Jewish Defence League attacks pro-Palestine restaurant

 

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Why the official silence about Toronto’s most powerful extreme right group? Is it because we live in a political culture where Palestinian lives don’t matter?

Recently an individual with the Jewish Defence League (JDL) was photographed defacing a pro-Palestinian storefront with supremacist graffiti in broad daylight. Nothing has happened to them but the anti-racist victim has faced negative consequences.

On Sunday JDL thugs held a rally in front of Foodbenders, a sandwich shop that has “I Love Gaza” painted on its window. During their hate fest they scrubbed a Palestinian Lives Matter marking from the sidewalk and, similar to what Jewish supremacist settlers do to Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, someone painted the symbol on the Israeli flag onto the restaurant window. Alongside painting Stars of David on her storefront, Kimberly Hawkins has faced a bevy of online abuse. The Foodbenders owner has been called a “dirty Palestinian whore” and told “Palestine sucks I will burn your business down” and “I hope your family gets trapped inside the restaurant when it burns.”

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Hawkins has faced these attacks since an Instagram post of hers began circulating last week that stated, “Open Now – 8 PM for non-racist shoppers #Bloordale #Bloorstreet, #Toronto, #Open, #ftp #FreePalestine and #ZionistsNotWelcome.” The police seem to have ignored the whole affair, perhaps because a few weeks earlier Foodbenders was embroiled in a controversy over a sign that read “No Justice, No Peace, F*ck the Police!”

The anti-Palestinian lobby pounced on the #ZionistsNotWelcome hashtag and demanded food delivery services boycott the store. Submitting to the pressure, Uber Eats, Ritual and DoorDash have cancelled their contract with the restaurant. (While “for non-racist shoppers” and “#ZionistsNotWelcome” are entirely legitimate statements, they are near impossible to enforce and it is questionable to block someone with racist views from purchasing a sandwich, as Hawkins immediately explained.)

The media has all but ignored the JDL’s hate, as have the groups and individuals who claim to monitor the far right in Canada. The double standard is stark. When individuals have covered or painted over Black Lives Matter symbols the incidents have been widely reported and interpreted as racist. A couple in Contra Costa, California, were charged with a hate crime for painting over a BLM marking on the street. The Foodbender’s case is far worse. The subjugation of Palestinians is crueller than the oppression of Black people in North America and the JDLers chose to deface the property with the symbol of Palestinians’ oppressors.

Over the past decade JDL Toronto has built itself up by aggressively harassing Palestinian solidarity activists. Facebook has banned JDL Canada’s account, classifying it a “dangerous organization”. In 2011 the RCMP launched an investigation against a number of JDL members who were thought to be plotting to bomb Palestine House in Mississauga and in 2017 JDL Toronto members organized a mob that attacked protesters at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington DC. In the worst incident, a 55-year-old Palestinian-American teacher was punched, kicked and hit with flagpoles. Bruised across his body, Kamal Nayfeh needed 18 stitches around his eye.

In November JDL supporters attacked peaceful pro-Palestinian activists protesting a presentation by Israeli military reservists at York University. One of the victims was reportedly knocked unconscious.

In the US the FBI labeled the JDL a “right-wing terrorist group” in 2001 after its members were convicted in a series of acts of terror, including the killing of the regional director of the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee and a plot to assassinate a congressman. A member of the JDL’s sister organization in Israel killed 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre 20 years ago.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B’nai B’rith, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and a slew of other politicians have all condemned Foodbenders. Simultaneously, they have ignored the JDL’s racism, further emboldening Toronto’s most powerful far right organization. It seems, for them, Palestinian lives do not matter.

 

Please take one minute to send an email to major Toronto media to ask them why they have not covered this outrageous attack against a pro-Palestinian restaurant.

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Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel

New UN ambassador Bob Rae pushes pro-US, militarist and anti-Palestinian positions

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Bob Rae’s appointment as ambassador to the UN is a direct result of Canada’s defeat in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. But, it suggests the Liberals are ignoring the lessons of that defeat and calls to rethink Canadian foreign policy.

Three weeks after the Trudeau government suffered an embarrassing loss in its bid to sit on the UN’s most powerful decision-making body the individual who lead the multi-year campaign is out. In the final month of the Security Council push, Marc André Blanchard’s efforts were upended by an aggressive “No Canada on the UN Security Council” movement. Days before the vote Blanchard even felt the need to respond to the grassroots activists with a letter to all UN ambassadors defending Canada’s policy on Palestinian rights.

While it is good that Blanchard was forced out, appointing Rae to replace him suggests Trudeau has learned little from the Security Council defeat. Rae has long pushed pro-US, militarist and anti-Palestinian positions.

In 2011 Rae aggressively promoted bombing Libya. Before NATO formally began its war, the Liberal foreign critic called on the Stephen Harper government to work with the opposition National Transitional Council and later attacked the NDP for only backing six months of bombing. The NATO war spurred an upsurge in anti-Blackness, including slave markets in Libya, and violence that spilled southward to Mali and across much of the Sahel region of Africa.

A year before pushing for war on Libya, Rae allied with Harper to extend the occupation of Afghanistan beyond an announced troop withdrawal in 2011. In mid-2010 the Liberal foreign critic called on Ottawa to “see this thing through”. If it were up to Rae, Canadian troops may still be fighting in Afghanistan.

Rae justified Canada’s 2004 overthrow of Haiti’s elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide, claiming his “ineffectiveness and gross corruption led to another coup and Aristide’s exile (with money in tow). He now lives in South Africa, and still has some true believers in Haiti, but certainly not a majority.” (US government commissioned polls repeatedly found that Aristide was far and away the most popular politician in Haiti.)

Rae responded to Hugo Chavez’s death by tweeting his “condolences, and hopes for democratic future” and a few months later pressed the Harper government to take a stronger position against Nicolas Maduro after he won Venezuela’s 2013 presidential election. In January of last year Rae added, “Chavez and Maduro have abused their power terribly, impoverished their people and created the greatest humanitarian and refugee crisis in modern Latin American history. The romanticization of their regime and ideology is a disgrace.”

But it is on Palestinian rights that Rae has shown himself to be most hostile to human rights and democracy. The former NDP premier of Ontario left the party in 2002 because of its support of Palestinian rights. When NDP Deputy Leader Libby Davies (correctly) stated in 2010 that the Israeli occupation began in 1948 not 1967 Rae joined a pile on. He stated, “the appropriate decision, given her stature and responsibilities with the NDP, is for Mr. Layton to ask for her resignation as Deputy Leader and for Ms. Davies to issue an apology to all Canadians. Nothing short of that will do.”

Rae delivered a speech to the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund and, along with vicious anti-Palestinians Irwin Cotler and Jason Kenney, Rae was on the steering committee of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, which sought to criminalize criticism of Israel. His wife, Arlene Perly Rae, is a former vice-president of the anti-Palestinian Canadian Jewish Congress.

The appointment of Rae to replace Blanchard suggests Trudeau is ignoring calls for a review of Canadian foreign policy after the Security Council defeat. The most clearheaded and wide ranging review push is the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute’s demand for a “fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy”. The open letter to the PM includes 10 questions and has been signed by hundreds of politicians, artists, activists and academics including David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Stephen Lewis and Linda McQuaig as well as sitting MPs Leah Gazan, Niki Ashton, Alexandre Boulerice and Paul Manly and former MPs Roméo Saganash, Libby Davies, Jim Manly and Svend Robinson.

 

Please sign the petition calling for a fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy.

 

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White supremacist intelligence alliance pushes China hostage standoff

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In recent weeks movements in different countries have toppled statues and put the police and other institutions upholding systemic racism on the defensive. But, amidst unprecedented protests against racism, there has been remarkably little interest in the white supremacist foreign policy alliance currently driving conflict with China. The “Five Eyes” intelligence arrangement has faced almost no criticism for propelling the Canada-China hostage standoff.

The seven-decade old Five Eyes — Canada, Britain, New Zealand, Australia and US — alliance has been central to Washington’s anti-China push. To counter China the component countries recently announced plans to coordinate the production of strategic goods and collectively denounced Beijing’s policy in Hong Kong. More significantly, they’ve sought to weaken the “Crown Jewel of China Inc.” Canada’s December 2018 arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was part of the alliance’s campaign to curtail the rise of the world’s largest 5G network provider. Five months before Meng’s arrest at the Vancouver airport, reported a Wall Street Journal story titled “At Gathering of Spy Chiefs, U.S., Allies Agreed to Contain Huawei”, Five Eyes officials agreed in Ottawa to contain the company’s global growth. Washington claimed that country’s first global technological powerhouse posed a security risk. But, driving the campaign was a bid to halt China’s ascendance in this critical industrial sector.

Of course, the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK and Canada intelligence agencies also worried about a firm less willing to follow their directives. In fact, the Five Eyes sought what they accused Huawei/China of. In September 2018 the intelligence alliance requested communication providers build “back doors” in their systems, allowing the Five Eyes espionage agencies access to communications. The Australian government actually published a statement, which was later removed, stating that “technical, legislative, coercive or other measures” should be considered to implement these “back doors”. The campaign to paint Huawei as a privacy violator was the racist pot calling the kettle black.

The Five Eyes partnership oozes of white supremacy. Settler colonialism and empire unite an alliance that excludes wealthier non-white nations (Japan and South Korea) or those with more English speakers (India and Nigeria). It’s not a coincidence that the only four countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US) that originally voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007 are part of the Five Eyes.

While claiming to be anti-racist, the Liberals promoted what John Price called “a race-based spy network”. Their 2017 defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged noted, “building on our shared values and long history of operational cooperation, the Five-Eyes network of partners, including Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, is central to protecting Canada’s interests and contributes directly to operational success.” In a rare move, the next year prime minister Justin Trudeau revealed a meeting with his Five Eyes counterparts. After the April 2018 meeting in London, Trudeau labelled the 2,000-employee Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s main contributor to the Five Eyes arrangement, “an extraordinary institution.” Alongside praise, the government expanded CSE’s powers and funding.

Last week Five Eyes defence ministers held two days of video meetings. Despite unprecedented public opposition to racism and significant attention focused on the hostage conflict with China, there’s been little criticism of the Five Eyes and its actions.

It’s time Canadians debate whether they want to be part of an alliance of settler colonial states’ intelligence agencies promoting conflict with China.

Overcoming structural racism should not be limited to what goes on inside Canada. We must confront racism wherever it is found, including in our international alliances.

 

 

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Should Canadian foreign policy continue to be enmeshed with mining interests abroad?

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“Should Canadian foreign policy continue to be enmeshed with mining interests abroad?”

That is one of 10 questions put forward in an open letter calling for a “fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy” following Canada’s second consecutive defeat for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The letter organized by the of Canadian Foreign Policy Institute has been signed by hundreds of politicians, artists, activists and academics including David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Stephen Lewis and Linda McQuaig as well as sitting MPs Leah Gazan, Niki Ashton, Alexandre Boulerice and Paul Manly and former MPs Roméo Saganash, Libby Davies, Jim Manly and Svend Robinson.

Mining is remarkably important to Canadian foreign policy. While it may be of tertiary concern in relations with the US, China or Britain, the industry is of paramount importance to the Canadian diplomatic apparatus in dozens of countries. Even with a large, medium income, nation nearby.

Earlier this month leftist Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador complained about Canadian mining firms failing to pay their taxes and then a week later raised the issue during a call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 70 per cent of foreign-owned mining companies operating in Mexico are Canadian based and the embassy has repeatedly backed controversial Canadian mining projects.

Last week 50+ Ecuadorian organizations collectively criticized Canadian ambassador Sylvie Bédard for promoting mining as an economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their open letter explains, “we are concerned by the fact that the representatives of the Canadian government have found an opportunity in this global pandemic, a pandemic which has produced irreparable damage and tragedy in Ecuador, to promote your country’s economic interests.”

Among a series of interventions in support of a sector in which Canadian companies dominate, the open letter cites a recent interview in which Ambassador Bédard praised mining companies for their “very Canadian way of doing business…especially with respect to their relationships with communities, what we call, responsible business conduct.” But, there have been numerous high profile conflicts between Canadian firms and local communities over the years and Mining Watch has reported on a number of recent disputes with Ecuadorian farmers and Indigenous peoples.

In some African countries mining is even more central to Canadian policy. In an article titled “‘Les compagnies minières canadiennes sont parmi les plus transparentes au monde’, selon Carol McQueen, ambassadrice du Canada au Burkina”, Canada’s ambassador told news site Lefaso.net that Canada is the largest investor in Burkina Faso. Referring to some $3.9 billion in assets, McQueen noted, “we do everything to preserve this wealth and see how production can continue despite these challenges [an attack that killed dozens of mining employees].”

Canada’s ambassador to the former French colony added that Burkina Faso “is lucky that Canada and Canadian mining companies are so present because they are among the most respectable and transparent companies in the world.” But, Canadian firms in Burkina Faso have been accused of various abuses.

Canada’s aid/diplomatic apparatus doesn’t simply support specific firms. It shapes mining codes and nurtures extractivism in countries where there is little or no mining. As part of a multi-year Canadian backed push to develop an industrial mining sector, Nigeria established a Precious Metals Buying Centre last week. The Canadian High Commissioner aided the initiative seeking to “stimulate necessary developments in and of the Gold & Precious Metals’ subsector of the Solid Minerals sector of the Nigerian economy.”

Two days after Canada lost its Security Council bid mining injustice activist Sakura Saunders tweeted, “the majority of the world’s mining companies are based in Canada without any laws preventing them from abusing human rights, Indigenous rights and environmental abuses, despite over a decade of fighting for such protections. Mining injustice is Canada’s foreign policy.” She is exaggerating, but not by much in many places.

For his part, Rick Salutin dismissed those who said Canada’s Security Council defeat was partly about “our mining companies that ravage African and Latin American countries.” While critical of mining firms, Salutin argues the Security Council defeat was all about Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN. The Toronto Star columnist is right in saying Palestine was more important but wrong to downplay the extent to which mining has contributed to a negative perception of this country internationally. In recent years a half dozen UN bodies have called on Ottawa to hold Canadian mining companies accountable for their abuses abroad.

Since elites in most countries seek to cash in on mining its impact on the Security Council vote was less straightforward than Palestine (outside the US and Israel, no country saw an upside to Canada’s anti-Palestinian positions). As Bianca Mugyenyi put it in an Ottawa Citizen article titled “Why Black and brown countries may have rejected Canada’s security council bid”, “Canada is increasingly identified with mining companies internationally. While many among the African elite see benefits from foreign mining firms, they are also troubled by the community conflicts and ecological destruction often engendered by these companies as well as their tendency to skirt royalty and tax payments. Mining companies generally operate as though their only concern is making as much money as quickly as possible, yet Canadian diplomats all too often offer their assistance.”

The debate over mining’s impact on Canada’s international standing is significant. More important, however, is that Canadians debate weather this country’s foreign policy should “continue to be enmeshed with mining interests abroad?”

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How Venezuela helped defeat Canada’s Security Council bid

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Was Canada defeated in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council because of Justin Trudeau’s effort to overthrow Venezuela’s government? Its intervention in the internal affairs of another sovereign country certainly didn’t help.

According to Royal Military College Professor Walter Dorn, “I spoke with an ambassador in NYC who told me that yesterday she voted for Canada. She had also cast a ballot in the 2010 election, which Canada also lost. She said that Canada’s position on the Middle East (Israel) had changed, which was a positive factor for election, but that Canada’s work in the Lima Group caused Venezuela to lobby hard against Canada. Unfortunately (from her perspective and mine), Venezuela and its allies still hold sway in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM or G77).”

The only country’s diplomats — as far as I can tell — that publicly campaigned against Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council were Venezuelan. Prior to the vote Venezuela’s Vice-Minister of foreign relations for North America, Carlos Ron, tweeted out his opposition: “With its deafening silence, Canada has de facto supported terrorists and mercenaries who recently plotted against Venezuela, threatening regional peace and security. The UNSC is entrusted with upholding the United Nations Charter and maintaining International Peace and Security: Canada does not meet that criteria.”

The post was re-tweeted by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who has 1.6 million followers, and numerous Venezuelan diplomats around the world, including the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN. Joaquín Pérez Ayestarán added, “Canada recognizes an unelected, self-proclaimed President in Venezuela, in complete disregard for the will of the voters. It also tries to isolate Venezuela diplomatically & supports sanctions that affect all Venezuelans. Is the Security Council the place for more non-diplomacy?”

After Canada lost its Security Council bid Ron noted, not surprised with UN Security Council election results today. A subservient foreign policy may win you Trump’s favor, but the peoples of the world expect an independent voice that will stand for diplomacy, respect for self-determination, and peace.” He also tweeted an Ottawa Citizen article titled “Why Black and brown countries may have rejected Canada’s security council bid.”

For his part, UN ambassador Ayestarán tweeted, “losing two consecutive elections to the Security Council of United Nations within a 10-years period is a clear message that you are not a reliable partner and that the international community has no confidence in you for entrusting questions related to international peace and security.”

Over the past couple of years the Trudeau government has openly sought to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In a bid to elicit “regime change”, Ottawa has worked to isolate Caracas, imposed illegal sanctions, took that government to the International Criminal Court, financed an often-unsavoury opposition and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.

Canada’s interference in Venezuelan affairs violates the UN and OAS charters. It is also wildly hypocritical. In its bid to force the Maduro government to follow Canada’s (erroneous) interpretation of the Venezuelan constitution Ottawa is allied in the Lima Group with President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who openly defied the Honduran Constitution. Another of Canada’s Lima Group allies is Colombian President Ivan Duque who has a substantially worse human rights record.

Reflecting the interventionist climate in this country, some suggested Canada’s position towards Venezuela would actually help it secure a seat on the Security Council. A few weeks before the vote the National Post’s John Ivison penned a column titled “Trudeau’s trail of broken promises haunt his UN Security Council campaign” that noted “but, Canada’s vigorous participation in the Lima Group, the multilateral group formed in response to the crisis in Venezuela, has won it good notices in Latin America.” (The Lima Group was set up to bypass the Organization of American States, mostly Caribbean countries, refusal to interfere in Venezuela’s affairs.) A Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East factsheet regarding “Canada’s 2020 bid for a UN Security Council seat” echoed Ivison’s view. It claimed, “Canada also presents a positive image to Latin American states, likely reinforced by its leadership of the Lima Group in 2019 and by its promise to allocate $53 million to the Venezuelan migration crisis.”

While it is likely that Lima Group countries voted for Canada, a larger group of non-interventionist minded countries outside of that coalition didn’t. Venezuelan officials’ ability to influence Non-Aligned Movement and other countries would have been overwhelmingly based on their sympathy for the principle of non-intervention in other countries’ affairs and respect for the UN charter.

The Liberals’ policy towards Venezuela has blown up in its face. Maduro is still in power. Canada’s preferred Venezuelan politician, Juan Guaidó, is weaker today than at any point since he declared himself president a year and a half ago. And now Venezuela has undermined the Liberals’ effort to sit on the Security Council.

Will Canada’s defeat at the UN spark a change in its disastrous Venezuela policy?

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America, Venezuela

In the struggle against racism and police violence, we can’t forget the victims of imperialism

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An RCMP officer training Haitian National Police recruits in 2005.

As recent events in the US, Canada and elsewhere demonstrate the world has a cop problem. Police act as if they are above the law; they lie to justify their actions; they especially target Black and indigenous people; they seem to care more about protecting property than people.

Interestingly this is also a description of imperialist foreign policy. The experience of people from the Congo, Haiti, Algeria, Guatemala, El Salvador, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile, Angola, Brazil, Ghana and dozens of other countries trying to establish economic and political independence mirrors that of North American indigenous and racialized communities asserting their rights to political, social and economic equality. The Freedom Riders, Black Panthers, Black Lives Matter, American Indian Movement, Idle No More and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs were met with demonization, violence and repression as were the struggles for independence and social change in the countries listed above.

Finally, after centuries of struggle, defamation, murder and countless other forms of oppression the majority of Canadians and Americans seem to now support equality for all their fellow citizens and have turned against the forces of repression as witnessed by thousands of demonstrations against police brutality over the past three weeks. But what about our fellow citizens of the world, not just those in our own country? What about the brutality and repression inflicted upon them?

We need to understand the common struggle and link them. This isn’t abstract. Training and funding police elsewhere is part of Canada’s pro-corporate, pro-Empire, white supremacist, foreign policy.

Alongside the US, Canada has funded, equipped and trained the neo-Nazi infiltrated National Police of Ukraine (NPU), which was founded after the anti-Russian Euromaidan movement overthrew Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. A former deputy commander of the far-right Azov Battalion, Vadim Troyan had a series of senior positions in the NPU, including acting chief. When a policeman was videoed in early 2019 disparaging a far right protester as a supporter of Stepan Bandera, the National Police chief, National Police spokesman, Interior Minister and other officers repudiated the constable by publicly professing their admiration for Bandera who carried out murderous campaigns against Poles and Jews during the Nazi occupation. Since 2016 between 20 and 45 Canadian police have been in the Ukraine to support and advise the NPU and Foreign affairs minister announced another $2 million contribution to the Ukrainian police in March.

Over the past 15 years Canada has spent tens of millions of dollars on building a force to take up the Israeli occupation’s security burden in the West Bank. Between a dozen and two dozen Canadian police, military and border service agents have built up a Palestinian security force designed to protect the corrupt Palestinian Authority from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building. Part of a US-led initiative, the Canadians train Palestinian security forces to suppress “popular protest” against the Palestinian Authority, the “subcontractor of the Occupation”. A heavily censored 2012 note from former Canadian International Development Agency president Margaret Biggs, released through an access to information request, explains that “the emergence of popular protests on the Palestinian street against the Palestinian Authority is worrying and the Israelis have been imploring the international donor community to continue to support the Palestinian Authority.… most notably in security/justice reform.”

Since playing an important role in violently ousting Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government in 2004 Canada has built up a repressive Haitian police apparatus to enforce its anti-democratic policies. The Canada-financed, trained and overseen police force terrorized Port-au-Prince’s slums and repeatedly shot at peaceful protests during the two year coup government.

Much to the delight of the country’s uber class-conscious, often racist, elite, Canada has ploughed over $100 million into the Haitian police and prison system over the past decade and a half. Since 2004 Ottawa has taken the lead in strengthening the repressive arm of the Haitian state. (The country’s army, created during the 1915–34 US occupation, was disbanded by Aristide in 1995.)

In recent years the Canadian trained and funded police have protected the neo-Duvalerists ruling Haiti. During the popular uprising against President Jovenel Moïse between July 2018 and November 2019 the police killed dozens, probably over 100. Amidst this violence, Canadian officials have repeatedly promoted and applauded the Haitian police.

In the struggle against racism and police violence we need to enlarge our circle of those who deserve our support to the entire world. The “cop problem” we face is intimately tied to wealthy, generally white, minorities imposing their will on the majority. Reforms of the police are doomed to fail until we overthrow unjust economic systems that require force to maintain minority rule.

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Canada’s Security Council defeat is a win for Palestine

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Canada’s defeat in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council is a major victory for Palestinian solidarity. It also puts Canada’s Israel lobby on the defensive.

Israeli politicians and commentators have begun to publicly bemoan the loss. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, told the Jerusalem Post, “we are disappointed that Canada didn’t make it, both because we have close ties with the country and because of the campaign that the Palestinians ran against Canada.” In another story in that paper headlined “With annexation looming, Canada’s UNSC upset is bad news for Israel, US” Deputy Managing Editor Tovah Lazaroff labels Canada’s loss “a sharp reminder of the type of diplomatic price tag Israel’s allies can suffer on the international stage.”

Inside Canada the Security Council defeat is a blow to the Israel lobby. While the Canadian media has generally minimized the impact Canada’s anti-Palestinian position had on the vote, the subject is being raised. In a Journal de Québec column titled “Why did Canada suffer a humiliating defeat at the UN?” Norman Lester writes, “it is the support of the Trudeau Liberal government for Israel, like that of Harper before him, that is probably the main reason for Ottawa’s two successive setbacks. Ireland and Norway have more balanced policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than Canada.” He concludes the article by noting, “Canada has no chance of returning to the Security Council in the foreseeable future unless there is a radical change in its position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

By acquiescing almost entirely to the ‘Israel no matter what’ outlook of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai B’rith, the Trudeau government undercut its bid for a seat on the UN’s highest decision-making body. The Israel lobby’s point people in the Liberal caucus, Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt, are no doubt hoping to avoid too much blowback for their role in this embarrassment. Housefather ought to be prodded on his contribution to the Trudeau government’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN since he repeatedly boasted that it was more pro-Israel than Stephen Harper’s.

Canada’s voting record at the UN was at the heart of the grassroots No Canada on the UN Security Council campaign. An open letter launching the campaign from the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute noted, “since coming to power the Trudeau government has voted against more than fifty UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by the overwhelming majority of member states.” A subsequent open letter was signed by over 100 civil society groups and dozens of prominent individuals urging countries to vote against Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat due to its anti-Palestinian positions. That letter organized by Just Peace Advocates stated, “the Canadian government for at least a decade and a half has consistently isolated itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights at the UN. … Continuing this pattern, Canada ‘sided with Israel by voting No’ on most UN votes on the Question of Palestine in December. Three of these were Canada’s votes on Palestinian Refugees, on UNRWA and on illegal settlements, each distinguishing Canada as in direct opposition to the ‘Yes’ votes of Ireland and Norway.”

Just Peace Advocates organized 1,300 individuals to email all UN ambassadors asking them to vote for Ireland and Norway instead of Canada for the Security Council. In a sign of the campaign’s impact, Canada’s permanent representative to the UN Marc André Blanchard responded with a letter to all UN ambassadors defending Canada’s policy on Palestinian rights.

Not only has Canada’s voting record on Palestinian rights undercut its standing within the General Assembly, the Canadian public doesn’t want the government pursuing anti-Palestinian positions. A recent Ekos poll found that 74% of Canadians wanted Ottawa to express opposition to Israel’s plan to formally annex a large swath of the West Bank with 42% of the public desiring some form of economic and/or diplomatic sanction against Israel if it moves forward with annexation. “The Trudeau government has not only isolated Canada from international opinion regarding Palestinian rights at the UN, but its positions contravene the wishes of most Canadians regarding the long-beleaguered Palestinians,” explained Karen Rodman of Just Peace Advocates.

While the impact of the loss shouldn’t be exaggerated, Justin Trudeau’s brand is linked to the idea that he is liked internationally. Additionally, the Liberals’ base supports the UN and the international body is closely connected with how they market their foreign policy.

Kowtowing to CIJA, B’nai B’rith and Israeli nationalists such as Housefather, Levitt, etc. on Palestinian rights at the UN helped scuttle Canada’s Security Council bid — that’s a fact Trudeau and the Liberals must face. More important, the international community’s rejection of a government enthralled to the Israel lobby weakens Israel diplomatically and is a victory for Palestine solidarity.

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Filed under Canada and Israel, Justin Trudeau

Security Council loss is opportunity to develop a more just foreign policy

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Ottawa’s failure to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council is a victory for those seeking a more just Canadian foreign policy. Spurred by the no Canada on Security Council campaign, the loss offers a unique opportunity to push for a fundamental reassessment of this country’s activities and relationships in every corner of our interconnected planet.

The Trudeau government’s defeat is simultaneously unsurprising and remarkable. As I detail here, the international community’s rejection of Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council is not a surprise since Liberal foreign policy has largely mimicked that of Stephen Harper, who lost a similar bid in 2010.

Conversely, the victory is remarkable because Canada had many advantages over its competitors Ireland and Norway for the two “Western Europe and Others” Security Council seats. It is a member of the G7 and has a seat on the boards of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. A member of the Commonwealth and Francophonie, Canada also speaks the two main colonial languages. Canada is richer than Ireland and Norway and, notwithstanding commentary suggesting otherwise, actually distributes more international “aid” (which is portrayed much too positively by liberal commentators). Canada spends about five times more on overseas development assistance than Ireland and a few hundred million dollars more than Norway. (Norway spends a great deal more as a percentage of its GDP on ODA and Ireland contributes a slightly higher percentage.)

Canada has a far larger diplomatic apparatus than Ireland or Norway. In the lead-up to the UN vote, Canada’s diplomats published a slew of commentaries in international papers vaunting Canada’s ties to Namibia, Lebanon, etc. Canadian diplomats across the globe also produced Security Council related videos and a Twitter campaign.

But, the #NoUNSC4Canada campaign effectively pushed back against the government’s international Twitter drive. Even if Canada would have won the seat, I would have considered the No Canada on UN Security Council campaign a success since it generated significant critical discussion of foreign policy. Launched formally a month ago (after a multi-month Covid-19 delay) with an open letter in the Toronto Star calling on countries to vote against Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council due to its militarism, support for controversial mining companies, anti-Palestinian positions and climate policies. The Canadian Press, Radio Canada and other major Canadian media outlets reported on the letter signed by numerous prominent individuals, including David Suzuki, Noam Chomsky, Pam Palmater and Roger Waters. Many left Canadian media outlets published the letter and dozens of Spanish, French and English language international media outlets reported on the campaign. More than a half dozen videos, including one from Roger Waters and another from Québec National Assembly member Ruba Ghazal, were produced in support of the effort.

Beyond highlighting immoral policies, the original Canadian Foreign Policy Institute open letter was signed by more than 30 organizations and 3,500 individuals. Another Just Peace Advocates letter asking UN ambassadors to vote for Ireland and Norway instead of Canada due to its anti-Palestinian positions was signed by 100+ organizations and dozens of prominent individuals.

The all-volunteer campaign (bravo Karen Rodman, Bianca Mugyenyi, David Heap, David Kattenburg, Robert Assaly, Lorraine Guay, Tamara Lorincz and Arnold August) stimulated 1298 individuals to deliver letters to every UN ambassador urging them to vote against Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat due to its anti-Palestinian record. Additionally, 471 individuals emailed all UN ambassadors with the general open letter, 169 individuals emailed Caribbean ambassadors with a statement critical of Canada’s role in the Caribbean and 118 letters were sent to all African ambassadors critical of Canada’s role on that continent. Two days before the vote a #NoUNSC4Canada Twitter ‘storm’ targeting UN ambassadors with messages opposed to Canada’s Security Council bid generated enough online chatter to be mentioned by Radio Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne were questioned directly about the campaign. In the clearest example of how the campaign disrupted the government’s bid, Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Marc-André Blanchard, delivered a letter to all countries’ permanent missions at the UN responding to the Palestine-focused effort.

It’s hard to gauge the impact the no Canada on the Security Council campaign had on the individuals who privately cast the ballots. But, Canada received fewer votes on Wednesday than in 2010.

Whether one views this failure to earn a Security Council seat as a victory or a loss, it is clearly time to fundamentally reassess Canadian foreign policy. A good place to begin is a broad discussion about whether this country’s international affairs should continue to be driven by Washington and corporate interests or whether another sort of foreign policy is possible.

 

Please sign this petition calling for a fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy.

 

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International community rejects Canada’s bid for a seat on Security Council

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The international community’s rejection of Canada’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council isn’t a surprise. In the below introduction to my recently published House of Mirrors: Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy I detail how Liberal foreign policy has largely mimicked Stephen Harper’s who lost a bid for the Security Council in 2010.

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Justin Trudeau presents himself as “progressive” on foreign affairs. The Liberals claim to have brought Canada “back” after the disastrous Stephen Harper government. But, this book will demonstrate the opposite.

While promising to “make a real and valuable contribution to a more peaceful and prosperous world”, Trudeau has largely continued the Conservatives pro-corporate/empire international policies. The Liberals have followed the previous government’s posture on a wide range of issues from Russia to Palestine, Venezuela to the military.

In 2017 the Liberals released a defence policy that called for 605 more special forces, which have carried out numerous violent covert missions abroad. During the 2015 election campaign defence minister Jason Kenney said if re-elected the Conservatives would add 665 members to the Canadian Armed Forces Special Operations Command. The government’s defence policy also included a plan to acquire armed drones, for which the Conservatives had expressed support. Additionally, the Liberals re-stated the previous government’s commitment to spend over one hundred billion dollars on new fighter jets and naval ships.

The Harper regime repeatedly attacked Venezuela’s elected government and the Liberals ramped up that campaign. The Trudeau government launched an unprecedented, multipronged, effort to overthrow Nicolás Maduro’s government. As part of this campaign, they aligned with the most reactionary political forces in the region, targeting Cuba and recognizing a Honduran president who stole an election he shouldn’t have participated in. Juan Orlando Hernández’ presidency was the outgrowth of a military coup the Conservatives tacitly endorsed in 2009.

In Haiti the Liberals propped up the chosen successor of neo-Duvalerist President Michel Martelly who Harper helped install. Despite a sustained popular uprising against Jovenel Moïse, the Liberals backed the repressive, corrupt and illegitimate president.

The Trudeau government continues to justify Israeli violence against Palestinians and supports Israel’s illegal occupation. Isolating Canada from world opinion, they voted against dozens of UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by most of the world.

Initiated by the Conservatives, the Liberals signed off on a $14 billion Light Armoured Vehicle sale to Saudi Arabia. The Liberals followed Harper’s path of cozying up to other repressive Middle East monarchies, which waged war in Yemen. They also contributed to extending the brutal war in Syria and broke their promise to restart diplomatic relations with Iran, which the Conservatives severed.

The Liberals renewed Canada’s military “training” mission in the Ukraine, which emboldened far-right militarists responsible for hundreds of deaths in the east of that country. In fact, Trudeau significantly bolstered Canada’s military presence on Russia’s doorstep. Simultaneously, the Trudeau government expanded Harper’s sanctions against Russia.

On China the Liberals were torn between corporate Canada and militarist/pro-US forces. They steadily moved away from the corporate sphere and towards the militarist/US Empire standpoint. (During their time in office the Conservatives moved in the opposite direction.) Ottawa seemed to fear that peace might break out on the Korean Peninsula.

Trudeau backed Africa’s most bloodstained politician Paul Kagame.

Unlike his predecessor, Trudeau didn’t sabotage international climate negotiations. But the Liberals flouted their climate commitments and subsidized infrastructure to expand heavy emitting fossil fuels.

Ignoring global inequities, the Liberals promoted the interests of corporations and wealth holders in various international forums. They backed corporate interests through trade accords, Export Development Canada and the Trade Commissioner Service. Their support for SNC Lavalin also reflected corporate influence over foreign policy.

In a stark betrayal of their progressive rhetoric, the Trudeau regime failed to follow through on their promise to rein in Canada’s controversial international mining sector. Instead they mimicked the Conservatives’ strategy of establishing a largely toothless ombudsperson while openly backing brutal mining companies.

To sell their pro-corporate/empire policies the Liberals embraced a series of progressive slogans. As they violated international law and spurned efforts to overcome pressing global issues, the Liberals crowed about the “international rules-based order”. Their “feminist foreign policy” rhetoric rested uneasily with their militarism, support for mining companies and ties to misogynistic monarchies.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric, the sober reality is that Trudeau has largely continued Harper’s foreign policy. The “Ugly Canadian” continued to march across the planet, but with a prettier face at the helm.

My 2012 book The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy detailed the first six and a half years of Harper’s rule. This book looks at the first four years of Trudeau’s reign. I will discuss the many ways Canadian foreign policy under Conservative and Liberal governments remained the same. Support for empire and a pro-corporate neoliberal economic order is the common theme that links the actions of conservative and self-described “progressive” prime ministers.

 

Please sign this petition calling for a fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy.

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Canada doesn’t deserve African support for Security Council bid

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Justin Trudeau meets with African leaders

Justin Trudeau understands that his path to a UN Security Council seat runs through Africa. The continent shouldn’t give it to him.

As part of his bid for a two-year seat on the UN’s most powerful decision-making body Canada’s prime minister has called the leaders of Ghana, Sudan, Rwanda, Namibia, Liberia, Botswana, Mozambique and Uganda over the past month. In February he attended the African Union summit in Ethiopia and just prior to the pandemic Trudeau made his pitch for Canada’s bid to African diplomats in Ottawa. But actions speak louder than words and the PM’s government has supported controversial mining companies, dubious climate policies and a war that spilled into various countries on the continent. Justin Trudeau also distorted his father’s legacy in Africa.

In 2017 Global Affairs threw its diplomatic weight behind Canada’s most controversial mining company in the country where it committed some of its worst abuses. Between 2006 and 2016 65 people were killed and hundreds injured by Barrick Gold paid security forces at its North Mara mine in Tanzania. With Barrick’s subsidiary, Acacia Mining, embroiled in a conflict with the government over hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and royalties, Canada’s High Commissioner set up a meeting between Barrick Executive Chairman John Thornton and Tanzanian President John Magufuli. After accompanying Barrick’s head to the encounter in Dar es Salaam, Ian Myles told the press: “Canada is very proud that it expects all its companies to respect the highest standards, fairness and respect for laws and corporate social responsibility. We know that Barrick is very much committed to those values.”

The government has given various forms of support to the mining industry, which has been embroiled in dozens of conflicts across the continent. During his trip to the African Union summit Ethiopia Trudeau announced negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement largely designed to solidify the position of Canadian mining interests. A few days later foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne attended an event in Senegal where Teranga Gold and Barrick Gold received licenses for projects.

While they promote mining interests, the Trudeau government has failed to follow through on a promise to rein in Canada’s controversial international mining sector. Despite five UN bodies calling on Ottawa to hold mining companies accountable for their international operations, the Liberals recently created an Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise without the power to deny diplomatic or Export Development Canada support from companies found responsible for major rights abuses.

From the desertification of the Sahel region to rising sea levels in heavily populated coastal areas of West Africa, climate change is a death sentence for ever-growing numbers of Africans. In a profound injustice, most of those worst hit by climate disturbances have emitted relatively little greenhouse gases. Per capita GHG emissions in many African countries amount to a few per cent of Canada’s rate. Among the highest per capita emitters in the world, Canada is on pace to emit significantly more GHG than it agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement and previous climate accords. His government oversaw a 15 million tonne increase in Canada’s GHG emissions in 2018 and then decided to purchase a massive tar sands pipeline. In March 2017 Trudeau told oil executives in Houston, “no country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.” Extracting “173 billion barrels” of carbon intensive Canadian tar sands would drive ever-greater numbers of Africa’s most vulnerable over the edge.

Before becoming prime minister, Trudeau backed the 2011 war on Libya. The African Union vigorously opposed the Canadian-led NATO bombing campaign, arguing it could destabilize neighboring countries. Indeed, violence in Libya soon spilled southward to Mali and across much of the Sahel region.

In his speech to African diplomats in Ottawa just before the pandemic the PM cited his father’s legacy on the continent. Unsurprisingly, he skipped Pierre Trudeau’s indifference to Portuguese violence — fed by Canadian NATO mutual assistance program weaponry — against the liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. More controversially, it took over a decade after Trudeau père was elected prime minister for his government to abrogate the Canada-South Africa trade agreement. In 1979 Ottawa ended preferential tariff rates to the apartheid regime but this was as much an economic decision — the trade balance favoured South Africa — as it was a reprimand for its racist policies. In October 1982 the Pierre Trudeau government delivered 4.91 percent of the votes that enabled Western powers to gain a slim 51.9 percent majority in support of South Africa’s application for a billion-dollar International Monetary Fund credit. Sixty-eight IMF members opposed the loan, as did 121 countries in a nonbinding vote at the UN General Assembly.

At a 1977 Commonwealth meeting, Pierre Trudeau dodged press questions on post-Soweto South Africa suggesting that Idi Amin’s brutal regime in Uganda should be discussed along with southern Africa. But, six years earlier the Trudeau government passively supported Amin’s British-backed putsch against independence leader Milton Obote, who nationalized some Canadian companies. The government responded to inquiries from opposition MPs in parliament about developments in Uganda and whether Canada would grant diplomatic recognition to the new military regime. Within a week of Obote’s ouster, both External Affairs Minister Mitchell Sharp and Prime Minister Trudeau passed up these opportunities to denounce Amin’s usurpation of power.

African countries should not fall for Justin Trudeau’s friendly rhetoric. Until Canada begins to act like a friend, rather than a neocolonial power, it doesn’t deserve Africa’s votes for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

 

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