The effort Justin Trudeau’s government is putting into removing Venezuela’s President is remarkable. So is the utter hypocrisy of their campaign.
On Thursday Ottawa hosted the Lima Group, a coalition of countries supporting Washington’s bid to overthrow the Venezuelan government. A CBC headline noted, “Ottawa attempts to reboot campaign to remove Maduro from power in Venezuela.” For more than a year the Lima Group has openly pushed Venezuela’s military to overthrow the government. Thursday’s summit was the third held in Canada of a coalition instigated by Canada and Peru in mid 2017.
During the recent Munich Security Conference Trudeau discussed the South American country with a US Senate and House of Representatives delegation led by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. The Prime Minister’s release noted, “the Congressional delegation thanked Canada for its leadership on the Lima Group and for supporting Interim President Juan Guaidó and the Venezuelan National Assembly in their efforts to achieve a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela.”
Similarly, the Prime Minister discussed Venezuela at a meeting with Austria’s Chancellor on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. According to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Canada and Austria “have many shared goals such as the empowerment of women and our support for free & fair elections in Venezuela.” According to this formulation, the empowerment of half the world’s population is of similar import to purported electoral discrepancies in Venezuela.
Foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne also discussed Venezuela with International Crisis Group President Robert Malley at the Munich Security Conference.
Last month Venezuelan politician Juan Guaidó was fêted in Ottawa. The self-declared president met the Prime Minister, deputy PM, international development minister and foreign minister. Trudeau called him “Interim President Guaidó” and Champagne sometimes referred to him simply as “President”.
Over the past couple of years, the government has put out hundreds of press releases, tweets and public statements critical of the Venezuelan government. They hired a Special Advisor on Venezuela to oversee the government’s coup efforts and the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers gave Patricia Atkinson, Head of the Venezuela Task Force at Global Affairs, its Foreign Service Officers award in June 2019 for her role in overseeing a team of diplomats that organized Lima Group meetings, sanctions, etc. The government has implemented four rounds of sanctions against Venezuelan officials and it’s brought that country to the International Criminal Court, shuttered its Embassy in Caracas, funded opposition groups and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.
A look at Canada’s Lima Group allies highlights the hypocrisy of their campaign against Venezuela. The constitutional legitimacy of Honduras’ President is far weaker than Maduro’s; Far more dissidents were assassinated in Colombia last year; The government of Chile is facing greater popular contestation; The electoral legitimacy of Haiti’s President is much weaker; Honduras’ president has clearer links to drug runners; Violence is worse in numerous countries in the Hemisphere.
It is true that Venezuela’s economic downturn – and concurrent outward migration – is substantially worse than other Lima Group members. But, the sanctions imposed by the US and Canada have contributed to Venezuela’s economic collapse as much as any action of the government.
Canada is engaged in an extraordinary effort to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro. But, it isn’t designed to advance democracy or human rights in Venezuela.
As many parents have warned their children, real friends do not encourage stupid, embarrassing, or life-threatening behaviour.
But because of our “friend” to the south, Justin Trudeau’s government has deepened ties to a repressive 250-year old monarchy in Kuwait and pursued other questionable policies.
After participating in the recent African Union Summit in Ethiopia Trudeau jetted off to meet the Emir of Kuwait, which has been part of the coalition bombing Yemen. The prime minister’s visit marked the most high-profile step in a bevy of diplomatic activity with a government where questioning the Emir or Islam is punishable with a significant prison sentence. During their meeting, notes the official press release, Trudeau “welcomed the long-standing friendship between Canada and Kuwait and thanked the Government of Kuwait for its support of our CAF [Canadian Armed Forces] personnel stationed in Kuwait as part of Operation IMPACT. The two leaders discussed recent developments in the region and agreed on the importance of working towards long term stability and security.”
Before the PM’s visit defence minister Harjit Sajjan had traveled to Kuwait City twice since December 19. In AprilSajjan also met Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah “to bolster and consolidate bilateral ties.” Three months earlier Governor General Julie Payette visited the Emir in Kuwait City. In November Payette sent a cable to the Emir to wish him well after an illness and the next month Assistant Deputy Minister of Global Affairs Peter McDougall met a Kuwaiti counterpart “to strengthen bilateral relations.” In August 2018 the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing regular consultations between senior officials.
At the Munich Security Conference last week foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne met his Kuwaiti counterpart Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah. At an event in the Canadian Embassy on Monday Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister Khaled Al-Jarallah described the “distinguished … ties between the two countries” and “continuous communication and common interests.” On Thursday Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Lawrence MacAulay attended a celebration at Kuwait’s Embassy in Ottawa for Canadians who fought in the 1991 Iraq war.
The inaugural Kuwait and Canada Investment Forum took place in April. Finance minister Bill Morneau and parliamentary secretary Omar Alghabra participated. At the time Alghabra wrote, “let’s celebrate and continue our efforts to grow the relationship between Canada and Kuwait in investments, trade and defence.”
So, why the budding romance?
Relations with Kuwait are important to Ottawa because of the Canadian Forces base there. About 300 Canadians are stationed in Kuwait to support the Canadian special forces deployed to Iraq as well as two intelligence and one Canadian air-to-air refuelling aircraft. Alongside 200 highly skilled special forces, there’s a Canadian tactical helicopter detachment, intelligence officers and a combat hospital in Iraq. Despite being labeled a “training” mission, the Canadians called in US airstrikes, provided up-to-date battle intelligence and repeatedly engaged the enemy. A Canadian even killed someone with a record-breaking 3.5-kilometre sniper shot. The Canadian Forces backed Kurdishforces often accused of ethnic cleansing areas they captured. Canadian special forces supported a multi-month battle to dislodge ISIS from Mosul that left thousands of civilians dead in 2017.
Alongside the special forces and air support operations, Canada assumed command of the NATO Mission Iraq in November 2018. A Canadian commands 580 NATO troops, including 250 Canadians. They train instructors at three military schools and advise Iraq’s defence ministry.
The Liberals failed to properly explain why Canada took on a second mission in Iraq. But, it was likely tied to weakening the influence of the Iranian aligned Popular Mobilization Forces, Shia militias that helped defeat ISIS. According to Scott Taylor, “Canada agreed to take command of the NATO-led training mission in Iraq because the Liberal government knew it could not sell the Canadian public on sending troops back into the war in Afghanistan. That is where the NATO leaders wanted Canadians, which seems an incredibly ironic twist in that we originally agreed to go into Afghanistan because it was not Iraq.”
Trudeau and Sajjan’s recent missions to Kuwait are part of the fallout from Washington’s decision to assassinate Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi Shia militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. After the January 3 killings some Canadian forces in Iraq were withdrawn to the base in Kuwait. Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution demanding foreign soldiers leave the country and Iran threatened to retaliate against US troops in the region.
The flurry of recent diplomatic activity is likely designed to reassure Kuwaiti officials of Canadian backing and to ensure Kuwait doesn’t back out of the base arrangement. The Trudeau government has happily deepened ties to a repressive monarchy to support US policy in Iraq.
To maintain foreign troops in Iraq the Trudeau government has also pushed back against the Iraqi parliament’s call for foreign troops to leave. After the country’s parliament passed a resolution calling for foreign troops to go, defence minister Harjit Sajjan sought to convince his Iraqi counterpart of the importance of Canada’s presence. Last week Sajjan celebrated Iraqi leaders willingness to keep Canadian troops. Additionally, Middle East Eye reported on Iraqi and US military officials holding a secret meeting “in the private residence of the Canadian ambassador to Jordan in Amman” to discuss pulling back US troops from Iraq.
Makes one wonder what else the Trudeau government has done or will do to support US policy in Iraq?
The Trudeau government, just like the Harper Conservatives, has used Canadian foreign policy to protect the profits of wealthy mining companies against ordinary Africans desire to benefit from resource extraction.
During a recent visit Justin Trudeau announced negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with Ethiopia. FIPAs empower international investors by giving corporations the right to sue governments — in private, investor-friendly tribunals — for pursuing policies that interfere with their profit making. As such, they undermine governments’ ability to democratically determine economic and ecological policy. (Since few African companies invest in Canada there is little chance Ottawa will face a suit or feel domestic policy pressure as a result of a FIPA with an African country.)
The Liberals have signed FIPAs with Nigeria, Moldova and negotiated them with a half dozen more states. Following his participation in the November 2018 Africa Investment Forum, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Omar Alghabra, wrote: “To further help Canadian companies compete and succeed in this thriving region, the Canadian government has negotiated foreign investment promotion and protection agreements (FIPAs) with Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Tanzania. These agreements encourage increased bilateral investments between our countries by helping to reduce risk and by increasing investor confidence in our respective markets. We continue to advance FIPA negotiations with a number of other African countries.”
With African countries, FIPAs are overwhelming designed to protect mining companies. As an indication of how these bilateral investment treaties are driven by mining interests, the government has announced a number of them at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in Toronto. In a March 2017 release titled “International Trade Minister promotes Canada’s mining sector at Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention”, Francois-Philippe Champagne “announced that the Canada-Mongolia Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) is now in force. This agreement provides substantial protections for Canadian investors in Mongolia, where there are already significant Canadian-owned mining assets.” At the 2014 PDAC conference the Harper government announced they were signing a FIPA with Cameroon and negotiating one with Kenya.
There are many examples of Canadian mining companies turning to bilateral investment treaties to sue governments. As the Council of Canadians pointed out, “Canadian mining companies are using FIPAs with developing countries to claim damages from community opposition to unwanted mega-projects.”
At a broader level the aim of a FIPA is to counter “resource nationalism”. Having benefited from 25 years of privatizations and loosened restrictions on foreign investment, mining companies fear a reversal of these policies. These concerns can be somewhat alleviated by gaining rights to sue a government if it expropriates a concession, changes investment rules or requires value added production take place in the country. Writing in Canadian Dimension Paula Butler notes: “Canada appears keen to negotiate FIPAs with some of the most economically and politically vulnerable but resource rich African countries before they develop a taste for resource sovereignty.”
The deputy head of Africa forecasting at political risk firm Exclusive Analysis, Robert Besseling, told the Toronto Star in 2013 that resource nationalism was Canadian miners’ top concern. The paper described “a trend toward what some call resource nationalism that’s seen a number of African governments — after opening doors to foreign investors — begin to reverse or revise regulations. Under pressure from civil society groups and labour unions, governments are driving a harder bargain or changing the rules of the game part way through.”
Any government that increases resource royalty rates or nationalizes extractive industries is a threat to Canadian mining interests. Yet, large numbers of Africans believe natural resources should be publicly held, or at minimum, heavily taxed. Some simply want minerals to remain underground. Ottawa’s “goal” in signing FIPAs with African countries, note Paula Butler and Evans Rubara, “is to prevent control of mining policy throughout the continent from falling into the hands of nationalist, pro- African, pro-community political forces who will promote a vigorous ‘resource nationalism’ agenda.”
Or, to put it even more bluntly, the Trudeau Government, like the Harper regime, defends the profits of a few wealthy owners of mining corporations over the economic and social interests of millions of Africans.
Should peace groups challenge Canadian militarism by pushing clear, principled, demands or by promoting a militarist government’s bid to rebrand itself through a “peace” institute?
In a recent blog headlined “New Peace Centre needed to balance defence industry-funded think tanks”, the Rideau Institute promoted the proposed Canadian Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government. Since October four different Rideau Institute blogs have talked up the Liberals’ Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government. In their recent blog they linked to a January 29 Hill Times story headlined “A new Canadian peace centre could make a world of difference”. Authored by Rideau Institute head Peggy Mason and Senior advisor Peter Langille, the opinion piece called for the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government to be modeled after the former Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security (CIIPS).
In 1984 the federal government passed “An Act to Establish the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security.” Under the legislation CIIPS was obliged to carry out research proposed by the “designated” minister. Associated with peace researchers, CIIPS was run by former External Affairs and military officials. Its first chair was William Barton who worked at External Affairs for three decades, including a stint as Canadian ambassador to the UN. The organization’s founding director was Brigadier-General George Gray Bell, who spent three decades in the military, and its initial executive director was Geoffrey Pearson, son of Lester Pearson. A former ambassador to the Soviet Union and Mongolia, Geoffrey Pearson wrote, “I have been identified with the government most of my life.” (See my Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: the truth may hurt for an assessment of his famed father’s international policies.)
While the institute generally reflected the liberal end of the dominant foreign policy discussion, CIIPS coordinator of research Mark Heller supported Canadian participation in the first Gulf War. The organization also aligned itself with Canadian policy in other ways. Geoffrey Pearson described the motivation for organizing a conference on Canada–Caribbean relations: “I thought that Canada ought to pay more attention to the … British Caribbean countries, where we had traditional interests and potentially important influence.” But Canada’s “traditional interests” in the British Caribbean have often been characterized as “imperialistic”. Canadian banks and insurance companies have dominated the English Caribbean’s financial sector for more than a century and prominent Canadians repeatedly sought to annex these territories.
In 1992 Brian Mulroney’s government disbanded CIIPS. While some suggested the decision was a response to policy prescriptions the government didn’t like, Ottawa claimed its decision was strictly financial. The government’s official explanation gives a good sense of how they viewed the institute. “It will cost the government $2.5 million less annually, because instead of having the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security, we will have officials within the Department of External Affairs doing the same job.”
If its anything like CIIPS its doubtful the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government will push to withdraw from NATO, reduce military spending, end government support for arms exporters or withdraw Canadian troops from Iraq and Latvia. Instead the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government is likely to offer a public relations boost to a Liberal government promoting arm sales, NATO expansionism and increased military spending, not to mention brutal mining companies, anti-Palestinian positions, an unpopular Haitian president, a coup in Venezuela, etc.
It is unclear if Mason and Languille’s position is motivated by political ‘realism’, employment considerations, fear of political marginalization, discomfort with the depths of Canadian militarism or a desire to claim victory (the Rideau Institute is part of a coalition that suggested a similar institution). Or maybe they believe the peace movement should take whatever crumbs the Liberals drop from the table since they will be better than what a Conservative government offers.
The other side doesn’t have this attitude. As the recent Rideau Institute blog rightly pointed out the DND/arms industry funded Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI) doesn’t hold back from articulating militarist positions. Last month CGAI held a conference on Modernizing North American Defence that painted Russia and China as apocalyptic threats, wanting to “destroy” (Moscow) and “own” (Beijing) us. Despite their lack of moral legitimacy, the militarists forcefully convey their positions.
Antimilitarists need organizations that do the same. Certainly, it’s not too much to expect a “peace” institute to call for reduced military spending, an end to public support for arms exporters and Canada’s withdrawal from NATO. Does the Rideau Institute believe the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government will do that?
I will be speaking alongside Peggy Mason at the World Beyond War conference in Ottawa on May 27.
Justin Trudeau wants us to know he’s buddies with Africa’s most ruthless dictator.
At the recent African Union Summit in Ethiopia Trudeau met Paul Kagame. The Prime Minister’s press people released a photo of him laughing with the Rwandan President and announced that the two discussed the upcoming Commonwealth summit Trudeau is set to attend in Kigali.
On at least five occasions since 2018 Trudeau has been photographed with Kagame during one-on-one meetings on the sidelines of different international summits. At one of those meetings the PM “affirmed the importance of strong and growing bilateral relations” between Canada and Rwanda.
Canadian-based Rwandan dissident David Himbara has criticized the PM’s embrace of Kagame. In April 2018 he wrote, “the romance between Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Rwanda’s strongman Paul Kagame is difficult to fathom. For the past several months, the romance between the two and among their respective ministers has blossomed beyond belief.”
After amending the constitution to be able to run indefinitely Paul Kagame won 98.63 per cent of votes in Rwanda’s August 2017 presidential election. In response, Canada’s High Commissioner Sara Hradecky tweeted, “congratulations to Rwandans for voting in peaceful presidential election” and “Canada congratulates Paul Kagame on his inauguration today as President of Rwanda.” The latter tweet was picked up by the state propaganda organ New Times in a story titled “Heads of State, diplomats laud Kagame’s ‘visionary leadership’.”
If garnering 99 per cent of the vote wasn’t a clue that Kagame is a dictator, the High Commissioner could have taken a look at Canada’s ‘paper of record,’ whose Africa bureau chief had recently shined a critical light on Rwanda. At the start of 2016 the Globe and Mail reported on two new books describing the totalitarian nature of the regime.
“Village informers,” wrote South Africa-based Geoffrey York. “Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda — a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”
In 2014 York wrote an investigation headlined “Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents,” which provided compelling evidence that the regime had extended its assassination program outside of east Africa, killing (or attempting to) a number of its former top officials who were living in South Africa. After the initial investigation York reported on Rwandan dissidents who had to flee Belgium for their safety while the Toronto Starrevealed five individuals in Canada who were fearful of the regime’s killers.
On top of international assassinations and domestic repression, Kagame unleashed mayhem in the Congo. 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. Rwandan proxies repeatedly re-invaded the mineral rich eastern Congo. In 2012 the Globe and Maildescribed how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence” there.
Despite the regime’s violence, Governor General Julie Payette traveled to Kigali to meet Kagame in August. She lauded “the long-standing partnership between Canada and Rwanda.”
In November 2017 Rwanda’s Environment Minister visited Ottawa to meet her Canadian counterpart, Catherine McKenna, who lauded “our close friendship.” Later that year defence minister Harjit Sajjan hosted his Rwandan counterpart General James Kabarebe.
In 2015 Kabarebe was arrested in London under a Spanish indictment for war crimes committed between 1990 and 2002 in Rwanda, including the murder of two Quebec priests. Previously, Kabarebe had been the subject of an arrest warrant by a French judge for his role in shooting down President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane, which unleashed the genocidal violence in Spring 1994. A 2012 UN report claimed Kabarebe organized and armed deadly M23 rebels in eastern Congo, labeling Kabarebe “a central player in recruiting on behalf of M23” and noted that “he has often been in direct contact with M23 members on the ground to coordinate military activities.” After former Rwandan spy chief, turned Kagame critic Patrick Karegeya, was strangled to death in a South African hotel in January 2014 Kabarebe said, “when you choose to be a dog, you die like a dog, and the cleaners will wipe away the trash.”
The Rwandan government’s domestic repression, international assassinations and violence in the Congo are well documented. Yet I couldn’t find any criticism of Kagame by the Trudeau government. Instead, Ottawa provides about $25 million annually in assistance to Rwanda.
Ambassador Deborah Lyons with Canadians fighting in IDF Yaakov Herman, Robbie Kohos and Ayala Rotenberg
Canada is celebrating the agents of Palestinian misery.
Last month the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv held an event to celebrate Canadians fighting in the Israeli military. They invited all 78 Canadians in the IDF to the ambassador’s residence to demonstrate their appreciation. Referring to non-Israelis who join the IDF, ambassador Deborah Lyons told the Jerusalem Post, “Canadian lone soldiers are a particularly special group … This is something we want to do on a yearly basis to show our support.” At the event Canada’s ambassador said, “we both share a love of Canada and a love of Israel. We at the embassy are very proud of what you’re doing.”
A top diplomat organizing an event to celebrate Canadians fighting for another country’s military ought to generate criticism. Doing so while that force humiliates Palestinians at checkpoints in the West Bank, fires on protesters in Gaza and bombs Syria in violation of international law is an outrage that must be condemned.
The government has legislation designed to deter Canadians from joining other countries’ militaries. The Foreign Enlistment Act is supposed to prohibit Canadians from recruiting for a foreign army. It notes, “any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”
Similarly, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) restricts registered charities from supporting other countries militaries. CRA guidelines note, “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”
Despite these rules, ambassador Lyons celebrated Canadians fighting for the IDF. The event promoting the IDF was a nod to a network of Canadian organizations backing the Israeli military. In November 1100 people attended an Association for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada and Canadian Zionist Cultural Association event in Toronto. The Canadian Jewish News reported, “the evening featured heartfelt and captivating speeches from IDF commanders, as well as a performance by the IDF Ensemble.”
Two months ago, Herut Canada brought Israeli military reservists to a number of Ontario universities. At York their event sparked a high-profile confrontation.
A number of Jewish day schools promote the Israeli military. At Toronto’s Leo Baeck an Israeli emissary spends a year at the school and when they return, notes the Canadian Jewish News, “engages with students by way of live video chat from their Israel Defence Forces barracks dressed in their military uniforms.” Students also pay “tribute to Israel’s fallen heroes” and fundraise for Beit Halochem Canada/Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel, which supports injured IDF soldiers.
At the other end of the age spectrum a group of 80-something Torontonians gather regularly to make hand-knitted tuques for IDF soldiers. They are part of the Hats for Israeli Soldiers initiative. Another organization that supports the IDF is Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans-Canada. Sar-El offers more concrete support to the IDF. Some 150 Canadians volunteer on Israeli army supply bases each year with an organization founded by an IDF general.
For its part, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (Canada) has sponsored “fun activities” for “lone soldiers”.Established by billionaire power couple Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers also supports non-Israelis in the IDF.
At its Toronto office, the Friends of Israeli Scouts’ Garin Tzabar program provides Hebrew lessons and support services, as well as help with transport and accommodation in Israel, for Canadian “lone soldiers”. Nefesh B’Nefesh’s also helps non-Israelis join the IDF.
In November the Israeli consulate in Toronto announced a military recruiting effort. According to their announcement, “an IDF representative will conduct personal interviews at the Consulate on November 11-14. Young people who wish to enlist in the IDF or anyone who has not fulfilled their obligations according to the Israeli Defense Service Law are invited to meet with him.”
Sar-El, Nefesh B’Nefesh, Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans-Canada andAssociation for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada (through the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association) offer tax receipts for donations. In January of last year the Beth Oloth Charitable Organization, which had $60 million in revenue in 2017, had its charitable status revoked for supporting the Israeli military. Not particularly well known, the organization appears to have been a conduit for donations to different Israeli charities.
In response to a formal complaint submitted by four Palestine solidarity activists and Independent Jewish Voices Canada in fall 2017, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) began an audit of the Jewish National Fund for contravening Canadian charitable law. The JNF financed multiple projects for the Israeli military in direct contravention of CRA rules for registered charities. Despite the JNF openly supporting the Israeli military, the audit of its operations has gone on for two years. The CRA is undoubtedly facing significant behind-the-scenes pressure to let the JNF off with little more than a slap on the wrist. In 2013 Justin Trudeau attended a JNF gala and other Liberal cabinet ministers participated in more recent events put on by an explicitly racist organization that Liberal MP Michael Leavitt once oversaw. Ambassador Lyons attended a JNF event in Jerusalem in 2016 and another one in October.
Canadian charitable guidelines and the Foreign Enlistment Act are designed to deter Canadians from supporting other countries’ militaries. Yet Canada’s ambassador in Israel is celebrating Canadians fighting in that military.
How many Canadians consider that appropriate?
House of Mirrors — Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy will be released in March. To help organize an event for the Spring tour please email yvesengler (@) hotmail.com.
What’s more likely to shape Canadian policy in the Hemisphere: human rights and democracy or bankers’ bottom-line?
Last week Venezuelan politician Juan Guaidó was fêted in Ottawa. The self-declared president met Canada’s Prime Minister, international development minister and foreign minister. Trudeau said, “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.”
Last month Guaidó was dethroned as leader of Venezuela’s national assembly. While the vote was contested, it represents a significant blow to Guaidó’s year-old claim to be Venezuela’s legitimate President. To shore up his position as opposition leader, Guaidó travelled to a number of international capitals, the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and was a guest of Donald Trump at the US president’s state of the union adress.
The Ottawa stop on Guaidó’s legitimacy seeking tour was the latest installment of the Trudeau government’s multipronged effort to overthrow Nicolás Maduro’s government. In a bid to elicit “regime change”, Ottawa has worked to isolate Caracas, imposed illegal sanctions, took that government to the International Criminal Court, financed an often-unsavoury opposition and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.
On the same day Guaidó was fêted in Ottawa Scotiabank CEO Brian Porter penned “A call to action on Venezuela” in the National Post. The op-ed urged governments to “seize assets of corrupt regime officials” and to use the proceeds to give “support to the democratic movement in Venezuela.” Porter also applauded the Liberal’s “moral clarity by unambiguously condemning the Maduro regime’s abuses” and praised their “tremendous courage and leadership in the hemisphere and on the world stage.”
Scotiabank has long had frosty relations with the Bolivarian government. A few days after Hugo Chavez’s 2013 death the Globe & Mail Report on Business published a front-page story about Scotiabank’s interests in Venezuela, which were acquired just before his rise to power. It noted: “Bank of Nova Scotia [Scotiabank] is often lauded for its bold expansion into Latin America, having completed major acquisitions in Colombia and Peru. But when it comes to Venezuela, the bank has done little for the past 15 years – primarily because the government of President Hugo Chavez has been hostile to large-scale foreign investment.”
The perspective of the world’s 40th largest bank has shaped Ottawa’s position towards Caracas. At the other end of the continent, its interests have contributed to the Trudeau government’s support for embattled billionaire president Sebastián Piñera. A number of stories have highlighted Scotiabank’s concerns about recent protests against inequality in Chile. The Financial Post noted, “Scotiabank’s strategic foray into Latin America hits a snag with Chile unrest” and “Riots, state of emergency in Chile force Scotiabank to postpone investor day.” Last week Scotiabank’s CEO blamed the protests that began in October on an “intelligence breakdown” with people outside Chile “that came in with an intention of creating havoc.” In a story titled “Why Brian Porter is doubling down on Scotiabank’s Latin American expansion”, he told the Financial Post that Twitter accounts tied to Russia sparked the unrest!
Two weeks into massive demonstrations against Pinera’s government, Trudeau held a phone conversation with the Chilean president who had a 14% approval rating. According to Amnesty International, 19 people had already died and dozens more were seriously injured in protests that began against a hike in transit fares and morphed into a broader challenge to economic inequality. A couple thousand were also arrested by a government that declared martial law and sent the army onto the streets.
According to the published report of the conversation, Trudeau and Piñera discussed their joint campaign to remove Venezuela’s president and the Prime Minister criticized “election irregularities in Bolivia”, which were disingenuously used to justify ousting leftist indigenous president Evo Morales. A Canadian Press story noted, “a summary from the Prime Minister’s Office of Trudeau’s phone call with Piñera made no direct mention of the ongoing turmoil in Chile, a thriving country with which Canada has negotiated a free trade agreement.”
Despite numerous appeals from Canada’s Chilean community, the Trudeau government has stayed quiet concerning the fiercest repression in Chile since Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. A delegation of Québec parliamentarians, professors and union leaders that travelled to Chile in late January recently demanded Ottawa speak out against the abuses (four died in protest related violence last week). In a release about the delegation Mining Watch noted that over 50% of Chile’s large mining industry is Canadian owned. Canadian firms are also major players in the country’s infrastructure and Scotiabank is one of the country’s biggest banks. Chile is the top destination for Canadian investment in Latin America at over $20 billion.
As I detail in my forthcoming book House of Mirrors — Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy (Black Rose), the Liberals have said little about hundreds of killings by regimes in Haiti, Honduras, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia. On the other hand, they’ve aggressively condemned rights violations in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Many on the Left would say that is because those governments are aligned with Washington, which is true. But, it’s also because they are friendly to corporate Canada. If you want to understand Ottawa’s positions in Latin America look to what Canadian bankers have to say.
House of Mirrors — Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy will be released in March. To help organize an event for the Spring tour please email yvesengler (@) hotmail.com.
While the current Liberal government claims to be progressive and in favour of a rules-based international order, promotion of democracy and world peace, its actions regarding Iran demonstrate that the primary drivers of Canadian foreign policy remain US Empire geo-political interests and the rich and powerful.
(This previous article argues this has long been the case.)
While Israeli nationalists and Conservatives demand new measures targeting Iran, the reality is ordinary Canadians will not benefit from war with the 18thmost populous country in the world. The families of Iranian Canadians will certainly not benefit.
Despite election promises to the contrary, Justin Trudeau’s government has continued important components of the previous Conservative government’s ‘low-level war’ against Iran.
Ottawa has no diplomatic relations with Iran, maintains a series of sanctions on the country and lists Tehran as a state sponsor of terrorism. Canadian troops are also stationed on Iran’s border partly to counter its influence and Canada recently gifted $28 million worth of Iranian assets in this country to Americans who lost family members to purported Hamas and Hezbollah attacks decades ago.
The Liberals repeatedly promised to restart diplomatic relations with Iran. Before becoming prime minister Trudeau told the CBC, “I would hope that Canada would be able to reopen its mission [in Tehran].” In May 2016 foreign minister Stéphane Dion said, “Canada’s severing of ties with Iran had no positive consequences for anyone: not for Canadians, not for the people of Iran, not for Israel, and not for global security.” Five months later Trudeauadded, “Canada must return to Iran to play a useful role in that region of the world.”
While the Liberals have dialed down the Harper government’s most bombastic rhetoric against Tehran, they have not restarted diplomatic relations or removed that country from Canada’s state sponsor of terrorism list.
The Trudeau government has criticized Iranian human rights abuses while mostly ignoring more flagrant rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies. In January 2018 foreign minister Chrystia Freeland said, “Canada is deeply troubled by the recent deaths and detentions of protesters in Iran” and four months later tweeted, “our government is committed to holding Iran to account for its violations of human and democratic rights.” Two months ago Global Affairsstated, “Iran must ensure that its people enjoy the rights and freedoms they deserve.”
In June 2018 Liberal parliamentarians supported a Conservative MP’s private member’s motion that “strongly condemns the current regime in Iran for its ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world, including instigating violent attacks on the Gaza border.” In effect, the resolution claimed Iran was responsible for Israel killing Palestinians peacefully protesting the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem, siege of Gaza and historic theft of their land. The motion also called on Canada to “immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussions with the Islamic Republic of Iran to restore diplomatic relations” and to make the highly provocative move of listing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity. A demand B’nai B’rith and the Conservative party have restated in recent days.
Ottawa has continued to present a yearly UN resolution critical of the human rights situation in Iran. In response to Canada targeting it, Iran’s Deputy Representative to the UN, Eshaq Al-e Habib, said in November 2019, “how can a supporter of apartheid in Palestine pose itself as a human rights defender in Iran?”
Similarly, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development participates in the annual “Iran Accountability Week” on Parliament Hill, which showcases individuals such as Foundation for the Defense of Democracies CEO Mark Dubowitz, who helped kill the Iran nuclear deal and pushed harsh sanctions against any country doing business with Iran. Dubowitz was a senior research fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. In 2015 Global Affairs gave the Munk School’s Digital Public Square $9 million to expand an anti-Iranian initiative.
While they ostensibly backed the “p5+1 nuclear deal” with Iran, the Liberals’ promoted a one-sided view of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the US, France, Germany, Russia and China. Canada put up more than $10 million for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor and verify Iran’s implementation of its commitments under the JCPOA. Iran has consistently been in compliance with JCPOA’s strict rules regarding its uranium enrichment. Nonetheless, the Donald Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and re-imposed tough new sanctions on other countries’ companies doing business with Iran.
For their part, the Western European signatories to the agreement have largely failed to stand-up to US pressure by creating the space for their companies to do business with Iran and three days ago the UK, Germany and France delivered a further blow to an agreement on life support. In a January 14 release titled “Canada supports diplomatic efforts established for Iran to return to full implementation of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” Global Affairs expressed “support” for the UK, Germany and France “activating the Dispute Resolution Mechanism” under the JCPOA and “urged Iran to immediately restore its full commitments to the JCPOA.” But, this position amounts to calling on Iran to abide by a deal it receives no benefits from as its economy is crippled by sanctions.
The Liberals also legitimated the illegal US sanctions on Iran whenthey arrested Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou,at the Vancouver airport 13 months ago.The US claimed Meng’s company defied its illegal sanctions against Iran. But, between when the US judicial system sought her detention and the Trump administration requested Ottawa detain her, Meng traveled to six countries with US extradition treaties. Only Canada arrested her.
At the military level Ottawa also aligned with the US-Saudi-Israeli axis stoking conflict with Iran. An April 2016 Global Affairs memo authorizing Light Armoured Vehicle export permits to the House of Saud noted, “Canada appreciates Saudi Arabia’s role as a regional leader promoting regional stability, as well as countering the threat posed by Iranian regional expansionism.” At the November 2019 Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Al Meinzinger, participated in a panel titled “Watch out Iran!” A year earlier Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance told a parliamentary committee that Iran was “an interested party and, in some cases, a malign agent in Iraq.”
Five hundred Canadian troops are in Iraq partly to counter Iranian influence. Specifically, the Canadian-led NATO Mission Iraq is designed to weaken the influence of the Iranian aligned Popular Mobilization Forces, Shia militias that helped defeat ISIS.
In the fall Canada seized and sold $28 million worth of Iranian properties in Ottawa and Toronto to compensate individuals in the US who had family members killed in a 2002 Hamas bombing in Israel and others who were held hostage by Hezbollah in 1986 and 1991. The Supreme Court of Canada and federal government sanctioned the seizure under the 2012 Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which lifts immunity for countries labeled “state sponsors of terrorism” to allow individuals to claim their non-diplomatic assets.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi called the seizure “illegal” and in “direct contradiction with international law” while a spokesperson for Iran’s Guardian Council, Abbasali Kadkhodaei, accused Canada of “economic terrorism”. A senior member of Iran’s parliament said the country’s military should confiscate Canadian shipments crossing the Strait of Hormuz.
In a right side up world, the Iranian asset sale would lead to various more legitimate seizures. Relatives of the Lebanese-Canadian el-Akhras family Israel wiped out, including four children aged 1 to 8, in 2006 were certainly at least as worthy of Canadian government-backed compensation. Ditto for Paeta Hess-Von Kruedener, a Canadian soldier part of a UN mission, killed by an Israeli fighter jet in Lebanon in 2006. Or Palestinian Canadian Ismail Zayid, who was driven from a West Bank village demolished to make way for the Jewish National Fund’s Canada Park.
There are hundreds of Canadians and countless individuals elsewhere who have been victimized by Israeli, Canadian and US-backed terror more deserving of compensation than the Americans paid with Iranian assets for what Hamas and Hezbollah purportedly did decades ago. Should Israeli, US and Canadian government assets be seized to pay them?
The Trudeau government failed to speak against the asset seizure. It could have undercut this obscenity by delisting Iran as a “state sponsor of terror” or repealing Harper’s Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. But, it didn’t even keep its promise to restart diplomatic relations with Iran. As such, the Liberals have empowered US-Israeli hawks hurtling towards a major conflict.
While there is much to dislike about the government in Tehran, progressive-minded, peace-loving Canadians should reject Ottawa’s aggressive anti-Iranian policies.
Justin Trudeau recently apologized for dressing up in blackface. He acknowledged that it was a racist act. But he has continued the much more significant racism of his government’s actions towards Haiti, the country that delivered the greatest ever blow to anti-blackness.
In an example of racist double standards, the government recently put out a travel advisory warning Canadians that Haitian “police have used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse crowds.” Apart from this message to (white?) Canadians, the government has yet to directly criticize the killing of Haitian demonstrators by a police force that Canada funds and trains.
Beyond its involvement with a repressive police force, the Trudeau government has provided financial and diplomatic backing to a band of neo-Duvalerist criminals subjugating Haiti’s impoverished black masses. Despite a popular revolt against President Jovenel Moïse, Canada continues to prop up a corrupt clique of politicians who’ve recently fired bullets at protesters outside the Senate and admitted to receiving payments for votes in parliament. A Miami Herald headline explained: “That there is corruption in Haiti isn’t a surprise. But then a senator admitted it openly.” An investigation by Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes details the scope of Canadian-backed corruption. It concluded that Moïse’s companies swindled $2 million as part of $2 billion embezzled from a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela under Moïse’s mentor Michel Martelly. A vulgar, clownish, musician, Martelly was put in place by Washington and Ottawa not long after the deadly 2010 earthquake.
Previous Canadian governments have acted as if Haitians were incapable of running their own affairs. This has been motivated by racism, corporate interests and loyalty to the US empire.
Early in the morning on February 29, 2004, US Marines flew the learned, polyglot and popular President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of the country. For over two years the US, France and Canada imposed an “illegal” interim government headed by a man, Gérard Latortue, who had been living in the US for 15 years.
The effort to oust Aristide began in earnest as Haiti prepared to celebrate its bicentennial. To get a sense of Washington’s thinking, then Assistant Secretary General of the OAS Luigi Einaudi told journalist/activist Jean Saint-Vil and others at Hotel Montana in Port au Prince on December 31, 2003: “The real problem with Haiti is that the ‘International Community’ is so screwed up and divided that they are actually letting Haitians run Haiti.” Eleven months before Haiti’s bicentennial Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government took a major step to ensure Haitians weren’t running Haiti. They organized the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” to discuss that country’s future. No Haitian officials were invited to this assembly where high-level US, Canadian and French officials decided that Haiti’s elected president “must go”, the dreaded army should be recreated and that the country would be put under a UN trusteeship. Thirteen months after the Ottawa Initiative meeting President Aristide and most other elected officials were pushed out and a quasi UN trusteeship had begun. The Haitian military has been partially re-created.
The bicentennial independence celebration heightened the racist contempt directed at Haiti since the country’s 1791-1804 revolution dealt a crushing blow to slavery, colonialism and white supremacy. From the grips of the most barbaric form of plantation economy, the largely African-born slaves led maybe the greatest example of liberation in the history of humanity. Their revolt rippled through the region and compelled the post-French Revolution government in Paris to abolish slavery in its Caribbean colonies. It also contributed to Britain’s move to abolish the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807.
The Haitian Revolution led to freedom for all people regardless of color, decades before this idea found traction in Europe or North America. But, within three years of independence the lighter-skinned plantation owners overthrew and murdered the country’s liberation hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines (the French having killed famous revolutionary, Tousaint Louverture, prior to independence). In a remarkable act of imperial humiliation, two decades after independence Haiti was compelled to begin paying $21 billion (in 2004 dollars) to compensate French slaveholders for their loss of property (land and now free Haitians). Haiti promised to repay its former exploiters under threat of military invasion and the restoration of slavery. Additionally, the light skinned elite wanted an end to the embargo against the country so they could access international markets. Haiti’s independence debt took 122 years to pay off.
For over half a century Haitian politics were shaped by the “politique de doublure”. Basically, the light skinned elite chose an ignorant/old black general as figurehead president. The “politique de doublure” largely ended with the US occupation of 1915– 34 (Washington kept control of the country’s treasury until 1947). For the most part the Marines simply chose a member of the light skinned elite to ‘lead’ Haiti.
A look at the individuals who dominate Haiti’s economy today highlight ongoing racial exclusion. These wealthy, light skinned Haitians generally work with North American and Dominican sweatshop, mining and other capitalists with even paler complexions.
Trudeau is likely ignorant of the history/social reality his policies in Haiti are entrenching. But, it’s unlikely he understood that blackening his face for a laugh at a party also flowed from/contributed to centuries of racial subjugation. It was just popular in the elite social circles he operated in. The same can be said of his humiliation of the impoverished black masses in Haiti today.
During a rally/press conference before the September 27 climate strike/protest in Montréal a friend interrupted the Prime Minister to label him a “climate criminal”. When Trudeau joined the enormous march, I dogged him yelling “criminel climatique/climate criminal”. A week later I was detained and given a $150 ticket for yelling “climate criminal” outside a café where Trudeau was holding a press conference. While some might consider it hyperbolic, the case for labeling Trudeau a “climate criminal” is overwhelming:
The Liberals spent $4.5 billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline and related infrastructure. This important government intervention is designed to expand extraction of heavy carbon emitting tar sands oil that must stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate disturbances.
Two years ago Trudeau told oil executives in Houston, “no country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.” With these words the PM made it clear his government chose business (and profits) as usual over the survival of human civilization.
The Liberals broke their pre-election promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Ottawa continues to offer a few billion dollars a year in different forms of aid to oil, gas and other fossil fuel firms.
The Liberals eliminated the planned toll on the recently opened $4.4 billion Champlain Bridge to the South Shore of Montréal. The move tells suburbanites the federal government will aggressively subsidize the most costly, unhealthy and ecologically destructive form of land transport for every metre of their 10, 40 or 80 kilometre daily drive (alone) into the city.
The Liberals spent tens of billions of dollars on heavy carbon emitting fighter jets and naval vessels. In the best-case scenario, these weapons will only emit greenhouse gases during training. In the worst-case scenario, they will spew GHG as well as destroy lives and ecosystems. Additionally, militarism is intimately tied to nation state competition, which undercuts the international cooperation needed to mitigate the climate crisis.
By themselves any one of these acts should be viewed as a form of climate criminality. Heck, I’d label as a climate criminal a prime minister who didn’t buy a tar sands pipeline, declare support for extracting tar sands, break its promise to end fossil fuel subsidies, eliminate an important auto toll or spend on arms procurement. Simply failing to declare, legislate and fund a massive justice-based transition off of fossil fuels should be viewed as an act of climate criminality.
The situation is dire. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere is growing precipitously, increasing temperature and the number of “natural” disasters. Hundreds of thousands are already dying as a result of anthropocentric climate disturbances and the numbers are projected to grow.
The other reason it is criminal for a PM to fail to pursue a justice-based transition is Canada’s large current and accumulated carbon footprint. Per capita emissions in many African countries amount to barely one per cent of Canada’s rate. Even more startling is the historical imbalance among nations in global greenhouse gas emissions. According to a 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.
A sense of ‘carbon equity’ demands a rapid cut in Canadian GHG emissions. So does economic justice. 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. Additionally, Canada has far greater means to transition off of fossil fuels than many other places.
Is Andrew Scheer worse than Trudeau? Of course. But does acknowledgement that someone is worse make you less guilty?
Wherever he speaks Trudeau should be tagged as a climate criminal.