The movement to abolish nuclear weapons

The movement to abolish nuclear weapons has been around for a long time, taking a torturous path through highs and lows. Another high will be achieved next week when the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty enters into force.

On January 22 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will become law for the 51 countries that have already ratified it (35 others have signed it and another 45 have expressed their support). Weapons that have always been immoral will become illegal.

But, jettisoning stated support for nuclear abolition, a feminist foreign-policy and an international rules-based order — all principles the TPNW advances — the Trudeau government opposes the treaty. Hostility to nuclear disarmament from the US, NATO and Canada’s military is too strong for the Trudeau government to live up to its stated beliefs.

The TPNW is largely the work of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Established in April 2007, ICAN spent a decade building support for various international disarmament initiatives culminating in the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. The TPNW was born of that conference.

Indirectly, ICAN traces its roots much further back. Even before the first nuke decimated Hiroshima 75 years ago many opposed nuclear weapons. As the horror of what took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki became clearer, opposition to atomic bombs grew.

In Canada opposition to nuclear weapons reached its zenith in the mid 1980s. Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto and other cities became nuclear weapons free zones and Pierre Trudeau appointed an ambassador for disarmament. In April 1986 100,000 marched in Vancouver to oppose nuclear weapons.

The mainstreaming of nuclear abolition took decades of activism. In the 1950s the Canadian Peace Congress was viciously attacked for promoting the Stockholm Appeal to ban atomic bombs. External Affairs Minister Lester Pearson said, “this Communist sponsored petition seeks to eliminate the only decisive weapon possessed by the West at a time when the Soviet Union and its friends and satellites possess a great superiority in all other types of military power.”Pearson called for individuals to destroy the Peace Congress from the inside, publicly applauding 50 engineering students who swamped a membership meeting of the University of Toronto Peace Congress branch. He proclaimed, “if more Canadians were to show something of this high spirited crusading zeal, we would very soon hear little of the Canadian Peace Congress and its works. We would simply take it over.”

CCF leader M.J. Coldwell also berated Peace Congress activists. The 1950 convention of the NDP’s predecessor condemned the Stockholm Appeal to ban atomic bombs.

For protesting nuclear weapons some were arrested and put on the PROFUNC (PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist Party) list of individuals the police would round up and detain indefinitely in the case of an emergency. According to Radio Canada’s Enquête, a 13-year girl was on the secretive list simply because she attended an anti-nuclear protest in 1964.

Efforts to ban nuclear weapons face far less opposition today. Anti-nuclear activism in Canada has been re-energized since the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer and the TPNW achieving its ratification threshold in November. In the fall 50 organizations endorsed an event with three MPs on “Why hasn’t Canada signed the UN nuclear ban treaty?” and former prime minister Jean Chrétien, deputy prime minister John Manley, defence ministers John McCallum and Jean-Jacques Blais, and foreign ministers Bill Graham and Lloyd Axworthy signed an international statement organized by ICAN in support of the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty.

To mark the TPNW entering into force 85 groups are supporting ads in The Hill Times calling for a parliamentary debate on signing the Treaty. There will also be a press conference with representatives of the NDP, Bloc Québécois and Greens to demand Canada sign the TPNW and on the day the treaty enters into force Noam Chomsky will speak on “The Threat of Nuclear Weapons: Why Canada Should Sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty”.

To force the Trudeau government to overcome the influence of the military, NATO and the USA requires significant mobilization. Fortunately, we have the experience to do it. The push for Canada to sign the TPNW is rooted in decades of activists’ work to abolish these ghastly weapons.

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Filed under Activism, nuclear weapons

When will Trudeau finally end embrace of Guaidó?

When will the Trudeau government finally end its embrace of Juan Guaidó?

Just before this week’s inauguration of a new National Assembly François-Philippe Champagne tweeted, “as the December 6 elections were neither free nor fair, Canada will continue to recognize the National Assembly, democratically elected in 2015, as Venezuela’s legitimate legislature and its president as Venezuela’s Interim President.” Tagging Guaidó, the foreign minister added, “Canada will always stand with Venezuela in their fight to restore democracy.”

While the Trump administration took a similar position, the European Union dropped its de facto recognition of Guaidó. Even the Ottawa-led Lima Group’s recent statement on Venezuela backed away slightly, failing to “mention Guaidó as interim president.”

In response to Champagne’s tweet Venezuela’s foreign minister wrote, “since the government of Canada doesn’t respect the UN Charter nor Venezuela’s sovereignty, it announces it will continue to subordinate to US policies and sanctions to violate the human rights of Venezuelans. What a sad role it has played. Shame!”

More than two years ago Canadian diplomats 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, Guaidó, as president. The Canadian Press quoted a Canadian diplomat saying they helped Guaidó “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 Guaidó to congratulate him on unifying opposition forces in Venezuela, two weeks before he declared himself interim president” in January 2019. Canadian diplomats spent “months”, reported 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 a relatively marginal National Assembly member was Venezuela’s president.

Alongside Washington and a number of right-leaning Latin American governments, Ottawa immediately recognized Guaidó after he proclaimed himself president at a rally. In the weeks after Prime Minister Trudeau called numerous international leaders to convince them to join Canada in supporting Guaidó. At the opening of the Lima Group meeting in Ottawa after Guaidó’s presidential declaration Trudeau declared, “the international community must immediately unite behind the interim president.”

After he was officially dethroned as leader of Venezuela’s national assembly (the matter was contested) in January of last year, Guaidó sought to reaffirm his international backing. Two weeks later Guaidó was fêted in Ottawa, meeting the PM, international development minister and foreign minister. Trudeau declared, “I commend Interim President Guaidó for the courage and leadership he has shown in his efforts to return democracy to Venezuela, and I offer Canada’s continued support.” Over the past two years Canadian officials have put out dozens of tweets, press releases and other statements supporting Guaidó’s claim to the presidency.

The bulk of the opposition to Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela has broken with Guaidó. For their part, many government supporters are demanding he be arrested. In “The Dilemma of What to Do with Guaido” Miguel Ugas describes the different perspectives on the matter:

“Guaido’s conduct has been criminal without any doubt, underpinned as it was by an imperialist power and the Right. It has spared no perversity in order to achieve its anti-objectives: to call for foreign military intervention; to help expropriate Venezuela’s foreign based resources; to instigate sabotage in the public services; to attempt murder; to encourage the breaking of supply routes for food and goods needed for the productive apparatus; to usurp offices that do not correspond to him; to enter into pacts with paramilitary drug lords; to promote an economic, commercial and financial blockade against the country without weighing the consequences it may have for the lives of Venezuelans; to attack the health of the people by preventing the import of medicines, particularly during the pandemic; to promote smear campaigns against the country in international forums; to try to negotiate our [disputed] Essequibo territory; to put himself at the service of foreign powers without concern about undermining national sovereignty.”

Trudeau claims an individual without an electoral mandate or control over any government institution is president of Venezuela. One can understand why the (I won the 2020 election) Donald Trump administration would continue with this farce, but why are the Liberals going along with it?

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America, Venezuela

Why isn’t NDP critic Randall Garrison questioning $200 billion navy procurement?

The job of the opposition in Parliament is to hold the government accountable, in part by asking questions. The role of an NDP critic should be to criticize from the left. So why the silence from Randall Garrison after Canada’s leading military reporter David Pugliese published a 5,000 word expose on the Canadian Surface Combatant headlined, “Billions in trouble: How the crown jewel of Canada’s shipbuilding strategy became a possible financial disaster waiting in the wings.”

Despite revelations over the past month of costs growing to over $200 billion, extreme secrecy, the addition of ballistic ‘missile defence’ and Tomahawk missiles that travel 1,700 kilometers, there has been nary a comment from the NDP defence critic on the 15 new frigates.

Initially pegged at $14 billion, the official price tag for the frigates later rose to $26 billion and now sits at $60 billion. In 2019 the Parliamentary Budget Officer put the cost about $10 billion higher and an updated frigates cost estimate next month is expected to reach $80 billion. To keep information about the swelling costs under wraps the military has resorted to extreme secrecy, reported Pugliese in the expose.

The recent winner of a lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom followed his investigation into the cost and secrecy surrounding the frigates with a story about government officials criticizing companies for speaking out. Subsequently, Pugliese published a story headlined “Top of the line Canadian-made naval equipment shut out of $70-billion warship program” about government subsidized firms cut out of the Lockheed Martin led consortium set to build the frigates. As a result, Thales Canada’s government funded naval radar, which is being used on German, Danish and Dutch warships, won’t be part of the Canadian Surface Combatant.

In response to Pugliese’s reporting, the Ottawa Citizen editorial board criticized the frigate purchase in “Choppy waters for Canada’s warship program”. In November the Hill Times also published a commentary titled “Canada’s surface combatant costs might be taking on water” and a front-page story titled “DND says budget for Surface Combatants remains unchanged; PBO report expected in late February”. Two days before Christmas CBC reported an astounding estimate for the lifecycle cost of the frigates. Initially detailed in Esprit de Corps, former defence official Alan Williams’ concludes that the 15 frigates will cost $213 – 219 billion over 40 years!

One explanation for the astronomical cost of the 15 frigates is the radar system that’s been chosen. According to a CBC story from early December, the radar can be easily upgraded to a ballistic missile defence system, which successive Canadian governments have resisted joining. In the mid 2000s the Canadian Peace Alliance, Échec à la guerre, Ceasefire.ca and others forced the Liberal government to shelve its plan to formally join the US Ballistic Missile Defence. (It’s called “missile defence” because it’s designed to defend US missiles when they use them in offensive wars.)

In November a number of military focused publications reported on the weaponry expected on the vessels. “Canada’s New Frigate Will Be Brimming With Missiles”, is how The Drive described the ships. In a first outside the US, Canada’s surface combatants look set to be outfitted with Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of striking land targets up to 1,700 kilometers away. As such, the frigates could be near London and hit Berlin or, more plausibly, docked in Panama City and strike Caracas, Venezuela.

As I recently detailed in Jacobin, Ottawa has long used naval force as a “diplomatic” tool. Early Canadian ‘gunboat diplomacy’ included pressing Costa Rica to repay the Royal Bank in 1921 and helping a dictator as he was massacring peasants in El Salvador in 1932. In recent years Canadian warships have gone to war with Libya and Iraq.

Amidst growing media criticism, NDP defence critic Randall Garrison has said nothing regarding the frigates’ cost, secrecy or weaponry. He hasn’t released a single tweet (or retweet) about any of the recent stories on the surface combatant vessels.

This is abysmal. What is the point of having an NDP defence critic if they are unwilling to question or challenge the largest procurement in Canadian history?

At the NDP convention in April members need to press Garrison to clarify his position on these violent, $200 billion frigates.

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Canada’s alliances prove the country is an imperialist power

For thousands of years folk wisdom has insisted that ‘you shall be known by the company you keep’. This is also true of countries.

A recent United Nations vote condemning the “glorification of Nazism, neo‑Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” generated significant commentary on social media. The US and Ukraine voted against the widely supported resolution while Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most European countries abstained. One commentator tweeted that the countries who failed to condemn Nazism were “more or less the same coalition of stooges that recognized Juan Guaido” as president of Venezuela while another pointed out that it was similar to the coalition of “countries condemning China’s policies in Hong Kong.” Another connected it to NATO.

These commentators hit on something fundamentally important. It is instructive to consider Canada’s UN votes and position on international issues through the lens of its many alliances.

Canada is a leading member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Canada participated with the US and Britain in the secret talks on creating a north Atlantic alliance and since NATO was established in 1949 has been one of its most active contributors.

Canada is a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing arrangement. A series of post-Second World War accords, beginning with the 1946 UKUSA intelligence agreement, created the “AUS/CAN/NZ/UK/US EYES ONLY” arrangement. The Five Eyes partnership oozes of white supremacy. Settler colonialism and empire unite an alliance that excludes wealthier non-white nations (Japan and South Korea) or those with more English speakers (India and Nigeria). It’s not a coincidence that the only four countries that originally voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007 are part of the Five Eyes.

Canada is a member of the Commonwealth. It was a member of the alliance when it only included Britain, Australia, New Zealand and apartheid South Africa.

Canada is a member of the Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations. It also has a permanent (constituency-based) seat on the International Monetary Fund’s executive board (Canada represents 10 Caribbean countries and Ireland on the IMF board).

Canada is part of the Lima Group seeking to overthrow the Venezuelan government. Instigated by Canada and Peru in mid 2017, the Lima Group has successfully corralled regional support for the US-led campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Canada is a member of the Core Group that heavily shapes Haitian affairs. Comprising the ambassadors of the US, France, Brazil and Spain, as well as representatives of the EU and OAS, Core Group representatives meet regularly among themselves and with Haitian officials and periodically release collective statements on Haitian affairs. While formally established two months after the 2004 US, France and Canada coup against President Jean–Bertrand Aristide, Radio Canada’s Enquête pointed out that the Core Group was actually spawned at the “Ottawa initiative on Haiti”. Held at the Meech Lake Government Resort on January 31 and February 1, 2003, no Haitian officials were invited to the private gathering where US, French, OAS and Canadian officials discussed overthrowing Haiti’s elected government, putting the country under UN trusteeship and recreating the Haitian military.

Few countries are represented in as many powerful and openly interventionist coalitions. Canada’s different alliances suggests this country sits near the centre of global imperialism.

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Filed under Five Eyes, NATO

New frigates to project Canadian ‘power’ with cruise missiles

A recent report about the weapons on Canada’s new Navy frigates is frightening. Equally troubling is the lack of parliamentary opposition to expanding the federal government’s violent “maritime power projection” capacities.

Naval News recently reported on the likely arsenal of Canada’s new surface combatant vessels, which are expected to cost over $70 billion ($213-219 billion over their lifecycle). The largest single taxpayer expense in Canadian history,the 15 vessels “will be fitted with a wide range of weapons, both offensive and defense, in a mix never seen before in any surface combatant.”

The 7,800 tonne vessels have space for a helicopter and remotely piloted systems. The frigates have electronic warfare capabilities, torpedo tubes and various high-powered guns. It will have a Naval Strike Missile harpoon that can launch missiles 185 kilometers. Most controversially, the surface combatants look set to be equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of striking land targets up to 1,700 kilometres away. US-based Raytheon has only ever exported these Tomahawk missiles to the UK and if the Royal Canadian Navy acquires them it would be the only navy besides the US to deploy the missiles on surface vessels.

Canada’s New Frigate Will Be Brimming With Missiles”, is how The Drive recently described the surface combatant vessels. In the article War Zone reporter Joseph Trevithick concludes, “the ships now look set to offer Canada an entirely new form of maritime power projection.”

What has Canada’s “maritime power projection” looked like historically?

Over the past three years Canadian vessels have repeatedly been involved in belligerent “freedom of navigation” exercises through international waters that Beijing claims in the South China Sea, Strait of Taiwan and East China Sea. To “counter China’s” growing influence in Asia, Washington has sought to stoke longstanding territorial and maritime boundary disputes between China and the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and other nations. As part of efforts to rally regional opposition to China, the US Navy engages in regular “freedom of navigation” operations, which see warships travel through or near disputed waters.

A Canadian frigate has regularly patrolled the Black Sea, which borders Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Romania, Georgia and Ukraine. In July 2019 HMCS Toronto led a four ship Standing NATO Maritime Group exercise in the Black Sea. Soon after, it participated with two-dozen other ships in a NATO exercise that included training in maritime interdiction, air defence, amphibious warfare and anti-submarine warfare as part of sending “a strong message of deterrence to Russia.”

During the 2011 war on Libya Canadian vessels patrolled the Libyan coast. Two rotations of Canadian warships enforced a naval blockade of Libya for six months with about 250 soldiers aboard each vessel. On May 19, 2011, HMCS Charlottetown joined an operation that destroyed eight Libyan naval vessels. After the hostilities the head of Canada’s navy, Paul Maddison, told Ottawa defence contractors that HMCS Charlottetown “played a key role in keeping the Port of Misrata open as a critical enabler of the anti-Gaddafi forces.”

A month before the commencement of the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Canada sent a command and control destroyer to the Persian Gulf to take charge of Taskforce 151 — the joint allied naval command. Opinion sought by the Liberal government concluded that taking command of Taskforce 151 could make Canada legally at war with Iraq. In 1998 HMCS Toronto was deployed to support US airstrikes and through the 1990s Canadian warships were part of US carrier battle groups enforcing brutal sanctions on Iraq. During the first Iraq war Canada dispatched destroyers HMCS Terra Nova and Athabaskan and supply vessel Protecteur to the Persian Gulf before a UN resolution was passed.

Historically the Canadian Navy’s influence has been greatest nearer to home. In a chapter of the 2000 book Canadian Gunboat Diplomacy titled “Maple Leaf Over the Caribbean: Gunboat Diplomacy Canadian Style” military historian Sean Maloney writes: “Since 1960, Canada has used its military forces at least 26 times in the Caribbean to support Canadian foreign policy. In addition, Canada planned three additional operations, including two unilateral interventions into Caribbean states.”

At the request of Grenada’s government Ottawa deployed a vessel to the tiny country during its 1974 independence celebration. In Revolution and Intervention in Grenada Kai Schoenhals and Richard Melanson write, “the United Kingdom and Canada also sent three armed vessels to St. George’s to shore up the [Eric] Gairy government”, which faced significant pressure from the left.

When 23,000 US troops invaded the Dominican Republic in April 1965 a Canadian warship was sent to Santo Domingo, noted Defence Minister Paul Theodore Hellyer, “to stand by in case it is required.” Two Canadian gunboats were deployed to Barbados’ independence celebration the next year in a bizarre diplomatic maneuver designed to demonstrate Canada’s military prowess. Maloney writes, “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 [US invasion], it is likely that the targets were any outside force, probably Cuban, which might be tempted to interfere with Barbadian independence.” Of course, Canadian naval vessels were considered no threat to Barbadian independence.

Immediately after US forces invaded Korea in 1950, Ottawa sent three vessels to the region. Ultimately eight RCN destroyers completed 21 tours in Korea between 1950 and 1955.

Canadian ships transported troops and bombed the enemy ashore. They hurled 130,000 rounds at Korean targets. According to a Canadian War Museum exhibit, “during the war, Canadians became especially good at ‘train busting.’ This meant running in close to shore, usually at night, and risking damage from Chinese and North Korean artillery in order to destroy trains or tunnels on Korea’s coastal railway. Of the 28 trains destroyed by United Nations warships in Korea, Canadian vessels claimed eight.” Canadian Naval Operations in Korean Waters 1950-1955 details a slew of RCN attacks that would have likely killed civilians.

Canadian warships were also dispatched to force Costa Rica to negotiate with the Royal Bank in 1921, to protect British interests during the Mexican Revolution and to back a dictator massacring peasants in El Salvador in 1932.

Where do the political parties stand on new frigates “brimming with missiles”? The Stephen Harper Conservatives instigated the massive naval outlay and the Liberals have happily maintained course. The NDP has supported the initiative and the Bloc pressed for more shipyard work in Québec. The Greens have stayed silent.

Surely there must be at least one Member of Parliament who doesn’t think it’s a good idea to spend $200 billion to strengthen the federal government’s bullying naval capacities in support of the US Empire and Canadian corporations abroad.

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Canada supports Unconstitutional Haitian Leader as it seeks to overthrow Venezuela’s President

Trudeau & Jovenel Moïse

Add this to the “you can’t make this stuff up” file: Canada’s foreign minister recently met his Haitian counterpart, who is part of a de facto administration illegally rewriting the constitution, to discuss Venezuela’s supposed democracy deficiency. Apparently, Ottawa wants a Haitian regime extending its term and criminalizing protest to maintain its support for Juan Guaidó as “constitutional” president of Venezuela.

Last week foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke with his Haitian counterpart Claude Joseph. According to Champagne’s tweet about the conversation, they discussed COVID-19, Haiti’s elections and Venezuela. Presumably, Champagne relayed Ottawa’s position concerning Venezuela’s recent National Assembly elections, which delivered a final blow to opposition politician Guaidó’s farcical presidential claims. In August Joseph met his US and Canadian patrons in Washington on the sidelines of an anti-Venezuela Lima Group meeting. In response Haïti Liberté’s Kim Ives noted, “what could be more ironic and ludicrous than Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse accusing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro of being ‘illegitimate and dictatorial’ while demanding that he immediately ‘hold free, fair, and transparent general elections’? But that is exactly the position of the Lima Group, a collection of 15 Latin American states and Canada, which Haiti joined in January 2020.”

Joseph is the representative of a prime minister appointed extra-constitutionally. His boss was picked by Moïse after parliament, which needs to endorse a prime minister, expired because the president failed to organize elections. Moïse is ruling by decree and pushing to extend his term by a year to February 7, 2022, against the wishes of most Haitians and constitutional experts.

Canada is essentially supporting Moïse’s bid to extend his mandate. Ottawa is also supporting an election process that most political actors in Haiti reject. In the summer Haiti’s entire nine person electoral council resigned in response to Moïse’s pressure and few believe a fair election is possible under his direction.

Canada is backing the elections and an illegal constitutional rewrite. After the call with Champagne, Joseph tweeted, “I had a fruitful conversation today with my Canadian counterpart François-Philippe Champagne. We discussed, among other things, Canada’s support for constitutional reform and the holding of elections in 2021.”

Moïse is seeking to rewrite the constitution. Soon after parliament was disbanded, he picked individuals to rewrite the constitution in flagrant violation of the law. Moïse appointed former Supreme Court justice Boniface Alexandre to head the constitutional rewrite. Alexandre was made figurehead “President” after the US, France and Canada overthrew elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. In another throwback to a period that saw thousands killed in political violence, Moïse recently made Léon Charles head of police. The former military man oversaw the police in the 17 months after the 2004 coup with Charles publicly referring to the “war” the police waged against the pro-democracy sector.

In another regressive throwback, Moïse unilaterally decreed the creation of a new National Intelligence Agency at the end of November. Kim Ives explains, “this secret agency’s completely anonymous officers (Article 43) will have false identities (Article 44), carry guns (Article 51), be legally untouchable (Article 49), and have the power not just to spy and infiltrate but to arrest anybody engaged in ‘subversive’ acts (Article 29) or threatening ‘state security’ i.e. the power of President Jovenel Moïse.” The new agency appears analogous to the Duvalier dictatorship’s Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (Ton Ton Macoutes) or the Service d’Intelligence National the CIA created after Baby Doc fled in 1986. Supposed to fight the cocaine trade, SIN members were involved in hundreds of murders in subsequent years.

Even most of Moïse’s foreign patrons have nominally distanced themselves from the new intelligence agency, which reach beyond the constitutional powers of the president. The Core Group, a US and Canada led alliance of foreign ambassadors that heavily influences Haitian affairs, released a statement critical of Moïse’s intelligence agency decree. (But, I could not find a mention of the Core Group statement on either the Canadian ambassador or Canada in Haiti Twitter accounts.)

Alongside the intelligence agency announcement, Moïse decreed new legislation “for strengthening public security”. It includes massive fines and 50-year jail sentences for individuals convicted of “terrorism” related charges, which include the common protest tactic of blockading roads.

As it seeks to overthrow Nicolás Maduro for purported human rights violations and democratic deficiencies, the Trudeau government has endorsed Moïse’s repressive measures. After a meeting with the president, Canada’s ambassador Stuart Savage tweeted on December 10: “Important discussion with Jovenel Moïse on this International Human Rights Day on the subject of democratic renewal, rule of law and food security.” Savage failed to criticize Moïse’s bid to extend his term, rewrite the constitution, establish an intelligence agency or label road blockades “terrorism”.

Even before these recent unconstitutional measures, partnering with Moïse to demand Maduro follow Canada’s interpretation of the Venezuelan constitution was laughable. Moïse is the hand-picked successor of Michel Martellywho the US, Canada and Organization of American States inserted into the presidency after the horrific 2010 earthquake. A relatively obscure businessman who had never held public office, Moïse benefited from two million dollars in public funds (ironically stolen from Venezuelan assistance) funneled his way by the Martelly administration. According to official figures, Moïse received 595,000 votes — just 9.6 percent of registered voters in the 2016 election. (For his part, Maduro received the support of 27% of registered voters in the May 2018 presidential election.)

Moïse faced an unprecedented popular uprising against his presidency between July 2018 and late 2019. The country’s urban areas were paralyzed by a handful of general strikes, including one that largely shuttered Port-au-Prince for a month. The only reason the unpopular president is still in office is because of diplomatic, financial and policing support from Ottawa and Washington.

Shining a light on Canadian policy towards Haiti makes clear that its bid to replace Maduro as President of Venezuela is not about democracy. Ottawa is completely comfortable with an undemocratic government in Haiti.

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Filed under Haiti, Latin America, Venezuela

Time for nuclear disarmament movement to ruffle government feathers

ICAN Activists mobilize to prohibit nuclear weapons.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
― Frederick Douglass

“Tell no lies, claim no easy victories.”
― Amílcar Cabral

 

To win any social justice victory of import you will invariably ruffle some feathers. The individuals who dominate Canada’s main nuclear disarmament organizations don’t appear to understand that.

Last week Canada joined the US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau in voting against a resolution calling on Israel to “renounce possession of nuclear weapons” and sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). 153 countries backed the call. Beyond isolating Canada against the world, opposition to this resolution contradicts the Trudeau government’s October claim that its “commitment to the NPT has been unwavering” and one reason it hasn’t supported the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty, which will be adopted into international law next month.

During the same session it voted against Israel joining the NPT Canada opposed the 130 states calling on countries to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Six weeks ago, the Trudeau government voted against another resolution backing the TPNW.

On Dec 7 130 countries supported the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The Trudeau government has long been hostile to the initiative. Canada was one of 38 states to vote against — 123 voted in favour — holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. Trudeau then refused to send a representative to the TPNW negotiating meeting, which two-thirds of all countries attended. The PM went so far as to call the anti-nuclear initiative “useless” and since then his government has refused to join the nearly 90 countries that have already signed the treaty.

At the same time, the Trudeau government has reinforced Canada’s ties to the nuclear armed NATO alliance. Canada participates in the NATO Nuclear Planning Group and contributes personnel and financial support to NATO’s Nuclear Policy Directorate. Nuclear weapons are officially “a core component of the alliance’s overall capabilities.”

Amidst the Trudeau government’s pro-nuclear policies prominent disarmament campaigners have criticized me for challenging the Liberals’ position. After publishing “The hypocrisy of the Liberals’ nuclear policy” regarding Liberal MP Hedy Fry’s last minute withdrawal from a webinar on “Why hasn’t Canada signed the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty?”, a leading anti-nuclear campaigner emailed me. He didn’t send congratulations on breaking into the corporate daily The Province but rather called my piece an “ad hominem attack”. After listing Fry’s purported anti-nuclear weapons achievements, he wrote “she cares deeply about the nuclear weapons issue, has for decades, and is a friend and ally in the global campaign to advance nuclear disarmament. So too, Canada’s new Ambassador to the United Nations, H. E. Bob Rae, whom you also attacked quite brutally I thought, in an earlier piece. Besides being patently unfair to these individuals, how does this serve our shared cause? I would urge anyone who thinks that we can win the hearts and minds of decision makers or decision influencers by beating them publicly and very personally with a metaphorical bat, to please reconsider. These are good people who deserve better. And we need all the help we can get.”

Two months ago, another mainstay in peace circles called my response to former Conservative MP Douglas Roche’s praise of Bob Rae an “ugly attack against our own”. In “Antiwar forces need to challenge Trudeau government, not praise it” I criticized a column Roche published extolling Canada’s new ambassador to the UN. Rae, of course, is directly responsible for Canada’s votes against the TPNW and Israel joining the NPT (not to mention a slew of anti-Palestinian votes).

In criticizing Roche’s piece I wrote, “the movement is far too focused on insider lobbying” at the expense of “social movement mobilization.” At some point in a successful social justice campaign backroom lobbying and praising government officials can be useful. But not when it’s taking pro-NATO positions and opposing nuclear disarmament resolutions.

The anti-nuclear movement should not feel any responsibility to defend Liberal officials. It certainly doesn’t require government flatterers. Quite the opposite. It should whip up anti-government sentiment and highlight the Trudeau government’s rank hypocrisy on nuclear arms. While they claim to support nuclear abolition, an “international rules-based order” and a “feminist foreign policy”, they are opposing a widely endorsed UN Nuclear Ban Treaty that directly advances these stated principles.

Winning social justice victories isn’t about making nice with the powerful. Rather, it requires bringing some power to the table. Fortunately for the anti-nuclear movement its latent power is a broadly supportive public. To turn that into policy, activists need to rile up public opinion and channel it politically. If that upsets some important people that’s a reflection of their priorities, not our tactics.

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Filed under Activism, Military

Trudeau chooses big pharma’s rights over health of billions

The Canadian government is choosing corporate property rights over the health of billions.

The World Trade Organization is currently discussing a proposal by India and South Africa calling for a waiver of certain rules on intellectual property rights to allow poor countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines. Backed by about 100 countries, the initiative to temporarily waive some elements of the TRIPS Intellectual Property Rights accord has been opposed by Ottawa. The Liberals’ opposition to the “Waiver from Certain Provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of COVID-19” is particularly galling since Canada is hoarding COVID-19 vaccines. A recent report showed that Canada was the worst offender in the world, having amassed enough vaccines to cover the entire Canadian population five times over. Many poor countries have barely enough vaccines on order to cover 10% of their population.

Canada has aligned with the US, Switzerland and EU and Big Pharma on an issue that could save many lives. Hopefully, growing criticism will prompt Ottawa to shift its position but the Canadian government has long supported strengthening (anti-free market) intellectual property rights in international trade forums. More generally, Canada usually aligns itself with the demands of the richest countries at the WTO.

Recent protests in India inadvertently shone a light on the issue. Over the past week farmers in India have launched massive protests against a bid to deregulate crop pricing. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke in favor of the protest, the Indian media has pointed out that Canada has consistently sought to undercut India’s minimum support price (MSP) for small farmers at the WTO. In a story titled “Hello Canada! Trudeau support to India’s farm protests contradict Canada’s WTO stand”, Business Today reported that over the past four years Canada has raised 65 “questions” against India’s agricultural policies at the WTO’s Committee on Agriculture. Canada’s criticisms focused on “India’s MSP-based market price support policies for agriculture products to India’s public stockholding programmes for food security to India’s trade policies on pulses.”

At the WTO Canada is a member of the Cairns Group of Agriculture Exporters. In a bid to expand their country’s exports, the Cairns Group pushes to eliminate supports for small-scale local agricultural producers.

Through the WTO Canada has also recently challenged European Union restrictions on gene-edited crops. In July 2018 the European Court of Justice ruled that agricultural gene editing should be regulated under the EU’s genetically modified organisms (GMO) protocols. In response Canada, the US and 11 other countries criticized EU farm product regulations at the WTO. They claimed that exports with a low-level presence of gene-edited crop should not be restricted even if the product was unapproved in the recipient nation. Changing food at the molecular level, gene-editing is used to modify the flavour or texture of fruits. Big agricultural firms such as Monsanto/Bayer promote gene editing partly to tighten their grip over the food supply. But there are unresolved questions about the long-term effects of gene-edited organisms on human health and the environment.

Prior to the pandemic Ottawa coordinated a bid to recharge the WTO that reinforced international inequities. In October 2018 international trade minister Jim Carr created a coalition of 13 WTO members (EU, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Kenya, Mexico, Singapore, New Zealand, South Korea, Norway and Switzerland). The group met in Ottawa amidst trade tensions between the US and China and while the US president was criticizing the WTO. The aim of the initiative was to find an agreement on WTO reform that could later be brought to the institution’s broader membership. The spokesperson for the African Group, South Africa’s envoy to the WTO, Xavier Carim, criticized the Canadian-led scheme. “When we look at these proposals, we see them as making the imbalance that we have even worse,” said Carim. “They should make it difficult for developing countries to advance.” Carim said the African Group wanted greater policy space to industrialize and reforms to agricultural trade distortions.

Why are Trudeau’s Liberals not supporting this sensible policy to help the people of poorest continent?

Because Ottawa is in thrall to big business and supporting the interests of the already wealthy.

But, surely ending the COVID-19 pandemic must be a priority. The faster the world’s population has access to vaccinations, the better off we will all be.

Sensible people should demand: Free the vaccines now!

 

 

Take a minute to write to international trade minister Mary Ng and foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne and all Canadian MPs to tell them Canada should stop opposing the “Waiver from Certain Provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of COVID-19”.

 

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Time to refocus from Hong Kong to Haiti

For those who support a truly just foreign policy comparing Canadian politicians’ reactions to protests in Hong Kong and the slightly more populous Haiti is instructive. It reveals the extent to which this country’s politicians are forced to align with the US Empire.

Despite hundreds of thousands of Canadians having close ties with both Haiti and Hong Kong, only protests in the latter seem to be of concern to politicians.

Recently NDP MP Niki Ashton and Green MP Paul Manly were attacked ferociously in Parliament and the dominant media for participating in a webinar titled “Free Meng Wanzhou”. During the hullabaloo about an event focused on Canada’s arrest of the Huawei CFO, Manly — who courageously participated in the webinar, even if his framing of the issue left much to be desired — and Ashton — who sent a statement to be read at the event but responded strongly to the backlash in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press — felt the need to mention Hong Kong. Both the NDP (“Canada must do more to help the people of Hong Kong”) and Greens (“Echoes of Tiananmen Square: Greens condemn China’s latest assault on democracy in Hong Kong”) have released multiple statements critical of Beijing’s policy in Hong Kong since protests erupted there nearly two years ago. So have the Liberals, Bloc Québecois and Conservatives.

In March 2019 protests began against an extradition accord between Hong Kong and mainland China. Hong Kongers largely opposed the legislation, which was eventually withdrawn. Many remain hostile to Beijing, which later introduced an anti-sedition law to staunch dissent. Some protests turned violent. One bystander was killed by protesters. A journalist lost an eye after being shot by the police. Hundreds more were hurt and thousands arrested.

During more or less the same period Haiti was the site of far more intense protests and state repression. In July 2018 an uprising began against a reduction in subsidies for fuel (mostly for cooking), which morphed into a broad call for a corrupt and illegitimate president Jovenel Moïse to go. The uprising included a half dozen general strikes, including one that shuttered Port-au-Prince for a month. An October 2019 poll found that 81% of Haitians wanted the Canadian-backed president to leave.

Dozens, probably over 100, were killed by police and government agents. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other western establishment human rights organizations have all documented dozens of police killings in Haiti. More recently, Moïse has ruled by decree, sought to extend his term and to rewrite the constitution. Yet, I couldn’t find a single statement by the NDP or Greens, let alone the Liberals or Conservatives, expressing support for the pro-democracy movement in Haiti.

Even an equal number of statements from a Canadian political party would be less than adequate. Not only were the protests and repression far more significant in Haiti, the impact of a Canadian politician’s intervention is far more meaningful. Unlike in Hong Kong, the police responsible for the repression in Haiti were trained, financed and backed by Canada. The Trudeau government even gave $12.5 million to the Haitian police under its Feminist International Assistance Policy! More broadly, the unpopular president received decisive diplomatic and financial support from Ottawa and Washington. In fact, a shift in Canada/US policy towards Moïse would have led to his ouster. On the other hand, a harder Canada/US policy towards Hong Kong would have led to well … not much.

The imperial and class dynamics of Haiti are fairly straightforward. For a century Washington has consistently subjugated the country in which a small number of, largely light-skinned, families dominate economic affairs. During the past 20 years Canada has staunchly supported US efforts to undermine Haitian democracy and sovereignty.

Hong Kong’s politics are substantially more complicated. Even if one believes that most in Hong Kong are leery of Beijing’s growing influence — as I do — the end of British rule and reintegration of Hong Kong into China represents a break from a regrettable colonial legacy. Even if you take an entirely unfavorable view towards Beijing’s role there, progressive Canadians shouldn’t focus more on criticizing Chinese policy in Hong Kong than Canadian policy in Haiti.

Echoing an open letter signed by David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Linda McQuaig and 150 others and the demands of those who occupied Justin Trudeau’s office last year, the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Chris Aylward, recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau critical of Canadian support for Moïse. It notes, “Canada must reassess its financial and political support to the Jovenel Moïse government, including police training, until independent investigations are conducted into government corruption in the Petrocaribe scandal and ongoing state collusion with criminal gangs.” The NDP, Greens and others should echo the call.

To prove they are more concerned with genuinely promoting human rights – rather than aligning with the rulers of ‘our’ empire – I humbly suggest that progressive Canadians hold off on criticizing Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong until they have produced an equal number of statements critical of Canada’s role in Haiti.

 

 

To learn more about Canada’s role in Haiti tune into this webinar Sunday on “Canada’s Imperialist Adventures in Haiti

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Sinophobia sweeps Canadian politics

Conservative MP Raquel Dancho denouncing NDP and Green MPs Niki Ashton and Paul Manly

Paranoia, disregard for evidence and over-the-top rhetoric to encourage hate. And I’m not talking about Donald Trump’s Republicans.

Progressive Canadian should counter a wave of McCarthyite Sinophobia sweeping this country’s politics.

The over-the-top reaction to a recent “Zoom to Free Meng Wanzhou” highlights the issue. The event was labelled “Chinese Communist Party propaganda” in the House of Commons and criticized by numerous media. When interviewing Paul Manly about his participation in the event journalist Evan Solomon repeatedly accused the Green MP of being “used by Chinese authorities” and for “Chinese propaganda”.

What’s going on? As China became more prosperous, the US military began a “pivot” towards Asia a decade ago. More recently, some important US capitalists have become increasingly unhappy with the terms imposed by the Chinese government on their operations there. Simultaneously, labour costs in China have risen sharply in recent years, taking some of the shine off the country as a low-wage assembly hub.

Alongside these broader economic and geopolitical trends, Donald Trump has been railing against the “China disease” for months. This xenophobia is shaping Canadian politics as well. Most of the front-page of a February Vancouver Province read: “Second China Virus Case in BC” while in April Conservative leadership candidate, Derek Sloan, said Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam was working for China and advancing “Chinese Communist propaganda”. Polls show a sharp rise in insults, threats and assaults targeting Canadians of Chinese descent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

China bashing is central to new Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s political messaging. He harps on about standing up for “Canadian values” against the Communist Party of China. In April O’Toole called for a “new Cold War” with China and recently said there’s “no greater threat to Canada’s interests than the rise of China”. (Greater than the climate crisis, COVID-19 pandemic, species collapse, opioid crisis, nuclear holocaust, economic inequality?)

To counter the Chinese “threat” the Conservatives openly appeal to British empire settler solidarity. In criticizing the “Free Meng Wanzhou” event in the House of Commons Conservative Shadow Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Youth Raquel Dancho said, “all Canadian MPs need to stand with our Five Eyes partners and other like-minded allies to push back on Beijing’s intimidation tactics.” For his part, O’Toole recently declared, “Canada should work very closely with our Five Eyes allies” on countering the world’s most populous nation.

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

There is a long history of stirring up Sinophobia in Canada as part of US/British conflict with that country. During the US-led Korean War in the early 1950s Canadian troops denigrated the “yellow horde” of North Korean and Chinese “chinks” they fought. At a time when a small number of Canadians helped the British suppress the boxer rebellion in 1900 newspapers labeled China the “sick man of Asia,” which threatened European social mores. In opposing voting rights for “Chinamen” in 1885, Prime Minister John A. MacDonald said he feared their enfranchisement would lead to officials who “represent Chinese eccentricities, Chinese immorality, Asiatic principles altogether opposite to our wishes.” He concluded, “the Chinese has no British instincts or British feelings or aspirations.”

Progressives should resist the current ‘Yellow peril’ rooted in geopolitical competition and racism. To do so we should be clear eyed about Chinese power, which is significant and often authoritarian though somewhat exaggerated. That country’s global influence has yet to reflect its share of the world’s population. In 2019 the country’s GDP per personwas $10, 000 – equal to Mexico – while US GDP was $60, 000. The US has over 800 military bases in 80 countries around the world while the UK has 145 military facilities in 42 countries. China has one international base in Djibouti. The US and UK have bases in numerous countries bordering China. (In June 2012 the Canadian Press reported, “Canada is seeking a deal with Singapore to establish a military staging post there as part of its effort to support the United States’ ‘pivot’ toward Asia to counter a rising China.”) How many bases does China have in Canada or Mexico?

Additionally, China rarely deploys troops internationally. The US, Canada and UK, on the other hand, have been involved in recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, etc.

As the oldest and most populous nation, a prosperous and united China unquestionably threatens the US Empire’s dominance. Decision-makers in Washington have been concerned about that since at least 1949, which is part of the reason they invaded Korea after Mao’s nationalist/communist victory.

The military and large sections of the ruling classes in those countries integrated into the US Empire want to prevent China from taking its rightful place in world affairs. They are pushing economic, political and military means to “contain” China.

But those of us who believe in equality for all people, who fight racism and xenophobia, must say no. Progressives need to resist the logic of empire and oppose the wave of Sinophobia sweeping Canadian politics.

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