Canada enables corrupt Haitian president to remain in power

 

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At the front of a protest against Haiti’s president last week a demonstrator carried a large wooden cross bearing the flags of Canada, France and the US. The Haiti Information Project tweeted that protesters “see these three nations as propping up the regime of President Jovenel Moïse. It is also recognition of their role in the 2004 coup.”

Almost entirely ignored by the Canadian media, Haitian protesters regularly criticize Canada. On dozens of occasions since Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government was overthrown in 2004 marchers have held signs criticizing Canadian policy or rallied in front of the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. For their part, Haiti Progrès and Haiti Liberté newspapers have described Canada as an “occupying force”, “coup supporter” or “imperialist” at least a hundred times.

 

In the face of months of popular protest, Canada remains hostile to the protesters who represent the impoverished majority. A recent corruption investigation by Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes has rekindled the movement to oust the Canadian-backed president. The report into the Petrocaribe Fund accuses Moïse’s companies of swindling $2 million of public money. Two billion dollars from a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela was pilfered under the presidency of Moïse’s mentor Michel Martelly.

Since last summer there have been numerous protests, including a weeklong general strike in February, demanding accountability for public funds. Port-au-Prince was again paralyzed during much of last week. In fact, the only reason Moïse — whose electoral legitimacy is paper thin — is hanging on is because of support from the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”.

Comprising the ambassadors of Canada, France, Brazil, Germany and the US, as well as representatives of Spain, EU and OAS, the “Core Group” released another statement effectively backing Moise. The brief declaration called for “a broad national debate, without preconditions”, which is a position Canadian officials have expressed repeatedly in recent weeks. (The contrast with Canada’s position regarding Venezuela’s president reveals a stunning hypocrisy.) But, the opposition has explicitly rejected negotiating with Moïse since it effectively amounts to abandoning protest and bargaining with a corrupt and illegitimate president few in Haiti back.

In another indication of the “Core Group’s” political orientation, their May 30 statement “condemned the acts of degradation committed against the Senate.” Early that day a handful of opposition senators dragged out some furniture and placed it on the lawn of Parliament in a bid to block the ratification of the interim prime minister. Canada’s Ambassador André Frenette also tweeted that “Canada condemns the acts of vandalism in the Senate this morning. This deplorable event goes against democratic principles.” But, Frenette and the “Core Group” didn’t tweet or release a statement about the recent murder of journalist Pétion Rospide, who’d been reporting on corruption and police violence. Nor did they mention the commission that found Moïse responsible for stealing public funds or the recent UN report confirming government involvement in a terrible massacre in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline in mid-November. Recent Canadian and “Core Group” statements completely ignore Moise’s electoral illegitimacy and downplay the enormity of the corruption and violence against protesters.

Worse still, Canadian officials regularly promote and applaud a police force that has been responsible for many abuses. As I detailed in a November story headlined “Canada backs Haitian government, even as police force kills demonstrators”, Frenette attended a half dozen Haitian police events in his first year as ambassador. Canadian officials continue to attend police ceremonies, including one in March, and offer financial and technical support to the police. Much to the delight of the country’s über class-conscious elite, Ottawa has taken the lead in strengthening the repressive arm of the Haitian state since Aristide’s ouster.

On Wednesday Frenette tweeted, “one of the best parts of my job is attending medal ceremonies for Canadian police officers who are known for their excellent work with the UN police contingent in Haiti.” RCMP officer Serge Therriault leads the 1,200-person police component of the Mission des Nations unies pour l’appui à la Justice en Haïti (MINUJUSTH).

At the end of May Canada’s ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard led a United Nations Economic and Social Council delegation to Haiti. Upon his return to New York he proposed creating a “robust” mission to continue MINUJUSTH’s work after its planned conclusion in mid-October. Canadian officials are leading the push to extend the 15-year old UN occupation that took over from the US, French and Canadian troops that overthrew Aristide’s government and was responsible for introducing cholera to the country, which has killed over 10,000.

While Haitians regularly challenge Canadian policy, few in this country raise objections. In response to US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s recent expression of solidarity with Haitian protesters, Jean Saint-Vil put out a call titled “OH CANADA, TIME TO BE WOKE LIKE ILHAN OMAR & MAXINE WATERS!” The Haitian Canadian activist wrote: “While, in Canada, the black population is taken for granted by major political parties who make no effort to adjust Canadian Foreign policies towards African nations, Haiti and other African-populated nations of the Caribbean, where the Euro-Americans topple democratically-elected leaders, help set up corrupt narco regimes that are friendly to corrupt Canadian mining companies that go wild, exploiting the most impoverished and blackest among us, destroying our environments in full impunity… In the US, some powerful voices have arisen to counter the mainstream covert and/or overt white supremacist agenda. Time for REAL CHANGE in Canada! The Wine & Cheese sessions must end! We eagerly await the statements of Canadian party leaders about the much needed change in Canadian Policy towards Haiti. You will have to deserve our votes, this time around folks!”

Unfortunately, Canadian foreign policymakers — the Liberal party in particular — have co-opted/pacified most prominent black voices on Haiti and other international issues. On Monday famed Haitian-Canadian novelist Dany Laferrière attended a reception at the ambassador’s residence in Port-au-Prince while the head of Montréal’s Maison d’Haïti, Marjorie Villefranche, says nary a word about Canadian imperialism in Haiti. A little discussed reason Paul Martin’s government appointed Michaëlle Jean Governor General in September 2005 was to dampen growing opposition to Canada’s coup policy among working class Haitian-Montrealers.

Outside the Haitian community Liberal-aligned groups have also offered little solidarity. A look at the Federation of Black Canadians website and statements uncovers nothing about Canada undermining a country that dealt a massive blow to slavery and white supremacy. (Members of the group’s steering committee recently found time, however, to meet with and then attend a gala put on by the anti-Palestinian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.)

A few months ago, Saint-Vil proposed creating a Canadian equivalent to the venerable Washington, D.C. based TransAfrica, which confronts US policy in Africa and the Caribbean. A look at Canadian policy from the Congo to Venezuela, Burkina Faso to Tanzania, suggests the need is great. Anyone seeking to amplify the voices from the streets of Port-au-Prince should support such an initiative.

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Anti-fascist except when they support Israel

 

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Jewish Defence League leader Meir Weinstein, Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs Vice President Noah Shack and B’nai B’rith CEO Michael Mostyn

Canadian extreme right hate groups have figured out a way to gain mainstream acceptance: Support Israel.

While most of the world voted to label Zionism a form of racism in 1975, many self-declared antiracists in Canada today refuse to challenge far right extremists if they act in service of that European colonial and Jewish supremacist movement.

At the start of the month 50 to a 100 far right activists led by the Jewish Defence League protested the Al Quds Day rally in Toronto. They were joined by supporters of Wolves of Odin (a Soldiers of Odin splinter group), PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident), Riders of the Covenant, etc. The Jewish and White supremacists were even joined by a vocal Hindu supremacist who apparently shares their hatred of Muslims. They spewed a stream of anti-Arab and Islam abuse, telling Arabs to “go home” and calling individuals “Islamic garbage”.

The hate fest was egged on by a number of hard right media commentators. Toronto Sun columnist Sue Ann Levy was on hand after writing a half dozen columns attacking the annual protest’s “venom” and “vitriol”, accusing it of promoting “extremist Islam” and “terrorism”. David Menzies of the Islamophobic Rebel Media hurled insults and patrolled the crowd seeking to confirm a Muslim takeover/extremism/sharia etc.

B’nai Brith, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also worked assiduously to demonize the rally. “Muslim children were used as pawns to promote anti-Semitism, hate and intolerance,” said Avi Benlolo, Wiesenthal Center president. “We strongly recommend that authorities, including provincial children aid organizations, investigate the usage of minors for the purpose of incitement of hate.”

The pro-Israel Jewish organizations coordinated with Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak in a bid to have the city block Al Quds Day. In this effort they worked with the racist and violent JDL as highlighted in the above photo of JDL leader Meir Weinstein with Pasternak, B’nai B’rith leader Michael Mostyn and CIJA Vice President Noah Shack. The group was together at the city’s executive committee on May 1 in a bid to supress Al Quds Day.

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 conference in Washington DC.

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 groups and individuals who claim to monitor the far right — Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Anti-Racist Canada, Evan Balgord, Bernie Farber, etc — ignored the Al Quds Day rally. Nor did they say anything about an elected official working with the JDL at city hall. (Or for that matter JDL participation at the May 20 Walk for Israel organized by United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto.)

Over the past decade JDL Toronto has built itself up by aggressively harassing Palestinian solidarity activists, which has won them active or passive support from much of the Jewish establishment, dominant media and the city’s broader power structure. While the JDL receives some pushback from liberals when they coordinate with other far-right groups to demonize Muslims, they are generally given a pass when it’s done in support of Zionism.

Perhaps a rewrite of the famous German Pastor Martin Niemöller’s quote sums it up best:

• First they came for the Palestinians, and I did not speak out—because I was a supporter of Israel.

• Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—because I was supporter of Israel.

• Then they came for the anti-fascists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an anti-fascist when it came to those supporting Israel.

• Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

• Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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Ottawa hires hitman to overthrow Venezuelan government

 

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Allan Culham

Meet the hired gun Ottawa is using to overthrow the Venezuelan government.

The brazenness of Ottawa’s intervention in the South American country’s affairs is remarkable. Recently Global Affairs Canada tendered a contract for an individual to coordinate its bid to oust President Nicolás Maduro. According to buyandsell.gc.ca, the Special Advisor on Venezuela needs to be able to:

“Use your network of contacts to advocate for expanded support to pressure the illegitimate government to return constitutional order.

“Use your network of civil society contacts on the ground in Venezuela to advance priority issues (as identified by civil society/Government of Canada).

Must have valid Government of Canada personnel TOP SECRET security clearance.”

The “Proposed Contractor” is Allan Culham who has been Special Advisor on Venezuela since the fall of 2017. But, the government is required to post the $200,000 contract to coordinate Canada’s effort to overthrow the Maduro government.

Culham is a former Canadian ambassador to Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Organization of American States. During his time as ambassador to Venezuela from 2002 to 2005 Culham was hostile to Hugo Chavez’s government. According to a WikiLeaks publication of US diplomatic messages, “Canadian Ambassador Culham expressed surprise at the tone of Chavez’s statements during his weekly television and radio show ‘Hello President’ on February 15 [2004]. Culham observed that Chavez’s rhetoric was as tough as he had ever heard him. ‘He sounded like a bully,’ said Culham, more intransigent and more aggressive.”

The US cable quotes Culham criticizing the national electoral council and speaking positively about the group overseeing a presidential recall referendum targeting Chavez. “Culham added that Sumate is impressive, transparent, and run entirely by volunteers”, it noted. The name of then head of Súmate, Maria Corina Machado, was on a list of people who endorsed the April 2002 military coup against Chavez, for which she faced charges of treason. She denied signing the now-infamous Carmona Decree that dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme Court and suspended the elected government, attorney general, comptroller general, and governors as well as mayors elected during Chavez’s administration. It also annulled land reforms and reversed increases in royalties paid by oil companies.

After retiring from the civil service in 2015 Culham described his affinity for another leading hard-line opposition leader. Canada’s current Special Advisor on Venezuela wrote, “I met [Leopoldo] López when he was the mayor of the Caracas municipality of Chacao where the Canadian Embassy is located. He too became a good friend and a useful contact in trying to understand the many political realities of Venezuela.” But, López also endorsed the failed 2002 coup against Chavez and was convicted of inciting violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests that sought to oust Maduro. Forty-three Venezuelans died, hundreds were hurt and a great deal of property was damaged during the “guarimbas” protests. Lopez was also a key organizer of the recent plan to anoint the marginal opposition legislator Juan Guaidó interim president.

In his role as Canada’s ambassador to the OAS Culham repeatedly took positions viewed as hostile by the Chavez/Maduro governments. When Chavez fell gravely ill in 2013, he proposed the OAS send a mission to study the situation, which then Vice-president Maduro described as a “miserable” intervention in the country’s affairs. Culham’s comments on the 2014 “guarimbas” protests and support for Machado speaking at the OAS were also unpopular with Caracas.

At the OAS Culham criticized other left-of-centre governments. Culham blamed elected President Rafael Correa for supposedly closing “democratic space” in Ecuador, not long after a failed coup attempt in 2010. When describing the Honduran military’s overthrow of social democratic president Manuel Zelaya in 2009 Culham refused to employ the term coup and instead described it as a “political crisis”.

In June 2012, the left-leaning president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, was ousted in what some called an “institutional coup”. Upset with Lugo for disrupting 61-years of one-party rule, Paraguay’s ruling class claimed he was responsible for a murky incident that left 17 peasants and police dead and the senate voted to impeach the president. The vast majority of countries in the hemisphere refused to recognize the new government. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) suspended Paraguay’s membership after Lugo’s ouster, as did the MERCOSUR trading bloc. A week after the coup Culham participated in an OAS mission that many member countries opposed. Largely designed to undermine those countries calling for Paraguay’s suspension from the OAS, delegates from the US, Canada, Haiti, Honduras and Mexico traveled to Paraguay to investigate Lugo’s removal from office. The delegation concluded that the OAS should not suspend Paraguay, which displeased many South American countries.

Four years later Culham still blamed Lugo for his ouster. He wrote: “President Lugo was removed from office for ‘dereliction and abandonment of duty’ in the face of rising violence and street protests (that his government was itself instigating through his inflammatory rhetoric) over the issue of land rights. Violence in both the countryside and the streets of Asuncion threatened to engulf Paraguay’s already fragile democratic institutions. Lugo’s impeachment and removal from office by the Paraguayan Congress, later ratified by the Supreme Court, launched a firestorm of protest and outrage amongst the presidents of Paraguay’s neighbours. Presidents Rousseff of Brazil, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, were the chief defenders of Lugo’s right to remain in office.”

After retiring from the civil service Culham became more candid about his hostility to those trying to overcome extreme power imbalances in the hemisphere, decrying “the nationalist, bombastic and populist rhetoric that many leaders of Latin America have used to great effect over the last 15 years.” For Culham, “the Bolivarian Alliance … specialized in sowing its own divisive ideology and its hopes for a revolutionary ‘class struggle’ across the hemisphere.”

Culham praised the defeat of Cristina Kirchner in Argentina and Dilma Rousseff Brazil.

In a 2015 piece titled “So long, Kirchners” he wrote, “the Kirchner era in Argentine politics and economics is thankfully coming to an end.” (Kirchner is the front runner in the upcoming election.) The next year Culham criticized Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s bid to have UNASUR challenge her impeachment, which he celebrated as “a sign of change in Latin America”.

Culham denounced regional integration efforts. In a long February 2016 Senate foreign affairs committee discussion of Argentina, he denounced diplomatic forums set up by Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela and others to break from US domination of the region. “Since I’m no longer a civil servant”, Culham stated, “I will say that CELAC [The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States] is not a positive organization within the Americas. Mainly because it’s built on the principle of exclusion. It purposefully excludes Canada and United States. It was the product of President Chavez and the Chavista Bolivarian revolution.” Every single country in the hemisphere except for Canada and the US were members of CELAC.

Culham criticized left-wing governments position at the US dominated OAS. Culham bemoaned the “negative influence ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America] countries have brought to the OAS” and said Argentina “often sided with Bolivarian revolution members” in their “negative agenda” at the OAS, which he called “very close to my heart”.

In his comments to the Senate committee Culham criticized Kirchner for failing to pay the full price to US “vulture funds”, which bought up the country’s debt at a steep discount after it defaulted in 2001. He described Kirchner’s refusal to bow down to highly predatory hedge funds as a threat to the “Toronto Stock Exchange” and labeled a Scotia Bank claim from the 2001 financial crisis a “bilateral irritant” for Canada.

Canadian taxpayers are paying a hardline pro-corporate, pro-Washington, former diplomat hundreds of thousands of dollars to coordinate the Liberal government’s bid to oust Venezuela’s government. Surely, there is someone in the House of Commons willing to inquire about Canada’s Elliot Abrams?

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Munk School of Global Affairs feeds anti-Iran propaganda

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Sometimes, when you pay attention, it is easy to see how foreign policy propaganda works. Take the case of Iran.

Recently the US has choked off Iranian oil exports, listed its military a terrorist organization and dispatched an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to its environs to stop Iran’s “aggression”. Going along with Donald Trump’s warlike actions and rhetoric, Justin Trudeau’s government has broken a promise to restart diplomatic relations, failed to withdraw Iran from Canada’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and recently accused Tehran of destabilizing the region.

This is the context in which the Munk School of Global Affairs’ Citizen Lab released a recent report criticizing Iran. According to Citizen Lab, an Iran-aligned group dubbed Endless Mayfly impersonated major media sites, used fake Twitter accounts to spread false articles and targeted journalists with fake stories. Its report noted, “initial reporting on some of the inauthentic articles speculated that Endless Mayfly may have links to Russia; however, based on the evidence gathered from our investigation we conclude with moderate confidence that Endless Mayfly is Iran-aligned and has been operational since at least early 2016.”

The University of Toronto based lab’s accusations were picked up by dozens of media outlets around the world. A New York Times headline read: “Report Shows How a Pro-Iran Group Spread Fake News Online” while the Globe and Mail noted “New Citizen Lab report suggests Iran spreads fake news.”

But, the report’s concluding section titled “Narratives fit Iranian interests, propaganda” isn’t convincing. One reason it claims Iran was responsible for the initiative is that “framing Saudi Arabia as a creator and supporter of global Islamist terrorism is also a very common theme in Endless Mayfly content and is consistent with recent rhetoric from Iran’s top-ranking officials.” But, Iranian officials certainly aren’t the only ones who claim Saudi Arabia contributes significantly to Islamic terror.

While the media mostly covered Citizen Lab’s claims uncritically, its positions on Iran should be viewed with significant skepticism. This ‘lab’ has produced a stream of reports critical of Iran and, in fact, is part of a government funded effort to destabilize that country. In March Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert co-authored “Censors Get Smart: Evidence from Psiphon in Iran.” Previously, Citizen Lab published “Group 5: Syria and the Iran Connection”, which described a malware operation targeting Syrian opposition figures that purportedly came from Iran. The Lab published After the Green Movement: Internet Controls in Iran, 2009-2012 and in 2015 they detailed hacking of Iranian dissidents. While Citizen Lab carefully avoided naming a culprit, their press release hyped the matter and a number of media reports implied Iranian authorities were responsible.

Deibert is a regular at anti-Iranian events. He spoke at a Toronto International Film Festival screening of a movie about the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran and a 2012 Walrus article described a “network of local Farsi speakers linked to Deibert and Psiphon.”

With early financial support from the Ford Foundation, Donner Canadian Foundation and Open Society Institute, Citizen Lab developed software to bypass government censors. It worked with Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Farda in Iran to disseminate its Psiphon technology to Iranian dissidents. A 2018 Vice story titled “This App Is Helping Iranians Beat Tehran’s Internet Censorship” described Psiphon’s growth in Iran. It noted, “the lab, and the school, has spent years devising various ways to improve civic engagement in Iran, especially online, with some financial support from the Canadian government.”

The Munk School of Global Affairs joined the Stephen Harper Conservatives’ low-level war against Iran. After severing diplomatic ties and designating Iran a state sponsor of terrorism in 2012, Foreign Affairs ploughed $250,000 into the Munk School’s Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran. The aim of the initiative was to foment opposition to the regime and help connect dissidents inside and outside Iran. Employing cutting-edge Internet strategies, the Iran Dialogue was launched at a two-day conference kicked off by foreign minister John Baird. Some Iranian Canadians criticized the 2013 Global Dialogue on Iran. In a letter to Munk School head Janice Stein, who was awarded an honorary doctorate from Hebrew University “in tribute to her unwavering devotion to Israel”, the president of the Iranian Canadian Community Council Niaz Salimi wrote: “Conspicuously absent from the event were experts, academics, political activists, students, bloggers, journalists and members of the Iranian diaspora (including those of the Iranian-Canadian community) whose views on Iran do not fully concur with the positions of the Harper government.”

The Munk School has been a hub of anti-Iranian activity. A senior research fellow until recently, Mark Dubowitz was dubbed “The Man Who Fights Iran” by Ynet, Israel’s largest English language news site. Alongside his position at the Munk School, Dubowitz was executive director of the extremist pro-Israel Foundation for Defense of Democracies where he led its campaign against the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal. In 2011 Dubowitz said, “the best way [to end Iran’s nuclear program] is to work toward changing the regime.”

Expanding the Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran, Foreign Affairs gave the Munk School $9 million in 2015 to establish the Digital Public Square project. The federal support “will enable the Munk School to create our new Digital Public Square, a square designed for citizens who cannot come together physically to exchange ideas about the future of their country,” Munk School head Janice Stein said. The countries cited were Iran, Syria, Iraq and Russia. There was no mention of employing digital technologies to undermine online censorship in equally, or more, repressive allies such as Rwanda, Jordan, Honduras or Saudi Arabia.

This is one-way Canadian propaganda works: Establish who your enemies are — generally defined by big corporations, rich people and whoever is in power in Washington — attempt to destabilize their “regimes”, then accuse their governments of interfering in your affairs.

Citizen Lab’s recent report criticizing Iran is part of a government funded effort to demonize that country, which could be a step towards a military assault.

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Canada’s leading apologist for Israeli war crimes disrupted

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Irwin Cotler at Concordia University

Last week members of Quebec Movement for Peace disrupted a speech by Irwin Cotler on “Canada as a Human Rights leader” (at the last-minute ‘deputy’ foreign minister, Rob Oliphant, canceled his participation). With “Free Palestine” signs in hand, filmmaker Malcolm Guy and I took the stage to denounce Cotler’s anti-Palestinian positions and support for intervention in Venezuela and Iran. After we were ushered off the stage lawyer Dimitri Lascaris rose to interrogate the supposed human rights activist for refusing to criticize injustices inflicted upon Palestinians. Part of the way through Lascaris’ grilling a handful of us at the back of the room began chanting “Cotler, Cotler, you will see Palestine will be free”, as one can hear in this video viewed over 10,000 times.

The Electronic Intifada, Media Coop, Algemeiner and Canadian Jewish News (twice) reported on the intervention (CPAC was purportedly live streaming the event). Prominent anti-Palestinian activists such as Gerald Steinberg, Hillel Neuer, Avi Benlolo and Bernie Farber decried our challenge of their hero. Head of the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG), Michael Levitt created the Twitter hashtag StandWithCotler and called on other MPs to support it, which was duly followed by his CIIG colleagues, including disgraceful NDP MP Randall Garrison. In the House of Commons CIIG Vice-Chair David Sweet asked the government to condemn our disruption of Cotler. The Conservative MP noted, “on Monday he was disrupted and berated during a speech at Concordia University in an attempt by protesters to shut him down.” (After 10 minutes we voluntarily left the room and Cotler spoke extensively.) Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Oliphant, who was scheduled to speak alongside Cotler, expressed the government’s solidarity with the former Liberal party justice minister.

Cotler is a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes “enemy” states while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US. In “Canadian apologist for Israeli war crimes nominated for Peace Prize” I detail Cotler’s long-standing devotion to Israeli violence and recent promotion of war on Iran and regime change in Venezuela. But, since that story was published in March more details have emerged about Cotler’s ethno-centrism and promotion of violence. In recent days Cotler has been widely quoted criticizing the use of the term “genocide” in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

According to an Israel National News story, Cotler supports relocating Canada’s embassy to Jerusalem. During “Keep Jerusalem” leader Chaim Silberstein’s visit to Canada last month, Cotler reportedly “expressed enthusiasm” for moving the Canadian embassy and “promised to help promote” the idea within the Liberal party.

In response to our action activist Ron Saba shared a photo of Cotler at last year’s Jewish National Fund fundraiser in Toronto. The explicitly racist JNF excludes the 20-25% of non-Jewish Israelis from its vast landholdings mostly stolen from Palestinians in 1948. In 2017 the Canada Revenue Agency initiated an (ongoing) audit of the JNF for supporting the Israeli military in contravention of Canadian charitable law.

For his part, Masud Sheikh responded to our action by uploading a video — apparently scrubbed from the Internet after previously reaching a Canadian audience — of the Nobel Peace Prize nominee advising Israel on planning a war. Just after Israel killed 1,200 Lebanese in the summer of 2006 Cotler spoke to a conference of top Israeli military officials on the importance of managing the message in modern war.

He did something similar after an earlier Israeli invasion of its northern neighbour. In an April article retired Guelph professor Michael Keefer wrote: “In the wake of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, in the course of which some 15,000 civilians were killed and several thousand Palestinians massacred in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, Cotler participated in a 1984 Jerusalem conference on Hasbara: Israel’s Public Image. Alluding to two of the lesser PR disasters of the war—the IDF’s violation of the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon’s diplomatic immunity, and a Canadian Red Cross doctor’s allegations of Israeli atrocities—Cotler recommended, not that Israel change its behaviour, but rather that it ‘make Hasbara a priority’ and enhance its capacity to offer ‘an authoritative rebuttal’ to such stories.”

In that article Keefer points out that Antony Lerman, founding editor of Antisemitism World Report, called Cotler “one of the key figures” promoting the idea of a “new antisemitism”. Since the 1970s he’s been arguing that criticism of Israel is the “new antisemitism”.

In a remarkable 2002 essay titled “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness” Cotler lays out his thinking, suggesting a confrontation between the “secular religion” of human rights and Jewish “civil religion” of Zionism. He argues that criticizing Israeli human rights violations is “the contemporary analogue to the medieval indictment of the Jew as the ‘poisoner of the wells.’ In other words, in a world in which human rights has emerged as the new secular religion of our time, the portrayal of Israel as the metaphor for a human rights violator is an indictment of Israel as the ‘new anti-Christ’ — as the ‘poisoner of the international wells’ encompassing all the ‘teaching of contempt’ for the ‘Jew among the Nations,’ this new antisemitism implies.”

Cotler further argues that antisemitism has retained its consistent essence as “an assault upon whatever is the core of Jewish self-definition at any moment in time—be it the Jewish religion at the time of classical antisemitism, or the State of Israel as the ‘civil religion’ of the Jewish people under this new anti-Jewishness.” So, because most Jews identify with Israel criticizing that country’s violence or dispossession of Palestinians is anti-Semitic.

Challenging Cotler is important. All high-profile anti-Palestinians should be asked tough questions and hopefully our intervention inspires others to take similar actions. But, it’s also about de-mystifying an individual who retains a progressive gloss. Last month NDP MP Hélène Laverdière and Green Party leader Elizabeth May attended a press conference organized by Cotler calling on Canada to impose sanctions on Iranian officials and list the country’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. New NDP foreign critic Guy Caron participated in a subsequent event on Iran and NDP MP Murray Rankin and May regularly attend events led by Cotler. May and Rankin are also part of the Cotler-led Raoul Wallenberg All-Party Parliamentary Caucus for Human Rights.

The Cotler ‘brand’ should be toxic on the Left. Politicians need to know that many Canadians — as Lascaris put it in his concluding statement to Cotler — consider him “a fraud when it comes to human rights.”

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Roméo Dallaire denies Canadian genocide and distorts Rwanda’s

QGHKMDUKFZEQ5KLGQQF2NZHKEY-1Is Roméo Dallaire a genocide denier?

After a (question free) talk at Concordia University this week I followed the famous Canadian general out of the room to ask why he still supports ruthless dictator Paul Kagame. Kagame is the individual most responsible for the mass slaughter in Rwanda in mid-1994 since his forces invaded the country, engaged in a great deal of killing and blew up the presidential plane that unleashed the genocidal violence.

In 1996 Kagame’s forces invaded the Congo to overthrow the government in Kinshasa and when their installed president kicked them out they reinvaded in 1998, causing an eight country war that left millions dead. According to a 600-page report by the UN high commissioner for human rights, Rwanda was responsible for “crimes against humanity, war crimes, or even genocide” in the Congo.

With Dallaire refusing to answer my question I asked a Radio Canada journalist seeking to interview the former general to ask why he supports Kagame. The reporter was there to question Dallaire about the use of the term “genocide” in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Dallaire said he had “a problem” with the use of the word “genocide” to describe what happened to First Nations. “Is that an act of genocide? Is it?” he said. “My definition of genocide, I read it very deliberately at the start of the Rwandan genocide, and it was a deliberate act of a government to exterminate deliberately, and by force and directly, an ethnicity or a group or an entity of human beings.”

Numerous media outlets picked up Dallaire’s comments. A La Presse headline read “Dallaire denounces the use of the term ‘genocide’” while Rebel Media’s The Ezra Levant Show reported on, “Rwandan genocide witness General Roméo Dallaire’s strong denouncement of Justin Trudeau’s agreement that the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women findings indeed constitute a ‘genocide.’”

While Dallaire is opposed to labeling Canada’s dispossession of First Nations a genocide, he has repeatedly employed the term to describe rights violations in enemy states. In recent years he’s compared the situation of Darfuris in Sudan and Baha’i in Iran, as well as Syria and Libya, to Rwanda. If Western interventionists are targeting a nation Dallaire is happy to employ the “G” word or “R” comparison.

Interestingly, Dallaire’s criteria for a genocide — “a deliberate act of a government to exterminate deliberately” — better applies to indigenous people in Canada than to the Tutsi in Rwanda. Dispossessed of 99% of their land, Indigenous people have faced state-backed efforts to starve and sterilize them. They’ve also been made wards of the state, had their movement restricted and religious/cultural ceremonies banned. Residential schools and other so-called child welfare initiatives sought to eradicate their ways, or in the infamous formulation of the deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932, Duncan Campbell Scott: “Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question.”

Prior to confederation, British forces conquered today’s Nova Scotia through terror, putting the heads of Mi’kmaq soldiers on spikes and offering bounties to kill women and children. Founder of the Halifax fort, Lieutenant General Edward Cornwallis led the charge and by the mid-1760s the Mi’kmaq had been largely wiped out in Nova Scotia.

After British forces conquered Quebec General Jeffery Amherst’s forces gave indigenous chiefs in the Great Lakes region blankets and a handkerchief from a smallpox hospital. Commander of British forces in North America, Amherst wrote: “You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.”

By the 1820s the Beothuk in Newfoundland were extinct. On the West Coast in 1862 colonial officials are accused of enabling the spread of smallpox among First Nations, which devastated the indigenous population.

Unlike the Tutsi in Rwanda, indigenous people in Canada didn’t end up in power after the “genocide”. Nor did Jews in Germany, the Herero in Namibia, Armenians in Turkey, Maya in Guatemala, etc. Rwanda is a peculiar case where the minority — 10% of the population — targeted for extermination ended up ruling after the bulk of the violence subsided.

That’s partly because the genocidal killings were not a long planned attempt to exterminate all Tutsi, which even the victors’ justice dispensed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) effectively concluded. Instead, it was the outgrowth of a serious breakdown in social order that saw hundreds of thousands slaughtered by relatively disorganized local ‘militias’ fearful of the Kagame-led foreign invasion that eventually conquered Rwanda and drove a quarter of the population out of the country. Probably an equal — and possibly a greater — number of Hutu were killed.

Dallaire has propagated a wildly simplistic account of the tragedy that gripped Rwanda and Burundi in the mid-1990s. He has promoted the Kagame-inspired fairy tale used to justify a brutal dictatorship in Rwanda and its expansionism in the region (as well as Western liberal imperialism). According to the most outlandish aspect of this story, Hutu extremists murdered the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and much of the Hutu-led Rwandan military command, weakening the Hutu government to its most frail point in three decades, and then decided to begin a long planned systematic extermination of Tutsi. In this depiction of Rwanda’s tragedy, the individual most responsible for unleashing the genocidal violence is the hero who ended “the Genocide”.

Dallaire is not innocent of Kagame’s violence. In his 2005 book Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (The Boss of Dallaire Speaks), Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, a former Cameroon foreign minister and overall head of mid-1990s UN mission in Rwanda, claims Dallaire had little interest in the violence unleashed by Kagame’s RPF despite reports of summary executions in areas controlled by them. Booh Booh says Dallaire turned a blind eye to RPF weapons coming across the border from Uganda and he believes the UN forces under Dallaire’s command may have even transported weapons directly to the RPF, “becoming an objective ally of one of the parties in the conflict.”

Dallaire’s criticism of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is consistent with his political interventions. He has long been a cheerleader for Canadian and Western domination of the world. As I detail in this article, the former general opposed calls to withdraw Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan, supported the overthrow of Haiti’s elected government in 2004 and bombing of Libya in 2011. He has also called for increased military spending and for Canada to join US ballistic missile “defence”. Now he appears to be denying a genocide perpetrated by a government he represented in the Senate and worked for in the military. Boil it all down and it simply becomes: ‘Our side is good and our enemies are bad.’

But, of course, this is what passes for foreign policy in Canada.

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Trudeau government squeezes Cuba

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Chrystia Freeland and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez

Ottawa faces a dilemma. How far are Trudeau’s Liberals prepared to go in squeezing Cuba? Can Canadian corporations with interests on the island restrain the most pro-US, anti-socialist, elements of the ruling class?

Recently, the Canadian Embassy in Havana closed its Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship section. Now most Cubans wanting to visit Canada or get work/study permits will have to travel to a Canadian embassy in another country to submit their documents. In some cases Cubans will have to travel to another country at least twice to submit information to enter Canada. The draconian measure has already undercut cultural exchange and family visits, as described in a Toronto Star op-ed titled “Canada closes a door on Cuban culture”.

It’s rare for an embassy to simply eliminate visa processing, but what’s prompted this measure is the stuff of science fiction. Canada’s embassy staff was cut in half in January after diplomats became ill following a mysterious ailment that felled US diplomats sent to Cuba after Donald Trump’s election. Four months after the first US diplomats (apparently) became ill US ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis met his Canadian, British and French counterparts to ask if any of their staff were sick. According to a recent New York Times Magazine story, “none knew of any similar experiences afflicting their officials in Cuba. But after the Canadian ambassador notified his staff, 27 officials and family members there asked to be tested. Twelve were found to be suffering from a variety of symptoms, similar to those experienced by the Americans.”

With theories ranging from “mass hysteria” to the sounds of “Indies short-tailed crickets” to an “outbreak of functional disorders”, the medical questions remains largely unresolved. The politics of the affair are far clearer. In response, the Trump Administration withdrew most of its embassy staff in Havana and expelled Cuban diplomats from Washington. They’ve rolled back measures the Obama Administration instituted to re-engage with Cuba and recently implemented an extreme measure even the George W. Bush administration shied away from.

Ottawa has followed along partly because it’s committed to overthrowing Venezuela’s government and an important talking point of the anti-Nicolás Maduro coalition is that Havana is propping him up. On May 3 Justin Trudeau called Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel to pressure him to join Ottawa’s effort to oust President Maduro. The release noted, “the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Lima Group [of countries hostile to Maduro], underscored the desire to see free and fair elections and the constitution upheld in Venezuela.” Four days later Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland added to the diplomatic pressure on Havana. She told reporters, “Cuba needs to not be part of the problem in Venezuela, but become part of the solution.” A week later Freeland visited Cuba to discuss Venezuela.

On Tuesday Freeland talked with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Venezuela and Cuba. Afterwards the State Department tweeted, “Secretary Pompeo spoke with Canada’s Foreign Minister Freeland to discuss ongoing efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela. The Secretary and Foreign Minister agreed to continue working together to press the Cuban regime to provide for a democratic and prosperous future for the people of Cuba.”

Ottawa supports putting pressure on Cuba in the hopes of further isolating/demonizing the Maduro government. But, the Trudeau government is simultaneously uncomfortable with how the US campaign against Cuba threatens the interests of some Canadian-owned businesses.

The other subject atop the agenda when Freeland traveled to Havana was Washington’s decision to allow lawsuits for property confiscated after the 1959 Cuban revolution. The Trump Administration recently activated a section of the Helms-Burton Act that permits Cubans and US citizens to sue foreign companies doing business in Cuba over property nationalized decades ago. The move could trigger billions of dollars in legal claims in US courts against Canadian and European businesses operating on the island.

Obviously, Canadian firms that extract Cuban minerals and deliver over a million vacationers to the Caribbean country each year don’t want to be sued in US courts. They want Ottawa’s backing, but the Trudeau government’s response to Washington’s move has been relatively muted. This speaks to Trudeau/Freeland’s commitment to overthrowing Venezuela’s government.

But, it also reflects the broader history of Canada-Cuba ties. Despite the hullabaloo around Ottawa’s seemingly cordial relations with Havana, the reality is more complicated than often presented. Similar to Venezuela today, Ottawa has previously aligned with US fear-mongering about the “Cuban menace” in Latin America and elsewhere. Even Prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who famously declared “viva Castro” during a trip to that country in 1976, denounced (highly altruistic) Cuban efforts to defend newly independent Angola from apartheid South Africa’s invasion. In response, Trudeau stated, “Canada disapproves with horror [of] participation of Cuban troops in Africa” and later terminated the Canadian International Development Agency’s small aid program in Cuba as a result.

After the 1959 Cuban revolution Ottawa never broke off diplomatic relations, even though most other countries in the hemisphere did. Three Nights in Havana explains part of why Ottawa maintained diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba: “Recently declassified State Department documents have revealed that, far from encouraging Canada to support the embargo, the United States secretly urged Diefenbaker to maintain normal relations because it was thought that Canada would be well positioned to gather intelligence on the island.” Washington was okay with Canada’s continued relations with the island. It simply wanted assurances, which were promptly given, that Canada wouldn’t take over the trade the US lost. For their part, Canadian business interests in the country, which were sizable, were generally less hostile to the revolution since they were mostly compensated when their operations were nationalized. Still, the more ideological elements of corporate Canada have always preferred the Cuban model didn’t exist.

If a Canadian company is sued in the US for operating in Cuba Ottawa will face greater pressure to push back on Washington. If simultaneously the Venezuelan government remains, Ottawa’s ability to sustain its position against Cuba and Venezuela is likely to become even more difficult.

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Ottawa in bed with anti-democratic, hardline part of Venezuela’s opposition

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Justin Trudeau and Irwin Cotler with Voluntad Popular’s Antonieta López and Lilian Tintori

Not only has Canada financed and otherwise supported opposition parties in Venezuela, Ottawa has allied with some of its most anti-democratic, hardline elements. While the Liberal government has openly backed Voluntad Popular’s bid to seize power since January, Ottawa has supported the electorally marginal party for years.

Juan Guaidó’s VP (Popular Will in English) party has repeatedly instigated violent protests. Not long after the Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles effectively conceded defeat in January 2014, VP leader Leopoldo López launched La Salida (exit/departure) in a bid to oust Nicolas Maduro. VP activists formed the shock troops of “guarimbas” protests that left forty-three Venezuelans dead, 800 hurt and a great deal of property damaged in 2014. Dozens more were killed in a new wave of VP backed protests in 2017.

Effective at stoking violence, VP has failed to win many votes. It took 8% of the seats in the 2015 elections that saw the opposition win control of the National Assembly. With 14 out of 167 deputies in the Assembly, it won the four most seats in the Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition. In the December 2012 regional elections VP was the sixth most successful party and did little better in the next year’s municipal elections.

VP was founded at the end of 2009 by Leopoldo López who “has long had close contact with American diplomats”, reported the Wall Street Journal. A great-great-grand nephew of independence leader Simón Bolívar, grandson of a former cabinet member and great-grandson of a president, López was schooled at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Between 2000 and 2008 López was the relatively successful and popular mayor of the affluent 65,000 person Caracas municipality of Chacao.

During the 2002 military coup López “orchestrated the public protests against [President Hugo] Chávez and he played a central role in the citizen’s arrest of Chavez’s interior minister.” He was given a 13-year jail sentence for inciting and planning violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests.

Canadian officials have had significant contact with López’s emissaries and party. In November 2014 Lilian Tintori visited Ottawa to meet foreign minister John Baird, Conservative cabinet colleague Jason Kenney and opposition MPs. After meeting López’s wife, Baird called for his release and other “political prisoners”, which referred to a number of other VP representatives.

Three months later VP National Political Coordinator Carlos Vecchio visited Ottawa with Leopoldo López’s sister Diana López and Orlando Viera-Blanco to speak to the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. At a press conference, “Popular Will’s international wing” denounced the Venezuelan government and spoke at a McGill University forum on “Venezuela in Crisis: The Decline of Democracy and the Repression of Human Rights.”

Vecchio was appointed as the Guaidó phantom government’s “ambassador” to the US and Orlando Viera-Blanco was named its “ambassador” to Canada. In October 2017 Vecchio and VP deputy Bibiana Lucas attended the anti-Maduro Lima Group meeting in Toronto.

In June 2015 VP councillor of Sucre, Dario Eduardo Ramirez, spoke to the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In May 2016 VP Assistant National Political Coordinator Freddy Guevara and VP founding member Luis Germán Florido met foreign minister Stéphane Dion and members of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee to denounce Maduro’s government. During the trip VP’s Coordinator of International Relations Manuel Avendaño and an aide Abraham Valencia published an opinion in the Hill Times titled “Venezuela is on the brink of disaster. Here’s how Canada can help.”

The Canadian embassy in Caracas and former ambassador Ben Rowswell worked with VP officials pushing for the overthrow of the elected government. The runner-up for the embassy’s 2012 “Human Rights Prize”, Tamara Adrián, represents VP in the National Assembly. At the embassy during the presentation of the 2014 human rights award to anti-government groups were López’s lawyers and wife. In response, then president of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello accused Rowswell of supporting coup plotters.

The leader of VP in Yaracuy state, Gabriel Gallo, was runner-up for the embassy’s 2015 human rights award. A coordinator of the Foro Penal NGO, Gallo was also photographed with Rowswell at the embassy’s 2017 human rights prize ceremony.

The Montreal based Canadian Venezuelan Engagement Foundation is closely aligned with VP. Its president is Guaidó’s “ambassador” to Canada — Viera-Blanco — and its founding director is Alessa Polga whose LinkedIn page describes her as VP Canada’s Subcoordinator and Intergovernmental Relations. Polga has been invited to speak before the House of Commons and in 2017 demanded Canada follow the US in adopting sanctions on Venezuela. Justin Trudeau offered words of solidarity for a recent Canadian Venezuelan Engagement Foundation “Gala for Venezuela” in Toronto.

In 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 VP youth outreach leader and former mayor David Smolansky spoke at the Halifax International Security Conference. During his 2018 trip to Nova Scotia Smolansky published an opinion piece in the Halifax Chronicle Herald claiming, “more than just a failed state, Venezuela is a criminal state.”

In May 2017 Tintori met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the leaders of the opposition parties. In response, Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodríguez described Lopez’s wife as an “agent of intervention” who claims the “false position of victim” while she’s aligned with “fascist” forces in Venezuela.

Three months earlier Tintori met US President Donald Trump and The Guardian reported on her role in building international support for the plan to anoint VP deputy Guaidó interim president. According to the Canadian Press, Canadian diplomats spent “months” working on that effort and the Associated Press described Canada’s “key role” in building international support for claiming a relatively marginal National Assembly member was Venezuela’s president. Presumably, Canada’s “special coordinator for Venezuela” organized these efforts which included foreign minister Chrystia Freeland speaking to Guaidó “the night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony to offer her government’s support should he confront the socialist leader.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken with Guaidó at least twice since.

Canada has strengthened VP’s hardline position within the opposition. A February Wall Street Journal article titled “‘What the Hell Is Going On?’ How a Small Group Seized Control of Venezuela’s Opposition” noted that leading opposition figures on stage with Guaidó when he declared himself interim president had no idea of his plan despite it being reliant on the Democratic Unity Roundtable’s agreement to rotate the National Assembly presidency within the coalition. (VP’s turn came due in January).

Venezuelans require a vibrant opposition that challenges the government. They don’t need Canada to boost an electorally marginal party that drives the country into increasing conflict.

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Canada’s meddling in Venezuela: the case of Ben Rowswell

Poster for Ben Rowswell’s tour across Canada.

Why does the dominant media pay so much attention to Russian “meddling” in other countries, but little to Canada’s longstanding interference in the political affairs of nations thousands of kilometres from our borders?

The case of Ben Rowswell illustrates the double standard well.

The current Canadian International Council President has been the leading non-governmental advocate of Ottawa’s quest to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In dozens of interviews, op-eds, tweets and ongoing speaking tour the former ambassador has put a liberal gloss on four months of naked imperialism. But, Rowswell has been involved in efforts to oust Nicolas Maduro since 2014 despite repeatedly claiming the president’s violation of the constitution two years ago provoked Ottawa’s recent campaign.

A March 2014 Venezuela Analysis story suggested the early adopter of digital communications was dispatched to Caracas in the hopes of boosting opposition to a government weakened by an economic downturn, the death of its leader and violent protests. Titled “New Ambassador Modernizes Canada’s Hidden Agenda in Venezuela”, the story pointed out that Rowswell immediately set up a new embassy Twitter account, soon followed by another titled SeHablaDDHH (Let’s Talk Human Rights), to rally “the angry middle classes on Twitter.” The article noted that “Rowswell is the best man to encourage such a ‘democratic’ counterrevolution, given his pedigree” in digital and hotspot diplomacy. According to a March 2014 Embassy story titled “Canada dispatches digital diplomacy devotee to Caracas”, just before the Venezuela assignment “Ottawa’s top digital diplomat … helped to establish a communications platform for Iranians and Iranian emigrants to communicate with each other, and occasionally the Canadian government, beyond the reach of that country’s censors.” Previously, Rowswell was chargé d’affaires in Iraq after the 2003 US invasion and headed the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar during the war there. An international strategy advisor in the Privy Council Office during Stephen Harper and Jean Chrétien’s tenure, Rowswell created Global Affairs Canada’ Democracy Unit. Rowswell also worked with the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies, whose board of trustees includes Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the National Democratic Institute, which is part of the US National Endowment for Democracy that performs work the CIA previously did covertly.

Believing he was sent to conspire with the opposition, Caracas refused to confirm Rowswell’s appointment as ambassador. Former vice president and foreign minister José Vicente Rangel twice accused Rowswell of seeking to overthrow the government. On a July 2014 episode of his weekly television program José Vicente Hoy Rangel said, “the Embassy of Canada appears more and more involved in weird activities against the Venezuelan constitutional government.” The former Vice President claimed Canada’s diplomatic mission helped more than two dozen individuals of an “important intelligence organization” enter the country. Three months later Rangel accused Canadian officials of trying to destabilize the country by making unfounded claims Maduro supported drug trafficking and gave passports to terrorists.

In early 2015 then president of the National Assembly (not to be confused with Venezuela’s president) Diosdado Cabello accused the Canadian embassy of complicity in a failed coup. According to Cabello, an RCMP official attached to the embassy, Nancy Birbeck, visited an airport in Valencia with a member of the UK diplomatic corps to investigate its capabilities as part of the plot.

The president of the National Assembly also criticized Rowswell for presenting a human rights award to anti-government groups. Cabello said the ambassador “offered these distinctions to people of proven conspiratorial activity and who violate the fundamental rights to life of all Venezuelans.” At the embassy during the award ceremony were the lawyers and wife (Lilian Tintori) of Leopoldo López who endorsed the military’s 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez and was convicted of inciting violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests that sought to oust Maduro. Forty-three Venezuelans died, hundreds were hurt and a great deal of property was damaged during the “guarimbas” protests. Lopez was a key organizer of the recent plan to anoint Juan Guaidó interim president and Tintori met Donald Trump and other international officials, including the prime minister and many others in Ottawa, to build international support for the recent coup efforts.

Rowswell appears to have had significant contact with López and Guaidó’s Voluntad Popular party. He was photographed with Voluntad Popular’s leader in Yaracuy state, Gabriel Gallo, at the embassy’s 2017 human rights award ceremony. Gallo was a coordinator of NGO Foro Penal, which was runner-up for the embassy’s 2015 Human Rights Award. (The runner-up for the 2012 award, Tamara Adrián represents Voluntad Popular in the national assembly.)

The embassy’s “Human Rights Prize” is co-sponsored with the Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos. The director of that organization, Raúl Herrera, repeatedly denounced the Venezuelan government, saying, “the Venezuelan state systematically and repeatedly violates the Human Rights of Venezuelans.”

The “Human Rights Prize” is designed to amplify and bestow legitimacy on anti-government voices. The winner gets a “tour of several cities in Venezuela to share his or her experiences with other organizations promoting of human rights” and a trip to Canada to meet with “human rights authorities and organizations.” They generally present to Canadian Parliamentary Committees and garner media attention. The Venezuelan NGOs most quoted in the Canadian media in recent months criticizing the country’s human rights situation — Provea, Foro Penal, CODEVIDA, Observatorio Venezolano de la Conflictividad, Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones, etc. — have been formally recognized by the Canadian embassy.

During Rowswell’s tenure at the embassy Canada financed NGOs with the expressed objective of embarrassing the government internationally. According to the government’s response to a July 2017 Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade report on Venezuela, “CFLI [Canadian Funding to Local Initiatives] programming includes support for a local NGO documenting the risks to journalists and freedom of expression in Venezuela, in order to provide important statistical evidence to the national and international community on the worsening condition of basic freedoms in the country.” Another CFLI initiative funded during Rowswell’s tenure in Caracas “enabled Venezuelan citizens to anonymously register and denounce corruption abuses by government officials and police through a mobile phone application.”

Just after resigning as ambassador, Rowswell told the Ottawa Citizen: “We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

Can you imagine the hue and cry if a Venezuelan ambassador said something similar about Canada? In recent months there have been a number of parliamentary committee and intelligence reports about Russian interference in Canada based on far less. Last month Justin Trudeau claimed, “countries like Russia are behind a lot of the divisive campaigns … that have turned our politics even more divisive and more anger-filled than they have been in the past.” That statement is 100 times more relevant to Canada/Rowswell’s interference in Venezuela than Russia’s role here.

Recently Rowswell has been speaking across the country on “How Democracy Dies: Lessons from Venezuela and the U.S.”

I wonder if the talk includes any discussion of Canadian diplomats deployed to interfere in other country’s political affairs?

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Exoneration of Poundmaker great, but also draw links to our colonial military

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Pitikwahanapiwiyin, chief Poundmaker

Good on Justin Trudeau for apologizing to an indigenous leader, but the prime minister ought not ignore the ‘father’ of the Canadian army’s contribution to this injustice.

On Thursday the Prime Minister is expected to exonerate Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker) who was convicted of treason after being attacked by Canadian Forces in 1885.

In response to the North-West Rebellion, 5,000 Canadian/British troops and militiamen were deployed to Saskatchewan and Alberta to subjugate the Metis and plains First Nations. With much of their land taken by treaty and the bison decimated, the Cree, Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan and Saulteaux were under pressure from settlers’ farms, towns and railways. Métis fur traders faced similar pressures though they also worried about whether the federal government would respect their river-lot homesteads and farms.

Hundreds of Métis and Indigenous people were killed by the military in a bid to enforce Ottawa’s control of the West.

In Canada’s largest mass hanging, eight Indigenous men were publicly executed at Battleford.

The North-West Rebellion lead to a tightening of the reserve system, including the infamous pass system that required individuals to receive permission to leave their reserve from the local Indian Agent. Completely illegal, the pass system would remain in place for six decades.

Lieutenant-Colonel William D. Otter was part of the military force dispatched to suppress the Louis Riel led rebellion. The Canadian-born son of English settlers led a force that attacked Cree and Assiniboine warriors near Battleford, Saskatchewan. Without orders to do so, the ‘father’ of Canada’s army sought to “punish Poundmaker.” Otter failed miserably. Despite employing a rapid-fire Gatling gun, his men were forced to retreat. They only survived because an overly conciliatory Poundmaker stopped his warriors from pursuing Otter’s retreating soldiers. But, the attack pushed the neutral Cree leader towards Riel and when the Metis leader was defeated Poundmaker surrendered.

Otter was hugely influential in Canadian military history. The Montreal Daily Star coined the term “Otterism” as a “synonym for merciless repression.” In 1890 he established the Royal Canadian Military Institute, which still operates in Toronto. Three years later he was made the first commanding officer of the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry. Otter commanded that force in the 1899-1902 Boer War. About 7,000 Canadians participated in this brutal conflict to strengthen British colonial authority in Africa, ultimately leading to racial apartheid.

In 1908 the Upper Canada College graduate was the first Canadian appointed Chief of the General Staff. (British officers dominated the Canadian Forces leadership in the decades before and after Otter’s appointment.) During World War I Otter came out of retirement to oversee the internment of 8,500, mostly Ukrainian, individuals living in Canada from countries that were part of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Their wealth was largely stolen and they were turned into quasi-slaves with Otter noting, how the “system proved a great advantage to the organization short of labor.”

Exonerating Pitikwahanapiwiyin is a welcome step in the reconciliation process. But, Trudeau should also discuss Otter’s role in Poundmaker’s persecution. It is time for a discussion about the Canadian military’s roots in a force that conquered much of Turtle Island and the world.

To achieve reconciliation the truth must be told about the repressive, colonial, origins of the Canadian Armed Forces.

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NDP MP Randall Garrison’s disgraceful anti-Palestinian politics

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Randall Garrison, seated left, Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group AGM

Randall Garrison is an embarrassment to everyone who supports universal human rights. The Victoria area New Democratic Party MP’s anti-Palestinian politics are beyond disgraceful.

Earlier this month Garrison was reappointed vice-chair of the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG). As such, he’s continuing to refuse to heed a call from Roger Waters, Noam Chomsky, Maher Arar, Linda McQuaig and 200 other musicians, academics, trade unionists and NDP members to withdraw from a group that promotes “greater friendship” between the Canadian and Israeli parliaments. In response to the public letter last summer — and other pressure — NDP MPs Peter Julian, Murray Rankin, Cheryl Hardcastle, and Gord Johns all appear to have left CIIG (Rankin is retiring).

As I detailed, CIIG has organized events with other pro-Israel lobby organizations and the co-chairs of its Israeli counterpart — the Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group — are stridently anti-Palestinian and right wing. During the recent Israeli election Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group co-chair, Anat Berko, produced a racist video in which her husband, dressed as a Palestinian ‘terrorist’, kidnaps her and she mocks an Arabic pronunciation to claim the Palestinians never had a state. (In 2016 Berko claimed the absence of the letter “P” in the Arabic alphabet meant Palestine did not exist since “no people would give itself a name it couldn’t pronounce.”) In February the Likud MK responded to criticism that Netanyahu was hosting the right-wing prime ministers of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic by saying, “they might be anti-Semites, but they’re on our side.”

For the Israel lobby the cross-party nature of CIIG is important. On May 8 the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) tweeted, “pleased to be at the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group AGM on Parliament Hill today. As noted by Chair Michael Levitt along with Vice-Chairs Randall Garrison, Marco Mendicino and David Sweet, great to see so many friends from across the political spectrum here.”

As I detail here, here, here, and here, Garrison’s anti-Palestinian activities go beyond his role as vice-chair of CIIG. Adding to this pattern, Garrison attended last week’s World Jewish Congress meeting in Ottawa. The CIJA-sponsored event passed a series of resolutions targeting Iran, backing Israel’s violence in Gaza and smearing Palestine solidarity activists. The conference also included US President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, who studied and was a soldier in a West Bank settlement and pushed to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Last week Garrison ‘liked’ his CIIG executive colleague’s tweet claiming the Palestinian civil-society-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement is racist. Extremist Conservative Senator Linda Frum tweeted, “yesterday I spoke to my motion which calls on the government to STOP funding BDS. BDS is an expression of antisemitism. It is nothing less than that, and our government has no business funding antisemitism in any form.” Garrison liked this attack on Palestinians from both Frum and arch anti-Palestinian NGO Monitor’s Twitter handles. Presumably, Garrison and Frum believe the ‘antiracist’ position would be for Palestinians (and the world) to simply accept Israeli theft of their lands and destruction of their lives.

Garrison’s position seems to run counter to the NDP’s vote against a 2016 House of Commons resolution condemning the BDS movement. Last year the Socialist International, which the NDP/CCF was a member of for nearly seven decades, endorsed BDS. The group of 140 political parties, including 35 currently in government, called for a “total embargo on all forms of military trade and cooperation with Israel.”

Since the public letter calling on the NDP to withdraw from CIIG was launched 200 Palestinians have been killed and another 5,000 injured by live fire in peaceful March of Return protests in Gaza. Not a single Israeli has died during these protests.

Additionally, the Israeli government passed a nation state law, adding to 65 other explicitly racist Israeli laws. In March Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.”

One wonders how explicit Israeli racism needs to be before Garrison would withdraw from CIIG? How about if Netanyahu produced a poster saying, “Israel is an apartheid state”?

More generally, how many Palestinians does Israel need to kill before Garrison withdraws from CIIG? If Israel killed twice the number of Palestinians they’ve killed over the past decade (5,000) would that do the trick? How about 20,000? 50,000?

But, the question of how much Israeli violence/racism will be accepted shouldn’t only be asked of Garrison. What would Israel need to do before NDP activists/members/MPs/officials/voters refuse to accept an MP participating in a group promoting “greater friendship” with Israel?

The Communist Party candidate in Garrison’s riding of Esquimalt–Saanich–Sooke, Tyson Strandlund, has committed to raising the issue in the campaign. The Green Party candidate in Esquimalt David Merner, who ran for the Liberals in the last election, told me he will not join CIIG if elected. Green MPs Elizabeth May and Paul Manly are not part of CIIG and nor are Bloc Québecois MPs.

Supporters of Palestinian rights in Victoria should up their campaign against Garrison’s participation in CIIG. His support for Israel’s racist laws, oppression and killing of Palestinians must be pointed out to his potential election campaign activists, most of whom would be troubled to learn of their MP’s role in supporting such crimes. A message must be sent that there comes a point when anti-Palestinian politics will simply not be accepted in a party that claims the mantra of social justice.

 

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Green leader May supports same old pro-imperialist foreign policies

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Elizabeth May and prominent Israel apologist Irwin Cotler.

Does Elizabeth May hate Palestinians? Does the Green Party leader want the Trump administration to attack Iran? Does she support efforts to overthrow Venezuela’s government?

I’ve been asking myself these questions since reading a Canadian Jewish News story about Paul Manly’s recent victory in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith bi-election. In a story titled “Concerns raised over new Green MP’s views on BDS” May strongly implies that the Palestinian civil society led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement is racist. “We have nothing to do with BDS,” May is quoted as saying. “We repealed it. We are not a party that condones BDS. We would never tolerate anybody in our party who violates our core values, who are anti-Semitic.”

May is seeking to downplay the significance of Manly’s election to anti-Palestinian forces, particularly within the NDP. Only the second MP ever elected under the Green banner, Manly was blocked from running for the NDP in the 2015 federal election because he defended his father (a former NDP MP) after Israel detained him as he sought to break the illegal blockade of Gaza.

In the CJN interview May also appears to boast that she forced the party to spend $100,000 to overturn an August 2016 convention resolution in which members voted for “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories].” In response to the clearly stated will of party members, May threatened to resign if the party didn’t revisit the issue and then announced that a special general meeting would be held four months later to discuss the party’s stance on Palestine. She then fired three members of her shadow cabinet for defending the party’s new Palestine policy from attacks by the head of the British Columbia Greens. Before what was shaping up to be an embarrassing defeat, May endorsed a compromise resolution at the special convention that dropped the BDS formulation in favour of support for “economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes” while simultaneously endorsing all three (versus just one in the initial resolution) goals of the BDS movement (“Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall”; Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”)

As May besmirched Palestinian civil society’s call for international solidarity, the Green leader stood with those pushing for war on Iran. Last week May attended a press conference organized by Irwin Cotler calling on Canada to impose sanctions on 19 Iranian officials and to follow the Trump administration in listing the country’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. May’s support for ramping up Canadian hostility towards Tehran takes place amidst increasingly bellicose moves by Washington that could lead to a war on Iran.

The press conference in Ottawa was part of parliament’s Iran Accountability Week, which Cotler established in 2012. May has participated in previous Iran Accountability Weeks alongside individuals such as Mark Dubowitz who Ynet, Israel’s largest English language news site, dubbed “The Man Who Fights Iran”. But, when current and former Green Party candidates organized a 2010 conference on a “just and sustainable peace” in Iran May told Postmedia it should be “canceled” because it was “unbalanced”.

May is a regular at events led by Cotler who has devoted much of his career to defending Israeli human rights violations. (His wife, Ariela Zeevi, was a “close confidant” of Likud founder Menachem Begin when the arch anti-Palestinian party was established to counter Labour’s dominance of Israeli politics. His daughters were part of the Israeli military and one of them ran in Israel’s recent election.) The Green leader is part of the Cotler-led Raoul Wallenberg All-Party Parliamentary Caucus for Human Rights and in 2014 she tweeted, “honouring Irwin Cotler, with Raoul Wallenberg Award. Tributes from John Baird, Justin Trudeau, Murray Rankin and me.”

May has participated in at least three press conferences organized by Cotler to call for the release of leading Venezuelan Leopoldo López. The Harvard-educated Lopez endorsed the military’s 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez and the leader of the hardline Voluntad Popular party was convicted of inciting violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests that sought to oust President Nicolas Maduro (Cotler later joined López’ legal team). According to a series of reports, Lopez was the key Venezuelan organizer of the recent plan to anoint Juan Guaidó interim president of Venezuela and on April 30 he escaped house arrest to join Guaidó in a failed coup bid.

In 2014 May met López’s wife Lilian Tintori who, reports The Guardian, met Donald Trump and other international players to build international support for the recent coup efforts. According to Cotler’s website, “MPs Irwin Cotler (Liberal) and Elizabeth May (Green) joined today with Lilian Tintori – international human rights campaigner and wife of imprisoned Venezuelan opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez – and their international legal counsel, Jared Genser, to call on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to release Mr. López immediately.”

Four months later May and Cotler met Carlos Vecchio, who Guaidó recently appointed as his phantom government’s “ambassador” to the US. Afterwards, the Green leader joined Cotler at a press conference to denounce the “deterioration of the human rights situation” in Venezuela.

While she’s criticized some Canadian foreign policy decisions, May rarely strays far from the liberal establishment worldview. In laying out her party’s 2015 election position in Esprit de Corps magazine May wrote, “the world needs more Canada” and argued,we should also support the United Nations’ ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) doctrine”, which was used to justify bombing Libya in 2011 and ousting Haiti’s elected government in 2004. In her article May also bemoaned that “defence expenditures are headed to an unprecedented low”, which is a bizarre criticism for an environmental minded politician to make. Previously, she backed the Conservative government’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, a $60 billion effort to expand the combat fleet over three decades.

How to explain May’s positions? The Green leader represents a riding near a naval base and until a few years ago was studying to become a priest in a church with a history of theological Zionism. May clearly fears Jewish Zionist groups’ accusations of anti-Semitism and dabbles in philo-Semitism. (In 2015 May responded to a CJN request to make her pitch to Canadian Jewish voters by saying “you have been the heart and soul and conscience of Canada on many issues for a very long time… I would urge you to look at the Green party’s policies and platform and see if you don’t see yourself there. If you don’t, let me know, I certainly would apologize if we are not meeting the aspirations of Canadians who have done so much for this country.”) More generally, May is absorbed into the foreign policy swamp in Ottawa and has shown little willingness to defy the dominant media’s depiction of international affairs.

But if the Green Party wants to be seen as different from the tired, old, mainstream parties, it needs to move beyond the double-standard, cynical, anti-democratic, anti-human, pro-imperialist claptrap that our elites insist on selling us.

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Is Canada’s Minister of Defence an Arms Pusher?

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Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan

Would it surprise you to learn that Canada’s minister of defence is an arms pusher?

Last Friday members of Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix interrupted a $135-a-plate luncheon to confront defence minister Harjit Sajjan. At an event sponsored by SNC Lavalin, Bombardier, Rio Tinto, etc., we called for cutting military spending, for Canada to withdraw from NATO and an end to weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

While Sajjan’s responsibility for NATO and military spending are straightforward, his role in fueling the Saudi led war in Yemen is less obvious. But, the Department of National Defence (DND) plays a substantial role in Canadian arms exports to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

As he did the last three years, Sajjan is set to speak at the CANSEC arms bazar in Ottawa later this month. For more than two decades the annual Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) conference has brought together representatives of arms companies, DND, Canadian Forces (CF), various other arms of the federal government and dozens of foreign governments. In 2018 more than 11,000 people attended the two-day conference, including 16 MPs and senators and many generals and admirals.

The corporation supplying Saudi Arabia with more than $10 billion in Light Armoured Vehicles produces the same LAVs for the CF. In a 2012 Canadian Military History article Frank Maas writes, “the CF has continued to purchase LAVs because they have been successful in the field, and they support a domestic producer, General Dynamics Land Systems Canada (GDLS-C), that cooperates closely with the military.” GDLS’ London, Ontario, operations exist largely because of interventionist military industrial policy. A 2013 Federal government report on “Leveraging Defence Procurement Through Key Industrial Capabilities” lists GDLS as one of three “Canadian Defence Industry Success Stories.”

Beyond contracts, subsidies and various other forms of support to Canadian weapons makers, DND has long promoted arms exports. Its website highlights different forms of support to arms exporters. “Learn how the Department of National Defence can assist in connecting Canadian industry to foreign markets”, explains one section. Another notes: “Learn how the Department of National Defence keeps Canadian companies informed of business opportunities at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).”

Based in 30 diplomatic posts around the world (with cross-accreditation to many neighbouring countries), Canadian Defence Attachés promote military exports. According to DND’s website, Defence Attachés assist “Canadian defence manufacturers in understanding and accessing foreign defence markets … facilitate Canadian industry access to relevant officials within the Ministries of Defence of accredited countries … support Canadian industry at key defence industry events in accredited countries … raise awareness in accredited countries of Canadian defence industrial capabilities … provide reports on accredited country defence budget information, items of interest, and trade issues to Canadian industry.”

Representatives of DND often talk up Canadian military equipment as part of delegations to international arms fairs such as the UK’s Defence Security and Equipment International exhibition. According to a FrontLine Defence story titled “Representing Canada in the UAE IDEX”, representatives of DND helped 50 Canadian arms companies flog their wares at the Abu Dhabi-based International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in February. To help the companies move their wares at the largest arms fair in the Middle East, Commander of the Bahrain-based Combined Task Force 150, Commodore Darren Garnier, led a Canadian military delegation to IDEX.

International ports visits by naval frigates are sometimes designed to spur arms sales. Lieutenant Bruce Fenton writes, “Canadian warships can serve as venues for trade initiatives, as examples of Canadian technology, and as visible symbols of Canadian interest in a country or region. In countries where relationships are built over time, as is the case with many Asian and Middle Eastern countries, a visit by a Canadian warship can be an important part of a dialogue that can lead to commercial opportunities for Canadian industry.”

To get a sense of the interaction between the various components of the military industrial complex, the FrontLine Defence story detailing Canada’s participation in IDEX was written by Brett Boudreau. His byline notes that he “is a retired CAF Colonel, a Fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and former Director of Marketing and Communications at CADSI.” Boudreau’s trajectory — from the CF, to arms industry spokesperson, to militarist think tank, to writing for a militarist publication — is a stark example of one individual moving through the various components of the military industrial complex. But Boudreau is not unique. It is common for retired CF and DND officials to take up arms industry posts, including senior positions. It wouldn’t be surprising if Sajjan ended up on the board of an arms company after he leaves politics.

Harjit Sajjan heads a ministry intimately tied to a globally oriented corporate weapons industry that profits from war. Is this something Canadians understand and support? Or would the majority of us be upset to learn their Minister of Defence is an arms pusher, promoting sales to anti-democratic, repressive regimes?

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Trudeau continues push to overthrow Venezuela’s government

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to overthrow the elected government of Venezuela, but seems happy with repressive monarchies in Middle East.

The effort Justin Trudeau is putting into overthrowing Venezuela’s government is remarkable.

During the past 12 days the prime minister has raised the issue separately with the leaders of the EU, Spain, Japan and Cuba.On Tuesday Trudeau had a phone conversation with European Council President Donald Tusk focused almost entirely on Venezuela, according to the communiqué.“Prime Minister Trudeau reiterated his support for Interim President Juan Guaidó”, it noted.

The next day Trudeau talked to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez about ousting president Nicolás Maduro. Venezuela is the only subject mentioned in the official release about the call.

Venezuela was also on the agenda during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Ottawa on April 28. The post meeting release noted, “during the visit, Prime Minister Abe announced Japan’s endorsement of the Ottawa Declaration on Venezuela.” Produced at an early February meeting of the “Lima Group” of governments opposed to Maduro, the “Ottawa Declaration” called on Venezuela’s armed forces “to demonstrate their loyalty to the interim president” and remove the elected president.

On May 3 Trudeau called Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel to pressure him to join Ottawa’s effort to oust Maduro. The release noted, “the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Lima Group, underscored the desire to see free and fair elections and the constitution upheld in Venezuela.”

Four days later foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland added to the diplomatic pressure on Havana. She told reporters, “Cuba needs to not be part of the problem in Venezuela, but become part of the solution.”

Freeland was highly active after Guaidó, Leopoldo Lopez and others sought to stoke a military uprising in Caracas on April 30. Hours into the early morning effort Freeland tweeted, “watching events today in Venezuela very closely. The safety and security of Juan Guaido and Leopoldo López must be guaranteed. Venezuelans who peacefully support Interim President Guaido must do so without fear of intimidation or violence.” She followed that up with a statement to the press noting, “Venezuelans are in the streets today demonstrating their desire for a return to democracy even in the face of a violent crackdown. Canada commends their courage and we call on the Maduro regime to step aside now.” Then Freeland put out a video calling on Venezuelans to rise up and requested an emergency video conference meeting of the Lima Group. Later that evening the coalition issued a statement labeling the attempted putsch an effort “to restore democracy” and demanded the military “cease being instruments of the illegitimate regime for the oppression of the Venezuelan people.”

Three days later Freeland attended an emergency meeting of the Lima Group in Peru. The coalition released a communique after that get together accusing Maduro’s government of protecting “terrorist groups” in Colombia.

At another Lima Group meeting in Chile on April 15 Freeland announced the fourth round of Canadian sanctions against Venezuelan officials. Forty-three individuals were added to the list of 70 leaders Canada had already sanctioned. CBC reported that the latest round of (illegal) sanctions were designed to “punish Venezuelan judges who rubber-stamped Maduro’s moves” and “lower-ranking police officials who took prominent roles in suppressing the attempt by Venezuela’s opposition to bring humanitarian aid into the country on February 23.”

The Venezuelan government responded to Canadian sanctions by denouncing Ottawa’s “alliance with war criminals that have declared their intention to destroy the Venezuelan economy to inflict suffering on the people and loot the country’s riches.” A recent Center for Economic and Policy Research report gives credence to this perspective. Written by Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela” concluded that 40,000 Venezuelans may have died over the past two years as a result of US sanctions.

The Liberals want us to believe their campaign to oust Venezuela’s government is motivated by support for democracy and human rights. Yet in recent weeks the Trudeau government has deepened ties to repressive Middle East monarchies, gutted its promise to rein in international abuses by Canadian mining companies’ and justified Israeli violence against those living in the open-air prison known as the Gaza Strip.

Last month members of Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix interrupted a speech by Freeland at the University of Montréal to criticize Canada’s policy towards Venezuela. Activists should be disrupting Freeland and other Liberal MPs public events across the country to demand an end to their effort to overthrow the government of Venezuela.

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Anti-Racist Canada promotes video by anti-Palestinian, FOX News filmmaker

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American filmmaker Ami Horowitz

Why would Anti-Racist Canada (ARC) promote a video by a FOX News filmmaker who compares the Left to the KKK and claimed Swedish police refuse to go into immigrant neighbourhoods? Is it because the ARC collective is an example of people who fight racism except if it is anti-Palestinian?

Recently, ARC retweeted long-time anti-Palestinian activist Bernie Farber noting: “If anyone wants to read how anti-Israel invective morphs into antisemitism, then read this frightening piece. This happened this week at Duke.” Farber linked to a Jewish Journal article about a University of North Carolina/Duke University conference on the “Conflict over Gaza: people, politics and opportunities”.

The primary claim leveled against the conference is what rapper Tamer Nafar said at a concert the night before two days of talks by prominent professors, including a number who are Jewish. “This is my anti-Semitic song”, Nafar told the crowd. “Don’t think of Rihanna when you sing this, don’t think of Beyonce — think of Mel Gibson. … Let’s try it together because I need your help. I cannot be anti-Semitic alone.”

Responding to the slander campaign, conference attendee Lara Friedman wrote: “His satirical song ‘Mom, I fell in love with a Jew,’ jokingly introduced Tamer Nafar, a well-known rapper and actor (and a Palestinian citizen of Israel), as an ‘anti-Semitic’ song. His statements indeed sounded to many people, including me, politically deaf or even painful. But to put it bluntly: The song is not anti-Semitic and has not even been controversial so far. The video became popular in Israel two years ago when it was released. The Israelis correctly understood the song as a cheeky broadcast of the thorny realities underlying Jewish-Arab relations within Israel.”

In claiming “frightening” antisemitism at the conference about Gaza, Farber/ARC ignored other attendees’ perspectives and the individual at the heart of the controversy. Last month Nafar was featured in a New York Times story titled “Boycott Israel’s Election? A Palestinian Rapper Says No”, which was picked up by the Times of Israel, i24NEWS, Haaretz, etc.

More surprisingly, ARC/Farber ignored that the individual responsible for misrepresenting Nafar’s performance to attack the conference is a prominent anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian activist who regularly appears on FOXNews. Ami Horowitz recently produced a video titled “The Left and the KKK may be separate, but they are equal!” and another that disparaged the Central American migrant caravan. In a 2017 video Horowitz claimed Swedish police refused to enter heavily immigrant areas. “These are areas that cops won’t even enter, because it’s too dangerous for them. This is the policy of the national police authority in Sweden”, Horowitz told an interviewer. Donald Trump repeated this obvious lie, as discussed in a Times of Israel story titled “Meet the gonzo Jewish filmmaker behind Trump’s fake news on Sweden.”

Promoting Horowitz’ distortion is not the first time ARC has regurgitated Farber’s anti-Palestinian, anti-Muslim and anti-Left positions. Earlier in April the collective retweeted the former Liberal party candidate’s link to a New York Times story titled “Anti-Semitism Is Back, From the Left, Right and Islamist Extremes. Why?” The story disparaged Somali Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and long-time anti-racist British politician (Palestinians included!) Jeremy Corbyn.

Two months ago, I asked ARC (and some other self-declared antiracist organizations) why they had never criticized the Jewish National Fund, which is the only explicitly racist institution sanctioned by the Canadian state to give tax write-offs. (My commentary on anti-racist organizations’ silence on Independent Jewish Voices’ StopJNFCanada campaign will appear in the upcoming edition of Canadian Dimension.) A politically and financially powerful organization, JNF does not hide its racism. In a 2007 Canadian Jewish News article titled “Human rights complaint accuses JNF of racism” its Executive Vice President Joe Rabinovitch admitted the organization discriminates in the provision of housing in Israel.

In my email exchange with ARC on the JNF I pointed out that they should tread carefully with Farber: “I presume you’re familiar with some of his [Farber] background, which is steeped in vicious anti-Palestinian rhetoric and a great deal of Islamophobia. He has righted some of the wrong he has done on demonizing Muslims, not so much on Palestinians. Here is an overview I did on him.”

ARC’s promotion of Farber’s anti-Palestinian politics is shameful. An anti-racist collective promulgating the anti-Palestinian views of a prominent anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim FOX News filmmaker is an embarrassment.

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Nationalism blinds Québecers to oppression at home and abroad

To protect its culture Québec has decided veiled women shouldn’t be allowed to teach. But the crucifix adorning the National Assembly can stay, as well as a large cross atop the highest point in Montréal, not to mention the streets named after Catholic saints. The government has decided laïcité (secularism) should be pursued on the backs of the most marginalized immigrants.

Underlying support for this cultural chauvinism is a blindness to power relations that has long been part of Québec’s self-image and is especially evident in international affairs.

The week the governing party, Coalition Avenir Québec, announced it would prohibit public workers in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, Québecer Catherine Cano was confirmed in the No. 2 position at la Francophonie. After former Governor General Michaëlle Jean failed to win a second term as leader of L’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Ottawa/Québec City secured a return to the organization’s previous leadership structure. Between 2006-15 Québec diplomat Clément Duhaime was No. 2 at the Paris based OIF.

Second biggest contributor to la Francophonie, Ottawa gives $40 million annually to OIF and the other institutions of la Francophonie. A member in its own right, Québec says it provides “over 10 million dollars per year … to international solidarity activities in developing countries that are members of La Francophonie.” Québec’s international affairs ministry is named Le Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie.

La Francophonie seems to stir linguistic chauvinism within Québec nationalist circles. During the 2016 OIF Summit in Madagascar Le Devoir bemoaned the decline of la langue de Molière in the former French colony. Titled “Quel avenir pour le français?: À Madagascar, la langue de Molière s’étiole”, the front page story cited an individual calling the post-independence focus on the country’s majoritarian, Indigenous language “nothing less than a ‘cultural genocide.’” According to the head of OIF’s Observatoire de la langue française, Alexandre Wolff, it was “urgent to show French can be useful” in the island nation. The progressive nationalist paper’s hostility to Malagasy wasn’t even presented as a battle with the dominant colonial language. The story noted that “English is practically absent” there.

OIF reinforces cultural inequities in former French and Belgian colonies. While OIF is largely designed to strengthen the French language, is there any place aside from Québec where French has been the language of the oppressed?

Even more than the English, French imperialists used language as a tool of colonial control. Schooling in French African colonies, for instance, was almost entirely in French, which stunted the written development of local languages as well as the rise of a common national or regional language. It also oriented the intellectual milieu towards the colonial metropole.

At the same time newly independent African countries attempted to promote indigenous languages, Ottawa channeled hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to link Québec with “French” countries. Efforts to strengthen the ‘common’ linguistic heritage between Québec and Algeria stunted its post-independence moves towards strengthening Arabic. Though less stark, the same dynamic played out in the Congo with Lingala, in the Central African Republic with Sango and in Senegal with Wolof. In Haiti Québec’s large (linguistically inspired) presence has reinforced the stark French-Creole linguistic/class divide. While basically everyone speaks Haitian Creole, less than 10 per cent of Haitians speak French fluently. French is the language of Haiti’s elite and language has served as a mechanism through which they maintain their privilege. (In terms of Haitians adopting a more useful common second-language, Spanish would facilitate ties with the eastern half of the island while English would enable greater relations with other parts of the Caribbean.)

Ottawa greatly expanded its aid to “Francophone” nations to weaken the sovereignty movement in the mid-1960s. In an influential 1962 internal memo, long time External Affairs official Marcel Cadieux argued that channeling foreign aid to “French” Africa was the most politically expedient means of demonstrating concern for Quebecker’s nationalist aspirations. Canadian aid to former French colonies skyrocketed through the late 1960s and Canada provided as much as a third of the budget for the institutions of OIF.

Ottawa/Québec’s interest in former French colonies isn’t only about culture of course. Namesake of the 1965 Doctrine that made projecting French the objective of Québec’s international relations, Paul Gérin-Lajoie built up Québec-based companies as head of the Canadian International Development Agency in the 1970s. SNC Lavalin was hired to manage CIDA offices in Francophone African countries where Canada had no diplomatic representation. Six years after Algeria won its independence from France, SNC’s vice president of development Jack Hahn described their plan to enter Algeria: “They might be interested in North American technology offered in French.”

In February Ministre des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie du Québec Nadine Girault spoke to the SNC Lavalin, Bombardier, Rio-Tinto, etc. sponsored Conseil des relations internationales de Montréal on “Le Québec à la conquête des marchés étrangers: tirer profit de 50 ans d’affirmation à l’international” (Québec seeks to conquer foreign markets: profiting from 50 years of international affirmation). Girault focused on employing Québec’s substantial linguistically inspired presence in Africa and elsewhere to benefit corporations, noting “we will take advantage of 50 years of affirmation to conquer foreign markets.”

While framed as a defence against English domination in North America, promoting French in Haiti, Senegal or Algeria can appear progressive only if you ignore imperialism and international power relations. But many Québecers have been willing to do just that.

Like Canadian cultural chauvinists who never let the truth stop them from claiming their country is a benevolent international force, nationalism has blinded many Québecers to their oppression abroad and at home. Protecting Québec culture by targeting the most marginalized immigrants is a similar type of cultural chauvinism.

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Canada gets cozy with repressive Middle East monarchies

Canada’s Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan was on a tour of the Middle East last week.

While Justin Trudeau’s government embraces repressive Middle East monarchies, they want us to believe their campaign to oust Venezuela’s government is motivated by support for democracy and human rights.

On a tour of the Middle East last week Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan met his United Arab Emirates counterpart Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi in Abu Dhabi. According to Emirates News Agency, Canadian and UAE officials discussed “cooperation  in the military and defence sectors” at a time when the oil rich nation plays a key role in the horrendous violence in Yemen.

The Trudeau government is promoting arm sales to the UAE and other regional monarchies. With support from “15 trade commissioners and representatives from the Government of Ontario, National Defence, Global Affairs Canada, and the Canadian Commercial Corporation”, 50 Canadian arms companies flogged their wares at the Abu Dhabi-based International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in February. To help the arms companies move their wares, Commander of the Bahrain-based Combined Task Force 150, Commodore Darren Garnier, led a Canadian military delegation to IDEX.

During his recent tour Sajjan met King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein in Jordan. He discussed military cooperation with a monarch known for prosecuting individuals for “extending one’s tongue” (having a big mouth) against the King. At the end of March, Trudeau phoned King Abdullah II.

On April 9 the Canadian and Jordanian armed forces broke ground on a road project along the Jordanian-Syrian border. During a ceremony for the Canadian-funded initiative Commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command, Lieutenant General Michael Rouleau, said: “this important road rehabilitation project is a tangible example of the close relationship between Jordan and Canada. It will help keep the people of Jordan safe by allowing the Jordanian armed forces to deter, monitor and interdict incursions along the northern border with Syria, which will help to enhance security in Jordan and in the region.”

On his Middle East tour Sajjan also met Kuwait’s Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah who is part of a family that has ruled for 250 years. According to the Kuwait News Agency, Canada’s defence minister “stressed deep relations between Kuwait and Canada and pointed out mutual willingness to bolster and consolidate bilateral ties.”

Earlier in the month finance minister Bill Morneau and Parliamentary Secretary Omar Alghabra participated in the inaugural Kuwait and Canada Investment Forum. At the time Alghabra wrote, “let’s celebrate and continue our efforts to grow the relationship between Canada and Kuwait in investments, trade and defence.”

Military ties with Kuwait are important because the Canadian forces have a small base there. In December the Canadian Navy took command of Combined Task Force 150 from their Saudi counterparts. Canada also has a small number of troops in the monarchies of Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar.

Last month Canada’s Ambassador to Qatar Stefanie McCollum boasted of growing relations between the countries, claiming “our values structures are very similar.” In an interview with Al Bawaba the Canadian diplomat also said Ottawa is seeking to deepen business ties with the natural gas rich monarchy and that the two countries are in the final stage of signing a defence cooperation agreement.

Notwithstanding the diplomatic spat last summer, the Trudeau government has mostly continued business as usual with the most powerful and repressive monarchy in the region. Recently foreign minister Chrystia Freeland looked the other way when Saudi student Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi fled Canada — presumably with help from the embassy — to avoid sexual assault charges in Cape Breton. While Freeland told reporters that Global Affairs was investigating the matter, Halifax Chronicle Herald journalist Aaron Beswick’s Access to Information request suggests they didn’t even bother contacting the Saudi embassy concerning the matter.

According to an access request by PhD researcher Anthony Fenton, Freeland phoned new Saudi foreign minister Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf in January. In briefing notes for the (unannounced) discussion Freeland was encouraged to tell her counterpart (under the headline “points to register” regarding Yemen): “Appreciate the hard work and heavy lifting by the Saudis and encourage ongoing efforts in this regard.”

Despite their devastating war in Yemen and dismembering of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the consulate in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia continues to receive large shipments of Canadian weaponry. 2018 was a record year for Canadian rifle and armoured vehicle sales to the Saudis. $17.64 million in rifles were exported to the kingdom last year and another $1.896 million worth of guns were delivered in February. In the first month of this year Canada exported $367 million worth of “tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles” to the Saudis.

As Fenton has documented in detail on his highly informative Twitter handle, armoured vehicles made by Canadian company Streit Group in the UAE have been repeatedly videoed in Yemen. Equipment from three other Canadian armoured vehicle makers – Terradyne, IAG Guardian and General Dynamics – was found with Saudi-backed forces in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition used Canadian-made rifles as well.

On Tuesday the Saudis beheaded 37 mostly minority Shiites. Ottawa waited 48 hours — after many other countries criticized the mass execution — to release a “muted” statement. The Trudeau government has stayed mum on the Saudi’s recent effort to derail pro-democracy demonstrations in Sudan and Algeria as well as Riyadh’s funding for Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s bid to seize Tripoli by force.

The close and friendly relationships between the Trudeau government and repressive Middle East monarchies demonstrates how little the Liberals care about democracy abroad and illustrates the hypocrisy of Canada’s claims that its efforts to oust Venezuela’s government is all about supporting human rights and democracy.

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Roméo Dallaire and the Toronto Star’s distortion of Rwanda’s tragedy

The Toronto Star should get its facts straight and stop distorting Rwanda’s tragedy.

A day after the 25th anniversary of when two Hutu presidents were blown out of the sky, the Star’s editorial board published “There’s  no excuse for ignoring lessons of Rwanda’s genocide”. It claims, “on Jan. 11, 1994, Canadian Maj.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire, at the time force commander with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, sent a chilling and urgent cable to UN Headquarters in New York. He had been informed of the details of a plan for the ‘extermination’ of ethnic Tutsis by Hutus.” After stringing together a few hundred more humane-sounding, though meaningless, words Star editorialists returned to their core liberal interventionist Canadian hero theme: “In his cable of January 1994 he urged UN leaders to act by telling them the obvious: Where there’s a will to prevent mass killing, there is a way.”

The Star should check Dallaire’s fax more closely. Revealingly, the much-celebrated “genocide fax” the editorialists reference is not titled “‘genocide’ or ‘killing’  but an innocuous ‘Request for Protection of Informant’”, reports International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) lawyer Christopher Black in a 2005 story titled “View from Rwanda: The Dallaire Genocide Fax: A Fabrication”. The two-page “genocide fax”, as New Yorker reporter Philip Gourevitch dubbed it in 1998, was probably doctored a year after the mass killings in Rwanda ended. In a chapter devoted to the fax in Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later Edward S. Herman and David Peterson argue two paragraphs were added to a cable Dallaire sent to Canadian General Maurice Baril at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York about a weapons cache and protecting an informant (Dallaire never personally met the informant). The added paragraphs said the informant was asked to compile a list of Tutsi for possible extermination in Kigali and mentioned a plan to assassinate select political leaders and Belgian peacekeepers.

At the ICTR former Cameroon foreign minister and overall head of the UN mission in Rwanda, Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, denied  seeing this information and there’s no evidence Dallaire warned the Belgians of a plan to attack them, which later transpired. Finally, a response to the cable from UN headquarters the next day ignores the (probably) added paragraphs. Herman and Peterson make a compelling case that a doctored version of the initial cable was placed in the UN file on November 27, 1995, by British Colonel Richard M. Connaughton as part of a Kigali-London-Washington effort to prove the existence of a plan by the Hutu government to exterminate Tutsi.

Even if the final two paragraphs were in the original version, the credibility of the information would be suspect. Informant “Jean-Pierre” was not a highly placed official in the defeated Hutu government, reports Robin Philpott in Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa: From Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction. Instead, “Jean-Pierre” was a driver for the MRDN political party who later died fighting with the Rwandan Patriotic Front.

Incredibly, the “genocide fax” is the primary source of any documentary record demonstrating UN foreknowledge of a Hutu “conspiracy” to exterminate Tutsi, a charge even the victor’s justice at the ICTR failed to convict anyone of. According to Herman and Peterson, “when finding all four defendants not guilty of the ‘conspiracy to commit genocide’ charge, the [ICTR] trial chamber also dismissed the evidence provided by ‘informant Jean-Pierre’ due to ‘lingering questions concerning [his] reliability.’”

Tellingly, Dallaire didn’t even initially adhere to the “conspiracy to commit genocide” version of the Rwandan tragedy. Just after leaving his post as UNAMIR force commander Dallaire replied to a September 14, 1994, Radio Canada Le Point question by saying, “the plan  was more political. The aim was to eliminate the coalition of moderates. … I think that the excesses that we saw were beyond people’s ability to plan and organize. There was a process to destroy the political elements in the moderate camp. There was a breakdown and hysteria absolutely. … But nobody could have foreseen or planned the magnitude of the destruction we saw.”

Doctoring a fax to make it appear the UN had foreknowledge of a plot to exterminate Tutsi may sound outlandish, but it’s more believable then many other elements of the dominant narrative of the Rwandan genocide. The day after their editorial, for instance, the Star published a story titled “25 years after genocide, Rwanda rebuilds” which included a photo of President Paul Kagame leading a walk to commemorate the mass killings. But, Kagame is the individual most responsible for unleashing the hundred days of genocidal violence by downing a plane carrying two Hutu presidents and much of the Rwandan military high command.

Even the  Star has reported as much. A year ago they published a story titled “Did Rwanda’s Paul Kagame trigger the genocide of his own people?” For its part, the Globe and Mail has published a series of front-page reports in recent years confirming Kagame’s responsibility for blowing up the plane carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, which triggered mass killings in April 1994. In an October story titled “New information  supports claims Kagame forces were involved in assassination that sparked Rwandan genocide” the Globe all but confirmed that the surface-to-air missiles used to assassinate the Rwandan and Burundian Hutu presidents on April 6, 1994, came from Uganda, which backed the RPF’s bid to conquer its smaller neighbour. (A few thousand exiled Tutsi Ugandan troops, including the deputy minister  of defence, “deserted” to invade Rwanda in 1990.) These revelations strengthen the case of  those who argue that responsibility for the mass killings in spring 1994 largely rests with the Ugandan/RPF aggressors and their US/British/Canadian backers.

By presenting the individual most culpable for the mass killings at the head of a commemoration for said violence the Star is flipping the facts on their head. The same might be said for their depiction of the Canadian general. At the end of their chapter tracing the history of the “genocide fax” Herman and Peterson write, “if all of this is true,” then “we would suggest that Dallaire should be regarded as a war criminal for positively facilitating the actual mass killings of April-July, rather than taken as a hero for giving allegedly disregarded warnings that might have stopped them.”

 

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CIJA selective about which hate crimes it condemns

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The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ response to the horrific attack on two mosques in New Zealand highlights tensions between promoting the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism and Jewish Canadian concern over hate crimes.

Forty-eight hours after the killings in Christchurch the Toronto Star published letters by the heads of CIJA and Toronto’s Jewish Federation under the headline “Jewish Canadians stand with Muslims.” CIJA’s quick response to the mosque attack no doubt reflected genuine horror as well as an understanding that as a minority religious group disproportionately victimized by hate crimes Jews have an interest in building solidarity against such violence. But, it also represents a cynical ‘get out ahead of the story’ type of public relations from a group that regularly demonizes Muslims in defence of Israel’s subjugation of Palestinians. CIJA, which is the lobbying arm of Canada’s Jewish Federations, claims Israel is “fighting  against the Palestinian shackles of international Islamism that has been wreaking absolute havoc all over the world.”

CIJA regularly hypes “Islamic terror”. In response to a 2017 truck attack in Nice, France, CIJA declared “Canada is not immune to… Islamist terror” and in 2018 they highlighted  “those strains of Islam that pose a real and imminent threat to Jews around the world.” At the time CIJA also aligned with the xenophobic backlash  against the term “Islamophobia in bill M-103, which called for collecting data on hate crimes and studying the issue of “eliminating systemic  racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.” In a BuzzFeed article titled “Zionist Groups  in Canada Are Jumping On The ‘Creeping Sharia’ Bandwagon” Steven Zhou detailed CIJA, B’nai Brith and other pro-Israel groups backlash to M-103 and “how Muslim Canadians define Islamophobia.”

In a bid to deter organizations from associating with the Palestinian cause or opposing Israeli belligerence in the Middle East, CIJA constantly targets Arab and Muslim community representatives, papers, organizations, etc. To prove that Muslim Canadians financed “Hamas terror”, CIJA pushed to proscribe Muslim charity IRFAN (International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy) as a terrorist entity because it supported orphans and a hospital in the Gaza Strip through official (Hamas controlled) channels. (The federal government considers Hamas a terrorist organization but Palestinians and most  of the world consider it a political/resistance organization.) The Jewish group’s press release about the first Canadian-based group ever designated a terrorist organization alludes to ‘foreign Muslims taking advantage of Canadians’. It noted, “Canadians will not tolerate the abuse of their generosity by those who seek to bankroll terrorists.” In 2017 CIJA demanded  Ottawa rescind the charitable status of the Islamic Society of British Columbia because the Vancouver-area mosque allegedly offered support for Hamas.

While quick to attack Arabs and Muslims’ support for “terror” or “anti-Semitism,” CIJA clams up when explicit Jewish Islamophobia is brought to their attention. In 2012, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) asked for CIJA’s help with an aggressively anti-Muslim textbook used at Joe Dwek Ohr HaEmet Sephardic School in Toronto. It described Muslims as “rabid fanatics” with “savage beginnings,” but CIJA refused to respond.

Last summer lawyer Dimitri Lascaris repeatedly called on CIJA to disassociate from a number of individuals it aligned with at a protest who made anti-Muslim remarks and death threats against mostly Muslim and brown politicians in a video about the rally. CIJA responded by orchestrating an unprecedented  smear campaign against the prominent pro-Palestinian activist.

CIJA Québec failed to respond to my request for comment about the Jewish Public Library in Montréal, a constituent agency of the city’s Jewish Federation it officially represents, hosting  anti-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali next month. Among a slew of extremist statements, Ali said “violence is inherent in Islam—it’s a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder.”

CIJA has stayed mum about the recent scandal over the head of the Toronto Hebrew School Teachers Federation, Aviva Polonsky, escorting a class from the Community Hebrew Academy to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington. Polonsky posted photographs of her and students meeting with noted Islamophobe Sebastian Gorka and wearing “Make America Great Again” hats.

CIJA ignores Islamophobia by groups it defends or represents. It also stokes anti-Muslim sentiment as part of its bid to defend Israeli colonialism and violence. On the other hand, Canadian Jewry, which CIJA claims to represent, has a strong self-interest in building broad opposition to hate crimes.

Which side is this organization on? Is it always against perpetrators of hate-crimes, so-called “White nationalists” and governments that favour one religion or ethnicity over others? Or does it make exceptions for its supporters and Israel?

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Let’s build the kind of Left that demands Canada withdraw from NATO

Even the father of Medicare, Tommy Douglas, fell victim to NATO propaganda.

Final in a four-part series on the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The first two installments discussed how NATO was set up to blunt the European  left and to enable global  dominance while the third focused on NATO’s role in spurring conflict  and military spending. This article details the Left’s relationship with NATO.

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the NDP’s predecessor, backed NATO. In early 1949 the National Council of the party announced, “the CCF  believes that Canada should support and join a North Atlantic security pact.” At its 1950 convention the party passed a resolution supporting NATO and, in coded reference to his aggressive response to its opponents, long time party secretary David Lewis writes, “the NATO  issue did not disappear. It had to be dealt with at every subsequent convention, and always produced one of the most heated debates.” Army Captain and party advisor Desmond Morton describes the battle over a compromise resolution on military alliances at the NDP’s founding convention in 1961. The motion to abandon NORAD, but stay in NATO, was “subjected  to a bitter, emotional attack from the floor. As they had done in so many CCF conventions, [MJ] Coldwell, [Tommy] Douglas and Lewis came to the microphones to hammer back the unilateralists.”

Party leaders did not only employ the power of persuasion. In addition to benefiting from the dominant ideological winds, the leadership employed the levers of power within the party. On one occasion, Coldwell threatened to resign as party leader if members did not support the North Atlantic treaty. When a group of Manitoba CCF members, including individuals elected to the provincial legislature, organized an anti-NATO group the provincial secretary blocked their access to the party’s mailing list. Federal MP and future party leader, Stanley Knowles also intervened to pressure the Manitoba CCF to punish prominent opponents of NATO and the provincial party expelled two former members of the Manitoba legislature for campaigning against the North Atlantic accord.

Two decades after its creation the NDP finally called on Ottawa to withdraw from NATO. But, its 1969 position was partially reversed in the mid-1980s, culminating in a 1987 “security” policy paper that equivocated on the subject. When members have submitted  resolutions critical of NATO at recent NDP conventions they have been buried. In a 2015 federal election debate party leader Tom Mulcair called the NDP “proud  members of NATO” and said his government would make the alliance a “cornerstone” of its foreign policy. There’s little indication that new leader Jagmeet Singh has changed  the party’s position.

On the eve of the 1980 referendum the Parti Québecois’ 1979 White Paper (Québec-Canada: A New Deal. The Québec Government Proposal for a New Partnership Between Equals: Sovereignty-Association) said an independent Québec would continue its membership in NATO. More recently, the PQ’s 2012 election platform pledged to remain in NATO. In its platform Québec’s other main sovereigntist party, Québec Solidaire, calls for “Canada’s  immediate withdrawal from NATO and NORAD.”

The Green Party has questioned “maintaining  membership in NATO” and called for “shifting our focus away from NATO war missions towards UN Peacekeeping contributions”, but they don’t appear to have explicitly asked to withdraw from the alliance. The Communist Party  and other smaller Left parties have called for withdrawing from NATO.

For decades the ‘house of labour’ backed NATO. The Canadian Labour Congress’ predecessors – the Canadian Congress of Labour and Trades and Labour Congress – supported the formation of NATO and the CLC’s inaugural convention called on the “Canadian  government not to falter or fail in its support of NATO”, which it described as a measure for “self-protection against aggression.” In 1957 the CLC “reiterated its support of NATO in the memorandum submitted to the government of Canada.” As part of an effort to promote the military alliance, the newly formed labour federation distributed 11,000 copies of a booklet titled “The Trade Unions and NATO”. The pamphlet explained, “unfortunately we still do have to spend large sums on defence, and the responsibility for the fact rests with international communism. Canadian labour firmly supports NATO.”

Through the 1960s the CLC continued to back NATO. It wasn’t until 1976 that the CLC “urged  the federal government to … deemphasize the military role of the North Atlantic organization.” In recent years the CLC and its affiliates have said little about NATO.

A number of peace organizations – Pugwash  Canada, Project Ploughshares, etc. – have taken ambiguous positions  towards NATO. The president of the antiwar Rideau Institute Peggy Mason attended  all NATO Council meetings when she was a lead adviser to Progressive Conservative MP and foreign minister Joe Clark from 1984 to 1989. During a 2012 National Defence Committee parliamentary meeting Mason noted, “I’m  talking as someone who has spent the better part of the last 10 years working with NATO.” The Rideau Institute president trained NATO commanders for peace and crisis stabilization operations and, according to Mason’s LinkedIn profile, continued in this role after taking over RI.

For their parts, the Canadian Peace Congress, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, Canadian Peace Alliance and others openly call for Canada to withdraw from NATO, which shouldn’t be a controversial position for progressive organizations.

Though it would elicit howls of outrage from the militarists, withdrawing from NATO would not be particularly radical. European countries such as Sweden and Finland aren’t part of the alliance, nor are former British dominions Australia and New Zealand, not to mention Canada’s NAFTA and G7 partners Mexico and Japan. Still, withdrawing from NATO would dampen pressure to spend on the military and to commit acts of aggression in service of the US-led world order. It’s long past time to do so.

 

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NATO propaganda promotes war, military spending

Third in a four-part series on the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The first two installments of the series showed how NATO was set up to blunt the European left and to justify European/North American dominance across the globe. Recently, the alliance has intensified pressure on Canada to increase spending on the military and participate in more wars.

As its Cold War pretext fades further from view, NATO has become more belligerent. In 1999 Canadian fighter jets dropped 530 bombs in NATO’s illegal 78-day bombing of Serbia. During the 2000s tens of thousands of Canadian troops fought in a NATO war in Afghanistan. In 2011 a Canadian general led NATO’s attack on Libya in which seven CF-18 fighter jets and two Canadian naval vessels participated.

In a dangerous game of brinksmanship, NATO has massed troops and fighter jets on Russia’s border. Five hundred Canadian troops lead an alliance mission in Latvia while the US, Britain and Germany head missions in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia. Over the past decade Canadian naval vessels have almost constantly engaged in NATO patrols in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean.

In addition to spurring deployments and war, militarists use the alliance to boost socially and ecologically damaging military spending. “Canada’s defence spending questioned at NATO parliamentary meeting”, noted a November CBC headline while a National Post editorial bemoaned “Canada’s continuing failure to honour our pledge to NATO allies to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence.” In 2006 NATO countries adopted a pledge to put 2% of economic output into their military.

NATO has also been used to push weapons procurement. Calling for expanding the jet fleet, senior military officials told the Globe and Mail in 2017 that “Canada’s fighter fleet is not big enough to meet its NORAD and NATO obligations at the same time.” In a history of the first century of the navy Marc Milner describes a series of reports in the mid-1960s concluding that the Royal Canadian Navy was “too small to meet Canada’s NATO obligations” and should be expanded “to meet NATO and North American commitments.”

NATO has also been invoked to justify arming the US war machine. In 1967 the Prime Minister responded to calls by opponents of the war in Vietnam to end the Defence Production Sharing Agreement, the arrangement under which Canada sold the US weapons, with the claim that to do so would imperil NATO. Lester Pearson claimed this “would be  interpreted as a notice of withdrawal on our part from continental defense and even from the collective defence arrangements of the Atlantic alliance.”

In 2017 the Justin Trudeau government “hid behind Canada’s NATO membership”, according to NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière, when it opposed international efforts to ban nuclear weapons. At a time when he made a big display about “suffocating” the (nuclear) arms race Pierre Trudeau justified nuclear tipped cruise missiles testing in Canada. In 1983 the Prime Minister said, “having declared our support for the two track strategy, Canada should bear its fair share of the burden which that policy imposes on the NATO alliance.”

NATO is a nuclear weapons club. These monstrous bombs have been “a fundamental component” of the alliance’s military planning. Through NATO Canada has effectively committed to fighting a nuclear war if any country breached its boundaries. Additionally, the alliance does not restrict  its members from using nuclear weapons first.

NATO supports various militarist organizations in this country and operates a public diplomacy division. Founded in 1966 the NATO Association of Canada, formerly Atlantic Council of Canada, promotes the alliance. With an office in Toronto its staff and interns organize public events and publish different materials. A decade older than the NATO Association of Canada, the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association seeks “to increase knowledge of the concerns of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly among parliamentarians.”

A number of Canadian organizations receive NATO’s largess. Conference of Defense Associations conferences in Ottawa have received support from NATO while the Canadian Global Affairs Institute has held numerous joint symposiums with NATO. The annual Halifax International Security Forum, which brings together hundreds of academics and policymakers, is sponsored by NATO. In the late 1980s the Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies had “agreements with NATO’s Information Service to conduct a national/regional speakers tour.”

In other words NATO spends money (which ultimately come from our taxes) to convince Canadians that wars and military spending are good for us.

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Defence of European empires was original NATO goal

National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, centre, and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance as Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at NATO headquarters.

Second in a four-part series on the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The first installment  in this series discussed how NATO was set up partly to blunt the European Left. The other major factor driving the creation of NATO was a desire to bolster colonial authority and bring the world under a US geopolitical umbrella.

From the outset Canadian officials had an incredibly expansive definition of NATO’s supposed defensive character, which says an “attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies.” As part of the Parliamentary debate over NATO external minister Lester Pearson said: “There is no better way of ensuring the security of the Pacific Ocean at this particular moment than by working out, between the great democratic powers, a security arrangement the effects of which will be felt all over the world, including the Pacific area.” Two years later he said: “The defence of the Middle East is vital to the successful defence of Europe and north Atlantic area.” In 1953 Pearson went even further: “There is now only a relatively small [5000 kilometre] geographical gap between southeast Asia and the area covered by the North Atlantic treaty, which goes to the eastern boundaries of Turkey.”

In one sense the popular portrayal of NATO as a defensive arrangement was apt. After Europe’s second Great War the colonial powers were economically weak while anti-colonial movements could increasingly garner outside support. The Soviets and Mao’s China, for instance, aided the Vietnamese. Similarly, Egypt supported Algerian nationalists and Angola benefited from highly altruistic Cuban backing. The international balance of forces had swung away from the colonial powers.

To maintain their colonies European powers increasingly depended on North American diplomatic and financial assistance. NATO passed numerous resolutions supporting European colonial authority. In the fall of 1951 Pearson responded to moves in Iran and Egypt to weaken British influence by telling Parliament: “The Middle  East is strategically far too important to the defence of the North Atlantic area to allow it to become a power vacuum or to pass into unfriendly hands.”The next year Ottawa recognized the colonies of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos as “associated states” of France, according to an internal report, “to assist  a NATO colleague, sorely tried by foreign and domestic problems.” More significantly, Canada gave France hundreds of millions of dollars in military equipment through NATO’s Mutual Assistance Program. These weapons were mostly used to suppress the Vietnamese and Algerian independence movements. In 1953 Pearson told the House: “The assistance  we have given to France as a member of the NATO association may have helped her recently in the discharge of some of her obligations in Indo-China.” Similarly, Canadian and US aid was used by the Dutch to maintain their dominance over Indonesia and West Papua New Guinea, by the Belgians in the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, by the Portuguese in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau and by the British in numerous places. Between 1950 and 1958 Ottawa donated a whopping $1,526,956,000 ($8 billion today) in ammunition, fighter jets, military training, etc. to European countries through the NATO Mutual Assistance Program.

The role NATO played in North American/European subjugation of the Global South made Asians and Africans wary of the organization. The Nigerian Labour Party’s 1964 pamphlet The NATO Conspiracy in Africa documents that organization’s military involvement on the continent from bases to naval agreements. In 1956 NATO established a Committee for Africa and in June 1959 NATO’s North Atlantic Council, the organization’s main political decision-making body, warned that the communists would take advantage of African independence to the detriment of Western political and economic interests.

The north Atlantic alliance was designed to maintain unity among the historic colonial powers — and the US — in the midst of a de-colonizing world. It was also meant to strengthen US influence around the world. In a history of the 1950-53 US-led Korean war David Bercuson writes that Canada’s external minister “agreed with [President] Truman, [Secretary of State] Dean Acheson, and other American leaders that the Korean conflict was NATO’s first true test, even if it was taking place half a world away.”

Designed to maintain internal unity among the leading capitalist powers, NATO was the military alliance of the post-WWII US-centered multilateral order, which included the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, International Trade Organization (ITO) and the United Nations. (For its first two decades the UN was little more than an arm of the State Department.)

A growing capitalist power, Canada was well placed to benefit from US-centered multilateral imperialism. The Canadian elite’s business, cultural, familial and racial ties with their US counterparts meant their position and profits were likely to expand alongside Washington’s global position.

NATO bolstered colonial authority and helped bring the world under the US geopolitical umbrella, from which the Canadian elite hoped to benefit.

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On NATO’s 70th anniversary important to remember its anti-democratic roots

Canada played a prominent role in NATO’s founding meeting in 1949.

The power  of the communists, wherever that power flourishes, depends upon their ability to suppress and destroy the free institutions that stand against them. They pick them off one by one: the political parties, the trade unions, the churches, the schools, the universities, the trade associations, even the sporting clubs and the kindergartens. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is meant to be a declaration to the world that this kind of conquest from within will not in the future take place amongst us.”

March 28, 1949, Lester Pearson, External Affairs Minister, House of Commons

First in a four-part series on the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

 With NATO turning 70 next week it’s a good occasion to revisit the creation of a military alliance operating under the stated principle that an “attack  against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies.” Now encompassing 29 member states, the north Atlantic alliance was instigated by US, British and Canadian officials.

Formally, NATO was the West’s response to an aggressive Soviet Union, but the notion that the US, or even Western Europe, was threatened by the Soviet Union after World War II is laughable. Twenty-five million people in the Soviet Union lost their lives in the war while the US came out of WWII much stronger than when they entered it. After the destruction of WWII, the Soviets were not interested in fighting the US and its allies, which Canadian and US officials admitted privately. In April 1945 Canada’s ambassador to Russia, Dana Wilgress, concluded that “the interests  of the Soviet privileged class are bound up with the maintenance of a long period of peace.” The Soviet elite, the ambassador continued in an internal memo, was “fearful of the possibility of attack from abroad” and “obsessed with problems of security.” Wilgress believed the Soviets wanted a post-war alliance with the UK to guarantee peace in Europe (with a Soviet sphere in the East and a UK-led West.) Internally, US officials came to similar conclusions.

Rather than a defence against possible Russian attack, NATO was partly conceived as a reaction to growing socialist sentiment in Western Europe. During WWII self-described communists opposed Mussolini in Italy, fought the fascists in Greece and resisted the Nazi occupation of France. As a result, they had a great deal of prestige after the war, unlike the wealth-holders and church officials who backed the fascists. If not for US/British interference, communists, without Moscow’s support, would probably have taken power in Greece and won the 1948 election in Italy. In France the Communist Party won 30 percent of the first post-war vote, filling a number of ministries in a coalition government.

At the time of Italy’s first post-war election, prominent Canadian diplomat Escott Reid, explained that “the whole  game of the Russians is obviously to conquer without armed attack.” For his part, Pearson decried an “attempt  at a complete Russian conquest of Italy by constitutional or extra-constitutional means” and described class struggle by workers as a “new and sinister kind of danger, indirect aggression.”

US officials were equally concerned. George Kennan, the top US government policy planner at the time of NATO’s formation, considered “the communist  danger in its most threatening form as an internal problem that is of western society.” For his part NATO commander Dwight D. Eisenhower explained: “One  of the great and immediate uses of the [NATO] military forces we are developing is to convey a feeling of confidence to exposed populations, a confidence which will make them sturdier, politically, in their opposition to Communist inroads.”

NATO planners feared a weakening of self-confidence among Western Europe’s elite and the widely held belief that communism was the wave of the future. Tens of thousands of North American troops were stationed in Western Europe to strengthen the Western European elite’s confidence to face growing left-wing parties and movements. Apparently, “Secret anti-Communist NATO protocols” committed alliance countries’ intelligence agencies to preventing communist parties from gaining power. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, information surfaced regarding groups the CIA and MI6 organized to “stay-behind” in case of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. No invasion took place, of course. Instead, NATO’s Secret Armies notes: “The real and present danger in the eyes of the secret war strategists in Washington and London were the at-times numerically strong Communist parties in the democracies of Western Europe. Hence the network in the total absence of a Soviet invasion took up arms in numerous countries and fought a secret war against the political forces of the left. The secret armies… were involved in a whole series of terrorist operations and human rights violations that they wrongly blamed on the Communists in order to discredit the left at the polls.”

Informally known as “Operation Gladio”, these right- wing “stay behind” groups were overseen by NATO’s Office of Security. A Spanish paper reported, in November 1990, “The Supreme  Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe (SHAPE), directing organ of NATO’s military apparatus, coordinated the actions of Gladio, according to the revelations of Gladio Secretary General Manfred Wörner during a reunion with the NATO ambassadors of the 16 allied nations.” At the time the European Parliament condemned Operation Gladio and requested an investigation, which hasn’t been undertaken.

Canada was one of two NATO countries omitted from Daniele Ganser’s NATO’s Secret Armies (Iceland was the other). No researcher has tied the two together, but the year after NATO was established the RCMP began a highly secretive espionage operation and internment plan known as PROFUNC (PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist Party). In October 2010 CBC’s Fifth Estate and Radio-Canada’s Enquête aired shows on “this secret  contingency plan, called PROFUNC, [which] allowed police to round up and indefinitely detain Canadians believed to be Communist sympathizers.” In case of a “national security” threat up to 16,000 suspected communists and 50,000 sympathizers were to be apprehended and interned in one of eight camps across the country. Initiated by RCMP Commissioner Stuart Taylor Wood in 1950, the plan continued until 1983.

Blunting the European Left was an important part of the establishment of NATO. As odes to the organization ring across the dominant media during this week’s 70thcelebrations, it’s important to remember that NATO was birthed with an elitist, anti-democratic intent. Its reason for creation was to manage “democracy” so that existing elites maintained their status.

 

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As Israel’s racism grows more Canadian Jews turn against it

Jewish Home leader Michael Ben Ari (left) speaks during a ceremony honouring the late Jewish extremist leader Meir Kahane.

The anti-Palestinianism of Canada’s establishment Jewish organizations is extreme. Fortunately, a growing number of Canadian Jews appear to be rejecting their racism and support for Israeli violence.

According to a recent Canadian Jewish News article, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and United Jewish Appeal Toronto both declined to comment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alliance with the Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party. For their parts, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and American Jewish Committee both criticized Netanyahu’s push to merge Jewish Power and Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) to increase the far-right parties’ chance of garnering the minimum 3.25 per cent of the total vote needed to serve in the Knesset. Subsequently, Israel’s Supreme Court banned the leader of Jewish Power, Michael Ben-Ari, from standing in next month’s election.

Jewish Power is not operating in the Ukraine, but rather in an openly Jewish supremacist state. From the law of return to the nation state law, there are over 65 explicitly racist Israeli laws. Netanyahu recently wrote, “Israel is not  a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.”

From what I can find, CIJA and UJA Toronto have failed to criticize or distance themselves from Netanyahu’s statement. In fact, they denounce any mention of Israeli apartheid. One wonders how explicit Israeli racism needs to be before CIJA recognizes/criticizes the obvious?

More generally, how many Palestinians does Israel need to kill before the established Jewish organizations back away from their staunch support? They’ve endorsed Israeli forces weekly killing of peaceful March of Return protesters in Gaza over the past year. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed and another 6,000 injured by live fire in these demonstrations. Not a single Israeli has died.

In a particularly disturbing comment on Israel’s supporters, aggression has been good for fundraising. Following the IDF killing of 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in the summer of 2014, UJA Toronto launched an emergency appeal for Israel, which raised over $5.6 million. Amidst the June 1967 war, leading Canadian capitalist Samuel Bronfman initiated a $25 million campaign for Israel. Similarly, during the October 1973 war Canadians purchased over $100 million in Israel Bonds. After Israel’s summer 2006 destruction of Lebanon another $42 million was raised.

Jewish Power’s ideological allies in Canada — the Jewish Defense League — remain more influential with the established Jewish organizations than the substantially larger and more humanistic/internationalist Independent Jewish Voices. In response to pressure from the JDL, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg recently canceled its sponsorship of an event by Lex Rofeberg because the 4th year rabbinical student is a member of the anti-occupation (though not anti-zionist) US Jewish group IfNotNow. Rofeberg wasn’t even going to speak about Israel. (The subject of his planned talks were “‘Winnipeg Jets or Winnipeg Jews,’ on the intersection of Judaism and sports, and ‘Your Podcast is My Synagogue,’ on the ever-growing world of digital Judaism.”) To explain their bowing to pressure from extremists, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg President Laurel Malkin said, “the values of the speaker are not in-line with ours.”

While most Canadian Jews, particularly the powerful and moneyed, seem to support Israeli racism and violence two recent polls suggest that a growing proportion of Jewish Canadians don’t. An Independent Jewish Voices and United Jewish People’s Order commissioned EKOS poll  found that 37 percent of a random sample of 359 Jewish Canadians surveyed have a negative opinion of the Israeli government, 31 percent oppose the military blockade of Gaza and 30 percent think Palestinians’ call for a boycott of Israel is reasonable.

The IJV/UJPO poll is in line with a more extensive Environics Institute Survey conducted in partnership with the University of Toronto, York University and the main Jewish Federations. It found that nearly 3 times more Canadian Jews believe West Bank settlements hurt Israel’s security than the opposite. Additionally, most of the respondents doubted the Israeli government’s sincerity about making peace. Generally, notes the executive summary, “younger Jews are considerably less likely than older Jews to consider caring for Israel an essential aspect of Jewishness.”

It’s long past time to directly challenge CIJA, the Jewish Federations and the politicians who embolden them. It’s time for those who believe in peace and international justice to treat CIJA and the Federations the same way they treat Palestinians, as enemies to be overcome.

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Beware foreign policy ‘experts’ who are shills for imperialism

Aside from government officials the dominant media is fond of quoting “experts” from foreign policy think tanks when discussing Canada’s role in the world. While presented as neutral specialists, these opinion shapers are generally entangled with powerful, wealthy, elites.

Take the case of Venezuela and Canada’s leading foreign policy ‘ideas organization’. Recently Canadian International Council President Ben Rowswell has been widely quoted promoting Ottawa’s regime change efforts in Venezuela. After 25 years in Canada’s diplomatic service, including stints as chargé d’affaires in Iraq and ambassador in Caracas, Rowswell joined the CIC in November. Rowswell’s move highlights the close relationship between Global Affairs Canada and this corporate funded think tank, which has deep imperial roots.

Formerly the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, CIC has 15 (mostly university based) regional branches that hold dozens of conferences and seminars annually. The head office publishes International Journal, Behind the Headlines as well as reports and books. It also does media outreach.

Officially formed in 1928, CIIA’s stated aim was to promote “an understanding of international questions and problems, particularly in so far as these may relate to Canada and the British Empire.” Its first meeting was held at the Ottawa home of staunch imperialist Sir Robert Borden, prime minister between 1911 and 1920.(Borden publicly encouraged Canadian businessmen to buy up southern Mexico and sought to annex the British Caribbean colonies after World War I.) Borden was made first president of CIIA and another former prime minister, Arthur Meighen, became vice-president in 1936. On hand to launch CIIA was the owner of six Canadian newspapers, Frederick Southam, as well as Winnipeg Free Press editor John W. Dafoe and Ottawa Citizen editor Charles Bowman.“The CIIA’s early leadership constituted a roster of Canada’s business, political, and intellectual elite”, explains Priscilla Roberts in Tweaking the Lion’s Tail: Edgar J. Tarr, the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, and the British Empire, 1931–1950.

CIIA’s genesis was in the post-World War I Paris Peace Conference. At the 1919 conference British and US delegates discussed establishing internationally focused institutes. The next year the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), or Chatham House Study Group, was founded in London and in 1921 the Council on Foreign Relations was set up, notes Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy, “to equip the United States of America for an imperial rule on the world scene.”

The driving force behind these international affairs institutes was British historian Lionel Curtis. An “indefatigable proponent of Imperial Federation” and former Colonial Office official in South Africa, Curtis set up a network of semi-secret Round Table Groups in the British Dominions and US. The aim was “to federate the English-speaking world along lines laid down by Cecil Rhodes”, the famous British imperialist. The Rhodes Trust and South African mining magnet Sir Abe Bailey financed the Round Table Groups and former British Secretary of State for War Lord Milner promoted the initiative.

Before its official formation CIIA sought to affiliate with RIIA. A number of prominent Canadians were part of Chatham House and the Canadian elite was largely pro-British at the time. “Much of the impetus and funding to” launch CIIA, Roberts writes, “came from Sir Joseph Flavelle, a meatpacking and banking magnate who strongly supported British Imperial unity. Other key Anglophile supporters included Newton W. Rowell, a leading Liberal politician, the wealthy Liberal politician and diplomat, Vincent Massey, and Sir Arthur Currie, commander of Canadian forces on the Western front during the war, who became principal of McGill University in 1920.”

The CIIA’s early powerbrokers generally identified with British imperialism. But its younger members and staff tended to back Washington’s foreign policy. In subsequent decades US foundation funding strengthened their hand. The Rockefeller Foundation accounted for as much as half of CIIA’s budget by the early 1940s. Alongside Rockefeller money, the Carnegie Corporation and Ford Foundation supported the institute. Set up by US capitalists responsible for significant labour and human rights abuses, the Big 3 foundations were not disinterested organizations. In The Influence of the Carnegie, Ford and Rockefeller Foundations on American Foreign Policy Edward Berman writes: “The Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller foundations have consistently supported the major aims of United States foreign policy, while simultaneously helping to construct an intellectual framework supportive of that policies major tenants.”

In subsequent decades CIIA would receive significant funding from Canada’s External Affairs and the Department of National Defence. But the institute’s nonfinancial ties to the government have always been more significant. After nearly two decades at External Affairs, John Holmes returned to lead the institute in 1960. In Canada’s Voice: The Public Life of John Wendell Holmes Adam Chapnick notes, “during [Prime Minister Lester] Pearson’s time in office [1963-68] Holmes had unprecedented access to the highest levels of government. He could reach Pearson personally when he was in Ottawa, and the Prime Minister promoted the CIIA while entertaining. Holmes also drafted speeches for Minister of Trade and Commerce Robin Winters.”

Upon leaving office external ministers Lester Pearson, Paul Martin Senior and Mitchell Sharp all took up honorary positions with CIIA. In 1999 former foreign minister Barbara McDougall took charge of the institute and many chapters continue to be dominated by retired diplomats. Active Canadian diplomats regularly speak to CIIA meetings, as did Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien.

Alongside Ottawa and US foundations, Canadian capitalists with foreign policy interests also funded CIIA. Annual reports I analyzed from the late 1960s to mid-1990s list numerous globally focused corporate sponsors and corporate council members, including Bata Shoes, Toronto Dominion, Bank of Montréal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Brascan, Barrick Gold and Power Corporation.

In 2006 CIIA’s operations were subsumed into CIC. With financing from Research In Motion (RIM) co-founder Jim Balsillie, CIIA partnered with the Balsillie-created Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) to establish CIC. The CIIA library and its publications were maintained while an infusion of cash bolstered local chapters. The new organization also added a major national fellowship program, which is headquartered at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for Global Affairs.

Balsillie was made founding chair of CIC and the initial vice chairs were former foreign ministers Bill Graham and Perrin Beattie. “The CIC promises to transform the debate about and understanding of Canadian foreign policy,” said Balsillie in 2007.

Balsillie put up $1-million in seed funding and launched a fundraising drive in the corporate community. Trying to drum up support for CIC, Balsillie wrote a commentary for the Globe and Mail Report on Business, explaining that “in return for their support, contributing business leaders would be offered seats in a CIC corporate senate that would give them influence over the research agenda and priorities of the new council.” In another piece for the National Post Balsillie wrote: “To create a research base on Canadian foreign policy, I have spearheaded the creation of the Canada-wide Canadian International Council (CIC). The Americans have their powerful Council on Foreign Relations, which offers non-partisan analysis of international issues and integrates business leaders with the best researchers and public policy leaders.”

The CIC Senate has included the CEOs of Barrick Gold, Power Corporation, Sun Life Financial and RBC. According to the most recent financial statement on its website, half of CIC’s funding comes from corporate donations (a quarter is from its International Journal and another quarter from dues).

Ben Rowswell’s transition from Global Affairs Canada to President of the Canadian International Council reflects the institute’s long-standing ties to government. His aggressive promotion of regime change in Venezuela also fit with the politics of an ‘ideas organization’ tied to the corporate world.

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Canada’s next target after Venezuela: Cuba?

“First we take Caracas then we take Havana.”

That’s the thinking driving the Donald Trump administration’s policy towards Venezuela, according to a Wall Street Journal story titled “U.S. Push to Oust Venezuela’s Maduro Marks First Shot in Plan to Reshape Latin America.” Adding credence to this thesis, on Monday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that “Cuba is the true imperialist power in Venezuela.”

Despite Washington’s hope that toppling President Nicolás Maduro could hasten the fall of Cuba’s government, the Justin Trudeau government, which is supposed to have good relations with Havana, has played a central role in the US-led bid to oust Maduro. It has also echoed some of the Trump administration’s attacks on Cuba’s role in Venezuela. Why would a ‘friend’ of Cuba do this?

While much is made of Ottawa’s seemingly cordial relations with Havana, the reality is more complicated than often presented, as I detail here. Most significantly, Canada has repeatedly aligned with US fear-mongering about the “Cuban menace” in the region.

Just days after the April 1961 CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker claimed the Cuban government was a threat to the security of the hemisphere and “a dictatorship  which is abhorrent to free men everywhere.” Two years later Ottawa’s representative to a NATO ministerial meeting was tasked with saying, “the Canadian government, of course, holds no sympathy for the present dictatorial regime in Cuba …. We remain deeply disturbed by the presence in the Western Hemisphere of a communist regime aligned with the Soviet Union and by the transformation of Cuba into an area which still retains a potential for disturbing East-West relations and the stability of the Hemisphere.”

Canada backed the US-led Alliance for Progress, which was the John F. Kennedy administration’s response to the excitement created in Latin America by the 1959 Cuban revolution. Ottawa began delivering aid to the newly independent Commonwealth Caribbean partly to counter Cuba’s appeal. In the early 1960s External Affairs officials, notes Canadian Gunboat Diplomacy: The Canadian Navy and Foreign Policy, “singled out Cuban revolutionary activity as the main threat to political and thus economic stability in the region and implied that developmental aid staved off Cuban interference.”

In 1963, that book notes, HMCS Saskatchewan was deployed to Haiti largely to guarantee that François Duvalier did not make any moves towards Cuba and that a Cuban-inspired guerilla movement did not seize power. Three years later two Canadian gunboats were deployed to Barbados’ independence celebration in a bizarre diplomatic maneuver designed to demonstrate Canada’s military prowess and to send a ‘signal’ to Havana. Canadian Gunboat Diplomacy explains, “we can only speculate at who the “signal” was directed towards, but given the fact that tensions were running high in the Caribbean over the Dominican Republic Affair [1965 US invasion], it is likely that the targets were any outside force, probably Cuban, which might be tempted to interfere with Barbadian independence.”

When 7,000 US troops invaded Grenada in 1983 to reassert US hegemony in a country supposedly overrun by Cuban doctors, Canadian officials criticized Grenada’s government and abstained on a UN resolution calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops (predominantly American) from that country.The next year Canadian ambassador to Panama, Francis Filleul, complained that “Nicaragua has been penetrated so badly by Cuba and other [eastern bloc] countries that it is destabilizing. It was not that the people of Nicaragua … chose to welcome the Russians and the Cubans. It was that the FSLN [Sandinistas] had gained control of the revolutionary movement and that was their policy.” As with the US Caribbean Basin Initiative, the 1986 Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN) sought to isolate Cuba from the region.

According to a 2006 cable released by Wikileaks headlined “Canada’s new government: opportunities and challenges”, the US embassy in Ottawa pushed the Stephen Harper government to begin “engaging more actively in other hemispheric trouble spots such as Venezuela, Colombia, and Cuba.” In the spring of 2008 the Canadian embassy in Panama teamed up with the US National Endowment for Democracy to organize a meeting for prominent members of the opposition in Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela to respond to the “new era of populism and authoritarianism in Latin America.” In 2012 Canada was alone with the US in opposing Cuba’s participation in the Summit of the Americas.

While purportedly sympathetic to Cuba, Justin Trudeau’s government has criticized Cuba’s actions in Venezuela. In a recent article titled “Canada  at odds with Cuban ‘ally’ over Maduro’s fate”Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told CBC that Cuba’s role in Venezuela is “concerning” and that“we have heard directly from the Venezuelan opposition that they’re concerned by the role that some Cubans are playing in their country.” The article, written by extreme Canadian officialdom sycophant Evan Dyer, quoted an opposition group claiming thousands of Cuban agents “direct centres of torture in Venezuela.”

Compared to Washington, Ottawa has had cordial relations with Havana since the Cuban revolution. Still, Canada has generally sided with US fear mongering about the “Cuban menace”, which is propaganda largely designed to justify keeping the region subservient to western capitalist domination.

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Trudeau’s position on Honduras reveals hypocrisy about Venezuela

Honduras Foreign Minister Maria Dolores Agüero with Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland discussing Venezuela.

The hypocrisy is head spinning. As Justin Trudeau lectures audiences on the need to uphold Venezuela’s constitution the Liberals have recognized a completely illegitimate president in Honduras. What’s more, they’ve formally allied with that government in demanding Venezuela’s president follow their  (incorrect) reading of that country’s constitution.

In November 2017 Ottawa’s anti-Venezuela “Lima Group” ally Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) defied  the Honduran constitution to run for a second term. At Hernandez’ request the four Supreme Court members appointed by his National Party overruled an article in the constitution explicitly prohibiting re-election.

JOH then ‘won’ a highly questionable  poll. With 60 per cent of votes counted opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla lead by five-points. The electoral council then went silent for 36 hours and when reporting resumed JOH had a small lead.

In the three weeks between the election and JOH’s official proclamation as president, government forces killed at least 30  pro-democracy demonstrators in the Central American country of nine million. More than a thousand were detained under a post-election state of emergency. Many of those jailed for protesting the electoral fraud, including prominent activist Edwin Espinal,  who is married to Canadian human rights campaigner Karen Spring, remain in jail.

Ottawa immediately endorsed the electoral farce in Honduras. Following Washington, Global Affairs tweeted that Canada “acknowledges confirmation of Juan Orlando Hernandez as President of Honduras.” Tyler Shipley, author of Ottawa and Empire: Canada and the Military Coup in Honduras, responded: “Wow, Canada sinks to new lows with this. The entire world knows that the Honduran dictatorship has stolen an election, even the OAS (an organization which skews right) has demanded that new elections be held because of the level of sketchiness here. And — as it has for over eight years — Canada is at the forefront of protecting and legitimizing this regime built on fraud and violence. Even after all my years of research on this, I’m stunned that [foreign minister Chrystia] Freeland would go this far; I expected Canada to stay quiet until JOH had fully consolidated his power. Instead Canada is doing the heavy lifting of that consolidation.”

In 2009 Ottawa backed the Honduran military’s removal of elected president Manuel Zelaya, which was justified on the grounds he was seeking to defy the constitution by running for a second term. (In fact, Zelaya simply put forward a plan to hold a non-binding public poll on whether to hold consultations to reopen the constitution.) After the coup Ottawa failed to suspend aid to the military government or exclude the Honduran military from its Military Training Assistance Programme.

A number of major Canadian corporations, notably Gildan and Goldcorp, were unhappy with some modest social democratic reforms implemented by Zelaya. Additionally, a year before the coup Honduras joined the Hugo Chavez led Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our Americas (ALBA), which was a response to North American capitalist domination of the region.

JOH’s National Party won the presidency and he took charge of the national assembly in the post-coup elections, which were boycotted by the UN, Organization of American States and most Hondurans.

Since JOH stole an election that he shouldn’t have been able to participate in the Trudeau government has continued to work with his government. I found no indication that Canadian aid has been reduced and Canadian diplomats in central America have repeatedly  met  Honduran representatives. JOH’s Foreign Minister, Maria Dolores Aguero, attended  a Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Canada organized in Montreal four months ago. Recently Canadian diplomats have lauded the “bonds of friendship  between the governments of Canada and Honduras” and “excellent relations  that exist between both countries.” Canada’s ambassador James K. Hill retweeted a US Embassy statement noting, “we congratulate  the President Juan Orlando Hernandez for taking the initiative to reaffirm the commitment of his administration to fight against corruption and impunity” through an OAS initiative.

While they praise JOH’s fight against impunity, Canadian officials have refused repeated requests by Canadian activists and relatives to help secure Edwin Espinal’s release from prison. In response to their indifference to Espinal’s plight, Rights Action director Grahame Russell recently wrote, “have the Canadian and U.S. governments simply agreed not to criticize the Honduran regime’s appalling human rights record … in exchange for Honduras agreeing to be a ‘democratic ally’ in the U.S. and Canadian-led efforts at forced government change in Venezuela?”

Honduras is a member of the “Lima Group” of countries pushing to oust Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela. Last month Trudeau was photographed  with the Honduran foreign minister at the “Lima Group” meeting in Ottawa.

To justify recognizing the head of Venezuela’s national assembly, Juan Guaidó, as president the “Lima Group” and Trudeau personally have cited “the need to respect the Venezuelan Constitution.” The Prime Minister even responded to someone who yelled “hands off Venezuela” at a town hall by lecturing the audience on article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution, which he (incorrectly) claims grants Guaidó the presidency.

Why the great concern for Venezuela’s constitution and indifference to Honduras’? Why didn’t Trudeau recognize Salvador Nasralla as president of Honduras? Nasralla’s claim to his country’s presidency is far more legitimate than Guaidó’s.

The hypocrisy in Trudeau allying with the illegitimate president of Honduras to demand Venezuela succumb to their interpretation of that country’s constitution would be absurdly funny if it didn’t put so many lives at risk.

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SNC Lavalin the corporate face of Ugly Canadian

Former SNC Lavalin board chair Gwyn Morgan and other company directors are still seen as pillars of Canada’s business community.

While the Justin Trudeau government’s interference in the prosecution of SNC Lavalin highlights corporate influence over politics, it is also a story about a firm at the centre of Canadian foreign policy.

In a recent story titled “Canada’s Corrupt Foreign Policy Comes Home to Roost” I detailed some of SNC’s controversial international undertakings, corruption and government support. But, there’s a great deal more to say about the global behemoth.

With offices and operations in over 160 countries”, the company has long been the corporate face of this country’s foreign policy. In fact, it is not much of an exaggeration to describe some Canadian diplomatic posts as PR arms for the Montréal-based firm. What’s good for SNC has been defined as good for Canada.

Even as evidence of its extensive bribery began seeping out six years ago, SNC continued to receive diplomatic support and rich government contracts. Since then the Crown Corporation Export Development Canada issued SNC or its international customers at least $800-million  in loans; SNC and a partner were awarded part of a contract worth  up to $400 million to manage Canadian Forces bases abroad; Canada’s aid agency profiled  a venture SNC co-led to curb pollution in Vietnam; Canada’s High  Commissioner Gérard Latulippe and Canadian Commercial Corporation vice president Mariette Fyfe-Fortin sought “to arrange  an untendered, closed-door” contract for SNC to build a $163-million hospital complex in Trinidad and Tobago.

Ottawa’s support for SNC despite corruption allegations in 15 countries is not altogether surprising since the company has proven to be a loyal foot soldier fighting for controversial foreign policy decisions under both Liberal and Conservative governments.

SNC’s nuclear division participated  in a delegation to India led by International Trade Minister Stockwell Day a few months after Ottawa signed a 2008 agreement to export nuclear reactors to India, even though New Delhi refused to sign the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (India developed atomic weapons with Canadian technology). Describing it as the “biggest  private contractor to [the] Canadian mission” in Afghanistan, the Ottawa Citizen referred to SNC in 2007 as “an indispensable part of Canada’s war effort.” In Haiti SNC participated  in a Francophonie Business Forum trip seven months after the US, Canada and France overthrew the country’s elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Amidst the coup government’s vast political repression, the Montreal firm met foreign installed prime minister Gérard Latortue and thecompany received a series of Canadian government funded contracts in Haiti.

SNC certainly does not shy away from ethically dubious business. For years it manufactured grenades for the Canadian military and others at its plant in Le Gardeur, Quebec. According to its website, SNC opened an office  in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1982 amidst the international campaign to boycott the apartheid regime. Later that decade SNC worked on the Canadian government funded Manantali Dam, which led to “economic ruin, malnutrition and disease to hundreds of thousands of West African farmers.”

More recently, SNC has been part of numerous controversial mining projects in Africa. It had a major stake in a Sherritt-led consortium that initiated one of the world’s largest nickel and cobalt mines in Ambatovy Madagascar. Backed by Canadian diplomats  and Export Development  Canada, the gigantic open pit mine tore up more than 1,300 acres of biologically rich  rain forest home to a thousand species of flowering plants, fourteen species of lemurs and a hundred types of frogs.

According to West Africa Leaks, SNC dodged its tax obligations  in Senegal. With no construction equipment or office of its own, SNC created a shell company in Mauritius to avoid paying tax. Senegal missed out on $8.9 million  the Montréal firm should have paid the country because its ‘office’ was listed in tax free Mauritius. SNC has subsidiaries in low tax jurisdictions Jersey and Panama and the company was cited  in the “Panama Papers” leak of offshore accounts for making a $22 million payment to a British Virgin Islands-based firm to secure contracts in Algeria. (In a case of the tax-avoiding fox protecting the public’s hen house, former SNC president and chairman of the board, Guy Saint-Pierre, was appointed to Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s 2007 advisory panel  on Canada’s System of International Taxation.)

SNC has benefited from Ottawa’s international push for neoliberal reforms and Canada’s power within the World Bank. A strong proponent of neoliberalism, the Montréal firm has worked  on and promoted  privatizing water services in a number of countries. Alongside Global Affairs Canada, SNC promotes the idea that the public cannot build, operate or manage services and that the way forward is through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), which often go beyond a standard design-and-build-construction contract to include private sector participation in service operation, financing and decision making. SNC is represented on the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, which promotes PPPs globally. The Montréal firm has also sponsored many pro-privatization forums.With Rio Tinto, Alcan, Teck Resources and the Canadian International Development Agency, SNC funded  and presented at a 2012 conference at McGill University on Public-Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Towards a Framework for Resource Extraction Industries.

In an embarrassing comment on the PPP lobby, the year before SNC was charged with paying $22.5 million  in bribes to gain the contract to build the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) the Canadian Council  for Public-Private Partnerships and Thomson Reuters  both awarded the MUHC project a prize for best PPP.

Further proof that in the corporate world what is good for SNC is seen as good for Canada, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants gave SNC its award for excellence in corporate governance in seven of the ten  years before the company’s corruption received widespread attention.

In an indication of the impunity that reigns in the corporate world, the directors that oversaw SNC’s global corruption have faced little sanction. After the corruption scandal was revealed board chairman Gwyn Morgan, founder of EnCana, continued to write a regular column for the Globe and Mail Report on Business (currently Financial Post) and continues his membership in the Order of Canada. Ditto for another long serving SNC director who is also a member of the Order of Canada. In fact, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal was subsequently made a member of the Order of Ontario. Another Order of Canada and Order of Ontario member on SNC’s board, Lorna Marsden, also maintained her awards. Other long serving board members — Claude Mongeau, Pierre Lessard, Dee Marcoux, Lawrence Stevenson and David Goldman – received corporate positions and awards after overseeing SNC’s corruption.

The corporate face of this country’s foreign policy is not pretty. While Trudeau’s SNC scandal highlights corporate influence over politics, it’s also the story of the Ugly Canadian abroad.

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Canadian apologist for Israeli war crimes nominated for Peace Prize

Irwin Cotler, left, is seen with guest speaker Alan Dershowitz, right.
Canadian Jewish News Photo

Hypocrisy, lying, disdain for the victims of ‘our’ policies and other forms of rot run deep in Canadian political culture.

The latest example is former prime minister Paul Martin nominating Irwin Cotler for the Nobel Peace Prize, which has been applauded by the likes of Bernie Farber, Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather.

This supposed promoter of peace and former Liberal justice minister has devoted much of his life to defending Israeli violence and has recently promoted war on Iran and regime change in Venezuela.

In a story titled “Irwin Cotler’s  daughter running with Ya’alon, Gantz” the Jerusalem Post recently reported that Michal Cotler-Wunsh was part of the Israel Resilience and Telem joint election list. The story revealed that Irwin Cotler has been an unofficial adviser to Moshe Ya’alon for years. Former Chief of Staff of the Israeli military and defence minister between 2013 and 2016, Ya’alon recently boasted about his role in setting up the West Bank colony of Leshem and said Israel “has a right to every part of the Land of Israel.” In 2002 Ya’alon told Haaretz, “the Palestinian  threat harbors cancer-like attributes that have to be severed. There are all kinds of solutions to cancer. Some say it’s necessary to amputate organs but at the moment I am applying chemotherapy.”

Ya’alon’s Telem party is in a formal electoral alliance with Israel Resilience, which is led by Benny Gantz, a former Israeli army chief. To launch his party’s campaign, Gantz released a video boasting about his role in the killing of 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in the summer of 2014It actually notes that “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age.” Gantz faces a war crimes case in the Netherlands for his role in the deaths of civilians in Gaza.

Cotler has described illegal Israeli colonies in the West Bank as “disputed territories” and the Canadian lawyer justified Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon that left 1,200 dead. He savagely attacked  Richard Goldstone after the South African judge led a UN investigation of Israeli war crimes during operation Cast Lead, which left 1,400 dead in Gaza in 2008–09. Cotler called for the removal of Richard Falk as UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories and William Schabas from his position on the UN Human Rights Council’s International Commission of Inquiry into the killings in Gaza in 2014. Alongside attacking these three (Jewish) lawyers tasked with investigating human rights violations, Cotler promotes the notion of the “new anti-Semitism” to attack critics of Israeli policy.

In an indication of the unquestioning depths of his support for Israeli crimes, Cotler has repeatedly criticized his own party and government’s (mild) expressions of support for Palestinian rights. In May Cotler tweeted his “regret [of a] Canadian Government statement” criticizing Israeli snipers for shooting thousands of peaceful protesters, including Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani, in Gaza. In 2000 Cotler complained when the government he was a part of voted for a UN Security Council resolution calling on Israel to respect the rights of Palestinian protesters. “This kind of resolution, which singled out Israel for discriminatory and differential treatment and appeared to exonerate the Palestinians for their violence,” Cotler said, “would tend to encourage those who violently oppose the peace process as well as those who still seek the destruction of Israel.”

In 2002 a half dozen activists in Montréal occupied Cotler’s office to protest the self-described ‘human rights lawyer’s’ hostility to Palestinians. Cotler’s wife, Ariela Zeevi, was a“close confidant” of Likud founder Menachem Begin when the arch anti-Palestinian party was established to counter Labour’s dominance of Israeli politics.

‘Canada’s Alan Dershowitz’ has also attacked Iran incessantly. He supported the Stephen Harper government’s move to break off diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2012 and pushed to remove the MEK, which is responsible for thousands of Iranian deaths, from Canada’s terrorist list. As a member of the advisory board of “United Against Nuclear Iran”, Cotler opposed the P5+1Iran Nuclear Agreement. Recently, he called for Canada to invoke the Magnitsky Act to “impose sanctions in the form of travel bans and asset freezes” on Iranian officials.

As well as promoting US/Israel propaganda about Iran, Cotler criticized Hugo Chavez’s government since at least 2009 when Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in response to killings in Gaza. In recent weeks Cotler has disparaged Venezuela’s government in a number of articles, including a National Post story headlined “Canadian unions helped fund delegation that gave glowing review of Venezuela election widely seen as illegitimate.” Cotler was quoted saying, “the notion that free and fair elections could possibly be taking place when you not only criminalize those who are on the opposition … but when you don’t have any allowance for expressions of freedom of speech, assembly, association and the like, simply is a non-sequitur.” But, as Dave Parnas wrote in response, “for two weeks we have been seeing pictures of streets filled with people who assembled, associated and spoke freely against President Nicolás Maduro.”

Cotler pushed for Canada to request the International Criminal Court investigate Venezuela’s government. Cotler was one of three “international experts” responsible for a 400-page Canadian-backed Organization of American States (OAS) report on rights violations in Venezuela that recommended referring Venezuela to the ICC. At a press conference in May to release the report, Cotler said Venezuela’s “government itself was responsible for the worst ever humanitarian crisis in the region.” As this author wrote at the time: “Worse than the extermination of the Taíno and Arawak by the Spanish? Or the enslavement of five million Africans in Brazil? Or the 200,000 Mayans killed in Guatemala? Or the thousands of state-murdered ‘subversives’ in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil?”

For four years Cotler has been working with Juan Guaidó’s “ultra right wing” Voluntad Popular party to oust Nicolas Maduro’s government. In May 2017 Cotler helped bring Lilian Tintori, wife of Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo López, to meet the Prime Minister and opposition leaders. The Guardian recently reported on Tintori’s role in building international support for the slow-motion coup attempt currently underway in Venezuela. Tintori acted as an emissary for Lopez who couldn’t travel to Ottawa because he was convicted of inciting violence during the deadly “guarimbas” protests  in 2014. A series of news outlets have reported that Lopez is the key Venezuelan organizer in the plan to anoint Guaidó interim president.

Cotler joined Lopez’s legal team in early 2015. At that time the Venezuelan and international media repeated the widely promulgated description of Cotler as Nelson Mandela’s former lawyer (a Reuters headline noted, “Former Mandela lawyer to join defence of Venezuela’s jailed activist”). In response, South Africa’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Pandit Thaninga Shope-Linney, said, “Irwin Cotler was not Nelson Mandela’s lawyer.” For his part, Nelson Mandela mentions a number of lawyers (he was one) in his biography but Cotler’s name seems absent.

Cotler’s human rights credentials are a sham. He is a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes enemy states such as Venezuela, China, Russia and Iran while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US.

For those appalled by the idea of Cotler receiving the Nobel Peace Prize Iranian-Canadian activist Mehdi Samadian has created a petition titled “Irwin Cotler does not deserve nomination for Nobel Peace Prize”.

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SNC Lavalin scandal blowback from corrupt Canadian foreign policy

SNC Lavalin has long shaped Canadian foreign policy.

This story also appears on the Real News Network.

Canada’s corrupt foreign policy practices have come home to roost on Parliament Hill.

Justin Trudeau’s government is engulfed in a major political scandal that lays bare corporate power in Ottawa. But, SNC Lavalin’s important role in Canadian foreign policy has largely been ignored in discussion of the controversy.

The Prime Minister’s Office has been accused of interfering in the federal court case against the giant Canadian engineering and construction firm for bribing officials in Libya. Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould claims she was repeatedly pressured to defer prosecution of the company and instead negotiate a fine.

Facing a 10-year ban on receiving federal government contracts if convicted of bribing Libyan government officials, SNC began to lobby the Trudeau government to change the criminal code three years ago. The company wanted the government to introduce deferred prosecution agreements in which a sentencing agreement would allow the company to continue receiving government contracts. At SNC’s request the government changed the criminal code but Wilson-Raybould resisted pressure from the PMO to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement with the company headquartered in Montréal.

Incredibly, before Trudeau went to bat for SNC after the firm had either been found guilty or was alleged to have greased palms in Libya, Bangladesh, Algeria, India, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Angola, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Cambodia and Zambia (as well as Québec). A 2013 CBC/Globe and Mail investigation of a small Oakville, Ontario, based division of SNC uncovered suspicious payments to government officials in connection with 13 international development projects. In each case between five and 10 per cent of costs were recorded as “‘project consultancy cost,’ sometimes ‘project commercial cost,’ but [the] real fact is the intention is [a] bribe,” a former SNC engineer, Mohammad Ismail, told the CBC.

While the media has covered the company’s corruption and lobbying for a deferred prosecution agreement, they have barely mentioned SNC’s global importance or influence over Canadian foreign policy. Canada’s preeminent “disaster capitalist” corporation, SNC has worked on projects in most countries around the world. From constructing Canada’s Embassy in Haiti to Chinese nuclear centres, to military camps in Afghanistan and pharmaceutical factories in Belgium, the sun never sets on SNC.

Its work has often quite controversial. SNC constructed and managed Canada’s main military base in Kandahar during the war there; SNC Technologies Inc provided bullets to US occupation forces in Iraq; SNC has billions of dollars in contracts with the monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

Across the globe SNC promotes neoliberal reforms. The company greatly benefits from governments shifting to public-private partnerships. SNC is also a member or sponsor of the Canadian Council on Africa, Canadian Council for the Americas, Canada-ASEAN business council, Conseil des Relations Internationales de Montréal and other foreign policy lobby/discussion groups.

SNC has been one of the largest corporate recipients of Canadian “aid.” The company has had entire departments dedicated to applying for Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), UN and World Bank funded projects. SNC’s first international contract, in 1963 in India, was financed by Canadian aid and led to further work in that country. In the late 1960s the firm was hired to manage CIDA offices in African countries where Canada had no diplomatic representation. In the late 1980s CIDA contracted SNC to produce a feasibility study for the Three Gorges Dam, which displaced more than a million Chinese. During the occupation of Afghanistan CIDA contracted SNC to carry out its $50 million “signature project” to repair the Dahla dam on the Arghandab River in Kandahar province ($10 million was spent on private security for the dam).

In 2006 SNC was bailed out by the Canadian aid agency after it didn’t follow proper procedure for a contract to renovate and modernize the Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniyar hydroelectric projects in the southern Indian state of Kerala. A new state government demanded a hospital in compensation for the irregularities and SNC got CIDA to put up $1.8 million for the project. (SNC-Lavalin initially said they would put $20 million into the hospital, but they only invested between $2 and $4.4 million.)

Company officials have been fairly explicit about the role Canadian diplomacy plays in their business. Long-time president Jacques Lamarre described how “the official support of our governments, whether through commercial missions or more private conversations, has a beneficial and convincing impact on our international clients.”

Even SNC’s use of bribery has a made-in-Ottawa tint. For years Canada lagged behind the rest of the G7 countries in criminalizing foreign bribery. For example, into the early 1990s, Canadian companies were at liberty to deduct bribes paid to foreign officials from their taxes, affording them an “advantage over the Americans”, according to Bernard Lamarre former head of Lavalin (now SNC Lavalin). In 1991, Bernard, the older brother to SNC Lavalin’s subsequent head Jacques Lamarre, told Maclean’s that he always demanded a receipt when paying international bribes. “I make sure we get a signed invoice,” he said. “And payment is always in the form of a cheque, not cash, so we can claim it on our income tax!”

In 1977, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act outlawed bribes to foreign officials. Ottawa failed to follow suit until the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched its anti-bribery convention in 1997. The OECD convention obliged signatories to pass laws against bribing public officials abroad and two years later Canada complied, passing the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA). Still, for the next decade Canadian officials did little to enforce the law. The RCMP waited until 2008 to create an International Anti-Corruption Unit and didn’t secure a significant conviction under the CFPOA until 2011.

As the recent scandal demonstrates — and the Financial Post noted years ago — SNC has “considerable lobbying power in Ottawa.” Placing its CEO among the 50 “Top People Influencing Canadian Foreign Policy”,  Embassy magazine described SNC as “one of the country’s most active companies internationally”, which “works closely with the government.” The now-defunct weekly concluded, “whoever is heading it is a major player” in shaping Canadian foreign policy.

And, as it turns out, in shaping the way things are now done at home in Ottawa.

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Good riddance to NDP MP who is pro-Israel, pro-US empire

Israeli Ambassador Barkan with MPs Levitt, Sweet and Rankin as well as former MP Irwin Cotler.

Victoria MP Murray Rankin’s recent announcement that he won’t seek re-election is a victory for NDP members who stand for Palestinian rights and oppose regime change efforts in Iran and Venezuela.

Since taking his place in Parliament seven years ago Rankin has been a leading anti-Palestinian activist in the NDP. Here is a brief summary of his blindly pro-Israel, pro-US Empire activities as MP:

  • During Israel’s Summer 2014 destruction of Gaza, which left 2,200 Palestinians dead, he offered remarks supporting Israel (along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper) read at a Victoria Jewish Federation event to raise money for an emergency Israel Relief Fund. In 2016 Rankin went to Israel in a Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs organized trip and was one of the MPs who blocked the “Palestine Resolution” from being discussed at the NDP convention in February. In December Rankin joined Ambassador Nimrod Barkan and other prominent anti-Palestinian politicians (Michael Levitt, David Sweet, Irwin Cotler) for an event at the Israeli Embassy.
  • An early endorser of Thomas Mulcair’s bid for the NDP leadership, Rankin is on the executive of the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group, which promotes “greater friendship” and “cooperation” between the two countries’ parliaments. In refusing to heed a call from 200 well-known musicians, academics, trade unionists and NDP members to withdraw from CIIG, Rankin told Huffington Post, “as a New Democrat, I am committed to advancing peace and justice, and a two-state solution, which can only be achieved through open dialogue with Israelis and Palestinians.” But, the claim of “dialogue” between Israelis and Palestinians conjures up famed South African activist Desmond Tutu’s insight that “if you neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Ironically, Rankin made the same point— though not about Palestinians – at a 2017 Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies event. At the Israel lobby group’s event he quoted Elie Wiesel saying, “neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”
  • While he justifies participating in CIIG by citing “dialogue”, Rankin doesn’t specify whom he’s talking to. A quick Google search of CIIG’s Israeli partner — the Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group — shows that all 13 of its members have expressed problematic views or proposed racist laws. Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group co-chair Anat Berko is openly anti-African  and recently pushed for expanding the Israeli forces powers to punish Palestinians. Berko told the Knesset: “When we  speak of revoking resident status or demolishing homes, it should happen immediately. The punishment cannot be [held up] in the High Court of Justice for 11 years.”
  • Since announcing his retirement the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, as well as CIIG colleagues Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather, have tweeted their praise for Rankin. Extremist former Canadian Ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici‏, a former colleague of Rankin’s at the law firm of Heenan Blaikie, also praised him recently, which he retweeted.
  • Through his participation in CIIG Rankin has repeatedly attacked Tel Aviv’s regional bogeyman, Iran. Rankin participated in a recent press conference with CIIG chair Michael Levitt, vice-chair David Sweet and executive member Anthony Housefather calling for a new round of Canadian sanctions on Iran. Led by former CIIG executive Irwin Cotler, this effort flouts the NDP’s position on Iran. Rankin’s disagreement with NDP policy took place amidst the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and bid to force others to adhere to its illegal sanctions, by threatening to sanction any country that buys Iranian oil.
  • With Cotler and Levitt, Rankin has participated in a number of events put on by the Canadian Section of Scholars at Risk, which is unduly focused on Iranian rights violations. In August Rankin attended the launch of a new advocacy group for political prisoners set up by Cotler who has devoted much of his career to defending Israeli human rights violations. (His wife, Ariela Zeevi, was a “close  confidant” of Likud founder Menachem Begin when the arch anti-Palestinian party was established to counter Labour’s dominance of Israeli politics. His daughters were part  of the Israeli military.)
  • Rankin is a regular at events led by Cotler, who has been attacking Iran and Venezuela incessantly for at least a decade. At one event Rankin said, “I feel a real honour to be on this stage with such giants of human rights as professor Cotler and Bill Browder.” A story on Rankin’s website about a joint event claims, “Irwin Cotler, who acted as counsel to Mandela.” But, when numerous media outlets repeated this claim after Cotler became a lawyer for right wing Venezuelan politician Leopoldo Lopezin 2015, South Africa’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Pandit Thaninga Shope-Linney, said, “Irwin Cotler was not Nelson Mandela’s lawyer.” For his part, Nelson Mandela mentions a number of lawyers (he was one) in his biography but Cotler’s name seems absent.
  • In 2015 Rankin participated in a press conference led by Cotler calling on the government to adopt the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Magnitsky Law). The legislation empowered Ottawa to sanction individuals outside the framework of international law. Thirty Russians, 19 Venezuelans and three South Sudanese officials were the initial targets of Canada’s Magnitsky Act.
  • In 2016 Rankin joined Cotler and the Executive Director of UNWATCH, Hillel Neuer, to urge Justin Trudeau’s government to oppose the election of Cuba and other countries to the UN Human Rights Council. A staunch anti-Palestinian, Neuer recently appeared  on Rebel Media’s The Ezra Levant Show to complain about Canadian funding to UNRWA, the UN body that supports Palestinian Refugees.
  • In 2016 Rankin joined Cotler and others “to mark the second anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s passing — and International Human Rights Day — by calling for the release of four political prisoners inspired by Mandela’s courage and commitment.” One was Iranian, Ayatollah Hossein Kazamani Boroujerdi, and another was Lopez who Rankin claimed, “was recently sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for his role in pro-democracy protests in a trial devoid of any semblance of due process or legality.” In fact, the Harvard-educated Lopez endorsed  the military 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez and the leader of the hardline Voluntad Popular party was convicted of inciting violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests that sought to oust President Nicolas Maduro. According to a series of reports, Lopez was the key Venezuelan organizer of the plan to anoint Juan Guaidó interim president of Venezuela.

Rankin’s departure weakens the anti-Palestinian, pro-imperialist camp in the NDP. It also offers an opportunity for a more internationalist minded politician to take his seat.

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When journalists rely on diplomats Ottawa ‘spins’ the news

Canadian diplomats abroad seek to shape coverage of their work. And the more nefarious their actions the harder they toil to “spin” what they’re doing as something positive.

During a recent interview Real News Network founder Paul Jay described how Canadian officials in Caracas attempted to shape his views of the country’s politics. Jay noted:

My first trip to Venezuela in 2004, I was producing the big debate show on Canadian TV called Counterspin on CBC Newsworld. … I was a known quantity in Canada. And so when I was in Venezuela, I said I’ll go say hello to the Canadian embassy. I was trying to figure out what was going on in Venezuela. I figured some Counselor would pat me on the head and say welcome to Venezuela.

“No, I got the number two chargé d’affaires that greeted me and brings me into a meeting room with seven members of the opposition who then for two hours beat me over the head with how corrupt the regime was, how awful it was, and so on…

“What business does a Canadian embassy have with bringing a Canadian journalist into a room with opposition people, essentially trying to involve me in a conspiracy against the Venezuelan government. Canadian government role in Venezuela was promote and nurture the opposition.”

Today is the 15th anniversary of the Canadian-led coup in Haiti.
Photo : Sgt Frank Hudec, Caméra de combat des Forces canadiennes

Around the same time Canadian officials sought to convince Jay that Hugo Chavez’s government was corrupt, former Montréal Gazette reporter Sue Montgomery had a similar experience in Port-au-Prince. In Parachute Journalism in Haiti: Media Sourcing in the 2003-2004 Political Crisis”, Isabel Macdonald writes: “Montgomery recalled being given anti-[President Jean-Bertrand] Aristide disinformation when she called the Canadian embassy immediately after she had been held up by armed men while driving through Port-au-Prince days before the [US/France/Canada] coup. Canada’s ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Cook, told her, ‘We’ve got word that Aristide has given the order to the chimeres [purported pro- Aristide thugs] to do this kind of thing to international journalists because he’s not getting any support.’ According to Montgomery, Cook had urged her to tell the other international journalists who were staying at the same hotel: ‘I think you should let all your colleagues at the Montana know that it’s not safe for them.’”

Given only two days to prepare for her assignment, Montgomery was ripe for official manipulation. Though she later realized the ambassador’s claim was ridiculous, Montgomery told other journalists at Hotel Montana (where most international journalists stay in Port-au-Prince) that Aristide’s supporters were targeting them.

The Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince succeeded in influencing Canadian reporters’ coverage of the country. In her MA thesis titled “Covering the coup: Canadian news reporting, journalists, and sources in the 2004 Haiti crisis,” Isabel Macdonald concludes that the reporters dispatched to Port-au-Prince largely took their cues from official Canada. “My interviews revealed that journalists’ contacts with people working in the Canadian foreign policy establishment appear to have played a particularly important role in helping journalists to identify appropriate ‘legitimate’ sources.”

CBC reporter Neil Macdonald told Isabel Macdonald his most trusted sources for background information in Haiti came from Canadian diplomatic circles, notably the Canadian International Development Agency where his cousins worked. Macdonald also said he consulted the Canadian Ambassador in Port-au-Prince to determine the most credible human rights advocate in Haiti. Ambassador Cook directed him to Pierre Espérance, a coup backer who fabricated a “massacre” used to justify imprisoning the constitutional prime minister and interior minister. (When pressed for physical evidence Espérance actually said the 50 bodies “might have been eaten by wild dogs.”)

Almost all Canadian correspondents develop ties to diplomats in the field. Long-time Globe and Mail development reporter John Stackhouse acknowledges “Canadian political officers” in Indonesia for their “valuable insights” into the country during General Suharto’s rule. In Out of Poverty, Stackhouse also thanks “the Canadian diplomatic missions in Accra, Abidjan and Bamako [for their] … invaluable service in arranging interviews and field trips.” During a period in the mid-2000s when she wrote for the Globe and Mail and CBC, Madeleine Drohan conducted media workshops in Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya and elsewhere sponsored by the Canadian embassy, High Commission and Foreign Affairs (she taught journalist ethics!).

One of the best Canadian foreign correspondents of the 1970s,” Jack Cahill discusses some ways diplomats relate to reporters in If You Don’t Like the War, Switch the Damn Thing Off!: The Adventures of a Foreign Correspondent. “The Canadian government”, the former Toronto Star reporter notes, “can be good to foreign correspondents if it thinks they are reliable and I had two passports, one for general purposes and one for difficult countries.”

In what may reflect his nationalism, Cahill dubs Canadian diplomats “more reliable” than their southern counterparts. Disparaging his US colleagues, he writes: “There is little doubt, however, that some US foreign correspondents depend almost entirely on their embassies, and thus indirectly the CIA, for their information. It is, after all, the natural thing to be attracted to the truth as propounded by one’s own countrymen in the Embassy offices, at the official briefings, and on the cocktail circuit. It’s this information, with its American slant on world affairs, that eventually fills much of Canada’s and the Western world’s news space.”

Jay described his experience at the Embassy in Caracas mostly to highlight Canada’s long-standing hostility to the Hugo Chavez/Nicolas Maduro governments. But, his story also helps make sense of the dominant media’s alignment with Ottawa’s push for regime change in Venezuela today.

Globe and Mail Latin America correspondent Stephanie Nolen, for instance, promotes Canada’s last ambassador to Venezuela. Describing Ben Rowswell as “widely respected by Venezuelans while he was there”, Nolen recently retweeted Rowswell claiming: “the coup happened in July 2017 when Maduro suspended the constitution. The question now is how to fill the void – by backing the president who uses force to remain in power after his term expires, or the leader of Venezuela’s last remaining democratically elected body?” Rowswell has been quoted in at least a half dozen Globe and Mail articles about Venezuela in recent weeks.

Diplomats’ influence over international correspondents is one way the foreign policy establishment shapes discussion of Canadian foreign policy.

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Canadian military flouts access to information law

If Canada’s armed forces exist to protect our democracy why does its leadership flout laws meant to protect citizens’ rights to know what the government is doing?

Recently the Ottawa Citizen’s David Pugliese reported that top military officers denied the existence of an internal report even though they were warned doing so would be illegal under the Access to Information Act, which gives individuals the right to government records for a small fee.The office of the Canadian Forces’s top legal adviser, Judge Advocate General Commodore Geneviève Bernatchez, denied the existence of an internal report highlighting problems with the court martial system. But, in reality, there were electronic and paper copies of the document.

This incident falls on the heels of a DND official telling the pre-trial hearing of Vice Admiral Mark Norman that his superiors deliberately omitted his name from documents to skirt Access to Information rules. After receiving an access request concerning Norman, the official brought it to his superior. According to the testimony, “he gives me a smile and says … ‘Don’t worry, this isn’t our first rodeo. We made sure we never used his name [in internal communications]. Send back nil return.” (Feeling the need to protect  the military witness from reprisals, the judge ordered a publication ban on their name.)

In fact, DND has repeatedly broken access laws. Informed that an officer attended a talk that Rideau Institute director Steven Staples delivered about the war in Afghanistan on January 26, 2006, Pugliese requested all CF documents mentioning public speeches in Halifax between January 15 and 30 of that year. Department officials claimed they did “a thorough and complete search” and couldn’t find any record of an officer who attended the function and wrote a report. But, the officer assigned to Staples’ speech inadvertently left a record. When the Ottawa Citizen turned it over to the information commissioner, DND finally acknowledged the record existed.

The secrecy is long-standing. In 1996 Information Commissioner John Grace pointed to a “culture within ND[national defense]/CF of secrecy and suspicion of those seeking information.” As part of its cover-up of the murderers committed by Canadian soldiers in Somalia, CF officials illegally doctored documents concerning the brutal murder of Shidane Arone. As part of an investigation into the March 1993 slayings in Somalia, CBC reporter Michael McAuliffe requested briefing notes for officers dealing with the media. DND was caught hiding documents, wildly inflating the cost of releasing them and altering files. At the 1995-97 inquiry into the killings in Somalia, Chief of Defence Staff Jean Boyle admitted the CF deliberately violated the spirit of Access rules, while a colonel and commander were convicted by a military court of altering documents requested under that legislation. Dishonoured Legacy: The Lessons of the Somalia Affair: Report of the Commission of Inquiry Into the Deployment of Canadian Forces to Somalia described DND’s “unacceptable hostility toward the goals and requirements of access to information legislation.”

The secrecy is not about security. DND can restrict information under access legislation for numerous reasons. This includes if information is deemed “injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities.”

DND also has more explicit means of bypassing access requests since the law doesn’t apply to much of the military. Since the early 2000s DND has massively expanded the special forces — Canadian Special Operations Forces Command now has nearly 3,000  personnel — partly because they are not required to divulge any information about their operations. But, noted the late Toronto Sun columnist Peter Worthington, “a secret army within the army is anathema to democracy.”

It seems the military leadership would prefer the public only learn about the Canadian Forces what they deem necessary to release, despite laws that say otherwise.

Should we trust an institution that flouts the rules of democracy to defend democracy?

This article was initially published in Hill Times.

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Canadian ‘aid’ to Venezuela part of plan to overthrow government

Canadian ‘aid’ has long accompanied war and coups designed to protect ‘Western interests’

If more people understood that “aid” often goes hand in hand with military intervention there would be less uncritical support for it.

An important, though little acknowledged, principle of Canadian ‘aid’ policy is that military intervention elicits international assistance. Or, in the case of Venezuela ‘aid’ is a tool being used to stoke military conflict.

In fact, a long-standing element of foreign policy is that wherever Canadian and US troops kill Ottawa provides ‘aid’. This military-intervention-equals-aid pattern dates back at least to the 1950-53 Korean War when the south of that country was a major recipient of Canadian assistance. Canadian ‘aid’ flowed  to south Vietnam during the U.S. war there and to Grenada after the 1983 US invasion. During the 1990-91 Iraq war Canada provided $75 million in assistance to people in countries affected by the Gulf crisis. 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 invasions, Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti were the top three recipients of Canadian ‘aid’. A sizable proportion of the $2 billion in ‘aid’ Canada spent in Afghanistan was a public relations exercise to justify the war.

The intervention-equals-aid pattern is an outgrowth of the primary objective of Canadian overseas assistance, which is to advance Western interests, particularly keeping the Global South tied to the US-led geopolitical order (as articulated  in 1950 when Ottawa began its first significant non-European allocation of foreign aid through the Colombo Plan).

Justin Trudeau announced Canada would deliver $53 million in ‘aid’ to Venezuelans at the most recent “Lima Group” meeting. The Ottawa gathering also called on the Venezuelan military to oust  the elected president and urged the military not to impede humanitarian assistance from entering the country. The US and self-appointed interim president Juan Guaidó have made delivering ‘aid’ central to their campaign to oust Maduro. US military planes have transported hundreds of tons of ‘aid’ to the Colombian border City of Cucuta. To test the military’s loyalty to the government, Guaidó announced plans to force ‘aid’ into the country.The US and Colombia clearly aimed exploit this moment to intervene.

Billionaire Branson’s concert drew a much smaller crowd than the 300,000 predicted.

Whether it reaches the point of armed confrontation, the ‘aid’ gambit is a public relations strategy. The aim is to exaggerate the scope of the economic downturn and to portray Nicolas Maduro as indifferent to the population’s (real) hardships.The public relations campaign even included a “Live Aid” style Venezuela fundraiser put on by billionaire Richard Branson in Cucuta last night before Guaido said he will seek to force ‘aid’ into the country. The concert fizzled with only about 5,000 people showing up and some artists pulling out at the last minute.

For their part, the International Red Cross and UN have refused to participate in the US led ‘aid’ endeavor. A UN spokesperson called Washington’s ‘aid’ plan “politicised”.

The politics driving the ‘aid’ deployment is obvious, but some progressives have been seduced by the label. In an internal memo responding to media backlash over their principled criticism of Ottawa’s regime change efforts in Venezuela, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said it supports the federal government’s decision to increase humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans. But, the slow-moving coup attempt and Canadian ‘aid’ disbursements can’t be separated. They are simply different parts of a single plan.

It’s not uncommon for progressive organizations to support ‘imperial aid’ as a way to soften their criticism of international policies. At their 2006 convention, for instance, the NDP leadership sought to temper the “troops out” of Afghanistan demand pushed by activists by including language in the resolution that called for “support[ing] the continuation of development assistance to Afghanistan.” But, the ‘aid’ there was obviously designed to support Canada’s military occupation.

In the academic literature it’s understood that the Canadian International Development Agency was “not a policy maker, but a policy taker.” The dissolution of CIDA into Global Affairs Canada in 2013 further subordinated aid policy to foreign policy objectives.

Far and away the largest contribution announced, Canada’s humanitarian assistance to Venezuela is not designed to alleviate suffering. Its aim is to overthrow the government, which may spark and/or require war. If that disastrous situation develops, we need to add the ‘aid-leading-to-military intervention principle’ to our critical foreign policy lexicon.

 

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Canadian military in Haiti. Why?

Why are Canadian soldiers in Haiti?
HIP Photo

Canadian troops may have recently been deployed to Haiti, even though the government has not asked Parliament or consulted the public for approval to send soldiers to that country.

Last week the Haiti Information Project photographed heavily-armed Canadian troops patrolling the Port-au-Prince airport. According to a knowledgeable source I emailed the photos to, they were probably special forces. The individual in “uniform is (most likely) a member of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) from Petawawa”, wrote the person who asked not to be named. “The plainclothes individuals are most likely members of JTF2. The uniformed individual could also be JTF2 but at times both JTF2 and CSOR work together.” (CSOR is a sort of farm team for the ultra-elite Joint Task Force 2.)

What was the purpose of their mission? The Haiti Information Project reported that they may have helped family members of President Jovenel Moïse’s unpopular government flee the country. HIP tweeted, “troops & plainclothes from Canada providing security at Toussaint Louverture airport in Port-au-Prince today as cars from Haiti’s National Palace also drop off PHTK govt official’s family to leave the country today.”

Many Haitians would no doubt want to be informed if their government authorized this breach of sovereignty. And Canadians should be interested to know if Ottawa deployed the troops without parliamentary or official Haitian government okay. As well any form of Canadian military support for a highly unpopular foreign government should be controversial.

Two days after Canadian troops were spotted at the airport five heavily armed former US soldiers were arrested. The next day the five Americans and two Serbian colleagues flew to the US  where they will not face charges. One of them, former Navy SEAL Chris Osman, posted on Instagram that he provided security “for people who are directly connected to the current President” of Haiti. Presumably, the mercenaries were hired to squelch the protests that have paralyzed urban life in the country. Dozens of antigovernment protesters and individuals living in neighborhoods viewed as hostile to the government have been killed as calls for the president to step down have grown in recent months.

Was the Canadians deployment in any way connected to the US mercenaries? While it may seem far-fetched, it’s not impossible considering the politically charged nature of recent deployments to Haiti.

After a deadly earthquake rocked Haiti in 2010 two thousand Canadian troops were deployed while several Heavy Urban Search Rescue Teams were readied but never sent. According to an internal file uncovered through an access to information request, Canadian officials worried that “political fragility has increased the risks of a popular uprising, and has fed the rumour that ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, currently in exile in South Africa, wants to organize a return to power.” The government documents also explain the importance of strengthening the Haitian authorities’ ability “to contain the risks of a popular uprising.”

The night president Aristide says he was “kidnapped” by US Marines JTF2 soldiers “secured” the airport. According to Agence France Presse, “about 30 Canadian special forces soldiers secured the airport on Sunday [Feb. 29, 2004] and two sharpshooters positioned themselves on the top of the control tower.” Reportedly, the elite fighting force entered Port-au-Prince five days earlier ostensibly to protect the embassy.

Over the past 25 years Liberal and Conservative governments have expanded the secretive Canadian special forces. In 2006 the military launched the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) to oversee JTF2, the Special Operations Regiment, Special Operations Aviation Squadron and Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit.

CANSOFCOM’s exact size and budget aren’t public information. It also bypasses standard procurement rules and their purchases are officially secret.While the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Communications Security Establishment and other government agencies face at least nominal oversight, CANSOFCOM does not.

During a 2006 Senate Defence Committee meeting CANSOFCOM Commander Colonel David E. Barr responded by saying, “I do not believe there is a requirement for independent evaluation. I believe there is sufficient oversight within the Canadian Forces and to the people of Canada through the Government of Canada — the minister, the cabinet and the Prime Minister.”

The commander of CANSOFCOM simply reports to the defence minister and PM.

Even the U.S. President does not possess such arbitrary power,” notes Michael Skinner in a CCPA Monitor story titled “Canada’s Ongoing Involvement in Dirty Wars.”

This secrecy is an important part of their perceived utility by governments. “Deniability” is central to the appeal of special forces, noted Major B. J. Brister. The government is not required to divulge information about their operations so Ottawa can deploy them on controversial missions and the public is none the wiser. A 2006 Senate Committee on National Security and Defence complained their operations are “shrouded in secrecy”. The Senate Committee report explained, “extraordinary units are called upon to do extraordinary things … But they must not mandate themselves or be mandated to any role that Canadian citizens would find reprehensible. While the Committee has no evidence that JTF2 personnel have behaved in such a manner, the secrecy that surrounds the unit is so pervasive that the Committee cannot help but wonder whether JTF2’s activities are properly scrutinized.” Employing stronger language, right wing Toronto Sun columnist Peter Worthington pointed out that, “a secret army within the army is anathema to democracy.”

If Canadian special forces were secretly sent to Port-au-Prince to support an unpopular Haitian government Justin Trudeau’s government should be criticized not only for its hostility to the democratic will in that country but also for its indifference to Canadian democracy.

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Step aside USA, Canada is the new bully in our South American ‘backyard’

Is this the new face of the Ugly Canadian?
Photo by G20 Argentina

Many Canadians are familiar with the Monroe Doctrine. First issued by the United States in 1823, it warned European powers against renewed colonization of the Western Hemisphere. Presented as anti-imperialist, the Monroe Doctrine was later used to justify US interference in regional affairs.

We may be seeing the development of a Canadian equivalent. The ‘Trudeau Doctrine’ claims to support a “rules-based order”, the “constitution” and regional diplomacy independent of the US. But, history is likely to judge the rhetoric of the Trudeau Doctrine as little more than a mask for aggressive interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation.

For two years Canada’s Prime Minister has been conspiring with Juan Guaidó’s hardline Voluntad Popular party to oust the government of Nicolas Maduro. In May 2017 Trudeau met Lilian Tintori, wife of Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo López. The Guardian recently reported on Tintori’s role in building international support for the slow-motion coup attempt currently underway in Venezuela. Tintori acted as an emissary for Lopez who couldn’t travel to Ottawa because he was convicted of inciting violence during the “guarimbas” protests in 2014. According to a series of reports, Lopez is the key Venezuelan organizer of the plan to anoint Guaidó interim president. Canadian diplomats spent “months”, reports the Canadian Press, coordinating the plan with the hard-line opposition. In a story titled “Anti-Maduro coalition grew from secret talks”, the Associated Press reported on Canada’s “key role” in building international diplomatic support for claiming the head of the national assembly was president. This included Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaking to Guaidó “the night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony to offer her government’s support should he confront the socialist leader.”

Just before the recent Lima Group meeting in Ottawa Trudeau spoke with Guaidó and at the meeting of countries opposed to Venezuela’s president he announced that Canada officially recognized Guaido’s representative to Canada, Orlando Viera Blanco, as ambassador. The PM has called the leaders of France, Spain, Paraguay, Ireland, Colombia and Italy as well as the International Monetary Fund and European Union to convince them to join Canada’s campaign against Venezuela. “The international community must immediately unite behind the interim president”, Trudeau declared at the opening of the Lima Group meeting in Ottawa.

At the UN General Assembly in September Canada announced it (with five South American nations) would ask the International Criminal Court to investigate the Venezuelan government, which is the first time a government has been formally brought before the tribunal by another member. Trudeau portrayed this move as a challenge to the Trump administration’s hostility to the court and described the ICC as a “useful and important way of promoting an international rules-based order.” In other words, Trudeau would challenge Washington by showing Trump how the “international rules-based” ICC could undermine a government the US was seeking to overthrow through unilateral sanctions, support for the opposition and threatening an invasion, which all contravene the UN Charter.

While Trudeau claims to support an “international rules-based order”, his government has adopted three rounds of illegal sanctions against Venezuela. It has also openly interfered in the country’s affairs, which violates the UN and OAS charters.

The Trudeau Doctrine emphasizes its interpretation of Venezuela’s constitution. On a whole series of platforms the Prime Minister has cited “the need to respect the Venezuelan Constitution”, even responding to someone who yelled “hands off Venezuela” at a town hall by lecturing the audience on article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution, which he claims makes the head of the National Assembly president. It doesn’t.

More fundamental to the Trudeau Doctrine is the mirage of a regional coalition independent of the regional hegemon – the United States.

Ottawa founded the anti-Maduro Lima Group coalition with Peru. Amidst discussions between the two countries foreign ministers in Spring 2017, Trudeau called his Peruvian counterpart, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, to “‎stress the need for dialogue and respect for the democratic rights of Venezuelan citizens, as enshrined in the charter of the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Democratic Charter.” But the Lima Group was established as a structure outside of the OAS largely because that organization’s members refused to back Washington and Ottawa’s bid to interfere in Venezuelan affairs, which they believe defy the OAS’ charter.

While many liberal Canadian commentators promote the idea that the Lima Group operates independently of Washington, their US counterparts are not deceived. In a story titled “Intervening Against Venezuela’s Strongman, Trump Belies ‘America First’” the New York Times described US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s influence over the Lima Group declaration of January 4 that rejected Maduro’s presidency. The paper reported that Pompeo is in “close contact with” Freeland “who has played a leading role in rallying global criticism of Mr. Maduro.”

The claim the Lima Group is independent of Washington conjures up a story Jean Chrétien recounts telling US President Bill Clinton in My Years as Prime Minister: “Keeping some distance will be good for both of us. If we look as though we’re the fifty-first state of the United States, there’s nothing we can do for you internationally, just as the governor of a state can’t do anything for you internationally. But if we look independent enough, we can do things for you that even the CIA cannot do.”

While currently focused on Venezuela, the nascent Trudeau Doctrine has wider regional implications. Freeland has justified Canada’s aggressive interference in Venezuela’s affairs by saying “this is our neighbourhood” while Trudeau’s personal representative for the G7 Summits and recent appointee to the Senate, Peter Boehm told CBC, “this is our backyard, the Western hemisphere. We have a role here.”

Describing Latin America as “our backyard” is the language favoured by so-called Ugly American politicians seeking to assert the Monroe Doctrine. Latin Americans should beware of the emergence of Ugly Canadians promoting the Trudeau Doctrine.

On February 23 protests are planned in Canada and around the world calling for “No War on Venezuela!”

This article first appeared in Canadian Dimension

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Canadian policy on Venezuela, Haiti reveals hypocrisy that media ignores

Haitian protester waves Venezuela flag in solidarity with Maduro

If the dominant media was serious about holding the Canadian government to account for its foreign policy decisions, there would be numerous stories pointing out the hypocrisy of Ottawa’s response to recent political developments in Haiti and Venezuela.

Instead silence, or worse, cheer-leading.

Venezuela is a deeply divided society. Maybe a quarter of Venezuelans want the president removed by (almost) any means. A similar proportion backs Nicolas Maduro. A larger share of the population oscillates between these two poles, though they generally prefer the president to opposition forces that support economic sanctions and a possible invasion.

There are many legitimate criticisms of Maduro, including questions about his electoral bonafides after a presidential recall referendum was scuttled and the Constituent Assembly usurped the power of the opposition dominated National Assembly (of course many opposition actors’ democratic credentials are far more tainted). But, the presidential election in May demonstrates that Maduro and his PSUV party maintain considerable support. Despite the opposition boycott, the turnout was over 40% and Maduro received a higher proportion of the overall vote than leaders in the US, Canada and elsewhere. Additionally, Venezuela has an efficient and transparent electoral system — “best in the world” according to Jimmy Carter in 2012 — and it was the government that requested more international electoral observers.

Unlike Venezuela, Haiti is not divided. Basically, everyone wants the current “president” to go. While the slums have made that clear for months, important segments of the establishment (Reginald Boulos, Youri Latortue, Chamber of Commerce, etc) have turned on Jovenel Moïse. Reliable polling is limited, but it’s possible 9 in 10 Haitians want President Moïse to leave immediately. Many of them are strongly committed to that view, which is why the country’s urban areas have been largely paralyzed since February 7.

In a bid to squelch the protests, government forces (and their allies) have killed dozens in recent months. If you include the terrible massacre reported here and here in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline on November 11-13 that number rises far above 100.

Even prior to recent protests the president’s claim to legitimacy was paper-thin. Moïse assumed the job through voter suppression and electoral  fraud. Voter turnout was 18%. His predecessor and sponsor, Michel Martelly, only held elections after significant protests. For his part, Martelly took office with about 16 per cent of the vote, since the election was largely boycotted. After the first round, US and Canadian representatives pressured the electoral council to replace the second-place candidate, Jude Celestin, with Martelly in the runoff.

While you won’t have read about it in the mainstream media, recent protests in Haiti are connected to Venezuela. The protesters’ main demand is accountability for the billions of dollars pilfered from Petrocaribe, a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela in 2006. In the summer demonstrators forced out Moïse’s prime minister over an effort to eliminate fuel subsidies and calls for the president to go have swelled since then. Adding to popular disgust with Moïse, his government succumbed to US/Canadian pressure to vote against Venezuela at the OAS last month.

So what has been Ottawa’s response to the popular protests in Haiti? Has Global Affairs Canada released a statement supporting the will of the people? Has Canada built a regional coalition to remove the president? Has Canada’s PM called other international leaders to lobby them to join his effort to remove Haiti’s President? Have they made a major aid announcement designed to elicit regime change? Have they asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the Haitian government? Has Justin Trudeau called the Haitian President a “brutal dictator”?

In fact, it’s the exact opposite to the situation in Venezuela. The only reason the Haitian president is hanging on is because of support from the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”. Comprising the ambassadors of Canada, France, Brazil, Germany and the US, as well as representatives of Spain, EU and OAS, the “Core Group” released a statement  last week “acknowledging the professionalism shown by the Haitian National Police.” The statement condescendingly “reiterated the fact that in a democracy change must come through the ballot box, and not through violence.” The “Core Group’s” previous responses  to the protests expressed stronger support of the unpopular government. As I detailed  10 weeks ago in a story headlined “Canada backs Haitian government, even as police force kills demonstrators”, Ottawa has provided countless forms of support to Moïse’s unpopular government. Since then Justin Trudeau had a “very productive meeting” with Haitian Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant, International development minister Marie-Claude Bibeau‏ declared a desire to “come to the aid” of the Haitian government and Global Affairs Canada released a statement declaring that “acts of political violence have no place in the democratic process.” Trudeau’s government has provided various forms of support to the repressive police that maintains Moïse’s rule. Since Paul Martin’s Liberals played an important role  in violently ousting Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government in 2004 Canada has financed, trained and overseen the Haitian National Police. As took place  the night Aristide was forced out of the country by US Marines, Canadian troops  were recently photographed  patrolling the Port-au-Prince airport.

Taking their cue from Ottawa, the dominant media have downplayed the scope of the recent protests and repression in Haiti. There have been few (any?) stories about protesters putting their bodies on the line for freedom and the greater good. Instead the media has focused on the difficulties faced by a small number of Canadian tourists, missionaries and aid workers. While the long-impoverished country of 12 million people is going through a very important political moment, Canada’s racist/nationalist media is engrossed in the plight of Canucks stuck at an all-inclusive resort!

The incredible hypocrisy in Ottawa’s response to recent political developments in Haiti and Venezuela is shameful. Why has no major media dared contrast the two?

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Mainstream media boosts Trudeau’s popularity over Venezuela

US presidents have bombed or invaded places like Grenada, Panama, Iraq and Sudan to distract from domestic scandals or to gain a quick boost in popularity. But, do Canadian politicians also pursue regime change abroad to be cheered on by the dominant media as decisive leaders?

In a discussion on regime change in Venezuela after last Monday’s “Lima Group” meeting in Ottawa, Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole praised Canadian policy but added that the Liberals used the meeting of countries opposed to Nicolas Maduro’s government to drown out criticism of their foreign policy. O’Toole claimed the “Lima Group” meeting was “put together quite quickly and I think there are some politics behind that with some of the foreign affairs challenges the Trudeau government has been having in recent months.” In other words, O’Toole believes the Liberals organized a gathering that concluded with a call for the military to oust Venezuela’s elected president to appear like effective international players.

Understood within the broader corporate and geopolitical context, O’Toole’s assessment appears reasonable. After being criticized for its China policy, the Liberals have been widely praised for their regime change efforts in Venezuela. In a sign of media cheerleading, CTV News host Don Martin began his post “Lima Group” interview with foreign minister Chrystia Freeland by stating “the Lima summit has wrapped and the object of regime change is staying put for the time being” and then he asked her “is [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro any step closer to being kicked out of office as a result of this meeting today?” Later in the interview Martin applauded the “Lima Group’s” bid “to put the economic pincers around it [Venezuela’s economy] and choking it off from international transactions.”

In recent days Ben Rowswell, a former Canadian ambassador in Caracas, has been widely quoted praising the Liberals’ leadership on Venezuela. “It’s clear that the international community is paying attention to what Canada has to say about human rights and democracy,” Rowswell was quoted as saying in an article titled “Trudeau’s Venezuela diplomacy is a bright spot amid China furor”.

Rowswell heads the Canadian International Council, which seeks to “integrate business leaders with the best researchers and public policy leaders”, according to its billionaire financier Jim Balsillie. Long an influential voice on foreign policy, CIC hosted the above-mentioned forum with O’Toole that also included the Liberal’s junior foreign minister Andrew Leslie and NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière. CIC’s post “Lima Group” meeting forum was co-sponsored with the Canadian Council of the Americas, which is led by Kinross, Kinross, ScotiaBank, KPMG and SNC Lavalin. On the day of the “Lima Group” meeting CCA head Ken Frankel published an op-ed in the Globe and Mail headlined “Venezuela crisis will be a true test of Canada’s leadership in the hemisphere.” Frankel told CPAC he was “always supportive of Canadian leadership in the Hemisphere” and “the Venezuela situation has presented … a perfect opportunity for the Trudeau government to showcase the principles of its foreign policy.”

At the CCA/CIC forum Laverdière made it clear there’s little official political opposition to Ottawa’s regime change efforts. The NDP’s foreign critic agreed with Canada’s recognition of Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela, as she did on Twitter, at a press scrum and on CPAC during the day of the “Lima Group” meeting in Ottawa. (Amidst criticism from NDP activists, party leader Jagmeet Singh later equivocated on explicitly recognizing Guaidó.)

With the NDP, Conservatives, CIC, CCA, most media, etc. supporting regime change in Venezuela, there is little downside for the Liberals to push an issue they believe boosts their international brand. To get a sense of their brashness, the day of the “Lima Group” meeting the iconic CN Tower in Toronto was lit up with the colours of the Venezuelan flag. A tweet from Global Affairs Canada explained, “As the sun sets on today’s historic Lima Group meeting, Venezuela’s colours shine bright on Canada’s CN Tower to show our support for the people of Venezuela and their fight for democracy.”

The Liberals drive for regime change in Venezuela to mask other foreign-policy problem is reminiscent of Stephen Harper’s push to bomb Libya. Facing criticism for weakening Canada’s moral reputation and failing to win a seat on the UN Security Council, a Canadian general oversaw NATO’s war, seven  CF-18s participated in bombing runs and two Royal Canadian Navy vessels patrolled Libya’s coast.

The mission, which began six weeks before the 2011 federal election, may have helped the Conservatives win a majority government. At the time Postmedia published a story titled “Libya ‘photo op’ gives Harper advantage: experts” and Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom published a commentary titled “Libyan war could be a winner for Harper”.  He wrote: “War fits with the Conservative storyline of Harper as a strong, decisive leader. War against a notorious villain contradicts opposition charges of Conservative moral bankruptcy. The inevitable media stories of brave Canadian pilots and grateful Libyan rebels can only distract attention from the Conservative government’s real failings.”

Similar to Venezuela today, the regime change effort in Libya was unanimously endorsed in Parliament (three months into the bombing campaign Green Party MP Elizabeth May voted against a second resolution endorsing a continuation of the war). “It’s appropriate for Canada to be a part of this effort to try to stop Gadhafi from attacking his citizens as he has been threatening to do,’’ said NDP leader Jack Layton. After Moammar Gaddafi was savagely killed six months later, NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel released a statement noting, “the future of Libya now belongs to all Libyans. Our troops have done a wonderful job in Libya over the past few months.”

Emboldened by the opposition parties, the Conservatives organized a nationally televised post-war celebration for Canada’s “military heroes”, which included flyovers from a dozen military aircraft. Calling it “a day of honour”, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the 300 military personnel brought in from four bases: “We are celebrating a great military success.”

Today Libya is, of course, a disaster. It is still divided into various warring factions and hundreds of militias operate in the country of six million.

But who in Canada ever paid a political price for the destruction of that country and resulting destabilization of much of the Sahel region of Africa?

A similar scenario could develop in Venezuela. Canadian politicians’ push for the military to remove the president could easily slide into civil war and pave the way to a foreign invasion that leads to a humanitarian calamity. If that happened, Canadian politicians, as in Libya, would simply wash their hands of the intervention.

Canadians need to reflect on a political culture in which governing parties encourage regime change abroad with an eye to their domestic standing.

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Corporate Canada behind slow motion coup attempt in Venezuela

It’s convenient but incorrect to simply blame the USA for Ottawa’s nefarious role in the slow motion attempted coup currently underway in Venezuela.

Critics of the Liberal government’s push for regime change in Venezuela generally focus on their deference to Washington. But, Ottawa’s hostility to Caracas is also motivated by important segments of corporate Canada, which have long been at odds with its Bolivarian government.

In a bid for a greater share of oil revenue, Venezuela forced private oil companies to become minority partners with the state oil company in 2007. This prompted Calgary-based PetroCanada to sell its portion of an oil project and for Canadian officials to privately complain about feeling “burned” by the Venezuelan government.

Venezuela has the largest recognized oil reserves in the world. The country also has enormous gold deposits.

A number of Canadian companies clashed with Hugo Chavez’ government over its bid to gain greater control over gold extraction. Crystallex, Vanessa Ventures, Gold Reserve Inc. and Rusoro Mining all had prolonged legal battles with the Venezuelan government. In 2016 Rusoro Mining won a $1 billion claim under the Canada-Venezuela investment treaty. That same year Crystallex was awarded $1.2 billion under the Canada-Venezuela investment treaty. Both companies continue to pursue payments and have pursued the money from Citgo, the Venezuelan government owned gasoline retailer in the US.

In 2011 the Financial Post reported, “years after pushing foreign investment away from his gold mining sector, Venezuelan President Chavez is moving on to the next stage: outright nationalization.” Highlighting its importance to Canadian capital, the Globe and Mail editorial board criticized the move in a piece titled “Chavez nationalizes all gold mines in Venezuela.”

In a further sign of the Canadian mining sector’s hostility to the Venezuelan government, Barrick Gold founder Peter Munk wrote a 2007 letter to the Financial Times headlined “Stop Chavez’ Demagoguery Before it is Too Late”: “Your editorial ‘Chavez in Control’ was way too benign a characterization of a dangerous dictator — the latest of a type who takes over a nation through the democratic process, and then perverts or abolishes it to perpetuate his own power … aren’t we ignoring the lessons of history and forgetting that the dictators Hitler, Mugabe, Pol Pot and so on became heads of state by a democratic process? … autocratic demagogues in the Chavez mode get away with [it] until their countries become totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, or Slobadan Milosevic’s Serbia … Let us not give President Chavez a chance to do the same step- by-step transformation of Venezuela.” A year earlier, the leading Canadian capitalist told Barrick’s shareholders he’d prefer to invest in the (Taliban controlled) western part of Pakistan than in Venezuela or Bolivia. “If I had the choice to put my money in one of the Latin American countries run by (Bolivian President) Evo Morales or Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — I know where I’d put my buck,” said Munk, referring to moves to increase the public stake in resource extraction to the detriment of foreign investors.

Benefiting from the privatization of state-run mining companies and loosened restrictions on foreign investment, Canadian mining investment in Latin America has exploded since the 1990s. No Canadian mining firm operated in Peru or Mexico at the start of the 1990s yet by 2010 there were nearly 600 Canadian mining firms in those two countries. Canadian mining companies have tens of billions of dollars invested in the Americas. Any government in the region that reverses the neoliberal reforms that enabled this growth is a threat to Canadian mining profits.

Corporate Canada’s most powerful sector was none too pleased with Chavez’ socialistic and nationalistic policies. Alongside Canadian mining growth, Canadian banks expanded their operations in a number of Latin American countries to do more business with Canadian mining clients. More generally, Canadian banks have benefited from the liberalization of foreign investment rules and banking regulations in the region. A few days after Chavez’s 2013 death the Globe and Mail Report on Business published a front-page story about Scotiabank’s interests in Venezuela, which were acquired just before his rise to power. It noted: “Bank of Nova Scotia [Scotiabank] is often lauded for its bold expansion into Latin America, having completed major acquisitions in Colombia and Peru. But when it comes to Venezuela, the bank has done little for the past 15 years – primarily because the government of President Hugo Chavez has been hostile to large-scale foreign investment.” While Scotiabank is a powerhouse in Latin America, Canada’s other big banks also do significant business in the region.

At the height of the left-right ideological competition in the region the Stephen Harper government devoted significant effort to strengthening the region’s right-wing governments. Ottawa increased aid to Latin America largely to stunt growing rejection of neoliberal capitalism and in 2010 trade minister Peter Van Loan admitted that the “secondary” goal of Canada’s free trade agreement with Colombia was to bolster that country’s right-wing government against its Venezuelan neighbour. The Globe and Mail explained: “The Canadian government’s desire to bolster fledgling free-market democracies in Latin America in an ideological competition with left-leaning, authoritarian nationalists like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is rarely expressed with force, even though it is at the heart of an Ottawa initiative.” An unnamed Conservative told the paper: “For countries like Peru and Colombia that are trying be helpful in the region, I think everybody’s trying to keep them attached to the free-market side of the debate in Latin America, rather than sloshing them over into the Bolivarian [Venezuelan] side.”

Ottawa wants to crush the independent/socialistic developments in Venezuela. More generally, the growth of Canadian mining, banking and other sectors in Latin America has pushed Ottawa towards a more aggressive posture in the region. So, while it is true that Canada often does the bidding of its US puppet master, capitalists in the Great White North are also independent actors seeking to fill their own pockets and thwart the will of the Venezuelan people.

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Canadian interference in Venezuela domestic affairs decades old

According to the official story that the Liberal government and most of the mainstream media have been trying to sell, Ottawa recently recognized the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly as that country’s president because Nicolas Maduro suspended the constitution 18 months ago and thus lost legitimacy. Thus, Ottawa intervened aggressively to re-establish democratic order there. But this narrative of Canada’s involvement omits its long-standing hostility to the Venezuelan government.

In recent days Canada’s former ambassador to Venezuela, Ben Rowswell, has repeatedly claimed that Canada’s effort to overthrow Venezuela’s government began with Maduro’s call for a Constituent Assembly in July 2017, which Rowswell considers illegitimate. Canada’s “approach to democracy promotion … can be traced to the summer of 2017, when Nicolas Maduro suspended the constitutional order,” he wrote in a Globe and Mail op-ed.

Ottawa wasn’t overly concerned about democracy in April 2002 when a military coup took Chavez prisoner and imposed an unelected government.

But Rowswell knows this is not true. In fact, when he departed as ambassador in July 2017, he sang a different tune, boasting that “we established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

At the time, Rowswell told the Ottawa Citizen, that anti-Maduro forces need not worry about his departure, “I don’t think they have anything to worry about because Minister (of Foreign Affairs Chrystia) Freeland has Venezuela way at the top of her priority list.”

Direct Canadian assistance to the opposition dates to at least the mid-2000s. In January 2005, Foreign Affairs invited Maria Corina Machado to Ottawa. Machado was in charge of Súmate, an organization at the forefront of efforts to remove Hugo Chavez as president. Just prior to this invitation, Súmate had led an unsuccessful campaign to recall Chavez through a referendum in August 2004. Before that, Machado’s name appeared on a list of people who endorsed the 2002 coup, for which she faced charges of treason. She denied signing the now-infamous Carmona Decree that dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme Court and suspended the elected government, the attorney general, comptroller general, and governors as well as mayors elected during Chavez’s administration. It also annulled land reforms and reversed increases in royalties paid by oil companies.

Canada also helped finance Súmate. According to disclosures made in response to a question by NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough, Canada gave Súmate $22,000 in 2005–06. Minister of International Cooperation José Verner explained that “Canada considered Súmate to be an experienced NGO with the capability to promote respect for democracy, particularly a free and fair electoral process in Venezuela.”

Alongside large sums from Washington, Canada has provided millions of dollars to groups opposed to the Venezuelan government over the past 15 years. The foremost researcher on U.S. funding to opposition groups in Venezuela, Eva Golinger, cited Canada’s role, and according to a May 2010 report from Spanish NGO Fride, “Canada is the third most important provider of democracy assistance” to Venezuela after the U.S. and Spain.

In a 2011 International Journal article Neil A. Burron describes an interview with a Canadian “official [who] repeatedly expressed concerns about the quality of democracy in Venezuela, noting that the [federal government’s] Glyn Berry program provided funds to a ‘get out the vote’ campaign in the last round of elections in that country.” You can bet it wasn’t designed to get Chavez supporters to the polls.

Ottawa wasn’t overly concerned about democracy in April 2002 when a military coup took Chavez prisoner and imposed an unelected government. It lasted only two days before popular demonstrations, a split within the army, and international condemnation returned the elected government. While most Latin American leaders condemned the coup, Canadian diplomats were silent.

“In the Venezuelan coup in 2002, Canada maintained a low profile, probably because it was sensitive to the United States ambivalence towards Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez,” writes Flavie Major in the book Promoting Democracy in the Americas.

The Stephen Harper government didn’t hide its hostility to Chavez. When Chavez was re-elected president with 63 per cent of the vote in December 2006, 32 members of the Organization of American States — which monitored the election — supported a resolution to congratulate him. Canada was the only member to join the U.S. in opposing the message.

Just after Chavez’s re-election, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs, Thomas Shannon, called Canada “a country that can deliver messages that can resonate in ways that sometimes our messages don’t for historical or psychological reasons.” Six months later Harper toured South America to help stunt the region’s rejection of neoliberalism and U.S. dependence. (“To show [the region] that Canada functions and that it can be a better model than Venezuela,” in the words of a high-level Foreign Affairs official quoted by Le Devoir.)

During the trip, Harper and his entourage made a number of comments critical of the Chavez government. Afterwards the prime minister continued to demonize a government that had massively expanded the population’s access to health and education services. In April 2009 Harper responded to a question regarding Venezuela by saying, “I don’t take any of these rogue states lightly.” A month earlier, the prime minister referred to the far-right Colombian government as a valuable “ally” in a hemisphere full of “serious enemies and opponents.”

After meeting opposition figures in January 2010, Minister for the Americas Peter Kent told the media, “Democratic space within Venezuela has been shrinking and in this election year, Canada is very concerned about the rights of all Venezuelans to participate in the democratic process.”

“During my recent visit to Venezuela, I heard many individuals and organizations express concerns related to violations of the right to freedom of expression and other basic liberties,” said Kent.

Virginie Levesque, a spokesperson for the Canadian Embassy in Venezuela, also accused the Chavez government of complicity with racism against Jews.

“The Canadian Embassy has encouraged and continues to encourage the Venezuelan government to follow through on its commitment to reject and combat anti-Semitism and to do its utmost to ensure the security of the Jewish community and its religious and cultural centers” said Levesque.

Even the head of Canada’s military joined the onslaught of condemnation against Venezuela. After a tour of South America in early 2010, Walter Natynczyk wrote:,“Regrettably, some countries, such as Venezuela, are experiencing the politicization of their armed forces.” (A Canadian general criticizing another country’s military is, of course, not political.)

After Chavez died in 2013 Harper declared that Venezuelans “can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.” And when Maduro won the presidential election later that year Ottawa called for a recount, refusing to at first to recognize the results.

Canada’s bid to oust Venezuela’s elected president is not new. These efforts have grown over the past year and a half mostly because of Venezuela’s economic troubles, the rightward shift in the region, and Donald Trump’s hawkishness on the issue.

This report first appeared on Ricochet

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What the mainstream media doesn’t tell you about Venezuela

The corporate media is wholeheartedly behind the federal government’s push for regime change in Venezuela. The propaganda is thick and, as per usual, it is as much about what they don’t, as what they do, report. Here are some important developments that have largely been ignored by Canada’s dominant media:

  • At the Organization of American States meeting called by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 25 the Canadian-backed interventionist resolution was defeated 18-16.
  • The “Lima Group” of governments opposed to Venezuela’s elected president was established 18 months ago after Washington, Ottawa and others failed to garner the votes necessary to censure Venezuela at the OAS (despite the head of the OAS’s extreme hostility to Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro).
  • Most of the world’s countries, with most of the world’s population, have failed to support the US/Canada push torecognize National Assembly head Juan Guaidóas president of Venezuela.
  • The UN and OAS charters preclude unilateral sanctions and interfering in other countries’ affairs.
  • UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur for sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, recently condemned US/Canadian sanctions on Venezuela.

As well, here are some flagrant double standards in Canadian policy the media have largely ignored:

  • “Lima Group” member Jair Bolsonaro won the recent presidential election in Brazil largely because the most popular candidate, Lula Da silva, was in jail. His questionable election took place two years after Lula’s ally, Dilma Rousseff, was ousted as president in a ‘parliamentary coup’.
  • Another “Lima Group” member, Honduras president Juan Orlando Hernandez, defied that country’s constitution a year ago in running for a second term and then ‘won’ a highly questionable
  • “At the same time”as Canada and the US recognized Juan Guaidó, notes Patrick Mbeko, “in Democratic Republic of Congo they refuse to recognize the massive recent victory of Martin Fayulu in the presidential election, endorsing the vast electoral fraud of the regime and its ally Félix Tshisekedi.”

Beyond what the media has ignored, they constantly cite biased sources without offering much or any background. Here are a couple of examples:

  • The Globe and Mail has quoted Irwin Cotler in two recent articles on Venezuela. But, the decades-long anti-Palestinian and anti-Hugo Chavez activist lacks any credibility on the issue. At a press conference in May to release an OAS report on alleged rights violations in Venezuela, Cotler said Venezuela’s “government itself was responsible for the worst ever humanitarian crisis in the region.” Worse than the extermination of the Taíno and Arawak by the Spanish? Or the enslavement of five million Africans in Brazil? Or the 200,000 Mayans killed in Guatemala? Or the thousands of state-murdered “subversives” in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil?
  • CBC and Canadian Press (to a slightly lesser extent) stories about former Venezuelan Colonel Oswaldo Garcia, whose family lives in Montréal, present him as a democracy activist. But, notes Poyan Nahrvar, Garcia participated in a coup attempt last year and then launched raids into Venezuela from Colombia until he was captured by the Venezuelan military.
  • The media blindly repeats Ottawa’s depiction of the “Lima Group”, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as an organization established to “bring peace, democracy and stability in Venezuela.” One report called it “a regional block of countries committed to finding a peaceful solution” to the crisis while another said its members “want to see Venezuela return to democracy.” This portrayal of the coalition stands its objective on its head. The “Lima Group” is designed to ratchet up international pressure on Maduro in hopes of eliciting regime change, which may spark a civil war. That is its reason for existence.

As part of nationwide protests against the “Lima Group” meeting taking place in Ottawa on Monday, activists in Montréal will rally in front of Radio Canada/CBC’s offices. They will be decrying not only Canada’s interference in Venezuela but the dominant media’s effort to “manufacture consent” for Canadian imperialism.

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Right position for NDP on Venezuela is a left one

What should the leader of Canada’s left wing party say about what’s happening in Venezuela? Here are a few suggestions: “Canada should respect international law in its dealings with Venezuela.” Or, “Canada shouldn’t select the president of Venezuela.” How about, “The US has a long history of overthrowing governments in Latin America and Canada should never take part.”

Any (or all) of these statements would be clear, reasonable positions for a social democratic party that claims to be in favour of international law and to represent the interests of ordinary people, rather than billionaires, to express. Instead, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has issued vague, contradictory words about the Liberal government’s aggressive effort to topple Venezuela’s elected president.

Over the past two years Justin Trudeau’s government has steadily ramped up their campaign to oust Nicolas Maduro’s government. Ottawa has adopted illegal sanctionssupported opposition groups, built an anti-Venezuela regional coalition, pressured Caribbean countries to join their campaign and taken a complaint about the Venezuelan government to the International Criminal Court. Last week it recognized a little-known opposition politician — who has never garnered even 100,000 votes — as president of the country. And before making this Trumpian, anti-democratic, over-the-top-interference-in-another-country’s-internal-affairs decision, Canadian diplomats spent months preparing the move with the opposition to ratchet up tensions in the South American country. It seems the “Trudeau Doctrine” has been proclaimed, similar in purpose to the USA’s “Munroe Doctrine” first issued in 1823.

All of which should have offered a wonderful opportunity for a political party of the left to differentiate itself from the pro-big business, pro-American, pro-imperialist Liberals. But, despite Ottawa openly violating the UN and Organization of American States charters, the NDP leadership has barely mustered any criticism of Canadian policy. After Ottawa recognized National Assembly head Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela last week Jagmeet Singh tweeted a largely meaningless general message. Under pressure from activists — and with NDP MP Niki Ashton, as well as current candidates Svend Robinson and Jessa McLean, making much stronger interventions —the party subsequently published a slightly better statement.

The Canadian Green and Communist parties’ statements are far better. So are those released by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Labour Congress, Vancouver and District Labour Council, Common Frontiers, Rights Action, Kingston Peace Council, Hugo Chavez People’s Defence Front, Canadian Network on Cuba, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace and the NDP Courage Coalition.

While many of the party’s activists are probably confused by the leadership’s indifference to Canada’s push for a coup/invasion, NDP foreign-policy is run by a former Canadian diplomat who has aligned herself with Venezuela’s far right. A year ago I published an article Canadian Dimension titled “Has it become NDP policy to support US-backed coups in Latin America?” Among numerous criticisms of Venezuela’s government, foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière called the vice-president “a drug lord” from whom “the American government has seized billions of dollars of his assets for drug trafficking.” Laverdière should have been removed as foreign critic the day after repeating this obviously absurd claim from Venezuela’s lunatic far right. (In what may be the first ever resolution to an NDP convention calling for the removal of a party critic, the NDP Socialist Caucus submitted a motion to last February’s convention titled “Hands Off Venezuela, Remove Hélène Laverdière as NDP Foreign Affairs Critic.”)

Beyond Laverdière, the party leadership is largely aligned with the foreign policy establishment or those, as long time NDP MP Libby Davies put it, who believe a “Time Magazine version” of international affairs. As I detail in Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada, the party leadership fears corporate media backlash and only challenges official international policy when activists force the issue. (Can you imagine if the NDP never challenged government policy inside Canada? There would be no reason, aside from providing a third set of faces, for the party to exist.)

On Venezuela the party leadership would probably prefer the issue simply disappear from public discussion. But, that’s unlikely. The Liberal government has made Venezuela, reports the Globe and Mail, “one of the government’s top foreign policy priorities.” In a town hall speech on Thursday that Global News headlined “Trudeau says clause in Venezuela constitution shows Guaido is interim president”, the PM boasted that “I’ve been making calls to a significant number of global leaders” (including the heads of France, Spain, Ireland, Colombia, Italy and the EU) to convince them to join their campaign against Venezuela.

For his part, Donald Trump, reports the Wall Street Journal, has “long viewed Venezuela as one of his top three foreign-policy priorities, including Iran and North Korea.” The clique of extremists driving US policy have set up a situation that may require an invasion to succeed.

On Monday the “Lima Group” of governments opposed to Venezuela’s elected government are meeting in Ottawa. A protest is planned there, as well as in at least two other Canadian cities. Before the “Lima Group” summit the NDP should release a statement challenging Canada’s coup planning and Niki Ashton, or another MP, should be allowed to speak at the rally.

It’s not too late to do the right thing.

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Canada joins with imperial ‘Mafia’ to threaten Venezuela

Most Canadians think of their country as a force for good in the world, but recent efforts by Justin Trudeau’s government to overthrow Venezuela’s elected government have once again revealed the ugly truth about the Great White North. We are an important partner in imperialism, willing to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, up to and including the use of military force, to benefit the perceived self-interest of our elites.

Over the past two years Canadian officials have campaigned aggressively against President Nicolás Maduro. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has repeatedly criticized Caracas’ democratic legitimacy and human rights record. Recently she said, “the Maduro regime is now fully entrenched as a dictatorship” while in September Ottawa asked (with five South American nations) the International Criminal Court to investigate the Venezuelan government, which is the first time a government has been formally brought before the tribunal by another member.

In recent weeks Canadian diplomats have played an important role in uniting large swaths of the Venezuelan opposition behind a US-backed plan to ratchet up tensions by proclaiming the new head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, Juan Guaido, president. The Canadian Press quoted a Canadian diplomat saying they helped Guaido “facilitate conversations with people that were out of the country and inside the country” while the Globe and Mail reported that “Freeland  spoke with Juan Guaido to congratulate him on unifying opposition forces in Venezuela, two weeks before he declared himself interim president.” Alongside Washington and a number of right-leaning Latin American governments, Ottawa immediately recognized Guaido after he proclaimed himself president on Wednesday. Canadian officials are lobbying European  leaders to recognize Guaido as president as well.

Ottawa has long provided various other forms of direct support to an often-violent opposition. In recent years Canada channelled millions of dollars to opposition groups in Venezuela and 18 months ago outgoing Canadian ambassador, Ben Rowswell, told the Ottawa Citizen that “we became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

Alongside its support for the opposition, Ottawa expelled Venezuela’s top diplomat in 2017 and has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Venezuelan officials. In March the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned the economic sanctions the US, Canada and EU have adopted against Venezuela while Caracas called Canada’s move a “blatant violation of the most fundamental rules of International Law.”

Since its August 2017 founding Canada has been one of the most active members of the “Lima Group” of governments opposed to Venezuela’s elected government. Canada is hosting  the next meeting of the “Lima Group”. Freeland has repeatedly prodded Caribbean and Central American countries to join the Lima Group’s anti-Maduro efforts.

In September, 11 of the 14 member states of the “Lima Group” backed a statement distancing the anti-Venezuelan alliance from “any type of action or declaration that implies military intervention” after Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro stated: “As for military intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime, I think we should not rule out any option … diplomacy remains the first option but we can’t exclude any action.” Canada, Guyana and Colombia refused to criticize the head of the OAS’ musings about an invasion of Venezuela.

Alongside the head of the OAS, US president Donald Trump has publically discussed invading Venezuela. To the best of my knowledge Ottawa has stayed mum on Trump’s threats, which violate international law.

Why? Why is Canada so eager to overthrow an elected government? Recent headlines in the Globe and Mail (“Venezuelan crisis buoys prospects for Canadian heavy crude oil producers”) and Wall Street Journal (“Bond Prices in Venezuela Jump on Prospect of Regime Change”) suggest some short term reasons. But looking at the situation from a historical perspective confirms Noam Chomsky’s claim that international affairs is run like the Mafia. The godfather cannot accept disobedience.

Thus, while the scope of the Trudeau government’s current campaign against Venezuela is noteworthy, it’s not the first time Ottawa has supported the overthrow of an elected, left leaning, government in the hemisphere. Canada passively supported military coups against Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and Brazilian President João Goulart in 1964 as well as ‘parliamentary coups’ against Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo in 2012 and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. Ottawa played a slightly more active role in the removal of Dominican Republic president Juan Bosch in 1965 and Chilean president Salvador Allende in 1973. In a more substantial contribution to undermining electoral democracy, Ottawa backed the Honduran military’s removal of Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

Canada played its most forceful role in the removal of a progressive, elected, president in the hemisphere’s most impoverished nation. Thirteen months before Jean-Bertrand Aristide was, in his words, “kidnapped” by US Marines on February 29, 2004, Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government organized an international gathering to discuss overthrowing the Haitian president. JTF2 special forces secured the Port-au-Prince airport the night Aristide was ousted and 500 Canadian troops were part of the US-led invasion to consolidate the coup.

With regards to Venezuela it’s unclear just how far Ottawais prepared to go in its bid to oust Maduro. But, it is hard to imagine that the path Canada and the US have chosen can succeed without Venezuela being plunged into significant violence.

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Racism a systemic problem in Canadian military

Anti-blackness is a significant problem in the Canadian Forces. For decades it was explicit and the institution evidently remains structurally racist.

Last month it was revealed that a white reservist who repeatedly called black soldiers “n…ers” would not face any disciplinary measures. The stated reason was that the individual, whose father is a senior reserve soldier, was “under a lot of pressure” during training. Incredibly, during the investigation Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan inquired about the treatment of the accused — not the victims — after the mother of the soldier who made the slurs complained to his office.

This recent case is not an isolated incident. In 2016 two black and one indigenous member of the CF sued over systemic racism. The former soldiers’ suit claimed that “derogatory slurs, racial harassment and violent threats are tolerated or ignored …. Victims of racism within the Canadian Forces are forced into isolation, subjected to further trauma and, in many cases, catapulted toward early release.”

One of those who launched the suit is Wallace Fowler who has detailed his experience of racism in a series of articles and a book titled Checkmate. In the early 2000s his daughter was spat on in school, a bus driver called his son a “n…ers” and his wife had bananas thrown at her at the Esquimalt, British Columbia, base where he was stationed. Fowler filed numerous official complaints, which were effectively ignored. Worse still, he faced retribution and an apparent cover-up, highlighting systemic racism in the CF.

Fowler’s experience took place not long after revelations of anti-blackness in the force came to light in the years after the 1992-93 Somali mission. Corporal Matt Mackay, a self-confessed neo-Nazi who declared he’d quit the white supremacist movement two years before going to Somalia, gleefully reported “we haven’t killed enough ‘n…ers’  yet.” Another Canadian soldier was caught on camera saying the Somalia intervention was called, “Operation Snatch Nig-nog.” The only black soldier in the Airborne Regiment deployed to Somalia, Lawrence Brathwaite, said he was told “black people are evil”, repeatedly called “boy” and a black officer was labeled “N.O.” (“n…er officer”).

Of course, the anti-blackness on display over the past quarter century pales in comparison to the first half of the last century. During World War I Black-Canadians seeking to fight in Europe faced a great deal of prejudice. In November 1915 the commander of the 104th Battalion released 17 black recruits. In response to criticism of this move, Lieutenant Colonel G. W. Fowler said, “I have been fortunate to have secured a very fine class of recruits, and I did not think it fair to these men that they should have to mingle with negroes.”

Chief of the General Staff, General W.G. Gwatkin, opposed African Canadian enlistment. In the midst of a recruiting crisis in April 1916 he wrote: “The civilized negro is vain and imitative; in Canada he is not impelled to enlist by a high sense of duty; in the trenches he is not likely to make a good fighter.”

After two years of campaigning to be allowed to join, the military authorized a black construction battalion in July 1916. The Nova Scotia raised battalion was under the command of white officers. Not allowed to fight or attend recreational activities with other CF units, they cut lumber, dug trenches and built huts. Some government officials wrote “nigger” on their documents.

In the interwar period the black community in Nova Scotia was largely excluded from the militia. A survey of 14 militia units in the 1930s found that none wanted black personnel, calling instead for the formation of coloured units or sub-units.

For most of the first half of the 1900s Navy and Air Force racism was codified (though local recruiters sometimes failed to follow official policy, and it was removed and reinstated depending upon public relations and institutional needs). Responsible for Canada’s nascent naval forces, Britain’s “Regulations for the Entry of Naval Cadets” in 1906 said, “candidates must be of pure European descent.” In 1938 the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) initiated exclusionary policies, which Cabinet quickly approved. The policy required recruits to be of “Pure European Descent and of the White Race.”

Three years later the RCAF’s deputy director of manning in the personnel branch at headquarters, H.P. Crabb, issued a clarification letter to all recruiting offices regarding “Orientals and Negro applicants”. It stated, “only those of European descent will be accepted for appointment or enlistment in Aircrew.” In other words, black and Asian applicants could enlist but they were only eligible for less prestigious ground duty positions.

At the start of 1946 the RCAF reinstated the requirement that applications from black, “Oriental”, and “former enemy aliens” be forwarded to headquarters for approval. Denying there were restrictions placed upon the eligibility of “coloured applicants”, the Chief of the Air Staff claimed“coloured” applications had to be sent to headquarters to “carefully scrutinize” whether the applicant could “mix” with whites, which was “for the protection and future welfare of the applicant.” The policy was still employed by the RCAF in 1956.

Even after the end of openly racist enlistment policies, sought-after ranks in the RCAF and RCN, as well as the army, were reserved for white men. It wasn’t until 2016, for instance, that a black person captained a sea-going RCN vessel.

The CF has largely failed to recognize its history of racist enlistment policies. There has not been an official apology, let alone affirmative action policies to correct the injustice.

As the force’s seeming indifference to a reservist’s slurs suggests, anti-blackness remains a significant issue in the Canadian Forces.

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Campaign to revoke Jewish National Fund charitable status important

Last week the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), under pressure from Palestine solidarity activists, began an audit of the Jewish National Fund.

The audit is significant. Beyond weakening the oldest Israel-focused charity in the country, it will put other Israeli charities in Canada on notice and reflects the growth of Palestine solidarity activism.

Fulfilling the time-consuming audit will be a bureaucratic headache for a group that has eleven offices across Canada and has raised $100 million over the past five years. Already, the credibility of the second most powerful Israel-oriented charity in Canada has taken a hit with the CBC exposé headlined “Canadian charity  used donations to fund projects linked to Israeli military” and related  stories. If the CRA revokes the JNF’s charitable status it would be devastating for fundraising and deter politicians/celebrities from attending their events.

Similar to the JNF, other registered charities support the Israeli military in direct contravention of CRA rules. Additionally, some of these organizations — like the JNF — fund projects supporting West Bank settlements, which Global Affairs Canada considers in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

At a broader level, critical attention on the JNF could lead to questioning of why Canadian taxpayers subsidize hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to a wealthy country. Despite a GDP per capita greater than Spain or Italy (and equal to Japan), hundreds of registered Canadian charities deliver hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Israel. How many Canadian charities funnel money to Spain or Japan?

If the CRA revoked JNF’s charitable status it would boost Stop the JNF campaigns elsewhere. In England they convinced former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to withdraw as patron of the JNF (Theresa May seems to have also stayed away), and 68 members of parliament endorsed a bill to revoke the organization’s charitable status because “the JNF’s constitution is explicitly discriminatory by stating that land and property will never be rented, leased or sold to non-Jews.”

The CRA audit of a charity that’s found favour with numerous Canadian prime ministers is long in the making and reflects the growth of Palestinian solidarity consciousness. Born in a West Bank village demolished to make way for the JNF’s Canada Park, Ismail Zayid has been complaining to the CRA about its charitable status for 40 years. Lebanese Canadian Ron Saba “has been indefatigable over the years in writing to various Canadian government departments and officials, corporations, and media to rescind tax exemption status and endorsement of” what he calls the “racist JNF tax fraud”. During the Liberal party convention in 2006 Saba was widely smeared for drawing attention to leadership candidate Bob Rae’s ties to the JNF. Saba has put in multiple Access to Information requests regarding the JNF, demonstrating government spying of its critics and long-standing knowledge of the organization’s dubious practices. Under the headline “Event you may want to monitor,” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Caitlin Workman sent the CRA a communication about a 2011 Independent Jewish Voices event in Ottawa stating: “author of the Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Yves Engler, will give a talk on Canada and the Jewish National Fund.”

Former Independent Jewish Voices coordinator Tyler Levitan was smeared for working diligently on the issue. In addition to important organizing, he discovered that the Ottawa Citizen sponsored JNF galas they covered and, suggesting a formal financial relationship, ran an ad for the JNF’s 2013 Ottawa Gala the day after the event.

At the Green Party convention in 2016 Corey Levine pushed a resolution to revoke the JNF’s charitable status because it practices “institutional  discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel.” The effort brought the issue into the mainstream though she, IJV and the entire Green  Party were smeared  as “hard core  Jew haters” for even considering the resolution.

Fifteen months ago IJV and four individuals filed a detailed complaint to the CRA and Minister of National Revenue over the JNF. For a number of years IJV has run a “Stop the JNF” campaign and for more than a decade activists across the country have picketed local JNF fundraising galas. These efforts have benefited from many in Palestine/Israel, notably the work of Uri Davies and Adalah.

As I have written before, the campaign to revoke the JNF’s charitable status is important beyond winning the specific demand. It draws attention to the racism intrinsic to Zionism and highlights Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

The CRA is undoubtedly facing significant behind-the-scenes pressure to let the JNF off with little more than a slap on the wrists. So, it’s important that people send their MP  the CBC exposé and add their name to Independent Jewish Voices’ campaign  to revoke the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status.

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Trudeau’s vacuous Haiti declaration ignores revolution, slavery

Justin Trudeau likes making high-minded sounding statements that make him seem progressive but change little. The Prime Minister’s declaration marking “Haiti’s Independence Day” was an attempt of the sort, which actually demonstrates incredible ignorance, even antipathy, towards the struggle against slavery.

In his statement commemorating 215 years of Haitian Independence, the Prime Minister failed to mention slavery, Haiti’s revolution and how that country was born of maybe the greatest example of liberation in the history of humanity. From the grips of the most barbaric form of plantation economy, the largely African-born slaves delivered a massive blow to slavery, colonialism and white supremacy.

Before the 1791 revolt the French colony of Saint Domingue was home to 450,000 people in bondage. At its peak in the 1750s the ‘Pearl of the Antilles’ provided as much as 50 per cent  of France’s GNP. Super profits were made from using African slaves to produce sugar, cocoa, coffee, cotton, tobacco, indigo and other commodities.

The slaves put a stop to that with a merciless struggle that took advantage of divisions between ‘big white’ land/slave owners, racially empowered though poorer ‘small whites’ and a substantial ‘mulatto’ land/slave owning class. The revolt rippled through the region and compelled the post-French Revolution government in Paris to abolish slavery in its Caribbean colonies. Between 1791 and 1804 ‘Haitians’ would defeat tens of thousands of French, British and Spanish troops (Washington backed France financially), leading to the world’s first and only successful large-scale slave revolution. The first nation of free people in the Americas, Haiti established a slave-free state 60 years before the USA’s emancipation proclamation. (It wasn’t until after this proclamation ending slavery that the US recognized Haiti’s independence.)

The Haitian Revolution’s geopolitical effects were immense. It stimulated the Louisiana Purchase and London’s 1807 Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. The revolutionary state also provided important support to South American independence movements.

Canada’s rulers at the time opposed the slave revolt. In a bid to crush the ex-slaves before their example spread to the English colonies, British forces invaded Haiti in 1793. Halifax, which housed Britain’s primary naval base in North America, played its part in London’s efforts to capture one of the world’s richest colonies (for the slave owners). Much of the Halifax-based squadron arrived on the shores of the West Indies in 1793, and many of the ships that set sail to the Caribbean at this time were assembled in the town’s naval yard. Additionally, a dozen Nova Scotia privateers captured at least 57 enemy vessels in the West Indies between 1793 and 1805. “Essential tools of war until the rise of large steam navies”, the privateers also wanted to protect the British Atlantic colonies’ lucrative Caribbean market decimated by French privateers. For a half-century Nova Scotia and Newfoundland generated great wealth selling cheap, high-protein cod to keep millions of “enslaved people working 16 hours a day”.

A number of prominent Canadian-born (or based) individuals fought to capture and re-establish slavery in the French colonies. Dubbed the “Father of the Canadian Crown”, Prince Edward Duke of Kent departed for the West Indies aboard a Halifax gunboat in 1793. As a Major General, he led forces that captured Guadalupe, St. Lucia and Martinique. Today, many streets and monuments across the country honour a man understood to have first applied the term “Canadian” to both the English and French inhabitants of Upper and Lower Canada.

Other “Canadians” played a part in Britain’s effort to corner the lucrative Caribbean slave plantations. Born into a prominent Québec military family, Charles Michel Salaberry “was part  of successful invasions of Saint-Dominique [Haiti], Guadeloupe and Martinique.” A number of monuments commemorate Salaberry, including the city in Québec named Salaberry-de-Valleyfield.

To commemorate Haitian independence the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community, Irwin LaRocque, also released a statement. Unlike Trudeau, LaRocque “congratulated” Haiti and described the day as “a timely reminderof the historic importance of the Haitian Revolution and its continued significance as a symbol of triumph over adversity in the quest for liberty, equality and control of national destiny.”

Trudeau should have said something similar and acknowledged Canadians’ role in the slave trade and crimes against the free people of Haiti.

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Where do NDP MPs stand on CBC story exposing Jewish National Fund?

An explosive CBC expose Friday on the Jewish National Fund should be the beginning of the end for this powerful organization’s charitable status. But, unless the NDP differentiates itself from the Liberals and Conservatives by standing up for Canadian and international law while simultaneously opposing explicit racism, the JNF may simply ride out this short bout of bad publicity.

According to a story headlined “Canadian charity  used donations to fund projects linked to Israeli military”, the JNF has financed multiple projects for the Israeli military in direct contravention of Canada Revenue Agency rules for registered charities. The organization has also funded a number of projects supporting West Bank settlements, which Global Affairs Canada considers in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The story also revealed that the Canada Revenue Agency, under pressure from Independent Jewish Voices and other Palestine solidarity activists, began an audit of the state-subsidized charity last year.

After detailing the above, (which provoked hundreds of mostly angry comments from readers) the story notes that the “JNF has had strong relations with successive Conservative and Liberal governments.” The CBC published a picture of politicians congregated at the Prime Minister’s residence above the caption “Laureen Harper poses with JNF Gala honorees during a group visit to 24 Sussex Drive in 2015.”

But the JNF, like all good lobbyists, has hedged it political bets and the story could have noted that the social democratic opposition party was represented at this JNF gala as well and has dutifully supported the dubious “charity”. NDP MP Pat Martin spoke at the JNF event Harper organized to “recognize and thank the people that have helped to make JNF Canada what it is today.” In 2016 NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière participated in a JNF tree planting ceremony in Jerusalem with JNF World Chairman Danny Atar and a number of its other top officials. The president of the Windsor-Tecumseh Federal NDP riding association, Noah Tepperman, has been a director of JNF Windsor since 2004 and has funded the organization’s events in London, Ontario.

In 2015 Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath published an ad in a JNF Hamilton handbook and offered words of encouragement to its fundraiser while Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter planted a tree at a JNF garden in 2011. Manitoba NDP Premier Gary Doer was honoured at a 2006 JNF Negev Dinner in Winnipeg and cabinet minister Christine Melnick received the same honour in 2011. During a 2010 trip to Israel subsequent Manitoba NDP Premier Greg Selinger signed an accord with the JNF to jointly develop two bird conservation sites while water stewardship minister Melnick spoke at the opening ceremony for a park built in Jaffa by the JNF, Tel Aviv Foundation and Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable. (In 2017 Melnick won a B’nai Brith Zionist action figures prize for writing an article about a friend who helped conquer East Jerusalem and then later joined the JNF).

Besides NDP support for this dubious “charity”, the story ignored the JNF’s racist land-use policies. The JNF owns 13 per cent of Israel’s land, which was mostly taken from Palestinians forced from their homes by Zionist forces in 1947-1948. It discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up a 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.” Indicative of its discrimination against the 20% of Israelis who aren’t Jewish, JNF Canada’s Twitter tag says it “is the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners — Jewish people everywhere.” Its parent organization in Israel — the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael — is even more open about its racism. Its website notes that “a survey  commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.” While such exclusionary land-use policies were made illegal in Canada seven decades ago, that’s the JNF’s raison d’être.

An organization that recently raised $25 million  for a Stephen Harper Bird Sanctuary, JNF Canada has been directly complicit in at least three important instances of Palestinian dispossession. In the late 1920s JNF Canada spearheaded a highly controversial land acquisition that drove a 1,000 person Bedouin community from land it had tilled for centuries and in the 1980s JNF–Canada helped finance an Israeli government campaign to “Judaize” the Galilee, the largely Arab northern region of Israel. Additionally, as the CBC mentioned, JNF-Canada build Canada Park on the remnants of three Palestinian villages Israel conquered in 1967.

A map the JNF shows to nine and ten-year-olds at Jewish day schools in Toronto encompasses the illegally occupied West Bank and Gaza, effectively denying Palestinians the right to a state on even 22 percent of their historic homeland. Similarly, the maps  on JNF Blue Boxes, which are used by kids to raise funds, distributed in recent years include the occupied West Bank. The first map on the Blue Box, designed in 1934, depicted  an area reaching from the Mediterranean into present-day Lebanon and Jordan.

The JNF is an openly racist organization that supports illegal settlements and the Israeli military. Many NDP activists understand this. The party’s MPs now have a choice: If they stand for justice and against all forms of racism, for the rule of international law and fairness in the Canadian tax system, they will speak up in Parliament to keep this story alive. The NDP needs to set itself apart from the Liberals and Conservatives by following up on the CBC’s revelations to demand the Canada Revenue Agency rescind the JNF’s charitable status.

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Canada tries to use international law to support imperialism

Like the shopkeeper in the Monty Python dead parrot sketch who insists a deceased bird is actually alive, imperialist aggression against Venezuela is turned into promotion of the “international rules-based order”.

At the opening of the UN assembly in September Justin Trudeau said the International Criminal Court is a “useful and important way of promoting an international rules-based order.” Simultaneously, Canada announced it (with five South American nations) would ask the ICC to investigate the Venezuelan government, which is the first time a government has been formally brought before the tribunal by another member.

Liberal officials and the sycophantic media portrayed Canada’s move to bring Caracas before the ICC as a challenge to the US. Evan Dyer reported, “Government sources told CBC that Canada’s decision to refer Venezuela is also meant as a show of support for the ICC, an institution this country believes in that is under attack” from the Trump administration. In other words, Ottawa will challenge Washington by showing Trump how the “international rules-based” ICC can undermine a government the US and Canada are seeking to overthrow through unilateral sanctions, support for the opposition and threatening an invasion, which all contravene the UN Charter.

Unfortunately, some people are willing to buy a dead bird for a pet, the proof of which is that the “international rules-based” ICC Trudeau is promoting has previously been employed to enable violations of international law. In 2011 ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo helped set the stage for NATO’s war on Libya, which contravened UN resolutions 1970 and 1973. (Ottawa defied the UN Security Council resolutions authorizing a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians by dispatching ground forces, delivering weaponry to the opposition and bombing in service of regime change.) Moreno-Ocampo’s immediate condemnation of Gaddafi helped justify NATO violence. Amidst NATO’s violation of UN Security Council resolution 1973, Ocampo issued arrest warrants  for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi. These charges for crimes against humanity were used to justify  regime change efforts. At the time Moreno-Ocampo echoed the outlandish claim that Gaddafi distributed Viagra to his troops “to enhance  the possibility to rape”. Three months into the bombing campaign, Moreno-Ocampo told a press conference: “we have information that there was a policy to rape in Libya those who were against the government. Apparently he [Gaddafi] used it to punish people.”(Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera, who was in Libya for three months after the start of the uprising and Liesel Gerntholtz, head of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, were unable to find any basis for the mass rape claims.)

A 2017 Der Spiegel English investigation titled “The Ocampo Affair A Former ICC Chief’s Dubious Links” notes, “Ocampo’s correspondence shows that he made agreements with the French and the British, and behaved as part of the anti-Gadhafi coalition.”

A forerunner to the ICC, the Canadian-backed International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) helped justify NATO’s illegal 78-day bombing of Serbia. While the worst atrocities of the Yugoslav wars took place in the early 1990s, ICTY Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour hastily prepared to prosecute Serb President Slobodan Milosevic for rights violations at the start of 1999. Just prior to the NATO bombing Arbour brought along the international media for a stunt where she claimed Milosevic was blocking her from investigating a massacre in the Kosovar village of Racak. Subsequent investigations into what happened at Racak were inconclusive despite widespread reporting of a Serbian massacre, which was used to justify NATO’s illegal bombing.

Amidst NATO’s military intervention without UN approval — the “supreme international crime”— the future Canadian Supreme Court Justice indicted Milosevic and four associates for war crimes. In a 2000 article titled “Louise Arbour: Unindicted War Criminal” Christopher Black and Edward Herman write, “Arbour and the Tribunal thus present us with the amazing spectacle of an institution supposedly organized to contain, prevent, and prosecute for war crimes actually knowingly facilitating them.”

The idea that bringing Venezuela to the ICC will strengthen the “international rules-based order” would be funny if it wasn’t an escalation in a dangerous campaign to oust an elected government.

This article was first published in Canadian Dimension.

 

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Why do Raptors associate with blood-stained dictator?

It is time to call a technical foul on Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri for his ties to one of the world’s most ruthless dictators. Through his Giants of Africa charity Ujiri has bestowed legitimacy on Paul Kagame even as local newspapers document the Rwandan president’s violence.

Before their December 5 game against the Philadelphia 76ers the Raptors celebrated Nelson Mandela as the Giant of Africa. A report produced for the two-day charity fundraiser noted, “since Giants of Africa’s first Mandela Tribute event held in 2014, we are grateful to have had many influential guests participate in our initiative.” Kagame and Barack Obama were the only two politicians listed.

At an NBA meeting in New York in September Kagame thanked Ujiri and Raptors governor Larry Tanenbaum, lauding the Giants of Africa initiative as “another step for Africa in our development.” In August Kagame opened a training camp in Kigali with Ujiri and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver while two months earlier the Raptors GMmet the Rwandan leader at the G7 Summit in Quebec City.

Last year Ujiri travelled to Kigali to unveil a new basketball court with Kagame. In 2015 the president’s son, Ian Kagame, attended the inaugural Giants of Africa camp in the Rwandan capital. During that visit the president hosted the Raptors GM for dinner. According to a Globe and Mail story, the one-time head of Ugandan military intelligence told “Ujiri that he’d woken in the middle of the night to watch Raptors’ playoff games.”

As this mutual love affair developed there were questions about the team’s association with a ruthless dictator. During the NBA All-Star weekend in February 2016 the Toronto Star contacted Ujiri about Kagame speaking at numerous events, including a documentary screening about Giants of Africa camps at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The Raptors GM told the paper “there is no controversy.”

A month before Kagame’s visit to the NBA All-Star weekend the Globe and Mail reported: “Village informers. Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda — a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”

Previously Toronto Star Board Chair John Honderich published a commentary in his paper headlined “No freedom for press in Rwanda.” The 2007 story noted that the government “ordered the summary firing of the Sunday editor of the country’s only daily for publishing an unflattering photo of the president … the president’s office only wants their man shown in command and in the middle of the photo … All this happened days after a fledgling new newspaper, called The Weekly Post, was shut down by the government after its first issue.”

Ujiri’s public “friendship” with Kagame has been taking place amidst growing recognition of Kagame’s violence. A 2015 National Post headline noted: “Rwandan intelligence agents harassing opponents in Canada, border service says” while the Star published stories that year titled: “Toronto lawyer claims he’s target of death threat from Rwandan government” and “Four other Canadians believe they’re being targeted by Rwanda.” Since 2014 the Globe and Mail has published at least eight front-page reports about Kagame’s international assassination program and responsibility for blowing up the plane carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, which triggered mass killings in April 1994. Two months ago the Globe added important details to the abundance of evidence suggesting Kagame is the individual most responsible for unleashing the hundred days of genocidal violence by downing a plane carrying two presidents and much of the Rwandan military high command.

For that incident alone Kagame has as much African blood on his hands as any other individual alive. But, the undisputed “military genius” also played an important role in toppling governments in Kampala in 1986 and Kinshasa in 1997. After the latter effort Rwandan forces reinvaded the Congo, which sparked an eight-country war that left millions dead between 1998 and 2003. In October 2010, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on the Congo spanning 1993 to 2003 that charged Rwandan troops with engaging in mass killings “that might be classified as crimes of genocide.”

Since then Rwandan proxies have repeatedly re-invaded the mineral rich eastern Congo. In 2012 The Globe and Mail described how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence” there.

Kagame is not a Giant of Africa. He’s a ruthless dictator with the blood of millions on his hands. The Raptors disgrace themselves and the memory of Nelson Mandela by associating with him.

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Big oil, auto industries conspire to destroy liveability of planet

Is it simply business as usual or a corporate conspiracy to destroy the planet? However one characterizes it our planet is being cooked so already wealthy people can make even more profit.

Last Friday the New York Times published a front-page story titled “The Oil Industry’s Covert Campaign to Rewrite American Car Emissions Rules.” The article pointed out that Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Marathon Oil, Koch Industries and other oil/refining interests won “rollbacks” to vehicle fuel mileage rules that “have gone further than the more modest changes automakers originally lobbied for.” The legislative changes are expected to “increase greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by more than the amount many midsize countries put out in a year.”

With internal combustion engines consuming nearly two-thirds of US petroleum, industry profits are threatened by measures that cut gasoline consumption (be it better fuel mileage, diverting funds from roadway, eliminating auto infrastructure, etc.). About 150,000 gas stations do hundreds of billions of dollars in sales every year. In The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World Paul Roberts explains that the oil industry’s business model is planned around the gasoline pump, “from the kind of crude oil it sought to the kind of refineries it built, to its intense focus on retail marketing.”

The oil industry’s recent opposition to regulating automakers is consistent with its history of promoting automobility, as I and Bianca Mugyenyi detail in Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay. As far back as 1925, oil representatives packed a committee organized by the US surgeon-general concerning the health effects of leaded gas. They successfully argued that lead was harmless despite the fact that companies such as Standard Oil of New Jersey knew leaded gasoline  was a health threat. Over the next 60 years lead levels increased a hundred-fold until it was finally banned in 1986.

In the 1930s and 40s Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum were part of the corporate conspiracy against trolleys  that changed the face of urban landscapes across North America. With General Motors and other companies they set up a network of front organizations that ripped up, converted and resold a hundred electric transit systems in 45 cities.

Amidst increasing smog in California in the 1950s, oil interests engaged in a fight against anti-pollution legislation. They financed  the Stanford Research Institute to contest the findings of Professor Arie J. Haagen-Smit who demonstrated that automobiles  and oil refineries were the major sources of smog.

In 1970 oil companies helped defeat  California’s Proposition 18, an initiative to divert a small portion of the state gas tax to public transit.

Oil companies were part of the National Highway Users Conference (NHUC) that was set up during the Depression to lobby for roadway funding. When the Chicago Transit Authority proposed using $30 million in state fuel tax to finance improvements to mass transit in the mid-1950s, the NHUC sent in two full-time workers to successfully coordinate opposition (with the Illinois Highway Users Conference) against the proposal.

In 1951, the NHUC launched Project  Adequate Roads, which called for a national highway system. Project Adequate Roads helped win the massive Interstate Highway System.

Oil interests were part of another group that lobbied for the Interstate. Beginning in 1942 the “Road Gang”, a secret society of men representing, automobile, truck and tire makers as well highway engineers, top highway bureaucrats, etc. met regularly in a private Washington, DC, restaurant to push for more roadway.

The private automobile has risen to dominance in large part because of its ability to draw together a wide array of powerful corporate interests from steel makers to real estate developers, rubber companies to big box retailers. During the automobile’s embryonic phase, the oil industry was already big business. At that time, oil was mainly used to fuel the kerosene lamp, a business destroyed by the emergence of gas and electrical illumination. The powerful oil interests of the day, led by the Rockefeller family, were bailed out of this crisis and set up for life with the advent of the automobile. And as barrel upon barrel was drained from the earth and pumped into gas tanks, big oil swam in its profits.

So, in many respects, oil interests lobbying against restrictions on automakers is simply business as usual, given their history of promoting automobility. But, given the dangers of climate disturbances ‘business as usual’ takes on the appearance of a criminal corporate conspiracy to destroy civilization.

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