Category Archives: Justin Trudeau

Do Canada’s unilateral sanctions violate international law?

Is Canada breaking international law when it applies unilateral coercive economic measures that are commonly referred to as sanctions?

Most countries and international law experts believe sanctions are only legitimate when approved by the World Trade Organization or United Nations Security Council. Economic sanctions outside the framework of the UN charter are generally considered “unilateral” and unlawful. According to the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization report “Unilateral and Secondary Sanctions: An International Law Perspective”, “the imposition of unilateral and secondary sanctions on countries through application of national legislation is not-permissible under international law.”

So US sanctions on Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and elsewhere clearly violate the UN charter. Rather than a nonviolent measure, they are akin to a medieval siege designed to starve a city or fortress into submission.

Unilateral sanctions run afoul of the principle of self-determination and people’s right to development. In The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights a trio of authors note: “Unilateral economic sanctions (as opposed to multilateral UN measures under Chapter VII of the Charter) imposed by one State or group of States on another, to compel the latter to change a particular political or economic policy, could amount to a prohibited intervention and a denial of self-determination.” Similarly, the UN Human Rights Council recently reaffirmed that “unilateral coercive measures are major obstacles to the implementation of the Declaration on the Right to Development.” Last month the Human Rights Council approved a resolution 30 to 15 (with two abstentions) urging all states to stop adopting unilateral sanctions as they impede “the right of individuals and peoples to development.”

In recent years the Canadian government has adopted unilateral sanctions against a host of countries including Venezuela, China, Russia, Nicaragua and others. In a sign of Ottawa’s growing employment of sanctions as a tool of coercive statecraft, Canada adopted legislation modeled after the US Magnitsky Act and Global Affairs created a Sanctions Policy and Operations Coordination Division in 2018. At the time they put up $22 million over five years to enforce their sanctions regime.

Alongside the US, UK and EU, Canada sanctioned a Chinese state agency and four officials recently. Individuals assetsin Canada were frozen and they are prohibited from travelling here or doing business with Canadian firms.

Two years ago Canada sanctioned nine Nicaraguan government officials, including ministers and the president of the National Assembly, in coordination with Washington. A June 2019 media note released by the US State Department declared “Canada’s sanctions actions today illustrate the international commitment to Nicaraguans’ cause, signaling clearly that President Ortega’s insufficient and self-serving measures are not nearly enough to address Nicaraguans’ demands for democracy, basic rights, and freedom from repression.”

Canada has adopted four rounds of sanctions against Venezuela since 2017. These moves reinforced and legitimated US sanctions that have contributed to tens of thousands of deaths. According to the preliminary report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures, Alena Douhan, “the [Venezuelan] government’s revenue was reported to shrink by 99%, with the country currently living on 1% of its pre-sanctions income,” which has impeded “the ability of Venezuela to respond to the Covid-19 emergency.”

Not only a possible violation of international law, Canada’s first round of sanctions on Venezuela may have actually contravened domestic law. According to lawyer Andrew Dekany the August 2017 sanctions weren’t in accordance with Canadian legislation stating that international sanctions be adopted only as part of international alliances. As such, the Trump administration aided the Trudeau government by creating the US-Canada “Association Concerning the Situation in Venezuela” to conform to the existing sanctions legislation. In a Venezuela Analysis article titled “Do Canadian Sanctions Against Venezuela Violate Canadian Law?”, Dekany wrote, “there is no reason for Canada to ‘create’ this association but for its desire to help the U.S. out [by sanctioning Venezuela], having failed to persuade the one obvious organization (Organization of American States) which it had democratically joined to, among other things, act in such a way.”

Partly to sidestep the requirement to sanction in accordance with international institutions the federal government adopted the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (or Magnitsky law), empowering it to freeze individuals’ assets/visas and prohibit Canadian companies from dealing with sanctioned individuals. These sanctions are presented as simply targeting corrupt officials, but they have broader impacts. They dissuade broader commercial relations with a country and often legitimate harsher US measures. Whether they are in compliance with the UN charter is unclear. In her September report “Negative impact of unilateral coercive measures: priorities and road map: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights”, Douhan questions “the legality of sanctions imposed on individuals and non-State entities, especially due to the proliferation of Magnitsky-like acts.”

Trudeau and his ministers regularly claim to promote an “international rules based order” with the No. 1 priority on Global Affairs’ website “revitalizing the rules-based international order.” As such, it’s remarkable how little discussion there is of whether unilateral Canadian sanctions violate international law.

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Filed under International Law, Justin Trudeau

Trudeau’s refusal to sign UN nuclear ban is hypocritical and unpopular

The Trudeau government’s refusal to sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty is both unpopular and hypocritical.

According to a poll released last week by Nanos Research, 55% of Canadians “support” and 19% “somewhat support” signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The same percentage agreed, or somewhat agreed with Canada signing a treaty that became international law in January even if Washington pressures Ottawa not to.

The poll commissioned by the Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition, Simons Foundation Canada and Collectif Échec à la guerre also found that Canadians are concerned about the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Eighty percent of the 1007 people asked said the world should work to eliminate nuclear weapons while only 9% considered it acceptable for countries to have nuclear weapons for protection.

The poll highlights the unpopularity of the government’s position towards a treaty designed to stigmatize and criminalize nukes in a similar fashion to the UN landmine treaty and Chemical Weapons Convention. Canada was one of 38 states to vote against — 123 voted in favour — holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. Justin Trudeau then refused to send a representative to the TPNW negotiating meeting, which two-thirds of all countries attended. The PM went so far as to call the anti-nuclear initiative “useless” and since then his government has refused to join the 86 countries that have already signed the treaty. At the UN General Assembly in November Canada voted against 118 countries that reaffirmed their support for the TPNW.

The Liberals have taken these positions as they’ve publicly expressed a desire to abolish these ghastly weapons. Just before the TPNW entered into force at the start of the year Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Rob Oliphant said “we are committed to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.” In October, Global Affairs declared, “Canada unequivocally supports global nuclear disarmament.”

In isolation the gap between the Liberals’ nuclear weapons pronouncements and actions is striking. But if one broadens the lens, the hypocrisy is substantially more astounding. The Trudeau government says its international affairs are driven by a belief in an “international rules-based order” and “feminist foreign policy” yet they refuse to sign a nuclear treaty that directly advances these stated principles.

The TPNW has been dubbed the “first feminist law on nuclear weapons” since it specifically recognizes the different ways in which nuclear weapons production and use disproportionately impacts women. Additionally, the TPNW strengthens the international rules-based order by making weapons that are immoral also illegal under international law.

Fortunately, the NDP, Greens and Bloc Québécois all actively support the TPNW. The recent Nanos poll suggests five times more Canadians would vote for a party that supports the Treaty than would vote against one for doing so.

By signing the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty the Trudeau government can fulfill both Canadians wishes and their stated foreign-policy rhetoric.

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, nuclear weapons

Garneau and Blinken meet to subvert Haitian democracy

After Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau and new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held their first bilateral meeting Global Affairs’ release mentioned China, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and… Haiti. The first four nations are all in the crosshairs of Washington and Ottawa. But Haiti’s de facto president is in the opposite position. Jovenel Moïse would fall quickly if the US and Canada withdrew their support.

What does it mean that a supposedly ‘unimportant’, impoverished, nation is the only non-enemy government mentioned by those in charge of US and Canadian diplomacy? Is it a recognition that their Haitian puppet might fall or is it a backhanded compliment to the anti-dictatorship movement? Or maybe it reflects the US and Canada’s commitment to credible elections?

On Sunday thousands marched against the dictatorship in Port-au-Prince. A week earlier 100,000 marched in the capital and thousands more protested in a half-dozen other cities. On February 14 nearly 100,000 also marched in Port-au-Prince.

Since Jovenel Moïse extended his mandate extra-constitutionally on February 7 there has been a wave of criticism against US and Canadian policy in Haiti. The country’s heterogenous opposition have vociferously condemned the foreign powers. In the US there have been a number of rallies and online actions. A number of Democratic party senators and congresspeople have also called on the Biden administration to stop propping up Moïse. In Canada three current MPs and three former MPs, as well as Noam Chomsky, David Suzuki, Naomi Klein and 500 others, signed a letter criticizing Ottawa’s “support for a repressive, corrupt Haitian president devoid of constitutional legitimacy.” A coalition of 30 Haitian Canadian groups, as well as the Canadian Labour Congress and Council of Global Unions, have also expressed opposition to Canadian and US policy in Haiti.

Blinken and Garneau are undoubtedly feeling some pressure. At the same time, however, the situation on the ground is fluid and if they want Moïse to remain it is imperative to express their diplomatic backing.

The post Blinken/Garneau meeting release noted that the two discussed a desire “to ensure the upcoming electoral process in Haiti is credible, inclusive and transparent.” But Haiti’s opposition has already rejected elections under Moïse, which few will consider “credible”. In the summer Moïse pushed out the entire electoral council and appointed a new one in contravention of the constitution.

The Canada-US position ensures the opposite of their stated aim. By supporting Moïse as he extends his mandate, rewrites the constitution, criminalizes protests, sets up a new intelligence agency, instigates a gang alliance to terrorize the slums, etc. they are guaranteeing that forthcoming elections won’t be credible. But concern for credibility has not been a defining feature of Ottawa and Washington’s response to Haitian elections over the past 20 years.

After Fanmi Lavalas won more than 70% of 7,000 mayoral, senatorial, etc. positions in 2000 the US and Canada undermined what OAS observers initially called “a great success”, probably Haiti’s most credible ever election. Realizing there was little chance Fanmi Lavalas would be defeated at the ballot box in the foreseeable future, they suddenly claimed the previously employed method to determine whether a runoff was to be held in a handful of Senate seats made the election “deeply flawed”. A few years later they overthrew all the elected officials.

After a two-year coup government repressed pro-democracy forces, the US and Canada financed elections that blocked the most popular political party from participating. On simple procedural grounds the election was also dubious. During the election in 2000 there were more than 10,000 registration centres and some 11,000 polling stations across the country. In 2006 the coup government reduced that number to 500 registration centres and a little more than 800 polling stations, even though they had some $50 million to run the election (mostly from the US, Canada and France). In the poorest neighborhoods, where opposition to the coup was strongest, registration centres were few and far between.

At the last minute former president René Préval entered the race. The coup government sought to block Préval from winning in the first round and the head of the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections, chief electoral officer of Elections Canada Jean-Pierre Kingsley, ardently supported the effort. After an explosion of protest following the discovery of thousands of ballots burned in a dump, the US, French and Canadian ambassadors — who initially insisted the electoral council continue counting votes to force a second round — reluctantly agreed to negotiate with their counterparts from Brazil and Chile, as well as the UN and others to grant Préval a first-round victory. But they used the negotiation to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Préval’s mandate, even though he likely won 60% of the vote.

Not viewing Préval as sufficiently compliant, the US and Canada pushed for presidential elections months after the devastating 2010 earthquake and amidst a deadly cholera outbreak. Following the first round of voting, Canadian and US officials forced the candidate whom Haiti’s electoral council had in second place, Jude Celestin, out of the runoff. According to the official results, Mirlande Manigat received 31% of the vote, Celestin 22% and Michel Martelly 21%. With no statistical rationale they removed votes from Celestin, who was allied with Préval, until Martelly was in second place.

Through Martelly’s term he failed to hold legislative elections and ruled by decree. That didn’t stop the US and Canada from supporting the corrupt and thuggish former Ton Ton Macoute. After repeatedly postponing elections Martelly held a poll marred by fraud in 2015. A subsequent audit found that 92% of polling place tally sheets had significant irregularities and 900,000 of the 1.5 million votes cast for president were from accredited poll observers who could vote at any voting station. Despite mass protests against Martelly’s handpicked successor Moïse first round lead, the US and Canada pushed to move forward with the second round of the election as if the first round of voting was legitimate. Riots ultimately forced the cancellation of the second round. In a subsequent redo Moïse ‘won’ an election with few participating.

While the US and Canada claim to support democracy and fair elections in Haiti, history proves otherwise. In reality neither government seems to care about the wishes of ordinary Haitians.

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti, Justin Trudeau

Trudeau faces series of setbacks to corporate, imperial policies

As much as some Canadians would like to believe their country is a force for good in the world, the truth is more sobering. Extreme inequality is rampant and the Canadian government is an important supporter of corporate power and imperialism in global affairs. The good news is that the pushers of the unfair, unjust and immoral existing world order do not always get their way.

It is uplifting to tally some of the Trudeau government’s setbacks:

  • Last Friday the International Criminal Court ruled that it has jurisdiction over Israeli war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories, which should pave the way for a possible criminal investigation. A year ago the Trudeau government sent a letter to the ICC saying it didn’t believe the court had jurisdiction over Palestine. Its letter implied it could sever funding to the ICC if the court pursued an investigation of Israeli crimes. After the recent decision new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau released a statement criticizing the ICC decision.
  • On January 26 former Liberal finance minister Bill Morneau withdrew his bid to lead the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries after it was determined he had no chance of winning.
  • On January 22 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force, making weapons that have always been immoral also illegal under international law. Canada voted against holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination and boycotted the TPNW negotiating meeting, which two-thirds of the world’s countries attended.
  • On January 20 new US President Joe Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. The Trudeau government pressed the president-elect to break a direct promise and maintain a climate-destroying pipeline okayed by Donald Trump.
  • Since Venezuela’s new National Assembly began sitting on January 6 numerous countries have withdrawn from the US–Canada led campaign to anoint Juan Guaidó President. The European Union dropped its de facto recognition of Guaidó. As did the Dominican Republic. Even the Ottawa-led Lima Group has softened its stance. Last week Panama withdrew the credentials of Guaidó’s ambassador.
  • In October Chileans voted overwhelming to rewrite the country’s Pinochet-era constitution. The referendum was a blow to Canadian corporations operating in Chile and the Trudeau government’s alliance with right-wing governments in the hemisphere.
  • A week earlier Bolivia’s Movimiento al Socialismo won a decisive election victory that was a rejection of the Canadian-backed coup against Evo Morales a year earlier. The overwhelming results were also a blow to Ottawa’s bid to wipe out the remnants of the leftist pink tide in Latin America. (On Sunday an ally of leftist former President Rafael Correa, Andrés Arauz, gained the most votes in the first round of Ecuador’s presidential election.)
  • In June the international community decisively rejected Trudeau’s foreign policy. They voted against Canada’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council by a larger margin than a decade earlier under Stephen Harper.

People who support a fairer, more just and equal world should take comfort from these defeats for the Trudeau government’s pro-corporate and imperial policies. Proof that the bad guys are not invincible should offer hope for bigger victories to come.

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Filed under Activism, Justin Trudeau

Will any MPs criticize Ottawa’s support for dictatorship in Haiti?

The Liberals’ commitment to a neo-Duvalierist dictatorship in Haiti is being tested. Hopefully Black History Month offers opposition parties an opportunity to finally echo growing grassroots criticism of Canadian policy in the hemisphere’s poorest country.

Since Monday a squatter has been occupying the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. On Sunday evening Supreme Court Justice Joseph Mecene Jean-Louis was appointed provisional interim President of Haiti by the opposition parties that say Jovenel Moïse’s mandate is over as the constitution states. But, Moïse has refused to leave, claiming another year on his mandate. He responded by arresting one Supreme Court judge and (unconstitutionally) dismissing three judges as well as sending police to occupy the Supreme Court building.

Moïse has been preparing for this moment for some time. In November he passed a decree criminalizing protests as “terrorism” and another establishing a new intelligence agency while in the summer he instigated a gang alliance to instill fear in the slums. Three months ago Moïse appointed Leon Charles head of the police. The former military man oversaw the police in the 17 months after the 2004 US, France and Canada sponsored coup. At that time Charles publicly referred to a “war” the police waged against the pro-democracy sector. Thousands were killed in political violence after the overthrow of elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Once again Ottawa appears to be backing Charles and a new war on civilians. A few weeks ago (Jan. 18) Canadian ambassador Stuart Savage met Charles to discuss “reinvigorating the police”. A few weeks earlier Savage met Moïse in another sign of the Liberals’ extensive support for the president.

Moïse has also built up the dreaded military revived by his patron, former president Michel Martelly. On Monday the military released a statement backing Moïse in the constitutional dispute and then proceeded to shoot two journalists at a protest, gravely injuring one.

There’s been push back in Canada to Justin Trudeau’s backing of Moïse’s authoritarianism. On Sunday 40 socially distanced demonstrators attended Solidarité Québec-Haïti’s “Rara” musical rally in Montréal against Canadian policy in Haiti and hundreds participated in its nighttime webinar titled “Non au retour du duvaliérisme soutenu par le Canada en Haïti!” Over the past week more than 300 individuals have emailed new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau (and all MPs) to call on Ottawa to “Stop Supporting the Return of Duvalierism in Haiti!”

On the weekend Le Regroupement des Haïtiens de Montréal contre l’Occupation d’Haïti released a statement declaring “No Canadian government support for the dictatorship in Haiti”. Additionally, the Concertation Pour Haïti, which includes Quebec’s major labour unions and a number of government-funded NGOs, demanded Canada “cease all support” for Moïse’s government, “which is increasingly criticized and denounced for its involvement in massacres and violence aimed at establishing a climate of terror, at destroying the opposition and at preventing the emergence of a real alternative.” The Concertation statement added that Ottawa should “cease all forms of support for the illegitimate electoral process and for the constitutional reform project that the authorities want to put in place, a process that does not respect the standards of independence required to establish the legitimacy of a government. The presidency, having failed to organize legislative elections provided for by the Constitution, now governs by decree, holding all the powers on its own.”

In the US Senior Senator Patrick Leahy and seven congresspeople called on the Biden administration to back a transition government. The congresspeople’s statement last week noted, “we feel it is essential that the United States unambiguously reject any attempt by President Moïse to retain power.”

In December the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Chris Aylward, sent a strongly worded letter to the PM critical of Canadian support for Moïse while earlier David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Linda McQuaig, George Elliot Clark and 150 others signed an open letter “calling on the Canadian government to stop backing a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president.” These statements followed on from multiple disruptions by Solidarité Québec-Haïti of ministers, including an occupation of Trudeau’s election office, over the government’s support for Moïse.

But, where are the opposition parties whose job it is to question and oppose government policy? With the exception of Bloc Québécois MP Mario Beaulieu – who sponsored a parliamentary petition critical of “the ‘Core Group’ that allegedly brought to power the governments of Martelly and Moïse, who have been accused of corruption and repression” – the silence has been deafening. I couldn’t find any statement from the NDP or Greens. Nor am I aware of left-wing MPs Paul Manly, Leah Gazan, Alexandre Boulerice, Niki Ashton or Matthew Green releasing anything. A number of these MPs have found time to criticize Chinese repression – where Ottawa has little influence – but have stayed silent when Canadian-trained, financed and diplomatically supported police kill Haitian protesters.

Two centuries ago the Haitian Revolution delivered a massive blow to slavery, colonialism and white supremacy. Is it too much to ask that during Black History Month these left-wing MPs (or their staffers) watch Haiti Betrayed or read some of the many articles critical of Canadian policy in Haiti and tweet their opposition to Canada’s role in reviving Duvalierism?

 

Please email new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau to call on Ottawa to stop supporting president Jovenel Moïse who is reviving the spectre of the brutal Duvalier dictatorship.

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti, Justin Trudeau

Canada backs revival of Duvalierism in Haiti

 

 

Jean-Claude Duvalier’s son Nicolas with President Jovenel Moïse

The ghosts of dictators “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier still haunt Haiti. Canada seems willing to support a return of their methods in the Caribbean nation.

Sunday will be bittersweet for many Haitians. February 7 is usually a day to commemorate the defeat of the Duvalier dictatorship, but this year the date portends the revival of Duvalierism.

After a multi month popular revolt the three decade-long Duvalier dictatorship fell on February 7, 1986. “President for life” Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, who took over from his father at 19, was chased out of the country after 15 years.

Thirty-five years to the day Baby Doc fell a Duvalierist president who should be leaving office is extending his term against the wishes of most Haitians and constitutional experts. In his time in office Jovenel Moïse has restored many aspects of the brutal regime. He suppressed popular protests and instigated a gang alliance to instill fear in the slums. He has ruled by decree and criminalized protests as “terrorism”. Shortly after parliament was disbanded because Moïse failed to hold elections, the president selected individuals to rewrite the constitution in flagrant violation of the law. In November Moïse unilaterally decreed the creation of a new National Intelligence Agency with anonymous, legally untouchable, officers who, notes Kim Ives, “have the power not just to spy and infiltrate but to arrest anybody engaged in ‘subversive’ acts (Article 29) or threatening ‘state security’ i.e. the power of President Jovenel Moïse.” The agency may become analogous to Duvalier’s feared Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (Ton Ton Macoutes).

Moïse is the hand-picked successor of Michel Martelly. A supporter of the 1991 and 2004 coups against elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Martelly was a member of the Ton Ton Macoutes. As president, Martelly surrounded himself with former Duvalierists and death squad leaders who’d been arrested for rape, murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking. When Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti after 25 years, Martelly told the New York Times no one wanted him prosecuted except for “certain institutions and governments” abroad.

In fact Martelly was put in put in place by Washington and Ottawa not long after the deadly 2010 earthquake. In the 2010 election Ottawa intervened to bring far-right president Martelly to power (with about 16 per cent of the votes, since the election was largely boycotted). Canada put up $6 million for elections that excluded Fanmi Lavalas from participating. After the first round, Canadian representatives on an Organization of American States mission helped force the candidate the electoral council had in second place, Jude Celestin, out of the runoff.

Ottawa backed Martelly diplomatically and financially throughout his presidency, including when he sought to ensure arelatively obscure businessman replaced him. Since then, Canada has provided almost unquestioned support for Moïse. Canada has ploughed tens of millions of dollars into the Haitian police and prison system in recent years. They promoted a police force that violently repressed anti-Moïse protests.

It may be hard to imagine that Ottawa would promote the revival of such a notorious dictatorship. But it shouldn’t. Ottawa enabled a young Jean-Claude to take over after François Duvalier died. Canada was among the leading financial contributors to Haiti throughout Baby Doc’s 15-year rule. The aid supported the dictatorship. In “Canadian Development Assistance to Haiti: An Independent Study”, a 1984 report by the semi-official North South Institute, Edward Philip English writes: “It would be naive to pretend that this aid does not contribute to the support of the existing regime, at least in the short-run. It helps to legitimize the regime in the eyes of Haitians by demonstrating international approval and it generates projects and jobs, which the regime is careful to associate with itself as much as possible.”

English adds, “CIDA has placed Canadian advisors as ‘experts’ in several Haitian ministries.” In Spy Wars David Stafford and Jack Granatstein describe one of the individuals leading the CIDA program: “[Hugh] Hambleton lived in true grandeur in the capital, Port-au-Prince, working closely with officials of the notoriously corrupt and brutal government of its dictator, ‘Baby Doc’ Jean-Claude Duvalier.” Canadian officials even influenced who Baby Doc appointed finance minister. Three days before Baby Doc fled, Québec Premier Robert Bourassa refused to comment on whether Prime Minister Brian Mulroney should seek the dictator for life’s exclusion from an upcoming summit of the Francophonie.

Ottawa was even more openly supportive of maintaining ‘Duvalierism without Duvalier’ after the young dictator fell. In the four years after Duvalier fled Canada provided significant assistance to a series of military lead regimes. In November 1986 External Minister Monique Landry visited Haiti to meet government head General Henri Namphy. Canada announced $80 million in assistance over five years and Landry also invited Namphy to the Summit of la Francophonie in Quebec City the next year. As the violent, anti-democratic, nature of the military regime became undeniable Ottawa resisted shifting gears. In the face of significant criticism from the Haitian community and Québec left, Ottawa largely maintained its various forms of support to the military regimes.

Thirty-five years later not much has changed. After forcing Jean-Claude out Haitians struggling for a more just and democratic society face a similar predicament. They not only have to contend with the power of their own ruling elite but are also up against Canada and the US.

Canadians of conscience should support those mobilizing in Haiti today against creeping Duvalierism. It is the least we can do to make up for the shameful role this country has played in that impoverished nation.

 

Please email new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau to call on Ottawa to stop supporting president Jovenel Moïse who is reviving the spectre of the brutal Duvalier dictatorship.

 

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti, Justin Trudeau

Canada pushes Guyana into conflict with Venezuela & helps multinationals grab its oil

Why is Canada pushing Guyana, an impoverished nation of 800,000, into conflict with Venezuela while helping multinationals grab its oil?

Recently Canadian officials criticized Venezuela’s position regarding its territorial dispute with Guyana, which sits on the northeastern tip of South America. Soon after the US put out a statement on the century-old dispute, the Canadian High Commission declared “Venezuela’s recent claim that it has sovereignty over the area adjacent to Guyana’s Essequibo coast is concerning. The decision is in the hands of the International Court of Justice and this judicial process must be respected.”

The Canadian and US statements were in response to Caracas criticizing an International Court of Justice ruling and a joint US/Guyana coast guard exercise in disputed waters that took place on January 8. After that patrol Commander of the US Southern Command Admiral Craig Faller, spent three days in the former British colony. During Faller’s visit the two countries signed a bilateral defence cooperation agreement. The deepening military ties follow on the heels of the first-ever visit by a US secretary of state. In September Mike Pompeo met new Guyanese President Mohamed Irfaan Ali, who Washington backed during an election dispute that paralyzed the country politically for months.

Ottawa also intervened aggressively in the controversial election. Canadian officials released multiple statements critical of the previous government and the vote counting. Apparently, Guyana’s new government is more willing to lend itself to the US-led campaign against Venezuela and to foreign oil interests at the centre of the resurgent territorial dispute.

Washington was once on the other side of the territorial dispute that nearly led the US to invade Canada. At the end of the 1800s British encroachment into what Venezuela considered its territory prompted Washington to assert the Monroe Doctrine, which granted it the “right” to intervene in the internal affairs of countries in the hemisphere. As conflict between Washington and London escalated, Canadian officials worried that war would lead to a US invasion.

Ultimately the dispute was resolved through international arbitration. It was disastrous for Venezuela. Washington legitimated its interventionist Monroe Doctrine and Venezuela lost 90% of the territory. London made a deal with the deciding Russian officials to support its claim. When the underhanded nature of the deal came to light decades later Venezuela renewed its claim to the disputed territory.

In recent years the territorial dispute has been rekindled due to the discovery of large amounts of oil in the sparsely populated region. Prior to Exxon-Mobil’s discovery the Venezuelan government called on the US company to stop drilling. In 2015 Caracas also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Toronto-based Guyana Goldfields, which operated a large gold mine in the disputed area.

While the Guyanese are largely united regarding the territorial dispute, the oil discovery has been quite controversial. There are concerns over the impact of pollutants on communities and fisheries as well as oil spills, which the government will pay to clean up according to its agreement with Exxon. Many in the climate-vulnerable coastal nation are also troubled by the greenhouse gas emissions that will be released. There is also criticism of highly preferential royalty rates. In February Global Witness reported that Exxon and other firms’ sweetheart deal deprived Guyana of billions of dollars in potential revenue. The report, “shows how the oil major used aggressive tactics and threats to pressure inexperienced Guyanese officials to sign the deal for the Stabroek license.”

Amidst significant political backlash, former Alberta Premier Alison Redford was appointed in August to lead a review of Exxon Mobil’s massive planned Payara offshore oil field. Redford’s ties to Exxon should have made her appointment controversial. Exxon-Mobil’s 60% Canadian owned subsidiary, Imperial Oil of Canada, is highly influential in the province she once lead. During Redford’s time as a minister and premier of Alberta Exxon’s subsidiary contributed an average of $10,000 a year to her Conservative party.

Redford’s appointment was also controversial since Ottawa “identified her” to Guyana’s new government and fundedthe process. Canada’s High Commission paid for Redford and other Canadian consultants to review Exxon’s proposal.

On October 1 researcher Bob Thomson put in an Access to Information request for “a copy of the contract between the High Commission and/or Global Affairs and Ms. Redford and/or the company she represents and any terms of reference related to that contract”, as well as “copies of any correspondence between the Canadian High Commission, Global Affairs and the Government of Guyana related to Canadian expectations, interests or benefits from Canadian taxpayer funding of this review.” Despite the law giving the government 30 days to respond (and a possible 30-day extension), the access request has yet to be fulfilled.

The Canadian government openly promotes oil interests in Guyana. They recently announced that their Trade Commissioner Service “laid the groundwork for approximately 20 partnerships between Canadian and Guyanese private sector organizations in the oil and gas sector.” In a December story headlined “How Guyana is emerging as the new frontier for N.L.’s oil services sector”, CBC described a “swarm of companies from the Newfoundland and Labrador oil services sector that is making a play for business in Guyana.” One hundred and seventy firms participated in a virtual Guyanese trade mission organized by Newfoundland’s oil industry association and the High Commission facilitated a “capacity building” accord between Guyana and Newfoundland’s Ministry of Natural Resources. Toronto-based Cataleya holds a 25% stake in another Exxon-led project adjacent to Stabroek with the rights to drill in a 3.3 million-acre area.

Last month outgoing High Commissioner Lilian Chatterjee urged Guyanans: “Don’t resist foreign investment but use your judgement on who you can trust.” Unsurprisingly, Chatterjee told the audience that the Canadian government and corporations were to be “trusted”. Canada was more trustworthy, she said, because “we were here when you had no oil. We have been a strong and reliable friend for more than a century and we have supported your development all along the way.”

As I detail here, Ottawa tried to annex British Guyana in the early 1900s and Canadian troops were deployed there during World War II. Traditionally, the leading powers in Guyana have demonstrated considerable trust in Canada. In the 1950s the British spy agency MI6 asked Ottawa to place a “special economic adviser” in leftist Prime Minister Cheddi Jagan’s government to monitor and influence policy. When he returned to power a decade later — the British ousted him in 1954 — the CIA sought Canadian support to strengthen labour opposition to Jagan. A US cable explained, “it might be good idea if U.S. union movement could find Canadian to send in to” stoke antigovernment agitation. (Previously Canadian Congress of Labour executive member Charles Millard argued that aid to Guyana was “in the interests of Canadian security”, partly because it would undercut Jagan’s bid to nationalize the Alcan dominated bauxite industry, which would be “detrimental to Canadian interests.”)

So, little has changed over the decades. Ottawa is helping wealthy corporations grab Guyana’s oil and is pushing the country into conflict with Venezuela as part of a push to destabilize an enemy of Washington. We need to stop Canada’s imperialist behaviour.

 

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Trudeau needs to live up to rhetoric and sign UN Nuclear Ban Treaty

It’s time to nuke the nukes. The Trudeau government needs to live up to its rhetoric and sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty. Doing so would be a meaningful contribution to creating a world without the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Ten days ago Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rob Oliphant, said “we are committed to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.” In October Global Affairs declared, “Canada unequivocally supports global nuclear disarmament.”

Still, the government has refused to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which entered into force on Friday. Canada opposed holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. Ottawa also boycotted the TPNW negotiating meeting, which two-thirds of all countries attended. Last month Canada voted against a resolution supporting theTPNW backed by 130 UN member states.

As Japanese Canadian atomic bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow has noted, the TPNW makes weapons that have always been immoral also illegal. The TPNW requires the 51 countries that have already ratified it to “never under any circumstances… develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

While this country doesn’t possess nuclear weapons, Canada signing the TPNW would benefit humanity as much as any non-nuclear armed state doing so. Canada is a founding member of the nuclear armed NATO and steps towards denuclearizing that alliance are crucial for reducing the danger of conflict between leading nuclear powers US and Russia.

Canada also has a unique military relationship with the world’s foremost nuclear armed state. The US and Canada have hundreds of joint military agreements. The most important of these bi-national accords, NORAD, puts Canadians in various positions of influence within the US military.

The new Joe Biden administration has said it wants to shift gears on nuclear disarmament. It is expected to extend the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which Trump looked set to exit next month. Biden’s team has also suggested they may reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, Open Skies Treaty andIntermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. These agreements have mitigated the danger of nuclear obliteration. Their demise is part of why the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set its Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight last year and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research says the risk of nuclear weapons use is at its greatest since World War II.

The new Biden administration should be pressed to meaningfully lessen the nuclear threat and Ottawa signing the TPNW would embolden the more sober elements in Washington. Irrespective of its impact in the US or within NATO, a government claiming to want to rid the world of nuclear weapons should sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty. (The TPNW also advances the Trudeau government’s much touted “international rules-based order” and “feminist foreign policy”.)

Nuclear weapons remain a serious threat to humanity and the TPNW represents an important step towards abolishing these ghastly weapons. Canadians of conscience must press the Trudeau government to sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty. It’s time for the Liberals to ‘put up or shut up’. Their action, or lack thereof, will prove if their anti-nuclear talk is empty rhetoric or principled opposition to one of the great scourges of humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When will Trudeau finally end embrace of Guaidó?

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

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

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

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

More than two years ago Canadian diplomats played an important role in uniting large swaths of the Venezuelan opposition behind a US-backed plan to ratchet up tensions by proclaiming the new head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, Guaidó, as president. The Canadian Press quoted a Canadian diplomat saying they helped Guaidó “facilitate conversations with people that were out of the country and inside the country” while the Globe and Mail reported that “Freeland spoke with Juan Guaidó to congratulate him on unifying opposition forces in Venezuela, two weeks before he declared himself interim president” in January 2019. Canadian diplomats spent “months”, reported the Canadian Press, coordinating the plan with the hard-line opposition. In a story titled “Anti-Maduro coalition grew from secret talks”, the Associated Press reported on Canada’s “key role” in building international diplomatic support for claiming a relatively marginal National Assembly member was Venezuela’s president.

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

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

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

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

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

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The hypocrisy of Liberals’ nuclear policy

Justin Trudeau & Hedy Fry

 

A Vancouver MP’s last-minute withdrawal from a recent webinar on Canada’s nuclear arms policy highlights Liberal hypocrisy. The government says they want to rid the world of nuclear weapons but refuse to take a minimal step to protect humanity from the serious threat.

A month ago Liberal MP Hedy Fry agreed to participate in a webinar on “Why hasn’t Canada signed the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty?” The long-standing member of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament group was to speak with MPs from the NDP, Bloc Québécois and Greens, as well as Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who co-accepted the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. More than 50 organizations endorsed the webinar that took place Thursday. After the press was informed about an event seeking to press Canada to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) Fry said she couldn’t participate due to a scheduling conflict. Asked for a short video to play during the webinar Fry declined.

Did the Prime Minister’s Office intercede after becoming aware of Fry’s participation and the 27-year veteran of the House of Commons caved to their pressure?

Fry’s withdrawal from the exchange of ideas captures the hypocrisy of the Liberals’ nuclear policy. They publicly express a desire to abolish these ghastly weapons but are unwilling to upset any source of power (the PMO in Fry’s case) and the military/Washington (in the PMO’s case) to achieve it.

Last month Global Affairs claimed “Canada unequivocally supports global nuclear disarmament” while two weeks ago a government official repeated their support for a “world free of nuclear weapons.” These statements were made in response to renewed focus on nuclear disarmament after the 50th country recently ratified the TPNW, which means the accord will soon become law for the nations that have ratified it. The treaty is designed to stigmatize and criminalize nukes in a similar fashion to the UN landmine treaty and Chemical Weapons Convention.

But the Trudeau government has been hostile to the initiative. Canada was one of 38 states to vote against -123 voted in favour – holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. Trudeau then refused to send a representative to the TPNW negotiating meeting, which two-thirds of all countries attended. The PM went so far as to call the anti-nuclear initiative “useless” and since then his government has refused to join the 85 countries that have already signed the Treaty. At the UN General Assembly two weeks ago Canada voted against the 118 countries that reaffirmed their support for the TPNW.

In isolation the gap between the Liberals’ nuclear weapons pronouncements and actions is striking. But if one broadens the lens, the hypocrisy is substantially more astounding. The Trudeau government says its international affairs are driven by a belief in an “international rules-based order” and “feminist foreign policy” yet they refuse to sign a nuclear treaty that directly advances these stated principles.

The TPNW has been dubbed the “first feminist law on nuclear weapons” since it specifically recognizes the different ways in which nuclear weapons production and use disproportionately impacts women. Additionally, the TPNW strengthens the international rules-based order by making these weapons that are immoral also illegal under international law.

There’s a terrifying gap between what the Liberals say and do on weapons that continue to pose an existential threat to humanity.

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