part of the resolution is the demand it places on other countries. Resolution 2334 calls on “all states … to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

While past governments have made halting efforts to do as much, Ottawa doesn’t currently differentiate between “Israel proper” and the Occupied Territories. The two-decade old Canada–Israel free trade agreement allows settlement products to enter Canada duty-free. The European Union trade agreement, on the other hand, explicitly precludes Israel from putting “made in Israel” on goods produced in the occupied West Bank. Nor does Ottawa distinguish between Israel and the Occupied Territories in immigration policy. Individuals who live in illegal settlements are able to enter Canada without a visa like all Israelis. Additionally, a number of registered Canadian charities raise funds for projects supporting illegal Israeli settlements.

Since all NDP candidates likely claim to support international law calling on Ottawa to implement a Security Council resolution shouldn’t be tough. While 2334 is a low bar, Canada’s tilt in favour of Israel is so pronounced that getting NDP candidates to commit to take action against illegal settlements would have significant ripples. Its long-term impacts would certainly outweigh the ‘I heart Israel’ ravings from the Conservative Party.

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Filed under Canada and Israel

Strange bedfellows at ‘anti-racism’ forum

Why would one of Toronto’s leading anti-racist writers share a stage with three individuals who support an explicitly racist institution?

Recently radio host and Toronto Star columnist Desmond Cole spoke at a forum put on by the Mosaic Institute titled “Canada in a Trump World”. It was about “increased racist and xenophobic attacks” and offered a “dialogue for communities to come together for honest conversation.”

Executive director of the Mosaic Institute and head of the Canadian Jewish Congress between 2005 and 2011, Bernie Farber also spoke. So did former Executive Director of the B’nai Brith league for Human rights, Karen Mock. The chair of the event was Warren Kinsella, a former board member of the Canada-Israel Committee.

All three of these individuals have worked with or expressed support for the Jewish National Fund. An owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, the JNF discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up one-fifth of the population. According to a UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” Echoing the UN, a 2012 US State Department report detailing “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel says JNF “statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”

In October JSpaceCanada, which Karen Mock chairs, was a “participating organization” with JNF Canada on an event honouring the life of former Israeli president Shimon Peres. Mock also sat on the board of the Canadian Peres Center for Peace Foundation, which raised funds for the Israeli-based Peres Center For Peace. In Israel the Peres Center operated a slew of projects with JNF Canada and other branches of the racist organization.

In 2001 Mock spoke at a Hamilton rally titled “Israel under siege”.

In August Warren Kinsella criticized a Green Party of Canada resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status because of its “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel.” Alongside Ezra Levant, Kinsella sat on the board of directors of the Canada-Israel Committee, whose personnel were often close to the JNF. In 2014 Kinsella approved of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which led to the killing of 2,200 Palestinians.

For his part, Bernie Farber called the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (Independent Jewish Voices predecessor) “a rump on the edge of Jewish society” because it, among other things, called for the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status. During Farber’s quarter century at the Canadian Jewish Congress the organization and its personnel had many ties to the JNF. In 2015 the Consulate of Israel in Toronto co-hosted an event with Farber’s Mosaic Institute.

Should we laugh or cry at an antiracist forum put on by individuals with ties to an organization practicing discriminatory land-use policies outlawed in this country half a century ago? Does Farber, Mock and Kinsella’s support for an explicitly racist institution concern Desmond Cole or does he have an opinion about Ottawa subsidizing racist land use policies abroad?

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Capitalism kills — our oceans the deadly proof

For 21st century capitalism the more disposable the better. Ocean life and human health be damned.

According to a recent Ellen MacArthur Foundation study, the world’s oceans are set to have more plastic than fish by 2050. At the current rate of production and disposal the net weight of plastic in the oceans will be greater than that of fish in a little over three decades.

There are currently 150 million tonnes of plastic debris floating in the world’s oceans. Most of it takes centuries to break down. Thousands of large animals – such as turtles and birds – die every year from indigestible plastic debris in the ocean. Millions of other sea creatures suffer when they consume plastic.

The Canada-US Great Lakes – the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world – have also accumulated large amounts of plastic. A study released in December concluded that almost 22 million pounds of plastic debris are dumped into the Great Lakes annually. Microplastics in the lakes “act like sponges for certain pollutants and are easily ingested by aquatic organisms, including fish and shellfish, which may ultimately end up on our plates.”

During the second half of the 20th century plastic production rose 20 fold and it’s on pace to double over the next two decades. More plastic was produced during the first decade of the 21st century than in all of the 20th.

Approximately half of plastic is for single use. Some 70 billion plastic bottlesand 1 trillion plastic bags are produced every year globally. The first disposable plastic pop bottle was produced in 1975 and the first plastic grocery bag was introduced a few years earlier.

Before wreaking havoc on ocean fauna, plastics also harm human health. In 2014 Mother Jones published an expose titled “Are any plastics safe?” It noted, “almost all commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays.” The Mother Jones story draws a parallel between the plastic and tobacco industries.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act provides the federal government with a tool to restrict toxic substances while Environment Canada operates a scientific review to test for possible harm. Yet few plastic products have been outlawed.

Controversy over the use of BPA (bisphenol A) in baby bottles and some toys prompted the federal government to ban use of this chemical in baby bottles but BPA is still used in other plastics. Similarly, in 2010 the government announced it was banning Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) flame retardants, which have been linked to cancer and other health ailments, but it didn’t outlaw the toxins from new plastic consumer items such as TVs until December and continues to allow PBDEs to be used in manufacturing items.

The toxins in plastics should be better regulated. Plastics can also be made less damaging by producing them from waste products and improving their decomposition. Additionally, measures to promote recycling are necessary. But, as Ian Angus points out, recycling is often a way for the industry to divert “attention away from the production of throwaway plastics to individual consumer behavior—the ‘solutions’ they promote involve cleaning up or recycling products that never should have been made in the first place.”

To that end activists have pressed universities to stop selling plastic bottles and for cities to restrict free plastic bags. While helpful, these efforts are overwhelmed by an economic system enthralled to wasteful consumption.

Based on externalizing costs and privatizing profits, 21st-century capitalism is turning our seas into a plastic blob.

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Filed under Stop Signs

Toronto Star leaves readers ignorant of Canada’s real role in Africa

The media’s foreign affairs motto often seems to be ignorance is bliss. The Toronto Star, for instance, has devoted significant attention to the Trudeau government’s plan to dispatch 600 soldiers to Africa, but it has largely ignored the most relevant information.

In a recent installment of its “Should Canada go to Africa?” series the Star quoted former Royal Military College board member Jack Granatstein saying, “wherever we go in Africa is not where we should be going” and Canada’s contribution will “achieve nothing.” Countering Granatstein’s Afro-pessimism, the story cited Royal Military College professor Walter Dorn’s blanket support for UN missions since “the image of the peacekeeper is key to the Canadian identity.”

While Canada’s most progressive English daily offers its pages to embarrassingly simplistic pro and con positions, the Star has all but ignored the economic, geopolitical and historical context necessary to judge deploying 600 troops to the continent. While the Star published 19 stories last year discussing a potential Canadian peacekeeping mission in Africa, only one mentioned Canada’s main mark on the continent and that story simply noted, “officials also considered the extensive business interests of the Canadian mining industry” when deciding not to deploy troops to the Congo seven years ago.

That’s it? Even though Canada is home to half of all internationally listed mining companies operating in Africa. Even though Canada’s government has paid for geological educationjoint NGO–mining company projects and extractive sector policy initiatives, as well as opposing debt forgiveness and negotiating Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements with a dozen African countries — all to support corporate Canada’s $30 billion in mining investment. Even though the two most cited possible destinations to send troops – Mali and Congo – are home to a significant Canadian mining presence.

In addition to Canadian mining interests, Star coverage has ignored Canada’s growing military footprint in Africa over the past decade. Working closely with the new United States’ Africa Command (AFRICOM), Ottawa has funded and staffed various military training centres across the continent and Canadian special forces have trained numerous African militaries. The Canadian Forces Operational Support Hub also moved to establish small permanent bases on the east and west coasts of the continent and the Canadian Navy has expanded its presence, particularly off the coast of Somalia.

Evaluating Canada’s current military and economic role on the continent is a prerequisite for having a proper debate about deploying troops. So, is a critical look at past UN missions, which has also been absent from the Star.

For example, in 1960 the UN launched a peacekeeping force that delivered a major blow to Congolese democratic aspirations by undermining elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. As detailed in Canada, the Congo Crisis, and UN Peacekeeping, 1960-64, Canadian soldiers played a significant role in the mission that enabled Lumumba’s assassination by US and Belgian-backed forces.

In 1992, about 900 Canadian military personnel joined a US-led humanitarian intervention into Somalia, which later came under UN command. While the soldiers who used the N-word and tortured a teenager to death received significant attention, the economic and geopolitical considerations driving the deployment did not. In 1993 Project Censored Canada found the prospects for extracting oil – Chevron, Amoco, Phillips, and Conoco had exploration rights to two-thirds of Somalia – the most under-reported Canadian news item that year. Alongside securing hydrocarbons from the ground, planners had an eye to the oil passing near Somalia’s 1,000-mile coastline. Whoever controls this territory is well placed to exert influence over oil shipped from the Persian Gulf.

Three years after the Somalia debacle Canada led a short-lived UN force into eastern Zaire. Presented as a way to protect one million Hutu refugees, it was really designed to dissipate French pressure for a UN force to deal with the refugee crisis and ensure Paris didn’t take command of a force that could impede Rwanda’s invasion of what’s now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Washington proposed Ottawa, with many French speakers at its disposal, lead the UN mission since it didn’t want pro-Joseph-Mobutu-Sese-Seko France to gain control of the UN force. Ultimately, most of the Canadian-led UN force was not deployed since peacekeepers would have slowed down or prevented Rwanda, Uganda and its allies from triumphing, but not before Canadian, British and US officials “managed the magical disappearance” of half a million refugees, to quote Oxfam Emergencies Director Nick Stockton. That 1996 US-backed Rwandan invasion of the Congo and reinvasion in 1998 led to a deadly eight-country war and is the reason UN forces are there today.

But, little context — economic interests, past military involvement or critical history in general — has been presented.

While it’s published two editorials promoting planned UN mission, Star coverage of the issue demonstratesCanada isn’t ready to deploy troops to Africa. The public is almost entirely ignorant of this country’s role on the continent and our political culture gives politicians immense latitude to pursue self-serving policies there, present them as altruistic and face few questions.

Canadians who want a foreign policy that is a force for good in the world (or at least does no harm) must demand better of our media.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada in Africa