Category Archives: Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

NDP leadership candidates call for foreign policy debate

There has yet to be a single question about foreign policy in the NDP’s first two leadership debates, but some contenders say they want the party to devote a forum to international affairs.

During a gathering organized by Courage after the recent youth issues debate in Montreal I asked Niki Ashton whether she voted in favour of bombing Libya. The NDP leadership candidate said she and a few other MPs sought to dissuade then-leader Jack Layton from supporting the NATO war. Failing to convince him, Ashton said she couldn’t remember if she voted yes on Libya.

Here’s the background:

The NDP supported a vote in March 2011 and another in June of that year initiated by the minority Stephen Harper government endorsing the bombing of Libya. Green Party leader Elizabeth May was the only member of parliament to vote against a war in which Canada played a significant role. A Canadian general led the NATO bombing campaign, seven CF-18 fighter jets participated, two Canadian naval vessels patrolled the Libyan coast and an unknown number of Canadian special forces invaded.

Since the war Libya has descended into chaos. ISIS has taken control of parts of the country while various warring factions and hundreds of militias operate in the country of 6 million. Not only did the war destabilize that country, in 2012 the Libyan conflict spilled south into Mali and has even strengthened Boko Haram in Nigeria.

The African Union predicted as much. In opposing the invasion of Libya, AU Commission Chief Jean Ping said, “Africa’s concern is that weapons that are delivered to one side or another … are already in the desert and will arm terrorists and fuel trafficking.”

Days into the February 2011 uprising in Eastern Libya the AU Peace and Security Council sought a negotiated solution to the conflict, but was rebuffed by the US/Britain/France/Canada backed National Transitional Council, which controlled Benghazi. A week before NATO began bombing Libya, the AU Peace and Security Council put forward a five-point plan demanding: “A cease-fire; the protection of civilians; the provision of humanitarian aid for Libyans and foreign workers in the country; dialogue between the two sides, i.e. the Gaddafi regime and the National Transitional Council (NTC); leading to an ‘inclusive transitional period’ and political reforms which ‘meet the aspirations of the Libyan people.'”

Three weeks into the bombing the AU High Level Ad Hoc Committee on Libya, including four heads of state, visited Libya to pursue a ceasefire. Gaddafi agreed to the first phase of the proposal but it was rejected by the NATO-backed NTC. At a meeting with the UN Security Council three months into NATO’s war the AU High Level Ad Hoc Committee on Libya criticized the war. Delivering the AU position, Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda’s permanent representative to the UN, said: “There has been no need for these war activities, ever since Gaddafi accepted dialogue when the AU Mediation Committee visited Tripoli on April 10. Any war activities after that have been provocation for Africa.”

In Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa, Concordia University professor Maximilian Forte argues the invasion of Libya was designed to eliminate an important supporter of African unity and critic of Western militarism on the continent. Gaddafi spearheaded opposition to the United States’ Africa Command (AFRICOM), which Washington wanted to set up on the continent. A 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Tripoli called “the presence of non- African military elements in Libya or elsewhere on the continent” almost a “neuralgic issue” for Gaddafi. Eliminating Gaddafi delivered a blow to the AU and those who rejected AFRICOM.

Ashton’s inability to remember whether she voted to support the war on Libya leaves much to be desired. But I don’t want to single her out unfairly. The only reason I thought to ask Ashton about Libya is that she attended the Courage event, which is part of her plan to draw the party closer to social movements. Moreover, at the youth issues debate Ashton criticized the party leadership for “turfing” pro-Palestinian candidates during the 2015 federal election campaign.

Ashton seems to have brought up Palestine partly because the Young New Democrats of Quebec asked the party leadership to include a question in the debate about Palestine. They refused.

During my conversation with Ashton she said the party should devote more energy to discussing foreign policy issues. In response, I asked if she would publicly call for one of the planned eight leadership debates to be devoted to the subject. She agreed, writing in a follow-up message: “Grassroots members are calling for a specific debate on foreign policy or foreign policy questions at each debate and the party should listen and follow suit.”

Afterwards I emailed the three other registered contenders and potential candidate Sid Ryan to ask whether they would “support a leadership debate devoted to military and foreign policy issues” and whether they voted to support the NATO bombing of Libya. (Guy Caron and Sid Ryan were not in the House of Commons at the time of the votes so I didn’t ask them about Libya.)

Charlie Angus and Peter Julian did not reply to my question about whether they voted to bomb Libya. Angus and Julian also ignored the question about a foreign policy-focused debate.

Guy Caron’s spokesperson wrote that he’s “looking forward to getting a chance to debate foreign policy issues. While the party has not indicated specific themes for the remaining debates, I would certainly be open to having a substantive discussion on questions of foreign policy.”

For his part, Ryan expressed “concern as to why the NDP debates have completely ignored the question of foreign policy” and said he “absolutely supports the idea of holding a debate that focuses exclusively on foreign policy.”

A video Ryan recently released bemoans “billions of dollars for the NATO war machine” and shows a protest sign that says, “Stop the U.S.-Israel war”. Elsewhere, Ryan has said Canada should withdraw from NATO, which sharply contrasts with outgoing leader Tom Mulcair’s description of the NDP as “proud members of NATO.” While Mulcair pushed to strengthen sanctions against Russia, Ryan has called for an end to Canada’s military deployments in Eastern Europe. In maybe the starkest difference, Ryan has spoken at pro-Palestinian demonstrations and when he was president of CUPE-Ontario he accepted the members’ vote to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign targeting Israel’s violation of international law. For his part, Mulcair purged a number of NDP candidates–some elected by local riding associations–that supported Palestinian rights.

There are important differences of opinion within the NDP regarding foreign policy questions. These issues deserve to be aired.

A party unable to openly debate its foreign policy is likely to support another war that devastates a small African country.

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Complete Canadian story includes slavery and underground railway

We love our tales about how Canada offered sanctuary to U.S. slaves for decades, but the unabridged version is it sustained African bondage for much longer.

In a recent rabble.ca story titled “Canada’s earliest immigration policies made it a safe haven for escaped slaves,” Penney Kome ignores the fact that Africans were held in bondage here for 200 years and that the Atlantic provinces had important ties to the Caribbean plantation economies.

According to Kome, Canada’s relationship to slavery consisted of the oft-discussed Underground Railway that brought Africans in bondage north to freedom. But, she ignores the southbound “underground railroad” during the late 1700s that took many Canadian slaves to Vermont and other Northern U.S. states that had abolished slavery. Even more slaves journeyed to freedom in Michigan and New England after the war of 1812.

For over 200 years, New France and the British North America colonies held Africans in bondage. The first recorded slave sale in New France took place in 1628. There were at least 3,000 African slaves in what are now known as Québec, Ontario and the Maritimes. Leading historical figures such as René Bourassa, James McGill, Colin McNabb, Joseph Papineau and Peter Russell all owned slaves and some were strident advocates of the practice.

After conquering Quebec, Britain strengthened the laws that enabled slavery. In The Blacks in Canada, Robin Winks explains:

“On three occasions explicit guarantees were given to slave owners that their property would be respected, and between 1763 and 1790 the British government added to the legal structures so that a once vaguely defined system of slavery took on clearer outlines.”

It wasn’t until 1833 that slavery was abolished in what is now Canada and across the rest of the British Empire.

Canadians propped up slavery in a number of other ways. Canada helped the British quell Caribbean slave rebellions, particularly during the 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution, which disrupted the region’s slave economy. Much of Britain’s Halifax-based squadron arrived on the shores of the West Indies in 1793, and many of the ships that set sail to the Caribbean at this time were assembled in the town’s naval yard. Additionally, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick provided “sticks for the furnishing of a variety of naval stores, especially masts and spars, to the West Indies squadron at Jamaica, Antigua, and Barbados.”

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

In what may be Canada’s most significant contribution to the British war effort in the Caribbean, a dozen Nova Scotia privateers captured at least 57 enemy vessels in the West Indies between 1793 and 1805. Licensed by the state to seize enemy boats during wartime, “privateers were essential tools of war until the rise of large steam navies in the mid-nineteenth century.”

But Nova Scotia privateers weren’t solely motivated by reasons of state. They sought to protect a market decimated by French privateers. In A Private War in the Caribbean: Nova Scotia Privateering, 1793-1805, Dan Conlin writes that “in a broader sense privateering was an armed defence of the [Maritimes’] West Indies market.”

Outside of its role in suppressing Caribbean slave rebellions, the Maritimes literally fed the slave system for decades. In Emancipation Day, Natasha Henry explains:

“Very few Canadians are aware that at one time their nation’s economy was firmly linked to African slavery through the building and sale of slave ships, the sale and purchase of slaves to and from the Caribbean, and the exchange of timber, cod, and other food items from the Maritimes for West-Indian slave-produced goods.”

A central component of the economy revolved around providing the resources that enabled slavery. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland generated great wealth selling cheap, high-protein food to keep millions of “enslaved people working 16 hours a day.”

In Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, Mark Kurlansky explains:

“In the 17th century, the strategy for sugar production, a labour-intensive agro-industry, was to keep the manpower cost down through slavery. At harvest time, a sugar plantation was a factory with slaves working 16 hours or more a day — chopping cane by hand as close to the soil as possible, burning fields, hauling cane to a mill, crushing, boiling. To keep working under the tropical sun the slaves needed salt and protein. But plantation owners did not want to waste any valuable sugar planting space on growing food for the hundreds of thousands of Africans who were being brought to each small Caribbean island. The Caribbean produced almost no food. At first slaves were fed salted beef from England, but New England colonies [as well as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia] soon saw the opportunity for salt cod as cheap, salted nutrition.”

In Capitalism and Slavery, post-independence Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Eric Williams highlights the role of cod in the Caribbean plantations: “The Newfoundland fishery depended to a considerable extent on the annual export of dried fish to the West Indies, the refuse or ‘poor John’ fish, ‘fit for no other consumption.'” High-quality cod from today’s Atlantic Canada was sent to the Mediterranean while the reject fish was sold to Caribbean slave-owners.

From 1770-1773 Newfoundland and Nova Scotia sent 60,620 quintals (one quintal equals 100 pounds) and 6,280 barrels of cod to the West Indies, which comprised 40 per cent of all imports. These numbers increased significantly after the American Revolution resulted in a ban on U.S. trade to the British Caribbean colonies. In 1789 alone 58 vessels carried 61,862 quintals of fish from Newfoundland to the Caribbean Islands.

When it comes to our histories, we choose where and how to focus our lens. A bird’s eye view of the historical landscape quickly reveals that Canada did a great deal more to support African enslavement than undermine it.

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Justin Trudeau is no friend of the environment

Today the lives of over 10 million people in the Horn of Africa are at risk due to a drought at least partly caused by climate change. A study by Britain’s Met Office concluded that human-induced climate disturbances sparked a famine in Somalia in 2011 in which over 50,000 died. For its part, the Climate Vulnerability Monitor estimated in 2012 that climate change was responsible for some 400,000 deaths per year, a number expected to hit one million by 2030.

To mitigate this downward spiral radical action is needed. Instead, here is what Justin Trudeau told oil company executives gathered in Houston earlier this month: “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”

But, that’s precisely what should happen to Canada’s tar sands as Trudeau alluded to when campaigning for the votes of those concerned about climate change. Most of the world’s fossil fuels need to be left untouched to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change and Canadian oil ought to be front of the ‘keep it in the ground’ line for a combination of ecological and equity reasons.

It takes significantly more energy to extract tar sands oil than conventional crude. The tremendous amount of energy required to bring the oily sand to the surface and separate out a useful product emits a great deal of carbon dioxide.

The narrow ecological argument for phasing out tar sands production is powerful. It’s bolstered by international equity considerations. Canada’s large current and accumulated carbon footprint is another reason to keep this country’s oil in the soil.

Per capita emissions in many African countries amount to barely one per centof Canada’s rate. In Uganda, Congo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda and Mozambique, per capita emissions comprise less than 1/150th of Canada’s average. In Tanzania, Madagascar, Comoros, The Gambia, Liberia and Zambia per capita emissions are less than 1/80th Canada’s average.

Even more startling is the historical imbalance among nations in global greenhouse gas emissions. According to a September 2009 Guardian comparison, Canada released 23,669 million metric tons of carbon dioxide between 1900 and 2004 while Afghanistan released 77 million metric tons, Chad 7 million metric tons, Morocco 812 million metric tons and Egypt 3,079 million metric tons.

Canada’s contribution to global warming over this period was more than the combined total of every sub-Saharan African country. While the historical data is troubling, forward-looking comparisons are equally stark. If plans to nearly double tar sands production proceed, by 2030 Alberta’s project will emit as much carbon as most sub-Saharan African countries combined.

A sense of ‘carbon equity’ requires that Canadian oil remain untouched. So does economic justice.

Canada is a wealthy country that had a functioning healthcare, pension and education system prior to significant tar sands extraction, which began at the turn-of-the-century. In fact, Canada had one of the highest living standards in the world before beginning to extract sizable quantities of tar sands.

The wealthiest countries should be the first to leave fossil fuel wealth in the ground. Only a sociopath would suggest the Congo, Haiti or Bangladesh stop extracting fossil fuels before Canada.

Found in a wealthy, heavy emitting country, the tar sands are a ‘carbon bomb’ that needs to be defused. Extracting Canada’s “173 billion barrels” will drive ever-greater numbers of the planet’s most vulnerable over the edge.

With his words to oil executives Trudeau made it clear that his government has chosen business (and profits) as usual over human survival. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise anyone with a basic understanding of the Liberals who only ‘govern from the left’ if there is a movement challenging capitalism.

To seriously reduce Canada’s emissions will require hundreds of thousands in the streets pushing a political party to challenge an economic system that demands endless growth.

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Did you know Canada once invaded Russia?

The corporate media presents Russia as militaristic but ignores Canada’s invasion of that country.

100 years ago today a popular revolt ousted the Russian monarchy. Enraged at Nicholas II’s brutality and the horror of World War I, protests and strikes swept the capital of Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). Within a week the czar abdicated. Later in the year the Bolsheviks rose to power in large part by committing to withdraw from the war.

The English, French and US responded to the Bolshevik’s rise by supporting the Russian monarchists (the whites) in their fight to maintain power. Six thousand Canadian troops also invaded. According to Roy Maclaren in Canadians in Russia, 1918 – 1919, Canadian gunners won “a vicious reputation amongst the Bolsheviks for the calm skill with which they used shrapnel as a short-range weapon against foot soldiers.”

While a Canadian naval vessel supported the White Russians, Canadian pilots stationed near the Black Sea provided air support.

The war against the Bolsheviks was initially justified as a way to reopen World War I’s eastern front (the Bolsheviks signed a peace treaty with Germany). Canadian troops, however, stayed after World War I ended. In fact, 2,700 Canadian troops arrived in the eastern city of Vladivostok on January 5, 1919, two months after the war’s conclusion. A total of 3,800 Canadian troops, as well as Royal Northwest Mounted Police and 697 horses, went to Siberia, which the Whites continued to control long after losing Moscow, St. Petersburg and most of the western part of the country.

Ottawa maintained its forces in Russia after the conclusion of World War One partly to persuade the British that Canada merited inclusion in the Paris peace conference that would divvy up the spoils of the war. Prime Minister Borden wrote: “We shall stand in an unfortunate position unless we proceed with Siberia expedition. We made definite arrangements with the British government on which they have relied … Canada’s present position and prestige would be singularly impaired by deliberate withdrawal.”

Ottawa also feared the rise of anti-capitalism. On December 1, 1918, Borden wrote in his diary that he was “struck with the progress of Bolshevism in European countries.” For their part, Canadian working class groups condemned the invasion of Russia as “for the benefit of the capitalist.”  The president of the BC Federation of Labour Joseph Naylor asked, “is it not high time that the workers of the Western world take action similar to that of the Russian Bolsheviki and dispose of their masters as those brave Russians are now doing?”

The allies invaded Russia to defend the status quo, much to the dismay of many Canadians who welcomed the czar’s demise and found it difficult to understand why Canada would support Russian reactionaries. Opposition to the intervention was widespread even among soldiers. According to the Toronto Globe, 60-70 percent of the men sent to Siberia went unwillingly. One artillery section even refused to obey orders.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s western countries worked to isolate Moscow. Canada (and the US) opposed a treaty to guarantee Russia’s pre-war frontiers, which England had signed with Moscow. Ottawa recognized the Bolshevik government in 1924 but ties were severed after the British cut off relations in mid-1927.  Full diplomatic relations with Moscow would not restart until the late 1930s.

Russophobia has once again gripped the political/media establishment. A number of prominent commentators have defendedthe grandfather of Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland collaboratingwith the Nazis on the grounds it was either them or the Russians occupying Ukraine during World War II. Freeland herself deflected questions on the matter by saying Moscow may be trying to “destabilize” Canadian democracy while Brigadier General Paul Rutherford warned of Russian cyber warfare. More dangerous, Ottawa is ramping up its military presence on Russia’s doorstep (Ukraine, Poland and Latvia) to counter “aggression”.

To help clear the thick fog of propaganda it’s useful to remember how Canada responded to the fall of Russia’s monarchy. While Russia has never invaded Canada, we once invaded their country.

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Canadian troops mass on Russia’s border

Why is the Trudeau government escalating its belligerence towards Russia?

Yesterday it was confirmed that 200 Canadian troops would remain in the Ukraine for at least two more years. This “training” mission in the Ukraine is on top of two hundred troops in Poland, a naval frigate in the Mediterranean and Black Sea and a half dozen CF-18 fighter jets on their way to locations near Russia’s border. Alongside Britain, Germany and the US, Canada will soon lead a NATO battle group supposed to defend Eastern Europe from Moscow. About 450 Canadian troops are headed to Latvia while the three other NATO countries lead missions in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia.

From the Russian point of view it must certainly look like NATO is massing troops at its border. 

Canada’s military buildup in Eastern Europe is the direct outgrowth of a coup in Kiev. In 2014 the right-wing nationalist EuroMaidan movement ousted Viktor Yanukovych who was oscillating between the European Union and Russia. The US-backed coup divided the Ukraine politically, geographically and linguistically (Russian is the mother tongue of 30% of Ukrainians).

While we hear a great deal about Russia’s nefarious influence in the Ukraine, there’s little attention given to Canada’s role in stoking tensions there. 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 Yanukovich. “Canada’s embassy in Kyiv was used as a haven for several days by anti-government protesters during the uprising that toppled the regime of former president Viktor Yanukovych,” the story noted.

Since the mid-2000s Ottawa has actively supported opponents of Russia in the Ukraine. Federal government documents from 2007 explain that Ottawa was trying to be “a visible and effective partner of the United States in Russia, Ukraine and zones of instability in Eastern Europe.” During a visit to the Ukraine that year, Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said Canada would help provide a “counterbalance” to Russia. “There are outside pressures [on Ukraine], from Russia most notably. … We want to make sure they feel the support that is there for them in the international community.” As part of Canada’s “counterbalance” to Russia, MacKay announced $16 million in aid to support “democratic reform” in the Ukraine.

Ottawa played a part in Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution”. In “Agent Orange: Our secret role in Ukraine” Globe and Mail reporter Mark MacKinnon detailed how Canada funded a leading civil society opposition group and promised Ukraine’s lead electoral commissioner Canadian citizenship if he did “the right thing”. Ottawa also paid for 500 Canadians of Ukrainian descent to observe the 2004-05 elections. “[Canadian ambassador to the Ukraine, Andrew Robinson] began to organize secret monthly meetings of western ambassadors, presiding over what he called ‘donor coordination’ sessions among 20 countries interested in seeing Mr. [presidential candidate Viktor] Yushchenko succeed. Eventually, he acted as the group’s spokesman and became a prominent critic of the Kuchma government’s heavy-handed media control. Canada also invested in a controversial exit poll, carried out on election day by Ukraine’s Razumkov Centre and other groups that contradicted the official results showing Mr. Yanukovich [winning].”

For Washington and Ottawa the Ukraine is a proxy to weaken Russia, which blocked western plans to topple the Assad regime in Syria. As part of this campaign, 1,000 Canadian military personnel, a naval vessel and fighter jets will soon be on Russia’s border.

Where will this lead? A new cold war against a capitalist Russia? Or a much hotter war involving direct confrontation between Canadian and Russian troops?

What would the US response be to Russian troops massed on its border? The last time Russian missiles came within 90 miles of American soil, the world came very close to nuclear war.

Canada is participating in a “game” of brinksmanship that could end very badly.

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Lester Pearson was no ‘honest broker’ or friend of Palestine

It’s no wonder Canadians are confused about their country’s place in the world when a leading advocate of the Palestinian cause praises the official most responsible for dispossessing Palestinians.

In an article about a recent poll showing Canadians have a negative attitude towards Israel, reject the notion criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic and believe the media is biased in Israel’s favour, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East leader Tom Woodley threw in a sop to official mythology.

He wrote, “Lester B. Pearson won a Nobel peace prize for his role in mediating the Suez Crisis in 1956, and for many decades afterwards, many perceived Canada as an ‘honest broker’ in the Middle East, trusted by both Israel and the Palestinians.”

In fact, Pearson enabled the Zionist movement’s 1947/48 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. (During the Suez Crisis Pearson’s main concern was disagreement between the US and UK over the British-French-Israeli invasion, not Egyptian sovereignty or the plight of that country’s people, let alone Palestinians.)

Under growing Zionist military pressure after World War II, Britain prepared to hand its mandate over Palestine to the newly created UN. In response, the US-dominated international body formed the First Committee on Palestine, which was charged with developing the terms of reference for a committee that would find a solution for the British mandate.

Canada’s Undersecretary of External Affairs, who made his sympathy for Zionism clear in a March 1945 speech, chaired the First Committee that established the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) in May 1947. At the First Committee Pearson rejected Arab calls for an immediate end to the British mandate and the establishment of an independent democratic country.

He also backed Washington’s push to admit a Jewish Agency representative to First Committee discussions (ultimately both a Jewish Agency and Palestinian representative were admitted). Pearson tried to define UNSCOP largely to facilitate Zionist aspirations.

The Arab Higher Committee wanted the issue of European Jewish refugees excluded from UNSCOP but the Canadian diplomat worked to give the body a mandate “to investigate all questions and issues relevant to the problem of Palestine.” A US State Department memo noted that Pearson “proved to be an outstanding chairman for [the First] Committee.”

The Canadian Arab Friendship League, on the other hand, complained that the First Committee plan for UNSCOP was “practically irresponsible and an invitation to … acts of terror on the part of Zionism.” The League continued, Arabs would “never refrain from demanding for … Palestine the same freedom presently enjoyed by other Arab states”, newly independent from colonial rule.

Opposed to the idea that representatives from Canada, Guatemala, Yugoslavia and other countries should decide their future, Palestinians boycotted UNSCOP. Despite the objection of Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Undersecretary Pearson committed Canada to sending a delegate on the UNSCOP mission to Palestine. In justifying his position to External Affairs Minister Louis St. Laurent, Pearson claimed “to have withdrawn our candidate at this moment might have been misinterpreted and have had an adverse effect on the discussion.” In fact, Pearson was significantly more willing to follow Washington’s lead than the Prime Minister.

Canada’s lead representative on UNSCOP, Ivan C. Rand, pushed for the largest possible Zionist state and is considered the lead author of the majority report in support of partitioning Palestine into ethnically segregated states.

At the end of their mission the UNSCOP majority and minority reports were sent to the special UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question. Not happy with Pearson’s role in the First Committee, the Prime Minister would not allow the future Nobel laureate to chair the Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question despite Washington’s request. Mackenzie King wrote that Pearson “lent himself perhaps too wholly to the desires of others,” a coded reference to the US State Department. Still, he played a major role in the Ad Hoc Committee.

At this forum Pearson rejected the Arab countries push to have the International Court of Justice decide whether the UN was allowed to partition Palestine. (Under US pressure, the Ad Hoc Committee voted 21 to 20 — with 16 abstentions — against allowing the International Court to adjudicate the matter).

The Ad Hoc Committee was split into two subcommittees with one focusing on the partition plan and the other on a bi-national state. At the Ad Hoc Committee’s Special Committee 1, Pearson worked feverishly to broker a partition agreement acceptable to Washington and Moscow.

Preoccupied with the great powers, the indigenous inhabitants’ concerns did not trouble the ambitious undersecretary. He dismissed solutions that didn’t involve partition, which effectively meant supporting a Jewish state on Palestinian land. Responding to a bi-national plan proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee’s Special Committee 2, he claimed: “The unitary state proposal meant nothing — a recommendation ‘out of the blue and into the blue.’”

Pearson said: “a [Jewish] ‘national home’ was a sine qua non [essential condition] of any settlement.” He later explained: “I have never waivered in my view that a solution to the problem was impossible without the recognition of a Jewish state in Palestine. To me this was always the core of the matter.”

Pearson played a central role in Special Committee 1’s partition plan. Both the New York Times and Manchester Guardian ran articles about his role in the final stage of negotiations. Dubbed the “Canadian plan” the final Special Committee 1 agreement between the US and USSR on how to implement partition was “a result of the tireless efforts of Lester B. Pearson,” according to a front-page New York Times article. Some Zionist groups called him “Lord Balfour” of Canada and “rabbi Pearson”. In 1960 Pearson received Israel’s Medallion of Valour and after stepping down as prime minister in 1968, he received the Theodore Herzl award from the Zionist Organization of America for his “commitment to Jewish freedom and Israel.”

By supporting partition he opposed the indigenous population’s moral and political claims to sovereignty over their territory. Down from 90% at the start of the British mandate, by the end of 1947 Arabs still made up two-thirds of Palestine’s population.

Despite making up only a third of the population, under the UN partition plan Jews received most of the territory. Pearson pushed a plan that gave the Zionist state 55% of Palestine despite the Jewish population owning less than seven percent of the land. According to Israeli historian Illan Pappe, “within the borders of their UN proposed state, they [Jews] owned only eleven percent of the land, and were the minority in every district. In the Negev [desert]…they constituted one percent of the total population.”

Undersecretary Pearson was not supported by the Prime Minister, who wanted to align Canada more closely with London’s position. While King was concerned about Britain, other government officials sympathized with the Palestinians. Justice Minister J.L. Isley said he was “gravely concerned” the push for partition did not meet the Arabs “very strong moral and political claims”.

The only Middle East expert at External Affairs, Elizabeth MacCallum, claimed Ottawa supported partition “because we didn’t give two hoots for democracy.” MacCallum’s opinion wasn’t popular with Pearson who organized late-night meetings allegedly to make it difficult for her to participate. Despite failing to convince her boss at External Affairs MacCallum displayed sharp foresight. At the time of the partition vote, notes The Rise and Fall of a Middle Power, “MacCallum scribbled a note and passed it to Mike (Pearson) saying the Middle East was now in for ‘forty years’ of war, due to the lack of consultation with the Arab countries.” She was prescient, even if she did underestimate the duration of the conflict.

Far from being an “honest broker”, a representative from the Canadian Arab Friendship League explained: “Our Canadian government at one time also favoured the creation of a federated State of Palestine which had at least some resemblance to a democratic solution. … Mr. Lester B. Pearson and Mr. Justice Ivan C. Rand changed that official position of our government. Instead of the democratic solution, these gentlemen did their utmost to impose upon the Arabs the infamous partition scheme. The Arab world, I am sure, will remember them.”

A huge boost to the Zionist movements’ desire for an ethnically-based state, the UN partition of British Mandate Palestine contributed to the displacement of at least 700,000 Palestinians. Scholar Walid Khalidi complained that UN (partition) Resolution 181 was “a hasty act of granting half of Palestine to an ideological movement that declared openly already in the 1930s its wish to de-Arabise Palestine.”

What spurred Pearson’s support for Israel? Jewish lobbying played only a small part. The son of a Methodist minister, Pearson’s Zionism was partly rooted in Christian teachings. His memoirs refer to Israel as “the land of my Sunday School lessons” where he learned that “the Jews belonged in Palestine.” One book on Pearson notes “there was a lot said at Sunday school about the historic home of the Jews but nothing about the Arab inhabitants.” At one point Canada’s eminent statesman said he knew more about the geography of the holy land than of Ontario and in a 1955 speech Pearson called Israel (alongside Greece and Rome) the source of Western values.

More practically, Israel’s creation lessened the pressure on a widely anti-Semitic Ottawa to accept post-World War II Jewish refugees. At the end of the war the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was supposed to help resettle a couple hundred thousand displaced European Jews. When he was ambassador in Washington Pearson represented Canada at a number of UNRRA meetings where he faithfully defended the government’s position against Jewish immigration. After a meeting to discuss European refugees was moved from Ottawa to Bermuda, None is Too Many notes, “[Ambassador to Washington] Pearson exultingly wired [Undersecretary Norman] Robertson that the pressure was off and that, ‘in the circumstances,’ Ottawa was no longer ‘a possibility’ [to host the meeting]. And, he added, of even greater importance, Canada would not even be asked to take part in the conference.” Pearson believed sending Jewish refugees to Palestine was the only sensible solution to their plight.

But the refugee issue was less of a concern than US-British relations. In 1947 Pearson was concerned with Anglo-American disunity over Palestine, more than the Palestinian crisis itself. “I wasn’t thinking of trouble in terms of a war in Palestine,” he explained. “I was thinking of trouble in terms of a grave difference of opinion between London and Washington. That always gives a Canadian nightmares, of course.” Pearson worried that disagreement between Washington and London over Palestine could adversely affect the US-British alliance and the emerging North Atlantic alliance.

Above all else, the ambitious diplomat wanted to align himself and Canada with Washington, the world’s emerging hegemon. “Pearson usually coordinated his moves with the Americans,” explains Personal Policy Making: Canada’s role in the adoption of the Palestine Partition Resolution. To determine their position on the UN Ad Hoc Committee, for instance, Canada’s delegation “found it especially important to know the American’s position.” A member of the Canadian delegation explained: “[we] will have nothing to say until after the United States has spoken.”

Of central importance to Canadian support for partition was the belief that a Middle Eastern Jewish state would serve Western interests. An internal report circulated at External Affairs during the UN negotiations explained:

“The plan of partition gives to the western powers the opportunity to establish an independent, progressive Jewish state in the Eastern Mediterranean with close economic and cultural ties with the West generally and in particular with the United States.”

In a 1952 memo to cabinet Pearson repeated this thinking. “With the whole Arab world in a state of internal unrest [after the overthrow of the British-backed monarchy in Egypt] and in the grip of mounting anti-western hysteria, Israel is beginning to emerge as the only stable element in the whole Middle East area.”

He went on to explain how “Israel may assume an important role in Western defence as the southern pivot of current plans for the defence” of the eastern Mediterranean. Pearson supported Israel as a possible western ally in the heart of the (oil-producing) Middle East.

Pearson does not signify an evenhanded, let alone justice-oriented, policy towards Palestinians. Instead, he should be placed atop a long list of Canadian officials who’ve aided and abetted their dispossession.

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Calling Trudeau a terrorist is not that outrageous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Putting Palestine into the NDP leadership race

To the sound of crickets chirping from opposition benches Justin Trudeau’s government has once again isolated Canada on Palestinian rights. But, recent developments suggest this shameful chapter in Canadian diplomacy is past its political best before date.
On November 21 Canada joined the US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau in opposing a UN Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee resolution in support of “the right of Palestinian people to self-determination” backed by 170 countries. Two weeks earlier Ottawa aligned with Israel, the US, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau in opposing a motion titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” supported by 156 countries.
While the Trudeau government disgraced this country at the UN, prominent figures including Yann Martel, Naomi Klein, Bruce Cockburn, Richard Parry (Arcade Fire), Gabor Mate and Rawi Hage worked to redeem Canada from its extreme pro-Israel position. At the end of November over 50 authors, musicians, labour leaders, environmentalists, academics and filmmakers appealed to Green Party of Canada members to support “concrete international action” for Palestinian rights and applauded the party’s August vote to support “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation” of Palestinian land.
The former head of CUPE Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Labour, Sid Ryan, signed the appeal. “Sid Ryan for NDP Leader”, a recently launched website to enlist him to run for the head of the party, notes: “Sid Ryan’s advocacy for the Palestinian people, starting in his days in CUPE where he endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, shows that an NDP leader could muster broad support for a process where Canada is non-aligned, expresses solidarity with Palestinians and other oppressed nations in the Global South, and champions a foreign policy based on peace, democracy, social justice and human rights.”
No matter who wins the campaign to become NDP leader in October it’s hard to imagine they will be as hostile to Palestinians as outgoing leader Tom Mulcair — who once said “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances”.
Putting pressure on NDP leadership candidates, last weekend the Green Party reconfirmed its support for “government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment” to support the Palestinians. Backed by 85% of those at a special general meeting in Calgary, the motion encompasses the Palestinian-civil-society-led BDS campaign’s three demands: equal rights for the Arab minority in Israel, the right of refugees to return and an end to “Israel’s illegal occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and the Golan Heights, and Israel’s siege of Gaza.”
The new resolution also details Canadian complicity in dispossessing “the indigenous people”, calling on Ottawa to renegotiate the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, end “all military and surveillance trade” with Israel and “to divest from any companies which are directly benefiting from activity within Israel’s illegal settlements.” Finally, it calls on Ottawa “to ask the International Criminal Court to prioritize its investigation into charges of potential war crimes by members of the Israeli forces.”
Green leader Elizabeth May backed the new policy, which makes her publically stated position on Palestinian rights the strongest of anyone with a seat in the House of Commons.
As the NDP leadership campaign heats up, expect Palestine to be a major point of debate. Hopefully before long a new NDP leader will begin to pressure the government to end Canada’s shameful international opposition to Palestinian rights.

This article first appeared in The Hill Times.

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Canada opposed Cuba’s key role in ending apartheid

Did Canada lead the international charge against apartheid and white rule in South Africa or criticize a country that, in fact, did?

Recent commentary about Canada’s policy towards southern Africa’s liberation struggles distorts history that should inform debate over Canada’s planned military deployment to the continent today.

Globe and Mail article last month described “Canada’s strong support for the anti-apartheid movement” while a Kingston Whig Standard story last week claimed a “senior Canadian diplomat and his wife became engaged in providing support to a wide array of South Africans actively opposing the apartheid regime.” A Le Devoir columnist wrote that “faced with apartheid South Africa, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, in the 1980s, was the first in the Commonwealth to adopt a policy not of inclusion but of economic sanctions, against the government of Pieter Botha.” But, this statement is only plausible if you reduce the Commonwealth to the European settler states. Does anyone actually believe Ottawa was more opposed to the white regime than Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, India, etc.?

Toronto Star editorial about Fidel Castro’s death hinted at a position hard to align with this self-congratulatory revisionism. (Or a Star story after Nelson Mandela’s death titled “Canada helped lead international fight against apartheid”). The editorial pointed out that in the late 1970s Prime Minister Pierre “Trudeau was also voicing deep concerns to Castro… over Cuba’s military involvement in Africa, especially Angola.” The Star editorialists failed to elaborate on Trudeau’s “deep concern”.

Not long after Angola won its independence from Portugal, apartheid South Africa invaded. In an important display of international solidarity Cuba came to Angola’s defence. Thousands of Cuban troops, most of them black, voluntarily enlisted to fight the racist South African regime. Contrary to Western claims, Cuba decided to intervene in Angola without Soviet input (Washington knew this at the time). Cuba’s intervention helped halt South Africa’s invasion.

This successful military victory by black forces also helped bring down apartheid in South Africa. The famous township rebellion in Soweto took place three months after South Africa’s initial defeat in Angola. Nelson Mandela’s ANC noted “their [the South African army’s] racist arrogance shrank when our MPLA [Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola] comrades thrashed them in Angola.” For its part, Johannesburg’s Rand Daily Mail warned that the legacy of Angola resulted in “blows to South African pride.” The paper viewed the defeat as, “the boost to African nationalism which has seen South Africa forced to retreat.” In a similar vein another South African analyst observed “whether the bulk of the offensive was by Cubans or Angolans is immaterial in the colour-conscious context of this war’s battlefield, for the reality is that they won, are winning, and are not white: and that psychological edge, that advantage the white man has enjoyed and exploited over 300 years of colonialism and empire, is slipping away. White elitism has suffered an irreversible blow in Angola and Whites who have been there know it.”

Ottawa freaked out, diplomatically speaking. Trudeau stated: “Canada disapproves with horror [of] participation of Cuban troops in Africa” and later terminated the Canadian International Development Agency’s small aid program in Cuba as a result.

Conversely, Ottawa funnelled aid to Zambia during this period partly to support its “moderate” position in southern Africa’s racial conflict. In Canadian Development Assistance to Zambia Sinkala Sontwa explains how Ottawa “lent support to what they considered as Zambia’s moderate stand among the Front Line States on Southern African politics.”

A few years earlier Canadian officials expressed apprehension about providing indirect backing to Ghanaian and Tanzanian proponents of what Ottawa dubbed a “war of liberation” in southern Africa. At the end of the 1960s, Canada failed to renew its military training in Tanzania partly because the government provided limited support to the liberation movement on its southern border in Mozambique.

Canada’s position towards the African liberation struggles of the 1970s and 80s should influence how we view deploying troops to the continent today. This history – and the media’s distortion of it – suggests the need for a healthy dose of skepticism towards Ottawa’s intentions.

To paraphrase George Santayana, Canadians who cannot remember the past are condemned to allow the bad guys to repeat it.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada in Africa

Greens stand firm in face of Israeli bullying

In a major self-inflicted wound, Israeli nationalist groups recently turned support for a BDS motion targeting Israel’s occupation into overwhelming approval. In addition, the resolution also demanded action to address the plight of Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

In a further bizarre twist, Elizabeth May and others within the Green Party leadership have tried to obfuscate the extent of the membership’s support for Palestinian rights.

In August, the Green Party of Canada voted to support “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted at those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the [Occupied Palestinian Territories].” While the new policy drops the BDS formulation, it supports “economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes” and encompasses the Palestinian civil-society-led BDS campaign’s three demands.

It calls for the Green Party to “respect the intent of UN Resolution 194,” on the right of Palestinian refugees to return, as well as an “accord to the Arab-Palestinian population of Israel equal political and civil rights.” It also calls to “end Israel’s illegal occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and the Golan Heights, and Israel’s siege of Gaza.”

The new resolution also details Canadian complicity in dispossessing “the indigenous people,” calling on Ottawa “to divest from any companies which are directly benefiting from activity within Israel’s illegal settlements or its occupation of the OPT” and “to ask the International Criminal Court to prioritize its investigation into charges of potential war crimes by members of the Israeli forces.”

Supported by 84.5 per cent of those at the special general meeting on Saturday, it also calls for the “renegotiation of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement” and “termination and indefinite suspension of all military and surveillance trade and cooperation.”

At the closed-door meeting, May spoke in favour of the new policy, which makes her expressed position on Palestinian rights the strongest of anyone with a seat in the House of Commons. Yet immediately after the vote passed, May sought to distort the motion. She tweeted “we just repealed BDS policy” while a press release noted, “Green Party explicitly rejects the notion of boycotting the state of Israel.”

Over the past three years May and other Green leaders have battled members over Palestine (and by extension whether the Greens will be a progressive, grassroots, party). Seeking to maintain her standing within a wildly anti-Palestinian Canadian political establishment, May has repeatedly been at odds with party activists no longer willing to accept blatant anti-Palestinian sentiment.

In November 2013 a Jewish Tribune reporter challenged May over her planned participation in a fundraiser for Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CPJME). Apparently thinking the interview wouldn’t be read outside pro-Israel circles, May told the Tribune CJPME was “anti-Israel” and noted she recently attended a recent Jewish National Fund fundraiser, even lauding “the great work that’s [the JNF] done in making the desert bloom.” (An explicitly racist institution, the JNF has helped dispossess Palestinians and Judaize historically Arab areas.)

May’s comments sparked a pro-Palestinian backlash that jolted the party’s only member of parliament and pushed the party towards a better position on the issue. A few months later, the party adopted a resolution critical of Israeli expansionism and when party President Paul Estrin published an anti-Palestinian screed in the midst of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, he was forced to resign.

In a sign of the growing power of the Palestine solidarity movement, at the August convention members ignored May’s vociferous opposition to the BDS resolution. May responded by threatening to resign if the party didn’t revisit the issue and organizing a special general membership meeting to reconsider the issue. A month after the convention she fired three members of her shadow cabinet for defending the party’s recently passed policy from attacks by the head of the British Columbia Greens.

In response to May’s authoritarian, anti-Palestinian, moves, party activists organized aggressively for this weekend’s special general meeting. The author of the resolution and ousted Green justice critic, Dmitri Lascaris, spoke at 18 townhall meetings across country. Support for the Palestine policy was overwhelming and drew many new individuals to the party. Facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat at the special meeting, which would have all but forced her to resign, May backed a “consensus resolution” that strengthened support for Palestinian rights, but eliminated explicit support for BDS.

Though she’s unable to control members’ position on this issue, May can shape what the public learns about it. In conjunction with a pro-Israel press, she has worked to downplay the depth of Green support for Palestinian liberation.

Notwithstanding the “two steps forward one step back” character of the struggle within the Green Party, their recent vote puts pressure on the NDP. Alongside Yann Martel, Rawi Hage, Bruce Cockburn, Richard Parry and numerous high profile lefties, the former head of the Ontario Federation of Labour Sid Ryan signed a recent appeal to Green Party of Canada members “not to succumb to political pressure to weaken or reverse [their] vote to support Palestinian rights.”

Sid Ryan for NDP Leader, a website encouraging him to run for the head of the party, notes: “Sid Ryan’s advocacy for the Palestinian people, starting in his days in CUPE where he endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, shows that an NDP leader could muster broad support for a process where Canada is non-aligned, expresses solidarity with Palestinians and other oppressed nations in the Global South, and champions a foreign policy based on peace, democracy, social justice and human rights.”

No matter who wins the campaign to become NDP leader in October, it’s hard to imagine they will be as hostile to Palestinians as outgoing leader Tom Mulcair  — who once said “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances.”

The Canadian Jewish News is already fretting over the new NDP leader. With a change in NDP leadership on the horizon, the Green vote will sting. Rather than forcing members to cower, Israel nationalists’ attacks focused attention on the Green campaign and helped solidify the most significant pro-Palestinian victory in Canadian political history — notwithstanding May’s effort to obscure it.

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Capitalism underpins Canada’s relationship with Cuba

Has Canada been a “friend” to Cuba?

While Ottawa’s position towards Fidel Castro’s Cuba was far more progressive than our southern neighbour’s, the story is more complicated than liberals are likely to suggest in their commentary over Castro’s passing.

Canada did not play a central role in U.S. efforts to squash the social reforms and independence of the island nation. Rather than participate in hundreds of CIA assassination attempts on the life of Fidel, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared “Viva Castro” during an official trip to Cuba in 1976. But, there’s a little-known unsavory side to Canadian relations with Cuba.

Business is business seems to be Canada’s slogan for relations with Cuba from the U.S. occupation in 1898 through the dictator Batista to Castro’s revolution in 1959.  In 1900 the Canadian Journal of Commerce noted: “Canadian capital and clearer northern brains” were turning Cuba into a “modern hive of industry.” A few months after the U.S. began its 1898-1902 occupation the Royal Bank opened its first branch in Havana. According to one bank history: “[Royal Bank] General Manager, Mr. E.L. Pease, took a quick trip to Cuba at the end of the Spanish-American War and got in on the ground floor of banking there; his American friends, who put capital into the bank, helped him to expand there. (The bank was appointed agent for the payment of claims of the Army of Liberation.)” Before his trip to Havana Pease asked Henry White of New York’s Chase National to “smooth the way through the American authorities.” And once in that beautiful city Pease befriended U.S. Consul Joseph Springer, who indicated that the U.S. planned to reform Cuba’s financial sector. (It was relatively easy for the Royal to get priority of place because, until 1914, national U.S. banks were forbidden from establishing foreign branches.)

The Canadian bankers saw themselves as American and after the U.S. occupation formally ended they felt covered by the protective umbrella of the Platt amendment. (Inserted into the Cuban constitution by Washington, the Platt amendment gave the U.S. the right to intervene on the island whenever necessary). “The United States authorities have the affairs of the Island well in hand at the present time,” Pease told the Financial Post in 1907. Royal Bank branches sprouted up across the island, usually along the newly built railroad through central Cuba. “The bank consciously established its branches wherever it could facilitate the spread of foreign investment entering Cuba.” The Royal Bank’s best customer was Canadian businessman William Van Horne’s Cuba Company and its offspring, the Cuba Railroad. Famous for his role in constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway, Van Horne “took advantage of Spain’s defeat and his influence in U.S. financial circles to start building a trans-island railway before any government had the power to stop him.” Van Horne had two U.S. generals sit on the company’s board and “land for the railroad was not purchased, but seized by the [U.S. military].” Van Horne also benefited from Cuba’s postwar railway law. He and a colleague wrote it. The Cuban railway was completed in 1902 and Van Horne proceeded to purchase tramways and sugar mills on the island.

With a wave of foreign investment into Cuba, business was good for the Royal Bank. By the mid-1920s, the Royal had 65 branches in the country. Popularly known as “Banco de Canada” during this period, “the Canadian bank acted as Cuba’s de facto central banker.” A quarter century later, Canadian banks still controlled 28 percent of total deposits in commercial Cuban banks. U.S. interests controlled 36 percent and Cuban interests 35 percent. Beyond banking, Canadian insurance companies sold two-thirds of the country’s total annual premiums in the mid-1950s, while the Cuban- Canadian sugar company owned 66,000 acres and 2,720 head of cattle. Another Canadian-owned ranch covered 75,000 acres and the Canada- Cuba Land and Fruit Company ran 100 tobacco plantations.

“Since Canada’s ties with Cuba are primarily commercial,” External Affairs advised the Canadian ambassador to Cuba in March 1949 that his two “main duties” were to defend Canadian commercial interests and increase trade opportunities on the island. Ottawa’s focus on Canadian commercial interests helps explain the embassy’s attitude to the pro-capitalist dictator, General Fulgencio Batista. Twenty months before the brutal despot was overthrown, the Canadian ambassador said Batista was “still the best hope for the future” because he “has offered the stability demanded by foreign investors.” A year earlier the Canadian ambassador said “the benevolence of President Batista is not to be questioned. He may be lining his pockets at Cuba’s expense but it is traditional for Cuban Presidents to do so and it is in part made necessary by the uncertainty of political life here. But as a dictator he is a failure, if the standard is Hitler or Mussolini. Public protests against the regime are possible; an opposition is in existence and is weak only because of fundamental weaknesses in the personalities of the opposition.”

After Batista’s downfall in January 1959 the new government tried to gain greater control over the economy. Among other steps, U.S. banks were nationalized without compensation. Canadian banks were also nationalized, but more amicably — with compensation. In response to these moves by the new Cuban government, U.S. hostility rose and Uncle Sam eventually cut off trade and diplomatic relations with the country. The U.S. also supported an invasion of Cuba, which Ottawa endorsed. Just days after the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker claimed Castro was a threat to the security of the hemisphere.  On April 19, 1961, he told the House of Commons that events in Cuba were “manifestations of a dictatorship which is abhorrent to free men everywhere.”

Despite tacit support for U.S. actions against Cuba Ottawa never broke off diplomatic relations, even though most other countries in the hemisphere did. Three Nights in Havana explains why Ottawa maintained diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba: “Recently declassified State Department documents have revealed that, far from encouraging Canada to support the embargo, the United States secretly urged Diefenbaker to maintain normal relations because it was thought that Canada would be well positioned to gather intelligence on the island.” Washington was okay with Canada’s continued relations with the island. It simply wanted assurances, which were promptly given, that Canada wouldn’t take over the trade the U.S. lost.

Ottawa has not let Washington down in regards to intelligence gathering. For nearly half a century Canada has spied on Cuba. Since the start of the 1960s the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), an intelligence department of the federal government, has listened to Cuban leaders secret conversations from an interception post in the Canadian embassy in Havana. A senior Canadian official, close to Washington, “admitted that the U.S. made ‘far greater use’ of our intelligence during the [October 1962] Cuban Missile Crisis than has been revealed.” Pentagon and State Department sources cite the U.K. and Canada as the only countries that “supply any real military information on Cuba” with Canada providing “the best” military intelligence. Canada has even spied on Cuba from outside that country. The CSE wanted to establish a communications post in Kingston, Jamaica, to intercept “communications from Fidel Castro’s Cuba, which would please [the US government’s] NSA to no end.”

To paraphrase Charles de Gaulle, perhaps Canada does not have friends, only interests. But the reality of Canada’s “interests” in Cuba have always been based on what’s best for the ruling class, not those of ordinary people.

Hasta la victoria siempre!

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Liberals isolate Canada as a result of blind support for Israel

How can you identify a Canadian Liberal? They talk to the left, but walk to the right.

Under Justin Trudeau, “Canada is back” to isolating itself from world opinion on Palestinian rights.

On Monday Canada joined the US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau in opposing a UN Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee resolution in support of Palestinian self determination. Two weeks ago Ottawa joined Israel, the U.S., Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau in opposing motions titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” and “persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities.” One hundred and fifty-six countries voted in favour of the motions while seven abstained on the first and six on the second.

Two among numerous resolutions upholding Palestinian rights Canada opposed, these votes follow on the heels of foreign minister Stéphane Dion attacking UNESCO for defending Palestinian rights. Last month the UN cultural body criticised Israel for restricting Muslim access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and recognised Israel as the occupying power. “Canada strongly rejects UNESCO World Heritage singling out Israel & denying Judaism’s link to the Old City + Western Wall,” Dion tweeted.

A few months earlier Trudeau’s minister criticized another arm of the UN. In March, Dion denounced the UN Human Rights Council’s appointment of University of Western Ontario law professor Michael Lynk as “Special Rapporteur on Palestine.” Claiming the Canadian lawyer was hostile to Israel, Dion asked the UNHRC to review Lynk’s appointment.

In addition to isolating Canada internationally, the Trudeau government has pursued various pro-Israel moves. At the start of the month Governor General David Johnston visited a Jewish National Fund Forest. An owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, the JNF discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up one-fifth of the population. According to a UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.”

While Johnston recently visited a racist Israeli institution, the PM attended the “Butcher of Qana’s” funeral at the end of September. In 1996 Shimon Peres ordered the shelling of a Lebanese village, which killed 106 civilians in Qana — half of whom were children. Through his long political career, reports Patrick Martin, Peres “was deeply implicated in many of the foulest historical crimes associated with the establishment, expansion and militarization of the state of Israel.”

Peres’ role in dispossessing Palestinians didn’t stop the Trudeau government from gushing with praise after he passed away. “The whole country of Canada is supporting the whole country of Israel and the prime minister wanted that to be very clear,” Dion told the press.

At the start of the year the Liberals condemned Canadians seeking to hold Israel accountable to international law. The Prime Minister and most Liberal MPs supported a Conservative Party call for the House of Commons to “reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel.” The February resolution also “condemned any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

The Trudeau government’s efforts to undermine Palestinians liberation strengthens Canada’s multifaceted contribution to Israeli expansionism. Each year registered Canadian charities channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military, racist institutions and illegal settlements.

Over the past decade, Ottawa has delivered over 100 million dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority in an explicit bid to advance Israel’s interests by building a security apparatus to protect the corrupt Palestinian Authority from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building. Further legitimating its illegal occupation, Canada’s two-decade old free trade agreement with Israel allows settlement products to enter Canada duty-free.

The truth is, it’s hard to tell Canada’s political parties apart when it comes to enabling Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

Without a growing popular movement campaigning for Palestinian rights, this country’s political elites will continue to isolate Canada from world opinion.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

A day to remember

Remember.

Remember that today marks the culmination of a militarist, nationalist ritual organized by a reactionary state-backed group.

Every year the Royal Canadian Legion sells about 20 million red poppies in the lead-up to Remembrance Day. Remember that red poppies were inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian army officer John McCrae. The pro-war poem calls on Canadians to “take up our quarrel with the foe” and was used to promote war bonds and recruit soldiers during World War I.

Remember that today, red poppies commemorate Canadians who have died at war. Not being commemorated are the Afghans, or Libyans killed by Canadians in the 2000s, or the Iraqis and Serbians killed in the 1990s, or the Koreans killed in the 1950s, or the Russians, South Africans, Sudanese and others killed before that. By focusing exclusively on “our” side Remembrance Day poppies reinforce a sense that Canada’s cause is righteous. But, Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II.

While there’s some criticism of the nationalism and militarism driving Remembrance Day, the organization sponsoring the red poppy campaign receives little critical attention. Incorporated by an act of Parliament, the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League was formed in 1926. Renamed the Royal Canadian Legion in 1960, from the get-go it was designed to counter more critical veteran organizations. In The Vimy Trap: or, How We Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Great War, Ian McKay and Jamie Swift write, “benefiting from government recognition, the Legion slowly supplanted its rivals. It was consciously designed as [a] body that would soothe the veterans temper and moderate their demands.”

In 1927 the federal government granted the Legion a monopoly over poppy distribution and the Veterans Affairs-run Vetcraft made the Legion’s poppies for 75 years. The Legion has benefited from various other forms of government support. Its branches have received public funds and the Governor General, head of the Canadian Forces, is the Legion’s Grand Patron and numerous prime ministers and defence ministers have addressed its conventions.

While its core political mandate is improving veterans’ services, the Legion has long advocated militarism and a reactionary worldview. In the early 1930s it pushed for military build-up and its 1950 convention called for “total preparedness.” In 1983 its president, Dave Capperauld, supported US cruise missiles tests in Alberta and into the early 1990s the Legion took “an uncompromising stand on the importance of maintaining a strong Canadian military presence in Europe through NATO, and by supporting the United States build-up of advanced nuclear weapons.”

The Legion has also espoused a racist, paranoid and pro-Empire worldview. In the years after World War II it called for the expulsion of Canadians of Japanese origin and ideological screening for German immigrants. A decade before WWII, reports Branching Out: the story of the Royal Canadian Legion, “Manitoba Command unanimously endorsed a resolution to ban communist activities, and provincial president Ralph Webb…warned that children were being taught to spit on the Union Jack in Manitoba schools.”

Long after the end of the Cold War the organization remains concerned about “subversives.” Today, Legion members have to sign a statement that begins: “I hereby solemnly declare that I am not a member of, nor affiliated with, any group, party or sect whose interests conflict with the avowed purposes of the Legion, and I do not, and will not, support any organization advocating the overthrow of our government by force or which advocates, encourages or participates in subversive action or propaganda.”

The veterans group has sought to suppress critical understanding of military history. In the mid-2000s the Legion battled Canadian War Museum historians over an exhibition about the World War II allied bomber offensive. After shaping its development, the Legion objected to a small part of a multifaceted exhibit, which questioned “the efficacy and the morality of the…massive bombing of Germany’s industrial and civilian targets.” With the museum refusing to give the veterans an effective veto over its exhibit, Legion Magazine called for a boycott. The Legion’s campaign led to hearings by the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs and a new display that glossed over a bombing campaign explicitly designed to destroy German cities. It also led to the director of the museum, Joe Guerts, resigning.

A decade earlier the Legion participated in a campaign to block the three-part series The Valour and the Horror from being rebroadcast or distributed to schools. The 1992 CBC series claimed Canadian soldiers committed unprosecuted war crimes during World War II and that the British-led bomber command killed 600,000 German civilians. The veterans groups’ campaign led to a Senate inquiry, CRTC hearing and lawsuit, as well as a commitment from CBC to not rebroadcast The Valour and the Horror without amendments.

Rather than supporting the militaristic, jingoistic, nationalism of the Legion, Canadians of good conscience should support peace organizations’ white poppy campaign to remember all victims of war.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel, Canada in Africa, Canada in Haiti, The Truth May Hurt, The Ugly Canadian

It is never ‘left wing’ to support imperialism

Most people who identify as left wing would agree that systems of governance that enable exploitation by the world’s most powerful corporations, governments and individuals should be changed. Most would also agree that militarism and military solutions are best avoided.

Why then do so many people ‘on the left’ support UN missions that claim to be about “peacekeeping” but often serve as little more than fig leafs to cover up imperialism?

Unfortunately, from the Cold War era on, there is a substantial record of nominally left wing organizations effectively supporting imperialism by failing to look closely at what particular UN missions actually do. Simple cheerleading of  “peacekeeping” has become a way to align with Ottawa’s “good Canadian” mythology and evade confronting military power, usually employed to shape the world in the interests of the richest 0.1%.

For example, in a recent email to its 25,000-person list Ceasefire.ca outlined, “key steps towards building sustainable peace and common security.” Its first demand is a motherhood statement about “giving top priority to war prevention, peaceful conflict resolution and building the United Nations envisaged by the UN Charter.” The second point is a call for “greater participation in UN peacekeeping missions and international peacekeeping training.”

Considered a countervailing force by many on the left, Ceasefire.ca’s position aligns with the Justin Trudeau government’s plan to dispatch 600 peacekeepers to Africa. As I’ve written elsewhere, Ceasefire.ca’s parent organization, the Rideau Institute, promotes the views of commentators who’ve backed violent, antidemocratic, UN peacekeeping missions. In February the Rideau Institute and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives co-published Unprepared for Peace?: The decline of Canadian peacekeeping training (and what to do about it) by Institute board member Walter Dorn. The Royal Military College of Canada professor worked with and publicly lauded the UN mission in Haiti.

An outgrowth of the US/France/Canada’s overthrow of Haiti’s elected government in 2004, the UN mission has undermined Haitian sovereignty and been directly responsible for many abuses. The UN’s disregard for Haitian life caused a major cholera outbreak, which has left nearly 10,000 Haitians dead and 800,000 ill. But, don’t expect the Canadians blindly calling for more peacekeeping to apologize to Haitians for the cholera epidemic.

And Haiti is only one example of supposedly left wing organizations disguising their support for Canadian imperialism with the UN flag.

The Canadian Labour Congress backed Canada’s role in the UN mission responsible for the assassination of Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba. According to its 1962 Executive Council Report, CLC President Claude Jodoin sent a telegram to External Affairs “in which he expressed support of the Secretary General of the United Nations, then under attack because of the Congo crisis.” At Washington’s behest Dag Hammarskjold worked to undermine the Congolese independence leader. When President Joseph Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba as prime minister — a move of debatable legality and opposed by the vast majority of the country’s parliament — the UN Secretary General publicly endorsed the dismissal of a politician who a short time earlier had received the most votes in the country’s election. To get a sense of Hammarskjold’s antipathy towards the Congolese leader, he privately told officials in Washington Lumumba needed to be “broken”.

In its 1962 convention report the CLC’s executive committee noted:

We support the United Nations in the belief that only through a world organization of this kind, through the common discussion of problems, through the establishment of a strong supra – national organization, can world order be established and maintained. For all the difficulties encountered by the United Nations in the Congo, we feel nonetheless that the very fact of UN intervention has been a major step forward in the development of such a supranational force. We are proud that Canadians are playing a part in this affair.

While alluding to “difficulties”, the labour federation’s executive seems to have believed Lumumba’s assassination was worth the “development of such a supranational force”. In other words, Congolese aspirations could be sacrificed in the name of the UN.

Echoing this thinking, left nationalist magazine Canadian Forum and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the NDP’s predecessor) backed the 1950–53 UN “police action” in Korea in which 27,000 Canadian troops fought.

Canadian Forum said UN actions in Korea “revived hopes that the international body would serve as a deterrent to war.” But, millions died in the fighting after US troops intervened in Korea and then Washington moved to have the UN support their action.

As UN forces unleashed horrific violence in Korea, the CCF announced its “complete support for the principle of collective security through the United Nations” and party leader M.J. Coldwell called for a permanent UN force to respond to future aggression. In discussing Coldwell’s request and support for the Korean War, Robert Teigrob writes in Warming up to the Cold War: “In sum, if it was important to Canadian national identity and autonomy that the nation’s foreign-policy be determined by an international collective and not a single hegemon, it was vital to downplay the undeniable US control over the current [Korean] operation, or to present it as a provisional state of affairs.”

But was this really a principled stand in support of an international police force and a world government that could ultimately end all war?

History suggests that the principle of supporting the UN over narrow national sovereignty only extended as far as the UN taking positions supported by the Canadian elite. For example, in 1975, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution (72 votes to 35 with 32 abstentions) calling Zionism a form of racism. In response, CLC President Joe Morris stated, “By this act, it can justifiably be argued the UN has ‘legitimized’ anti-Semitism and pogroms against Jews. Canadian labour will fight all moves to implement such a resolution and will exercise its influence to prevent further extensions of the resolution.” For similar reasons, the NDP effectively backed Canada’s withdrawal from the UN’s 2009 World Conference Against Racism (“Durban II”).

Unions, our social democratic party and other “moderate” left organizations are capable of disagreeing with particular UN activities. By what criteria should left organizations judge whether or not to support a particular UN policy or mission?

I would suggest the criteria should include such principles as international solidarity, the building of a more equal world, anti-militarism, and the UN’s own Declaration of Human Rights.

Cheerleading for Canada and capitalism may make sense as criteria for supporters of the existing economic order, but the left is supposed to want something better.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Xenophobia, racism accompany right wing Israeli and Quebecois nationalism

What do today’s right-wing Quebec and Israeli nationalists share in common? A claim to victimhood that enables them to deny their role in oppressing others.

This commonality became clear when a prominent right-wing Quebec nationalist politician cited the French language and Jewish sensibilities to criticize immigration and the veil. It also reflected a historic reversal in Québecois-Jewish relations. More significantly, it highlighted the dangers of an “empowered sense of vulnerability,” a psychological state many Quebeckers and Jews seem to share.

(I admit, up front, that generalizations about large groups of people most often reflect nothing more than ignorance — sometimes wilful — but simplification is also a necessary tool for the construction of useful theories.)

At the end of August, Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) leader Francois Legault called for slashing the number of immigrants to Quebec by 10,000 a year to protect the French language. “I have deep concerns about the survival of French in the long term in Quebec,” Legault explained at a press conference. Alongside his anti-immigrant announcement the former Parti Québecois minister criticized the Montreal police for allowing women to wear hijabs on the job. Legault asked how a Jew would feel interrogated by a veiled policewoman.

A right-wing nationalistic politician citing Jewish sensibilities to oppose a police decision is a historic turnaround. In the annals of Canadian history, Quebec anti-Semitism is probably the most widely discussed variety. Most infamously, medical students at Montréal’s Notre-Dame Hospital went on strike in 1934 to block a Jewish student from taking up a senior internship.

But, Quebec anti-Semitism has been overemphasized in English Canada (at least in relation to the WASP variety) to undermine Quebec nationalism. Driven by Catholicism and simple xenophobia, anti-Jewish animus in Quebec was also enmeshed in legitimate majoritarian cultural and economic aspirations stifled by an Anglo elite, which Jews largely aligned with.

Francophones discriminated against Jews, yet were themselves subjugated by Anglos. While broadly recognized, this history is rarely contrasted with Francophone-Jewish oppression of others. From an Indigenous perspective, both groups’ wealth was largely derived from land stolen from First Nations.

In addition to stealing territory, French settlers enslaved Indigenous people. Aaron Hart, the first Jew who arrived with the conquering British forces in 1759, became the wealthiest landowner in the empire outside Britain. He and other Jews living in current day Quebec also held Africans as property. To better situate relative historic oppression, a Jew became grandmaster of the anti-Catholic Orange order in British North America three years after slavery was abolished while Toronto elected Nathan Phillips, its first Jewish mayor, in 1955, five years before Indigenous people gained the right to vote in Canada.

Even compared to some other “white” groups, French-Canadians and Jews have fared not so bad. During the First World War, thousands of Ukrainians were interned while 600 Canadians of Italian descent were jailed in the Second World War. In the mid-1800s, thousands of Irish died of typhus at an inspection and quarantine station on Grosse Ile in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Neither Jews nor Francophones suffered equivalent abuse.

Never at the bottom of the totem pole, both groups retain (broadly speaking) a distinct identity. French-speaking Québecois and Jews have also had the capacity to articulate their own histories. Both groups also share (again pardon the generalization) a sense of victimhood far out of proportion to their Canadian experience, which blinds many to their own religious/ethnic supremacism.

Quebec Racism

Quebec has more equitable child care, rent control, parental leave and post-secondary education systems. It also has an appealing pacifist current and Montreal has the most dynamic left protest culture of any city north of the Rio Grande. But, when it comes to race, I’d take Calgary over Quebec City, Kelowna over Shawinigan.

It took me a while to realize this. During my first few years in Montreal, I rejected the idea that Quebec nationalism enabled xenophobia. Now I see signs of it regularly.

A recent Journal de Montréal advertisement pictured its 23 columnists. All the faces were white, yet the ad noted: “Composed of personalities from all milieus and trends, our columnists offer a large diversity of opinion.”

To the left of the ideological spectrum, a September L’aut’journal commentary criticized multiculturalism and suggested an independent Quebec would restrict immigration. According to the nationalist paper’s publisher, Quebec currently requires immigrants to maintain its numeric and political strength within Canada but that would change with independence.

After winning office in 2012 the traditionally social democratic Parti Québecois stoked a “reasonable accommodation” debate simmering since a racially homogenous village between Montreal and Quebec City, Hérouxville, moved to write a code of conduct for immigrants in 2007. Deciding it was easier to dump on the most marginalized immigrants than challenge neoliberalism, the Parti Québecois introduced a Charter of Values targeted at removing veiled women from public sector jobs.

While the Charter of Values was presented as protecting Quebec’s secularist identity, a secularist movement worth its tabernacle would start by targeting the most ostentatious religious symbols and the last time I looked a big cross remains atop the mountain in Montreal’s name. Another adorns the national legislature in Quebec City.

Protecting a colonial language

I first encountered the blinders imposed by Quebec’s emboldened sense of vulnerability when Canada helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government in 2004. Quebec-based politicians, businesses and NGOs led Canada’s violent, undemocratic policies. In contrast to their generally weaker English Canadian counterparts, the Quebec Left largely supported the coup (or stayed quiet).

During three years of campaigning with Haiti Action Montréal a (broad) racial or linguistic pattern emerged: the more “pure laine” Québecois a person or institution, the more likely they were to be antagonistic to Haiti’s impoverished majority. Nationalist/leftist Le Devoir’s coverage of the coup was by far the worst of the city’s four dailies. Within La Presse, Mauritius-born Jooneed Khan was a singularly sympathetic voice while the Montreal Gazette included a few sympathetic reporters. The Mirror and Hour were also better than their francophone alt-weekly counterpart Voir.

The divide was also evident within left provincial party Québec Solidaire. Iranian-born spokesperson Amir Khadir was nominally sympathetic to Haiti solidarity activism while co-spokesperson François David traveled to the country in the midst of the coup government’s crimes. Upon her return, she parroted the elite’s perspective on Radio Canada and elsewhere, blaming supporters of the ousted government for violence. Later she spoke alongside Danielle Magloire, an individual who was part of the seven-person group that appointed the brutal coup prime minister Gérard Latortue.

Within nationalist intellectual circles Haiti has a certain cultural cachet. It’s partly based on the Haitian diaspora living here, but there are three times as many Quebeckers of Italian descent without the same mystique. Quebec’s relationship to Haiti is largely based on paternalism and a purported linguistic commonality. A 1984 North-South Institute report titled Canadian Development Assistance to Haiti explains that country’s importance to Quebec: “As the only independent French-speaking country in Latin American and the Caribbean, Haiti is of special importance for the preservation of the French language and culture.”

But, most Haitians don’t speak French. French is the language of Haiti’s elite and language has served as a mechanism through which they maintain their privilege (10 per cent of Haitians speak French fluently while basically everyone speaks Haitian Creole). A Quebec group in Haiti almost invariably reinforces the influence of French in that country. Whether conscious or not, a French-focused foreigner in Haiti has taken (at least linguistically speaking) a side in the country’s brutal class war. (In terms of Haitians adopting a more useful common second-language, Spanish would facilitate ties with the eastern half of the island while English would enable greater relations with other parts of the Caribbean.)

While the linguistic and class French-Creole divides are particularly striking in Haiti, similar divides exist in most former French colonies. Aside from Quebec, is there any place in the world where French is the language of the oppressed? Yet, to project this province’s linguistic heritage, Quebec provides more development assistance than other provinces and Ottawa expanded its aid to “Francophone” nations to placate Quebec nationalists.

Within the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) claims responsibility for relations with “French”-speaking countries. In the months after the removal of Haiti’s elected government, progressive elements within the CLC tried to pass a resolution critical of Canada’s role in overthrowing Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government and supporting a murderous dictatorship. The FTQ worked to dilute it and the Quebec labour federation repeatedly justified the coup.

One reason Québec groups were hostile to Haiti’s elected government was that Aristide promoted the Creole language at the expense of French. Progressive Quebec intellectuals and NGOs were tied to a Haitian elite benefiting from the power of French.

During a stint working for the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) union in Ottawa, I chalked up a white supremacist office dynamic partly to an empowered sense of linguistic vulnerability. The predominantly francophone Quebec office staff were righteous about bilingualism, which made sense for a pan-Canadian union. But, it made me wonder if this blinded the generally well-treated office to its lily-white character in a neighborhood with many of Arab and Somali descent. When the union collapsed into Unifor in 2013 and the national office transferred to Toronto, I briefly worked in a significantly more racially diverse space.

Are Canadian Jews underdogs?

Toronto opened my eyes to another group’s empowered sense of vulnerability. In summer 2014 I saw thousands demonstrate in favour of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, a small strip of land inhabited by Palestinians mostly driven from their homes in 1947/48.

I was shoved, spat on, had my bike damaged and lock stolen by men wearing “never again” T-shirts. My offence was to chant “kill more Palestinian children” as hundreds of Jewish Defense League and B’nai Brith supporters rallied at Queens Park to applaud the onslaught on Gaza in a counter demonstration to those opposed to Israel’s massacres.

Over the two-month long “war,” I witnessed numerous random outbursts of anti-Arab racism. During a rally on Bloor Street a middle-aged man walking with his partner crumbled a leaflet I handed him, pointed at two older Arab looking men who responded, and yelled “barbarians.” In a similarly bizarre racist outburst, a man who was biking past a demonstration stopped to engage and soon after he was pointing at a young Arab looking child close by and telling me that I was indoctrinating him to kill. And then an older woman interrupted a phone conversation I was having about Israel’s destruction of Gaza and yelled she hoped Israel kills “10,000 more.”

But, it was a young man in a tank top who embodied the dangers of an empowered sense of vulnerability. The stereotypical college football quarterback stood at the end of a 300 metre long fence separating competing rallies and berated largely recent immigrant Muslim families arriving at the Ontario legislature. When I confronted him, he invoked “never again,” but once he realized I wasn’t having the Jewish victimhood shtick the privileged looking twenty-something simply flipped the script, unleashing a torrent of racist, supremacist, views.

In a more sophisticated way the establishment Jewish organizations did the same. In the midst of Israel’s 2014 onslaught on Gaza United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B’nai Brith, Canada Israel Experience, March of the Living Canada and the Jewish National Fund organized a pro-war demonstration under the banner: “We Will Not be Silent: A March Against Global Anti-Semitism.” The Times of Israel reported: “The purpose of the march was passionately summed up in Bill Glied’s closing remarks: ‘Thank God for the IDF [Israel’s army]. Thank God for Israel. And remember together we must stand. Never again!'”

Framed as a challenge to prejudice, the march was little more than a group of white people calling for the further subjugation of brown folk. About 1,500 Palestinian and six Israeli civilians were killed during the seven-week war.

In another stark example of the Jewish establishment’s empowered sense of vulnerability, two weeks ago the Atlantic Jewish Council packed Halifax Pride’s annual general meeting with straight white men to vote down a Queer Arabs of Halifax resolution to disallow the distribution of materials at the Pride Fair touting Israel’s purported LGBT-friendliness. Queer Arabs of Halifax claimed these materials were part of an Israeli campaign to “pinkwash” its violations of Palestinian rights. After the vote an audience member reportedly yelled “‘Straight white pride wins again’ and a contingent of BIPOC people [Black, Indigenous and People of Colour], many with tears in their eyes, angrily left the room.”

In April, Canadian Jewish News editor Yoni Goldstein responded to my criticism of his paper’s racism and abuse of the term “anti-Semitism” by claiming “Jews are the main victim of hate crimes in Canada.” Nonsense. What Goldstein ought to have written is: “Jewish organizations are best equipped to catalogue and publicize hate crimes targeted at their community.”

At a time when institutional anti-Semitism had largely disappeared, B’nai Brith started producing an annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents in Canada in 1982. In A History of Antisemitism in Canada, Ira Robinson writes, “the scope and sophistication of the Audit’s reporting have greatly increased in the more than 30 years in which the report has appeared, as have the number of incidents reported.”

Many of the allegedly anti-Semitic incidents B’nai Brith catalogues are expressions of Palestinian solidarity activism. Their 2014 report noted: “Toronto — Woman at Israel support rally harassed as she was walking home because she was carrying an Israeli flag. Calgary — Fuck Israel spray painted on roadway. Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto — Multiple assaults take place at Pro-Palestinian or Pro-Israel rallies.”

In Underdog: Confessions of a Right-Wing Gay Jewish Muckraker, Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy implies Jews are “underdogs.” In a Jewish Forward interview, she noted: “The number of anti-Semitic people out there, and the volume of virulent and vitriolic emails I get, is appalling.”

But, there’s little socio-economic data to back up the idea of Jewish victimhood in Canada. Do Jews have higher unemployment rates? Are they overrepresented in jail? Do they commit suicide more often? Are their children more likely to be taken from their care? Do they have higher high-school dropout rates? Are they underpaid for equal work? Is their legal discrimination against Jews?

It is simply preposterous to claim Jews are underdogs in Toronto. Among elite business, political and professional circles Jewish representation surpasses their slim 1.3 per cent of the Canadian population. Canadian Jews are twice as likely as the general population to hold a bachelors degree and three times more likely to earn over $75,000. In The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora: Origins, Experiences and Culture, Mark Avrum Ehrlich claims a fifth of the wealthiest Canadians were Jewish and Toronto’s Shalom Life reported that six of the 24 Canadians who made Forbes’ 2011 list of global billionaires were Jewish.

An exclusive inner-city suburb, Hampstead reflects Jewish ascension in Montréal. Until after the Second World War, Jews were largely excluded from the small municipality modeled after the Garden City movement, a late-1800s move by London’s elite to move out of the city centre. Without retail shops in its boundaries, Quebec’s second-wealthiest municipality is now three-quarters Jewish.

A specialist in Canadian Jewish history, Harold Troper provides a window into Canadian Jewry’s empowered sense of victimhood:

“Jewish students in my classes…feel a strong proprietary right to the history of anti-Semitism, to the Holocaust, and to the earlier era of overt anti-Jewish discrimination in Canada. It is their proximate history, a basic element in their Jewish identity…That their experience of anti-Semitism is secondhand or thirdhand, however, does not seem to weaken their deeply held and often expressed conviction that anti-Semitism is a clear and present danger today.”

But, as a group Jews in Canada are not oppressed. Nor are Quebeckers. This is not to say there isn’t anti-Jewish prejudice or that federal government policies considered pro-Québec don’t elicit anti-Quebec comments. But, in both groups’ case this prejudice has little impact on their material or social reality.

Born 80 years earlier, François Legault would probably have supported Montréal medical students’ anti-Jewish strike. But, times have changed. The right-wing nationalist politician now sees Jews as potential allies in his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant campaign.

No matter whether his political calculation is correct, Legault’s outlook highlights a historical reversal. And it reflects an ever-present danger of nationalism — be it Israeli or Quebec — when claims of historic victimhood are used to oppress others, the ideology is no longer progressive, but rather has descended into xenophobia, jingoism and racist chauvinism.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

Mainstream media finally reveals truth about Rwanda’s dictator

It was a tough week for Romeo Dallaire, Louise Arbour, Gerald Caplan and other liberal Canadian cheerleaders of Africa’s most bloodstained dictator. 

Last Tuesday’s Globe and Mail described two secret reports documenting Paul Kagame’s “direct involvement in the 1994 missile attack that killed former president Juvénal Habyarimana, leading to the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people died.” In other words, the paper is accusing the Rwandan leader widely celebrated for ending the genocidal killings of having unleashed them.

Another front-page story the following day quoted Marie-Rose Habyarimana, who was studying here when her father was assassinated and is now a Canadian citizen, highlighting the absurdity of the official story. “They have been hypocritical”, she told the Globe and Mail. “Two Hutu presidents and a Hutu army chief were killed in a plane attack, and we were supposed to believe that Hutus were behind this, as though they would naturally sabotage themselves. Those who really wanted to see the truth, who could have looked deeply, could have seen through these attempts to lie and deform history.”

(According to the official story, Hutu extremists waited until much of the Hutu-led Rwandan military command was physically eliminated and the Hutu were at their weakest point in three decades, before they began a long planned systematic extermination of Tutsi.)

On a personal level it was gratifying to see Canada’s ‘paper of record’ finally report something I’ve been criticized for writing. A few days before the Globereport, I received an email from a York University professor telling me: “I tried earlier this year to arrange a launch for your book Canada in Africa, but it was met with some serious opposition. You’ve been branded, rightly or wrongly, a Rwandan genocide-denier. I am sorry, but I don’t think speaking at York is going to work out.”

My sin for that university’s “Africanists” was to challenge the Paul Kagame/Romeo Dallaire/Gerald Caplan version of the Rwandan tragedy. Contrary to popular perception, the genocide was not a long planned attempt to exterminate all Tutsi, which even the victors’ justice dispensed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) effectively concluded. Instead, it was the outgrowth of a serious breakdown in social order that saw hundreds of thousands of Tutsi slaughtered by relatively disorganized local command. But, Kagame’s RPF also killed tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of Hutu.

Both directly and indirectly, the RPF was implicated in a significant proportion of the bloodshed during the spring of 1994. Christian Davenport and Allan Stam, US academics initially sponsored by the ICTR, found a strong correlation between RFP “surges” — advances in April 1994 — and local bloodbaths. In 2009 Davenport and Stam reported: “The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR [Armed Forces of Rwanda] seemed to escalate as the RPF moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased.”

Somewhere between several hundred thousand and a million Rwandans were killed over 100 days in mid-1994. The US academics concluded that the “majority of victims were likely Hutu and not Tutsi.”

The official story of the Rwandan genocide usually begins April 6, 1994, but any serious investigation must at least go back to the events of October 1, 1990. On that day, thousands of troops from Uganda’s army, mainly exiled Tutsi elite, invaded Rwanda. The Ugandan government accounted for these events with the explanation that 4,000 of its troops “deserted” to invade. These troops included Uganda’s former deputy defence minister, former head of intelligence and other important military officials. This unbelievable explanation has been accepted largely because Washington and London backed Uganda’s aggression, which according to the Nuremberg Principles is the “supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

The rise of ethnic enmity and breakdown of social order was caused by many factors. The 1990 Uganda/RPF invasion displaced about one million Rwandans, nearly 15% of the population. Six months before the spring 1994 bloodletting, Burundi’s Tutsi-dominated army assassinated its first elected Hutu president. The political killings sparked significant violence and the flight of hundreds of thousands of mostly Hutu Burundians into Rwanda. This further destabilized the small country and elevated animosity towards Tutsis, who were accused of refusing to accept majority rule.

Rwanda’s 1959-61 Hutu revolution saw the majority group gain political control while the Tutsi minority maintained control of Burundi after independence. Historically, the Tutsi, who speak the same language and practice the same religion as the Hutu, were distinguished based upon their proximity to the monarchy. In other words, the Tutsi/Hutu was a class/caste divide, which Belgian colonialism racialized.

The breakdown of social order was also tied to economic hardship brought on by the low price of coffee and foreign-imposed economic adjustments. No longer worried about the prospect of poor coffee producers turning towards the Soviet Union, the US withdrew its support for the International Coffee Agreement in 1989, an accord Ottawa was never enamoured with. The price of coffee tumbled, devastating Rwanda’s main cash crop. Largely because of the reduction in the price of coffee the government’s budget dropped by 40 percent. When Rwanda went in search of international support, the IMF used the country’s weakness to push economic reforms at the same time as donors demanded political reforms.  The Path of a GenocideThe Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire notes, “political adjustments were pushed on Rwanda at the same time that Canada required Rwanda to adopt a structural adjustment approach to its economy.” As in so many other places, structural adjustment brought social instability.

In the years leading to the mass killings, Canada began tying its aid to a “democratization” process, despite the country being under assault from a foreign-supported guerrilla group, the RPF. Ostensibly, because of human rights violations, Ottawa cut millions in aid to Rwanda. 

The RPF benefited from the role Canada played in weakening the Habyarimana government. Ottawa also played a more direct part in Kagame’s rise to power. Taking direction from Washington, Canadian General (later Senator) Romeo Dallaire was the military commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, which was dispatched to oversee the Arusha Accords peace agreement. As I detail in this article, which the York professor presented as evidence of my “genocide denial”, Dallaire backed the RPF.

A widely celebrated Canadian also played an important part in covering up who downed the plane carrying both Rwandan Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, as well as the chief of staff of the Rwandan Defence Forces, another official responsible for the “maison militaire” of the Rwandan president as well as the chief of the military cabinet of the Rwandan president and two Burundian ministers.Canadian Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, who left the bench to head the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, wasn’t interested in evidence suggesting the RPF was responsible for Habyarimana’s assassination. According to French government investigators and the National Post, she refused to investigate evidence implicating the RPF in shooting down Habyarimana’s airplane. In 1996 former ICTR investigator Michael Hourigan compiled evidence based on the testimony of three RPF informants who claimed “direct involvement in the 1994 fatal rocket attack upon the President’s aircraft” and “specifically implicated the direct involvement of [Kagame]” and other RPF members. But, when Hourigan delivered the evidence to her in early 1997, Arbour was “aggressive” and “hostile,” according to Hourigan. Despite initially supporting the investigation surrounding who shot down the plane, the ICTR’s chief prosecutor now advised Hourigan that the “investigation was at an end because in her view it was not in our [the ICTR’s] mandate.”

When the ICTR prosecutor who took over from Arbour, Carla del Ponte, began to investigate the RPF’s role in shooting down Habyarimana’s plane the British and Americans had her removed from her position. Del Ponte details her ordeal and the repression of the investigation in The Hunt: Me and the War Criminals.

A French magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguière, who spent eight years investigating the death of the three French nationals operating the presidential jet, issued nine arrest warrants for high-ranking RPF officials (French law prohibits issuing an arrest warrant for a head of state, excluding Kagame from the investigation.) Bruguière concluded that Kagame rejected the August 1993 Arusha Accords and that he needed Habyarimana’s “physical elimination” for the RPF to take power. Bruguière’s detailed investigation on behalf of the French family members of the jet’s crew showed that “due to the numerical inferiority of the Tutsi electorate, the political balance of power did not allow [Kagame] to win elections on the basis of the political process set forth by the Arusha Agreements without the support of the opposition parties. … In Paul Kagame’s mind, the physical elimination of President Habyarimana became imperative as early as October 1993 as the sole way of achieving his political aims.”

A number of high-profile liberal Canadians have legitimated Kagame’ s dictatorship and repeated invasions of the Congo. It’s long past time Dallaire, Arbour and Caplan answer for their actions and apologetics.

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Mining companies receive Canadian ‘aid’

Significant sums in Canadian “aid” are spent promoting international mining initiatives.

In a press release last week Ontario-based Carube Copper said it acquired over “500 square kilometres of the most prospective ground in Jamaica based on historic showings, the work completed and reported in 1993 by the Canadian International Development Agency (‘CIDA’).”

Canadian aid has facilitated similar work elsewhere. Researching Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation I discovered examples of Ottawa funding the collection of geological data in Tanzania, Angola, Cameroon, Niger, Uganda, Kenya and elsewhere. Long time West Africa-based freelance journalist, Joan Baxter, describes a chance encounter with Canadian geologists in her 2008 book Dust From Our Eyes: an Unblinkered Look at Africa. “Another CIDA employee I met one evening in Bamako [Mali] told me his work with CIDA had been a long-term project to map the mineral resources of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. When we spoke, he was on a two-year sabbatical from CIDA, working with Canadian mining companies that had taken out concessions in that country.”

Ottawa has financed various mining-related educational initiatives. CIDA sponsored the Zimbabwe School of Mines, a mid-1990s government-industry collaboration, and financed a Senegalese school for geomatics (combining geography and information technology to map natural resources), which received an added $5 million in 2012. In 2014 Ottawa announced $12.5 million for the Project Strengthening Education for Mining in Ethiopia “to develop more industry driven geology and mining engineering undergraduate programs” at Ethiopian universities. In 2012 CIDA put up $25 million for the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development (CIIEID), a university hosted think tank, which International Development Minister Julian Fantino told a Mining Association of Canada meeting would “be your biggest and best ambassador.”

While mining education and geological data collection indirectly benefit Canadian mining companies, millions of dollars have been ploughed directly into corporate social responsibility projects. Ottawa gave $4.5-million to Lundin for Africa, the philanthropic arm of mining giant Lundin Group of Companies, for its operations in Ghana, Mali and Senegal and put up $5.6 million for a project between NGO Plan Canada and IAMGOLD near the company’s mine in Burkina Faso. These aid projects are often about mollifying local opposition to mining projects. In 2012 CIDA invested $500,000 in a World Vision Canada/Barrick Gold project in Peru described as “tantamountto running a pacification program” while between 2003 and 2005 Calgary-based TVI Pacific dispersed tens of thousands of dollars in Canadian aid money to a community opposed to its mine on the Philippine island of Mindanao.

In the most significant boon to international mining firms, Canadian aid has helped liberalize mining legislation. Authors of Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries Alain Deneault and William Sacher cite Botswana, Zimbabwe, Guinea and Zambia among the countries where Canadian aid has shaped mining legislation. Gwendolyn Schulman and Roberto Nieto write: “Canadian cash, technocrats and know-how have also been involved in rewriting mining codes in Malawi, Ghana, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo (with, in this last case, civil war as a backdrop).”

In the best documented example, Ottawa began an $11 million project to re-write Colombia’s mining code in 1997. CIDA worked on the project with a Colombian law firm, Martinez Córdoba and Associates, representing multinational companies, and the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), an industry think-tank based at the University of Calgary. The CIDA/CERI proposal was submitted to Colombia’s Department of Mines and Energy and became law in 2001.

The “new code flexibilised environmental regulations, diminished labour guarantees for workers and opened the property of Afro-Colombian and indigenous people to exploitation,” explained Francisco Ramirez, president of SINTRAMINERCOL, Colombia’s State Mine Workers Union. “The CIDA-backed code also contains some articles that are simply unheard of in other countries,” added Ramirez. “If a mining company has to cut down trees before digging, they can now export that timber for 30 years with a total exemption on taxation.” The new code also reduced the royalty rate companies pay the government to 0.4 percent from 10 percent for mineral exports above 3 million tonnes per year and from 5 percent for exports below 3 million tonnes. In addition, the new code increased the length of mining concessions from 25 years to 30 years, with the possibility that concessions can be tripled to 90 years.

“Aid” has helped Canada’s companies dominate a global mining industry often mired in conflict and criticized for providing meagre benefits to local communities. It’s hard to understand why this would be considered “aid”.

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Anti-Palestinian coverage part of broader media pattern

Media coverage of world affairs mostly focuses on Ottawa/Washington’s perspective. While the dominant media is blatant in its subservience to Canadian/Western power, even independent media is often afraid to challenge the foreign policy status quo.

A recent Canadaland podcast simultaneously highlighted anti-Palestinian media bias and the fear liberal journalists’ face in discussing one of the foremost social justice issues of our time. The media watchdog’s discussion of the Green Party’s recent resolutions supporting Palestinian rights started strong with Canadaland publisher Jesse Brown laying out three “facts”:

  • In an editorial titled “[Elizabeth] May must renounce anti-Israel resolutions” the Vancouver Sun (reposted on the Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald websites) called Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) “an anti-Israel group that uses the fig leaf of Jewishness to lend support to Iran, deny the Holocaust, participate in anti-Semitic Al-Quds protests, encourage terrorism against Israelis and promulgate lies about Israel’s history, society and policies.” When IJV sent a letter threatening libel action Postmedia removed the editorial from its websites.
  • A B’nai B’rith article described left-wing news outlet Rabble.ca as a “racist, white supremacist and antisemitic website”, which they erased after a media inquiry.
  • Not one of a “couple dozen” reports examined about the Green Party resolution calling for “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories]” quoted a supporter of the successful motion.

Instead of seriously considering these “facts”, one Canadaland panellist partially justified suppressing Green Party voices favouring the BDS resolution and opposed talking about pro-Zionist media coverage because it contributes to stereotypes of Jewish control over the media. Diverting further from his “facts”, Brown bemoaned anti-Semitism and how Israel/Palestine debates rarely lead to agreement while another panellist mocked people from small towns who express an opinion on the subject. Aired on dozens of community radio stations across the country, the episode ended with a comment about how people shouldn’t protest those killed by Israel if they don’t take a position on the conflict between “North and South Sudan”.

(“North Sudan”, of course, doesn’t exist. And the ongoing war in that region is between two political/ethnic groups within South Sudan, which gained independence five years ago. But, even if they’d gotten their Sudan facts right, the statement is akin to saying Canadaland shouldn’t discuss major advertiser Enbridge pressuring the Vancouver Province to remove a cartoon critical of its Northern Gateway pipeline project because the show didn’t say anything about Tata Motors removing ads from the Times of India over their auto reporting.)

After detailing stark anti-Palestinian media bias, the Canadaland panellists cowered in the face of the “facts” presented. They failed to discuss whether the examples cited reflect a broader pattern (they do), what impact this has on Canadians’ perceptions of Palestinians (it is damaging) or explain the source of the bias.

One wonders if this reflects the panellists’ anti-Semitism, as if they fear talking about coverage of Israel will reveal a “Jewish conspiracy” to shape the news. But, there is no ethnic/religious conspiracy, rather a powerful propaganda system “hiding in plain sight”. While Canadian media bias on Palestine is glaring, that’s largely owing to the depths of grassroots activism on the issue, rather than dynamics particular to the subject. In fact, Canadian media bias on all aspects of this country’s foreign policy is shocking.

While there are particularities, coverage of Israel/Palestine fits the dominant media’s broad bias in favour of power on topics ranging from Haiti to Canada’s international mining industry. The main explanation for the biased coverage is a small number of mega corporations own most of Canada’s media and these firms are integrated with the broader elite and depend on other large corporations for advertising revenue. Media outlets also rely on US wire services and powerful institutions for most of their international coverage and these same institutions have the power to punish media that upset them.

Discussing the structural forces driving media bias and how they interact with the Canadian establishment’s long history of support for Zionism/Israel is a lot for a radio segment. But, the Canadaland panelists could have at least explored some notable developments/dynamics driving anti-Palestinian coverage.

After buying a dozen dailies in 2000 Izzy Asper pushed the CanWest newspaper chain to adopt extremist pro-Israel positions. When Montréal Gazette publisher Michael Goldbloom suddenly resigned in 2001 the Globe and Mail reported “sources at The Gazette confirmed yesterday that senior editors at the paper were told earlier that month to run a strongly worded, pro-Israel editorial on a Saturday op-ed page”, which was written by the head office in Winnipeg and was accompanied by a no rebuttal order. The CanWest editorial demanded Ottawa support Israel even as Israeli government ministers called for the assassination of PLO head Yasser Arafat after 15 Israelis were killed. “Canada must recognize the incredible restraint shown by the Israeli government under the circumstances. … Howsoever the Israeli government chooses to respond to this barbaric atrocity should have the unequivocal support of the Canadian government without the usual hand-wringing criticism about ‘excessive force.’ Nothing is excessive in the face of an enemy sworn to your annihilation.”

In 2004 the CanWest head office was caught directing papers to edit Reuters stories to denigrate Palestinians. “The message that was passed down to the copy desk was to change ‘militant’ to ‘terrorist’ when talking about armed Palestinians,” Charles Shannon, a Montréal Gazette copy editor, told The Nation. “One definite edict that came down was that there should be no criticism of Israel.”

(One Reuters story was changed from “the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four-year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank” to “the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that has been involved in a four-year-old campaign of violence against Israel.”)

While Aspers’ interventions were crass, they elicited limited response since anti-Palestinianism pervades the political and media establishments. Both a reflection of this bias and propelling it forward, leading media figures have various links to Israeli nationalist organizations. In 2014 the president of Postmedia, which controls most of English Canada’s daily newspaper circulation, was chairman of the Calgary Gala of the Jewish National Fund, which discriminates against non-Jewish Israelis in its land-use policies. Paul Godfrey is not the first influential media figure fêted by the explicitly racist organization. In 2007 Ottawa Citizen publisher Jim Orban was honorary chair of JNF Ottawa’s annual Gala while prominent CBC commentators Rex Murphy and Rick Mercer, as well as US journalists Barbra Walters and Bret Stephens, have spoken at recent JNF events.

The Ottawa Citizen has sponsored a number of the racist institution’s galas. The paper has also covered JNF events in which the Citizen is listed as a ‘Proud Supporter’. In what may indicate a formal financial relationship the JNF promoted their 2013 Ottawa Gala in the Citizen, including running an advertisement the day after the event. According to the Israeli press, the JNF has entered financial agreements with numerous media outlets, including a recent 1.5 million shekels ($500,000) accord with Israel’s Channel 10 to run 14 news reports about its work.

Prominent media figures often speak at pro-Israel events. In 2015 editor-in-chief of The Walrus Jonathan Kay and Postmedia columnist Terry Glavin spoke on a panel with Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Fogel at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington DC. Conversely, Palestinian solidarity groups rarely have the resources to pay for high profile journalists and most leading media figures fear associating with their struggle.

While Israeli nationalist organizations prefer to draw influential media figures close, they also have the capacity to punish those challenging their worldview. Honest Reporting Canada organizes Israel apologist ‘flack’. The registered charity monitors the media and engages its supporters to respond to news outlets that fail to toe its extreme Israeli nationalist line. If pursued consistently this type of ‘flack’ drives editors and journalists to avoid topics or be more cautious when covering an issue.

In my forthcoming book A Propaganda System: How the Canadian government, media, corporations and academia sell war and exploitation I detail numerous instances of media owners interceding in international affairs coverage, as well as institutions drawing in influential newspeople and organizing ‘flack’ campaigns. But, there are two unique elements shaping Palestine/Israel coverage.

As a partially ethno/religious conflict the greater number of Jews than Palestinians (or Arabs) in positions of influence within the Canadian media does exacerbate the overarching one-sidedness. In a backdoor way Canadaland’s Jesse Brown highlighted this point when he describes Israeli family members influencing his opinion on the topic.

Another dynamic engendering anti-Palestinianism in the media is Israeli nationalist groups’ capacity to accuse Canadians’ standing up for a people facing the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism of being motivated by a widely discredited prejudice. At the heart of the ideological system, journalists are particularly fearful of being labeled “anti-Semitic” and the smear puts social justice activists on the defensive.

When a “couple dozen” articles fail to quote a single proponent of a Green resolution pressing Israel to relinquish illegally occupied land it suggests systemic media bias. Canadaland’s inability to contextualize this anti-Palestinianism reveals a media watchdog subservient to the dominant foreign-policy framework about Israel. 

And a sign of how bad coverage is of all foreign affairs.

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Sordid tales of Canada-UN history in Africa

Canadian officials have long done as they pleased in Africa, loudly proclaimed this country’s altruism and only faced push back from hard rightists who bemoan sending troops to the  “Dark Continent” or “dens of hell”.

With many Canadians normally opposed to war supporting anything called “peacekeeping”, unless troops deployed with an African UN mission are caught using the N-word and torturing a teenager to death (the 1993 Somalia mission) they will be portrayed as an expression of this country’s benevolence. So, what should those of us who want Canada to be a force for good in the world think about the Trudeau government’s plan to join a UN stabilization mission in Mali, Congo, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic or South Sudan?

First, we have good reason to be cynical.

On his recent five country African “reconnaissance” tour defence minister Harjit Sajjan included an individual whose standing is intimately tied to a military leader who has destabilized large swaths of the continent. Accompanying Sajjan was General Romeo Dallaire, who backed Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front in 1993/94 and continues to publicly support the “Butcher of the Great Lakes”.

In his 2005 book Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (The Boss of Dallaire Speaks), Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, a former Cameroon foreign minister and overall head of the mid-90s UN mission in Rwanda, claims Dallaire ignored RPF violence, turned a blind eye to the weapons they received from Uganda and possibility shared UN intelligence with the Ugandan sponsored rebels. Dallaire doesn’t deny his admiration for Kagame. In Shake Hands with the Devil, published several years after Kagame unleashed unprecedented terror in the Congo, Dallaire wrote: “My guys and the RPF soldiers had a good time together” at a small cantina. Dallaire then explained: “It had been amazing to see Kagame with his guard down for a couple of hours, to glimpse the passion that drove this extraordinary man.” Dallaire’s interaction with the RPF was not in the spirit of UN guidelines that called on staff to avoid close ties to individuals, organizations, parties or factions of a conflict.

Included on the trip because he symbolizes Canadian benevolence, Dallaire hasn’t moved away from his aggressive backing for Kagame despite the Globe and Mail reporting on Kagame’s internal repression, global assassination program and proxies occupying the mineral rich Eastern Congo. The recently retired Senator has aligned his depiction of the 1994 Rwandan tragedy to fit the RPF’s simplistic, self-serving, portrayal and Dallaire even lent his name to a public attack against the 2014 BBC documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story. In February the former senator met with the Rwandan dictator in Toronto.

Three weeks ago the ruling party in Burundi released a statement criticizingthe Canadian general’s role in Rwanda and his inclusion on Sajjan’s trip. Still, I’ve yet to see any mention of Dallaire’s backing of Kagame or the fact his ally in Kigali has significant interest in the UN mission in Eastern Congo.

Another piece of history that should be part of any debate about a UN deployment to the continent is Canada’s link to the UN force in the Congo, which is an outgrowth of the mid-1990s foreign invasion. In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead. Since then Rwanda and its proxies have repeatedly invaded the Eastern Congo.

Kigali justified its 1996 intervention into the Congo as an effort to protect the Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsi) living in Eastern Congo from the Hutus who fled the country when the RPF took power. As many as two million, mostly Hutu, refugees fled the summer 1994 RPF takeover of Rwanda.

The US military increased its assistance to Rwanda in the months leading up to its fall 1996 invasion of Zaire. In The Great African War: Congo and Regional Geopolitics, 1996-2006 Filip Reyntjens explains:

The United States was aware of the intentions of Kagame to attack the refugee camps and probably assisted him in doing so. In addition, they deliberately lied about the number and fate of the refugees remaining in Zaire, in order to avoid the deployment of an international humanitarian force, which could have saved tens of thousands of human lives, but which was resented by Kigali and AFDL [L’Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo, a Rwandan backed rebel force led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila].

Ottawa played an important part in this sordid affair. In late 1996, Canada led a short-lived UN force into eastern Zaire, meant to bring food and protection to Hutu refugees. The official story is that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien organized a humanitarian mission into eastern Zaire after his wife saw images of exiled Rwandan refugees on CNN. In fact, Washington proposed that Ottawa, with many French speakers at its disposal, lead the UN mission. The US didn’t want pro- Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko France to gain control of the UN force.

On November 9, 1996, the UN Security Council backed a French resolution to establish a multinational force in Eastern Congo. Four days later, French Defence Minister Charles Millon, urged Washington to stop stalling on the force. ‘‘Intervention is urgent and procrastination by some countries is intolerable,’’ Millon said in a radio interview. ‘‘The United States must not drag its feet any longer.’’

Canada’s mission to the Congo was designed to dissipate French pressure and ensure it didn’t take command of a force that could impede Rwanda’s invasion of the Eastern Congo. “The United States and Canada did not really intend to support an international force,” writes Belgian academic Filip Reyntjens. “Operation Restore Silence” was how Oxfam’s emergencies director Nick Stockton sarcastically described the mission. He says the Anglosphere countries “managed the magical disappearance” of half a million refugees in eastern Zaire. In a bid to justify the non-deployment of the UN force, Canadian Defence Minister Doug Young claimed over 700,000 refugees had returned to Rwanda. A December 8 article in Québec City’s Le Soleil pointed out that this was “the highest estimated number of returnees since the October insurrection in Zaire.”

The RPF dismantled infrastructure and massacred thousands of civilians in the Hutu refugee camps, prompting some 300,000 to flee westward on foot from refugee camp to refugee camp. Dying to Live by Pierre-Claver Ndacyayisenga describes a harrowing personal ordeal of being chased across the Congo by the RPF and its allies.

Ultimately, most of the Canadian-led UN force was not deployed since peacekeepers would have slowed down or prevented Rwanda, Uganda and its allies from triumphing. But, the initial batch of Canadian soldiers deployed to the staging ground in Uganda left much of the equipment they brought along. In Le Canada dans les guerres en Afrique centrale: génocides et pillages des ressources minières du Congo par le Rwanda interposé (Canada in the wars in Central Africa: genocide and looting of the mineral resources of the Congo by Rwanda interposed) Patrick Mbeko suggests the Ugandan Army put the equipment to use in the Congo.

Prior to deploying the Canadian-led multinational force, Commander General Maurice Baril met with officials in Kigali as well as the Director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. Hinting at who was in the driver’s seat, the New York Times reported that Baril “cancelled a meeting with United Nations officials and flew instead to Washington for talks.” In deference to the Rwandan-backed forces, Baril said he would only deploy UN troops with the rebels’ permission. ‘‘Anything that I do I will coordinate with the one who is tactically holding the ground,’’ Baril noted.

Much to Joseph Mobutu’s dismay, Baril met rebel leader Laurent Kabila who was at that time shunned by most of the international community. The meeting took place in a ransacked mansion that had belonged to Zaire’s president and as part of the visit Kabila took Baril on a tour of the area surrounding Goma city. Baril justified the meeting, asserting: “I had to reassure the government of Canada that the situation had changed and we could go home.”

The book Nous étions invincibles, the personal account of Canadian special forces commando Denis Morrisset, provides a harrowing account of the Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) operation to bring Baril to meet Kabila. The convoy came under attack and was only bailed out when US Apache and Blackhawk helicopters retaliated. Some thirty Congolese were killed by a combination of helicopter and JTF2 fire.

Despite the bizarre, unsavory, history outlined above, Canada’s short-lived 1996 UN force to the Congo is little known. The same can largely be said about Dallaire (and Ottawa’s) support for the RPF during the mid-90s UN mission in Rwanda or Canada’s role in the UN force that helped kill Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba.

Widespread ignorance enables a political culture that gives politicians immense latitude to pursue self-serving policies, present them as altruistic and face few questions. Unless progressives upend this culture the loud expressions of Canadian benevolence are unlikely to align with reality.

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Tax dollars used to shape the news

Last Saturday the Ottawa Citizen published a feature titled “The story of ‘the Canadian vaccine’ that beat back Ebola”. According to the article, staff reporter Elizabeth Payne’s “research was supported by a travel grant from the International Development Research Centre.” The laudatory story concludes with Guinea’s former health minister thanking Canada “for the great service you have rendered to Guinea” and a man who received the Ebola vaccine showing “reporters a map of Canada that he had carved out of wood and displayed in his living room. ‘Because Canada saved my life.’”

A Crown Corporation that reports to Parliament through the foreign minister, the International Development Research Centre’s board is mostly appointed by the federal government. Unsurprisingly, the government-funded institution broadly aligns its positions with Canada’s international objectives.

IDRC funds various journalism initiatives and development journalism prizes. Canada’s aid agency has also doled out tens of millions of dollars on media initiatives over the years. The now defunct Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has funded a slew of journalism fellowships that generate aid-related stories, including a Canadian Newspaper Association fellowship to send journalists to Ecuador, Aga Khan Foundation Canada/Canadian Association of Journalists Fellowships for International Development Reporting, Canadian Association of Journalists/Jack Webster Foundation Fellowship. It also offered eight $6,000 fellowships annually for members of the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, noted CIDA, “to report to the Canadian public on the realities lived in developing countries benefiting from Canadian public aid.”

Between 2005 and 2008 CIDA spent at least $47.5 million on the “promotion of development awareness.” According to a 2013 J–Source investigation titled “Some journalists and news organizations took government funding to produce work: is that a problem?”, more than $3.5 million went to articles, photos, film and radio reports about CIDA projects. Much of the government-funded reporting appeared in major media outlets. But, a CIDA spokesperson told J-Source, the aid agency “didn’t pay directly for journalists’ salaries” and only “supported media activities that had as goal the promotion of development awareness with the Canadian public.”

One journalist, Kim Brunhuber, received $13, 000 to produce “six television news pieces that highlight the contribution of Canadians to several unique development projects” to be shown on CTV outlets. While failing to say whether Brunhuber’s work appeared on the station, CTV spokesperson Rene Dupuis said another documentary it aired “clearly credited that the program had been produced with the support of the Government of Canada through CIDA.”

During the 2001–14 war in Afghanistan CIDA operated a number of media projects. A number of CIDA-backed NGOs sent journalists to Afghanistan and the aid agency had a contract with Montréal’s Le Devoir to “[remind] readers of the central role that Afghanistan plays in CIDA’s international assistance program.”

The military also paid for journalists to visit Afghanistan. Canadian Press envoy Jonathan Montpetit explained, “my understanding of these junkets is that Ottawa picked up the tab for the flight over as well as costs in-theatre, then basically gave the journos a highlight tour of what Canada was doing in Afghanistan.”

A number of commentators have highlighted the political impact of military sponsored trips, which date back decades. In Turning Around a Supertanker: media-military relations in Canada in the CNN age, Daniel Hurley writes, “correspondents were not likely to ask hard questions of people who were offering them free flights to Germany” to visit Canadian bases there. In his diary of the mid-1990s Somalia Commission of Inquiry, Peter Desbarats made a similar observation. “Some journalists, truly ignorant of military affairs, were happy to trade junkets overseas for glowing reports about Canada’s gallant peacekeepers.”

The various arms of Canadian foreign policy fund media initiatives they expect will portray their operations sympathetically. It’s one reason why Canadians overwhelmingly believe this country is a benevolent international actor even though Ottawa long advanced corporate interests and sided with the British and US empires.

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Globe story ignores Bata’s (and Canada’s) colonialist past

An elitist, nationalist, bias dominates all areas of Canada’s paper of record.

On the front of last weekend’s Style section the Globe and Mail profiled Sonja Bata on turning 90. Business partner and wife of the deceased Thomas Bata, the Globe lauded Sonja for the “many contributions she has made to Canada”, including the Bata Shoe Museum and various other establishment “cultural, environmental and social causes.” The article touched on the shoemaker’s early history and described how she “traveled the world building a shoe empire – between 1946 and 1960, 25 new factories were built and 1700 Bata stores opened.”

While the three-page spread included an undated photo of Sonja and her husband on the “African continent”, it ignored how the Toronto-based shoe company took advantage of European rule to set up across the continent. By the end of the colonial era Bata had production or retail facilities in Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Libya, Sudan, Algeria, Senegal, Congo, Tanzania, Rhodesia and elsewhere. In the 1940s and 50s, notes Shoemaker with a Mission, “the organization’s expansion was especially great in francophone Africa. As Mr. Bata himself noted, there was no country in that part of the world where his company was not established as the number-one supplier of footwear.” While “Mr. Bata” may not be the most objective source on the shoemaker, a government study just after independence found the company controlled 70% of the footwear market in British East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania).

In a 1974 Saturday Night article titled “Canadians Too, Can Act like Economic Imperialists”, Steve Langdon describes the company’s operations in Kenya: “Bata seems to be undercutting decentralized rural development in Kenya, to be blocking African advance in other areas, and to be throwing its weight around politically — all at a handsome profit.” In a bid to subvert the establishment of a domestic competitor, the Toronto-based multinational wrote its overseas suppliers to discourage sales to its challenger and asked Kenyan government officials to intervene on its behalf.

Bata’s mechanized production methods squeezed out indigenous footwear producers all the while increasing imports of plastics and machinery, which came at the expense of local materials (leather) and employment. In the 1975 article Canada’s Relations with Africa Robert Matthews notes that Bata drained “money and opportunity from poor rural areas” to the benefit of a small group of locals and the Toronto head office.

When the post-independence Tanzanian government announced that it would acquire a 60 percent share of a multitude of major foreign firms Bata was the only hold out. The Toronto firm attempted to sabotage Tanzania’s push to acquire a controlling interest in the local company’s operations. In Underdevelopment and Nationalization: Banking in Tanzania James H. Mittelman explains: “Bata Shoes (a Canadian-based concern), for example, ran down stocks, removed machinery, supplied imperfect items, and later withdrew all staff, supposedly closing down for annual repairs! The Company refused to relinquish more than 49 per cent of its controlling interests, tried to set up a new wholesaling operation dependent on its firm in Kenya, and urged other foreign investors to fight.”

Bata’s aggressive reaction to Tanzania’s efforts aimed to dissuade other newly independent African countries from following a similar path. The shoemaker no doubt feared for its significant operations across the continent.

Bata received Canadian government support as well. In mid-1973 the Canadian High Commissioner in Nairobi visited Uganda to ask Idi Amin if he would attend the annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting taking place in Ottawa. But, the primary objective of the high commissioner’s meeting was to convince Amin to reverse his nationalization of Bata. A cable published by WikiLeaks read: “CANADIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER OLIVIER MET WITH PRESIDENT AMIN JUNE 29 TO DISCUSS GOU TAKE-OVER OF BATA SHOE FIRM. AMIN REVERSED EARLIER DECISION AND ORDERED THAT A NEW PARTNERSHIP ARRANGEMENT (51 PERCENT BATA, 49 PERCENT GOU) BE WORKED OUT.”

Through the 1970s Bata worked under the white regime in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). It broke sanctions against Rhodesia by exporting goods manufactured there to South Africa. Even more controversial, it operated in apartheid South Africa until the late 1980s. The company broke unions and blocked black workers from semi-skilled, skilled and executive positions. Listed among the “hardline defenders of investment in South Africa” in Ambiguous Champion: Canada and South Africa in the Trudeau and Mulroney years, Bata faced an international boycott campaign. During this period Sonja Bata was quoted in the Canadian media justifying the company’s South African policy and Thomas Bata proclaimed “we expanded into Africa in order to sell shoes, not to spread sweetness and light.”

The Globe and Mail is exposing its elitist, nationalist, bias in ignoring Bata’s unsavory history.

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Could Christian Zionism explain Green Party leader’s threats to resign?

Elizabeth May’s response to Green Party members voting to oppose Canadian support for Israeli colonialism has been wildly anti-democratic. She has not simply disagreed with a majority of members, which could reflect healthy internal processes, but publicly derided the party’s procedures and members’ clearly expressed opinions. After diluting a resolution about revoking the Jewish National Fund of Canada’s charitable status strongly endorsed by members in an online poll, May threatened to resign if the party didn’t organize another vote on a BDS resolution members strongly backed in a pre-convention online poll, convention caucus and full convention vote.

The possibility of the Green Party leader resigning over BDS has thrust the Israel boycott into the news and will turn into a highly fortuitous development for the Palestinian cause if members remain steadfast. But, May’s actions make little sense from a Green perspective.

As Maclean’s magazine pointed out, the party has more to gain by aligning with the growing number of Canadians critical of Ottawa’s support for Israeli colonialism. Only if one believes May could lose her seat in the House of Commons over the matter, which seems improbable, would embracing Palestine solidarity activism be bad electorally.

According to a poll conducted just before Israel killed 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in 2014, 16% of Canadians sided with Palestine, while 17% sided with Israel. (The rest were undecided.) The percentage of Canadians who sided with Palestine is almost five times the 3.4% of Canadians who voted for the Greens last year. Additionally, the issue drives NDP activists to the party. The Greens have already gained a number of prominent NDP members disenchanted with that party’s support for Israeli violence.

But, even if you disagree with this electoral calculation, May’s reaction still makes little sense from the party’s perspective. Her actions have upset Palestinian sympathizers yet the media storm over the BDS vote makes it hard to imagine anyone mildly sympathetic to Israeli colonialism would vote, let alone campaign, for the Greens even if May succeeds in modifying the party’s support for BDS at a special convention.

Since her actions make little electoral sense, commentators have speculated May is driven by a combination of ego, fear of Jewish Zionist groups’ accusations of anti-Semitism, a desire to join the Liberal cabinet or her establishment foreign-policy outlook. But, the influence of Christian Zionism represents an unexplored variable in May’s position.

A practicing Anglican, May was studying to become a priest until a few years ago. She’s disparaged abortion and questioned whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a practicing Christian. “Being a Christian in politics is part of who I am as a person, so I don’t hide it”, May explained to the Anglican Journal in 2013.

In 2013 she praised the Jewish National Fund for “the great work that’s done in making the desert bloom.” While not explicitly Christian Zionist wording, this (anti-ecological) statement echoes its thinking.

While only May knows exactly what drives her thinking/positions, her church has a long history of Zionism, which began as a Christian movement. “Christian proto- Zionists [existed] in England 300 years before modern Jewish Zionism emerged,” notes Evangelics and Israel. Until the mid-1800s Zionism was an almost entirely non-Jewish movement. And yet it was quite active. Between 1796 and 1800 there were at least 50 books published in Europe about the Jews’ return to Palestine. The movement reflected the more literal readings of the Bible that flowed out of the Protestant Reformation.

One of May’s co-religionists Rev. William H. Hechler, chaplain to the British Embassy in Vienna, arranged for Jewish Zionist leader Theodore Herzl to meet Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Ottoman sultan, which then controlled Palestine. Another Anglican, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, came up with the infamous Zionist slogan “a land without people for a people without a land”. He wanted Jews to go to their “rightful home” (Palestine) under a British protectorate. According to a Canadian Jewish News review of Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism, “The Earl of Shaftesbury was the first millennariast, or restorationist, to blend the biblical interest in Jews and their ancient homeland with the cold realities of [British imperial] foreign policy.” He got Britain’s foreign secretary to appoint the first British consul to Jerusalem in 1839.

A speech in England by Anthony Ashley Cooper in 1839 or 1840 was the first encounter with Zionist thinking for Canada’s leading early proponent of the movement. At the time of Confederation Canada’s preeminent Zionist was Henry Wentworth Monk who briefly studied to become an Anglican minister. In A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada Irving Abella explains: “Henry Wentworth Monk, an eccentric but respected businessman, spent much of his time and money crusading for a Jewish homeland. In the 1870s and 1880s — long before Theodore Herzl, the Austrian founder of [Jewish] Zionism, even thought of a Jewish state — Monk took up a campaign in Canada and England to raise funds to buy land in Palestine for European Jews. In 1881 Monk even proposed setting up a Jewish National Fund. He issued manifestoes, wrote long articles, spoke to assorted meetings and lobbied extensively in England and Canada to realize his dream.” Citing a mix of Christian and pro-British Empire rationale, Monk called on London to establish a “dominion of Israel” similar to the dominion of Canada.

Monk was not alone in Canada. Many public figures, including prime ministers Lester Pearson and Arthur Meighan, expressed Christian Zionist thinking in backing the formation of the Israeli state. The son of a minister, Pearson’s memoirs refer to Israel as “the land of my Sunday School lessons” where he learned that “the Jews belonged in Palestine.”

While Christian Zionism is now associated with right-wingers such as evangelist Charles McVety, who campaigns against sexual education in Ontario schools, Left Christian Zionism has a long history. Future CCF (the NDP’s predecessor) leaders Tommy Douglas and Stanley Knowles, as well as a number of labour leaders, were members of the Canadian Palestine Committee (CPC), a group of prominent non-Jewish Zionists formed in 1943. (Future external minister Paul Martin Sr. and the premier of Alberta, Ernest C. Manning, were also members). Many CPC members’ Zionism was partly motivated by biblical teachings. Both Knowles and Douglas were Protestant ministers and, as an indication of the extent to which religion shaped Douglas, his main biography is titled Tommy Douglas: The Road to Jerusalem. In 1975, Douglas, the “father of Medicare”, told the Histadrut labour federation: “The main enmity against Israel is that she has been an affront to those nations who do not treat their people and their workers as well as Israel has treated hers.” This speech was made eight years into Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and a quarter century after 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed in 1947/48.

A decade later Canadian Labour Congress president Dennis McDermott, who referred to himself as a “Catholic Zionist”, denounced a Canadian Senate report that rebuked Israel’s 1982 invasion/occupation of Lebanon and provided mild support for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. McDermott said the 1985 Senate report, which stopped short of calling the PLO the legitimate voice of Palestinians, was an “exercise in bad judgment and, even worse, bad taste.” (A portrait of McDermott hangs in a library named after him at the trade school of the Histadrut.)

Aggressive Christian Zionism still crops up in progressive circles. When I spoke about the Conservatives’ losing their bid for a seat on the UN Security Council to a Council of Canadians meeting in Delta BC, an older woman interrupted me to ask: “are you criticizing Harper’s support for Israel? Doesn’t the Bible say Israel is the Jewish homeland?”

May, of course, would never be so crass. But, she is associated with a religious tradition that has promoted this type of thinking. Recognizing their contribution to Palestinian dispossession, some Christian groups have sought to right a historical wrong by divesting from or boycotting companies enabling Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Others have directly challenged Christian Zionism.

In 2013 the Anglican Church of Canada committed itself “to explore and challenge theologies and beliefs, such as Christian Zionism, which support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.” Last year a number of groups organized an important multi-day conference in Vancouver titled “Seeking the Peace of Jerusalem: Overcoming Christian Zionism in the Quest for Justice.”

I can’t say for sure whether Christian Zionism has influenced Elizabeth May’s thinking. But, it’s clear she’s not supporting progressive Anglicans and other Christians reassessing their contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

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Misuse of term ‘anti-Semitic’ will have repercussions

Sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me — and they may come back to haunt the name-callers.

In finding anti-Semites behind every challenge to Canadian complicity with Israeli colonialism, mainstream Jewish organizations are emptying the term “anti-Semitism” of its historical weight.

The Green Party of Canada’s vote in favour of the anti-Semitic boycott campaign against Israel shows the party has been infected by a vicious strain of anti-Jewish hate,” said the President of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Avi Benlolo. In case anyone missed his point the head of the self-described “top Jewish human rights foundation in Canada with a substantial constituency” added that the Green’s “sole foreign policy is based on anti-Semitic hatred.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai Brith released only slightly less wild statements in response to the Greens supporting “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories].”

The Greens’ resolution, which is basically official Canadian government policy — based as it is on two states and the illegality of the settlements — with a little added pressure, freaks out Israeli nationalists because they understand it is a crack in the decades-old settler-state solidarity shield of invincibility. So, establishment pro-Israel organizations are increasingly shrill in smearing the growing Palestinian solidarity movement. While supporters of Palestinian rights generally ignore these smears or reply that it’s not anti-Semitic to stand up for Palestinian rights, defensive strategies aren’t sufficient. The anti-Semitic label is too potent to not confront directly.

It seems to this writer that the name-callers are on a track that will eventually lead to a new reality, one where:

• Those who are smeared will begin to embrace the label. People will begin to understand that if they haven’t been called anti-Semitic (or self hating) they’re probably not doing enough to support justice.

• Mocking the accuser and the term will become common. Benlolo et al. will be bombarded with tweets and messages about anti-Semites at the library, gym, behind the bed etc. Jokes about anti-Semitism will undercut the word’s force.

For example: Q. What does it take to get a student union to divest from Israel’s occupation? A. A dozen hard-core Jew-hating campaigners and 3,000 anti-Semites.

• Eventually, the embrace of the term by social justice advocates will lead to a widespread re-appropriation of its meaning. It could come to have ironically positive usage like the “N-word” in certain African-American circles. Or like the word Canuck, which originally was a term of derision aimed at French Canadians in New England, perhaps it will one day be displayed proudly on hockey team jerseys.

• If right-wing Israeli nationalist groups persist in their efforts to debase the Shoah in the service of colonialism and power, dictionaries and Wikipedia will be pressed to add “a movement for justice and equality” to their definition of anti-Semitism. (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary actually included “opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state of Israel”, as part of its definition of anti-Semitism.)

Of course, considering the historical oppression originally defined by the term, most progressive-minded folk would be discomforted by the idea of mocking and re-appropriating “anti-Semitism.” But, isn’t this inevitable when “leading Jewish organizations” publicly denounce “anti-Semitism” in inverse relation to discernible anti-Jewish animus?

When Jews fleeing Hitler’s atrocities were blocked from entering Canada, notes A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada, the dominant Jewish organizations mostly shied away from publicly criticizing Ottawa’s prejudice. Similarly, some Jewish representatives negotiated with McGill over the cap it placed on Jews in some university programs in the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

While some Jewish activists at the time pushed for a more forceful response to this quantifiable anti-Semitism, the “leading” community representatives didn’t want to rock the boat. Their aim was largely to join the power structure.

Today, the dominant Jewish organizations are well entrenched within the ruling elite. Whether they smear a political party, university students or the World Social Forum (“an event that was widely denounced as anti-Semitic”, according to a Canadian Jewish News report about last week’s conference in Montréal), they face little pushback in mainstream political and media life.

Nor do the less extreme elements within the Jewish community devote much energy to challenging the debasement of the term anti-Semitism. With the exception of Independent Jewish Voices, some smaller activist groups and a few righteous commentators, most liberal Jews are apathetic in the face of the cynical manipulation of centuries of Christian European prejudice.

One reason, I would postulate, is a lack of genuine concern over anti-Semitism in this country. Christianity has largely lost its cultural weight and a half-dozen other ethnic/religious groups are more likely to be targeted if there were an explosion of xenophobia in this country.

Over the past half-century Canadian Jews lived experience suggests little prejudice. In fact, most Canadian Jews benefit from white privilege and, to the extent an individual is tied into the generally educated and prosperous community, they benefit from accompanying familial and social advantages. As such, individuals uncomfortable about the nonsensical claims of anti-Semitism, simply don’t consider it worth putting their neck out to challenge the obvious damage done to the term by Simon Wiesenthal Center, B’nai Brith and CIJA, which have institutional/financial reasons to monger fear.

The primary public use of “anti-Semitism” today is to denigrate those defending a people facing the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism. Those who seek equality and international justice need to directly confront this abuse.

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The Left in denial over Canadian imperialism

As hard as it is to admit for a former junior hockey player who spends many hours writing at the neighbourhood Tim Hortons, some things are better in the USA.

For example, comparing Green Party leader Elizabeth May to her American counterpart Jill Stein on foreign-policy issues puts Canada to shame. While Stein has articulated forthright criticism on various international issues, May spouts nationalist platitudes as often as she challenges unjust policies.

Recently, Stein endorsed the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, called for Washington and Moscow to work together and said, “US pursuit of regime change in Libya, Iraq, and Syria created the chaos that promotes power grabs by extremist militias. Many of the weapons we are sending into Syria to arm anti-government militias are winding up in the hands of ISIS. This isn’t a clever foreign policy — it’s disastrous militarism.”

For her part, May spent last weekend undermining her party’s internal democracy to protect the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund and Israel from censure. At their convention in Ottawa May and most of the Green leadership succeeded in eliminating any mention of the JNF in a resolution, which was rewritten from targeting that institution to call on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the status of all charities engaged in international human rights violations. Fortunately, the party leadership failed to block a resolution endorsing BDS in what is probably the single most significant pro-Palestinian victory in Canadian history.

While the Green members who bucked the party leadership to support the JNF and BDS resolutions deserve to be congratulated, the anti-Palestinian, right-wing Israeli nationalist groups who terrorized May in the lead-up to the convention raised an important, if disingenuous, point: Why were there only two resolutions dealing with foreign-policy at the convention? Why didn’t the Greens debate Canadian mining companies’ abuses abroad, special forces in Iraq/Syria, international tar sands promotion, troops on the Russian border, among numerous other important international issues?

The Green’s 2015 federal election foreign-policy platform paper was peppered with nationalist platitudes. It said “Canada is fundamentally a peaceful country” and “defender of human rights.” In laying out the party’s 2015 election position in Esprit de Corps magazine May wrote, “the world needs more Canada” and argued, “we should also support the United Nations’ ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) doctrine”, which was used to justify bombing Libya in 2011 and ousting Haiti’s elected government in 2004.

May backed the Conservative government’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, a $30-$40 billion effort to expand the combat fleet over three decades. But the naval upgrade will strengthen Canadian officials’ capacity to bully weaker countries. The 2000 book Canadian Gunboat Diplomacy details the navy’s extensive history of flexing its muscles, including dozens of interventions in the Caribbean and pressuring Costa Rica to repay money the Royal Bank loaned to an unpopular dictator. And it’s not just history; over the past 25 years the Canadian Navy has played an increasing pro-imperial role in the Middle East and off parts of Africa.

May and Green Party policy statements have also mythologized Canadian foreign policy, citing Lester Pearson as some sort of hero. May claimed “a Green Party approach to international issues will return Canada to the values of Lester B. Pearson.” But, as I detail in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt, the former external minister and prime minister was an ardent cold warrior, who played a part in dispossessing Palestinians, creating NATO and helping the US wage war in Vietnam and Korea.

Of course, the problem runs deeper than May or the Green Party. Much of the Canadian ‘left’ is highly nationalistic, wedded to both the idea this country is a US “dependency” and international “peacekeeper”.

While far from what’s needed, internationalist minded Americans have helped expose US imperialism. Progressive people in this country have largely failed to do the same with Canadian imperialism. In fact, left-wing Canadian academics have probably written more books and articles criticizing US foreign policy than Canada’s.

Certainly the US left has built more of an infrastructure/culture willing to genuinely challenge US foreign policy. A number of prominent academics are highly critical of US foreign policy and left-wing US media outlets such as CounterPunch, Z, Dissident Voice, Common Dreams, etc. shun foreign-policy apologetics.

In Canada the most prominent ‘left-wing’ foreign-policy think tank is led by Peggy Mason who was a key adviser to Conservative foreign minister Joe Clark in the late 1980s and has held numerous diplomatic postings and UN positions since. During a 2012 National Defence Committee parliamentary meeting on NATO the head of the Rideau Institute noted, “I’m talking as someone who has spent the better part of the last 10 years working with NATO.” Mason trained NATO commanders for peace and crisis stabilization operations and boasted she trained the general Charles Bouchard, who led the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya, which the Rideau Institute head described as a “very important mission.”

The Rideau Institute’s lead collaborator/advisor is an employee of the Canadian Forces who aggressively supported Canada’s worst foreign-policy crime of the first decade of the 21st century (the coup in Haiti). Walter Dorn’s Rideau Institute reports are usually co-published by Canada’s leading left think tank, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. While the CCPA Monitor publishes some articles critical of Canadian foreign policy, its international affairs reports, which receive the bulk of resources, do not offer serious criticism. A number of recent reports have called for adjustments to military priorities while accepting the broad outlines of Canadian militarism. In February they co-published Unprepared for Peace?: The decline of Canadian peacekeeping training (and what to do about it). On the cover of the report a white Canadian soldier, with a massive M-16 strapped around his shoulder, is bent over to hold the hand of a young black boy. In the background are Canadian and UN colours. A call for the Canadian Forces to offer its members more peacekeeping training, Unprepared for peace? is premised on the erroneous notion that UN missions are by definition socially useful and it repeatedly implies that Canada’s most significant recent contribution to a UN mission — the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) — was an operation we should be proud of.

Last year the CCPA and Rideau Institute co-published Smart Defence: A Plan for Rebuilding Canada’s Military, which introduces the issue this way: “When the Harper government came to power in 2006, it pledged to rebuild Canada’s military. But for nine long years, it has failed to deliver on most of its promises, from new armoured trucks and supply ships to fighter jets and search-and-rescue planes.” Author Michael Byers peppers the report with various militarist claims. Canada “faces challenges at home and abroad that require a well-equipped and capable military,” he writes. At another point he says “the Canadian Army cannot deploy large numbers of troops overseas because of a shortage of armoured trucks.” In other words, let’s improve Canada’s military capacity.

While mostly providing a counterpoint to the dominant media, Rabble also publishes some blatantly establishment foreign-policy pieces. It regularly runs Gerald Caplan’s apologetics for the US–Britain–Canada backed Paul Kagame, Africa’s most bloodstained dictator. In late 2015 Rabble ran interviews by CCPA research affiliate Christopher Majka of Libyan, Syrian and Russian invitees to the Halifax International Security Forum, which is sponsored by NATO, the Department of National Defence and various arms firms.

Last week Rabble published a blog by Penney Kome, former editor of the now defunct left website Straight Goods, claiming Donald Trump is soft on Russia. She wrote: “Three of Trump’s top aids have extensive Russian connections, (Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Carter Page) and Trump’s policies — such as they are — are strongly pro-Russian. It’s only fair to wonder what his Russophillia means for NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and for former Soviet Union countries that Vladimir Putin may still want to annex, such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.” Kome’s piece comes a few weeks after Ottawa announced it would send 450 troops and armoured vehicles to Latvia to be permanently stationed on Russia’s border.

During his campaign to win the Democratic Party nomination Bernie Sanders, who largely avoided foreign-policy before endorsing a hawk for president, at least criticized Washington’s role in overthrowing Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, Salvador Allende in Chile as well as the US war in Indochina. It made me wonder if a leading Canadian politician had ever criticized a past foreign policy.

It’s hard to imagine an NDP leader saying, “we shouldn’t blindly follow Washington’s war aims since that led Lester Pearson’s government to deliver US bombing threats to North Vietnam in violation of international law.” Or, “as we evaluate our support for this UN mission let’s not forget the blow Canadian peacekeepers delivered to central Africa when they helped undermine Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba.”

It’s as if there’s a sign hanging in Parliament that says: “foreign policy mythologizers only.” A maxim Elizabeth May seems to have embraced, to the shame of all Canadians who really do want this country to be a force for good in the world.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel, Canada in Africa, Canada in Haiti, The Truth May Hurt, The Ugly Canadian

Greens face vote on tax subsidy to Jewish National Fund

Despite a backlash evocative of those who defended the Jim Crow U.S. South, Green Party members recently voted in favour of a resolution calling on Ottawa to stop subsidizing racist land covenants. The Greens will make a final decision on whether they support the principles underlying a half-century old Supreme Court of Canada decision outlawing discriminatory land-use policies.

Two months ago Green Party member Corey Levine put forward a resolution calling on the party to pressure the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status. The Independent Jewish Voices activist crafted a motion criticizing the JNF’s “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel through its bylaws which prohibit the lease or sale of its lands to non-Jews.”

In response to this exercise in party democracy, B’nai B’rith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs asked their supporters to email Party leader Elizabeth May to condemn “anti-Semitism.” After thousands denounced the Green Party, the Jewish Defence League, a far-right group banned in the U.S. and Israel for a series of killings, said it would protest at the party’s August convention in Ottawa.

Backlash aside, the Green’s JNF resolution affirms a principle enunciated by the Supreme Court 60 years ago. Into the 1950s, restrictive land covenants in many exclusive neighbourhoods and communities across Canada made it impossible for Jews, Blacks, Chinese, Aboriginals and other “non-whites to buy property.

In 1948 Annie Noble decided to sell a cottage in the exclusive Beach O’ Pines subdivision on Lake Huron to Bernie Wolf, who was Jewish. During the sale Wolf’s lawyer realized that the original deed for the property contained the following clause: “The lands and premises herein described shall never be sold, assigned, transferred, leased, rented or in any manner whatsoever alienated to, and shall never be occupied or used in any manner whatsoever by any person of the Jewish, Negro or coloured race or blood, it being the intention and purpose of the Grantor, to restrict the ownership, use, occupation and enjoyment of the said recreational development, including the lands and premises herein described, to persons of the white or Caucasian race.”

Noble and Wolf tried to get the court to declare the restriction invalid but they were opposed by the Beach O’ Pines Protective Association and both a Toronto court and the Ontario Court of Appeal refused to invalidate the racist covenant. But Noble pursued the case — with assistance from the Canadian Jewish Congress — to the Supreme Court of Canada. In a six-to-one decision, the highest court reversed the lower courts’ ruling and allowed Noble to purchase the property.

The publicity surrounding the case prompted Ontario to pass a law voiding racist land covenants, and in 2009 the federal government defined the Noble and Wolf v. Alley Supreme Court case “an event of national historic significance” in the battle “for human rights and against discrimination on racial and religious grounds in Canada.”

Six decades after the Supreme Court delivered a blow to racist property covenants, 62 per cent of Green members have voted for a resolution calling on Ottawa to end its support for a charity that discriminates in land use abroad.

An owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, JNF bylaws and lease documents contain a restrictive covenant stating its property will not be leased to non-Jews. A 1998 United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights found it systematically discriminated against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up a fifth of the population.

According to the UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” Echoing the UN, a 2012 US State Department report detailing “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel says JNF “statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”

Yet JNF Canada, which raised $29 million in 2014, is a registered charity. As such, it can provide tax credits for donations, meaning that up to 25 per cent of their budget effectively comes from public coffers.

The Green Party should ignore the right-wing backlash and uphold the principle that discriminatory land-use policies are wrong.

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Canada’s ‘peacekeeping’ mission killed an African independence hero

Fifty-six years ago this month the United Nations launched a peacekeeping force that contributed to one of the worst post-independence imperial crimes in Africa. The Organisation des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC) delivered a major blow to Congolese aspirations by undermining elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Canada played a significant role in ONUC and Lumumba’s assassination, which should be studied by progressives demanding Ottawa increase its participation in UN “peacekeeping”.

After seven decades of brutal rule, Belgium organized a hasty independence in the hopes of maintaining control over the Congo’s vast natural resources. When Lumumba was elected to pursue a genuine de-colonization, Brussels instigated a secessionist movement in the eastern part of country. In response, the Congolese Prime Minister asked the UN for a peacekeeping force to protect the territorial integrity of the newly independent country. Washington, however, saw the UN mission as a way to undermine Lumumba.

Siding with Washington, Ottawa promoted ONUC and UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold’s controversial anti-Lumumba position. 1,900 Canadian troops participated in the UN mission between 1960 and 1964, making this country’s military one of its more active members. There were almost always more Canadian officers at ONUC headquarters then those of any other nationality and the Canadians were concentrated in militarily important logistical positions including chief operations officer and chief signals officer.

Canada’s strategic role wasn’t simply by chance. Ottawa pushed to have Canada’s intelligence gathering signals detachments oversee UN intelligence and for Quebec Colonel Jean Berthiaume to remain at UN headquarters to “maintain both Canadian and Western influence.” (A report from the Canadian Directorate of Military Intelligence noted, “Lumumba’s immediate advisers…have referred to Lt. Col. Berthiaume as an ‘imperialist tool.'”)

To bolster the power of ONUC, Ottawa joined Washington in channelling its development assistance to the Congo through the UN. Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah complained that this was “applying a restriction to Congo which does not apply to any other African state.” Ottawa rejected Nkrumah’s request to channel Congolese aid through independent African countries.

Unlike many ONUC participants, Canada aggressively backed Hammarskjold’s controversial anti-Lumumba position. External Affairs Minister Howard Green told the House of Commons: “The Canadian government will continue its firm support for the United Nations effort in the Congo and for Mr. Hammarskjold, who in the face of the greatest difficulty has served the high principles and purposes of the charter with courage, determination and endless patience.”

Ottawa supported Hammarskjold even as he sided with the Belgian-backed secessionists against the central government. On August 12 1960 the UN Secretary General traveled to Katanga and telegraphed secessionist leader Moise Tchombe to discuss “deploying United Nations troops to Katanga.” Not even Belgium officially recognized Katanga’s independence, provoking Issaka Soure to note that, “[Hammarskjold’s visit] sent a very bad signal by implicitly implying that the rebellious province could somehow be regarded as sovereign to the point that the UN chief administrator could deal with it directly.”

The UN head also worked to undermine Lumumba within the central government. When President Joseph Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba as prime minister — a move of debatable legality and opposed by the vast majority of the country’s parliament — Hammarskjold publicly endorsed the dismissal of a politician who a short time earlier had received the most votes in the country’s election.

Lumumba attempted to respond to his dismissal with a nationwide broadcast, but UN forces blocked him from accessing the main radio station. ONUC also undermined Lumumba in other ways. Through their control of the airport ONUC prevented his forces from flying into the capital from other parts of the country and closed the airport to Soviet weapons and transportation equipment when Lumumba turned to Russia for assistance.

In addition, according to The Cold War “[the Secretary General’s special representative Andrew] Cordier provided $1 million — money supplied to the United Nations by the U.S. government — to [military commander Joseph] Mobutu in early September to pay off restive and hungry Congolese soldiers and keep them loyal to Kasavubu during his attempt to oust Lumumba as prime minister.”

To get a sense of Hammarskjold’s antipathy towards the Congolese leader, he privately told officials in Washington that Lumumba must be “broken” and only then would the Katanga problem “solve itself.” For his part, Cordier asserted “[Ghanaian president Kwame] Nkrumah is the Mussolini of Africa while Lumumba is its little Hitler.”

(Echoing this thinking, in a conversation with External Affairs Minister Howard Green, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker called Lumumba a “major threat to Western interests” and said he was “coming around to the conclusion” that an independent Western oriented Katanga offered “the best solution to the current crisis.”)

In response to Hammarskjold’s efforts to undermine his leadership, Lumumba broke off relations with the UN Secretary General. He also called for the withdrawal of all white peacekeepers, which Hammarskjold rejected as a threat to UN authority.

A number of ONUC nations ultimately took up Lumumba’s protests. When the Congolese prime minister was overthrown and ONUC helped consolidate the coup, the United Arab Republic (Egypt), Guinea, Morocco and Indonesia formally asked Hammarskjold to withdraw all of their troops.

Canadian officials took a different position. They celebrated ONUC’s role in Lumumba’s overthrow. A week after Lumumba was pushed out prominent Canadian diplomat Escott Reid, then ambassador to Germany, noted in an internal letter, “already the United Nations has demonstrated in the Congo that it can in Africa act as the executive agent of the free world.” The “free world” was complicit in the murder of one of Africa’s most important independence leaders. In fact, the top Canadian in ONUC directly enabled his killing.

After Lumumba escaped house arrest and fled Leopoldville for his power base in the Eastern Orientale province, Colonel Jean Berthiaume assisted Lumumba’s political enemies by helping recapture him. The UN chief of staff, who was kept in place by Ottawa, tracked the deposed prime minister and informed Joseph Mobutu of Lumumba’s whereabouts. Three decades later Berthiaume, who was born in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec, told an interviewer:

“I called Mobutu. I said, ‘Colonel, you have a problem, you were trying to retrieve your prisoner, Mr. Lumumba. I know where he is, and I know where he will be tomorrow. He said, what do I do? It’s simple, Colonel, with the help of the UN you have just created the core of your para commandos — we have just trained 30 of these guys — highly selected Moroccans trained as paratroopers. They all jumped — no one refused. To be on the safe side, I put our [Canadian] captain, Mario Coté, in the plane, to make sure there was no underhandedness. In any case, it’s simple, you take a Dakota [plane], send your paratroopers and arrest Lumumba in that small village — there is a runway and all that is needed. That’s all you’ll need to do, Colonel. He arrested him, like that, and I never regretted it.”

Ghanaian peacekeepers near where Lumumba was captured took quite a different attitude towards the elected prime minister’s safety. After Mobutu’s forces captured Lumumba they requested permission to intervene and place Lumumba under UN protection. Unfortunately, the Secretary-General denied their request. Not long thereafter Lumumba was executed by firing squad and his body was dissolved in acid.

In 1999 Belgium launched a parliamentary inquiry into its role in Lumumba’s assassination. Following Belgium’s lead, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs should investigate Canada’s role in the Congolese independence leader’s demise and any lessons ONUC might hold regarding this country’s participation in future UN missions.

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Toronto mining firm gives Canada a bad name

The ‘Ugly Canadian’ strikes again.

Toronto-based Kinross Gold recently suspended work at its Tasiast mine to protest an order from Mauritania’s government that unpermitted ‘expatriates’ stop working on the massive project.

The lead foreign firm in the sparsely populated West African nation has been embroiled in a series of power struggles with its Mauritanian workforce. During a strike last month union officials complained about the gap in pay between locals and foreigners. “There are 2,600 Mauritanian workers employed by the firm of whom 1,041 are permanent, costing the company $36 million, while there are 130 expatriate employees who cost $43 million,” workers’ spokesperson Bounenna Ould Sidi told AFP. Further irritating its Mauritanian staff, Kinross mostly houses ‘expatriate’ managers outside the country, in the Canary Islands.

On three occasions over the past five years the mineworkers have withdrawn their labour in a bid to force the world’s fifth biggest gold mining company to respect previous commitments to improve their pay and conditions. In 2011 the local workforce was angered by the company’s refusal to transfer seriously ill employees to the capital Nouakchott. When Kinross laid off 300 workers at the end of 2013 the union claimed it was done in violation of the country’s labour law and that one of those dismissed was still receiving medical treatment for a workplace injury. Demanding government action, the laid-off workers protested outside the presidential palace in Nouakchott 300 km away. After a multi-day sit-in the police raided their makeshift camp, arresting a dozen and injuring a similar number.

In 2010 two Tasiast employees were arrested after dumping toxic waste in an inhabited area near the mine. There was no independent environmental assessment of the multibillion-dollar mine and the Toronto-based company failed to certify Tasiast under the International Cyanide Management Code, a voluntary agreement that allows companies to demonstrate their commitment to properly manage the poisonous substance.

As with many other Canadian mining companies in Africa, Kinross has paid the country little and was accused of corruption. Last fall the US Department of Justice (Kinross is listed on both the New York and Toronto stock exchanges) launched an investigation into “improper payments made to government officials” at Kinross’ operations in Mauritania and Ghana. MiningWatch Canada and French anti-corruption association Sherpa submitted a long report detailing allegations of bribery and corruption to the RCMP and called for the police force to investigate Kinross’ apparent breaches of Canadian anti-corruption laws at its Mauritanian and Ghanian mines. Adding to the Mining Watch/Sherpa report, France’s Le Monde quoted a former member of the company’s African legal department saying, “the level of corruption was becoming grotesque.”

In March the Globe and Mail revealed that Kinross gave a US $50 million contract to a French/Mauritanian partnership even though their bid wasn’t the lowest. The Mauritanian company was owned by a former top government official and an internal Kinross document noted the company “took into consideration the stated preference of officials of the Government of Mauritania that the logistics contract be awarded to” the French/Mauritanian consortium.

Allegations of bribery have been swirling around Kinross’ Mauritania operations for years. When President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz criticized the company’s meagre payments to the treasury in 2013, Kinross reportedly hired a couple of his cousins to important positions. A 2013 Africa Mining Intelligence article detailed the close familial and political ties between Kinross and Aziz, who came to power by overthrowing the country’s first elected president in 2008. (The brigadier general won an election the next year that most political parties boycotted.)

How does the federal government react to such behavior by a Canadian company? With praise. In a webpage titled CSR [corporate social responsibility] ABROAD – Anti-Corruption and Bribery Global Affairs Canada describes how “Kinross’ commitment to human rights is implemented” through its adherence to the UN Global Compact, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the company’s code of conduct.

As a result, in many parts of the world, the face of Canada has become the ruthless multinational that bullies workers, ignores environmental standards and ‘buys’ politicians. The Ugly Canadian.

 

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GardaWorld private security firm a danger to democracy

Last week students at L’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) disrupted a board meeting after learning administrators planned to sign a $50 million, seven-year, contract with security giant GardaWorld. Protesters are angry the administration has sought to expel student leaders and ramp up security at the politically active campus as they cut programs.

The world’s largest privately held security firm, Garda is open about its need for repressive university, business and political leaders. The Montréal firm’s chief executive, Stephan Cretier, called the 2012 Québec student strike “positive” for business. “Naturally, when there’s unrest somewhere – the Egyptian election or some disruption here in Quebec or a labour disruption somewhere – unfortunately it’s usually good for business.”

But, that’s not half of it. A 2014 Canadian Business profile described Garda’s business as “renting out bands of armed men to protect clients working in some of the Earth’s most dangerous outposts.” Garda operates in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Algeria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere.

Established in 1995, the early 2000s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan propelled Garda’s international growth. With financing from Québec’s Caisse de dépôt pension fund, by 2007 they had as many as 5,000 employees in the region.

While US militarism boosts its profits, the company has deflected criticism with a noble Canadian shield. When four Garda employees were kidnapped (and later killed) in 2007, the head of the company claimed its private soldiers in Iraq were “perceived differently because we’re Canadian.” Of course, he didn’t mention if Iraqis shot by unaccountable mercenaries feel that way on discovering the bullets were fired by an employee of a Canadian firm.

Garda has been engulfed in controversy in Afghanistan as well. In 2012 two of its British employees were caught with dozens of unlicensed AK-47 rifles and jailed for three months while two years later the head of Garda’s Afghan operations, Daniel Ménard, was jailed for three weeks on similar charges. Commander of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan in 2009-10, Ménard left the military after he was court-martialed for recklessly discharging his weapon and having sexual relations with a subordinate.

In 2013 Garda established operations in Nigeria to provide “logistical support” for international oil firms, which have faced political and criminal attacks. That year Garda also rented a villa in Mogadishu, Somalia, to lodge energy contractors and international development workers as well as accompany them around the country. A 2014 report from the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries questioned the growing role of Western security companies in the country. As Somalia “rebuilds its security institutions, the Government should ensure that private security forces are properly regulated and do not become a substitute for competent and accountable police. All Somalis have the right to security, not just those who can afford to pay for it,” said Faiza Patel, chairperson of the UN Working Group.

But it’s not simply a matter of equal justice. In a country where control of armed men has long been the main source of power, private security companies can easily strengthen the hand of a political faction or prolong conflict.

Garda’s most successful foray abroad is in Libya where it appointed former Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Zdunich head of its operations. Sometime in the “summer of 2011”, according to its website, Garda began operating in the country. After Libya’s National Transition Council captured Tripoli (six weeks before Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte on October 20, 2011) the rebels requested Garda’s assistance in bringing their forces “besieging the pro-Qaddafi stronghold of Sirte to hospitals in Misrata”, reported Bloomberg. Garda’s involvement in Libya may have contravened that country’s laws as well as UN resolutions 1970 and 1973, which the Security Council passed amidst the uprising against Gaddafi’s four-decade rule.

Resolution 1970 called for an arms embargo, mandating all UN member states “to prevent the provision of armed mercenary personnel” into Libya. Resolution 1973 reinforced the arms embargo, mentioning “armed mercenary personnel” in three different contexts. In an article titled “Mercenaries in Libya: Ramifications of the Treatment of ‘Armed Mercenary Personnel’ under the Arms Embargo for Private Military Company Contractors”, Hin-Yan Liu points out that the Security Council’s “explicit use of the broader term ‘armed mercenary personnel’ is likely to include a significant category of contractors working for Private Military Companies (PMCs).”

Contravening international law can be good for business. As the first Western security company officially operating in the country, Garda’s website described it as the “market leader in Libya” with “over 3,500 staff providing protection, training and crisis response.” Garda’s small army of former British special forces and other elite soldiers won a slew of lucrative contracts in Libya. The company’s Protective Security Detail provided “security for a number of international oil companies and their service providers” as well as NATO soldiers training the Libyan Army (the first time NATO contracted out the protection of a training program).

The Montréal company also protected a hundred European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) personnel who trained and equipped Libyan border and coast guards in a bid to curtail African migrants from crossing the Mediterranean. Garda’s four-year EUBAM contract garnered attention in early 2014 when 19 cases of arms and ammunition destined for the company disappeared at the Tripoli airport. But the company didn’t let this loss of weapons deter it from performing its duties. According to Intelligence Online,company officials asked “to borrow British weapons to ensure the safety of EU personnel.”

The request found favour since Garda already protected British interests in Libya, including Ambassador Dominic Asquith. In Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi, Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz describe the ambassador’s protection detail: “Some members of Sir Dominic Asquith’s security detail were undoubtedly veterans of 22 Special Air Service, or SAS, Great Britain’s legendary commandos, whose motto is ‘Who Dares Wins.’ Others were members of the Royal Marines Special Boat Service, or SBS.”

In June 2012 a rebel group attacked Asquith’s convoy in Benghazi with a rocket-propelled grenade. “The RPG-7 warhead fell short of the ambassador’s vehicle”, notes Under Fire. Two Garda operatives “were seriously hurt by fragmentation when the blast and rocket punched out the windshield of the lead vehicle; their blood splattered throughout the vehicle’s interior and then onto the street.”

One wonders how many Libyans have fallen prey to “Canada’s Blackwater”?

A source of employment for retired Canadian, British and US forces, Garda has built up its connections in military–political circles. A former Canadian ambassador to the US and Stephen Harper advisor, Derek Burney, is chair of its International Advisory Board. Garda’s board also includes retired four-star US Admiral Eric T. Olson, Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security Michael P. Jackson and UK Permanent Secretary, Intelligence, Security and Resilience in the Cabinet Office Sir Richard Mottram. In December Garda hired recently retired Conservative minister Christian Paradis, reported Le Soleil, to “convince different levels of government to increase their use of the private sector in public safety.”A

A creature of neoliberal capitalism and Western aggression, Garda is a danger to democracy.

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A shameful episode from Canada’s history in Africa

Few Canadians are familiar with pre-colonial African cities, and even fewer know a Canadian military leader helped sack one of West Africa’s great metropolises.

In the fifth installment of its Story of Cities series, the Guardian recently focused on Benin City, the lost capital of an important precolonial state. At its height in the “Middle Ages,” Benin City and 500 interconnected settlements were the site of the largest earthworks carried out prior to the mechanical era. The walls built in what is now southern Nigeria were “four times longer than the Great Wall of China” — 16,000 km in all.

Before most other cities, Benin City had public lighting. In 1691 Portuguese ship captain Lourenco Pinto wrote that the city was “larger than Lisbon” and “so well governed that theft is unknown.”

Dating to the 11th century, Benin City faced growing pressure from European encroachment and the transatlantic slave trade. Finally, in 1897 a well-armed British force of 1,200 sacked the city, stealing or destroying its wealth. Today one is more likely to find remnants of the Benin City in the British Museum in London than in Nigeria.

And the Canadian connection? A star pupil of the Kingston, Ontario, based Royal Military College played a part in this little-known imperial history. Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, William Heneker helped London conquer Benin City and surrounding territory. In his 1906 book Bush Warfare, the RMC grad writes: “Savage nations have, as a rule, to be cowed, either by having their warriors severely beaten in action and made to suffer heavy losses, as, in the case of the taking of Benin City.”

During the Benin Expedition of 1897 Captain Heneker guarded an imprisoned chief, Oba. Not long thereafter Heneker helped capture Oba’s son.

In May 1898 Heneker was part of a small force that conquered the town of Ehor and surrounding villages of the decaying Benin Empire. One account notes how British forces “seized the opportunity to utterly destroy it [Ehor], burning it and knocking down the walls.”

The next year Heneker was an intelligence and survey officer in the Benin Territories Expedition, which was the final destructive blow to Benin resistance. In Correspondence Relating to the Benin Territories Expedition, 1899 consul general Sir R. Moor mentioned Heneker leading a force that destroyed the towns of Udo and Idumere and a company under the RMC graduate’s command “burnt and completely destroyed the large town of Ugiami, including the King’s house.”

The invasions of Benin gave the British access to valuable commodities. Author William Geary remarks that “the results of the operations opened up 3000 or more square miles rich in rubber forests and other African produce.” After the expedition British capitalists intensified efforts to exploit the area’s rubber forests and the Royal Niger Company expanded deeper into Benin.

As he rose through the ranks of the Southern Nigeria Regiment, which was part of the West African Frontier Force, Heneker led ever more soldiers. With a force of more than 200 men, he commanded the Ulia and Ishan Expeditions. In Bush Warfare, Heneker described the scorched-earth policy the Ishan Expedition employed: “A fighting column left camp every morning, and one after another each town in the country was attacked and taken. All the juju groves [sacred natural forests] were cut down, and stores of food either destroyed or carried back to camp.”

Heneker and other Canadians’ role in the region steadily grew. “Canadian participation in the pacification of West Africa,” notes Canadian Army Journal editor Andrew Godefroy, “”ppeared to climax in late 1901 when the British launched a substantial civil-military operation against the Aro group of the Ibo tribe.”

At least a dozen Canadians were among the white officer corps who led a force of some 2,000 soldiers and 2,000 porters to open a 193 km wide and 144 km long area of today’s Eastern Nigeria to British directed commerce. Early planning for the Anglo-Aro War was actually initiated by the Royal Niger Company, which wanted a bigger piece of the area’s trade.

Canadian Militia Lieutenant J.L.R. Parry was “Mentioned in Dispatches” for his services during the Aro Expedition. So was Canadian Militia Lieutenant James Wayling. During a major battle at Edimma, wrote overall British commander A. F. Montanaro, “Lieutenant A.E. Rastrick, Canadian Militia … who was in command of the Maxim [gun], used it with great effect, and so good was the fire control and discipline that the enemy was forced to retreat.”

Heneker was the senior Canadian during the Aro campaign. Second in authority to Montanaro, the RMC grad led one of the four columns dispatched in November 1901 towards Arochukwu, the capital of the Aro families. His force consisted of 19 European officers and 700 local rank and file.

The capture of Arochukwu was a brutal, one-sided affair. S. O. Onwukwe describes the “total destruction of the Empire” in The Rise and Fall of the Arochukwu Empire, 1400-1902. “The British invaders did not spare Arochukwu, they were waging a punitive war and had no respect for any shrine. The order to the troops was ‘attack, destroy and burn.’ The field force took this instruction literally.”

Between 1897 and 1906 Heneker fought in a dozen separate campaigns in West Africa. During a decade of working to conquer southern Nigeria Heneker received several “Mentions in Dispatches” and a series of awards including the Distinguished Service Order. “One of the most successful British combat leaders on the West African coast,” Heneker would later be promoted to major general, lieutenant general and, finally, general. Heneker was one of dozens of Canadians trained at RMC, which opened in 1876 partly to train “proper white gentleman” to be officers of British imperialism, who participated in the turn of the 19th century “Scramble for Africa.”

After completing his service in West Africa Heneker published Bush Warfare, which for years was “required reading and a resource for all commanders” and would inform the later War Office manual Notes on Imperial Policing. In a section of his book titled “General Dealings” Heneker writes, “the great thing is to impress savages with the fact that they are the weaker, and that it is intended to occupy the country, enforce the will of the white man, and accomplish the object for which the expedition is organized. No leniency or half measures are of any use until the savage has felt the power of force. Leniency is treated as a sign of weakness.”

Unsettling words from a Canadian who helped destroy one of Africa’s great precolonial cities. And part of our history.

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Why does mainstream media keep repeating lies about Lester Pearson?

While coverage of Justin Trudeau’s recent visit to Washington was embarrassingly banal in its emphasis on “bromance” between Obama and the Canadian PM, at least it was accurate (in the limited sense valued by the dominant media), except for the 60 Minutes feature that comically confused a photo of Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall for Margaret Trudeau. However, one aspect of the reporting did stand out as both a lie and dangerous nationalist mythology.

A number of media outlets discussed Lester Pearson visiting Lyndon Johnson the day after he reportedly gave a “scathing speech on American involvement in Vietnam.” The Canadian Press described the former prime minister’s speech and meeting with the US president this way: “Pearson never visited again, after a famous 1965 dust-up. He’d spoken out against the Vietnam War, and Johnson grabbed him by the lapels and snarled: ‘Don’t you come into my living room and piss on my rug.’”

Pearson’s speech at Temple University in Philadelphia the night before he met Johnson is probably the most cited example of a Canadian leader (supposedly) opposing US militarism. Even generally sensible authors such as Linda McQuaig point to it as having “contributed to ending the U.S. war effort in Vietnam.”

But here’s what Pearson really said in Philadelphia:

The government and great majority of people of my country have supported wholeheartedly the US peacekeeping and peacemaking policies in Vietnam.

In Quiet ComplicityCanadian involvement in the Vietnam War, Victor Levant puts Pearson’s talk in proper context:

In his Temple speech, the Prime Minister did accept all the premises and almost all the conclusions of US policy. The chief cause of the escalation of the war in Vietnam, in Pearson’s view, was North Vietnamese aggression. ‘This situation cannot be expected to improve,’ he said, ‘until North Vietnam becomes convinced that aggression, in whatever guise, for whatever reason, is inadmissible and will not succeed.’ This had wider implications, since ‘no nation… could ever feel secure if capitulation in Vietnam led to the sanctification of aggression through subversion and spurious wars of national liberation.’ If peace was to be achieved, the first condition was a cease-fire, and this could happen only if Hanoi recognizes the error of its ways: ‘aggressive action by North Vietnam to bring about a Communist liberation (which means Communist rule) of the South must end. Only then can there be negotiations.’ Since US military action was aimed at resisting Hanoi’s aggression, the measures taken so far, including the bombing of the North, were entirely justified: ‘the retaliatory strikes against North Vietnamese military targets, for which there has been great provocation, aim at making it clear that the maintenance of aggressive policies toward the south will become increasingly costly to the northern regime. After about two months of airstrikes, the message should now have been received loud and clear.

Levant continues:

On the other hand, Pearson argued that continued bombing, instead of weakening Hanoi’s will to resist, might have the effect of driving it into an even more intransigent position. He therefore suggested, as a tactical move, that the United States consider a carefully timed ‘pause’ in the bombing: ‘there are many factors which I am not in a position to weigh. But there does appear to be at least a possibility that a suspension of such airstrikes against North Vietnam, at the right time, might provide the Hanoi authorities with an opportunity, if they wish to take it, to inject some flexibility into their policy without appearing to do so as the direct result of military pressure. If such a suspension took place for a limited time, then the rate of incidents in South Vietnam would provide a fairly accurate way of measuring its usefulness and the desirability of continuing. I am not, of course, proposing any compromise on points of principle, nor any weakening of resistance to aggression in South Vietnam. Indeed, resistance may require increased military strength to be used against the armed and attacking Communists. I merely suggest that a measured and announced pause in one field of military action at the right time might facilitate the development of diplomatic resources which cannot easily be applied to the problem under the existing circumstances. It could, at the least, expose the intransigence of the North Vietnam government.

Let’s further dissect Pearson’s “anti-war” position. Approximately three million Vietnamese died during the US war in Indochina, with about 100,000 killed during the US bombing of the North. To put Pearson’s Temple speech in the crassest terms possible, opposing the bombing of the North was a call to end 3.3% of the death toll.

When Pearson met Johnson the next day the president was mad because senior US foreign-policy planners were debating a pause in the bombing of North Vietnam (which would take place months later and when Washington restarted their bombing campaign Pearson publicly justified it). By speaking out Pearson effectively sided with Johnson’s opponents in the US administration after he enabled the bombing campaign. According to the leaked internal government documents known as the Pentagon Papers, in May 1964 Pearson agreed to Johnson’s request to have the Canadian Commissioner on the International Control Commission, which was supposed to enforce the implementation of the Geneva Accords and the peaceful reunification of Vietnam, deliver US bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership. In so doing Canada’s Nobel peace laureate actually enabled a serious war crime.

The story about Johnson challenging Pearson the next day only came to light a decade later, once US actions in Vietnam were widely discredited. In 1974 former Canadian Ambassador in Washington Charles Ritchie wrote: “The President strode up to him and seized him by the lapel of his coat, at the same time as raising his other arm to the heavens.” Ritchie reported Johnson saying, “you don’t come here and piss on my rug.”

While the ambassador’s description is almost certainly an exaggeration, subsequent commentators have further embellished Richie’s account. In one telling Johnson “grabbed Pearson by the lapels of his coat and violently shookhim.”

An entertaining story perhaps, but simply not true, just as saying Lester Pearson opposed the war against Vietnam is a lie.

While logic and facts are irrelevant to nationalist myth-makers, it is critical that we understand the reality of our past if we wish to build a better future.

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Laurentian the latest university to be mined by rich Canadians

He who pays the piper picks the tune.

This bit of folk wisdom seems not understood or ignored by many institutions of “higher learning.”

The neoliberals running Canadian public universities have signed a slew of deals with mining companies that are engaged in violently extracting resources from the Global South.

In two of the more high-profile endeavours, Simon Fraser University set up a Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, and the University of Toronto jumped into bed with Barrick Gold’s Peter Munk, establishing the Munk School of Global Affairs.

In an initiative more directly tied to a single controversial project, Laurentian University recently partnered with the University of Limpopo in South Africa at the request of Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Mines.

Over the next five years Ivanhoe will give $2.5 million US to “improve training and curriculum choices in economic geology and mineral exploration at the University of Limpopo.” As part of the agreement, Ivanhoe’s South African subsidiary Ivanplats will also “provide in-service training opportunities for students from both universities and assist them in conducting research on the Northern Limb of the Bushveld Complex,” where the Canadian company operates a massive platinum mine.

The Ontario government has put $500,000 CDN worth of scholarship money into the partnership, and Ottawa’s International Development Research Corporation added $570,000 CDN.

While a public university entering an international partnership instigated by a private corporation ought to be controversial under the best of circumstances, Laurentian’s partner has a highly questionable track record. Companies led by Ivanhoe CEO Robert Friedland were responsible for major cyanide spills in Colorado and Guyana in the mid-1990s, and throughout the first decade of the 21st century Ivanhoe did business with the military regime in Myanmar (Burma).

In April 2006, thousands of protesters in Mongolia’s capital burned an effigy of Friedland after he reportedly told an investors’ forum the country had “no NGOs” and “lots of room for waste dumps.”

In South Africa, many of those living near Ivanplats’s Platreef mine in the province of Limpopo oppose the project. Over the past five years, protesters have damaged company equipment, blocked a highway near the project with rocks and tires, and demonstrated in front of the Canadian High Commission in Pretoria. Community members were angry at the mine’s preferential access to water, lost access to their ancestors’ gravesites, and the company’s influence over local politics.

The Platreef project dates to the final days of South African apartheid when Friedland quietly began laying the groundwork for the platinum project.

In January 2015, the Globe and Mail reported on Ivanhoe’s use of “court injunctions, ultimatums to government, and digging up dirt on opponents” during a two-decade-long effort to establish operations. Friedland’s company coerced a villager into surrendering her farm and spent years wooing the chief of the Mokopane traditional council, which holds most of the area’s land in trust on behalf of the community.

Ivanhoe began making donations to the council in 2001 and in 2010 it signed an agreement with Chief Kekana for “all reasonable access” to test drill on the community’s land for a “monthly stipend” of 30,000 rand (about $4,000 US). The deal also included a laptop, use of a farm, an annual “gratuity” and a lump-sum payment to a “trust” of the chief’s choice, as well as monthly payments of 3,000 rand (about $400 US) to the chief’s adviser and five village headmen. Ivanhoe also paid 10,000 to 30,000 rand per month, in addition to computers and cellphones, to the “community mining committee” in a number of villages near its mine.

At the national level, Ivanhoe forged close ties to the former secretary general of the African National Congress, the ruling party in South Africa. Cyril Ramaphosa resigned from the Ivanhoe board of directors in 2013 after his election as deputy president of the ANC. The following year, he became South Africa’s deputy president, but for a decade he sat on the ANC’s national executive and Ivanhoe’s board.

The company’s high-level political connections helped it secure permission for Platreef. It may also have protected local partners, according to a report by the Daily Maverick. The South African news agency suggested that Ivanhoe’s support for the local Mogalakwena government led the provincial and national governments to turn a blind eye to their “serious corruption and mismanagement.”

Is this the kind of behaviour that Laurentian University wishes to be associated with?

Is it appropriate at all for our taxpayer-funded universities, tasked with serving the public interest and seeking the ‘truth,” to be taking money directly from those with such clear self-interest in limiting our musical choices to tunes that praise the virtues of neoliberalism?

This article first appeared in Ricochet

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Where seeking mainstream media attention leads

Do Black (Haitian) lives matter to Canada’s leading ‘left-wing’ foreign-policy think tank? Apparently not as much as having the corporate media mention their work by getting in bed with militarism disguised as peacekeeping.

At the start of Black History Month the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute co-published Unprepared for Peace?: The decline of Canadian peacekeeping training (and what to do about it). On the cover of the report a white Canadian soldier, with a massive M-16 strapped around his shoulder, is bent over to hold the hand of a young black boy. In the background are Canadian and UN colours.

A call for the Canadian Forces to offer its members more peacekeeping training, Unprepared for peace? is premised on the erroneous notion that UN missions are by definition socially useful. And it repeatedly implies that Canada’s most significant recent contribution to a UN mission — the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) — was an operation we should be proud of.

The lead author of the report is Rideau Institute board member Walter Dorn, who has worked with and publicly lauded the UN mission in Haiti. “With financial support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade”, Dorn wrote, “the United Nations sent me on research trips to the UN missions in Haiti” and elsewhere in 2006. During a sabbatical that year Dorn served as a consultant to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and later briefed the “Military Directors of the UN Mission in Haiti” on “Technologies for Peacekeeping”. With help from MINUSTAH he published Intelligence-led Peacekeeping: The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), 2006–07. In it Dorn claims the intervention to overthrow Haiti’s elected government in 2004 was designed “to create basic conditions for security and stability.” The report largely focuses on UN intelligence activities in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s poorest neighbourhood.

In applauding UN operations in Cite Soleil, Dorn ignores MINUSTAH’s political role. After helping oust Jean-Bertrand Aristide and thousands of other elected officials, 500 Canadian soldiers were incorporated into a UN mission that backed up the coup government’s violent crackdown of Haiti’s pro-democracy movement from March 2004 to May 2006. The UN force also participated directly in pacifying the slums, which left dozens of civilians dead in Cité Soleil (a bastion of support for Aristide).

Dorn has delivered a number of lectures and interviews in favour of the UN force. In 2010 he presented on “The Protection of Civilians: The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.” The next year he told CBC Radio’s The World This Weekend the world is “crying for Canada” to expand its military role within the UN, noting “we have a long-standing police contribution in Haiti but we could easily contribute to the military side.”

He also rebuked critics of the UN. In 2012 the author of a Council of Hemispheric Affairs report, Courtney Frantz, told IPS MINUSTAH “perpetrated acts of violence” and had “become an instrument of the U.S., France and Canada in terms of their economic interests (including privatisation in Haiti).” In the article, Dorn countered Frantz, saying UN forces delivered “law and order”.

The next year Dorn told the Canadian Press that adding 34 Canadian soldiers to MINUSTAH was a “positive development. It helps Haiti. It helps the United Nations, the United States and Brazil.”

While dispatching Canadian soldiers may have helped the US and Brazil (the country leading the military mission), most Haitians see the UN as an occupying force responsible for innumerable abuses. Aside from the above-mentioned political repression, the UN’s disregard for Haitian life caused a major cholera outbreak, which left at least 8,000 Haitians dead and 750,000 ill. In October 2010 a UN base in central Haiti discharged sewage, including the feces of newly deployed Nepalese troops, into a river where people drank. This introduced the water-borne disease into the country.

Haiti represents but one example of Dorn’s support for Canadian backed UN violence. In writing about the early 1960s UN mission in the Congo Dorn ignores that mission’s role in the assassination of elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Similarly, he provides a wildly one-sided version of the early 1950s “UN police action” in Korea, which left as many as four million dead.

Dorn promotes greater Canadian engagement in UN military actions, but doesn’t mind if this takes place alongside US/NATO led wars. Last March he wrote, “the two approaches can coexist. It’s not one or the other and nothing in between. We can excel in combat and excel in peacekeeping.”

Sympathetic to Washington’s worldview, Dorn isn’t troubled by UN forces standing in for NATO. In Unprepared for Peace? he writes: “In the post-Afghanistan period, the burden of addressing emerging international crises is increasingly shifted towards the United Nations, with NATO limiting its intervention primarily to air strikes such as those used in Libya in 2011.”

In the case of the Canada/France/Britain/US war in Libya, Dorn called for a UN force to mop up a conflict he deemed, even four years after, “justified… easily passing a Just War threshold.” Five months into that war the Independent reported him saying, a “peacekeeping mission in Libya would present the UN with an opportunity to overcome its surprisingly outmoded attitude to new military technology.”

As he campaigns for improved UN military capacity, Dorn enthused about the Obama administration’s commitment to strengthening UN weaponry. “The U.S. effort is genuine”, he said in March. “I’ve been to Washington three times in recent months to talk with the (U.S.) Department of Defense on helping bring United Nations peacekeeping technology into the 21st century.”

Dorn attracts corporate media interest, which presumably explains the Rideau Institute’s interest in collaborating. Unprepared for Peace? was cited throughout the dominant media and the Toronto Star editorial board even praised its conclusions.

But, Dorn’s establishment standing is largely due to his position at the Royal Military College and Canadian Forces College. The military’s website describes Dorn as a “professor at the Canadian Forces College and Chair of the Master of Defence Studies programme at RMC [Royal Military College].” Dorn survives, even thrives, at the military run colleges because elements of the Canadian Forces have long viewed “peacekeeping”, which demands a military force, as a way to maintain public support for its budget.

An indication of his opinion towards military spending, in 2014 Ipolitics reported, “[Dorn] said he is satisfied with the current size of the military. He said anything smaller would mean Canada is spending less than 1 per cent of GDP on its Armed Forces – and, as a professor of defence studies, that’s not something he could support.”

Perhaps some might argue that the “foreign policy left” should be a broad coalition that includes anyone who is in favour of anything called “peacekeeping” or that the Rideau Institute has simply not thought through the implications of promoting Dorn’s views. But how do you square either argument with Richard Sanders, coordinator Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, appeal to peace activists attending a 2010 Rideau Institute sponsored event with Dorn: “Knee-jerk support for anything with the UN ‘peacekeeping’ brand can lead folks to supporting mass murder of innocent civilians.”

Unfortunately, Canada’s preeminent ‘left-wing’ foreign policy think tank has spurned demilitarization and anti-imperialist voices to promote the views of the liberal end of the military. The Rideau Institute works with an individual who aggressively supported Canada’s worst foreign-policy crime of the first decade of the 21st century. But the victims were poor black Haitians so apparently that does not matter.

Happy Black History Month.

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The fairy tale about a brave Canadian general in Rwanda

Like children’s fairy tales, foreign policy myths are created, told and retold for a purpose.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf imparts a life lesson while entertaining your five year-old niece. Unfortunately foreign policy myths are seldom so benign.

The tale told about Romeo Dallaire illustrates the problem. While the former Canadian General rose to prominence after participating in a failed (assuming the purpose was as stated) international military mission, he’s widely considered a great humanitarian. But, the former Senator’s public persona is based on an extremely one-sided media account of his role in the complex tragedy that engulfed Rwanda and Burundi two decades ago.

In a particularly egregious example of media bias, criticism of Dallaire’s actions in Rwanda have been almost entirely ignored even though his commander published a book criticizing the Canadian general’s bias. According to numerous accounts, including his civilian commander on the UN mission, Dallaire aided the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which invaded Rwanda with decisive Ugandan support and quiet US backing. Gilbert Ngijo, political assistant to the civilian commander of United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), summarizes the criticism: “He [Dallaire] let the RPF get arms. He allowed UNAMIR troops to train RPF soldiers. United Nations troops provided the logistics for the RPF. They even fed them.”

In his 2005 book Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (The Boss of Dallaire Speaks), Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, a former Cameroon foreign minister and overall head of UNAMIR, claims Dallaire had little interest in the violence unleashed by the RPF despite reports of summary executions in areas controlled by them. RPF soldiers were regularly seen in Dallaire’s office, with the Canadian commander describing the Rwandan army’s position in Kigali. This prompted Booh Booh to wonder if Dallaire “also shared UNAMIR military secrets with the RPF when he invited them to work in his offices.” Finally, Booh Booh says Dallaire turned a blind eye to RPF weapons coming across the border from Uganda and he believes the UN forces may have even transported weapons directly to the RPF. Dallaire, Booh Booh concludes, “abandoned his role as head of the military to play a political role. He violated the neutrality principle of UNAMIR by becoming an objective ally of one of the parties in the conflict.”

Dallaire doesn’t deny his admiration for RPF leader Paul Kagame who was likely responsible for shooting down the plane carrying both Rwandan Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira on April 6, 1994. (That event triggered mass killing and an environment of deep instability that facilitated the RPF’s rise to power in Kigali.) In Shake Hands with the Devil, published several years after Kagame unleashed terror in the Congo that’s left millions dead, Dallaire wrote: “My guys and the RPF soldiers had a good time together” at a small cantina. Dallaire then explained: “It had been amazing to see Kagame with his guard down for a couple of hours, to glimpse the passion that drove this extraordinary man.”

Dallaire’s interaction with the RPF was certainly not in the spirit of UN guidelines that called on staff to avoid close ties to individuals, organizations, parties or factions of a conflict.

A witness at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) actually accused Dallaire of complicity in a massacre. A Rwandan national testifying under the pseudonym T04, reported Tanzania’s Arusha Times, “alleged that in April 1994, Gen. Dallaire allowed members of the rebel Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF, now in power in Kigali), to enter the national stadium and organize massacres of Hutus. Several people, including the witness, took refuge there following the assassination of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.”

But, criticisms of Dallaire’s actions in Rwanda have been almost entirely ignored by the Canadian media. Le Patron de Dallaire Parle went largely unnoticed, or at least not commented upon. A Canadian newswire search found three mentions of the book (a National Post review headlined “Allegations called ‘ridiculous’: UN boss attacks general,” an Ottawa Citizen piece headlined “There are many sides to the Rwanda saga” and a letter by an associate of Dallaire). Other critical assessments of Dallaire’s actions in Rwanda have fared no better, including Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa and Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later in which Edward Herman and David Peterson “suggest that Dallaire should be regarded as a war criminal for positively facilitating the actual mass killings of April-July, rather than taken as a hero for giving allegedly disregarded warnings that might have stopped them.”

On the other hand, a Canadian newswire search of “Romeo Dallaire Rwanda” elicited over 6,000 articles that generally provide a positive portrayal of Dallaire. Similarly, a search for mention of Dallaire’s 2003 book Shake Hands with the Devil elicited 1,700 articles.

The complex interplay of ethnic, class and regional politics, as well as international pressures, which spurred the “Rwandan Genocide” has been decontextualized. Instead of discussing Uganda’s aggression against its much smaller neighbour, the flight of Hutus into Rwanda after the violent 1993 Tutsi coup in Burundi and economic reforms imposed on the country from abroad, the media focuses on a simplistic narrative of vengeful Hutus killing Tutsis. In this media fairy tale, Dallaire plays the great Canadian who attempted to save Africans.

While two decades old, the distortion of the Rwandan tragedy continues to have political impacts today. It has given ideological cover to dictator Paul Kagame’s repeated invasions of the Congo and domestic repression. In addition, this foreign policy myth has been used to justify foreign military intervention as is the case with the current political crisis in Burundi. The myth of Dallaire in Rwanda is also cited to rationalize the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, when in fact the true story illustrates the inevitable duplicitousness of foreign interventions.

Unlike in bedtime stories, in foreign policy making things up is usually harmful.

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Ignoring Canada’s real history in Uganda very poor scholarship

A recent Globe and Mail article (reprinted on Rabble.ca) by Gerald Caplan detailing Canadian relations with Uganda made me mad.

Why?

It was not so much for what’s in the article, but rather what it ignores, which is reality. Any progressive author writing about Canada’s foreign affairs betrays his readers if he ignores the bad this country has done and feeds the benevolent Canadian foreign-policy myth.

Canadians have had ties to Uganda for many decades”, writes Caplan, a self-described “Africa scholar” citing the establishment of diplomatic relations soon after independence. He also mentions many Canadians who “found their way to the country” amidst instability and the federal government taking in Asians expelled by Idi Amin. The former NDP strategist points to some private Canadian aid initiatives in the country and details a Canadian lawyer’s contribution to a suit over the Ugandan government’s failure to provide basic maternal health services, which may violate the Constitution.

But, Caplan completely ignores the unsavory – and much more consequential – role Canada has played in the East African country.

For example, he could have at least mentioned this country’s role during the “scramble for Africa” when Canadians actively participated in subjugating various peoples and stealing their land. This is necessary to acknowledge if we are ever to build a decent foreign policy.

In the late 1800s a number of Canadian military men helped survey possible rail routes from the East African Coast to Lake Victoria Nyanza on the border between modern Uganda and Kenya. The objective was to strengthen Britain’s grip over recalcitrant indigenous groups and to better integrate the area into the Empire’s North East Africa-India corridor.

Beginning in 1913 dozens of Canadian missionaries helped the colonial authority penetrate Ugandan societies and undermine indigenous customs. The preeminent figure was John Forbes who was a bishop and coadjutor vicar apostolic, making him second in charge of over 30 mission posts in Uganda. A 1929 biography describes his “good relations” with British colonial authorities and the “important services Forbes rendered the authorities of the Protectorate.”

In 1918 Forbes participated in a major conference in the colony, organized by Governor Robert Coryndon in the hopes of spurring indigenous wage work. The Vaudreuil, Québec, native wrote home that “it’s a big question. The European planters in our area, who cultivate coffee, cotton and rubber need workers for their exploitation. But the workforce is rare. Our Negroes are happy to eat bananas and with a few bits of cotton or bark for clothes, are not excited to put themselves at the service of the planters and work all day for a meager salary.”

British officials subsidized the White Fathers schools as part of a bid to expand the indigenous workforce.

Canadians were also part of the British colonial authority. Royal Military College of Canada graduate Godfrey Rhodes became chief engineer and general manager of Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours in 1928. The Victoria, BC, native was in Uganda for over a decade and was followed by Walter Bazley, a colonial administrator in Bunyoro from 1950 to 1963 (after Ugandan independence, Bazley joined the Canadian public service).

Throughout British rule Ottawa recognized London’s authority over Uganda. After fighting in the 1898 – 1902 Boer War Henry Rivington Poussette was appointed Canada’s first trade commissioner in Africa with “jurisdiction extending from the Cape to the Zambesi, including Uganda.”

Poussette and future trade representatives helped Canadian companies profit from European rule in Africa. By independence Toronto-based Bata shoes controlled most of the footwear market in Uganda while a decade before the end of British rule Falconbridge acquired a 70% stake in the Kilembe copper-cobalt mine in western Uganda. In a joint partnership with the London controlled Colonial Development Corporation, the Toronto company’s highly profitable mine produced more than $250 million ($1 billion today) worth of copper yet paid no income tax until its capital was fully recovered in 1965. In 1968, post-independence leader Milton Obote increased the country’s copper export tax and then moved to gain majority control of the mine. Falconbridge quickly stripped out $6 million in special dividend payments and threatened to withdraw its management from the country.

Falconbridge: Portrait of a Canadian Mining Multinational explains:

Although Kilembe Copper was both profitable and socially important in the Ugandan economy, this did not prevent the Falconbridge group from withdrawing capital as rapidly as possible just before president Obote forced it to sell Uganda a controlling interest in 1970. The implication was that its management team would be withdrawn entirely if the government did not restore Falconbridge’s majority ownership. Dislocation in the lives of Ugandan people was a price the company seemed willing to pay in this tug-of-war over the profits from Uganda’s resources.

The Kilembe mine also contaminated Elizabeth National Park and tailings seeped into Lake George, near Uganda’s western border with the Congo.

Upon taking office, General Idi Amin returned control of the Kilembe mine to Falconbridge. (This was maintained for several years, after which Amin returned the mine to his government.) He had managed to overthrow Obote’s government in January 1971 with the aid of Britain, Israel and the US. A British Foreign Office memo noted that Obote’s nationalizations, which also included Bata, had “serious implications for British business in Uganda and Africa generally… other countries will be tempted to try and get away with similar measures with more damaging consequences for British investment and trade.”

While this country’s “Africa scholars” have largely ignored Canada’s position towards Amin’s rise to power, the available documentation suggests Ottawa passively supported the putsch. On three occasions during the early days of the coup (between January 26 and February 3, 1971) the Pierre Trudeau government responded to inquiries from opposition MPs about developments in Uganda and whether Canada would grant diplomatic recognition to the new regime. Within a week of Obote’s ouster, both External Affairs Minister Mitchell Sharp and Prime Minister Trudeau passed up these opportunities to denounce Amin’s usurpation of power. They remained silent as Amin suspended various provisions of the Ugandan Constitution and declared himself President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Army Chief of Staff and Chief of Air Staff. They failed to condemn a leader, now infamous, for plunging the nation into a torrent of violence.

In African Pearls and Poisons: Idi Amin’s Uganda; Kenya; Zaire’s Pygmies, Alberta bureaucrat Leo Louis Jacques describes a conversation he had with the CIDA liaison officer in Uganda who facilitated his 1971-73 appointment to the Uganda College of Commerce. Asked whether the change in government would affect his CIDA-funded position, the aid agency’s liaison officer in Uganda, Catrina Porter, answered Jacques thusly: “‘Yes, there was a coup on January 25th, 1971 and it was a move that promises to be an improvement. The new administration favours Democracy and Western Civilization’s Democracy, while the former one favoured the Communists.’ I [Jacques] said, ‘I understand the present government is being run by the Ugandan army under the control of a General named Idi Amin Dada. What is he like?’ Porter said ‘General Amin’s gone on record as saying he loves Canada and the Commonwealth. He also vowed that his country of Uganda would have democratic elections soon. The British and Americans have recognized him as the Ugandan government and so do we.’”

Two years after the coup the Canadian High Commissioner in Nairobi visited to ask Amin to reverse his plan to nationalize Bata shoes. After the meeting, the High Commissioner cabled Ottawa that he was largely successful with Bata and also mentioned that “KILEMBE MINES (70 PERCENT FALCONBRIDGE OWNED) IS DOING WELL.”

But, just in case you think it’s just our unsavoury history that Caplan ignores, there’s more. He also also ignores more recent developments such as SNC Lavalin’s alleged bribery in the country, Montréal-based Canarail’s contribution to a disastrous World Bank sponsored privatization of the Kenya and Uganda railway systems or Ottawa’s “logistical support and some funding for the Uganda led [military] force” dispatched to Somalia to do Washington’s dirty work.

Why did this article make me so mad? Because it’s part of a pattern of the social democratic Left ignoring how Canadian corporations and governments impoverish the Global South. Too often social democrat intellectuals dim, rather than enlighten, progressives’ understanding of Canada’s role in the world.

To preserve his position at the Globe and Mail and CBC Caplan may feel he needs to feed the benevolent Canadian foreign-policy myth. But, he should at least show some decency and spare Rabble.ca from this nonsense.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada in Africa, The Ugly Canadian

Let us also remember the victims of Canada’s wars

Trudeau “unveils most diverse Cabinet in Canada’s history”, was how one media outlet described the new Liberal cabinet. It includes a Muslim woman, four Sikhs, an indigenous woman, two differently abled individuals and an equal number of women and men. Half even refused any reference to God at Wednesday’s swearing in ceremony.

But in one respect there was no diversity at all. Every single person wore a Remembrance Day poppy. Even Justin Trudeau’s young children were made to publicly commemorate Canadians (and allies) who died at war.

As we approach the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month expect politicians of every stripe to praise Canadian military valour. At last year’s Remembrance Day commemoration Stephen Harper suggested that Canada was “forged in the fires of First World War”. The former Prime Minister described “the values for which they fought … Justice and freedom; democracy and the rule of law; human rights and human dignity.”

On Remembrance Day what is it we are supposed to remember? The valour, sacrifice and glory of soldiers — and no more?

What about the victims of Canadian troops? Should we abandon the search for truth and learning from our past on this day that is supposedly devoted to remembering?

Why not a diversity of recollection? An honest accounting of what really happened and why — isn’t that the best way to remember?

For example, World War I had no clear and compelling purpose other than rivalry between up-and-coming Germany and the lead imperial powers of the day, Britain and France. In fact, support for the British Empire was Ottawa’s primary motive in joining the war. As Canada’s Prime Minister Robert Borden saw it, the fight was “to put forth every effort and to make every sacrifice necessary to ensure the integrity and maintain the honour of our empire.”

To honour Canada’s diversity, how about this year we remember some of the victims of that empire?

For Africans World War I represented the final chapter in the violent European scramble for their territory. Since the 1880s the European powers had competed to carve up the continent.

Canada was modestly involved in two African theatres of World War I. A handful of Canadian airmen fought in East Africa, including naval air serviceman H. J. Arnold who helped destroy a major German naval vessel, the Königsberg, during the British/Belgian/South African conquest of German East Africa. Commandant of Canada’s Royal Military College from 1909 to 1913, Colonel J.H.V. Crowe commanded an artillery division for famed South African General Jan Christiaan Smuts and later published General Smuts’ Campaign in East Africa.

About one million people died as a direct result of the war in East Africa. Fighting raged for four years with many dying from direct violence and others from the widespread disease and misery it caused. Hundreds of thousands of Africans were conscripted by the colonial authorities to fight both in Africa and Europe.

J.H.V. Crowe was English born, but an individual with deeper roots in Canada, commanded the force that extended Britain’s control over the other side of the continent.

The son of a Québec City MP and grandson of a senator, Sir Charles MacPherson Dobell, commanded an 18,000 man Anglo-French force that captured the Cameroons and Togoland. Gazetted as Inspector General of the West African Frontier Force in 1913, the Royal Military College grad’s force defeated the Germans in fighting that destroyed many villages and left thousands of West Africans dead. Early in the two-year campaign Dobell’s force captured the main centres of Lomé and Douala and he became de factogovernor over large parts of today’s Togo and Cameroon. A telegram from London said “General Dobell should assume Government with full powers in all matters military and civil.”

British officials justified seizing the German colony as a response to the war in Europe, but to a large extent World War I was the outgrowth of intra-imperial competition in Africa and elsewhere. In The Anglo-French “Condominium” in Cameroon, 1914-1916 Lovett Elango points to “the imperialist motives of the campaign”, which saw the two allies clash over their territorial ambition. Elango concludes, “the war merely provided Britain and France a pretext for further colonial conquest and annexation.” After the German defeat the colony was partitioned between the two European colonial powers.

Canada’s massive contribution to World War I propped up British (as well as French, Belgian and South African) rule in Africa. It also added to it. Similar to the Berlin Conference of 1885, which effectively divided Africa among the European powers, after World War I European leaders gathered to redraw Africa’s borders. But this time the Canadian prime minister attended.

World War I reshaped colonial borders in Africa. Germany lost what is now Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and part of Mozambique (German East Africa) as well as Namibia (German West Africa), Cameroon and Togoland. South Africa gained Namibia, Britain gained Tanzania and part of Cameroon, France gained Togo and part of Cameroon while Belgium took Burundi and Rwanda.

The other British Dominions (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) that fought alongside London were compensated with German properties. With no German colonies nearby Ottawa asked the Imperial War Cabinet if it could take possession of the British West Indies as compensation for Canada’s defence of the Empire. London balked.

Ottawa was unsuccessful in securing the British Caribbean partly because the request did not find unanimous domestic support. Prime Minister Borden was of two minds on the issue. From London he dispatched a cable noting, “the responsibilities of governing subject races would probably exercise a broadening influence upon our people as the dominion thus constituted would closely resemble in its problems and its duties the empire as a whole.” But, on the other hand, Borden feared that the Caribbean’s black population might want to vote. He remarked upon “the difficulty of dealing with the coloured population, who would probably be more restless under Canadian law than under British control and would desire and perhaps insist upon representation in Parliament.”

Our racist and colonial past, as well as Canada’s role in exploiting people of colour all over the world, must also be included in our remembrance if we are to build a nation of respect for all people — the essence of real diversity.

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From PM to corporate shill in Africa

If his predecessors’ trajectories are any indication, Stephen Harper will soon join a handful of corporate boards or a law firm and be paid handsomely to advance Canadian business interests in Africa. Almost every prime minister since Pierre Trudeau (Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin) left office and lobbied on behalf of Canadian corporate interests profiting from the continent.

Companies generally appoint politicians to their board of directors or contract their services through a law firm. The hope is that they can open doors. The smaller, poorer and more aid-dependent a nation, the more likely this is so.

When asked why he appointed Brian Mulroney to his board, Peter Munk, long-time chairman and founder of Barrick Gold, told Peter C. Newman: “He has great contacts. He knows every dictator in the world on a first name basis.” In March, former Conservative Foreign Minister John Baird joined Mulroney on Barrick’s international advisory board.

A month after leaving office in December 2003, Chrétien joined the law firm Heenan Blaikie and over the next 13 months traveled to Niger, Nigeria, Gambia, Angola and the Congo to advance the interests of its clients.

According to the Globe and Mail, Calgary-based TG World Energy hired Chrétien to help it “get out of a pickle in the impoverished African nation of Niger.” TG’s rights to explore 18 million acres of Niger’s wilderness for oil and gas were revoked by the government, which argued that TG failed to fulfill its investment targets. Niger then awarded the concession to a subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Corp.

The Calgary company sued Niger’s government and went to arbitration with the Chinese firm. “It also asked Mr. Chrétien to intervene,” reported the Globe and Mail. “The former prime minister spoke with officials of China National Petroleum during a trip to Beijing and then in March of 2004, he flew into Niamey, the Niger capital. In normal circumstances, the best TG World could have hoped to get on its own was a meeting with the energy minister. But Mr. Chrétien managed to snag a meeting with the president.” Chrétien’s lobbying led to a new agreement between TG World, Niger and the Chinese corporation, which saw the company’s stock increase from eight cents to more than a dollar within a year.

Chrétien used his reputation to advance Canadian corporate interests in Gambia as well. In 2004 he visited Gambian dictator Yahya Jammen to discuss offshore petroleum concessions for Calgary’s Buried Hill Energy. After the meeting, Chretien said: “I met the President, when I was the Prime Minister of Canada. … We have been negotiating with the government of The Gambia to find out if there is oil off-shore here. And it is a very complicated trial and we’ve made a lot of progress and we hope we can build the company if we negotiate.”

In 2014, the firm that employed Chrétien disintegrated. A Financial Post article headlined “How Heenan Blaikie’s Stunning Collapse Started with a Rogue African Arms Deal,” discusses how Chrétien and colleague Jacques Bouchard Jr.’s efforts to drum up African business sparked a rift within the law firm. But Chrétien’s services remained highly prized. Soon after Heenan Blaikie’s demise, Dentons Canada made Chrétien a partner and appointed him vice president of the law firm’s board of directors.

Former prime minister and long-time foreign affairs minister Joe Clark worked for several companies operating in various African countries. Clark helped a small Calgary-based company secure exploration rights for oil and gas in Tanzania and Mozambique. The company, Suprex Energy Corporation, sent out a press release in 1997 announcing they acquired these exploration rights “with the assistance of the Right Honourable Joe Clark and the Honourable Harvie Andre [another former Mulroney cabinet minister].”

First Quantum appointed Clark its special adviser for African affairs to lobby on its behalf in the Congo. He reportedly facilitated a 1998 meeting between Canadian officials and Congo’s Minister of Mines Frédéric Kibassa Maliba, and later pressured Canadian diplomats to demand a review of a 2002 UN report criticizing the manner in which First Quantum acquired its concession. Alongside his corporate work in the Congo, Clark engaged in diplomatic work and led the Carter Center’s delegation of election observers that gave Congo’s controversial 2007 presidential election its stamp of approval.

In Ghana, Clark used his name recognition as former chair of the Commonwealth Committee of Foreign Ministers on Southern Africa to assist Triton Logging secure the world’s largest underwater logging license. BC Business magazine reported: “Confronted by a former Canadian Prime Minister, the Ghanaians in the room are spellbound. Clark, who is a director of the Canadian Council of Africa, might as well be Canada’s sitting prime minister.”

Clark secured an agreement for Triton that had the potential to generate multiple billions of dollars, which also allotted the Vancouver-based company 80 per cent of all profits. Ghanaian Chronicle publisher Kofi Coomson criticized the generous deal and called on Clark to “do the right thing.” In an interview with BC Business, Coomson said: “Ghana’s interests should come first, and Mr. Clark’s personal interests come second.”

Clark remains influential on the continent partially because he continues to engage in African politics. His diplomatic roles have included leading international election observation teams in Cameroon, Congo and Nigeria.

Will Harper join the long line of Prime Ministers who’ve left office and profited from Africa?

This article first appeared in Ricochet

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Canadian companies well known abroad for bribery

While most Canadians proudly recognize the beaver, the hockey player and the curling broom as symbols of this country, some of us would be made uncomfortable by another enduring emblem of the Great White North: a businessman wearing a maple leaf lapel pin discretely passing a plain manila envelope stuffed with cash to a foreign official.

Last week SNC-Lavalin agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a corruption case brought against it by the African Development Bank. Accused of bribing officials in Uganda and Mozambique, the Montréal-based company also accepted a number of other non-monetary conditions on its operations to avoid being blacklisted from projects financed by the African Development Bank.

Over the past half-decade Canada’s biggest engineering company is alleged to have greased palms in LibyaAlgeriaTunisiaAngola, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia as well as a number of Asian countries and Canada.

In Libya, the RCMP accused SNC of paying $50 million to Saadi Gadhafi, son of the late Libyan dictator, in exchange for a series of contracts. The company is also alleged to have defrauded $130 million from Libyan public agencies.

In a less high profile incident, the RCMP accused SNC of paying $6 million to the son-in-law of former Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in exchange for assistance securing contracts.

In Angola, SNC allegedly paid millions of dollars to government officials in exchange for a hydro dam contract. Former SNC employee Joseph Salim sued the company for wrongful dismissal, claiming he was terminated after he blew the whistle on the illegal payments. Salim alleged that SNC’s former CEO, Jacques Lamarre, agreed to pay a 10 percent “agent fee” but company officials were unwilling to declare more than five percent on the books, which necessitated artificially increasing the price of the dam.

In northern Nigeria, SNC officials allegedly paid 1.2 million naira in cash — nearly five times the annual average Nigerian salary — to a government official responsible for a World Bank-funded water and sewer project. One company spreadsheet noted that money was “paid to Musa Tete [the Nigerian bureaucrat overseeing the World Bank-financed project] through Yaroson”, SNC’s Nigerian partner.

As allegations of SNC bribery began to seep out in 2012, the company continued to win billions of dollars in Canadian government contracts, maintained the backing of the Canadian Commercial Corporation and garnered support from Canadian diplomats abroad.

Canada has been quick to denounce corruption in Africa, but has lagged behind the rest of the G7 countries in criminalizing foreign bribery. For example, into the early 1990s, Canadian companies were at liberty to deduct bribes paid to foreign officials from their taxes, affording them an “advantage over the Americans” — they’re forbidden by law to pay out agents’ commissions, according to Bernard Lamarre, former head of Lavalin (now SNC-Lavalin).

In 1977, the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act outlawed bribes to foreign officials. Ottawa failed to follow suit until the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched its anti-bribery convention in 1997. The OECD convention obligated signatories to pass laws against bribing public officials abroad and two years later Canada complied, passing the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA).

Still, for the next decade Canadian officials did little to enforce the law. The RCMP waited until 2008 to create an International Anti-Corruption Unit and didn’t secure a significant conviction under the CFPOA until 2011.

Anti-corruption watchdogs have repeatedly criticized Ottawa’s lax approach. A March 2011 report from the OECD Working Group on Bribery criticized Canada’s framework for combating foreign corruption and Ottawa has fared poorly in Transparency International’s rankings. In 2013, Transparency International complained that between 2005 and 2011, Canada exercised “little to no enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.”

The group repeatedly ranked Canada the worst performer among G7 countries on this front.

Last week, Toronto-based Kinross Gold disclosed that the United States Department of Justice launched an investigation into “improper payments made to government officials and certain internal control deficiencies” at its operations in Ghana and Mauritania. In my new book Canada in Africa: 300 years of Aid and Exploitation I detail numerous reports of Canadian companies accused of bribing officials.

While the federal government recently strengthened anti-bribery legislation, Ottawa has so far largely turned a blind eye to corporations paying off public officials abroad.

Should bribery really be seen as “Canadian” as the RCMP’s Musical Ride?

Over the past half-decade Canada’s biggest engineering company is alleged to have greased palms in LibyaAlgeriaTunisiaAngola, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia as well as a number of Asian countries and Canada.

This article first appeared in Huffington Post

 

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Shining light on the secret world of Canada’s special forces

Last week former defence minister Jason Kenney said if re-elected the Conservatives would significantly expand Canada’s special forces. Kenney said they would add 665 members to the Canadian Armed Forces Special Operations Command (CANSOFCOM) over the next seven years.

Why? What do these “special forces” do? Who decides when and where to deploy them? For what purpose? These are all questions left unanswered (and not even asked in the mainstream media).

What we do know is that since the mid-2000s Canada’s special forces have steadily expanded to 1,900 members. In 2006 the military launched CANSOFCOM to oversee JTF2, the Special Operations Aviation Squadron, Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit and Special Operations Regiment. Begun that year, the Special Operations Regiment’s 750 members receive similar training to JTF2 commandos, the most secretive and skilled unit of the Canadian Armed Forces. After having doubled from 300 to 600 men, JTF2 is set to move from Ottawa to a 400-acre compound near Trenton, Ontario, at a cost of $350 million.

Though their operations are “shrouded in secrecy” — complained a 2006 Senate Committee on National Security and Defence — JTF2 commandos have been deployed on numerous occasions since the unit’s establishment in 1993.

A number of media outlets reported that Canadian special forces fought in Libya in 2011 in contravention of UN Security Council resolution 1973, which explicitly forbade “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”

On February 29, 2004 JTF2 soldiers reportedly “secured” the airportfrom which Haiti’s elected president Jean-Bertand Aristide was bundled (“kidnapped” in his words) onto a plane by US Marines and deposited in the Central African Republic.

After the 2003 US/British invasion JTF2 commandos were reported to be working alongside their British and US counterparts in Iraq. While Ottawa refused to confirm or deny JTF2 operations, in March 2006 the Pentagon and the British Foreign Office “both commentedon the instrumental role JTF2 played in rescuing the British and Canadian Christian Peace Activists that were being held hostage in Iraq.”

Nous étions invincibles, a book by a former JTF2 soldier Denis Morisset, describes his mission to the Colombian jungle to rescue NGO and church workers “because FARC guerillas threatened the peace in the region.” The Canadian soldiers were unaware that they were transporting the son of a Colombian leader, which prompted the FARC to give chase for a couple days. On two different occasions the Canadian forces came under fire from FARC guerrillas. Two Canadian soldiers were injured in the firefight and immediately after the operation one of the wounded soldiers left the army with post-traumatic stress disorder. Ultimately, the Canadians were saved by US helicopters, as the JTF2 mission was part of a US initiative.

Morisset also provides a harrowing account of a 1996 operation to bring the Canadian General Maurice Baril, in charge of a short-lived UN force into eastern Zaire (Congo), to meet Rwandan backed rebel leader Laurent Kabila. The convoy came under fire upon which US Apache and Blackhawk helicopters launched a counterattack on the Congolese, rescuing their Canadian allies. Some thirty Congolese were killed by a combination of helicopter and JTF2 fire.

In late 2001 JTF2 secretly invaded Afghanistan, alongside US and British operatives. In the first six months of their operations, members of JTF2 claimed to have killed 115 Taliban or Al Quaida fighters and captured 107 Taliban leaders. By early 2002 the British began having doubts about the tactics used by Canadian and American special forces. In Shadow Wars: Special Forces in the New Battle Against Terrorism David Pugliese reports, “The concern among the British was that the ongoing raids [by Americans and Canadians] were giving Afghans the impression that the coalition was just another invading foreign army that had no respect for the country’s culture or religion.”

According to documents CBC News obtained through access to information, a JTF2 member said he felt his commanders “encouraged” them to commit war crimes. The soldier, whose name was not released, claimed a fellow JTF2 member shot an Afghan with his hands raised in the act of surrender. The allegations of wrongdoing were first made to his superior officers in 2006 yet the military ombudsman didn’t begin investigating until June 2008. The JTF2 member told the ombudsman’s office “that although he reported what he witnessed to his chain of command, he does not believe they are investigating, and are being ‘very nice to him.’” After three and a half years, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service cleared the commanders in December 2011. But they failed to release details of the allegations, including who was involved or when and where it happened. The public was supposed to simply trust the process.

It seems as if the Conservatives support special forces precisely because these elite units have close ties to their US counterparts and the government is not required to divulge information about their operations. Ottawa can deploy these troops abroad and the public is none the wiser. “Deniability,” according to Major B. J. Brister, is why the federal government prefers special operation forces.

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Mining the leaders’ debate

The Liberal, NDP and Conservative leaders are set to debate Canada’s role in the world at an event put on by Munk Debates, an organization named after and financed by a wealthy businessman who made his fortune in mining. It will be interesting, therefore, to see if mining as a topic is given much, if any, attention by the leaders tonight.

Through his Aurea Foundation, Peter Munk, the founder of Barrick Gold, established Munk Debates in 2008. Peter’s son Anthony Munk is part of the committee overseeing the debate series.

Peter Munk espouses strong political views. In the late 1990s he publicly praised Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet at a Barrick meeting while a decade later he compared polarizing Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to Hitler. In a March 2011 Globe and Mail interview, Munk played down criticism of Barrick’s security force in Papua New Guinea by claiming “gang rape is a cultural habit” in that country.

The company Munk founded, like other Canadian mining companies, stands to gain or lose depending on Canadian foreign policy. For example, in 2011 the now defunct Canadian International Development Agency invested $500,000 in a World Vision Canada/Barrick Gold project. “In Peru,” noted the aid agency, “CIDA is supporting World Vision Canada, in a program that will increase the income and standard of living of 1,000 families affected by mining operations.” World Vision and Barrick combined to match CIDA’s donation.

In response Miguel Palacin, the head of a Peruvian indigenous organization, sent a letter to World Vision, Barrick and CIDA claiming that “no ‘social works’ carried out with the mining companies can compensate for the damage done” by mining operations while the former co-ordinator of Common Frontiers Canada, Rick Arnold, described the NGO initiative as “a pacification program, and not a development project.”

Barrick has also benefited from Canadian diplomatic support, including visits by the prime minister. In 2007 Stephen Harper met Barrick officials in Tanzania days after the company claimed a strike at one of its Tanzanian mines was illegal and looked to replace a thousand striking miners. Four months earlier Barrick gained important support for its Pascua-Lama operations, which spurred large-scale protests, during Harper’s trip to Chile. He visited the company’s Chilean office and said “Barrick follows Canadian standards of corporate social responsibility.”

Barrick, which operates some of the most controversial mining projects in the world, has opposed moves to withhold diplomatic and financial support to Canadian companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. In 2008, the Toronto-based company opposed the recommendations of a business/civil society mining roundtable launched by the previous Liberal government, and two years later the company lobbied against Liberal MP John McKay’s private members bill C-300 (An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas Corporations in Developing Countries).

Canadian-based companies dominate the international mining industry, operating in most countries around the world. In African and Latin American countries particularly, Canadian diplomats expend significant energy lobbying in favor of mining interests, aid dollars are channeled towards initiatives benefiting the sector, and officials in Ottawa seek to allay mining companies’ fears by negotiating foreign investment promotion and protection agreements.

Canada’s status as a global mining superpower ought to be part of a foreign policy debate. Let’s hope tonight we voters are able to hear from the party leaders a serious discussion of regulating mining activities abroad or the appropriate level of government “aid” to profitable private companies.

This article first appeared on The Tyee.

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Who has heard of Canadian gunboat diplomacy?

Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell once said “an election is no time to discuss important issues.” But surely the opportunity to free up $40 billion while making the world a safer place ought to spark a discussion about the Canadian Navy’s role in the world.

Four years ago the Conservatives announced the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, a $30-$40 billion effort to expand the combat fleet over three decades. But, the initiative is stalled and this is a perfect time to consider other priorities, such as putting the money into a national daycare program, building co-op/public housing, investing it in light rail or using it to make higher education more affordable.

Let’s have a debate and let Canadians choose.

The first step is understanding how the Canadian Navy uses it warships.

People seldom think of Canadian foreign policy when the term “gunboat diplomacy” is used, but they should. It is not just the USA, Great Britain, France or other better-known imperial powers that have used naval force as a “diplomatic” tool.

Nearly a century ago the Royal Bank loaned $200,000 to unpopular Costa Rican dictator Federico Tinoco just as he was about to flee the country. A new government refused to repay the money, saying the Canadian bank knew the public despised Tinoco and that he was likely to steal it. “In 1921,” Canadian Gunboat Diplomacy notes, “in Costa Rica, [Canadian vessels] Aurora, Patriot and Patrician helped the Royal Bank of Canada satisfactorily settle an outstanding claim with the government of that country.”

In another chapter of the 2000 book titled “Maple Leaf Over the Caribbean: Gunboat Diplomacy Canadian Style” Royal Military College 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.”

While the Canadian Navy has long flexed its muscles in the Western hemisphere, over the past decade the Canadian Navy has played a greater role in Africa. In the summer of 2008 Canada took command of NATO’s Task Force 150 that worked off the coast of Somalia. Between the start of 2013 and fall of 2015 Canadian warships HMCS Regina and HMCS Toronto participated in a 28-nation Combined Maritime Forces operation in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. At the start of 2015 twenty-six Canadian Armed Forces members participated in the multinational maritime security exercise Cutlass Express 2015. Sponsored by the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), it took place off the East African coast.

As part of what’s been dubbed Africa’s “encirclement by U.S. and NATO warships”, HMCS Athabaskan led Operation Steadfast Jaguar 2006 in the Gulf of Guinea. A dozen warships and 7,000 troops participated in the exercise, the first ever carried out by NATO’s Rapid Response Force.

The following year HMCS Toronto participated in a six-ship task group of the Standing Naval Maritime Group 1 of NATO that traveled 23,000 kilometres around the continent. The trip took five months and was the first NATO fleet to circumnavigate Africa. HMCS Toronto spent a year preparing for this trip, a journey costing Canadian taxpayers $8 million.

Oil largely motivated operations off Nigeria’s coast. Nigeria’s Business Day described NATO’s presence as “a show of force and a demonstration that the world powers are closely monitoring the worsening security situation in the [oil-rich] Niger Delta.” A Canadian spokesperson gave credence to this interpretation of their activities in a region long dominated by Shell and other Western oil corporations. When the Standing Naval Maritime Group 1 warships patrolled the area Canadian Lieutenant Commander Angus Topshee told the CBC that “it’s a critical area of the world because Nigeria produces a large amount of the world’s light crude oil, and so when anything happens to that area that interrupts that flow of oil, it can have repercussions for the entire global economy.”

More broadly, the objective of circumnavigating the continent was to develop situational knowledge of the various territorial waters, especially Nigeria and Somalia. How knowledge of countries’ coastlines was to be used was not made entirely clear, but it certainly wasn’t to strengthen their sovereignty. “During the voyage,” according to a story in Embassy, “the fleet sailed at a distance of 12 to 15 miles off the African coast, just beyond the limits of sovereign national waters. The NATO fleet did not inform African nations it would soon be on the horizon. This, Lt.-Cmdr. Topshee says, was an intentional move meant to ‘keep options open.’ ‘International law is built on precedent,’ he says. ‘So if NATO creates a precedent where we’re going to inform countries, we’re going to operate off their coastline, over time that precedent actually becomes a requirement’.” To help with the legal side of the operations a lawyer circumnavigated the continent with HMCS Toronto.

Reportedly, the Nigerians did not appreciate NATO’s aggressive tactics. Topshee described the Nigerians as “downright irate” when the fleet approached. “There was real concern they might take action against us.”

For HMCS Toronto’s Captain Stephen Virgin, the circumnavigation was largely about preparing NATO forces for a future invasion. “These are areas that the force might have to go back to some day and we need to operate over there to get an understanding of everything from shipping patterns to how our sensors work in those climates.”

In early 2011, 15 days before the UN Security Council authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, HMCS Charlottetown left Halifax for the North African country. Two rotations of Canadian warships enforced a naval blockade of Libya for six months with about 250 soldiers aboard each vessel.

Later that year, on May 19, HMCS Charlottetown joined an operation that destroyed eight Libyan naval vessels. The ship also repelled a number of fast, small boats and escaped unscathed after a dozen missiles were fired towards it from the port city of Misrata. 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.”

On one occasion a Canadian warship, part of a 20-ship NATO flotilla purportedly enforcing the UN arms embargo on Libya, boarded a rebel vessel filled with ammunition. “There are loads of weapons and munitions, more than I thought,” a Canadian officer radioed HMCS Charlottetown commander Craig Skjerpen. “From small ammunition to 105 howitzer rounds and lots of explosives.” The commander’s response, reported the Ottawa Citizen, was to allow the rebel ship to sail through.

The National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy will give Canadian officials greater means to bully weaker countries. Surely, one of the opposition parties sees a better way to spend $40 billion dollars.

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Canada in Haiti: Is this how friends act?

Reading the comments below a recent Toronto Star op-edreminded me of an important, if rarely mentioned, rule of Canadian foreign policy: the more impoverished a nation, the greater the gap is likely to be between what Canadian officials say and do.

In a rare corporate daily breakthrough, solidarity activist Mark Phillips detailed a decade of antidemocratic Canadian policy in Haiti. But, a number of readers were clearly discomforted by the piece titled “Hey Canada, stop meddling in Haitian democracy.”

“Money pumped into this dysfunctional country, is money down a rat hole,” read one. Another said, “Yes — let’s stop ‘meddling’ and while were at it — let’s stop sending them our hard-earned money!!!!.”

While these statements ought to be condemned, one should feel some sympathy for the comment writers. Assuming they only peruse the dominant media, Phillips’ op-ed ran counter to all they’d ever heard about Canada’s role in Haiti.

Over the past 12 years Canadian officials have repeatedly boasted about their good deeds in the Caribbean nation all the while aggressively undermining Haitian democracy and supporting violent right-wing political forces. In January 2003 Ottawa hosted a roundtable meeting dubbed the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti where high level U.S., Canadian and French officials discussed overthrowing elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, putting the country under international trusteeship and resurrecting Haiti’s dreaded military. Thirteen months after the Ottawa Initiative meeting, Aristide had been pushed out and a quasi-UN trusteeship had begun.

Ottawa helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government and then supported an installed regime that killed thousands. Officially, however, Ottawa was “helping” the beleaguered country as part of the “Friends of Haiti” group. And the bill for undermining Haitian democracy, including the salaries of top coup government officials and the training of repressive cops, was largely paid out of Canada’s “aid” to the country.

Even after a deadly earthquake rocked Haiti in 2010, Canadian officials continued their inhumane, antidemocratic, course. According to internal documents the Canadian Press examined a year after the disaster, officials in Ottawa feared a post-earthquake power vacuum could lead to a “popular uprising.” One briefing note marked “secret” explained: “Political fragility has increased the risks of a popular uprising, and has fed the rumour that ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, currently in exile in South Africa, wants to organize a return to power.” The documents also explained the importance of strengthening the Haitian authorities’ ability “to contain the risks of a popular uprising.”

To police Haiti’s traumatized and suffering population 2,050 Canadian troops were deployed alongside 12,000 U.S. soldiers and 1,500 UN troops (8,000 UN soldiers were already there). Even though there was no war, for a period there were more foreign troops in Haiti per square kilometer than in Afghanistan or Iraq (and about as many per capita). Though the Conservatives rapidly deployed 2,050 troops they ignored calls to dispatch this country’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) Teams, which are trained to “locate trapped persons in collapsed structures.”

While they were largely focused on “security,” the Harper Conservatives knew the public wanted Canada to aid earthquake victims. As such, they claimed Canadian troops were deployed to alleviate Haitian suffering. Harper told the press: “Ships of the Atlantic fleet were immediately ordered to Haiti from Halifax, loaded with relief supplies.” Not true. A [Halifax] Chronicle Herald reporter and photographer embedded with the military for the mission observed that they didn’t have much food, water, medical equipment or tents to distribute, beyond what they needed for their own crews. Nor did the other Canadian naval vessel dispatched have supplies to distribute.

The files uncovered by the Canadian Press about the government’s post-earthquake concerns go to the heart (or lack thereof) of Canadian foreign policy decisionmaking. Strategic thinking, not compassion, almost always motivates policy. And what is considered “strategic” is usually what corporate Canada wants.

To conceal this ugly reality officials boast about aid contributions and democracy promotion. But the primary explanation for the gap between what’s said and done is that power generally defines what is considered reality. So, the bigger the power imbalance between Canada and another country the greater Ottawa’s ability to distort their activities.

Unfortunately, the Toronto Star comments suggest Canadian officials have been quite effective in deceiving the public.

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Canadian crimes against humanity in Africa

Should Africans pursue Stephen Harper for crimes against humanity?

The Africa Progress Report 2015 suggests they may have a solid moral, if not necessarily legal, case.

Led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Africa Progress Panel highlights Canada and Australia as two countries that “have withdrawn entirely from constructive international engagement on climate.” The mainstream group concludes that Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda have shown “far higher level of ambition” to lessen CO2 emissions than Canada.

The report, which was released last week, adds to a significant body of evidence showing that anthropogenic global warming poses a particularly profound threat to Africans. Although hardest hit by climate change, the terrible irony is that Africa, among all continents, is least responsible for the problem.

If nothing is done to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, average temperatures may rise 7°C in southern Africa and 8°C in the north by century’s end. Reaching nearly twice the global average, this would destabilize human life on large swaths of the continent.

Still, a skeptic might argue, how does this amount to charging Stephen Harper with crimes against humanity? Doesn’t that require some form of mass murder or genocide?

Back in 2012 the Climate Vulnerability Monitor concluded that climate disturbances were responsible for 400,000 deaths per year, mostly in Africa. Nigerian ecologist Nnimmo Bassey has dubbed growing carbon emissions a “death sentence for Africa” while Naomi Klein reports that “African delegates at UN climate summits have begun using words like ‘genocide’ to describe the collective failure to lower emissions.”

Various ecological, economic and social factors explain the continent’s vulnerability. Most Africans are directly dependent on resource sectors – fisheries, forestry and agriculture – that are particularly vulnerable to climate conditions. Between half and two thirds of the continent are subsistence farmers who largely rely on natural rainfall, rather than irrigation, to water their crops. Additionally, large swaths of the continent are arid and a third of Africa’s productive area is already classified as dry land. As such, subsistence farmers’ crop yields and incomes are easily damaged by reduced or intermittent rainfall. According to Tanzanian Minister of State for the Environment Binilith Mahenge, “global warming of 2˚C would put over 50 per cent of the African continent’s population at risk of undernourishment.”

CO2 induced food shortages are not in some far off dystopian future. A study by Britain’s Met Office concluded that global warming sparked a major famine in Somalia in 2011 during which 50,000 Somalis died.

While water shortages represent a threat to many, an excess of this same element poses a hazard elsewhere. A quarter of Africa’s population lives within 100km of the continent’s 38,000 km coastline. Without significant investments to mitigate risks to major metropolises, such as Dar es Salaam, Mombasa and Lagos, the threat of flooding looms.

Carbon can also trigger the taking up of arms. Climate change has spurred violent cattle raids in north-western Kenya and triggered the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali while the mid-2000s violence in Sudan’s Darfur region was dubbed the world’s “first climate change war.” A University of California, Berkeley, study found a statistical link between the hotter temperatures generated by climate change and the risk of armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. The Colorado researchers forecast a 54 per cent rise in civil conflict on the continent due to climate change by 2030, causing 393,000 more combat deaths.

Increasing the strain on governance structures, climate change has already exacerbated inequities and ethnic divisions in parts of the continent. Climate change may well propel large areas of Africa into a downward cycle, further undermining the capacity of communities and governments to cope.

But most African governments can contribute little to curtail runaway global warming because their countries’ carbon footprints are negligible compared to the biggest capitalist economies. Per capita emissions in most African countries amount to barely 1% of Canada’s rate. In Uganda, Congo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda and Mozambique, per capita emissions comprise less than 1/150th of Canada’s average. In Tanzania, Madagascar, Comoros, The Gambia, Liberia and Zambia per capita emissions are less than 1/80th Canada’s average.

Forward looking comparisons are equally stark. If plans to double tar sands production proceed, by 2030 Alberta’s project will emit as much carbon as most sub-Saharan African countries combined.

Canadian officialdom has done little to regulate tar sands emissions and has, in fact, subsidized its expansion. The Conservative government has campaigned aggressively against any international effort to reduce carbon emissions from fuel sources, which might impact sales of Alberta bitumen. Canadian diplomats worked with feverish determination to undermine the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive, a modest bid that would force suppliers to privilege lower-emission fuels. To the south, the Canadian government also lobbied aggressively against any US legislation that might curtail tar sands expansion and in favour of the Keystone XL pipeline to take oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

Despite the rising toll of climate change in Africa, the Canadian government pushed to grow the global “carbon bomb” in international forums. At every turn, Harper’s Conservatives have blocked progress on setting minimally serious targets for reducing CO2 emissions, repeatedly receiving the Colossal Fossil given out by hundreds of environmental groups to the country that did the most to undermine international climate negotiations meetings. At this week’s G7 meeting, Canadian officials reportedly sought to undermine German chancellor Angela Merkel’s bid for a statement committing countries to a low carbon economy by 2050.
Under Conservative government leadership, Canada became the first country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement committing leading industrial economies to reducing GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2012. (Instead of attaining its 6% reduction target, Canada’s emissions increased 18 per cent.)

In addition to undermining international climate negotiations and the efforts of other nations to reduce GHGs, the Harper government made a mockery of its own commitments. As part of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, Ottawa pledged to reduce carbon emissions 17 per cent by 2020 (from the levels in 2005). Five years later, however, Environment Canada admitted this target would not be reached. In fact, Environment Canada suggested emissions would rise 20% by 2020.

In a sign of Ottawa’s near total indifference to the impact of global warming in Africa, the Conservatives pulled out of an international accord to study the consequences of desertification, a process ravaging parts of the African continent. In 2013, Canada withdrew from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in countries seriously affected by drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.

Adopted in 1994, this international convention collects and shares scientific information about drought and ways to curb its spread. By becoming the sole nation outside the convention, Canada saved itself a paltry $300,000 a year. While the savings barely registered in the federal government’s $260 billion budget, the message was clear.

Clearly Harper’s Conservative government has wilfully ignored the interests of Africans and pursued an environmental, economic and political course that has already killed hundreds of thousands.

In a just world a Fulani pastoralist in Burkina Faso would have a forum to pursue Stephen Harper for crimes against humanity.

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The Haiti occupation continues

Those who forget the past are often condemned to repeat its mistakes.

On February 29, 2004 the US, France and Canada overthrew Haiti’s elected government. The foreign military intervention led to an unmitigated human rights disaster.

In the three weeks after the coup at least 1,000 bodies were buried in a mass grave by the State Morgue in Port-au-Prince, a fact acknowledged by Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Davis, Commander of Canadian Forces in Haiti, during a July 29, 2004, media teleconference call. In the year and a half after the coup, investigations by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the University of Miami, Harvard University and the National Lawyers Guild all found significant evidence of persecution directed at Aristide’s Lavalas movement.

The most authoritative account of the post-coup human rights situation was published in the prestigious Lancet medical journal. The August 2006 study revealed that there were an estimated 8,000 murders, 35,000 rapes and thousands of incidents of armed threats in the capital in the 22 months after the toppling of Aristide’s government. Of the 8,000 people murdered — 12 people a day — in the greater Port-au-Prince area, nearly half (47.7 percent) were killed by governmental or other anti-Aristide forces. 21.7 percent of the killings were attributed to members of the Haitian National Police (HNP), 13 percent to demobilized soldiers (many of whom participated in the coup) and 13 percent to anti-Aristide gangs (none were attributed to Aristide supporters and the rest were attributed to common criminals).

Throughout the March 2004 to May 2006 coup period the Haitian police killed peaceful demonstrators and carried out massacres in poor neighbourhoods, often with help from anti-Aristide gangs. Canadian troops and later police trainers often supported the Haitian police operations, usually by providing backup to the police killers. Canada commanded the 1,600-member UN police contingent mandated to train, assist and oversee the Haitian National Police.

Throughout the period investigated by the researchers, Canada was heavily involved in Haitian affairs. Ottawa provided tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid to the installed government, publicly supported coup officials and employed numerous officials within coup government ministries. Haiti’s deputy justice minister for the first 15 months of the foreign-installed government, Philippe Vixamar, was on the Canadian International Development Agency’s payroll (the minister was a USAID employee). Later he was replaced by long-time CIDA employee Dilia Lemaire. During this period hundreds of political prisoners, including Aristide’s prime minister and interior minister, languished in prolonged and arbitrary detention.

There is some evidence that Canadian forces in Haiti participated directly in the political repression. The Lancet researcher noted above recounted an interview with one family in the Delmas district of Port- au-Prince: “Canadian troops came to their house, and they said they were looking for Lavalas [Aristide’s party] chimeres, and threatened to kill the head of household, who was the father, if he didn’t name names of people in their neighbourhood who were Lavalas chimeres or Lavalas supporters.” A January 2005 human rights report from the University of Miami quoted a Canadian police officer saying that “he engaged in daily guerrilla warfare.” Afghanistan and Haiti were cited by the Canadian Forces 2007 draft counterinsurgency manual as the only foreign countries where Canadian troops were participating in counterinsurgency warfare. According to the manual, Canadian Forces have been “conducting COIN [counter-insurgency] operations against the criminally-based insurgency in Haiti since early 2004.”

While our security forces fought a counterinsurgency campaign Canadian diplomats pressured others to contribute to the fight. In early 2005 the head of the UN force (MINUSTAH), General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, told a congressional commission in Brazil that “we are under extreme pressure from the international community [specifically citing Canada, France and the U.S.] to use violence.” Not long after Ribeiro complained about pressure to get tough, UN forces committed their worst massacre in Haiti. Marketed by its architects as an action against a “gang” leader, at dawn on July 6, 2005, 400 UN troops, backed by helicopters, entered the capital’s densely populated slum neighbourhood of Cité Soleil. Eyewitnesses and victims of the attack claim MINUSTAH helicopters fired on residents throughout the operation. The cardboard and corrugated tin wall houses were no match for the troops’ heavy weaponry, which fired “over 22,000 rounds of ammunition.” The raid left at least 23 civilians dead, including numerous women and children. The UN claimed they only killed “gang” leader Dread Wilme. For their part community members responded to Wilme’s death by painting a large mural of him next to one of Aristide and Che Guevara.

In the months just prior to the February 2006 election there was a spike in UN military operations. After nominally democratic, but largely powerless, President René Preval took office repression subsided. But Haiti’s business elite and the international powers began to demand further UN repression of “gangs.” In a January 15, 2007, interview with Haiti’s Radio Solidarité Canada’s Ambassador Claude Boucher praised the UN troops, urging them to “increase their operations as they did last December.”

Boucher’s public support for operations “last December” was an unmistakable reference to the December 22, 2006, UN assault on Cité Soleil. Dubbed the “Christmas Massacre” by neighbourhood residents, Agence France Presse indicated that at least 12 people were killed and “several dozen” wounded. A Haitian human rights organization, AUMOHD, reported 20 killed. The Agence Haitienne de Presse (AHP) reported “very serious property damage” following the UN attack, and concerns that “a critical water shortage may now develop because water cisterns and pipes were punctured by the gunfire.” Red Cross coordinator Pierre Alexis complained to AHP that UN soldiers “blocked Red Cross vehicles from entering Cité Soleil” to help the wounded.

After his interview, Boucher got what he wanted. A UN raid on Cité Soleil on Jan. 25 left five dead and a dozen wounded, according to Agence France Presse. On February 3 the UN killed several people in Cité Soleil, including two little girls, Alexandra and Stephanie Lubin. And a week later, MINUSTAH operations in Cité Soleil left “four dead and 10 injured all of which were innocent civilians” according to AHP. (Kevin Pina’s film Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits documents the chilling brutality of UN forces.)

Largely due to the work of solidarity activists, some information about post-coup human rights abuses was published by major Canadian media outlets. But most rights violations went unreported and Canada’s complicity therein was almost never mentioned.

In the lead up to the 10th anniversary of the coup will any major media outlets mention Canada’s complicity in the worst human rights disaster in the Western Hemisphere this century?

Or will ordinary Canadians be condemned to once again be responsible for their government’s crime against the people of Haiti?

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Interview: Canadian ‘aid’ goes to policing Palestinians

Real News Network Interview

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Engler Report.
Now joining us is Yves Engler. He is a Canadian commentator and author, and his most recent book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.
Thank you so much for joining us, Yves.
YVES ENGLER, AUTHOR AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST, MONTREAL: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: So, Yves, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he was recently in Israel, and this is the first time that a Canadian prime minister actually addressed the Israeli Knesset. The mainstream press has really focused on two points of Harper’s speech, one being where he extolled the virtues of supporting Israel, or the fact that the omitted–Canada disagrees with Israel’s settlements. But there seems to be less attention focused on agreements to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. What’s the real story here?
ENGLER: Well, I mean, the Harper government has been–Israel, no matter what [incompr.] Israel, no matter what position, since being elected, supporting bombing of Gaza, supporting the 2006 war on Lebanon, and taking all kinds of pro-Israel diplomatic positions. Alongside that has been a real deepening of bilateral ties, economic, military, security ties with Israel, many different cooperation agreements with the Israeli military, exchanges with the Israeli military. Recently, Canadian naval vessels and Israeli naval vessels were doing interchanges, practice runs together.
And on this trip to Israel, the Harper government wants to extend the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement that was signed in 1997. This is a free trade agreement that does not exclude products that are produced in Israeli settlements. The European Union trade agreement with Israel explicitly precludes Israel from putting Israel on products that are produced in the occupied West Bank. The Canadian trade agreement doesn’t. The Harper government wants to extend this trade agreement alongside a series of other cooperation accords.
And the sort of underlying policies of sort of deepening institutional ties between Canada and Israel have generally gotten less attention than the bombastic pro-Israel comments of the Harper government, but I think that once Harper’s gone, it’s going to be these economic accords that are really designed to help the Israeli economy. They’re very much oriented to Israel’s interests rather than Canada’s interests. And once Harper’s gone, it’s going to be these accords that have the longer-lasting impact on deepening bilateral ties between the two countries.
DESVARIEUX: How do these economic accords, as you put it, compare with Harper’s $66 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority?
ENGLER: Well, I think they shouldn’t be compared all. On one hand, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement is designed to deepen economic ties on, you know, fairly egalitarian terms between Israel and Canada. In the case of the aid that Canada’s giving to the Palestinian Authority, this is–you know, it’s stated, it’s called aid, but in fact if you look at what most of the Canadian five-year $300 million aid program that began in December 2007 to the Palestinian Authority, and if you look at where most of that aid money went to, it went to building up the Palestinian security force in the West Bank that was designed to, on one hand, combat the rise of Hamas, so to support the Palestinian Authority in their political battle with Hamas, and on the other hand, it was designed to prop up a corrupt and undemocratic Palestinian Authority. Of course, Mahmoud Abbas’s electoral mandate ended in 2009.
So we actually have internal documents from Margaret Biggs, who is the president of the CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, from about a year ago, where she stated very clearly that Israel supports Canada’s aid program to the Palestinian Authority. The Canadian government had actually threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian authority when the Palestinian Authority pursued its UN statehood bid. And Israel was actually pushing Canada to continue that aid.
And in the internal document that was published by Postmedia, it also states–Margaret Biggs, the head of CIDA, says that “the emergence of popular protests … against the Palestinian Authority,” [incompr.] quotes, that this made Canadian aid to the Palestinian Authority security force particularly important. So, in other words, the Palestinian Authority is facing pressure from grassroots protests, and Canadian aid to the Palestinian Authority goes to supporting their security force that has put down demonstrations, demonstrations against the Palestinian Authority’s operations, but also demonstrations against ongoing Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.
So the Canadian aid, we call it aid to the Palestinians. Really what it is is aid to a corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian Authority that is increasingly out of touch with the desire of most Palestinians for liberation from Israeli colonialism.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Yves Engler, thank you so much for joining us.
ENGLER: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Engler Report.
Now joining us is Yves Engler. He is a Canadian commentator and author, and his most recent book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.
Thank you so much for joining us, Yves.
YVES ENGLER, AUTHOR AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST, MONTREAL: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: So, Yves, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he was recently in Israel, and this is the first time that a Canadian prime minister actually addressed the Israeli Knesset. The mainstream press has really focused on two points of Harper’s speech, one being where he extolled the virtues of supporting Israel, or the fact that the omitted–Canada disagrees with Israel’s settlements. But there seems to be less attention focused on agreements to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. What’s the real story here?
ENGLER: Well, I mean, the Harper government has been–Israel, no matter what [incompr.] Israel, no matter what position, since being elected, supporting bombing of Gaza, supporting the 2006 war on Lebanon, and taking all kinds of pro-Israel diplomatic positions. Alongside that has been a real deepening of bilateral ties, economic, military, security ties with Israel, many different cooperation agreements with the Israeli military, exchanges with the Israeli military. Recently, Canadian naval vessels and Israeli naval vessels were doing interchanges, practice runs together.
And on this trip to Israel, the Harper government wants to extend the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement that was signed in 1997. This is a free trade agreement that does not exclude products that are produced in Israeli settlements. The European Union trade agreement with Israel explicitly precludes Israel from putting Israel on products that are produced in the occupied West Bank. The Canadian trade agreement doesn’t. The Harper government wants to extend this trade agreement alongside a series of other cooperation accords.
And the sort of underlying policies of sort of deepening institutional ties between Canada and Israel have generally gotten less attention than the bombastic pro-Israel comments of the Harper government, but I think that once Harper’s gone, it’s going to be these economic accords that are really designed to help the Israeli economy. They’re very much oriented to Israel’s interests rather than Canada’s interests. And once Harper’s gone, it’s going to be these accords that have the longer-lasting impact on deepening bilateral ties between the two countries.
DESVARIEUX: How do these economic accords, as you put it, compare with Harper’s $66 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority?
ENGLER: Well, I think they shouldn’t be compared all. On one hand, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement is designed to deepen economic ties on, you know, fairly egalitarian terms between Israel and Canada. In the case of the aid that Canada’s giving to the Palestinian Authority, this is–you know, it’s stated, it’s called aid, but in fact if you look at what most of the Canadian five-year $300 million aid program that began in December 2007 to the Palestinian Authority, and if you look at where most of that aid money went to, it went to building up the Palestinian security force in the West Bank that was designed to, on one hand, combat the rise of Hamas, so to support the Palestinian Authority in their political battle with Hamas, and on the other hand, it was designed to prop up a corrupt and undemocratic Palestinian Authority. Of course, Mahmoud Abbas’s electoral mandate ended in 2009.
So we actually have internal documents from Margaret Biggs, who is the president of the CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, from about a year ago, where she stated very clearly that Israel supports Canada’s aid program to the Palestinian Authority. The Canadian government had actually threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian authority when the Palestinian Authority pursued its UN statehood bid. And Israel was actually pushing Canada to continue that aid.
And in the internal document that was published by Postmedia, it also states–Margaret Biggs, the head of CIDA, says that “the emergence of popular protests … against the Palestinian Authority,” [incompr.] quotes, that this made Canadian aid to the Palestinian Authority security force particularly important. So, in other words, the Palestinian Authority is facing pressure from grassroots protests, and Canadian aid to the Palestinian Authority goes to supporting their security force that has put down demonstrations, demonstrations against the Palestinian Authority’s operations, but also demonstrations against ongoing Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.
So the Canadian aid, we call it aid to the Palestinians. Really what it is is aid to a corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian Authority that is increasingly out of touch with the desire of most Palestinians for liberation from Israeli colonialism.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Yves Engler, thank you so much for joining us.
ENGLER: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

The long history of Zionism in Canada

Canada’s Conservative government is trying to convince Canadian Jews to support its right-wing imperialistic worldview.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently spoke to the annual Toronto gala of the Jewish National Fund, which has a long history of dispossessing Palestinians and discriminating against non-Jews.

Echoing the words of Theodor Herzl, a founder of political Zionism, Harper told the 4,000 attendees that Israel is a “light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness.”

Shortly before this event the Minister for Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney spoke at the launch of the Canadian chapter of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Established by a former colonel in the Israeli military, MEMRI selectively (mis)translates stories from Arab and Iranian media in a bid to advance expansionist Israeli interests.

Kenney told the audience assembled at Montreal’s Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue that MEMRI is “a peaceful weapon of truth-telling in a civilizational conflict in which we are all engaged.”

The comments from Harper and Kenney certainly play well with those in the Jewish community committed to Israeli and Western imperialism, but they also spur that sentiment. Most people respect power and when leading politicians say a country is involved in a “civilizational conflict” against “a region of darkness” it tends to shape opinion.

Few Canadian Jews — or others among the target audience for that matter — realize that Harper and Kenney don’t take this “clash of civilizations” talk literally (if they did they wouldn’t be deepening political ties with a number of Middle Eastern monarchies and selling billions of dollars in weaponry to the region’s “darkest” regime, Saudi Arabia.)

While the Harper government’s pro-Israel comments are particularly extreme, they are far from unique in Canadian history. For more than a century non-Jewish Canadians have promoted a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Similar to Europe, Zionism’s roots in Canada are Christian, not Jewish. Early Canadian support for Zionism was based on the more literal readings of the Bible that flowed out of the Protestant Reformation.

They were also tied to this country’s status as a dominion of the British Empire, which in the latter half of the nineteenth century began to see Zionism as a potential vehicle to strengthen its geostrategic position in the region.

At the time of confederation, Canada’s preeminent Christian Zionist was Henry Wentworth Monk. To buy Palestine from the Ottoman Empire in 1875, Monk began the Palestine Restoration Fund.

Unsuccessful, seven years later he took out an ad in the Jewish World proposing a “Bank of Israel” to finance Jewish resettlement. Irving Abella’s book A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada describes Monk as “an eccentric but respected businessman” who took up a campaign in Canada and England to raise funds for buying land in Palestine during the 1870s and 1880s.

“In 1881 Monk even proposed setting up a Jewish National Fund,” Abella writes. “He issued manifestoes, wrote long articles, spoke to assorted meetings and lobbied extensively in England and Canada to realize his dream.”

Monk called for the British Empire to establish a “dominion of Israel” similar to the dominion of Canada. In the 1978 book Canada and Palestine, Zachariah Kay notes: “Monk believed that Palestine was the logical center of the British Empire, and could help form a confederation of the English-speaking world.”

Monk was not alone in Canada. Citing a mix of Christian and pro-British rationale, leading Canadian politicians repeatedly expressed support for Zionism. In 1907, two cabinet ministers attended the Federation of Zionist Societies of Canada convention, telling delegates that Zionism had the support of the government, according to Kay’s book.

Kay’s book also states that Arthur Meighen, then solicitor-general and later prime minister, proclaimed in November 1915: “I think I can speak for those of the Christian faith when I express the wish that God speed the day when the land of your forefathers shall be yours again. This task I hope will be performed by that champion of liberty the world over — the British Empire.”

The 1917 Balfour Declaration, which declared British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, boosted support for Zionism in this country. In the years thereafter, Canadian politicians of various stripes repeatedly urged Jews (and others) to support Zionism.

During a July 1922 speech to the Zionist Federation of Canada, the anti-Semitic Prime Minister Mackenzie King “was effusive with praise for Zionism,” explains David Bercuson in Canada and the Birth of Israel. King told participants their aspirations were “in consonance” with the greatest ideals of the “Englishman.”

A dozen years later, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett told a coast to-coast radio broadcast for the launch of the United Palestine Appeal fund drive that the Balfour Declaration and the British conquest of Palestine represented the beginning of the fulfillment of biblical prophecies.

According to a 1962 book by Canadian Zionist Bernard Figler, Bennett said, “When the promises of God, speaking through his prophets, are that the home will be restored in the homeland of their forefathers…Scriptural prophecy is being fulfilled. The restoration of Zion has begun.”

Jewish Zionism must be understood from within the political climate in which it operated. And Canada’s political culture clearly fostered Zionist ideals.

British imperialism, Christian Zionism and nationalist ideology were all part of this country’s political fabric. Additionally, in the early 1900s most Canadians did not find it odd that Europeans would take a “backward” people’s land, which is what settlers did to the indigenous population here.

A number of books about Canada’s Jewish community discuss how elite Canadian Jews, especially after the 1917 Balfour Declaration, were more active Zionists than their US counterparts. In Canada’s Jews: A People’s Journey, Gerald Tulchinsky explains: “The First World War accentuated differences between Canadian and American Jewry. For example, loyalty to Britain’s cause provided Zionists with opportunities to identify their purposes with Britain’s imperial mission.”

When British General Edmund Allenby led a campaign in late 1917 to take Palestine from the Ottomans as many as 400 Canadians (about half recruited specifically for the task) fought in Allenby’s Jewish Legion. Sometimes beleaguered Jewish communities were praised by the media for taking up England’s cause to conquer Palestine.

Since Israel’s creation in 1948 different Canadian governments have expressed varying degrees of support. But overall, the laudatory public declarations have continued.

After a long career of support for Zionism as external minister and prime minister, Lester Pearson referred to that country as “an outpost, if you will, of the West in the Middle East.”

External Affairs Minister Don Jamieson echoed this sentiment in an October 1977 speech. “Israel is an increasingly valuable ally of the West and Jews and non-Jews alike should see to it that Israel remains … an ally of the Western world,” Jamieson said. “We in Canada must see to it that when Israel is making such tremendous sacrifices, we should stand ready to help Israel with oil and material assistance.”

Yes, the current government is more aggressive in its public declarations than any before it and this has helped drive the establishment Jewish community to an even more hardline position.

To the Conservatives’ delight, two years ago the ninety-year old Canadian Jewish Congress was disbanded by its wealthy donors in favor of an even more Israel-focused Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Similarly, the Conservatives’ strong ties to Christian Zionism has prodded the Zionist lobby group B’nai Brith to deepen its ties with Canada Christian College and the prominent right-wing evangelist Charles McVety.

At the same time, the anti-racist sectors of Canada’s Jewish community have made major strides in recent years. Groups such as Independent Jewish Voices, Not In Our Name, Jewish Voice for Peace, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Women in Solidarity with Palestine and Jews for a Just Peace, have undercut the notion that all Canadian Jews support Israeli policy or Zionism. But these groups are unlikely to become dominant voices within the Jewish community until there is a shift in Canada’s political culture.

Canadian Zionism has long been part of the religious and political establishment. In every community there are those who take the side of the rich and powerful.

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Canadian foreign policy is to promote corporate greed

Should the primary purpose of Canadian foreign policy be the promotion of corporate interests?

Canada’s business class certainly seems to think so. And with little political or ideological opposition to this naked self-interest, Harper’s Conservatives seem only too happy to put the full weight of government behind the promotion of private profits.

Recently, the Conservatives announced that “economic diplomacy” will be “the driving force behind the Government of Canada’s activities through its international diplomatic network.” According to their Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP), “All diplomatic assets of the Government of Canada will be marshalled on behalf of the private sector to increase success in doing business abroad.”

The release of GMAP is a crass confirmation of the Conservatives’ pro-corporate foreign policy. In recent years the Conservatives’ have spent tens of millions of dollars to lobby US and European officials on behalf of tar sands interests; expanded arms sales to Middle East monarchies and other leading human rights abusers; strengthened the ties between aid policy and a Canadian mining industry responsible for innumerable abuses.

While some commentators have suggested that GMAP is a “modern” response to China’s international policy, it actually represents a return to a time many consider the high point of unfettered capitalism. Often in the late 1800s wealthy individuals not employed by Ottawa conducted Canadian diplomacy. The owner of the Toronto Globe, George Brown, for instance, negotiated a draft treaty with the U.S. in 1874, while Sandford Fleming, the surveyor of the Canadian Pacific Railway, represented Canada at the 1887 Colonial Conference in London.

From its inception the Canadian foreign service reflected a bias towards economic concerns. There were trade commissioners, for instance, long before ambassadors. By 1907 there were 12 Canadian trade commissions staffed by “commercial agents” located in Sydney, Capetown, Mexico City, Yokohama and numerous European and U.S. cities.

Despite this historic precedent, in the 21st century it should be controversial for a government to openly state that economic considerations drive international policy. Yet criticism of GMAP has been fairly muted, which may reflect how many progressives feel overwhelmed by the Conservatives right-wing aggressiveness in every policy area.

Or perhaps there’s a more fundamental explanation. The mainstream political/media establishment basically agrees with the idea that corporate interests should dominate foreign policy.

In response to GMAP, Postmedia ran a debate between John Manley, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and a member of the advisory panel that helped draw up the Conservatives’ plan, and former foreign minister and leading proponent of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, Lloyd Axworthy. While Manley lauded the Conservatives’ move, Axworthy criticized it as “bad trade policy. The best way to enlarge your trade prospects and to develop a willingness for agreements and to improve economic exchange is to have a number of contacts to show other countries that you are a willing and co-operative player on matters of security, on matters of human rights, and on matters of development.”

Axworthy did not express principled criticism of the Conservatives’ move; he simply said that “trade prospects” — a euphemism for corporate interests — are best advanced through a multifaceted foreign-policy. Widely lauded by the liberal intelligentsia, Axworthy reflects the critical end of the dominant discussion, which largely takes its cues from the corporate class. And Canada’s business class is more internationally focused than any other G8 country.

Heavily dependent on “free trade” Canadian companies are also major global investors. The world’s largest privately owned security company, GardaWorld, has 45,000 employees operating across the globe while another Montréal-based company, SNC Lavalin, has engineering projects in 100 countries. Corporate Canada’s most powerful sector is also a global force. The big five banks, which all rank among the top 65 in the world, now do a majority of their business outside of this country. Scotiabank, for example, operates in 45 countries.

The mining sector provides the best example of Canadian capital’s international prominence. Three quarters of the world’s mining companies are based in Canada or listed on Canadian stock exchanges. Present in almost every country, Canadian corporations operate thousands of mineral projects abroad.

With $711.6 billion in foreign direct investments last year, Canadian companies push for (and benefit from) Ottawa’s diplomatic, aid and military support. As their international footprint has grown, they’ve put ever more pressure on the government to serve their interests. There is simply no countervailing force calling on the government to advance international climate negotiations, arms control measures or to place constraints on mining companies.

There’s also limited ideological opposition to neoliberalism. Few in Canada promote any alternative to capitalism. Until unions, social groups and activists put forward an alternative economic and social vision it’s hard to imagine that Canadian foreign policy will do much more than promote private corporate interests.

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Make Harper pay for his environmental crimes

Will Supertyphoon Haiyan serve as a wake-up call for Canadians? Can environmental activists connect the dots between Harper’s climate crimes and the death and destruction caused by the most powerful storm ever recorded?

In response to the thousands who have died and hundreds of thousands who have been left without shelter on a number of islands in the Philippines, aid agencies, rescue services and many countries’ militaries have been mobilized, while many Canadians are making donations. But rather than simply provide aid after a disaster occurs, doesn’t it make sense to also deal with root causes?

At the UN climate talks currently taking place in Poland, Filipino negotiator Naderev Sano explained, “What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness.” Simultaneously, Sano announced he would fast until there is progress at the negotiations towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

For years the World Meteorological Organization has warned of the links between climate change and the growing number of natural disasters. Discussing the recent disaster in the Philippines, the agency’s chief Michel Jarraud, noted “Although individual tropical cyclones cannot be directly attributed to climate change, higher sea levels are already making coastal populations more vulnerable to storm surges.”

But Typhoon Haiyan or Hurricane Sandy are simply the most visible face of anthropogenic global warming. Loss of crops and increases in various diseases linked to climate change are already taking a toll on millions of people around the world. The Climate Vulnerability Monitor has estimated that climate disturbances are responsible for some 400,000 deaths per year, a number expected to hit one million by 2030.

In an oddly unjust twist, most of the victims live in countries that discharge few greenhouse gasses. While Canada and the U.S., for instance, emit among the most GHG’s per capita, places like Bangladesh and Ethiopia are being hit hardest by climate change.

Despite a growing human toll and scientific consensus on climate change, the Harper Conservatives have pushed to grow the “carbon bomb.” This week they applauded a move by Australia’s new rightwing government to eliminate the country’s carbon tax. A Guardian headline noted, “Canada reveals climate stance with praise for Australian carbon tax repeal: Canada discourages other industrialized nations from following through on their own climate change commitments.”

At every turn, Harper’s government has blocked progress on setting minimally serious targets for reducing CO2 emissions. They made Canada the first country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that commits the leading industrial economies to reducing their CO2 emissions below 1990 levels. For five years running they’ve received the Colossal Fossil given out by hundreds of environmental groups for being the country that’s done the most to undermine different international climate negotiations.

In a bid to advance tar sands interests, Ottawa has lobbied aggressively against efforts to reduce carbon emissions from fuel sources. They’ve worked feverishly to undermine the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive and have targeted California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and Section 526 of the U.S. Energy Security and Independence Act, which effectively forbids government agencies, including the heavy consuming U.S. military, from buying oil with a high carbon footprint.

In addition to undermining international climate negotiations and other countries’ modest efforts to reduce GHGs, the Conservatives are ignoring their own reduction commitments. In 2009 Ottawa committed to reducing carbon emissions 17 per cent by 2020 (from the level that existed in 2005). But now Environment Canada is admitting that there will only be a 3 per cent drop.

To the extent that some sectors of the economy are seeing GHG reductions it’s mostly because provincial governments, especially Ontario, are phasing out coal use for electricity. GHG emissions from electrical generation are set to drop 41-million tonnes between 2005 and 2020, but this reduction will be more than wiped out by soaring emissions from the tar sands, which are expected to increase by 61-million tonnes from 2005 to 2020.

The economic interests behind tar sands growth basically guarantees that Canada will oppose or flout international agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Former environment minister Peter Kent made this point forcefully in December 2011 when he described the Kyoto Protocol as “one of the biggest blunders the previous Liberal government ever made.”

But the public is not on board with this type thinking. According to a recent Leger Marketing poll sponsored by Canada 2020 and the Université de Montréal, most Canadians don’t know the Harper government pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol. Incredibly, 59 per cent of respondents were unaware that the Conservatives had withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol.

Once aware, they aren’t happy. The poll showed that nearly 60 per cent of Canadians want climate change to be a top issue for the government and 76 per cent say Canada should sign on to a new international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

This combination of ignorance at what the government has done and desire for action suggests there’s a great deal of potential for activism on this issue. One way for the climate justice movement to exert itself could be to choose a half-dozen ridings where Conservative MPs are vulnerable and mount an aggressive popular education campaign. We could flood the specific ridings with tens of thousands of posters and leaflets denouncing Harper’s climate crimes.

If done properly this type of campaign could contribute to some Conservative MPs losing their seats and be a warning to politicians that there is a price to pay for policies that destroy humanity’s ability to survive.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, The Ugly Canadian

Canada: An investment bully

Should the “right” of a foreign corporation to make a profit trump governments’ attempts to create local jobs, improve environmental regulations or establish laws that raise royalty rates?

Most Canadians would say no.

But that’s what the Conservative government is pushing poor countries to accept if they want Canadian investment.

Barely noticed in the media, Canada recently concluded negotiations on a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement (FIPA) with the West African country of Côte d’Ivoire. In a press release Minister for La Francophonie Christian Paradis said: “The investment agreement announced today will provide better protection for Canadian companies operating in Côte d’Ivoire.”

Since the start of the year Ottawa has signed similar agreements with Tanzania, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon and Zambia while over the past few years Canada has concluded FIPAs with Madagascar, Mali and Senegal. Ottawa is currently engaged in FIPA negotiations with Ghana, Guinea, Tunisia and Burkina Faso and plans are likely afoot to pursue bilateral investment treaties with other African countries.

According to the government, “A FIPA is a treaty designed to promote and protect Canadian investment abroad through legally binding provisions and to promote foreign investment in Canada. By ensuring greater protection against discriminatory and arbitrary practices, and by enhancing the predictability of a market’s policy framework, a FIPA gives businesses greater confidence in investing.”

These treaties give corporations the right to sue governments — in private, investor-friendly tribunals — for pursuing policies that interfere with their profit making. They are modelled after NAFTA’s notorious Chapter 11.

The FIPAs signed with African countries are largely motivated by Canada’s mining industry. Over the past two decades Canadian mining investment in Africa has grown over 100 fold from $250 million in 1989 to $6 billion in 2005 and $31 billion in 2011.

The owners of Canada’s mining industry have greatly benefited from three decades of neoliberal reforms in Africa, notably the privatization of state-run mining companies, loosening restrictions on foreign investment and reductions in resource royalty rates. As an early advocate of International Monetary Fund/World Bank structural adjustment programs, Ottawa has channeled hundreds of millions in “aid” dollars to supporting economic liberalization efforts in Africa. The Conservative government’s current FIPA push represents a bid to entrench some of these neoliberal policies.

Canadian mining companies that have benefited from privatizations and loosened restrictions on foreign investment in Africa fear a reversal of these policies. Their concerns can be somewhat alleviated by gaining the ability to sue a government if it expropriates a concession, changes investment rules or requires value added production take place in the country.

The ability to sue — or threaten a suit — is particularly valuable to mining companies facing local opposition to their projects. As the Council of Canadians points out, “Canadian mining companies are using FIPAs with developing countries to claim damages from community opposition to unwanted mega-projects.”

Last week Infinito Gold sued Costa Rica for $1-billion under a Canadian bilateral investment treaty with that country when the government failed to approve a controversial gold mine. The Calgary-based company launched this suit even though polls show that more than 75 percent of Costa Ricans oppose its proposed Crucitas mine and the Supreme Court of Costa Rica denied Infinito permission to proceed with the project on three occasions.

Many Canadian-owned mining sites across Africa are bitterly resisted by local communities and there’s been a great deal of social upheaval around the mines. Canadian mines have spurred war in the Congo, killings in Tanzania and environmental devastation from Kenya to Ghana.
Of course, the dominant media has largely ignored the conflict wrought by Canadian mining companies. Much the same can be said of their role in buying up Africa’s natural resources or Ottawa’s role in facilitating it. The dominant media prefers to focus on how Chinese companies are buying up the continent even though on a per capita basis Canadian corporations have taken control of a great deal more of Africa’s natural resources than China’s.

Unfortunately, the Left has sometimes reflected (and perpetuated) this type of thinking. While a number of independent journalists and small collectives have exposed the destruction wrought by Canadian mining projects, there’s been little opposition to these African FIPAs. On the other hand, there’s been significant opposition to the FIPA Canada recently signed with China.

A recent Leadnow.ca callout to raise money for the Hupacasath First Nation’s legal challenge to the Canada-China FIPA provides an example of this ignorance/indifference towards African FIPAs’. The e-mail has a picture of a woman holding a “Stop FIPA” sign and calls on members to send a note to Conservative MPs to tell them “they will pay a steep political price if they try to pass FIPA.” While Leadnow’s opposition to the China FIPA is to be commended, it need not be done in denial/opposition of the fact that the Conservatives’ have passed a slew of FIPAs’ recently.

One reason the China FIPA has received more attention is that Chinese companies have invested significant sums in Canada while most of Canada’s other FIPA partners have not. In terms of the African FIPAs the investment flow is unidirectional with Canadian companies overwhelmingly dominant.

All too often, criticism of bilateral investment treaties and free ‘trade’ agreements take a nationalistic tone with opposition focused on the ways in which the accords strengthen the rights of multinational corporations in this country. Since African companies have little invested in Canada there’s few short to medium term consequences for Canadians with the African FIPAs and thus little opposition expressed.

But this is short-term thinking. The past 25 years of neoliberalism has demonstrated quite clearly that these policies are being pursued in lockstep globally and that they exacerbate inequality and ecological destruction everywhere.

If we oppose “investor-rights” agreements in Canada we must oppose them everywhere.

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Condemning is easy, but understanding is necessary

There are no shades of grey, no nuance or even cause and effect in the simplistic world view proclaimed by the current Canadian government.

The Conservatives’ response to the horrific attack in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall has been to thump their chests and proclaim their anti-terror bona fides.

The fight against international terrorism is the great struggle of our generation, and we need to continue with the resolve to fight this,” bellowed Foreign Minister John Baird. For his part, Stephen Harper boasted that “our government is the government that listed al-Shabab as a terrorist entity.”

But the prime minister has ignored the fact that his government also played a small role in the growth and radicalization of the organization responsible for this terrible crime in Kenya.
After the failed US invasion of Somalia in the early 1990s (Black Hawk Down) American forces once again attacked that country in December 2006.

After the Islamic Courts Union won control of Mogadishu and the south of the country from an assortment of warlords, American forces launched air attacks and 50,000 Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia. According to a cable released by Wikileaks, the US under secretary of state for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, pressed Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to intervene.

Ottawa supported this aggression in which as many as 20,000 Somalis were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. Throughout 2007 and 2008 when the US launched periodic airstrikes and Ethiopian troops occupied Somalia, Ottawa added its military presence.

At various points during 2008, HMCS Calgary, HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Charlottetown, HMCS Protecteur, HMCS Toronto and HMCS Ville de Québec all patrolled off the coast of Somalia. In the summer of 2008 Canada took command of NATO’s Task Force 150 that worked off the coast of Somalia.

The Conservatives’ public comments on Somalia broadly supported Ethiopian/US actions. They made no criticism of the US bombings and when prominent Somali-Canadian journalist Ali Iman Sharmarke was assassinated in Mogadishu in August 2007 then foreign minister Peter Mackay only condemned “the violence” in the country. He never mentioned that the assassins were pro-government militia members with ties to Ethiopian troops.

The Conservatives backed a February 2007 UN Security Council resolution that called for an international force in Somalia. They also endorsed the Ethiopia-installed Somali government, which had operated in exile. A February 2007 Foreign Affairs release noted: “We welcome Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed’s announcement to urgently convene a national reconciliation congress involving all stakeholders, including political, clan and religious leaders, and representatives of civil society.” In April 2009 the Somali transitional government’s minister of diaspora affairs and ambassador to Kenya were feted in Ottawa.

Supported by outsiders, the transitional government had little backing among Somalis. AnOxfam report explained: “The TFG [transitional federal government] is not accepted as legitimate by much of the population. Unelected and widely perceived as externally imposed through a process that sidelined sub-national authorities and wider civil society, the transitional federal institutions face strong allegations of corruption and aid diversion.”

In maybe the strongest signal of Canadian support for the outside intervention, Ottawa did not make its aid to Ethiopia contingent on its withdrawal from Somalia. Instead they increased assistance to this strategic ally that borders Sudan and Somalia. Among CIDA’s largest recipients, Ethiopia received about $150 million annually in Canadian aid from 2008 to 2011.

Aid to Ethiopia was controversial and not only because that country invaded and occupied its neighbour. An October 2010 Globe and Mail headline noted: “Ethiopia using Canadian aid as a political weapon, rights group says.”

In early 2009 Ethiopian troops withdrew from Somalia (they reinvaded in late 2011 and some 8,000 Ethiopian troops continue to occupy parts of the country). The Conservatives helped the multi-country African Union force that replaced the Ethiopian troops. “Canada is an active observer in the (African Union) and provides both direct and indirect support to the [Somalia] mission,” explained a heavily censored June 2012 government briefing obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

In 2011 Ottawa contributed $5.8 million US towards logistical support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) while in February 2012 Canada announced a $10 million contribution for the deployment of a Ugandan Formed Police Unit to Somalia. “Indirectly, Canada is engaged in training initiatives through (Directorate of Military Training and Co-operation) to enable (African Union) troop contributing nations through the provision of staff and peace support operations,” noted the above-mentioned internal briefing.

The US paid, trained and armed most of AMISOM. In July 2012 the Los Angeles Times reported: “The U.S. has been quietly equipping and training thousands of African soldiers to wage a widening proxy war against the Shabaab. … Officially, the troops are under the auspices of the African Union. But in truth … the 15,000-strong force pulled from five African countries is largely a creation of the State Department and Pentagon, trained and supplied by the U.S. government and guided by dozens of retired foreign military personnel hired through private contractors.”

In October 2011 thousands of Kenyan troops invaded Somalia and they remain in the country under AMISOM. “Kenya, in many ways, was simply carrying out the West’s bidding,” noted a recent Globe and Mail editorial.

Al Shabab claims its killing of shoppers and mall workers in Nairobi was a response to Kenya’s military invasion of Somalia. Since the Ethiopia/US invasion in late 2006 the group has waged a violent campaign against the foreign forces in the country and Somalia’s transitional government. During this period al Shabab has grown from being the relatively small youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union to the leading oppositional force in the country. It has also radicalized. Rob Wise, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, notes that Ethiopia’s occupation of Somalia transformed al Shabab into, “the most powerful and radical armed faction in the country.”
Al Shabab has turned from being a national organization towards increasing ties to Al Qaeda. In July 2010 the group pulled off its first major international attack when it killed 74 in Kampala in response to Uganda’s occupation of Somalia.

Canada’s support for foreign intervention in Somalia has not gone unnoticed. When a group calling themselves Mujahedin of Somalia abducted a Canadian and Australian in October 2008 they accused Canada and Australia of “taking part in the destruction of Somalia.” They demanded a change in policy from these two countries. Similarly, in October 2011 an al Shabaab official cited Canada as one of a handful of countries that deserved to be attacked.

Portrayed by Washington and Ottawa as simply a struggle against Islamic terrorism, the intervention in Somalia was driven by geopolitical and economic considerations. A significant amount of the world’s goods, notably oil from the Persian Gulf, pass along the country’s 1,000-mile coastline and whoever controls this territory is well placed to exert influence over this shipping.

There are also oil deposits in the country. A February 2012 Observer headline noted: “Why defeat of Al Shabaab could mean an oil bonanza for western firms in Somalia.” With plans to invest more than $50 million, Vancouver-based Africa Oil began drilling an exploratory well in northern Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region at the start of 2012. This was the first significant oil drilling in Somalia in two decades. The Canadian company didn’t escape the eye of Al Shabaab. A Twitter post from the group’s press office called Africa Oil’s contracts “non-binding”. “Western companies must be fully aware that all exploration rights and drilling contracts in N. Eastern Somalia are now permanently nullified”, the group’s spokesperson wrote. In an interview with Maclean’s Africa Oil CEO Keith Hill acknowledged the “significant” security risks and costs for their operations in Somalia but he noted the rarity of a “billion-barrel oil field.”

The 2006 US/Ethiopia invasion of Somalia has spiraled into ever more foreign intervention/local radicalization, which has caused a great deal of human suffering. This destructive cycle needs to be broken.

If the Conservatives have any concern for the people of Somalia — and neighbouring countries — they’d stop their anti-terror chest thumping and end their contributions to this violent cycle.

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What is Ottawa’s position on the UN veto?

We support the UN veto, except when used against something we want. That seems to be Ottawa’s position towards the ability of the five permanent members of the Security Council to veto resolutions.

Recently Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Minister John Baird criticized the possibility of Russia vetoing a UN resolution authorizing military action in Syria. In an article titled “Putin shouldn’t have veto on world security” the National Post quoted Harper saying, “we are simply not prepared to accept the idea that there is a Russian veto over all of our actions.” For his part, Baird mocked the idea that military action without UN approval would be illegal. “This is OK if Russia says it’s OK, but it’s not OK if Russia won’t say it’s OK,” Baird complained to a Toronto Star reporter.

While the Security Council veto is flagrantly undemocratic, it’s more than a bit hypocritical for an ardently pro-Israel and pro-US government to denounce it. Over the past 40 years the US has used the veto more times than any other permanent Security Council member and Israel has been the primary beneficiary. Between 1972-2011 Washington vetoed more than 40 Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli actions.

The current Canadian government doesn’t seem to have opposed any of the recent US vetoes. In fact, when the Palestinian Authority pursued its statehood bid at the UN, Ottawa cheered on the Obama administration’s threat to veto any Security Council motion recommending full membership status for the Palestinians.

But there’s also a historic irony in Ottawa complaining about Russia’s veto. At the United Nations founding convention in the spring of 1945, the Prime Minister of New Zealand called the veto for major powers “an evil thing” while the Australian officials in San Francisco pushed a proposal without a veto for permanent members of the Security Council. In a move with long-lasting implications the Canadian delegation abstained on this Australian motion, denying them the single vote needed to carry the meeting. After this close vote a member of the Canadian delegation, Lester Pearson, is said to have asked the US delegation whether it would sign the new international organization’s charter without the veto. They said no, prompting Ottawa to declare its support for the permanent Security Council members’ veto.

“Canada Switches to Back Big 5 Veto,” blared the front page of the New York Times. Probably the most important middle power at the time, five medium and smaller countries followed Ottawa’s lead. But, the poorer and smaller countries subsequently picked Australia, not Canada, to sit on the opening incarnation of the Security Council.

It’s past time to do away with the Security Council veto. Nearly a decade ago the UN’s ‘High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change’ declared: “As a whole the institution of the veto has an anachronistic character that is unsuitable for the institution in an increasingly democratic age.”

But it’s not just the big five veto that is an anachronism. We should also do away with the Security Council’s effective control over UN military force. Ottawa could get the ball rolling by proclaiming that this country’s armed forces will only ever be used abroad under a UN mandate passed by the 193 members of the General Assembly, not the Security Council.

If other countries follow suit, Prime Minister Harper would no longer need to worry about a “Russian veto over all of our actions.”

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