Trudeau government seeks West African gold

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Despite the prime minister’s show of visiting a place where thousands of people were sold as commodities, the point of his trip was not to acknowledge the great wrong done to Africa during the slave trade but rather for Canadian companies to get their hands on Senegal’s resources.

During Justin Trudeau’s expedition to Senegal last month foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne “attended the issuance of operating licenses for Teranga and Barrick Gold alongside the minister of mines and geology, the minister of economy, planning & cooperation as well as the minister of environment of Senegal.”

Barrick Gold is Canada’s most controversial mining firm. Pick a continent and you will find a Barrick-run mine that has ravaged the environment and spurred social tension.

But, in Senegal Teranga Gold is the dominant player, operating the first industrial scale gold mine in the country. Taking its name from the Wolof word for “hospitality”, Teranga markets itself well. A search online generated a series of short videos and corporate social responsibility reports detailing the Toronto company’s purported good deeds and local support. But reality is more complicated. In 2010 a hundred soldiers were deployed to Teranga’s mine site to drive off long-standing artisanal miners whose digging helped the company determine where to prospect. One small-scale miner told Allo Dakar that “we prefer to die here rather than give the land to the company.” Despite the security presence, many continued to dig with the police periodically tear-gassing and arresting the artisanal miners.

According to Amnesty International’s “Mining and Human Rights in Senegal: Closing the Gaps in Protection”, a half-dozen families were displaced to make way for a Teranga waste disposal pond. They were given new homes a few kilometres away but felt their situation had significantly deteriorated. Amnesty documented another small community unhappy with Teranga and worried they would also be displaced as the mine expanded.

The mayor of a larger town, Sabadola, claimed the company misled the community. “At first we thought that we’d benefit from many things: electricity, housing and infrastructure,” said Mamadou Cissokho. “But we received none of that.” Instead, Cissokho decried the pulmonary infections caused by dust from the mine and the company’s encroachment on their land. “Even our fields, they took them. We do not know where to go. Certainly, they do this to suffocate us and to clear us off.”

In 2014 the director of Teranga’s Senegalese subsidiary, Macoumba Diop, was fired. His supporters told the press that Diop was let go because he protected Senegalese workers, largely confined to subordinate positions, from mistreatment by the foreign managers who were described as “colonialist”. In 2017 an employee died from an injury while working in the process plant of Teranga’s Sabodala mine.

Senegalese tax authorities accused Teranga of diverting funds to an offshore bank. In 2011 they claimed the Toronto-based company skipped out on $24 million in payments and then again failed to pay $2 million more in 2015.

Claiming the royalties mandated by Senegal were above the agreed upon rate, Teranga employed the services of former Québec Premier Jean Charest to navigate the issue with this active member of la Francophonie. “With his credibility and contacts, he was the right person to get the attention of the government and a fair deal for both sides,” Teranga CEO Richard Young told La Presse in 2013.

The controversy surrounding Teranga has failed to deter Canadian officials from backing the company. In early 2014 Canadian Ambassador Philippe Beaulne visited its mine with Senegalese president Macky Sall and Beaulne spoke during the public release of Teranga’s 2013 corporate social responsibility policy. In 2012 Prime Minister Stephen Harper met Teranga’s CEO and some other Canadian mining officials in Dakar. During the part of the meeting open to reporters the prime minister suggested, reported Canada.com, that Canadian companies’ “ethical practices gave them an edge over the competition.” Harper also told the press that Senegal “really has the opportunity to become the hub for Canadian investment in this entire region of Africa.” To prepare for an expansion in Canadian mining, Ottawa signed a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement (FIPA) with Senegal in 2014.

Canada has funded various mining projects in Senegal. Millions of dollars in Canadian aid has gone to a Senegalese school for geomatics (combining geography and information technology to map natural resources). In 2014 the federal government announced the launch of branch offices of a professional society, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, in Senegal and Burkina Faso. A press release stated: “The opening of a second office [in West Africa] allows Canada to further share best practices with the region and will make the knowledge and experience of Canadian miners, geologists and managers more available to their African counterparts.” Supported by the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum created the Institut Minier Ouest Africain. A series of other aid projects such as the 2016 “West Africa Governance and Economic Sustainability in Extractive Areas” supported mining initiatives in Senegal.

As with other countries in Africa, Ottawa is helping Canadian companies exploit Senegal’s minerals.

The PM’s trip to House of Slaves was a sideshow, what they want is the gold.

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‘Arm’s-length’ military institution promotes belligerent worldview

downloadNot satisfied with Canada’s largest public relations machine, the Canadian Forces also employ various “arm’s-length” institutions to push their influence over the discussion of military and international affairs.

For example, the Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) Institute recently published a half-page ad in the Globe and Mail to announce its Conference on Security and Defence. The March 3 and 4 meeting at the venerable Château Laurier was sponsored by the Department of National Defence (DND) and Global Affairs as well as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and other arms companies. As in previous years, CDA’s confab in Ottawa drew leading military and political officials, including the Chief of the Defence Staff, who heard speakers hype security threats and push for increased military spending.

The headlines the conference generated included: “Russia poses most immediate military threat to Canada, top general says” (Globe and Mail), “Canada and the West are at war with Russia whether they want it or not: military experts” (Global) and “Top Canadian general calls out Russia and China for ‘antagonistic actions’” (CTV).

None of these stories explained what the CDA Institute actually is. The group describes itself as a “non-partisan, independent, non-profit organization [that] expresses its ideas and opinions with a view to influencing government security and defence policy.” Established in 1932, then Minister of Defence Donald Matheson Sutherland backed CDA’s creation. Since its inception CDA has been directly or indirectly financed by DND. Initially, member associations paid a small part of the funds they received from DND to CDA. But, three decades later the role was reversed. CDA received a block grant from DND and parcelled out the money to its various member associations.

Since its creation, defence ministers and governor generals (as commander in chief) have regularly appeared at CDA’s annual conference. The governor general, prime minister, defence minister and chief of the defence staff are honorary patrons or vice patrons of the organization.

At the height of Canada’s war in Afghanistan CDA received a highly politicized five-year $500,000 contract from DND. University of Ottawa professor Amir Attaran wrote, “that money comes not with strings, but with an entire leash.” To receive the money CDA committed to producing 15 opinion pieces or letters to the editor in major Canadian newspapers, generating 29 media references to the organization and eliciting 100 requests for radio/television interviews. The media work was part of a requirement to “support activities that give evidence of contributing to Canada’s national policies.” CDA didn’t initially disclose its 2007–12 DND sponsorship agreement, which was reviewed by cabinet.

CDA represents over 50 military associations ranging from the Naval Association of Canada to the Canadian Infantry Association, Royal Canadian Legion to the Military Intelligence Association. It is run by high-ranking former officers.

CDA publishes Security and Defence Briefings, Vimy Papers and Presentations and Position Papers. The organization’s quarterly journal ON TRACKpromotes informed public debate on security and defence issues and the vital role played by the Canadian Armed forces in society.” CDA has also published influential books such as Queens professor Douglas Bland’s A Nation at Risk: The Decline of the Canadian Forces.

To encourage militarist research, CDA awards a number of prizes. It puts on an annual graduate student symposium where $3,000 goes to the winning paper, $2,000 to second place and $1,000 to third place. CDA co-sponsors the Ross Munro Media Award to a “journalist who has made a significant contribution to understanding defence and security issues” and gives the Vimy Award to a “Canadian who has made a significant and outstanding contribution to the defence and security of Canada and the preservation of (its) democratic values.”

CDA advocates militarism. Its first official resolution noted “the urgent need for an increased appropriation for national defence.” At almost every CDA convention between 1946 and 1959 a resolution passed in favour of compulsory military training. A 1968 resolution called for universal military training, expressing concern that a generation of Canadians had become “unused to the idea of military service.”

In the 1980s CDA developed the idea of the “Total Defence of Canada”. In 1985 Colonel H. A. J. Hutchinson told a CDA meeting: “I would say that the Total Defence of Canada requires much more than just the support of the Canadian Armed Forces, it involves the organization of our total economy, our industrial base, towards a single objective — the defence of this country.” Hinting at the need to talk up US President Ronald Reagan’s revival of Cold War rhetoric, Hutchison said this “can only be made [possible] if the Canadian people perceive that it is necessary and that, in fact, it is the only course of action open to them.”

A 2000 CDA report funded by the Business Council on National Issues, the Molson Foundation and DND advocated increased military spending to defend free trade. It claimed “the defence establishment, including the Canadian Forces, plays a key role in an international policy which provides the insurance and the means which allow the national interest to flourish. It contributes to stability at home and abroad, thus supporting the development of an environment congenial to trade.”

In November Richard Fadden told CDA’s Vimy Dinner Canada had to be “clear-eyed” about Russia and China, which are prepared to “use virtually any means to attain their goals.” Fadden claimed, “the risks posed by these two countries are certainly different, but they are generally based on advancing all their interests to the detriment of the West.”

For the military and the industries that profit from militarism, it is important to have “arms-length” organizations that create the illusion of a diversity of voices. But honest writers should be blunt about the CDA. It is a war machine front group, created and controlled by the military.

 

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Military

Haiti petition challenges foreign policy apparatus

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While it may seem to be a simple call to release documents, Solidarité Québec-Haïti’s House of Commons petition is an indictment of Canada’s entire foreign policy/media apparatus.

In my research about Canadian foreign policy I have come across no equivalent to the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti”. In early 2003 the federal government organized a private meeting of US, French and Organization of American States officials to discuss replacing Haiti’s elected government, putting the country under UN trusteeship and re-establishing its army. In what was likely a government-organized trial balloon, a prominent journalist working for Québec’s top news magazine reported on it at the time. A year later what was reported/discussed largely transpired.

Nonetheless, after the February 29, 2004, coup the dominant media refused to investigate the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” and barely mentioned the meeting. A Canadian Newsstand search found not one single English language report about the meeting (except two opinion pieces by me and another solidarity activist that mentioned it). La Presse may be the only corporate newspaper to have reported on the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” in the 15 years after the coup. In that case progressive journalist Jooned Khan used space made available during Haiti’s February 2006 election upheaval to briefly mention the gathering on two occasions.

Recently a major media outlet looked back on the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti”. In a 45-minute report tied to the 10thanniversary of the 2010 earthquake Radio-Canada’s flagship news program “Enquête” reported on it. They interviewed Denis Paradis, the Liberal minister responsible for organizing the meeting, who admitted no Haitian officials were invited to discuss their own country’s future during the get together in 2003. They also interviewed Solidarité Québec-Haïti member Jean Saint-Vil who offered a critical perspective.

In a bid to build on this media breakthrough, Solidarité Québec-Haïti has launched a House of Commons petitionreferencing Enquête’s report and calling on the government to “Publish all documents relating to the ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti’” and to “Hold a hearing of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to learn everything there is to know about the ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti,’ including its link to the “Core Group.” Bloc Québecois MP Mario Beaulieu has sponsored it.

Just after the coup then NDP MP Svend Robinson requested minutes of the private meeting be made available.Subsequently, researcher Anthony Fenton placed an Access to Information request for all documents related to the“Ottawa Initiative on Haiti”. What he received was heavily redacted. In Haiti Betrayed, a powerful new documentary about Canadian imperialism, Elaine Brière notes that the government refused to release documents related to theOttawa Initiative on Haiti.

The meeting remains politically relevant. Enquête suggested the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti led to the creation of the “Core Group,” an alliance of foreign ambassadors that largely determines Haitian affairs. Solidarité Québec-Haïti is using the petition to pressure Ottawa to withdraw from the “Core Group”, which is the real power behind corrupt, repressive and illegitimate president Jovenel Moïse.

The petition requires 175 more signatures to be presented in the House of Commons, which will force the government to formally respond. If you are a citizen or permanent resident of Canada please sign it.

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti

Israel and Liberal International Criminal Court hypocrisy

Trudeau-Neta-678x455Just when you think Canadian government hypocrisy could hit no greater heights, the Liberals launch a double standards rocket to the stars.

The Trudeau government recently pressed the International Criminal Court to stop investigating Israeli war crimes. Ottawa sent a letter to the ICC saying it didn’t believe the court had jurisdiction over Palestine. “Canada’s longstanding position is that it does not recognize a Palestinian state and therefore does not recognize the accession of such a state to international treaties, including the Rome Statute. In the absence of a Palestinian state, it is Canada’s view that the Court does not have jurisdiction in this matter,” a Global Affairs official told the Jerusalem Post. But, it doesn’t matter if Canada recognizes Palestine. The vast majority of UN member states recognized Palestine and it joined the ICC in 2015.

In response to Ottawa’s letter to the ICC, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat tweeted that Canada supported “Israel’s campaign for impunity.” Erekat added, “it is not about jurisdiction: It’s about war crimes. This is an encouragement to continue the war crimes.”

Canada’s letter to the ICC implies it could sever funding if the ICC pursued an investigation of Israeli crimes. Reportedly, it reminds the court that Canada’s “financial contribution to the ICC will be $10.6 million this year.”

Ottawa’s letter was a response to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s statement in December that “I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.” At the time Bensouda called for a full-fledged investigation into Israeli war crimes, which could lead to arrest warrants being issued for Israeli officials.

Since then Tel Aviv has unleashed a vicious campaign against the ICC. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labeled the court’s investigation “pure anti-Semitism”. Israel has pushed other countries to join their attacks. Netanyahu sent a letter to Justin Trudeau calling on Canada to condemn any ICC investigation of Israeli war crimes.

Trudeau’s willingness to bow to Israeli pressure on the issue is remarkable. Not only does it claim to support the ICC, the institution is closely linked to how it markets its foreign policy.

In his recent mandate letter to the foreign minister Trudeau told Francois-Philippe Champagne to “reinforce international institutions like the International Criminal Court.” In March Global Affairs noted, “we are proud to support the International Criminal Court and the important work that it does.” The press release boasted that Canada helped “bring the ICC into existence” and was “the first country in the world to adopt comprehensive legislation implementing the Rome Statute” that created the ICC. The statement adds that “Canada firmly supports the rules-based international order and the multilateral institutions that underpin it.‎”

When Trudeau addressed the UN General Assembly in September 2018, the ICC was central to his talk. The government announced Canada was taking Venezuela to the ICC and the prime minister described the court as a “useful and important way of promoting an international rules-based order.”

On dozens of occasions former foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, Trudeau and other Liberal officials have referred to the “international rules-based order”, “international order based on rules” or “international system based on rules”. The top stated “aim” laid out in Freeland’s major June 2017 foreign policy pronouncement was: “First, we will robustly support the rules-based international order, and all its institutions, and seek ways to strengthen and improve them.” The number one priority on Global Affairs website’s is “revitalizing the rules-based international order.”

By threatening the ICC on behalf of Israel the Trudeau government is not simply enabling Palestinian dispossession. The Liberals are also making a mockery of their foreign policy rhetoric.

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Filed under Canada and Israel, Justin Trudeau

Arms firms swarm decision makers

87955791_10162889136535567_8393397129053208576_oMore politically dependent than almost all other industries, arms manufacturers play for keeps in the nation’s capital. They target ads and events sponsorships at decision makers while hiring insiders and military stars to lobby on their behalf.

Activist and academic Tamara Lorincz recently posted a photo of an F35 ad in a bus shelter in front of Parliament Hill. US weapons giant Lockheed Martin is pushing hard to win a $19 billion contract to supply the Canadian air force with a fleet of new fighter jets.

To gain a share of the public funds on offer arms companies target ads at political and military leaders, promoting their products in washrooms and bus shelters where Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Forces (CF) officials congregate. Rideau Institute founder Steven Staples pointed out that “you can’t walk around in Ottawa without tripping over some arms dealer on Spark Street.”

Arms sellers also sponsor talks and exhibits attended by Ottawa insiders. They promote their brand at the Canadian War Museum, Gatineau-Ottawa airshow, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, Conference of Defense Associations, etc.

Beyond promoting their wares in the nation’s capital, companies advertise aggressively in publications read by Ottawa insiders such as iPolitics, Ottawa Business Journal and Hill Times. “Today’s Morning Brief is brought to you by Canada’s Combat Ship Team,” noted a regular iPolitics ad. “Lockheed Martin Canada is leading a team of BAE Systems, CAE, L3 Technologies, MDA and Ultra Electronics to deliver the Royal Canadian Navy’s future fleet of surface combatants.” Their ads also foot much of the bill for journals read by military officials such as the Canadian Defence Review, Canadian Naval Review and Esprit de Corps.

Arms companies’ constantly lobby MPs and DND officials. In a “12-Month Lobbying Activity Search” of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada Lockheed Martin, CAE, Bombardier, General Dynamics, Raytheon, BAE, Boeing and Airbus Defence were listed dozens of times. Lockheed Martin’s name alone appeared 40 times in a recent search.

To facilitate access to government officials, international arms makers maintain offices in Ottawa. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, BAE, General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, Airbus, United Technologies, Rayethon, etc. all have offices in Canada’s capital and most of them are a few blocks from Parliament.

A sales pitch carries more weight when it comes from a friend, CF “star” or experienced veteran. As a result, arms companies contract former CF and DND leaders to lobby on their behalf. Long-time Project Ploughshares campaigner Kenneth Epps explains: “there are many cases of government officials who, very early after retiring, become lobbyists or advocates of certain types of equipment or representatives of particular companies. They come from government and know the ins and outs of how government decisions are made, who in government to contact and what arguments might be useful to advocate for certain types of equipment.”

In October 2017 Lockheed Martin contracted retired Air Force commander Andre Deschamps to lobby for military contracts while Irving Shipbuilding hired former vice-admiral James King to push for Arctic and offshore patrol ship contracts. In 1983 three leading DND bureaucrats set up CFN Consultants. A late 1980s CFN brochure highlighted its “in-depth knowledge of Canadian government and military requirements, military specifications, contracting procedures and associated budgetary considerations.” Headquartered two blocks from Parliament, CFN Consultants remains dominated by retired military leaders.

But contracting former CF/DND as lobbyists is a half measure. Some arms firms offer executive positions to retired CF leaders. In 2013 former deputy commander at NORAD and commander of NATO forces in Libya, Charles Bouchard was appointed “country lead for Lockheed Martin Canada” in a bid to convince Ottawa to purchase its F-35 jets. Four years later L3 Technologies appointed Major General Richard Foster to oversee its Canadian business. The press release announcing its hiring of the former commander of the RCAF and deputy commander of the Joint Operations Command highlighted “his extensive military experience and work with foreign governments.” In 2012 former Navy commodore Kelly Williams became General Dynamics Canada’s senior director of strategy and government relations while three weeks after Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie retired as Chief of Transformation for the CF, CGI Group appointed him to lead an Ottawa-based business unit seeking to “serve the Canadian Forces around the globe.”

It’s not only CF leaders who use their public sector careers as a springboard to lucrative arms industry positions. Weapons makers often hire top bureaucrats who were formerly responsible for arms procurement. Two weeks after stepping down as a deputy minister of defence in 2017 — after years of procurement work — John Turner was appointed vice president of operations at arms contractor PAL Aerospace. In 2011 CGI Group hired 12-year DND veteran Ken Taylor as vice-president of cyber security in Canada. A CGI Group press release noted: “In his new role, Ken will work closely with both government and commercial clients as part of the newly formed Canadian Defence, Public Safety and Intelligence business unit under the leadership of Lieutenant-General (retired) Andrew Leslie.” (Leslie was later Justin Trudeau’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.)

The CF-leader-to-arms-executive pipeline is important to the upper echelon of the military. In 2008 columnist Don Martin pointed out that “dozens of retired officers pocket salaries they could never have dreamed of as soldiers.”

The prospect of a lucrative post-retirement industry position increases the likelihood that CF leaders identify the military’s interests with arms makers. The ‘rent a general’ pipeline strengthens interest in expensive new weaponry and opposition to arms control measures. Since many Canadian weapons companies are branch plants of US firms, lucrative post-retirement positions also increase CF leaders’ support of the US military-industrial complex.

To weaken militarism, it is imperative to reduce the financial benefits sloshing around the system. Senior CF and DND officials should be restricted from lobbying for at least five years after leaving the public service and other measures ought to be adopted to weaken the link between the military hierarchy and arms firms.

In the meantime, activists in Ottawa should follow Lorincz’ lead and ‘correct’ arms industry ads. She and other activists posted a sign on top of the Lockheed Martin ad outside Parliament noting, “F35 Climate Disaster: Green Jobs Not War Jobs!”

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Military

Neo-Nazi’s arrest highlights Ottawa’s support for Ukrainian far right

oYSPOCYhtB0The recent arrest of a Canadian neo-Nazi on the run in the US should embarrass the federal government. As has been reported, it raises important questions about extremists in the Canadian military. Ignored, however, is the link between the arrest and Ottawa’s support for far-right forces in the Ukraine.

A month ago Canadian Forces engineer Patrik Mathews was arrested by the FBI. This week he pled not guilty to gun charges and plotting to poison water supplies, derail trains and kill people to provoke conflict to create a white “ethno-state.” In August Matthews fled southward after he was outed as a recruiter for The Base, a neo-Nazi group that helped him go underground in the US.

Mathews’ case highlights concern about white supremacists in the Canadian Forces. While the issue has received attention recently, it’s not a new problem. Most cite the early 1990s “Somalia Affair” as the time when the concern was made public. But, in fact the issue is as old as the Canadian military. For example, up to the end of World War II Royal Canadian Navy policy required that “candidates must be of pure European descent.” In other words, the problem of racism and racists in the Canadian Forces is structural and longstanding, something that has never been properly acknowledged or dealt with.

But there is another angle to Matthews’ arrest that should concern every Canadian worried about the rise of the far-right. The Base has ties to the best organized neo-Nazis in the world, whom Ottawa has not condemned, but in fact bolstered. A recent Vice headline noted, “Neo-Nazi Terror Group The Base Linked to the War in Ukraine”. One of The Base members arrested alongside Matthews sought to fight in the Ukraine, according to the charges laid against him. Other members and associates of The Base and other like-minded extremist groups have travelled to the Ukraine recently to meet ultra-nationalists there. Mollie Saltskog, an intelligence analyst at the Soufan Center, a non-profit terrorism watchdog, compared the extreme right’s ties to Ukraine to Al Qaeda’s nesting grounds. “The conflict in eastern Ukraine is to the white supremacists what Afghanistan was to the Salafi-jihadists in the 80’s and 90’s,” Saltskog told Vice. “Remember, al-Qaeda, for which the English translation is ‘The Base,’ was born out of the conflict in Afghanistan.”

The far right benefited from the 2014 right-wing nationalist EuroMaidan movement that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych. “The emergence of Azov Battalion and Right Sector in Ukraine in 2014 electrified the neo-Nazi movement” in North America and Europe, notes Jordan Green in “The lost boys of Ukraine: How the war abroad attracted American white supremacists.”

Ottawa supported the US-backed coup against a president oscillating between the European Union and Russia. In July 2015 the Canadian Press reported that opposition protesters were camped in the Canadian Embassy for a week during the February 2014 rebellion against Yanukovych. Since the mid-2000s Ottawa has provided significant support to right wing, nationalist opponents of Russia in the Ukraine.

As part of Operation UNIFIER, 200 Canadian troops — rotated every six months — work with Ukrainian forces that have integrated right wing militias. In June 2018 Canada’s military attaché in Kiev, Colonel Brian Irwin, met privately with officers from the Azov battalion, who use the Nazi “Wolfsangel” symbol and praise officials who helped slaughter Jews and Poles during World War II. According to Azov, Canadian military officials concluded the briefing by expressing “their hopes for further fruitful cooperation.”

Alongside the US, Canada funded, equipped and trained the neo-Nazi infiltrated National Police of Ukraine (NPU), which was founded after Yanukovych was overthrown in 2014.

A former deputy commander of the Azov Battalion, Vadim Troyan had a series of senior positions in the NPU, including acting chief. When a policeman was videoed early last year disparaging a far right protester as a supporter of Stepan Bandera, the National Police chief, National Police spokesman, Interior Minister and other officers repudiatedthe constable by publicly professing their admiration for Bandera. During World War II Bandera aligned with the Nazi occupation, carrying out murderous campaigns against Poles and Jews.

Soon after it was set up, Foreign Minister Stephane Dion announced $8.1 million for the NPU, which replaced the former regime’s police. Canada has provided the force with thousands of uniforms and cameras and helped establish the country’s first national police academy. Beginning in June 2016 up to 20 Canadian police were in the Ukraine to support and advise the NPU. In July 2019 that number was increased to 45 and the deployment was extended until at least 2021.

The post-Maiden Ukrainian government included a number of neo-Nazis. During his 2016 trip to Ukraine Trudeau was photographed with Andriy Parubiy, Ukrainian Parliament speaker, who had a background with the far right and was accused of praising Hitler. Liberal and other party politicians in Canada also spoke alongside and marched with members of Ukraine’s Right Sector, which said it was “defending the values of white, Christian Europe against the loss of the nation and deregionalisation.”

While they talk about the danger of the far right, the Liberals have refused to back a number of UN resolutions opposed to glorifying Nazism, neo-Nazism and racial discrimination because they are viewed as targeting the Ukraine. On November 19, 2015, Ottawa voted against a UN General assembly resolution critical of the aforementioned subject supported by 126 states. The US, Palau and Ukraine were the only other countries to vote against the resolution titled “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” In November the Liberals abstained on a similar resolution.

At this point it seems unlikely that far right groups like The Base will gain significant traction in Canada. But, if they do it will be in part blowback from Canadian policy that views the Ukraine as a proxy in Washington’s campaign to weaken Russia. But, don’t expect the Canadian corporate media to report on this angle of Patrik Matthews’ arrest.

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Trudeau’s extraordinary campaign to overthrow Maduro

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The effort Justin Trudeau’s government is putting into removing Venezuela’s President is remarkable. So is the utter hypocrisy of their campaign.

On Thursday Ottawa hosted the Lima Group, a coalition of countries supporting Washington’s bid to overthrow the Venezuelan government. A CBC headline noted, “Ottawa attempts to reboot campaign to remove Maduro from power in Venezuela.” For more than a year the Lima Group has openly pushed Venezuela’s military to overthrow the government. Thursday’s summit was the third held in Canada of a coalition instigated by Canada and Peru in mid 2017.

During the recent Munich Security Conference Trudeau discussed the South American country with a US Senate and House of Representatives delegation led by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. The Prime Minister’s release noted, “the Congressional delegation thanked Canada for its leadership on the Lima Group and for supporting Interim President Juan Guaidó and the Venezuelan National Assembly in their efforts to achieve a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela.”

Similarly, the Prime Minister discussed Venezuela at a meeting with Austria’s Chancellor on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. According to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Canada and Austria “have many shared goals such as the empowerment of women and our support for free & fair elections in Venezuela.” According to this formulation, the empowerment of half the world’s population is of similar import to purported electoral discrepancies in Venezuela.

Foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne also discussed Venezuela with International Crisis Group President Robert Malley at the Munich Security Conference.

Last month Venezuelan politician Juan Guaidó was fêted in Ottawa. The self-declared president met the Prime Minister, deputy PM, international development minister and foreign minister. Trudeau called him “Interim President Guaidó” and Champagne sometimes referred to him simply as “President”.

Over the past couple of years, the government has put out hundreds of press releases, tweets and public statements critical of the Venezuelan government. They hired a Special Advisor on Venezuela to oversee the government’s coup efforts and the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers gave Patricia Atkinson, Head of the Venezuela Task Force at Global Affairs, its Foreign Service Officers award in June 2019 for her role in overseeing a team of diplomats that organized Lima Group meetings, sanctions, etc. The government has implemented four rounds of sanctions against Venezuelan officials and it’s brought that country to the International Criminal Court, shuttered its Embassy in Caracas, funded opposition groups and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.

A look at Canada’s Lima Group allies highlights the hypocrisy of their campaign against Venezuela. The constitutional legitimacy of Honduras’ President is far weaker than Maduro’s; Far more dissidents were assassinated in Colombia last year; The government of Chile is facing greater popular contestation; The electoral legitimacy of Haiti’s President is much weaker; Honduras’ president has clearer links to drug runners; Violence is worse in numerous countries in the Hemisphere.

It is true that Venezuela’s economic downturn – and concurrent outward migration – is substantially worse than other Lima Group members. But, the sanctions imposed by the US and Canada have contributed to Venezuela’s economic collapse as much as any action of the government.

Canada is engaged in an extraordinary effort to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro. But, it isn’t designed to advance democracy or human rights in Venezuela.

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America, Venezuela

Trudeau government deepens ties to repressive Kuwaiti monarchy

 

1040x585_KuwaitAs many parents have warned their children, real friends do not encourage stupid, embarrassing, or life-threatening behaviour.

But because of our “friend” to the south, Justin Trudeau’s government has deepened ties to a repressive 250-year old monarchy in Kuwait and pursued other questionable policies.

After participating in the recent African Union Summit in Ethiopia Trudeau jetted off to meet the Emir of Kuwait, which has been part of the coalition bombing Yemen. The prime minister’s visit marked the most high-profile step in a bevy of diplomatic activity with a government where questioning the Emir or Islam is punishable with a significant prison sentence. During their meeting, notes the official press release, Trudeau “welcomed the long-standing friendship between Canada and Kuwait and thanked the Government of Kuwait for its support of our CAF [Canadian Armed Forces] personnel stationed in Kuwait as part of Operation IMPACT. The two leaders discussed recent developments in the region and agreed on the importance of working towards long term stability and security.”

Before the PM’s visit defence minister Harjit Sajjan had traveled to Kuwait City twice since December 19. In AprilSajjan also met Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah “to bolster and consolidate bilateral ties.” Three months earlier Governor General Julie Payette visited the Emir in Kuwait City. In November Payette sent a cable to the Emir to wish him well after an illness and the next month Assistant Deputy Minister of Global Affairs Peter McDougall met a Kuwaiti counterpart “to strengthen bilateral relations.” In August 2018 the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing regular consultations between senior officials.

At the Munich Security Conference last week foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne met his Kuwaiti counterpart Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah. At an event in the Canadian Embassy on Monday Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister Khaled Al-Jarallah described the “distinguished … ties between the two countries” and “continuous communication and common interests.” On Thursday Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Lawrence MacAulay attended a celebration at Kuwait’s Embassy in Ottawa for Canadians who fought in the 1991 Iraq war.

The inaugural Kuwait and Canada Investment Forum took place in April. Finance minister Bill Morneau and parliamentary secretary Omar Alghabra participated. 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.”

So, why the budding romance?

Relations with Kuwait are important to Ottawa because of the Canadian Forces base there. About 300 Canadians are stationed in Kuwait to support the Canadian special forces deployed to Iraq as well as two intelligence and one Canadian air-to-air refuelling aircraft. Alongside 200 highly skilled special forces, there’s a Canadian tactical helicopter detachment, intelligence officers and a combat hospital in Iraq. Despite being labeled a “training” mission, the Canadians called in US airstrikes, provided up-to-date battle intelligence and repeatedly engaged the enemy. A Canadian even killed someone with a record-breaking 3.5-kilometre sniper shot. The Canadian Forces backed Kurdishforces often accused of ethnic cleansing areas they captured. Canadian special forces supported a multi-month battle to dislodge ISIS from Mosul that left thousands of civilians dead in 2017.

Alongside the special forces and air support operations, Canada assumed command of the NATO Mission Iraq in November 2018. A Canadian commands 580 NATO troops, including 250 Canadians. They train instructors at three military schools and advise Iraq’s defence ministry.

The Liberals failed to properly explain why Canada took on a second mission in Iraq. But, it was likely tied to weakening the influence of the Iranian aligned Popular Mobilization Forces, Shia militias that helped defeat ISIS. According to Scott Taylor, “Canada agreed to take command of the NATO-led training mission in Iraq because the Liberal government knew it could not sell the Canadian public on sending troops back into the war in Afghanistan. That is where the NATO leaders wanted Canadians, which seems an incredibly ironic twist in that we originally agreed to go into Afghanistan because it was not Iraq.”

Trudeau and Sajjan’s recent missions to Kuwait are part of the fallout from Washington’s decision to assassinate Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi Shia militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. After the January 3 killings some Canadian forces in Iraq were withdrawn to the base in Kuwait. Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution demanding foreign soldiers leave the country and Iran threatened to retaliate against US troops in the region.

The flurry of recent diplomatic activity is likely designed to reassure Kuwaiti officials of Canadian backing and to ensure Kuwait doesn’t back out of the base arrangement. The Trudeau government has happily deepened ties to a repressive monarchy to support US policy in Iraq.

To maintain foreign troops in Iraq the Trudeau government has also pushed back against the Iraqi parliament’s call for foreign troops to leave. After the country’s parliament passed a resolution calling for foreign troops to go, defence minister Harjit Sajjan sought to convince his Iraqi counterpart of the importance of Canada’s presence. Last week Sajjan celebrated Iraqi leaders willingness to keep Canadian troops. Additionally, Middle East Eye reported on Iraqi and US military officials holding a secret meeting “in the private residence of the Canadian ambassador to Jordan in Amman” to discuss pulling back US troops from Iraq.

Makes one wonder what else the Trudeau government has done or will do to support US policy in Iraq?

 

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Middle East, Military

Trudeau enables corporate Canada to exploit Ethiopia’s minerals

 

Unknown-1The Federal government wants Canadian corporations to profit from Ethiopia’s minerals.

During his recent trip to the Horn of Africa country Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). As I detailed in this article, bilateral investment treaties with African countries are overwhelmingly designed to solidify the position of Canadian mining interests.

Alongside the Prime Minister, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) deployed a week-long “Business Mission to Ethiopia.” Mining was one of three industries cited in their release about the mission. TCS officials regularly assist mining firms with market assessments, problem-solving, contacting local officials, etc. “The TCS plays a pretty big role,” explained Ben Chalmers, senior vice‑president Mining Association of Canada in April. Trade commissioners “stand behind us and give us the additional credibility that being associated with the Government of Canada abroad brings.”

On other occasions in recent years Ottawa has shown interest in shaping Ethiopia’s burgeoning mining sector. International trade minister Jim Carr met Ethiopia’s Minister for Mining at the 2019 Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto. In 2016 Global Affairs Canada launched a $12.5 million “Strengthening Education in Natural Resource Management in Ethiopia”, which was designed “to improve the employability of people … in natural resource fields like geology, mining and engineering. It works through universities and technical institutes to improve the quality of programs, align them more closely with the needs of the private sector.”

Concurrently, Global Affairs put up $15.3 million for a unique five-year collaboration between the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute (CIRDI) and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mines. That initiative was to modernize licensing system and includes support for a geological survey. CIRDI and the Ministry of Mines also collaborated on a short marketing booklet titled “5 reasons Ethiopia is the mining investment destination you’ve been looking for”, which describes “Ethiopia’s virtually untapped, diverse and vast mineral resources.” It also lauds “improving government policies and regulations” that have put Ethiopia “on the radar screen of international mining investors.”

Two weeks ago, CIRDI Director Isabeau Vilandre and Ethiopia’s Minister for Mining participated in the African Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town, South Africa. According to the event publicity, it was a “presentation on opportunities in the Ethiopian mining sector and its critical role in the country’s home-grown economic reform.”

Housed at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Polytechnique Montréal, CIRDI was established by the Stephen Harper government to advance Canada’s massive international mining sector. In 2012 the Canadian International Development Agency put up $25 million for CIRDI, which then International Development Minister Julian Fantino told a Mining Association of Canada meeting would “be your biggest and best ambassador.”

At the end of November Ethiopia announced new mining regulations. A Financial Post story headlined “Ethiopia vows to remove barriers to investment in mining” lauded the Canadian backed mining legislation. The story noted, “Ethiopia’s current law guarantees the government just a 5% minimum equity stake in projects – less than in many African countries.”

Canadian companies have shown interest in Ethiopia. The President & CEO of the Canadian Council on Africa(CCAfrica), a corporate lobby group, visited Addis Ababa recently to meet the Minister of Mines. Ethiopia’s state-owned airline sponsored and participated in CCAfrica’s “Unleashing Canadian Mining Ecosystem” conference in January, marketing a regular flight between Toronto and Adidas Ababa to the extractivist crowd. (At the start of the month CCAfrica and CIRDI announced a “Strategic Partnership”.)

Canadian firms are exploring a number of projects in a country that’s begun to throw its territory open to foreign mining firms. Vancouver based East Africa Metals has three gold and precious polymetallic licenses in the country.

On its site CIRDI lists “Who Benefits” from its project in Ethiopia. It claims the “Ultimate” beneficiaries are “the citizens of Ethiopia.” Justin Trudeau would make a similar claim about his push for a bilateral investment treaty and Ottawa’s mining projects in Ethiopia. It wouldn’t be true. He wants corporate Canada to profit from Ethiopia’s resources.

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Filed under Canada in Africa

Niki Ashton promotes anti-Palestinian activist

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If she had called Palestinians “towel heads” would that be too much? How about physically removing a Palestinian activist from a meeting? What’s the threshold at which left NDPers would stop promoting Cheri DiNovo?

A few days ago, Niki Ashton’s team sent an email to her list that included a prominent photo of the NDP MP with former Ontario MPP DiNovo. After I posted about it someone who attended the recent Ashton organized event in Toronto told me the ex NDP member of the Ontario Legislature was also given a prominent place in person.

But, DiNovo is decidedly anti-Palestinian. In July DiNovo boasted to vicious anti-Palestinian/Islamophobe Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy that she aided B’nai B’rith and the Jewish Defence’s successful bid to cancel an event by the Palestinian Youth Movement “to celebrate the artistic and cultural contributions of Palestinians in the diaspora.” Dropping her progressive standing further, DiNovo unfriended a number of individuals on Facebook who politely questioned her role in suppressing the Palestinian cultural event at the Toronto United Church in where she is the spiritual leader.
As I detailed after the suppression of the Palestinian Youth Movement event, DiNovo met Israeli consular official Galit Baram who posted a photo with her to the “Israel in Toronto” Facebook page and wrote in March 2018, “it’s always a good time catching up with our good friend and former MPP Cheri DiNovo. Great to see you again!”

In 2017 DiNovo met the co-chairs of the Knesset’s Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group Anat Berko and Yoel Hasson. A Lieutenant-Colonel in the IDF reserves, Berko openly disparaged African refugees and Palestinians. Berko put forward a bill to jail individuals who display Palestinian flags at demonstrations and in a 2016 Knesset debate made the ridiculous claim that 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.”

DiNovo regularly appears at events organized by the anti-Palestinian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. She attended “an FSWC presentation on the anti-Israel boycott movement” in 2015 at Queen’s Park and participated in FSWC events last May and November.

In 2010 DiNovo was the only NDP MPP who promoted a resolution condemning Israeli Apartheid Week at the Ontario Legislature. In response to criticism of her anti-Palestinian vote DiNovo defriended and erased the comments of dozens of individuals who criticized her on Facebook, prompting the creation of a number of Facebook groups by those defriended by DiNovo, which were then shut down after someone complained. In subsequent interviews DiNovo claimed she received a death threat for her anti-Palestinian vote and was quoted by the Jewish Tribune saying, “we Christians know our roots and we know, because we read our Scripture, that Jews are the Chosen People of the Chosen Land of Israel, so mazel tov.”

Three days after I emailed and private messaged Ashton – just after I posted about it publicly on Facebook – she responded to say, “I have always been clear on my position on Palestine. In fact our [upcoming] event in Montréal is Palestinian inclusive as Zahia El-Masri is one of the presenters.” Ashton is undoubtedly among the best NDP MPs on Palestine. Partly because of her position on the issue, I paid $5 to become an NDP member and asked some friends to vote for Ashton during the NDP leadership race.

That doesn’t change the fact that Ashton’s promotion of DiNovo is odious. I’m not saying Ashton should have kicked DiNovo out of her recent Toronto event or rejected her endorsement for leader of the NDP. But, she should not promote DiNovo in light of her anti-Palestinian activism.

This isn’t personal. Does anyone believe we can end Canadian support for Palestinian dispossession while pro-Palestinian factions of the NDP promote an individual who shuts down Palestinian youth cultural events?

While Ashton would be loath to publicly criticize DiNovo, at a minimum she should write her a private email saying something to the effect of: “I have been made aware of your anti-Palestinian activism. In the future I wouldn’t feel comfortable collaborating publicly until you changed your position on the subject.”

 

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Filed under Israel, NDP