Criticism of Canadian policy in Haiti growing

Protesters seek to burn Canadian embassy in Haiti

A growing number of voices are criticizing Canadian policy in Haiti and a petition to be read in Parliament on Monday will shine a light on the historical roots of the issue.

In recent weeks many groups and individuals have criticized Canadian support for a dictator who is actively opposed by the overwhelming majority of Haitians. Three current MPs and three former MPs, as well as Stephen Lewis, Roger Waters, David Suzuki, Naomi Klein and 500 others, signed a letter last month criticizing Canada’s “support for a repressive, corrupt Haitian president devoid of constitutional legitimacy.” As Jovenel Moïse extended his mandate beyond the February 7 deadline that should have ended his presidential term La Coalition Haïtienne au Canada contre la dictature en Haïti was established in Montréal. The coalition of Haitian community groups’ criticism of Moïse’sunlawful appointment of an electoral council and constitutional referendum is backed by many Canadian organizations. The Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Union of Public Employees, all of Québec’s major labour unions and its main NGO coalition, as well as numerous other groups, recently signed a statement calling on Ottawa to “stop supporting” Moïse who has criminalized protest blockades as “terrorism” and established a new intelligence agency empowered to infiltrate and arrest anyone engaged in “subversive” acts.

In a statement last week headlined “Canada must stop supporting Haiti’s unconstitutional government” Public Service Alliance of Canada national president Chris Aylward aggressively opposed Ottawa’s policy. “Tragically, Canada has been working against democracy in Haiti for two decades, all too often choosing to support right-wing politicians who have little concern for Haiti’s poor majority”, noted Aylward in a statement citing Canada’s role in “helping overthrow a democratically-elected Haitian government” in 2004.

On Sunday Solidarité Québec-Haïti is organizing a demonstration in front of foreign affairs minister Mark Garneau’s office in Montréal and on Monday a petition the group sponsored will be read in the House of Commons by Bloc Québecois MP Mario Beaulieu. The petition highlights Moïse’s dependence on the “Core Group”, which includes the representatives of the US, France, Germany, Brazil, Organization of American States (OAS), UN, Spain and Canada. The petition links the creation of the “Core Group” to the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti”.

On January 31, 2003 the Canadian government convened top US, French and OAS officials to discuss Haiti’s future. No Haitian representatives were invited to the two-day meeting where they discussed the removal of the elected president, re-creating the dreaded military and putting the country under UN trusteeship. Thirteen months later US Marines forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of the country in the middle of the night with Canadian special forces “securing” the airport from which Aristide said he was “kidnapped”. UN forces have been in Haiti for most of the past 17 years and the Haitian military has been re-created.

In what was likely a government-organized trial balloon, prominent journalist Michel Vastel brought the meeting to public attention in the March 15, 2003 issue of Québec’s L’actualité magazine. Despite a major outlet reporting on the meeting at the time, the media barely mentioned or investigated the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” after the coup. Until last year.

In a 45-minute report tied to the 10th anniversary of the horrible 2010 earthquake Radio-Canada’s flagship news program “Enquête” looked back on the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti. They interviewed Denis Paradis, the minister responsible for organizing the meeting, who admitted no Haitian representatives were invited to discuss their own country’s future at the get together.

Spurred by Enquête’s investigation, the parliamentary petition calls on the federal government to “publish all documents relating to the ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti’” and to “hold a hearing of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to learn everything there is to know about the ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti,’ including its link to the “Core Group.”

A look back at the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti will help make sense of Canada’s role in Haiti. To do the right thing we must understand this country’s contribution to the repression facing Haiti’s impoverished majority today.

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti

Palestine solidarity delivers blow to JNF colonialism

Score a small, but symbolically significant, victory for pro-Palestinian and anti-racist forces. The Jewish National Fund of Canada has been forced to rebrand and distance itself from its Israeli parent organization.

Under pressure from Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and others the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) instigated an audit of the JNF in 2018. The audit dragged on for over a year and there was never a formal announcement of its conclusion. But it is now clear the organization has been forced to make some changes.

In a letter buried on its website JNF Canada recently announced a change of logo to differentiate it from its parent organization in Israel (KKL-JNF). It also removed “KKL” from its corporate name and JNF Canada claims its funds will no longer be “co-mingled with KKL’s general accounts”.

JNF Canada’s letter also says that “the CRA has instructed us that it is a violation of Canadian policy to develop projects in the disputed [illegally occupied West Bank] territories. JNF Canada has gone on the record with CRA that due to this interpretation of Canadian foreign policy, we will not fund projects in the disputed territories.” Recently there’s been significant criticism of JNF-KKL’s announcement that it may buy land in the occupied West Bank (it has been doing so quietly for years).

The letter makes no mention of its discriminatory land-use policy but JNF Canada has changed its explicitly supremacist twitter handle. Previously JNF Canada’s Twitter said it “is the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners — Jewish people everywhere.” Now, it says, “the Jewish National Fund of Canada is Building the Foundations of Israel’s Future.”

In control of 13% of Israel’s land – and with significant influence over most of the rest – KKL-JNF openly discriminates against the over 20% of Israelis who aren’t Jewish. Its website notes that “a survey commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.”

According to Canadian law, charities should not be supporting racism. In fact, the CRA has a policy of promoting charities that support racial equality.

Forcing changes on JNF Canada has been long in the making and has come at some cost for a number of individuals. Born in a West Bank village demolished to make way for the JNF’s Canada Park, Ismail Zayid has been complaining to the CRA about its charitable status for four decades. For years Lebanese Canadian Ron Saba has been “writing to various Canadian government departments and officials, corporations, and media to” denounce what he calls the “racist JNF tax fraud”. During the Liberal Party convention in 2006 Saba was widely smeared for drawing attention to leadership candidate Bob Rae’s ties to the JNF. Saba has put in multiple Access to Information requests regarding the JNF, demonstrating government spying of its critics and long-standing knowledge of the organization’s dubious practices. Under the headline “Event you may want to monitor,” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Caitlin Workman sent the CRA a communication about a 2011 IJV event in Ottawa stating: “author of the Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Yves Engler, will give a talk on Canada and the Jewish National Fund.” At the Green Party convention in 2016 Corey Levine pushed a resolution to revoke the JNF’s charitable status because it practices “institutional discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel.” The effort brought the issue into the mainstream though she, IJV and the entire Green Party were smeared as “hard core Jew haters” for even considering the resolution.

In 2018 IJV and four individuals filed a detailed complaint to the CRA and Minister of National Revenue over the JNF. For two decades activists across the country have picketed local JNF fundraising galas and Canadian campaigners have also benefited from many supporters in Palestine/Israel as well as the international Stop the JNF campaign.

While it’s outrageous that JNF Canada has been allowed to continue granting tax credits through its charitable status, it is significant to force embarrassing changes on a 100-year-old organization with powerful allies. In recent years Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper, Irwin Cotler and other top politicians, as well as many titans of corporate Canada, have appeared at their fundraisers.

The campaign to revoke the JNF’s charitable status has always been about more than winning the specific demand. It draws attention to the racism intrinsic to Zionist ideology and highlights Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession. At a broader level, there is a desperate need to question why Canadian taxpayers subsidize hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to a country with a GDP per capita equal to Canada. How many Canadian charities funnel money to France or Japan?

The no JNF campaign should not stop. Forcing the CRA to remove JNF Canada’s charitable status is a minimum demand. If Ottawa adopted the S demand of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), it would be illegal for Canadians to support the JNF. That would be a victory!

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Filed under Activism, Israel

Israel lobby group has no credibility to lecture NDP on racism

 

It’s heating up. With a month to go before the NDP convention the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has twice attacked Palestine solidarity and the left of the party.

In a Twitter thread on Tuesday the official advocacy arm of Canada’s Jewish federations promoted the idea that Canada’s first ever openly gay member of parliament and a 20-year MP were “antisemitic.” CIJA attacked Svend Robinson and Libby Davies for sponsoring a resolution against the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism to the April NDP convention. In a series of aggressive tweets CIJA linked to a Times of Israel story titled “NDP radicals should stop politicizing antisemitism” that claimed Robinson and Davies “peddled” “antisemitism.” The logic (if you can call it that) is that it is anti-Jewish to oppose a definition of anti-Semitism designed to maintain the subjugation of Palestinians.

Former Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) head Sid Ryan recently reported that 55 NDP electoral associations, the president of CUPE Ontario, leadership of OFL, several District Labour Councils, Independent Jewish Voices, Palestine House, Palestinian Canadian Congress, Just Peace Advocates, several NDP MPs and many more have endorsed the anti-IHRA resolution. “There has never been this much broad based support for a resolution submitted to a NDP convention in its 60 year history”, Ryan wrote on Facebook.

At the same time another resolution to the convention dubbed the “Palestine Resolution” has been supported by 33 riding associations and numerous groups. It calls for “ending all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine” and “suspending the bilateral trade of all arms and related materials with the State of Israel until Palestinian rights are upheld.” The resolution effectively urges the NDP to adopt the policy recommendations of the Canadian Labour Congress on the issue.

In a sign of the pressure CIJA is putting on the party leadership to suppress the IHRA and Palestine resolutions, they released a statement that targeted Davies and Robinson. In a release last week that was a clearly designed to marginalize the left within the NDP, CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel noted: “Jeremy Corbyn is toxic. The invitation to the disgraced leader [a March 20 webinar between MP Niki Ashton and Corbyn] is more evidence that Svend Robinson, Niki Ashton, Libby Davies and a few others want to take the NDP in a direction that is antithetical to basic Canadian values. This small group is actively undermining NDP leadership.”

While a definition of anti-Semitism designed to maintain Palestinian subjugation is obviously odious, the anti-IHRA campaign makes me somewhat uncomfortable. It’s too defensive. Rather than being on the backfoot, anti-racists should loudly proclaim that lobbyists for Israel’s “regime of Jewish supremacy” (B’Tselem) have zero credibility on racism.

Alas, Canadian political culture is what it is. CIJA is not done attacking the NDP. As the convention approaches expect op-eds, tweets, press releases, etc. that seek to link Davies, Robinson, Ashton or the NDP more generally to real or perceived anti-Semitism. At recent conventions CIJA has organized breakfasts and brought in ‘progressive’ Israeli officials. How this plays out during this virtual convention is unclear.

In deference to CIJA and the dominant media, expect the party leadership to seek to suppress the IHRA and Palestine resolutions. At the 2018 convention the Palestine Resolution, which was endorsed unanimously by the NDP youth convention and by over 24 riding associations, was blocked from even being discussed by the party hierarchy. (The resolution mostly restated official Canadian policy, except that it called for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”) NDP House Leader Guy Caron mobilized an unprecedented number of current and former MPs, including Alexandre Boulerice, Randall Garrison, Craig Scott, Tracey Ramsey, Hélène Laverdière, Murray Rankin and Nathan Cullen, to vote against even debating the most widely endorsed foreign policy resolution at the convention. Additionally, members of Jagmeet Singh’s family, Stephen Lewis foundation’s Janet Solberg, Broadbent Institute’s Rick Smith and their allies all attended the early morning session to stop the Palestine Resolution from being discussed at the main plenary.

Internationalists participating in the upcoming convention should plan to overcome every trick in the book from the party hierarchy to suppress Palestine solidarity. Courage anti-racists!

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Filed under Israel Lobby, NDP

Globe & Mail fearmongers about foreign influence while ignoring US government funding to Uighur Rights groups in Canada

It’s curious how Globe and Mail reporters troubled by foreign influence over Canadian politics regularly turn to US-government-funded groups in this country. Are they aware of this irony? Or is their purported concern about foreign influence really about demonizing China?

According to a recent article by Robert Fife and Steven Chase, the Trudeau government is “actively considering” setting up a registry of foreign agents to track those paid to influence Canadian politics on behalf of other states. The story — and previous ones from Chase and Fife — suggest a registry is a way to check “the Chinese government’s influence” over Canadian politics. The two journalists and others at the Globe have been campaigning aggressively against Chinese influence and now the government looks ready to buckle. “The government is focused on protecting Canadian democracy from foreign influence, and a registry of foreign agents is something that we are actively considering,” Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Robert Oliphant, told the Globe. “We are aware that some of our allies, namely, the United States and Australia, already have foreign agent registries in place and we are studying that.”

A day before Fife and Chase reported on plans for a foreign agents’ registry — a fine idea if applied broadly — Aidan Jonah published a report in The Canada Files titled “Subcommittee report declaring ‘Uighur Genocide’ dominated by researchers and groups funded by CIA cut-out, National Endowment for Democracy”. The story includes a remarkable revelation about the Ottawa-based Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project. The group’s website states openly that the “Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project is funded by the Washington-based National Endowment Fund for Democracy for its Advocacy work in Canada.” (my emphasis)

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was established in 1983 to work alongside the CIA. In 1991 Allen Weinstein, a founding member and president, told the Washington Post, “a lot of what we [NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

NED funding for Uighur groups in Canada is not to support charity work. There are only around 1,500 Uighurs in Canada and this country is about as far from Xinjiang as anywhere. The Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project is a political organization that is openly seeking to Balkanize China. Its site says it aims “to document the policies of China’s government targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic people in East Turkistan in China and globally.” Moreover, it says it defends “Uyghurs and other natives of East Turkistan who are living under Chinese occupation since 1949.” In other words, the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project rejects the legitimacy of the nationalist/communist revolution that united China after more than a century of foreign domination.

Fife and Chase are concerned about Chinese influence in Canada. But they seem indifferent to far more pervasive US influence. Two days before their latest story about the dangers of foreign-funded agents in Canada, Fife and Chase quoted Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project executive director Mehmet Tohti. They have quoted the NED-funded group on multiple occasions over the past year. They have also quoted other NED financed groups such as the World Uyghur Congress.

Fife and Chase ought to be embarrassed by the crass double standard. But remorse is unlikely. In November I detailed how the Globe considers foreign influence in Canada bad if it comes from China, but barely worth mentioning when Israel is involved. The contrast is even starker with the US. In October, for instance, the MacDonald Laurier Institute published a widely cited commentary titled “Shining a Brighter Light on Foreign Influence in Canada” critical of Chinese influence and calling on Ottawa to regulate foreign agents. Last month the group set up Disinfowatch.org, which appears focused on Chinese and Russian influence. But the MacDonald Laurier Institute’s initiative is funded by the US State Department’s Global Engagement Center!

Fife, Chase and others’ blatant double standard regarding “foreign influence” in Canada is contributing to a wave of Sinophobia sweeping political life. Is this the intent of US funding for anti-China propaganda? Are Canadian journalists the willing tools or ‘useful idiots’ of this campaign?

The irony of this “reporting” about “foreign influence” would be rather amusing except for the fact is could lead us into a conflict that leaves the entire world worse off.

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B’nai B’rith smear doesn’t change facts about university funding

Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman donate $100 million to University of Toronto

B’nai B’rith is at it again. The racist group is smearing a pro-Palestinian voice for pointing out a simple truth about Canadian life.

Last week the anti-Palestinian organization released a statement headlined “Carleton University Should Condemn Antisemitism, Take Action on Professor’s Remarks”. The alleged offence was that sociology professor Nahla Abdo stated that pro-Israel individuals gave significant sums to Canadian universities and sponsored many buildings. She pointed out that this funding gave them influence and that Jewish studies operates as “basically Israel studies”. One can listen to her full, altogether benign, comment 118 minutes into a broader discussion on Zionism.

Notwithstanding B’nai B’rith’s statement, it is a fact that pro-Israel individuals have contributed far more to Canadian universities than pro-Palestinian voices and that this has strengthened anti-Palestinian forces in those institutions. Here are some examples:

  • At Carleton there is an Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism, David J. Azrieli Pavilion and Azrieli Theatre named after the Israeli-Canadian real estate magnate who gave the university millions of dollars. One of the richest Canadians prior to his death, David Azrieli served in the paramilitary Haganah group during the 1948 war. His unit was responsible for the Battle of Jerusalem, including forcibly displacing 10,000 Palestinians. A real estate developer in Israel, Azrieli made a controversial donation in 2011 to Im Tirtzu, a hardline Israeli-nationalist organization (deemed a “fascist” group by an Israeli court).
  • The Azrieli family put up $1 million to establish a Jewish Studies program at Concordia. An orchestrator of opposition to Palestinian solidarity activism at the Montreal university through the 2000s, Concordia Jewish studies professor Norma Joseph was also “instrumental” in setting up the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies. In 2011 Azrieli gave Concordia $5 million to establish the first minor in Israel Studies at a Canadian university. After attending an Association for Israel Studies’ conference organized by the Azrieli Institute, prominent anti-Palestinian activist Gerald Steinberg described the institute as part of a “counterattack” against pro-Palestinian activism at Concordia.
  • The Israeli nationalist tilt of McGill’s Jewish studies is actually inscribed in a major funding agreement. In 2012 the estate of Simon and Ethel Flegg contributed $1 million to McGill’s Jewish Studies department partly for an “education initiative in conjunction with McGill Hillel.” But Hillel refuses to associate with Jews (or others) who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the state of Israel.”
  • The University of Toronto’s Jewish studies was financed by the Tanenbaums. One of the wealthy donors that replaced the Canadian Jewish Congress with the even more staunchly anti-Palestinian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Larry Tanenbaum and his brother have given the University of Toronto at least $10 million and helped raise $10 million more for the university’s Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies and other initiatives. Last summer the University of Toronto law school rescinded a job offer to Valentina Azarova to head its International Human Rights Program after pressure from David Spiro, a former co-chair of CIJA Toronto and nephew of Larry Tanenbaum. Spiro was hostile towards Azarova because of her defence of Palestinian rights.
  • The Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies has close ties with the University of Toronto’s Andrea and Charles Bronfman Chair in Israeli Studies. Alongside funding for the Anne Tanenbaum Centre, the famously Zionist Bronfman family provided $1.5 million to create the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Chair in Israeli Studies.
  • The Bronfman Chair in Israeli Studies is now part of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, which was set up in 2010 with $35 million from Barrick Gold founder Peter In 1999 the Canadian Jewish News reported on a sizable donation Munk made to Israel’s Technion university and a speech in which he “suggested that Israel’s survival is dependent on maintaining its technological superiority over the Arabs.”
  • In 2019, power couple Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman donated $100 million to the University of Toronto in the institution’s largest ever donation. Schwartz and Reisman created the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides millions of dollars annually for non-Israelis who fight in that country’s armed forces.
  • Supporter of Israel Seymour Schulich is almost certainly the leading private donor to universities across the country. The mining magnate claims to have donated more than a quarter billion dollars to universities, including a $20 million gift to Israel’s Technion. There is a Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie, Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario, Schulich School of Business at York as well as the Schulich Library of Science and Engineering and Schulich School of Music at McGill.

The above list is by no means exhaustive. But does this generosity come with strings attached? Certainly, it’s not uncommon for pro-Israel voices to publicly call on the Jewish community to withhold donations to universities to pressure them to clamp down on pro-Palestinian activism. When former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s September 2002 speech at Concordia was canceled due to protests, at least one major university donor backed out. Some board of governors’ members cited this as a rationale for a major clampdown on student rights. (See my Playing Left Wing:From Rink Rat to Student Radical for more detail.) Marcel Dupuis, the university’s director of corporate and foundation giving, conceded to the Montreal Gazette that “donors and alumni are saying ‘if you don’t get things in order, we’re pulling the funding.’” Later Concordia Rector Frederick Lowy further elaborated that there “have been repercussions already on fundraising.”

The Asper foundation sponsored Netanyahu’s failed visit to Concordia. In a rant against the supposedly anti-Israel media a few weeks later, Izzy Asper, owner of Canada’s largest media conglomerate, said: “We should withhold our financial support from those institutions [universities] that fail this obligation of educational integrity [to train reporters to support Israel].” This was a threat that Asper could deliver on. In 1999 he gave $2 million to the University of Manitoba, then the largest donation in the university’s history, for an Asper Chair in International Business and Trade Law as well as other funding for an Asper Centre for Entrepreneurship and other initiatives.

No matter what B’nai B’rith says, it is altogether uncontroversial to say that money from pro-Israel Canadians has bolstered anti-Palestinian forces on Canadian campuses.

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Filed under Israel Lobby

Garneau and Blinken meet to subvert Haitian democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti, Justin Trudeau

Israel lobby attacks progressive internationalism

On Wednesday the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs attacked the left wing of the NDP. In a release titled “Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) appalled that disgraced former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn invited to spread toxicity in Canada”, CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel noted: “Jeremy Corbyn is toxic. The invitation to the disgraced leader is more evidence that Svend Robinson, Niki Ashton, Libby Davies and a few others want to take the NDP in a direction that is antithetical to basic Canadian values. This small group is actively undermining NDP leadership which is working hard to keep the NDP focused on the very important issues that Canadians care about.”

What prompted this release is an upcoming webinar NDP MP Ashton has organized with Corbyn to raise funds for the Progressive International, which came out of a 2018 meeting organized by Bernie Sanders’ movement. “Progressives of the world unite”, is a slogan of an initiative that includes Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Naomi Klein and Yanis Varoufakis.

CIJA’s release is an explicit effort to marginalize the left within the NDP in the lead-up to the party’s April convention, which will deal with widely backed resolutions in favour of Palestinian rights and against the IHRA’s anti-Palestinian definition of anti-Semitism.

CIJA’s release could also be read as a call on the NDP leadership to purge the left of the party. Perhaps the official advocacy arm of Canada’s Jewish federations feels emboldened to interfere in internal NDP affairs by recent actions of the party leadership. Ashton was recently demoted from her critic duties and a number of leftists, including former head of the Ontario Federation of Labour Sid Ryan, were blocked from running for the party during the last federal election. The initial reaction to the Ashton–Corbyn webinar from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and the party-aligned Broadbent Institute suggests CIJA may have willing allies inside the party in demonizing the left, just as happened in Britain. Working alongside the right wing of the Labour Party, the Israel lobby in the UK played a pivotal role in destroying the progressive movement Corbyn galvanized.

While this brazen interference in a left political party by supposedly non-political lobby groups may be shocking to some, it follows on efforts to destroy student unions. B’nai B’rith has been campaigning aggressively to defund student unions and associated organizations. In 2019 B’nai B’rith created a coalition of anti-Palestinian groups that called on Ontario students to take up “a unique opportunity to deny funding to” student associations. They are currently pressing the University of Toronto’s administration to withhold its graduate students’ union funding. B’nai Brith has also been granted intervener status on the side of the Doug Ford Conservatives in a court case between the Canadian Federation of Students/York Federation of Students and Ontario regarding the government’s move to force universities to grant opt outs for various student fees. To get a sense of the scope of their intervention into student life, B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn declared, “non-essential campus services have every right to function and provide the services they wish to, but they do not have the right to force their hands into anyone’s pockets…. CFS claims to represent all students, but we are here to give voice to the thousands of students who do not feel represented by them and have made it clear that they want no part in funding what this organization is financing. The court must also take their perspective into account, and we will do our part to ensure that it does.”

Of course these are the same tired old arguments right wing employers’ organizations have long used against worker’s attempts to organize effective unions.

But pro-Israel lobby groups’ chutzpah in attacking the left and union solidarity goes even further. During the remarkable student strike in Québec in 2012 B’nai B’rith “condemned” protesters purported “hate …that has outraged the Jewish community.” In 2016, the Canadian Jewish News reacted strongly after delegates at the NDP convention supported the leftish Leap Manifesto. They published an editorial and front-page story expressing concern at the growth of the left within the party.

It seems these pro-Israel lobby groups fear progressive challenges to the status quo. Perhaps they understand that these movements/politicians empower “internationalist” forces. Perhaps they fear solidarity — what we want for ourselves we wish for all — in political movements and unions inevitably leads to solidarity with all oppressed people, including Palestinians.

Whatever the reason, these groups have chosen to become overt enemies of people who are trying to build a better, fairer world where social justice for all reigns supreme. They have declared war on everyone who believes the world needs radical change — socialists, environmentalists, anti-racism activists, union organizers and more. They have chosen to be part of the problem, not the solution. Sad, but true.

 

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Broadbent Institute head smears Ashton, Robinson and internationalism

 

Broadbent Institute head Rick Smith should just be frank and say he hates Palestinians and doesn’t care about internationalism.

On Tuesday Smith tweeted that it was disturbing that NDP MP Niki Ashton was doing an upcoming fundraiser for the Progressive International with former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. In response to former NDP MP Svend Robinson tweeting, “I look forward to joining this great event with Niki and Jeremy Corbyn and supporting Progressive International”, Smith wrote “this is very unfortunate. In a recent report, the UK’s independent Equality and Human Rights Commission found serial ‘unlawful acts’ of antisemitism in UK Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”

After a wave of criticism Smith doubled down. He tweeted that the Conservative party aligned UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission “report is lengthy, detailed, and makes for sobering and distressing reading. This is not the sort of person that should headline a progressive fundraiser or occupy the time of Canadian progressive leaders.”

In case some readers are confused by what this battle over Corbyn is about, it boils down to hardcore Israeli nationalists attempting to impose their views on what constitutes anti-Semitism and internationalism on both the British Labour Party and NDP. Essentially the anti-Corbynites demand that Palestinian solidarity be defined as anti-Jewish and that foreign policy in Canada and the UK be non-partisan, which in practice means accepting the status quo.

In other words, despite its supposed “progressive” credentials, the Broadbent Institute is attempting to keep the NDP from moving to a more “internationalist” position in foreign policy. And this has been happening for some time.

At the 2018 NDP convention multiple Broadbent Institute players supported the party establishment’s move to suppress debate on the “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice”. At an early morning session prior to the main plenary Smith voted against allowing the full convention to debate the Palestine Resolution, which was endorsed by more than two dozen riding associations before the federal convention. The motion mostly restated official Canadian policy, except that it called for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”

The Broadbent Institute’s namesake was anti-Palestinian. In 1975 Ed Broadbent called the Palestinian Liberation Organization “terrorists and murderers whose aim is the destruction of the state of Israel”. During his time as leader of the NDP Broadbent called on the federal government to intervene to block Canadian companies from adhering to Arab countries’ boycott of Israel, which was designed to pressure that country to return land captured in the 1967 war.

Broadbent reversed the party memberships’ 1969 call for Ottawa to withdraw from NATO. After leaving party politics he headed the Canadian government’s equivalent to the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy, Rights and Democracy, for seven years.

Smith’s double standard on who is acceptable to speak at a progressive form is stark. In 2014 the Broadbent Institute’s headline speaker was Julia Gillard. The former Australian prime minister was viciously anti-Palestinian. In 2012, for instance, most of Gillard’s cabinet revolted against her plan to deny Palestine observer status in the UN. Australia ultimately abstained on a resolution backed by most of the world.

In 2014 the Broadbent Institute organized an event with Conservative Senator Hugh Segal. Former Chief of Staff to Conservative Ontario Premier Bill Davis and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Segal was at the time chair of the NATO Association of Canada and a member of SNC Lavalin’s board. The event was sponsored by Loblaws and General Electric Canada.

In 2016 Gloria Steinem spoke to the Broadbent Institute. Steinem was funded by the CIA in her early years and in her 2015 book she wrote, “in my experience The Agency [CIA] was completely different from its image; it was liberal, nonviolent and honorable.”

In 2019 Michael Coren spoke at the Broadbent Institute’s annual forum. From 2011 until the channel’s demise in 2015 Coren hosted an evening talk show on the hard-right Sun News Network, which spawned Ezra Levant’s Rebel News. Coren opposed same-sex marriages. During Israel’s destruction of Gaza in 2014 Coren wrote an Edmonton Sun column noting, “I hate the way the Marxists and their friends who supported Israel in the 50s and 60s now call Israelis Nazis. I hate the way Islamic fanatics pretend to care about the Palestinians when at the same time they slaughter their own people and use those same Palestinians as metaphorical and literal shields.”

The Broadbent Institute claims challenging Canadian foreign policy is outside its purview, which is in of itself a massive concession to the status quo. But it’s far worse than that. Informally the organization’s staff have interceded to suppress a modest Palestine resolution and to undercut the Progressive International.

The Broadbent Institute sucks up significance resources from individuals and institutions with far more universalist values than Smith. These individuals should consider reorienting their money to Canadian Dimension, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Rabble, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Independent Jewish Voices or some of the many other groups plugging away for a better, fairer world.

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Racial capitalism and the betrayal of Haiti

The richest Haitians

Domination by multinational corporations and “light skinned” local capitalists — that’s the story of Haiti as illustrated by one recent event.

The day after his already paper-thin constitutional legitimacy completely eroded Jovenel Moïse gave significant amounts of Haitian land to a light skinned oligarch working with Coca-Cola.

According to most Haitian constitutional authorities and institutions, Moïse’s presidential mandate ended Sunday, February 7, 2021. But the next day the official Le Moniteur published a presidential decree gifting 8,600 hectares of the country’s agricultural land reserve to produce stevia. Alongside land in the Artibonite and Plateau Central, Moise put up US$18 million for a new Free Agro-Industrial Export Zone run by the Apaid family. It’s outrageous, notes Le Regroupement des Haïtiens de Montréal contre l’occupation d’Haïti, that the state would offer land to a firm producing for Coca Cola rather than invest in local food production in a country where hunger is widespread.

Whether or not the officially named “Zone Franche Agro Industrielle d’Exportation de Savane Diane” moves forward, the decree is a stark example of “racial capitalism” in Haiti and why Washington and Ottawa are keeping Moïse in place. Unlike most Haitians, the Apaid family are not descendants of enslaved Africans. Born in the US, Andre Apaid Jr. is a sweat shop owner of Lebanese background.

Apaid led the Group of 184 “civil society” opposition to Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government. He reportedly financed the paramilitary forces led by Guy Philippe whose attacks created the pretext for US, French and Canadian forces to oust Aristide in 2004. (Days after Philippe told a local radio station in 2007 that Apaid funded his forces the US Drug Enforcement Agency raided Philippe’s home in the south coast city of Les Cayes.)

At the time of the coup Apaid also financed and armed a gang in the impoverished community of Cité-Soleil led by Thomas “Labanye” Robinson “to kill Lavalas supporters”. US lawyer Thomas Griffin interviewed Cité Soleil leaders and police officers who said Apaid “bought” Labanyè with US$30,000. He also reportedly enabled Labanyè’s wife to travel to the US and “keeps police from arresting the gang leader.” Various professionals and businesspeople told Griffin that Apaid was “the real government in Haiti.”

During the 1991-1994 coup against Aristide Apaid Jr.’s father, André Apaid Sr., was “one of the chief lobbyists in the U.S.” for the military junta. Previously Apaid Sr. was “close to dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier.”

During the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier Apaid Sr. founded Alpha Sewing. With Haiti’s population cowed and economic prospects in the countryside dire, ‘Baby Doc’ developed a relatively thriving low-wage assembly sector in the 1970s. Alpha Sewing eventually became the biggest sweat-shop operator in Haiti. The firm was, of course, hostile to any effort to increase the minimum wage.

One of the richest men in Haiti, Apaid Jr. is a leader among the community of Middle Eastern descent who dominate the economy. Gilbert Bigio, Sherif Kedar Abdallah, Reginald Boulos, Dimitri Craan and Reynold Deeb Saïeh are some of the businesspeople of Middle Eastern ancestry who generally work with North American and Dominican sweatshop, mining and other capitalists with even paler complexions. Apaid, for instance, was the prime Haitian subcontractor for Montreal based T-shirt maker Gildan Activewear, which has a major presence in Haiti. In April 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited an Apaid factory to tout its partnership with Gildan as an important model for Haitian economic development (Apaid was invited to a Canadian government conference on Haiti in Montréal attended by PM Paul Martin a few years earlier).

Washington has been important to the descendants of Middle Easterners who dominate Haiti’s economy. Partly to supplant European influence, Washington facilitated Arab migration to Haiti in the late 1800s. At the start of the twentieth century 60 percent of imported goods sold to the Haitian peasantry came from US manufacturers who supplied Syrian middlemen. When violence targeted the Syrian community US authorities advocated on their behalf.

One element driving the US-Arab migrant relationship in Haiti was that until the US rewrote Haiti’s Constitution in 1918 foreigners were restricted from owning land. This prompted some European businessmen, particularly Germans, to marry into prominent mixed-race families to be able to own property. But US capitalists were at a disadvantage compared to their European counterparts. US race politics deemed someone Black if they had ‘one drop’ of African blood. So even marrying an educated, upper class, mixed-race Haitian woman was considered unacceptable by most White US capitalists. US interests bypassed this dynamic working with migrants from the Middle East. And this legacy of racism still explains much of what happens in Haiti today.

Jovenel Moïse needs to go. So does the “racial capitalist” system of light-skinned local oligarchs working with foreign powers that supports Moïse.

 

On February 28 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting a discussion of Haiti Betrayed, a powerful indictment of Canada’s role in the 2004 coup and subsequent policy in the country. The film is available to watch for free for those who register in advance.

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Canadian backed police support dictatorship in Haiti

Canada is supporting a dictatorship in Haiti. And our government is not just offering some vague assistance, but rather is paying for the central instrument of that dictatorship’s repression. Ottawa is backing a violent police force that keeps Jovenel Moïse’s regime in power.

Last week a public letter was released criticizing Canada’s “support for a repressive, corrupt Haitian president devoid of constitutional legitimacy.” It was signed by three current MPs and three former MPs, as well as Noam Chomsky, David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Roger Waters, El Jones and 500 others.

The letter notes that Canada “continues to fund and train a police force that has violently repressed anti-Moïse protests. The Canadian ambassador in Haiti has repeatedly attended police functions all the while refusing to criticize their repression of protesters. On January 18 ambassador Stuart Savage met the controversial new head of police Leon Charles to discuss ‘strengthening the capacity of the police.’”

In November Moïse appointed Charles head of the police. The former military man oversaw the police in the 17 months after the 2004 US, France and Canada-sponsored coup against elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and thousands of other elected officials. At that time the US Naval Academy-trained Charles publicly referred to a “war” the police waged against the pro-democracy sector. A 2004 University of Miami human rights report found that Charles “routinely [gave] orders to stop political demonstrations” while an early 2006 Council on Hemispheric Affairs report noted that “he oversaw the gunning down of unarmed pro-Aristide Lavalas demonstrators by his own men, even … planting weapons on the innocent victims’ corpses.” Thousands were killed in political violence after the overthrow of Aristide.

Even before the 2004 coup Charles was close to the country’s oligarchs. He reportedly participated in a July 2003 meeting organized by leading sweatshop owner and opposition figure, André Apaid, where he tried to bribe “several Lavalas street leaders in Cité Soleil” to join the opposition. In “Loyal to Washington, New Police Chief Léon Charles Specializes in Counter-Insurgency Intelligence Gathering and Repression” Haiti Liberté editor Kim Ives writes, “under Léon Charles in 2004 and 2005, the Haitian police became a virtual private army of Haiti’s bourgeoisie, which provided officers with weapons and money.”

Charles oversaw the reincorporation of hundreds of human rights abusing former soldiers into the police force. At the time US officials privately reported, according to cables released by WikiLeaks, “Charles was unwilling or unable to discipline or arrest officers that everybody knows are corrupt and colluding with the kidnappers.”

Amidst significant criticism of his appointment, ambassador Savage met Charles. Even if one questions whether the meeting with Charles was designed to bolster a police force that’s maintaining a dictatorship, why exactly is Canada’s ambassador in Haiti meeting the head of the police? Does Guatemala’s ambassador in Ottawa meet the head of the RCMP?

Unfortunately the answer to why a Canadian ambassador would meet with the head of Haiti’s police is obvious.

Much to the delight of Haiti’s über class-conscious elite, Ottawa took the lead in strengthening the repressive arm of the Haitian state after the 2004 coup. Since then Canada has pushed to increase the size of the Haitian National Police (HNP) from 5,000 to over 15,000.

But the population has identified police as a leading threat to their safety. Haitian prisons are full of poor individuals in pre-trial limbo. In 2017 Le Regroupement des Haïtiens de Montréal contre l’occupation d’Haïti explained that the UN-US-Canada effort to “develop and professionalize the existing National Police… will actually translate into more repression of the Haitian people … The power to maintain order…is really the power to defend the status quo, the power to keep intact the dominant order…One cannot pretend to ‘reinforce’ the rule of law when the state, by its nature and orientation, exists only to defend without compromise the interests of the dominant class and of a certain political class.”

Canadian officials have previously suggested that strengthening the HNP was good for business. After meeting Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe in 2014 Canada’s International Development Minister, Christian Paradis, linked strengthening the HNP to “attracting private investment”. Paradis said, “we discussed the priority needs of the country as well as the increased size of the Haitian National Police (PNH), in order to create a climate to attract private investment.”

Through its diplomatic and policing support for Jovenel Moïse, notes the public letter, Canada is “propping up a repressive and corrupt dictatorship in Haiti.” More than that, it is supporting a police force (with the emphasis on force) that is imposing an extremely inequitable economic order.

Is this how Canadians want their “aid” dollars used?

 

On February 28 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting a discussion of Haiti Betrayed, a powerful indictment of Canada’s role in the 2004 coup and subsequent policy in the country. The film is available to watch for free for those who register in advance.

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