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Security Council loss is opportunity to develop a more just foreign policy

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Ottawa’s failure to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council is a victory for those seeking a more just Canadian foreign policy. Spurred by the no Canada on Security Council campaign, the loss offers a unique opportunity to push for a fundamental reassessment of this country’s activities and relationships in every corner of our interconnected planet.

The Trudeau government’s defeat is simultaneously unsurprising and remarkable. As I detail here, the international community’s rejection of Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council is not a surprise since Liberal foreign policy has largely mimicked that of Stephen Harper, who lost a similar bid in 2010.

Conversely, the victory is remarkable because Canada had many advantages over its competitors Ireland and Norway for the two “Western Europe and Others” Security Council seats. It is a member of the G7 and has a seat on the boards of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. A member of the Commonwealth and Francophonie, Canada also speaks the two main colonial languages. Canada is richer than Ireland and Norway and, notwithstanding commentary suggesting otherwise, actually distributes more international “aid” (which is portrayed much too positively by liberal commentators). Canada spends about five times more on overseas development assistance than Ireland and a few hundred million dollars more than Norway. (Norway spends a great deal more as a percentage of its GDP on ODA and Ireland contributes a slightly higher percentage.)

Canada has a far larger diplomatic apparatus than Ireland or Norway. In the lead-up to the UN vote, Canada’s diplomats published a slew of commentaries in international papers vaunting Canada’s ties to Namibia, Lebanon, etc. Canadian diplomats across the globe also produced Security Council related videos and a Twitter campaign.

But, the #NoUNSC4Canada campaign effectively pushed back against the government’s international Twitter drive. Even if Canada would have won the seat, I would have considered the No Canada on UN Security Council campaign a success since it generated significant critical discussion of foreign policy. Launched formally a month ago (after a multi-month Covid-19 delay) with an open letter in the Toronto Star calling on countries to vote against Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council due to its militarism, support for controversial mining companies, anti-Palestinian positions and climate policies. The Canadian Press, Radio Canada and other major Canadian media outlets reported on the letter signed by numerous prominent individuals, including David Suzuki, Noam Chomsky, Pam Palmater and Roger Waters. Many left Canadian media outlets published the letter and dozens of Spanish, French and English language international media outlets reported on the campaign. More than a half dozen videos, including one from Roger Waters and another from Québec National Assembly member Ruba Ghazal, were produced in support of the effort.

Beyond highlighting immoral policies, the original Canadian Foreign Policy Institute open letter was signed by more than 30 organizations and 3,500 individuals. Another Just Peace Advocates letter asking UN ambassadors to vote for Ireland and Norway instead of Canada due to its anti-Palestinian positions was signed by 100+ organizations and dozens of prominent individuals.

The all-volunteer campaign (bravo Karen Rodman, Bianca Mugyenyi, David Heap, David Kattenburg, Robert Assaly, Lorraine Guay, Tamara Lorincz and Arnold August) stimulated 1298 individuals to deliver letters to every UN ambassador urging them to vote against Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat due to its anti-Palestinian record. Additionally, 471 individuals emailed all UN ambassadors with the general open letter, 169 individuals emailed Caribbean ambassadors with a statement critical of Canada’s role in the Caribbean and 118 letters were sent to all African ambassadors critical of Canada’s role on that continent. Two days before the vote a #NoUNSC4Canada Twitter ‘storm’ targeting UN ambassadors with messages opposed to Canada’s Security Council bid generated enough online chatter to be mentioned by Radio Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne were questioned directly about the campaign. In the clearest example of how the campaign disrupted the government’s bid, Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Marc-André Blanchard, delivered a letter to all countries’ permanent missions at the UN responding to the Palestine-focused effort.

It’s hard to gauge the impact the no Canada on the Security Council campaign had on the individuals who privately cast the ballots. But, Canada received fewer votes on Wednesday than in 2010.

Whether one views this failure to earn a Security Council seat as a victory or a loss, it is clearly time to fundamentally reassess Canadian foreign policy. A good place to begin is a broad discussion about whether this country’s international affairs should continue to be driven by Washington and corporate interests or whether another sort of foreign policy is possible.

 

Please sign this petition calling for a fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy.

 

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International community rejects Canada’s bid for a seat on Security Council

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The international community’s rejection of Canada’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council isn’t a surprise. In the below introduction to my recently published House of Mirrors: Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy I detail how Liberal foreign policy has largely mimicked Stephen Harper’s who lost a bid for the Security Council in 2010.

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Justin Trudeau presents himself as “progressive” on foreign affairs. The Liberals claim to have brought Canada “back” after the disastrous Stephen Harper government. But, this book will demonstrate the opposite.

While promising to “make a real and valuable contribution to a more peaceful and prosperous world”, Trudeau has largely continued the Conservatives pro-corporate/empire international policies. The Liberals have followed the previous government’s posture on a wide range of issues from Russia to Palestine, Venezuela to the military.

In 2017 the Liberals released a defence policy that called for 605 more special forces, which have carried out numerous violent covert missions abroad. During the 2015 election campaign defence minister Jason Kenney said if re-elected the Conservatives would add 665 members to the Canadian Armed Forces Special Operations Command. The government’s defence policy also included a plan to acquire armed drones, for which the Conservatives had expressed support. Additionally, the Liberals re-stated the previous government’s commitment to spend over one hundred billion dollars on new fighter jets and naval ships.

The Harper regime repeatedly attacked Venezuela’s elected government and the Liberals ramped up that campaign. The Trudeau government launched an unprecedented, multipronged, effort to overthrow Nicolás Maduro’s government. As part of this campaign, they aligned with the most reactionary political forces in the region, targeting Cuba and recognizing a Honduran president who stole an election he shouldn’t have participated in. Juan Orlando Hernández’ presidency was the outgrowth of a military coup the Conservatives tacitly endorsed in 2009.

In Haiti the Liberals propped up the chosen successor of neo-Duvalerist President Michel Martelly who Harper helped install. Despite a sustained popular uprising against Jovenel Moïse, the Liberals backed the repressive, corrupt and illegitimate president.

The Trudeau government continues to justify Israeli violence against Palestinians and supports Israel’s illegal occupation. Isolating Canada from world opinion, they voted against dozens of UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by most of the world.

Initiated by the Conservatives, the Liberals signed off on a $14 billion Light Armoured Vehicle sale to Saudi Arabia. The Liberals followed Harper’s path of cozying up to other repressive Middle East monarchies, which waged war in Yemen. They also contributed to extending the brutal war in Syria and broke their promise to restart diplomatic relations with Iran, which the Conservatives severed.

The Liberals renewed Canada’s military “training” mission in the Ukraine, which emboldened far-right militarists responsible for hundreds of deaths in the east of that country. In fact, Trudeau significantly bolstered Canada’s military presence on Russia’s doorstep. Simultaneously, the Trudeau government expanded Harper’s sanctions against Russia.

On China the Liberals were torn between corporate Canada and militarist/pro-US forces. They steadily moved away from the corporate sphere and towards the militarist/US Empire standpoint. (During their time in office the Conservatives moved in the opposite direction.) Ottawa seemed to fear that peace might break out on the Korean Peninsula.

Trudeau backed Africa’s most bloodstained politician Paul Kagame.

Unlike his predecessor, Trudeau didn’t sabotage international climate negotiations. But the Liberals flouted their climate commitments and subsidized infrastructure to expand heavy emitting fossil fuels.

Ignoring global inequities, the Liberals promoted the interests of corporations and wealth holders in various international forums. They backed corporate interests through trade accords, Export Development Canada and the Trade Commissioner Service. Their support for SNC Lavalin also reflected corporate influence over foreign policy.

In a stark betrayal of their progressive rhetoric, the Trudeau regime failed to follow through on their promise to rein in Canada’s controversial international mining sector. Instead they mimicked the Conservatives’ strategy of establishing a largely toothless ombudsperson while openly backing brutal mining companies.

To sell their pro-corporate/empire policies the Liberals embraced a series of progressive slogans. As they violated international law and spurned efforts to overcome pressing global issues, the Liberals crowed about the “international rules-based order”. Their “feminist foreign policy” rhetoric rested uneasily with their militarism, support for mining companies and ties to misogynistic monarchies.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric, the sober reality is that Trudeau has largely continued Harper’s foreign policy. The “Ugly Canadian” continued to march across the planet, but with a prettier face at the helm.

My 2012 book The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy detailed the first six and a half years of Harper’s rule. This book looks at the first four years of Trudeau’s reign. I will discuss the many ways Canadian foreign policy under Conservative and Liberal governments remained the same. Support for empire and a pro-corporate neoliberal economic order is the common theme that links the actions of conservative and self-described “progressive” prime ministers.

 

Please sign this petition calling for a fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy.

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Canada does not deserve Caribbean countries’ support in its bid for a Security Council seat

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Canada is expecting Caribbean countries’ support in its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council. Canada does not deserve the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) support.

While the Canadian government often uses progressive, internationalist rhetoric, its current actions and failure to apologize for its imperialist, racist past belie the claims.

For example, over the past two years Ottawa has sought to undercut CARICOM’s non-interventionist position towards Venezuela. Canadian officials have repeatedly pressured CARICOM countries to join its campaign to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro. In September Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised Venezuela with CARICOM Chair Allen Chastanet and five months earlier Canadian officials facilitated a video link meeting between self-declared Venezuelan President Juan Guaido and CARICOM members. With Peru, Canada launched the “Lima Group” of anti-Maduro countries in mid 2017 after the Organization of American States, primarily Caribbean member states, refused to criticize Venezuela.

At the CARICOM summit in February Haiti, a participant in the Lima Group, pushed other members to join the campaign against the Venezuelan government. But, Jovenel Moïse is only President of Haiti because of support from the US and Canada, which have greatly shaped Haitian affairs since they overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and thousands of other elected officials in 2004. Ottawa played an important role in the coup and supported the murderous foreign imposed regime of Gérard Latortue for two years afterwards. CARICOM opposed the coup against Aristide.

Ottawa has long demonstrated imperialist tendencies elsewhere in the region. In the 1970s and 80s the Canadian military trained in Jamaica on a number of occasions in preparation for an intervention to protect Montréal-based Alcan’s bauxite facilities in the event of civil unrest and/or in case a socialist government took office. According to Royal Military College of Canada professor Sean Maloney’s summary of the internal documents, “the objective of the operation revolved around securing and protecting the Alcan facilities from mob unrest and outright seizure or sabotage.” In 1988 Canadian military planning resumed with an exercise titled “Southern Renewal”. Maloney explains, “in this case a company from two RCR [Royal Canadian Reserves] was covertly inserted to ‘rescue’ Canadian industrial personnel with knowledge of bauxite deposits seized by Jamaican rebels and held hostage.”

Canada’s colonial attitude is actually of even longer standing. “Canadians of varying backgrounds campaigned vigorously for Canada-West Indies union”, writes Paula Hastings in a 300-page thesis titled “Dreams of a Tropical Canada: Race, Nation, and Canadian Aspirations in the Caribbean Basin, 1883-1919.” Canada’s sizable financial sector in the region played an important part in the efforts for Caribbean colonies. In Towers of Gold, Feet of Clay: The Canadian Banks, Walter Stewart notes, “the business was so profitable that in 1919 Canada seriously considered taking the Commonwealth Caribbean off mother England’s hands.”

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

Until the second half of the 20th century Canada maintained a racist immigration policy that excluded most West Indians. In recent years some Canadian politicians have floated the idea of annexing Turks and Caicos. Others have pushed for foreign tutelage of Haiti.

Canada has never apologized for its racist past towards the people of the Caribbean and to this day continues to interfere in the internal affairs of the region’s nations.

Until Canada actually walks the anti-imperialist walk, rather than spouting occasional progressive talk, Caribbean countries should vote against Canada’s bid for a two-year seat on the UN Security Council.

 

Please sign this petition calling on UN member states to vote against Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat.

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For Trudeau Black (Haitian) lives do not matter

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Justin Trudeau and Jovenel Moïse

It appears that, in Haiti, Black lives do not matter much to the Canadian government.

Justin Trudeau is backing the neo-Duvalerists subjugating that country’s impoverished masses.

On Wednesday the prime minister called President Jovenel Moïse and “underscored the strong friendship between Canada and Haiti.” This is the latest instance of diplomatic support by the Liberals for a repressive, corrupt and illegitimate president who has faced massive popular protests. In April 2018 Trudeau met Moïse at the Summit of the Americas and Moïse’s Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant in Ottawa in December 2018. According to the post-meeting press release, Trudeau “took the opportunity to convey his support for current efforts of the Haitian government to promote political dialogue.”

In January 2017 foreign affairs minister Stéphane Dion and international development minister Marie-Claude Bibeau “warmly congratulated Jovenel Moïse on his election” and declared it “essential that the Haitian political actors respect the definitive results of the presidential election.” But, the president’s claim to legitimacy is paper-thin. Moïse assumed the job through voter suppression and electoral fraud. Barely one in five eligible voters took part in the 2016 presidential election and, even according to official figures, Moïse only received 600,000 votes in a country of over 10 million.

Amidst mass protests Canadian officials put out a stream of statements defending Moïse. In November 2018 Bibeau‏ declared a desire to “come to the aid” of the Haitian government and three months later she attacked the popular revolt. When asked by TVA “the demonstrators demand the resignation of the president. What is Canada’s position on this issue?” Bibeau responded, “the violence must stop; we will not come to a solution in this way.” But, the violence was overwhelmingly meted it out by the Canadian-backed regime.

Canadian officials have all but ignored the regime’s violence. The day after Trudeau talked with Moïse, US Congresswoman Maxine Waters sent a letter to the US ambassador in Haiti drawing attention to recent killings in the Port-au-Prince slum of Cité Soleil. On May 28 the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee wrote: “I am especially disturbed by reports that a death squad headed by Jimmy Cherizier, commonly known as ‘Barbecue,’ accompanied by three Haitian National Police armored personnel carriers invaded Cité Soleil Tuesday, burning houses and killing people. This violent attack reportedly follows violent attacks in the impoverished Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of Tokyo, Delmas, and Pont-Rouge over the previous two days, in which police officers allied with Cherizier stood by while houses were burned, and people were killed. These reports, if true, represent an outrageous and appalling escalation of politically motivated violence against the people of Haiti.”

During the popular uprising between July 2018 and November 2019 the police killed dozens, probably over 100. Videos of police beating protesters, violently arresting individuals and firing live ammunition during protests circulated widely. Amidst a month-long general strike at the end of October 2019 Amnesty International reported, “during six weeks of anti-government protests … at least 35 people were killed, with national police implicated in many of the deaths.” A UN report confirmed government involvement in a massacre that left at least 26, and possibly as many as 71, dead in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline in mid-November 2018. Residents said men in police uniforms began the killing. A year later 15 people were massacred in a nearby slum, reported the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, “in politically backed gang attacks intended to force residents of Bel-Air to remove protest barricades.”

Trudeau’s government provided various forms of support to the repressive force that maintained Moïse’s rule. Canadian police train their Haitian counterparts and Ottawa has paid for Haitian police buildings, vehicles, beds, etc.

The Liberals have supported the violent suppression of the popular will in Haiti. The Trudeau government has continued a two-decade old Canadian policy of undercutting Haitian democracy.

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#NoUNSC4Canada thrusts critical discussion of foreign policy into mainstream

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The No Canada on UN Security Council (#NoUNSC4Canada) campaign has thrust critical discussion of Canadian foreign policy into the mainstream. It has also pierced through a stultifying ‘team Canada’ nationalism that affects much of the left. While the historical record suggests otherwise, it is widely assumed that Canadian power is good for the world.

Last Tuesday the Toronto Star published a powerful open letter calling on countries to vote against Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council. It was endorsed by 20 groups and more than 100 prominent artists, academics, activists and authors including David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Noam Chomsky, Pam Palmater, Rawi Hage, Sid Ryan, Antonia Zerbisias, Monia Mazigh and Romeo Saganash. The open letter points out how the Trudeau government has been offside with most UN member states on a host of issues and criticizes Canadian militarism, support for controversial mining companies and climate policies.

Justin Trudeau was forced to respond to the letter during his press conference that day. Subsequently, the Canadian Press covered the letter and the Prime Minister’s response. Radio Canada’s Le Téléjournal did a long sympathetic clip and published a story online. Canadian Dimension, Dissident Voice, Rabble, Socialist Project, Presse-toi à gauche!, Left Chapter, Philippine Reporter, Legrand Soir, Les Artistes pour la Paix, L’aut’journal and others published the full letter while Telesur, Sputnik, Pacific Free Press, Redaction Politics, Hill Times, Omny, Orinoco Tribune, Counterpunch, The Conversation, Common Dreams and others covered it. A somewhat unhinged Global news commentary labeled it a “ridiculous petition”.

Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters did a four-minute video clip on why he feels Canada doesn’t deserve a seat on the Security Council, which has been viewed more than 100,000 times. A number of other individuals have produced videos detailing why Canada doesn’t deserve a seat on the Security Council. There’s also been significant discussion of the letter on social media and nearly 2000 people have signed the petition, which will be sent to all UN ambassadors.

The #NoUNSC4Canada campaign has added substance to a discussion focused on whether Ottawa will win a seat, how much time and money the government has spent on it and whether it’s all worth it. Unlike almost all other substantive criticism, the No Canada on UN Security Council campaign has done so without reinforcing nationalist mythology or the idea the world needs more Canada.

When the media has assessed actual policy — rather than the horse race — during the Security Council campaign two issues have received critical attention: Canada’s limited contribution to peacekeeping and low foreign aid. It’s not coincidental that both these criticisms suggest the ‘world needs more Canada’.

Coverage of Canada’s withdrawal from UN peacekeeping presupposes that “peacekeeping” is a benevolent endeavor, which has often not been the case. In 2004 Canada was part of a UN mission that helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government, in the early 1960s Canadian peacekeepers enabled the assassination of Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba and a decade before that Canadian troops were part of a ghastly UN lead war in Korea. Bemoaning Canada’s lack of peacekeeping is a nonthreatening criticism because it aligns with nationalist mythology and evades directly confronting military power (elements of the Canadian Forces have long viewed “peacekeeping”, which demands a military force, as a way to maintain public support for its budget.)

The media has also been willing to criticize Canada’s lack of aid. In the abstract and often in practice, international aid sounds appealing. In a just world, wealthier regions would assist poorer ones. Federal government transfer payments smooth out regional inequities in Canada and there’s no reason this type of policy couldn’t be internationalized. When looked at narrowly, most aid projects are beneficial (though there are many examples that are not, from training killer cops in Haiti, to rewriting Colombia’s mining code to better serve multinationals). Schools financed by Canada elsewhere usually benefit some children and the same can be said regarding money put into a farmers’ cooperative or a micro loan program for impoverished women. But as you broaden the lens of analysis the picture changes. Aid takes on a different meaning in the hands of governments run by and for the economic elite.

Initially conceived as a way to blunt radical decolonization in India, Canadian aid is primarily about advancing Ottawa’s geopolitical objectives and, to a lesser degree, specific corporate interests. In the 1970s, for instance, Ottawa increased aid to African states as a way to mitigate their criticism of Canada’s economic and political relations with apartheid South Africa. More substantially, the ‘intervention equals aid principle’ has long seen money channeled into countries where US and Canadian troops are killing people. The $2 billion in aid Canada spent in Afghanistan was at least partially a public relations exercise to justify — to the Canadian public and elite Afghans — its military occupation. Similarly, the huge influx of Canadian aid to Haiti after the 2004 coup was tied to undermining democracy.

While wealthier regions should assist poorer ones, the aid discussion puts a humanitarian gloss on a foreign policy largely driven by support of empire and Canadian corporate interests. The No Canada on Security Council campaign challenges the nationalist prism by criticizing unambiguous foreign policy injustices. Hopefully, #NoUNSC4Canada will go a small way to creating the conditions in which progressives feel comfortable declaring “the world needs less Canada” of the corporate, colonialist kind.

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Canada’s record on Palestinian rights should disqualify it from Security Council race

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Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record should disqualify it from a seat on the UN Security Council. Hopefully when member states pick amongst Ireland, Norway and Canada for the two Western Europe and Others positions on the Security Council they consider the international body’s responsibility to Palestinians. If they do it will be a rebuke to Canada’s embarrassing history of institutional racism against the Palestinian people.

Compared to Canada, Ireland and Norway have far better records on upholding Palestinian rights at the UN. According to research compiled by Karen Rodman of Just Peace Advocates, since 2000 Canada has voted against 166 General Assembly resolutions critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Ireland and Norway haven’t voted against any of these resolutions. Additionally, Ireland and Norway have voted yes 251 and 249 times respectively on resolutions related to Palestinian rights during this period. Canada has managed 87 yes votes, but only two since 2010.

In maybe the most egregious example of Ottawa being offside with world opinion, Canada sided with the US, Israel and some tiny Pacific island states in opposing a UN resolution supporting Palestinian statehood that was backed by 176 nations in December 2017.

The only time since the end of the colonial period Canada has somewhat aligned with international opinion regarding Palestinian rights was in the 1990s and early 2000s under Jean Chretien. In the early 1990s Norman Finkelstein labeled Canada “probably Israel’s staunchest ally after the United States at the United Nations” while a 1983 Globe and Mail article referred to “Canada’s position as Israel’s No. 2 friend at the UN.” In the early 1980s Ottawa sided with Israel on a spate of UN resolutions despite near unanimity of international opposition. In July 1980 Canada voted with the US and Israel (nine European countries abstained) against a resolution calling on Israel to withdraw completely and unconditionally from all Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967. On December 11, 1982 the Globe and Mail reported that the “United Nations General Assembly called yesterday for the creation of an independent Palestinian state and for Israel’s unconditional withdrawal from territories it occupied in 1967. Israel, Canada, the United States and Costa Rica cast the only negative votes as the assembly passed the appeal by 113 votes to 4, with 23 abstentions.”

Canada’s voting record on Palestinian rights at the UN is an abomination. It’s made worse by the fact that Canada contributed significantly to the international body’s role in dispossessing Palestinians. Canadian officials were important players in the UN negotiations to create a Jewish state on Palestinian land. Lester Pearson promoted the Zionist cause in two different committees dealing with the British Mandate of Palestine. After moving assiduously for a US and Soviet accord on the anti-Palestinian partition plan he was dubbed “Lord Balfour of Canada” by Zionist groups. Canada’s representative on the UN Special Committee on Palestine, Supreme Court justice Ivan C. Rand, is considered the lead architect of the partition plan.

Despite owning less than seven percent of the land and making up a third of the population, the UN partition plan gave the Zionist movement 55% of Palestine. A huge boost to the Zionists’ desire for an ethnically based state, it contributed to the displacement of at least 700,000 Palestinians. Scholar Walid Khalidi complained that UN (partition) Resolution 181 was “a hasty act of granting half of Palestine to an ideological movement that declared openly already in the 1930s its wish to de-Arabise Palestine.” Palestinians statelessness seven decades later remains a stain on the UN.

Over the past year the Canadian government has devoted significant energy and resources to winning a seat on the Security Council. In recent days, Canada’s foreign affairs minister has taken to calling individual UN ambassadors in the hopes of convincing them to vote for Canada.

To combat this pressure, a small group of Palestine solidarity activists have organized an open letter drawing attention to Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record. Signed by dozens of organizations, the letter will be delivered to all UN ambassadors in the hope that some of them will cast their ballots with an eye to the UN’s responsibility to Palestinians.

 

Please sign and share this petition against Canada’s Security Council bid: https://www.foreignpolicy.ca/petition

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Canadian GHG emissions grow

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While governments’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic proves significant resources can be marshalled quickly in a crisis, there is little evidence official Canada sees global warming as a comparable emergency.

Even though Justin Trudeau’s Liberals say they take climate change seriously, Canadian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are actually increasing. According to the inventory report the government filed with the United Nations last week, Canada’s emissions grew to more than 729 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and its equivalents in 2018. This represents a 15 million tonne increase over 2017.

Incredibly, the editors at the Globe and Mail decided this information deserved a 75-word brief in the bottom corner of page 15. While Canada’s paper of record buried the story, it deserved front-page attention. The situation is dire. Temperatures are increasing steadily and so too the frequency/intensity of “natural” disasters. In 2019 there were 15 natural disasters linked to climate change that caused more than a billion dollars in damage. Seven of them destroyed more than $10 billion. Hundreds of thousands have already died as a result of anthropocentric climate disturbances and the numbers will grow exponentially.

At the 2015 Paris climate negotiation the Trudeau government committed Canada to reducing GHG emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 (a major step backwards from Canada’s commitment under the Kyoto Protocol and 2009 Copenhagen Accord). But, this target is unlikely to be achieved. In December Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, said Canada was expected to emit 603 million tonnes of GHG in 2030, far above the 511 million tonnes agreed to in Paris (to meet the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Canada would need to reduce its GHG emissions to 381 million tonnes by 2030).

A November Nature Communications study seeking to reconcile the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5-to-2 C concluded that if the rest of the world flouted its commitments in a similar way to Canada temperatures would increase between 3 C and 4 C by the end of the century. A Climate Transparency report card release that month found that Canada’s plan to meet its GHG targets was among the worst (along with Australia and South Korea) in the G20. The November study found that the emissions intensity of Canada’s buildings, transportation and agriculture were all above the G20 average and that Canadians produced nearly three times more GHG per capita than the G20 average.

Expansion of the tar sands guarantees that Canada will flout its international commitments to reduce GHG emissions. According to the Parkland Institute, “bitumen production grew 376% from 2000 through 2018” and is projected to grow by another 1.41 million barrels per day by 2040. To expand extraction of heavy carbon emitting Alberta oil, the Liberals are spending $9 billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline and related infrastructure. Last week the government announced $1.7 billion to clean up orphan wells in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. While energy workers should be offered work cleaning up environmental devastation, the initiative is, in effect, a subsidy to a historically profitable industry that should be covering the costs.

This was not the first time the Liberals broke their pre-election promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Ottawa continues to offer billions of dollars (as much as $46 billion, according to one IMF working paper) a year in assistance to oil, gas and other fossil fuel firms. While Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s 2015 mandate letter from the PM said he should “work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to fulfil our G20 commitment and phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term”, there was no mention of this objective in either Morneau’s or Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson’s 2019 mandate letters.

Despite claiming to take the climate crisis seriously, the Trudeau government has failed to put the country on track to meet even dangerously insufficient targets for reducing GHG emissions. This is largely because of the oil industry’s power. The profits from oil and natural gas flow to their producers and distributers, as well as the banks that finance them, and other investors whose portfolios include these stocks. These are the people who, under the current economic system, mostly determine government policy.

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Politics and Writing in the Times of COVID-19

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by Gary Engler and Yves Engler

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. It is a bright cold day in April and clocks are striking thirteen. You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.

Gary and Yves Engler, father and son authors, discuss being funny, being serious, cancelled book tours, exploding sacred myths, pandemics, their latest books, and writing in the time of COVID-19.

(This conversation has been edited, because that’s what happens to writers.)

G: How are you feeling about your tour for House of Mirrors — Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy being cancelled?

Y: It’s a pretty big financial hit, especially if we can’t make it up in the Fall. Tours are a big part of my income.

G: Other than that how is COVID-19 treating you?

Y: Weirdly it’s actually been pretty good. I’ve been making great progress with my new book because there’s nothing to do except research and write. Grandma care has rescued us from the daycare shutting down and I withdrew a dozen books about Haiti from the Bibliothèque Nationale the day before it closed to the public. How about you? How do you spend your days stuck alone in Saskatoon?

G: Like you, at first I found social distancing to be very conducive to writing. I scrambled to get  Don Cherry is Fired, A Puck Hog has a Nervous Breakdown and Learns to Play Feminist, Anarchist Hockey published in record time. It’s now available as an eBook on Amazon and I’m hoping all those hockey fans who miss the Stanley Cup playoffs will switch off the reruns and read it.

Y: That’s got to be the strangest title for a novel ever. Although it does pretty much describe the book. Anarchism, feminism and hockey, who would have thought you could combine all three in one story?

G: It took a long time to get it just right.

Y: Wasn’t I playing junior hockey when you started writing the book?

G: Thanks for rubbing it in. Actually I was still working in the Vancouver Sun sports department so you were probably in bantam (14-15 year-olds).

Y: You’ve been working on a book for 25 years? Boggles the mind!

G: I was doing other things — journalist, union rep, four other novels, two non-fiction books. Not everyone can pump out a book a year. Especially ones that require extensive research. The new one you’re working on, what will that be?

Y: Thirteenth. My twelfth is a history of the military, Stand on Guard For Whom? — A People’s History of the Canadian Military that comes out in the Fall.

G: And an article every week. Your whole life, since the age of three when you liked something you did it, never tiring. You loved numbers and counting and you were wired on that before discovering hockey. That was the biggest thing in your life until 19. Then you just stopped. A few years later Canadian foreign policy piques your interest and you’ve been wired on that ever since. From hockey to writing and researching, no one saw that coming.

Y: The more you learn, the more you understand what you don’t know. School, you, Mom, everyone told me Canada was generally a force for good in the world but when I started looking, the details didn’t add up. You start questioning. Do you remember a coffee mug you had that said ‘Question Everything” on its side?

G: I do. Everyone at the Sun got one when the newsroom moved from Granville Street to the waterfront.

Y: Well I started questioning everything about what Canada was up to around the world. What I found was rather than being motivated by ‘doing good’ our foreign policy mostly supported the British then American empires and the interests of corporations and wealthy people. That’s the truth discovered when I question everything.

G: Strange. A quest for truth, that’s what motivated me to turn from journalism to fiction. What journalism uncovers is too shallow. Like fact checking what Donald Trump says. It’s necessary, but what about getting at the truth of why 45 per cent of Americans voters actually like and support their president.

Y: You’re saying fiction gets at that better than journalism?

G: Yes. My Fake News mysteries — American Spin, War on Drugs and Misogyny — get closer to describing reality in the Donald Trump era than you’ll find in newspapers. Fiction allows you to describe how people are feeling, what they’re thinking, self-doubts — pieces of human experience that seldom make their way into the news.

Y: Sorry, I’m calling you on that one. This interior truth is no way near as important as objective reality. Why has Canada been trying to undermine the Venezuelan government for at least a decade? To answer this question requires facts, not fiction.

G: My fiction aspires to much more than just ‘interior’ truth. I’m after Truth with a capital T. Like 1984 and Animal Farm about totalitarianism or Catch 22 about war. Joseph Heller was able to tell more truth in a novel about the experience of military life than all the reporting about the Second World War. Look, I agree good journalism is critically important, but so is fiction that entertains and helps us make sense of the world.

Y: Most people are finding that hard right now.

G: With lots of time at home maybe more people will begin to question everything.

Y: Or meekly accept everything their government is telling them.

G: That’s why I wanted to write a novel combining sports and politics. And the FAKE NEWS Mysteries. We need to reach people who enjoy escapist fiction and those who watch hockey in order to counter the pro-capitalist narrative that is everywhere. To get the truth out, to build economic democracy, to create an alternative vision of how we can organize society we must talk to as many people as possible, not just to those who already agree with us.

Y: In theory, in the long run, I agree with you, but my experience has been that the first step is to target as many of the existing dissidents as I can with my writing. Once ‘the left’ is onside with understanding the problems of imperialism, capitalism and nationalism, then we can more effectively go after a wider audience.

G: You don’t think ‘the left’ understands nationalism, capitalism and imperialism?

Y: No, unless you define ‘left’ very narrowly. Most people who consider themselves socialists or who dislike capitalism are fooled by appeals to support ‘their’ country, ‘their’ military, ‘their’ leaders. They are told over and over and over again that ‘we’ are the good guys and that countries ‘over there’ are the ‘bad guys’. The rich and powerful have been dividing and conquering us for an awfully long time. It won’t stop until we build a powerful enough international movement of people who understand how this bullshit oppresses us.

G: Do you think the current pandemic will be good or bad for international understanding and solidarity?

Y: Who knows? Both the broad left and the broad right are divided on the question of nationalism versus internationalism.

G: We can’t let the right own the idea that we must look after ourselves, because we should. Communities everywhere should be as locally self-sufficient as possible. The pandemic has illustrated that very clearly.

Y: Sure, but we can’t fall into the trap of only looking after ourselves. Of making the ‘other’ our enemy. We need to apply something as simple as a modified Golden Rule to the entire planet. ‘What we want for ourselves we must work towards for everybody.’

G: Surely COVID-19 makes the necessity of that much clearer. It really does prove we live in one world.

Y: So you are an optimist

G: Pessimism has never made sense to me.

Y: What are you working on now?

G: It’s called Love and Capitalism in the 21st Century, something I started over 20 years ago. It spans the time from the dot.com boom to today. This pandemic has given me the perfect ending.

Y: So you’re happy that COVID-19 has kept you home alone in your basement office typing away on your laptop creating the next great Canadian novel?

G: Happy? No. Being alone writing is great for about four or five hours a day. But then you miss human contact. Even writers need some of that.

 

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Intelligence agencies fail to protect us from pandemic

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CSIS and CSE headquarters

With millions forced out of work and many more stuck at home, Canadians need to ask tough questions of organizations receiving billions of dollars to protect them from foreign threats. The country’s intelligence/security sector has done little to respond to the ongoing social and economic calamity. Even worse, their thinking and practices are an obstacle to what’s required to overcome a global pandemic.

A recent Canadian Press article highlights the failure of intelligence agencies to warn of the COVID-19 outbreak. They largely ignore health-related threats despite receiving huge sums of federal money.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) has more than 3,000 employees and a $500 million budget, which is nearly equal to that of the lead agency dealing with the pandemic. The Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) budget is $675 million and it has 2,200 employees. For its part, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) employs 2,500 and receives over $600 million annually. In 2011 Department of National Defence run CSE moved into a new $1.2 billion, 110,000 square metre, seven-building, complex connected to CSIS’ main compound.

CSE is but one component of DND’s intelligence juggernaut. Not counting CSE, the Canadian Forces has greater intelligence gathering capacities than any organization in the country. While their budget and size are not public information, the government’s 2017 Defence Policy review notes that “CFINTCOM [Canadian Forces Intelligence Command] is the only entity within the Government of Canada that employs the full spectrum of intelligence collection capabilities while providing multi-source analysis.” The Defence Policy Paper called for adding 300 military intelligence positions and expanding CFINTCOM’s scope.

CFINTCOM has a medical intelligence (MEDINT) cell to track how global health trends and contagions impact military operations. Apparently, they reported on the coronavirus outbreak in January but it’s unclear who received that information.

The $2 billion spent on CSIS/CSE/CFINTCOM annually — let alone the more than $30 billion devoted to DND/Veterans Affairs — could have purchased a lot of personal protective equipment for health care workers. It could have paid for many ventilators and it could also have been used to raise the abysmally low wages of many who work in long-term care and nursing homes.

But, it’s not only that CSIS/CSE/CFINTCOM resources could be better used. Their ideology and structures are an obstacle to avoiding/overcoming a global pandemic. Two weeks ago, CSE put out a statement warning Canadian coronavirus researchers to beware of malign international forces seeking to steal their research. A Canadian Centre for Cyber Security statement noted, “these actors may attempt to gain intelligence on COVID-19 response efforts and potential political responses to the crisis or to steal ongoing key research toward a vaccine or other medical remedies.” But, wouldn’t it, in fact, be great if our ‘enemies’ in Russia, China, Iran, or anywhere else employed Canadian research to develop a cure or vaccine for COVID-19? Who, except extreme right-wing ideologues could believe a vaccine or cure should be patented and profited from?

It won’t be easy to shift their orientation to include pandemics. In a recent commentary, prominent intelligence agency insider Wesley Wark notes, “our security and intelligence agencies have never seen health emergency reporting as part of their core mandate, despite a plan laid down in the National Security Policy announced after SARS that unfortunately went nowhere.” For a time after the 2003 SARS outbreak the CSIS-based Integrated Threat Assessment Centre reported regularly on pandemic dangers, but the unit was soon collapsed into the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre. For the intelligence agencies “terrorism” is appealing because it justifies militarism and a ‘security’ state. Health emergencies, on the other hand, justify better work conditions for long-term care providers.

The CSIS/CSE/CFINTCOM definition of ‘security’ is heavily shaped by corporate Canada, state power projection and ties to the US Empire. In criticizing Canadian intelligence agencies’ failure to warn/protect us from the pandemic, Wark highlights the dangerously narrow outlook of the intelligence community. He suggests CSIS/CSE/CFINTCOM could have helped prevent the calamity by gathering better intelligence on China. But, if Beijing hid early information on COVID-19, it’s at least partly because China is locked in a destructive geopolitical competition with the US empire, which was instigated by Washington and its allies (from 1949 to 1970 Canada refused to recognize China and in 1950 sent 27,000 troops to Korea largely to check Chinese nationalism). In recent months CSIS/CSE/CFINTCOM have sought to identify China as a threat.

Wark’s thinking must be rejected. Avoiding and overcoming global pandemics requires a free exchange of health information. It also requires international solidarity.

After the COVID-19 crisis dies down, progressives should renew their push to devote intelligence agencies’ resources towards initiatives that protect ordinary Canadians’ security, rather than the interests of the rich and powerful.

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‘Alternative’ media outlet offers no alternative on Canadian foreign policy

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National Observer does not question Ottawa’s foreign policy

Why would an alternative media website that questions government and corporate policies about climate change and the environment have so much trouble understanding that the same sort of skepticism is necessary regarding Canadian foreign policy?

Imagine a self-declared progressive media outlet saying they don’t cover racism, patriarchy or the dispossession of First Nations because they don’t have the expertise. Most on the left would laugh or label that outlet racist, sexist and pro-colonial. But that seems to be the National Observer’s position regarding coverage of Canadian imperialism.

While they publish international affairs stories mimicking Ottawa’s view of the world from Canadian Press – owned by Power Corporation, Globe and Mail and Torstar – they cannot allow a critical voice who has written more than a half dozen books about Canadian foreign policy.

Recently I submitted an opinion article about Canada’s role in Haiti to Observer Managing Editor Laurie Few. Signed by Solidarité Québec-Haiti #Petrochallenge 2019 members Marie Dimanche, Frantz André and myself, Few agreed to publish a story that began by discussing recent efforts to burn the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. In fact, she asked for an update about a demonstration Solidarité Québec-Haiti organized last Sunday and pictures from the march.

After the story failed to appear, I asked Few what was happening. Observer editor-in-chief Linda Solomon Wood replied that they don’t cover Canadian imperialism in Haiti. “There are many topics we simply don’t get into because we don’t know the issue well enough,” Wood wrote. “Before I would want to publish opinion on Haiti, I would want to have an in-depth reported feature or investigation from on the ground in Haiti.”

But, a quick Google search uncovered a half dozen stories the Observer published on Haiti this year. I sent them to Wood to which she replied: “Yes, but all Canadian Press, not our own reporters. Our staff does not have expertise here.”

In response I wrote, “I’m guessing that many of your left-wing readers would understand the political implications of National Observer being able to publish stuff on Haiti that comes from the Canadian Press but not activists/authors on the issue.”

While I thought it was obvious, Wood asked “what are the implications you are referring to?” So, I spelled it out: “That you can put out the official perspective on foreign-policy but not critical perspectives. Which is my sense of your coverage of Venezuela and now Haiti. Effectively you become a pro imperialist media outlet.”

To Wood’s credit she partly conceded. “You have a point about publishing CP content on foreign affairs, we trust CP’s quality and verification processes”, she wrote. “I’m going to give this some thought. There’s no real advantage to us publishing CP material on foreign stories unless they are about our topic areas. You make a good point.”

In the last two weeks the Observer has published CP stories headlined “[outgoing foreign minister Chrystia] Freeland will leave her mark”, “Can Justin Trudeau save NATO from ‘brain death?’”, “Military families sacrifice for Canada. Remembrance Day honours that painful cost”, “Canada supports genocide case against Myanmar government”, “Canada casts controversial UN vote for Palestinian self-determination”, “Pelosi suggests passing of NAFTA 2.0 is ‘imminent’” and “Brewing battle over future of NATO creates minefield for Canada”. All were typical, unquestioning, Canada-is-a-force-for-good-in-the-world “news” articles.

At the start of the year I noticed that the Observer was effectively backing Canadian imperialism in Venezuela. I wrote Wood and another editor, “from what I can tell the National Observer has failed to critically cover Canada’s role in seeking to overthrow Venezuela’s government. You have published a few stories effectively supporting Canadian intervention. Below is a submission critical of Canadian policy. I am certain that many of your readers and funders are opposed to this crass Canadian intervention or at minimum believe that an independent news outlet should provide both sides to the story.” The Observer didn’t, of course, publish my article. In subsequent months, however, they published a number of stories aligned with Canadian policy towards Venezuela.

More recently, the Observer has totally ignored Canada’s role in overthrowing Bolivian President Evo Morales. Similarly, the Observer has published many stories sympathetic to the armed forces, but I couldn’t find a single article from the climate-focused outlet dealing with the Canadian military’s carbon footprint.

If the National Observer wants to be taken seriously as a news outlet willing to tell the truth regardless of who the truth offends then it must be willing to challenge the status quo coverage of international affairs. At a minimum it must offer some critical voices. Its readers and supporters deserve at least that.

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