Statistics, damn lies and the truth about Rwanda genocide

The real Rwanda genocide story has no Canadian heroes.

Canadian commentators often claim more Tutsi were killed in the genocide than lived in Rwanda. Since it aligns with Washington, London and Kigali’s interests, as well as liberal nationalist Canadian ideology, the statistical inflation passes with little comment.

A Tyee story last month described the “slaughter of over 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda” between April and July 1994. An earlier Globe and Mail profile of Roméo Dallaire cited a higher number. It noted, “over the next few months, Hutu activists and militias, supplemented by police officers and military commanders, killed an estimated 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis.”

Even self-declared experts on the subject cite these outlandish statistics. In the Globe and Mail and rabble last year Gerald Caplan wrote that, “despite his [Dallaire] best efforts, perhaps a million people of the Tutsi minority were slaughtered in 100 days.” With ties to the regime in Kigali, Caplan pulled this number out of thin air. It’s improbable there were a million Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 and no one believes every single Tutsi was killed.

While the exact figure is unknown and somewhat contested, Rwanda’s 1991 Census calculated 596,387 Tutsi. Initially sponsored by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the GenoDynamics project by the Dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia Allan Stam and University of Michigan political science professor Christian Davenport put the number slightly lower at 500,000. Others claim the Hutu-government of the time sought to suppress Tutsi population statistics and estimate a few hundred thousand more Rwandan Tutsi.

But, a significant number of Tutsi survived the hundred days of killing. Tutsi survivors’ umbrella group IBUKA (“Remember”) initially concluded that 300,000 survived the genocidal killings, which they later increased to “nearer to 400,000.”

For 800,000 to 1 million Tutsi to have perished there would have had to been at least 1.1 million and probably closer to 1.4 million Tutsi. That’s twice the official calculation.

Notwithstanding the three examples mentioned at the top, the most commonly cited formulation of the number of deaths in 1994 is the more vague “800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu.” A 1999 UN report concluded, “approximately 800,000persons were killed during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.” As time passes, however, the regime in Kigali increases the death toll. In 2004 the Rwandan Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Social Affairs claimed 1,074,017 died and in 2008 the government-backed Genocide Survivors Students Association of Rwanda put the number at 1,952,087.

But, the higher the death toll one cites for the genocidal violence the greater the number and percentage of Hutu victims. In the 2014 BBC documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story Stam explains, “if a million people died in Rwanda in 1994 — and that’s certainly possible — there is no way that the majority of them could be Tutsi…Because there weren’t enough Tutsi in the country.”

The idea there was as many, or even more, Hutu killed complicates the “long planned genocide” narrative pushed by the regime in Kigali and its Anglo-Saxon backers. So does the fact that overwhelming evidence and logic points to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) as culprits for blowing up the plane of the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, as well as much of the Hutu-led Rwandan military command, which sparked the mass killings.

Washington and London’s support for the RPF, as well as Paul Kagame’s more than two-decade long control of Kigali, explains the dominance of a highly simplistic account of Rwanda’s genocide. But, a tertiary reason for the strength of the fairy tale is it aligns with the nationalist mythology of another G7 state. A wealthy, educated, population speaking the world’s two main colonial languages, Canadians have pumped out innumerable articles, books, songs, plays, poems, movies, etc. about our noble General’s effort to save Rwandans. Yet the Romeo Dallaire saviour story largely promoted by Left/liberals is based on a one-sided account of Rwanda’s tragedy.

Two of the articles mentioned at the top celebrate Dallaire. One of the stories that inflates the Tutsi death toll was a Globe and Mail profile upon the former general’s retirement from the Senate and in the other Caplan writes, “the personalrelationship so many Canadians feel with Rwanda can be explained in two words: Roméo Dallaire…[who] did all in his limited power to stop the killings.”

A Monthly Review article I discovered recently provides a stark example of how Left Canadian nationalists have warped understanding of Rwanda’s tragedy to fit their ideology. The third paragraph of the venerable New York-based Marxist journal’s 2003 review of When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda and A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide begins: “A Canadian, General Roméo Dallaire, is the hero of the Rwandan tragedy.”

Canadian reviewer Hugh Lukin Robinson’s main criticism of Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani’s When Victims Become Killers is that he downplays the importance of the Canadian commander of the UN military force. Robinson writes, “[Mamdani’s] disinterest in the international betrayal of Rwanda is illustrated by his single reference to General Dallaire, whose name he misspells and whom he refers to as ‘the Belgian commander in charge of UN forces in Rwanda.’ In contrast, Linda Melvern marshals the evidence which amply justifies the title of her book.”

But, Melvern is a leading advocate of the Kigali sponsored fairy tale about the genocide. Drawing on Dallaire’s purported “genocide fax,” she promotes the “long planned genocide” narrative. Simultaneously, Melvern ignores (or downplays) the role Uganda’s 1990 invasion, structural adjustment policies and the October 1993 assassination of the first ever Hutu president in Burundi played in the mass killing of Spring 1994. Melvern also diminishes RPF killings and their responsibility for shooting down the plane carrying Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana and the Rwandan military high command.

Robinson was impressed with Melvern’s praise for Canada’s military man. “Dallaire had trained and risen through the ranks of an army proud of its tradition of peacekeeping,” Robinson quotes from Melvern’s writing. “He was a committed internationalist and had first hand experience of UN missions. He was a hard worker. And he was obstinate.” But, the “committed internationalist” admits he didn’t know where Rwanda was before his appointment to that country. Nor did Dallaire have much experience with the UN. “Dallaire was what military people call a NATO man,” explained CBC journalist Carole Off in a biography of the General. “His defence knowledge was predicated almost exclusively on the needs of the NATO alliance.”

More significantly, a number of the UN officials involved in Rwanda — head of UNAMIR troops in Kigali Luc Marchal, intelligence officer Amadou Deme, UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, etc. — have challenged Dallaire’s interpretation of events, contradicted his claims or criticized his actions. Dallaire’s civilian commander on UNAMIR published a book accusing the Canadian General of bias towards the Uganda/US/Britain backed RPF. In his 2005 book Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (The Boss of Dallaire Speaks), Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, a former Cameroon foreign minister and overall head of UNAMIR, criticizes Dallaire’s actions in Rwanda and challenges his interpretation of events.

In one of two footnotes Robinson ended his Monthly Review article on a Canadian nationalist note. The former labour researcher writes: “There is another account of the Rwanda tragedy for which two Canadians can take a great deal of credit. In 1997, the Organization for African Unity (OAU) appointed an International Panel of Eminent Persons to report on what had happened. Stephen Lewis was a member of the Panel and Gerald Caplan was its principal writer and author of the report, Rwanda –The Preventable Genocide. It confirms all the main facts and conclusions of Linda Melvern’s book.”

While paying lip service to the complex interplay of ethnic, class and regional politics, as well as international pressures, that spurred the “Rwandan Genocide,” the 300-page report is premised on the unsubstantiated claim their was a high level plan by the Hutu government to kill all Tutsi. It ignores the overwhelming evidence (and logic) pointing to Paul Kagame’s RPF as the culprit in shooting down the presidential plane, which sparked the genocidal killings. It also emphasizes Dallaire’s perspective. A word search of the report finds 100 mentions of “Dallaire,” five times more than “Booh-Booh,” the overall commander of the UN mission.

Rather than a compelling overview of the Rwandan tragedy, the OAU report highlights Canada’s power within international bodies. In a Walrus story Caplan described, “waiting for the flight back to Toronto, where I would do all my reading and writing” on a report “I called…’The Preventable Genocide.'” Partly funded by Canada, the entire initiative was instigated by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Caplan is a staunch advocate of the noble Canadian general story. In 2017 Caplan, who started an organization with Kagame’s long-standing foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, called Dallaire “surely among Canada’s most admired citizens, if not the most admired.”

Praise for Dallaire’s role in Rwanda is based on a highly simplistic account of what transpired in 1994. In their haste to promote a Canadian saviour in Africa, left/liberals have confused international understanding of the Rwandan tragedy, which has propped up Kagame’s dictatorship and enabled his violence in the Congo.

When commentators are claiming more Tutsi were killed than lived in the country it’s time to revaluate popular discussion of Rwanda’s tragedy.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada in Africa

Despite mythology Canada has long been a player in nuclear arms race

A house built on an imaginary foundation may be a “dream home” but it can never be lived in. The same holds true in politics.

One need not mythologize Canadian foreign policy history to oppose the Trudeau government’s egregious position on nuclear arms. In fact, “benevolent Canada” dogma weakens the critical consciousness needed to reject the policies of our foreign policy establishment.

In “Canada abandons proud history as ‘nuclear nag’ when most needed” prominent leftist author Linda McQuaig writes, “there have been impressive moments in our history when Canada, under previous Liberal governments, asserted itself as a feisty middle power by supporting, even occasionally leading, the push to get nuclear disarmament onto the global agenda.”

Nonsense. If one were to rank the world’s 200 countries in order of their contribution to the nuclear arms race Canada would fall just behind the nine nuclear armed states.

Uranium from Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories was used in the only two nuclear bombs ever dropped on a human population. In Northern Approaches: Canada and the Search for Peace James Eayrs notes, “the maiming of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a byproduct of Canadian uranium.”

Canada spent millions of dollars (tens of millions in today’s money) to help research the bombs’ development. Immediately after successfully developing the technology, the U.S. submitted its proposal to drop the bomb on Japan to the tri-state World War II Combined Policy Committee meeting, which included powerful Canadian minister C.D. Howe and a British official. Though there is no record of his comments at the July 4, 1945 meeting, apparently Howe supported the U.S. proposal. (Reflecting the racism in Canadian governing circles, in his (uncensored) diary King wrote: “It is fortunate that the use of the bomb should have been upon the Japanese rather than upon the white races of Europe.”)

Only a few years after the first one was built Ottawa allowed the U.S. to station nuclear weapons in Canada. According to John Clearwater in Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story of Canada’s Cold War Arsenal, the first “nuclearweapons came to Canada as early as September 1950, when the USAF [US Air Force] temporarily stationed eleven ‘Fat Man’- style atomic bombs at Goose Bay Newfoundland.”

Canadian territory has also been used to test U.S. nuclear weapons. Beginning in 1952 Ottawa agreed to let the U.S. Strategic Air Command use Canadian air space for training flights of nuclear-armed aircraft. At the same time, reports Ron Finch in Exporting Danger: A History of the Canadian Nuclear Energy Export Programme, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission conducted military tests in Canada to circumvent oversight by American “watchdog committees.” As part of the agreement Ottawa committed to prevent any investigation into the military aspects of nuclear research in Canada.

Canadian Forces also carried nukes on foreign-stationed aircraft. At the height of Canadian nuclear deployments in the late 1960s the government had between 250 and 450 atomic bombs at its disposal in Europe. Based in Germany, the CF-104 Starfighter, for instance, operated without a gun and carried nothing but a thermal nuclear weapon.

During the past 70 years Canada has often been the world’s largest producer of uranium. According to Finch, by 1959 Canada had sold $1.5 billion worth of uranium to the U.S. bomb program (uranium was then Canada’s fourth biggest export). Ottawa has sold at least 29 nuclear reactors to foreign countries, which have often been financed with aid dollars. In the 1950s, for instance, Atomic Energy Canada Limited received large sums of money through the Colombo Aid Plan to help India set up a nuclear reactor.

Canada provided the reactor (called Cyrus) that India used to develop the bomb. Canada proceeded with its nuclear commitment to India despite signals from New Delhi that it was going to detonate a nuclear device. In The Politics of CANDU Exports Duane Bratt writes, “the Indians chose to use Cyrus for their supply of plutonium and not one of their other reactors, because Cyrus was not governed by any nuclear safeguards.”

On the diplomatic front, Ottawa has long supported its allies’ nuclear weapons. In August 1948 Canada voted against a UN call to ban nuclear weapons and in December 1954 voted to allow NATO forces to accept tactical nuclear weapons through the alliance’s policy called MC 48, “The Most Effective Pattern of NATO Military Strength for the Next Few Years.” According to Canada and UN Peacekeeping: Cold War by Other Means, 1945-1970, external minister Lester Pearson “was integral to the process by which MC 48 was accepted by NATO.”

In his 2006 book Just Dummies“: Cruise Missile Testing in Canada Clearwater writes, “the record clearly shows that Canada refuses to support any resolution that specifies immediate action on a comprehensive approach to ridding the world of nuclear weapons.” Since then the Harper/Trudeau regimes’ have not changed direction. The Harper government opposed a variety of initiatives to curtail nuclear weapons and, as McQuaig points out, the Trudeau government recently boycotted a UN effort to sign a treaty, supported by two thirds of 192 member states, to rid the world of nuclear weapons and prohibit the creation of new ones.

But, it’s not only nuclear policy. The Trudeau government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, attacks on Venezuela’s elected government, support for Rwanda’s brutal dictatorship, empowerment of international investors, indifference to mining companies abuses, military deployment on Russia’s border, support for Israel’s illegal occupation etc. reflect this country’s longstanding corporate-military-Western centric foreign policy. While Harper’s foreign policy was disastrous on many fronts, it was a previous Liberal government that instigated violence in Afghanistan and the most flagrant Canadian crime of this century by planning, executing and consolidating the overthrow of democracy in Haiti.

Leftists need to stop seeking to ingratiate themselves with the liberal end of the foreign policy establishment by exaggerating rare historical moments when Ottawa apparently did right. Power relations — not morality — determine international policy and the benevolent Canada myth obscures the corporate and geostrategic interests that overwhelmingly drive policy. Progressive writers should focus on developing the critical consciousness needed to rein in the foreign policy establishment.

Only the truth will set us free to make this country a force for good in the world.

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

Doctors choose capitalism over better public health

Doctors’ aggressive opposition to a more equitable tax code reflects a capitalist ethos that’s often been at odds with public health.

The Canadian Medical Association, Coalition of Ontario Doctors, Ontario Association of Radiologists, Canadian Association of Radiologists and Ontario Medical Association all joined the newly formed Coalition for Small Businesss Tax Fairness. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Taxpayers Federation and Canadian Federation of Independent Business are also part of this large coalition established to scuttle a government initiative to lessen tax advantages for wealthy small business owners and remove loopholes that incentivize incorporation for high paid professionals (two thirds of doctors have a corporation to reduce their taxes).

The government’s proposal would restrict business owners’ ability to lower their tax rate by sprinkling income to family members — who do no work for the firm — in lower tax brackets. The changes would also limit certain companies’ investments in stocks and real estate and the ability to convert a corporation’s regular income into capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate. The government says the proposed changes would have almost no impact on anyone making under $150,000 a year, but doctors often make $300,000, $500,000 or more and the higher the income the greater the savings under the current rules. According to a summary of the 2014-15 fiscal year, 500 Ontario doctors received over $1 million from the provincial government with the top-biller claiming $6.6 million.

Currently high paid doctors and other professionals often pay lower taxes rates than nurses. That injustice and the Ontario Medical Association president’s claim the proposed tax changes would harm patient care prompted the Canadian Nurses Association to endorse the government’s tax plan. The CNA noted, “should the proposed changes pass, provincial and territorial governments should see an increase in revenues which can be invested in strengthening our publicly-funded health services, which in themselves employ thousands of salaried, highly-skilled professionals who pay their fair share of personal income taxes.”

While nurses defend public health care, doctors have long promoted a capitalist model of medicine that maximizes their wealth and power. In 1962 doctors in Saskatchewan, the birthplace of Canada’s universal health care system, went on strike for 23 days to block Medicare and other health reforms that weakened their power over medicine. After working to stymie the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation’s proposed health reforms for two years, in July 1962 doctors withdrew their services and launched a massive public relations campaign when the government introduced its long promised health improvements.

As part of the research for The Year We Became Us: A Novel About the Saskatchewan Doctors Strike, Gary Engler examined the Moose Jaw Times Herald‘s coverage of the work stoppage. The rhetoric was over the top. One editorial was headlined “Legal Profession Next to be Socialized” and another “The Day That Freedom Died In Saskatchewan.” That story claimed, “the people of Saskatchewan are now awakening and find that their province has been slowly, and in recent months much more rapidly transformed from a free democracy into a totalitarian state, ruled by men drunk with power.”

The Saskatchewan doctors’ fight against Medicare was assisted financially by the American Medical Association, which has long been a major obstacle to public health insurance in the U.S. According to Stan Rands in Privilege and Policy: A History of Community clinics in Saskatchewan, “by 1920 the American Medical Association, fearing that public financing would lead to public control of medical practice, had opposed health insurance regulation by any state or federal government. The AMA saw health insurance as a threat to its independence and, like the CMA, proposed that health insurance be carried through private companies.”

Fortunately, the CCF (NDP predecessor) government remained steadfast and the doctors lost their battle against universal health insurance, which was extended to the rest of the nation a few years later. But, the Saskatchewan doctors won a number of concessions, notably fee-for-service billing. Unlike Britain where most doctors are salaried employees of the National Health Service, Canadian doctors are overwhelmingly paid per visit/x-ray/operation. Remunerated based upon the number of clients they see, doctors have a financial self-interest in treating rather than preventing ill health.

Careful consideration of the efficacy of every test or treatment, which should underpin all medical evaluations, is too often overlooked when financial benefits are to be had. In fact, one reason drugs are overprescribed is that doctors are generally paid the same whether they stay with a patient for two or twenty minutes. While a prescription can be written in seconds, it takes time to fully understand an individual’s health history and to offer them ways to avoid illness.

Doctors draw their income and prestige largely from curative medicine, but advances in life expectancy and overall health have largely been shaped by improved public health measures such as sanitation, pollution controls, workplace safety regulations, infection control standards, etc. Further improvements will most likely come through broader sociological dynamics such as reductions in inequality and poverty, or improvements in education, healthier food systems, exercise-oriented urban planning, etc.

In Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health Laurie Garrett estimates that “86 per cent of increased life expectancy was due to decreases in infectious diseases. The same can be said for the United States, where less than 4 per cent of the total improvement in life expectancy since the 1700s can be credited to twentieth century advances in medical care.” While Garrett may be overstating her case, public health measures that seek to prevent illness are what works.

By aligning with corporate lobbyists opposed to a more equitable tax code, doctor associations have provided an opening to those who believe a mistake was made at the dawn of Medicare. Like almost everyone whose income comes from public funds, doctors should be paid a salary. This would better align their interests with Medicare, public pensions and many other social programs that have improved overall health as well as working class Canadians who overwhelmingly support a fair tax system to pay for improved government services.

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B’nai Brith’s shamefully attacks Niki Ashton

B’nai Brith claim to speak for Jews in general, but in reality defend Israel no matter what that country does.

The group’s recent attack against NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton was a brazen attempt to use the decimation of European Jewry to protect Israel from criticism and follows a formula used so often most now see its hypocrisy.

Last May the self-declared human rights organization slammed the NDP leadership contender for “Standing in ‘Solidarity’ with Terrorists” because Ashton attended a rally for Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike where someone had a photo of an individual B’nai Brith calls a terrorist. But, that attack failed when Ashton refused to back down and actually became more forceful in her support of the Palestinian cause.

Since then Ashton has sent out emails to join the party to elect “a leader that will stand up for Palestinian human rights” and demanded an end to the “occupation of Palestinian lands,” blockade of Gaza and “abuse of Palestinians’ human rights.” She called for an outright ban on goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements and expressed some support for the broader Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Ashton told Jacobin that “many inspiring activists across the country are doing great work on this front, decrying human rights abuses, decrying injustices, and putting forward a plan for change, including through the BDS movement. The NDP needs to be a strong voice in support of the work that so many activists are doing.”

In response to an Independent Jewish Voices/Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East questionnaire to the four NDP leadership candidates she said:

I support the important work of civil society in pursuing justice through non-violent means, including calls for boycotts and divestment. Similar tactics were used effectively against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, and BDS today can play a constructive role by encouraging a just resolution. It is the role of governments to respond to pressure from civil society and to be a force for positive change. In 1986, Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney responded to social movements by implementing sanctions against South Africa, and we face a similar ethical and moral responsibility to listen to those who are struggling for peace and justice.”

“Like any other country, sanctions against Israel should be considered when it consistently fails to meet international law and obligations, particularly in relation to the occupation which has denied rights to the Palestinian people for half a century. I support looking into targeted sanctions to put strategic pressure on the Israeli government.”

Ashton’s increasingly strident statements in support of the Palestinian cause obviously angered B’nai Brith. But, they kept quiet for three months, perhaps hoping they could find something worse than “terrorism” to connect her to. Having failed to deter Ashton from expressing support for the Palestinian cause by associating her with “terrorists,” B’nai Brith brought the Holocaust into the race. At the end of last month they put out a press release headlined: “NDP Leadership Candidate Endorsed by Holocaust-Denying Community Leader.” Ashton’s supposed transgression was having her picture taken with Nazih Khatatba at a campaign event in Toronto. B’nai Brith accuses Khatatba of defending armed Palestinian resistance and “engaging in Holocaust denial.”

The evidence presented of Khatatba’s Holocaust denial is a 15-second interview he gave at an event commemorating the Nakba (Palestinian catastrophe) last year. (In response to B’nai Brith’s press release, Khatatba posted on Facebook, “I recognize the genocide of more than six million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. What I did say in the interview was that there were Jewish groups who experienced massacres in Europe and then went to the Middle East and perpetrated massacres there.”)

Presuming B’nai Brith’s translation is accurate and that relevant context wasn’t omitted from the video they produced of the interview, Khatatba’s comments were definitely historically inaccurate. The ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1947-48, displacement of another 300,000 in 1967, the half-century illegal occupation of the West Bank, repeated assaults on Gaza, etc. are an immense injustice. Still, they don’t equal what the Nazis did to European Jewry.

Of course it’s not uncommon for social justice activists to make hyperbolic or historically inaccurate claims in their zeal to advance a cause. But, they are rarely accused of sinister intentions for doing so.

As I detail here, B’nai Brith has accepted or promoted more significant distortions of Jewish suffering when it served Israel’s aims. The group aggressively backed the pro-Israel Stephen Harper regime despite government officials repeatedly minimizing the Nazi Holocaust. In 2009 Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said “Israel Apartheid Days on university campuses like York sometimes begin to resemble pogroms,” and told a European audience that pro-Palestinian activism spurred anti-Jewish activities “even more dangerous than the old European anti-Semitism.” Similarly, in May 2008 Canwest reported: “Some of the criticism brewing in Canada against the state of Israel, including from some members of Parliament, is similar to the attitude of Nazi Germany in the Second World War, Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned.”

In a backdoor way B’nai Brith’s reaction to Khatatba’s historically inaccurate comments explain them. When Zionists repeatedly use 70-year-old Jewish suffering in Europe to justify their ongoing oppression of Palestinians is it any wonder some Palestinians seek to minimize Nazi crimes against Jews?

The attack on Niki Ashton is a stark example of the “Holocaust Industry” Norman Finkelstein outlined 15 years ago. B’nai B’rith should be ashamed.

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Filed under Canada and Israel

Remembering the truth about Lester Pearson

Many monuments, memorials and names of institutions across Canada celebrate our colonial and racist past. Calls for renaming buildings or pulling down statues are symbolic ways of reinterpreting that history, acknowledging mistakes and small steps towards reconciling with the victims of this country’s policies.

At its heart this process is about searching for the truth, a guiding principle that should be shared by both journalists and historians.

In an article headlined “Everything is offensive: Here are Canada’s other politically incorrect place names,” Tristin Hopper concludes that “Lester Pearson’s record still holds up pretty well” unlike a dozen other historical figures he cites who have streets, institutions and statues named in their honour.

Notwithstanding the National Post reporter’s portrayal, there are compelling historical arguments for renaming the airport, school board, road, college, peace park, civic centre, housing project, schools and foreign affairs headquarters celebrating the long-time diplomat.

As I outline in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt, the former Nobel Peace Prize winner was an aggressive militarist and imperialist. There is even a case to be made that the former external minister and prime minister could be posthumously tried for war crimes.

In the foreword to my book, Noam Chomsky argues that Pearson abetted war crimes by having Canadian International Control Commission (ICC) officials deliver U.S. bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership in 1964. As prime minister, Pearson also had ICC officials spy on North Vietnam for Washington, approved chemical weapon (Agent Orange, Purple and Blue) testing in Canada, ramped up weapons sales to the U.S. and provided various other forms of support to Washington’s violence in Indochina.

A decade and a half earlier, Pearson aggressively promoted Canadian participation in another conflict that left millions dead. He threatened to quit as external minister if Canada failed to deploy ground troops to Korea. Ultimately, 27,000 Canadian troopsfought in the 1950–53 UN “police action” that left up to four million dead. At one point the U.S.-led forces only stopped bombing the north of the country when they determined no building over one story was still standing.

Pearson had a hand in or supported many other unjust policies. During the 1947 UN negotiations over the British Mandate of Palestine, Pearson disregarded the interests of the indigenous Palestinian population. He also played an important role in the creation of NATO, describing its 1949 formation as the “most important thing I participated in.” In the 1950s he backed CIA coups in Iran and Guatemala as well as the violent suppression of independence struggles in Algeria, Kenya and elsewhere. As prime minister in the mid-1960s, Pearson brought nuclear-tipped Bomarc missiles to Canada, supported the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic and military coup against Ghana’s president Kwame Nkrumah.

Expect liberals (of both the big and small l variety) to react emotionally to any effort to remove Pearson’s name from public entities. As part of the promotion for my Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, I put together a press release titled The Top 10 Things You Don’t Know About Canadian Foreign Policy. Number 1 was “Many commentators, including the world’s leading intellectual, Noam Chomsky, consider Lester Pearson a war criminal.”

I sent the list and offered a review copy to a reporter at Embassy, Canada’s leading foreign policy newsletter at the time. He responded with outrage: “Frankly, I’m not that interested in Chomsky’s opinions, especially when they smear great Canadians like Mike Pearson. I know you’re a radical, but have some pride in Canada!”

Chomsky describes a similar experience with former CBC radio host Peter Gzowski. Happy to have him criticize U.S. foreign policy, the long-time Morningside host became furious when Chomsky said, “I landed at war criminal airport.” Gzowski questioned: “What do you mean?” to which Chomsky responded, “the Lester B. Pearson Airport,” detailing Pearson’s contribution to the U.S. war in Vietnam. In response, writes Chomsky, Gzowski “went into a tantrum, haranguing me for a number of minutes,” which prompted an outpouring of listener complaints.

The reality is many people are emotionally tied to the self-serving myths created to justify the actions of important historical figures. But the job of historians and journalists is to seek the truth, not to simply repeat propaganda.

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Filed under The Truth May Hurt

Trudeau’s pal in Rwanda a ruthless dictator

Why is the Trudeau government supporting Africa’s most ruthless dictator?

After amending the constitution to be able to run indefinitely Paul Kagame recently won 98.63 per cent of votes in Rwanda’s presidential election. In response, Canada’s High Commissioner Sara Hradecky tweeted “Congratulations to Rwandans for voting in peaceful presidential election” and “Canada congratulates Paul Kagame on his inauguration today as President of Rwanda.” The latter tweet was picked up by the state propaganda organ New Times in a story titled “Heads of State, diplomats laud Kagame’s ‘visionary leadership’.”

If garnering 99 per cent of the vote wasn’t a clue that Kagame is a dictator, the High Commissioner could’ve taken a look at Canada’s ‘paper of record,’ whose Africa bureau chief has shined a critical light on Rwanda in recent years. At the start of 2016 The Globe and Mail reported on two new books describing the totalitarian nature of the regime.

“Village informers,” wrote South Africa-based Geoffrey York. “Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda — a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”

In 2014 York wrote an investigation headlined “Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents,” which provided compelling evidence that the regime had extended its assassination program outside of east Africa, killing (or attempting to) a number of its former top officials who were living in South Africa. Since the initial investigation York has also reported on Rwandan dissidents who’ve had to flee Belgium for their safety while the Toronto Star revealed five individuals in Canada fearful of the regime’s killers.

On top of international assassinations and domestic repression, Kagame has unleashed mayhem in the Congo. In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead. Rwandan proxies have repeatedly re-invaded the mineral rich eastern Congo. In 2012 The Globe and Maildescribed how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence” there.

The Rwandan government’s domestic repression and violence in the Congo is well documented. Yet I couldn’t find a single tweet or comment by Hradecky critical of Kagame since she became High Commissioner in January. Yet she found time to retweet Kagame’s International Women’s Day message that “Realizing women’s full aspirations is inextricably linked to achieving whole nation’s potential.”

Re-tweeting a tyrant’s message or applauding spurious elections are clear forms of support for the “butcher of Africa’s Great Lakes.” But, Hradecky has offered less obvious backing to the regime.

On July 4 Hradecky tweeted “From the Canadian High Commission, we wish Rwandans a Happy Liberation Day!,” which was picked up by the New Times in a story titled “Messages of solidarity as Rwanda marks Liberation Day.”

The Ugandan-sponsored Rwandan Patriotic Front officially captured Kigali on July 4, 1994. Trained at a US militarybase in Kansas, Kagame’s forces apparently waited to take the capital so their Liberation Day could coincide with their US backers’ Independence Day, a public relations move that continues to pay dividends as demonstrated by a July NPR story titled “In Rwanda, July 4 Isn’t Independence Day — It’s Liberation Day.”

Four years after 3,000 Ugandan troops “deserted” to invade their smaller neighbour the force of mostly exiled Tutsi took Kigali. Today, Rwanda continues to be ruled by largely English-speaking individuals who often are descended from those who had authority in a monarchy overthrown during the 1959–61 struggle against Belgian rule. The Guardianrecently pointed to “the Tutsi elite who dominate politics and business” and the The Economist detailed the “The Rwandan Patriotic Front’s business empire” in the country.

Underpinning the “liberation” story is a highly simplistic, if not counterfactual, account of the 1994 genocide. Widely hailed as the person who ended the killings, Kagame is probably the individual most responsible for the mass slaughter. His RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda, engaged in a great deal of killing and blew up the presidential plane, an event that unleashed the genocidal violence.

As Hradecky should know, last year The Globe and Mail described two secret reports documenting Kagame’s “direct involvement in the 1994 missile attack that killed former president Juvénal Habyarimana, leading to the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people died.”

Echoing Kigali’s narrative, Hradecky published a half dozen tweets (or retweets) in April commemorating the Genocide. “Canada stands with Rwanda to commemorate the victims of Genocide,” read one. Hradecky also retweeted a Government of Rwanda statement: “Today marks the beginning of the 23rd Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.”

Promoting simplistic commentary on the subject effectively strengthens a regime that derives much of its legitimacy from purportedly stopping the genocide.

From commemorating Liberation Day to applauding questionable elections, Canada’s High Commissioner has provided various forms of ideological support to Africa’s most ruthless dictator. That should embarrass everyone who wants this country to be a force for good in the world.

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Do Canadians really want monuments to racist colonialists?

Some good might come in Canada from neo-fascists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Taking advantage of media interest in protests over monuments to historical figures with racist views activists in Halifax are pushing to removecommemorations to two individuals who helped conquer Africa. And there’s no lack of other such memorials to target across the Great White North.

In 1898 Henry Edward Clonard Keating led a small force that killed the chief of Hela and abducted several individuals from the village to operate canoes the soldiers had stolen from them. In response, others from the village in what is now southern Nigeria attacked and killed most of Keating’s force. A British force then razed Hela and killed about 100 locals. There’s a plaque commemorating Keating in Halifax’s Public Gardens.

Dalhousie Professor Afua Cooper is also pushing to rename Stairs Street in Halifax. William Grant Stairs played an important part in two expeditions that helped Belgian King Leopold II expand his barbarous reign in the Congo. Also commemorated with an Island in Parry Sound, Ontario, and two plaques in Kingston, the Haligonian was one of 10 white officers in the first-ever European expedition to cross the interior of the continent and subsequently Stairs led a 2,000 person force that added 150,000 square kilometres to Leopold’s colony.

Read from a humanistic or internationalist perspective, the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) graduate’s diary of his time in Africa is incredibly damning. Or, as Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke put it, “Stairs’ account of his atrocities establishes that even Canadians, blinded by racism, can become swashbuckling mass murderers.”

Stairs and Keating are two of many Canadians who helped colonize the continent and continue to be commemorated (a number of British figures who fought in Africa are also honoured across the country).

In Kingston two plaques honour RMC trained Huntley Brodie Mackay. Commanding Royal Engineer in West Africa, Mackay was part of a British expedition to destroy the Yonnie stronghold of Robari in what is now southeast Sierra Leone. In the fighting the soldiers employed the first ever recoil-operated Maxim machine gun, reported MacMillan’s magazine. “Maxim, which here administered rather than received its baptism of fire, was turned on them, and they dropped off the roofs by dozens… When the leading troops entered the gates … there was not a living Yonnie left in the town, although there was no lack of their dead.”

Replacing Mackay as West Africa’s Commanding Royal Engineer in 1889, Saint John-born William Henry Robinson also has a plaque in his honour at the RMC. In 1892 the 29-year-old led a small force to destroy a rebellion not far from the former Yonnie stronghold. In “Canadian Soldiers in West African Conflicts 1885-1905” Andrew Godefroy explains: “When Robinson and his party of Sierra Leone Frontier Police attacked his stockade on 14 March, however, [rebel leader] Karimu was ready to receive them and repulsed their initial assault. The momentum lost, Captain Robinson tried to rally the attack by personally setting explosive charges at the gates, hoping to blow them open and allow for his men to rush through.” Robinson was shot in the battle and ultimately became the first RMC graduate to give his life fighting for British colonialism.

A mountain in Banff National Park, as well as a plaque and building at RMC, are named in honour of Sir Edouard Percy Girouard. The Montréaler built two train lines that played a central part in the brutal British conquest of Sudan and was Director of Imperial Military Railways during the 1899 – 1902 Boer War (numerous monuments commemorate Canadians who fought in that conflict to strengthen British colonial authority in Africa, which ultimately ledto racial apartheid). In 1906 the RMC graduate became High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria, ruling over 10 to 20 million people. Girouard employed forced labour to construct a 550-km railway and justified strengthening precolonial authority by saying colonial authorities didn’t want, “to deal with a rabble, with thousands of persons in a savage or semi-savage state, all acting on their own impulses.”

After Northern Nigeria, Girouard became governor of British East Africa from 1909 to 1912. Girouard sought to turn today’s Kenya into a “white man’s country”. He abrogated the sole treaty the East African protectorate had ever signed with an African tribe. Weakened by disease and confronting an ascendant Britain, in 1904 the Masai agreed to give up as much as two thirds of their land. In exchange, the cattle rearing, semi-nomadic people were assured the fertile Laikipia Plateau for “so long as the Masai as a race shall exist.”

By Girouard and Britain’s odd calculation, the agreement expired fewer than seven years later. About 10,000 Masai, with 200,000 cattle and 2 million sheep, were forced to march 150 km southward to a semiarid area near German East Africa. An unknown number of Masai and their livestock died on this “trail of tears”.

Campaigns to remove monuments or rename places named after Canadians who participated in the “scramble for Africa” can help educate the public about Canada’s history on the continent and European colonialism more generally.

In order to move forward to a better future Canadians must reconcile with the wrongs committed in our past, both on this continent and around the world.

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Filed under Canada in Africa

Who do you trust when it comes to NDP leadership candidates?

Like bears attracted to spawning salmon, politicians seek out power. The former needs to build stores of fat to survive the winter, while the latter must attract the resources and support necessary for successful electoral campaigns. Given the survival imperative, neither bear nor politician should be criticized too harshly for what comes naturally. But, the two best ways to judge politicians are by taking a look at whom they choose to gather resources from and what they are prepared to do to get them.

At worst politicians pander to society’s wealthiest and reactionary social forces, further solidifying their grip on the economic and political system. At best they seek out progressive grassroots and labour organizations, collecting the necessary resources from ordinary people while amplifying their influence.

It’s within this context that one should understand Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh’s trip to Israel with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. At the start of the year the current NDP leadership candidate took an organized trip there and met to discuss it with Galit Baram, Israel’s consul general in Toronto.

The trip and meeting were most likely aimed at allaying particular concerns since in early December Singh was the only member of the Ontario legislature to speak out against a provincial vote to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He criticized a CIJA-backed motion supporting the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” and rejecting “the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

When speaking to NDP members recently Singh has repeatedly highlighted that move rather than the CIJA trip or consular visit. Similarly, Singh published eleven tweets about Palestine on July 16. In the best of the lot he stated: “3 yrs ago today the 2014 Gaza War made headlines when 4 Palestinian boys were killed by an Israeli military strike while playing on a beach” and “I stand for Palestinians’ right to freely determine their political status & pursue their economic, social & cultural development.” In response to two questions Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East submitted to NDP leadership candidates Singh said, “I would considersupporting the use of targeted sanctions against Israel” and “I would support mandatory labeling of products originating from Israel’s colonies, and excluding these products from the benefits of CIFTA [Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement]. I am also open to considering a ban.”

(In assessing Singh’s responses to their Middle East policy questionnaire IJV gave him a B for third place while CJPME ranked him second with an –A. Niki Ashton received an A+ from both IJV and CJPME.)

Singh clearly wants average NDP members to think he’s opposed to Israeli violence and supportive of Palestinian solidarity activism. Simultaneously, however, he wants to signal to CIJA and Israeli officials that he’ll play ball.

The Palestinian question is particularly tricky for the Brampton-based politician. With some claiming that his open (Sikh) religiosity is a liability in Québec, Singh’s path to becoming leader is largely contingent on convincing members he’s best positioned to expand NDP support among the young and communities of colour. But, younger and darker NDP members/sympathizers largely oppose the current NDP leadership’s de facto support for Israeli expansionism/belligerence. A February poll found that only 17 per cent of Canadian millennials had a positive opinion of the Israeli government versus 37 per cent of those 65 plus. I’m not aware of any Canadian polling by ethnicity on the subject, but US polling provides a window into attitudes here. According to a July Newsweek headline: “Young, Black and Latino Americans Don’t Like Israel” (after the invariable push back the headline was changed to “Why More Young, Black and Latino Americans Than Ever Before Don’t Like Israel”).

To the extent that Singh can rally younger and ethnically diverse folks to the party it would tend to push the NDP towards Palestinian solidarity. On the other hand, Singh is the preferred candidate of much of the party establishment and his candidacy is heavily media-driven. The dominant media and NDP hierarchy are generally hostile to discussing Canada’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession.

At the first six leadership debates there wasn’t a single question related to the NDP’s position on Palestine. While the party hierarchy refuses to debate it, the NDP actually devotes significant energy to the subject. During the 2015 federal election the NDP ousted as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations because they defended Palestinian rights on social media. Last year NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington and traveled to Israel with Canada’s Governor General where she attended a ceremony put on by the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund (Laverdière is backing Singh for NDP leader). Many party officials – 20 federal NDP MPs, according to a 2014 iPolitics calculation – have gone on all-expense paid trips to that country with an Israeli nationalist organization.

So, party representatives can travel halfway across the globe to investigate the conflict and individuals chosen by local riding associations can be removed for their opinions on the issue, but the subject doesn’t warrant debate.

If Singh wins the leadership will he expend the energy needed to shake up the established order on this issue?

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Filed under Canada and Israel

NDP foreign affairs critic marches in step with US Empire

Does the NDP consistently support a foreign policy that benefits ordinary people around the world? Or does the social democratic party often simply fall in line with whatever the American Empire demands?

Hélène Laverdière certainly seems to support the US-led geopolitical order. While the NDP foreign critic has called for stronger arms control measures and regulations on Canada’s international mining industry, she’s aligned with the Empire on issues ranging from Venezuela to Palestine, Ukraine to Syria.

Echoing Washington and Ottawa, Laverdière recently attacked the Venezuelan government. “On the heels of Sunday’s illegitimate constituent assembly vote, it’s more important than ever for Canada to work with our allies and through multilateral groups like the OAS to secure a lasting resolution to the crisis,” she told the CBC.

But, the constituent assembly vote wasn’t “illegitimate”. Venezuela’s current constitution empowers the president to call a constituent assembly to draft a new one. If the population endorses the revised constitution in a referendum, the president – and all other governmental bodies – are legally required to follow the new constitutional framework.

Additionally, calling on Ottawa to “work with our allies” through the OAS may sound reasonable, but in practice it means backing Trudeau’s efforts to weaken Venezuela through that body. Previously, Laverdière promoted that Washington-led policy. In a June 2016 press release bemoaning “the erosionof democracy” and the need for Ottawa to “defend democracy in Venezuela”, Laverdière said “the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter regarding Venezuela, and Canada, as a member of the OAS, should support his efforts.” But, the former Uruguayan Foreign Minister’s actions as head of the OAS have been highly controversial. They even prompted Almagro’s past boss, former Uruguayan president José Mujica, to condemn his bias against the Venezuelan government.

Laverdière has also cozied up to pro-Israel groups. Last year she spoke to the notorious anti-Palestinian lobby organization American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Months after AIPAC paid for her to speak at their conference in Washington, Laverdière visited Israel with Canada’s governor general, even participating in a ceremony put on by the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund.

The only Quebec MP to endorse Jagmeet Singh as next party leader, Laverdière has attended other events put on by groups aligned with Washington. She publicized and spoke to the weirdly themed “Demonstration for human and democratic rights in Venezuela, in solidarity with Ukraine and Syria.”

Laverdière supports deploying troops to the Russian border and repeatedly called for more sanctions on that country. She said the plan to send military trainers to the Ukraine “sounds good in principle” and only called for a debatein Parliament about sending 450 Canadians to head up a 1,000-strong NATO force in Latvia.

Since 2014 Laverdière has repeatedly called for stronger sanctions on Russia. In 2014 Laverdière told the Ottawa Citizen that “for sanctions to work, it’s not about the number of people but it’s about actually sanctioning the right people. They have to be comprehensive. And they have to target mainly the people who are very close to Putin. Our sanctions, the Canadian sanctions, still fail to do that.”

In May Laverdière applauded a bill modeled after the US Magnitsky Act that will further strain relations between Ottawa and Moscow by sanctioning Russian officials. “Several countries have adopted similar legislation and we are encouraged that the Liberals are finally taking this important step to support the Global Magnitsky movement,” she said.

In another region where the US and Russia were in conflict Laverdière aligned with the Washington-Riyadh position. In the midst of growing calls for the US to impose a “no-fly zone” on Syria last year, the NDP’s foreign critic recommended Canada nominate the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize. A letter Laverdière co-wrote to foreign minister Stéphane Dion noted: Canada has a proud and long-standing commitment to human rights, humanitarianism and international peacekeeping. It is surely our place to recognize the selflessness, bravery, and fundamental commitment to human dignity of these brave women and men.”

Also known as the Syrian Civil Defence, the White Helmets were credited with rescuing many people from bombed out buildings. But, they also fostered opposition to the Bashar al-Assad regime. The White Helmets operated almost entirely in areas of Syria occupied by the Saudi Arabia–Washington backed Al Nusra/Al Qaeda rebels. They criticized the Syrian government and disseminated images of its violence, but largely ignored those people targeted by the opposition and reportedly enabled some of their executions.

The White Helmets are closely associated with the Syria Campaign, which was set up by Ayman Asfari, a British billionaire of Syrian descent actively opposed to Assad. The White Helmets also received at least $23 million from USAID and Global Affairs Canada sponsored a five-city White Helmets tour of Canada in late 2016.

Early in the Syrian conflict Laverdière condemned the Harper government for failing to take stronger action against Assad. She urged Harper to raise the Syrian conflict with China, recall Canada’s ambassador to Syria and complained that energy giant Suncor was exempted from sanctions, calling on Canada to “put our money where our mouth is.”

Prior to running in the 2011 federal election Laverdière worked for Foreign Affairs. She held a number of Foreign Affairs positions over a decade, even winning the Foreign Minister’s Award for her contribution to Canadian foreign policy.

Laverdière was chummy with Harper’s foreign minister. John Baird said, “I’m getting to know Hélène Laverdière and I’m off to a good start with her” and when Baird retired CBC reported that she was “among the first to line up in the House on Tuesday to hug the departing minister.”

On a number of issues the former Canadian diplomat has aligned with the US Empire. Whoever takes charge of the NDP in October should think about whether Laverdière is the right person to keep Canadian foreign policy decision makers accountable.

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

‘Free trade’ has come to mean powerful interests get whatever they want

“Free trade” has become a euphemism for “whatever power wants,” no matter how tangentially tied to transfering goods across international borders.

In an extreme example, Ottawa recently said its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Israel trumps Canada’s Food and Drugs Act since accurately labelling two wines might undermine a half-century long, illegal, military occupation.

Of little connection to international trade, the North American Free Trade Agreement — and subsequent FTAs — has granted foreign corporations the ability to bypass domestic courts and sue governments in secret tribunals for pursuing policies that interfere with their profit making. Over 75 cases have been brought before the Investor StateDispute Settlement section of NAFTA, which has resulted in tens of millions of dollars paid to companies impacted by Ottawa banning the export of toxic PCB wastes or the import of suspected neurotoxin gasoline additive MMT.

Strengthening this dynamic, Canada’s “free trade” deal with the European Union (CETA) empowers companies to sue municipalities if they expand public services. For instance, a municipality unhappy with private water delivery could face a suit if they tried to remunicipalize (or de-privatize) this service.

CETA, TPP, WTO and other self-described “free trade” agreements also extend patent and copyright protections (monopolies), which stifle competition, a pillar of free trade ideology. CETA’s increased patent protections are expected to drive up already high Canadian pharmaceutical drug costs by between $850 million and $1.65 billion a year. Negotiations to “modernize NAFTA” could end up granting big pharma perks that would effecitvely block Canada’s ability to set up universal pharmacare. Similarly, the yet to be signed TPP strengthens patents and would increase the length of copyright in Canada from 50 to 70 years after the death of an author.

It is little exaggeration to say politicians have come to employ the term “free trade” to mean “whatever powerful corporations want.” But, the Trudeau Liberals recently broadened the term’s definition even further. In a move to make “free trade” mean “whatever powerful interests want,” they announced that Canada’s FTA with Israel supercedes this country’s Food and Drugs Act.

After David Kattenburg repeatedly complained about inaccurate labels on two wines sold in Ontario, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) notified the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) that it “would not be acceptable and would be considered misleading” to declare Israel as the country of origin for wines produced in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Quoting from official Canadian policy, CFIA noted that “the government of Canada does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967.”

In response to pressure from the Israeli embassy, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai Brith, CFIA quickly reversed its decision. “We did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement,” a terse CFIA statement explained. “These wines adhere to the Agreement and therefore we can confirm that the products in question can be sold as currently labelled.”

In other words, the government is publicly proclaming that the FTA trumps Canada’s consumer protections. But, this is little more than a pretext to avoid a conflict with B’nai B’rith, CIJA and Israeli officials, according to Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Trade and Investment Research Project director Scott Sinclair. “This trade-related rationale does not stand up to scrutiny,” Sinclair writes. “The Canadian government, the CFIA and the LCBO are well within their legal and trade treaty rights to insist that products from the occupied territories be clearly labelled as such. There is nothing in the CIFTA [Canada–Israel FTA] that prevents this. The decision to reverse the CFIA’s ruling was political. The whole trade argument is a red herring, simply an excuse to provide cover for the CFIA to backtrack under pressure.”

In another commentary on the government “backtracking under pressure,” Peter Larson points out that CIFTA grants Israel an important concession that seeks to sidestep Canada’s commitments under international law. The agreement says, “unless otherwise specified, ‘territory’ means with respect to Israel the territory where its customs laws are applied,” but omits “in accordance with international law,” which is in many of Canada’s other free trade agreements. This omission seeks to allow goods produced on land occupied in contravention of the 4th Geneva Convention and Statute of Rome to benefit from CIFTA.

David Kattenburg and his lawyer Dmitri Lascaris will be challenging CFIA’s decision in court. On Monday they filed an appeal of the wine labelling and released a statement to the media.

The Council of Canadians and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have recently added their voices to those criticizing CFIA’s decision. The NDP’s trade critic has yet to comment.

Kattenburg and Lascaris’ court challenge offers NDP leadership candidates Niki Ashton, Charlie Angus, Guy Caron and Jagmeet Singh a good opportunity to express their opposition to defining “free trade” as “whatever power wants.”

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Canada enables Barrick’s bad corporate behaviour

Will the Canadian government continue to support Barrick Gold’s exploitation of mineral resources in Tanzania no matter what abuses the company commits?

Would the Trudeau government stop backing the Toronto-based firm if it bilked the impoverished nation out of $10 billion? Or, what if one thousand people were raped and seriously injured by Barrick security? Would Ottawa withdraw its support if one hundred Tanzanians were killed at its mines?

Barrick’s African subsidiary, Acacia Mining, is embroiled in a major political conflict in the east African nation. With growing evidence of its failure to pay royalties and tax, Acacia has been condemned by the president, had its exports restricted and slapped with a massive tax bill.

In May a government panel concluded that Acacia significantly under-reported the percentage of gold and copper in mineral sand concentrates it exported. The next month a government commission concluded that foreign mining firms’ failure to declare revenues had cost Tanzania $100 billion. According to the research, from 1998 to March 2017 the Tanzanian government lost between 68.6 trillion and 108.5 trillion shillings in revenue from mineral concentrates.

The controversy over Barrick’s exports led President John Magufuli to fire the minister of mining and the board of the Minerals Audit Agency. Tanzania’s parliament has also voted to review mining contracts and to block companiesfrom pursuing the country in international trade tribunals.

While the political battle over royalty payments grows, human rights violations continue unabated at Barrick’s North Mara mine. A recent MiningWatch fact-finding mission discovered that “new cases have come to light of serious un-remedied harm related to encounters between victims and mine security and police who guard the mine under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the companies involved and the Tanzanian Police Force. New cases documented in June 2017 include: loss of limbs, loss of eyesight, broken bones, internal injuries, children hit by flying blast rocks, and by teargas grenades thrown by mine security as they chase so-called intruders into the nearby villages. As in past years, villagers reported severe debilitating beatings, commonly with gun butts and wooden batons. Some are seriously wounded by teargas ‘bombs,’ or by so-called rubber bullets. Others are shot, including from behind. As in past years there were a number of deaths.”

At least 22 people have been killed and 69 injured near or at the North Mara mine since 2014. Most of the victims were impoverished villagers who scratch rocks for tiny bits of gold and who often mined these territories prior to Barrick’s arrival. An early 2016 government report found security and police paid by Barrick had killed 65 people and injured 270 at North Mara since 2006. Tanzanian human rights groups estimate as many 300 mine-relateddeaths and the Financial Times reports that not a single police officer or security guard working for the company has been killed on duty.

Amidst the violence at North Mara and an escalating battle over unpaid tax, Canada’s High Commissioner set up a meeting between Barrick Executive Chairman John Thornton and President Magufuli. After accompanying Barrick’s head to the encounter in Dar es Salaam Ian Myles told the press:

Canada is very proud that it expects all its companies to respect the highest standards, fairness and respect for laws and corporate social responsibility. We know that Barrick is very much committed to those values.

Appointed by Trudeau last year, Myles – whose “passion for international development began” when he was 17, according to a University of Toronto profile – took a page out of Stephen Harper’s playbook. During a 2007 trip to Chile the former prime minister responded to protests against various ecological and human rights abuses at the firm’s Pascua Lama project by saying: “Barrick follows Canadian standards of corporate social responsibility.”

A Tanzania Business Ethics columnist was not happy with the High Commissioner’s intervention. In response, Samantha Cole wrote:

It is so insulting that these Canadians and British still think they can trick us with their fancy nonsense ‘spin’ politics and dishonesty. What values is Barrick committed to? Have our nation not witnessed with our own eyes killings? rape? arson and burning our homes? destruction to our environment? poison in our water? corruption? fraud? hundreds of legal cases with local Tanzanian companies who are abused, bullied and suffer? and the list goes on. What ‘values’ is Ambassador Myles boasting about? How dishonest and unethical to stand there and lie about values. He should rather say NOTHING because every country where Barrick operates has a long, long list of illegal activities and crimes.

Disregarding its election promise, the Trudeau government is openly throwing this country’s diplomatic weight behind Canada’s most controversial mining company in the country where it has committed its worst abuses. When asked about Canada’s massive international mining industry during the election the party responded:

The Liberal Party of Canada shares Canadians’ concerns about the actions of some Canadian mining companies operating overseas and has long been fighting for transparency, accountability and sustainability in the mining sector.

The Liberals’ statement included explicit support for An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries, which would have withheld some diplomatic and financial support from companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. Similarly, the Liberals released a letter about the mining sector during the 2015 election that noted, “a Liberal government will set up an independent ombudsman office to advice Canadian companies, consider complaints made against them and investigate those complaints where it is deemed warranted.”

Nearly two years into their mandate the Trudeau regime has yet to follow through on any of their promises to rein in Canada’s controversial international mining sector. In fact, the Liberals have largely continued Harper’s aggressive support for mining companies.

If they are prepared to openly back Barrick in Tanzania one wonders what exactly a firm would have to do to lose Trudeau’s support?

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Welcome to the world of paid Israeli slanderers

As a researcher and writer largely focused on Canadian foreign policy I was surprised to be profiled by a right wing US magazine and downright amazed when the story was tweeted out by renowned French imperialism apologist Bernard-Henri Lévy.

Recently the website Algemeiner published “It’s Time to Talk About Yves Engler” who they call “a darling of the far-left”. Publisher of an “Annual List of the US and Canada’s Worst (40) Campuses for Jewish Students”, the story decried my “diseased antisemitic brain” and stated “there must be no beating around the bush, no equivocation and no softening of the language: for years, Engler has used ‘progressive’ publications to peddle his own vile brand of anti-Semitism.”

What’s curious in this, and other smears, is I’ve done as much as any author in recent years to draw attention to real anti-Semitism in Canada. I’ve highlighted McGill’s quotas on Jewish students in the 1920s, 30s and 40s; medical students at Notre-Dame Hospital striking in 1934 to block a Jewish student from taking up a senior internship; the 1933 Christie Pits Riot where Jewish youth fought back against fascist thugs terrorizing non-Anglo-Saxons; “none is too many” immigration policies; prejudicial land covenants targeting Jews and others into the 1950s. Additionally, I’ve detailed the multiplicity of forces driving Canadian support for Israeli policy, which undermines the notion its entirely about Jewish Zionist lobbying, an idea that at its most extreme, can veer towards a stereotypical trope.

But, this commentary is not a defence of my writing. Anyone interested in the merits of the slanderous claims against me can pick up Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid or read my articles online to make up their own mind.

What’s worth discussing in this attack is the organizational and financial ecosystem from which it emanates. “It’s Time to Talk About Yves Engler” was written by a York University student affiliated to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), which is a rabidly pro-Israel ‘flack’ group. Author Ben Shachar is a CAMERA Fellow, which means he attended a “four day all-expensed-paid annual summer Student Leadership and Advocacy Training conference in Boston” and receives a US$1,000 stipend if he “publishes at least four educational and informational Op-Eds or letters-to-the-editor”, distributes CAMERA materials, organizes an educational event about Israel covered by student media, monitors Israel discussion on campus notably “tracking all relevant class curriculum offered at your university.” If a school doesn’t already have one, CAMERA Fellows’ are encouraged to form an Emet for Israel group, which can access “thousands of dollars in resources for speakers, films, and other programming” promoting Zionism.

CAMERA spent US $4.6 million on campaigning in 2014 (the last year for which information is available online). Though the organization tries to keep its donors anonymous, a Haaretz investigation found CAMERA received more than $1.5 million over the past decade from Seth Klarman, a billionaire hedge fund manager who cofounded The Times of Israel, is a board member and major donor to the anti-Muslim The Israel Project, as well as providing funds to NGO Monitor and illegal West Bank settlements. Haaretz also found that CAMERA received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. (Maybe the famed casino magnet is “talking about Yves Engler”.)

According to the Jewish Forward, CAMERA was one of the “organizationsaligned with right-wing and hawkish political views” that presented at the Adelson-sponsored Campus Maccabees summit, which raised at least $20 million and maybe as much $50 million to attack critics of Israel. Before presenting at the 2015 Campus Maccabees meeting Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein told Forward, “my recommendation is that all groups work together to demonize the demonizers.”

While not forthcoming with information, the Maccabees have reportedly spread to a couple dozen universities. According to a 2016 Los Angeles Times story titled “How a casino tycoon is trying to combat an exploding pro-Palestinian movement on campuses”, the Maccabees paid for “Stop the Jew Hatred on Campus” campaigns at a half dozen California universities. Contracted by Adelson’s group, the David Horowitz Freedom Center plastered posters around UCLA labelling sixteen Students for Justice in Palestine members “Jew Haters” and terrorist allies.

It’s unclear if Adelson’s initiative has funded any Canadian-specific activism, but there’s a web of organizations operating in this country that pursue similar work. In January an individual with Hasbara at York who is a former StandWithUs Canada Emerson Fellow criticized one of my essays in a piece for B’nai B’rith.

The Hasbara (meaning “public relations” or “propaganda”) Fellowship program was developed by Israel’s Foreign Ministry in 2001. It has brought over 3,000 students from 250 campuses to Israel on 16-day trips to learn how to “brand” that country on North American campuses. In partnership with Aish Toronto, Hasbara Fellowship Canada says it “brings hundreds of students to Israel every summer and winter, giving them the information and tools to return to their campuses as educators about Israel.”

StandWithUs Canada was started in 2012 as an offshoot of the LA-based parent organization. Its Emerson Fellows are trained to “act as campus emissaries of the Jewish state.”

The Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, which later dissolved into the United Jewish Appeal’s umbrella lobbying organization Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, was established in large measure to combat pro-Palestinian activists at Concordia, York and other universities. Immediately upon its establishment in 2004, CIJA contributed more than a million dollars to campus activism, including hiring “advocacy experts in seven Canadian cities, who assist local student groups and address anti-Israel agitation on campus.” The funding also subsidized visits to Israel and trained students to promote that country.

With fifty staff and a $10 million budget, CIJA “provides advocacy support to 25 campuses in 9 provinces. CIJA works closely with Hillel and other Jewish student groups across Canada, providing direct assistance on a wide variety of issues including combatting anti-Israel activities such as BDS initiatives.”

Part Jewish cultural organization and part Israel lobby group, Hillel receives millions of dollars a year from United Jewish Appeal Toronto, Montréal, etc. and other Israeli nationalist sources. In addition to Hillel and CIJA, B’nai B’rith attacks Palestine solidarity activism from its half dozen offices across the country. With an $8.6 million budget in 2015, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Canada also regularly labels Palestinian solidarity activists “anti-Semitic”. Dozens of registered Canadian charities, ranging from the Jewish National Fund to Christians United for Israel to the Association for the Soldiers of Israel, engage in at least some pro-Israel campaigning.

On the Palestinian solidarity side it’s a different story. Independent Jewish Voices has one poorly paid part-time employee while Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East has another. The vast majority of Palestine activism is volunteer work. Few of those engaged in it are compensated financially. Nor are there future employment prospects, which exist in “Jewish communal” institutions for Israel campaigners.

I considered pursuing Shachar or Algemeiner for slander but decided it was more important that people “Talk About” my writing and if that’s not possible at least my “diseased brain”. Also I wouldn’t want them to remove the picture of my book Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation that accompanied the story about me. Maybe some Israel apologists who follow Algemeiner or Bernard-Henri Lévy will read up on Canada’s role in impoverishing the continent.

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Kinsella’s silence on JNF racism speaks loudly

What do you call someone who says they head an antiracist organization, but claims to be ignorant of an explicitly racist institution they’ve publicly defended? I have no idea, but I do know Warren Kinsella confirmed the central point of my recent article titled “The Left’s racism problem concerning Israel”.

In a series of threatening emails to the editor of Dissident Voice in response to my article the former advisor to Olivia Chow’s mayoral bid wrote: “These statements are wildly defamatory. They are false and malicious in their plain and ordinary meaning. They are calculated to damage my reputation in the eyes of the community. The fact is, I presently help lead an anti-racist organization and have received death threats as a result. I have ‘ties’ to no other. I have been involved in anti-racism work for more than three decades. I oppose hate against all people, in all of its myriad forms. To state that I support or condone ‘explicit racism’ is a disgusting, appalling lie.”

I responded by saying: “While I appreciate your anti-racism work in certain areas, the point being made in the article claimed to be libelous is that you, in fact, do not condemn all forms of racism, specifically anti-Palestinian racism as conceived and carried out by the Jewish National Fund. I can find no record of you condemning or even criticizing the Jewish National Fund’s structural racism. On the other hand, you have condemned and criticized those who do.

If you do oppose all forms of racism, specifically including that of the Jewish National Fund, please let me know and I will apologize unreservedly to you and correct the article in question. If, on the other hand, you do not believe the Jewish National Fund is racist, or you are simply unwilling to condemn or criticize it, then I must stand by my words in the article.”

And here is where things became interesting. Kinsella responded to my email by stating “I don’t even know what the JNF is. I have nothing to do with it. …”

Claiming to have been involved in antiracism work for three decades, Kinsella says he’s ignorant of the only (to my knowledge) explicitly racist institution sanctioned by the Canadian state to give tax write-offs. It is not like the JNF is some marginal group. The century-old organization’s eleven offices across Canada raised $75 million over the past three years and the sitting prime minister spoke to the organization in 2013.

While he now denies knowledge of the registered charity, last year Kinsella derided a resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status because of its “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel.” Additionally, in the late 2000s Kinsella sat on the board of directors of the Canada-Israel Committee, whose personnel were often close to the JNF.

Why would someone who claims to be an antiracist activist be unwilling to criticize an organization that practices discriminatory land-use policies outlawed in this country six decades ago?

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Most ‘free trade’ critics silent after Israel FTA overrides Canadian law

Two weeks ago the worst fear of Canadian opponents of neoliberal “free trade” agreements came true.

Surprisingly, there has been almost no reaction from the political parties, unions, and other organizations that warned these agreements would be used to undermine Canadian law, even though this is exactly what happened.

After David Kattenburg repeatedly complained about inacurate labels on two wines sold in Ontario, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) notified the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) that it “would not be acceptable and would be considered misleading” to declare Israel as the country of origin for wines produced in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Quoting from official Canadian policy, CFIA noted that “the government of Canada does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967.” On July 11 the LCBO sent out a letter to all sacramental wine vendors that stated CFIA’s conclusion that products from two wineries contained grapes “grown, fermented, processed, blended and finished in the West Bank occupied territory” and should no longer be sold until accurately labelled.

But, in response to pressure from the Israeli embassy, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai Brith, CFIA quickly reversed its decision. On July 14 the government announced that it was all a mistake made by a low level CFIA official and that the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (FTA) governed the labelling of such wine, not CFIA rules. “We did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement,” a terse CFIA statement explained. “These wines adhere to the Agreement and therefore we can confirm that the products in question can be sold as currently labelled.”

In other words, the government publicly proclamed that the FTA trumps Canada’s consumer protection laws. And the basis for this dangerous precedent is that the Israel FTA includes the illegally occupied West Bank as a place where Israel’s custom laws apply.

Incredibly, the Green Party of Canada seems to be the only organization that has publically challenged this egregious attack against consumer protections and Palestinian rights. “The European Union and the United States made it clear long ago that goods made in these illegal settlements cannot be mislabelled as ‘Made in Israel,'” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May in a press release. “Why is Canada singling out Israel for preferential treatment at the expense of both Palestinians’ human rights, and the rights of Canadian consumers?”

The Greens’ statement points to a startling “Israel exception” by the government as well as FTA critics. I have seen no comment from the Council of Canadians or the organization’s trade campaigner Sujata Dey about the Liberal’s announcement that an FTA overides Canadian consumer protections.

The same can be said for NDP International Trade critic Tracey Ramsey as well as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and its Trade and Investment Research Project leader Scott Sinclair. (Since CFIA’s announcement Ramsey and Dey have each posted repeatedly to twitter regarding CETA, NAFTA and other FTAs.) Nor have consumer protection groups such as the Consumers’ Association of Canada or Consumers Council of Canada opposed this attack on the Food and Drugs Act.

But, FTA critics still have an opportunity to join the fight against CFIA’s recent decision. David Kattenburg and his lawyer Dmitry Lascaris are planning a court challenge and their efforts should be supported.

To allow this precedent to pass without challenge the CCPA, NDP and Council of Canadians would be conceding an extremely broad “Israel exception.” Opposing CFIA’s move is not akin to backing Palestinian civil society’s (entirely legitimate) call for international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions until Israel “Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Wall; Recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”

Nor is it a request for Ottawa to bar wines produced on the 22% of pre-1948 Palestine supposed to be a Palestinian state as per official Canadian policy. It is not even necessarily a demand to eliminate the special tariff treatment the Israel FTA currently grants companies based in the occupied territories. It is simply a request to respect Canada’s Food and Drugs Act and label two brands of wine accurately.

As Kattenburg explains, “Israel’s self-declared right to sell falsely labeled products on Canadian store shelves should not be allowed to trump the right of Canadians to know what they’re eating and drinking; to know that the fine bottle of ‘Israeli’ red or crisp chardonnay that they just bought was actually not produced from grapes grown in Israel, but rather, in Israeli-occupied, brutally exploited Palestine.”

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

Canada’s neoliberal policies enable exploitation in Zambia

While few Canadians could find Zambia on a map, the Great White North has significant influence over the southern African nation.

A big beneficiary of internationally sponsored neoliberal reforms, a Vancouver firm is the largest foreign investor in the landlocked country of 16 million.

First Quantum Minerals (FQM) has been embroiled in various ecological, labour and tax controversies in the copper rich nation over the past decade. At the end of last year First Quantum was sued for US$1.4 billion by Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH), a state entity with minority stakes in most of the country’s mining firms. The statement of claim against First Quantum listed improper borrowing and a massive tax liability.

In a politically charged move, President Edgar Lungu recently ordered ZCCM-IH to drop the case and seek an “amicable” out of court settlement with FQM. Social movements criticized the government for (again) caving to powerful mining interests exploiting the country’s natural resources. According to War on Want, Zambia is losing $3 billion a year to tax dodges by multinationals, mainly in the lucrative mining sector. A recent Africa Confidential report on the row between First Quantum and ZCCM-IH highlighted the Vancouver firm’s political influence, pointing out that “top government officials are frequently feted and hosted by FQM.”

First Quantum’s presence in Zambia dates to the late 1990s privatization of the Zambian Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), which once produced 700,000 tonnes of copper per year. In a report on the sale, John Lungu and Alastair Fraser explain that “the division of ZCCM into several smaller companies and their sale to private investors between 1997 and 2000 marked the completion of one of the most comprehensive and rapid privatisation processes seen anywhere in the world.”

The highly indebted country was under immense pressure to sell its copper and public mining company. Zambia’s former Finance Minister Edith Nawakwi said, “we were told by advisers, who included the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that…for the next 20 years, Zambian copper would not make a profit. [But, if we privatised] we would be able to access debt relief, and this was a huge carrot in front of us — like waving medicine in front of a dying woman. We had no option” but to privatize.

Ottawa played a part in the privatization push. Canada was part of the World-Bank-led Consultative Group of donors that promoted the copper selloff. With the sale moving too slowly for the donors, a May 1998 Consultative Group meeting in Paris made $530 US million in balance of payments support dependent on privatizing the rest of ZCCM.

(Canada had been a proponent of neoliberal reform in Zambia since the late 1980s. At the time Ottawa slowed aid to the country in a successful bid to change the government’s attitude to neoliberal reforms, explains Carolyn Bassett in The Use of Canadian Aid to Support Structural Adjustment in Africa. After Zambia fell into line with the International Monetary Fund, CIDA recharged its aid program. As part of a push for economic reform Ottawa secured an agreement that gave a former vice president of the Bank of Canada the role of governor of the Bank of Zambia, where he oversaw the country’s monetary policies and “responses to the IMF”. In her 1991 Ph.D thesis Bassett notes, “instrumental in developing Zambia’s new ‘domestically designed’ [economic] program was the new head of the Bank of Zambia, Canadian Jacques Boussières.” Paid by Ottawa, Boussières was the first foreign governor of the Bank of Zambia since independence. This was not well received by some. Africa Events described Boussières as “a White Canadian who came to de- Zambianise the bank post under controversial circumstances.”)

The hasty sale of the public mining behemoth was highly unfavourable to Zambians. The price of copper was at a historic low and the individual leading the negotiations, Francis Kaunda, was later jailed for defrauding the public company. “ZCCM’s privatization was carried out with a complete lack of transparency, no debate in parliament, and with one-sided contracts which few of us have ever seen,” said James Lungu, a professor at Zambia’s Copperbelt University.

Taking advantage of the government’s weak bargaining position, First Quantum and other foreign companies picked up the valuable assets for rock bottom prices and left the government with ZCCM’s liabilities, including pensions. The foreign mining companies also negotiated ultra low royalty rates and the right to take the government to international arbitration if tax exemptions were withdrawn for 15 years or more. Many of the multinationals made their money back in a year or two and when the price of copper rose five fold in the mid-2000s they made bundles.

Having conceded tax exemptions and ultra low royalty rates, the government captured little from the surge in global copper prices. In 2006 Zambian royalties from copper represented about $24 million on $4 billion worth of copper extracted. The .6% royalty rate was thought to be the lowest in the world. The government take from taxing the mining companies wasn’t a whole lot better. Between 2000 and 2007 Zambia exported $12.24 billion US in copper but the government only collected $246 million in tax.

Since 2008 Zambia has wrestled more from the companies, but they’ve had to overcome stiff corporate resistance. When the government suggested an increased royalty in 2005 First Quantum’s commercial manager Andrew Hickman complained that it “would probably make any new mining ventures in Zambia uneconomical” while three years later First Quantum said it would have “no choice” but to take legal action if a new tax regime breached the agreement it signed during the privatization process.

With billions of dollars tied up in the country, First Quantum had good reason to campaign aggressively to maintain the country’s generous mining policy.

First Quantum stands accused of cheating Zambia out of tens of millions of dollars in taxes. An audit found that between 2006 and 2008 Mopani Copper Mines under-reported cobalt extracts and manipulated internal prices to shift profits to First Quantum and Glencore subsidiaries in the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda, allowing it to evade millions of dollars of tax in Zambia.

In Offshore Finance and Global Governance: Disciplining the Tax Nomad William Vlcek explains:

As a corporate entity, First Quantum does not directly manage the mining operations in Zambia, rather it owns a subsidiary in Ireland which in turn owns subsidiary corporations registered in The British Virgin Islands and Zambia. … The overall corporate organization involves similar subordinate corporate structures with subsidiaries registered in Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Netherlands, none of which jurisdictions include a mine or smelter operated by First Quantum. … Jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands … do not impose a corporate income tax on foreign-sourced income. Thus, First Quantum’s subsidiaries will pay corporate income tax on their operations in Zambia to the Zambian government, but any income that flows through to the BVI-registered subsidiary will not be taxed before flowing onward.

In a bid to cut down on corporate ‘transfer pricing’ and tax evasion, the Zambian government sought to simplify the mining fee structure. In 2013 Lusaka proposed eliminating income tax on mining companies and substantially increasing royalty rates (up to 20% for open-pit mines and 8% on underground operations). In 2015 Minister of Finance Alexander B. Chikwanda told Parliament:

The tax system was vulnerable to all forms of tax planning schemes such as transfer pricing, hedging and trading through ‘shell’ companies which are not directly linked to the core business. Sir, it has been a challenge for the revenue administration to detect and abate such practices. Further, provisions on capital allowances and carry forward of losses eliminated potential taxable profits. Mr Speaker, the tax structure was simply illusory as only two mining companies were paying Company Income Tax under the previous tax regime as most of them claimed that they were not in tax-paying positions.

First Quantum, Toronto’s Barrick Gold and a number of other foreign mining companies screamed murder and worked to derail the Zambian government. First Quantum government affairs manager John Gladston said “the new system doesn’t incentivise investment in new capital projects which in turn, will inevitably be translated into fewer new jobs and less opportunities for wealth creation for Zambians.” To spur a backlash in the job-hungry country, First Quantum laid off 350 workers at its Kansanshi mine. The government responded by saying First Quantum wasn’t adhering to the country’s labour law. Government spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili told Xinhua that “all mining companies are aware of the standing order, which obliges them to consult the government through the Ministry of Labour before any decision to sack any worker becomes effective.”

Barrick Gold also threatened to lay off workers if the government increased royalty rates. The Toronto company said it would shutter its Lumwana Mine, which prompted 2,000 workers, fearing for their jobs, to hold a one-day strike. The foreign-run Chamber of Mines of Zambia claimed 12,000 jobs would be lost if the royalty changes went through and the IMF added its voice to those opposing the royalty hike.

The mining corporations’ strong-armed tactics succeeded. After a six-month standoff, the government backed off.

First Quantum, Barrick and the other foreign mining companies exploited the immense power ZCCM’s privatization gave them over Zambian economic life. By shuttering their mines they could produce economic hardship for thousands of people. (With an 80% unemployment rate and most Zambians living on less than a dollar a day, each formally employed individual provides for many others.) Some suggested the foreign mining companies were even “powerful enough to manipulate the exchange rate” of the country.

Canadian officials actively backed FQM and other mining companies in Zambia. At the 2013 Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Convention Ottawa announced the start of negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with Zambia, which would allow Canadian companies to pursue Zambia in international tribunal for lost profits. The next year the Head of Office at the Canadian High Commission, Sharad Kumar Gupta, “said the Canadian government is trying to encourage the private sector to explore… opportunities in Zambia’s mining sector,” reported Lusaka’s news.hot877.com.

After the leftist Patriotic Front opposition party accused First Quantum of blocking workers from voting in a 2005 parliamentary by-election, the Canadian High Commissioner defended the Vancouver company. John Deyell, who previously worked at mining giants Inco and Falconbridge in Sudbury, claimed First Quantum wasn’t responsible for day-to-day operations despite owning a sixth of MCM stock and controlling two seats on MCM’s executive board. In response the Patriotic Front sought to take their protest against MCM’s violation of workers’ rights to the Canadian High Commission, but the police denied them a permit.

In Zambia, as with elsewhere in Africa, Canada’s mining industry, foreign policy and neoliberalism overlap tightly. It’s a subject Canadians ought to pay attention to if we want our country to be a force for good in the world.

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Standing up for Palestine boosts Ashton’s popularity

Sometimes silence in politics speaks louder than words.

Israel lobby groups’ response (or lack thereof) to NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton’s recent support of Palestinian rights suggests they believe previous criticisms backfired.

Two months ago B’nai B’rith attacked Ashton for attending a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike and a subsequent Facebook post commemorating the Nakba, which saw 750,000 Palestinians driven from their homes by Zionist forces in 1947/48. The self-declared ‘human rights’ organization published a press release titled “B’nai Brith Denounces MP Niki Ashton for Standing in ‘Solidarity’ with Terrorists.” Rather than harming Ashton, the attack solidified support amongst the Left and youth within the party. B’nai B’rith’s smear generated significant media attention, but Ashton refused to back down. In response the Manitoba MP told the Winnipeg Free Press she felt obligated to “speak out in the face of injustice” and “I have consistently spoken out for peace and justice in the Middle East, including for Palestinians.”

A few days after accusing her of “Standing in ‘Solidarity’ with Terrorists” B’nai B’rith CEO Michael Mostyn took another shot at Ashton. Clearly writing to the Toronto Sun’s editors and his own organization’s donors, Mostyn linked Ashton’s position on Palestine to sympathy for the Black Lives Matter movement, which most NDP members probably support. On top of this own-goal, Mostyn opened the door for a rejoinder by the president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. In his response Thomas Woodley described Ashton’s promotion of the Palestinian cause as an outgrowth of her “support for Indigenous rights in Canada” — for every NDP member Mostyn swayed against Ashton I’d bet Woodley convinced fifty to favour her.

Since the dustup at the end of May, B’nai B’rith — and other Israeli nationalist groups — have remained silent regarding Ashton. Yet when asked a question about Martin Luther King during an official party leadership debate six weeks ago Ashton went out of her way to link those campaigning for Palestinian rights to the US civil rights leader. Then, in a widely circulated FightBack interview at the end of June Ashton decried the NDP’s purge of pro-Palestinian candidates in the 2015 federal election campaign as “totally unacceptable.” She also called “justice for Palestine…a key issue” and referenced “the Nakba.”

Last week Ashton was part of a fundraiser in London, Ontario, put on by five prominent Palestinian solidarity activists, while this week she put out an appeal for individuals to join the party titled “End the Gaza Blockade.” It stated: “Today marks three years since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day Israeli military offensive on Gaza…Ashton has demonstrated that she will show leadership and will never hesitate when standing up for Palestinians.”

In the past B’nai B’rith has labeled lesser transgressions “support for terrorism” or “anti-Semitism.” Their silence on Ashton’s recent moves is deafening. B’nai B’rith is effectively conceding that their previous attacks backfired and they now fear drawing further attention to Ashton’s position since it would likely strengthen her standing among those voting for the next NDP leader.

According to a February poll of 1,000 Canadians, most progressive Canadians back Palestinian rights. Eighty-four per cent of NDP supporters said they were open to sanctioning Israel, when they were asked in the context of the UN Security Council denouncing settlement building in the West Bank: “Do you believe that some sort of Canadian government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable?

While somewhat of a long shot at the start of the race, Ashton now has a reasonable chance of becoming leader of the NDP. According to a July 5 Mainstreet poll of 1,445 party members, 22.6 per cent of those asked supported Charlie Angus as their first choice candidate while 20.4 per cent backed Ashton. 7.5 per cent chose both Jagmeet Singh and Peter Julian (who has since dropped out of the race) as their top choice and 6.1 per cent went for Guy Caron while 35.9 per cent had not made up their minds. Ashton is far and away the favourite among NDP millennials.

The first ever pregnant major party leadership candidate in Canadian political history has gained this support by speaking truth to power and taking a principled position on an issue most politician have shied away from. And, she has demonstrated that the purpose of Israeli nationalist attacks is to silence them, not to have a debate. In fact, real debate is what organizations like B’nai B’rith fear the most because the more people thst know about Israel and the Occupied Territories, the more they support the Palestinian cause.

The prospect of the NDP electing a leader taking explicitly pro-Palestinian positions obviously concerns B’nai B’rith. But, their bigger worry should be the growing number of progressives who consider Israel lobby attacks a mark in favour of a politician.

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Aid and exploitation: Canada in Congo

Imagine if the media only reported the good news that governments and corporations wanted you to see, hear and read about. Unfortunately, that is not far from the reality of reporting about Canada’s role internationally.

The dominant media almost exclusively covers stories that portray this country positively while ignoring or downplaying information that contradicts this narrative. The result? Canadians are ignorant and confused about their country’s role in the world.

In a recent example of benevolent Canada bias, The Globe and Mail reported uncritically about a trip international development minister Marie-Claude Bibeau made to the Congo. In a story last week headlined “Canada commits $97-million to Congo under feminist foreign-aid policy,” The Globe reported that “Canada has committed nearly $100-million to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to support women’s economic empowerment, protect street children and provide humanitarian assistance.”

A week earlier Canada’s paper of record decided a relatively insignificant Canadian project to help miners in eastern Congo was front-page news. “New gold standard emerges for Congo’s miners, Canada’s jewellery buyers,” detailed an Ottawa-funded initiative to promote legal exports and to standardize the price paid to scale miners.

While Partnership Africa Canada’s “fair trade” gold initiative is an interesting project and the international development minister’s announcement was newsworthy, the narrowness of the two articles gives readers the impression Canada helps improve the lives of people who live in a country where 87 per cent live on less than $1.25 a day. But, an abundance of evidence suggests Canada has actually impoverished the central African nation.

What follows is a brief outline of the context within which the good news about Canada’s role in the Congo should be seen:

Over a century ago Royal-Military-College-of-Canada-trained officer William Grant Stairs participated in two controversial expeditions to expand European influence over the Congo. In 1887, Stairs was one of ten white officers in the first-ever European expedition to cross the interior of the continent, which left a trail of death, disease and destruction. A few years later the Halifax native led a 1,950-person mission to conquer the resource-rich Katanga region of the Congo on behalf of Belgium’s King Leopold II. Today Stairs is honoured with a street, island and multiple plaques, even though he was openly racist and barbarous and added 150,000 square kilometres to the Belgium’s King’s monstrous colony.

During this period Hamilton, Ontario’s William Henry Faulknor was one of the first white missionaries to establish a mission station in eastern Congo. Between 1887 and 1891 Faulknor worked under the ruler of the Yeke kingdom, Mwenda Msiri, who would later meet his death at the hand of Stairs. Faulknor’s Plymouth Brethren explicitly called for European rule (either Belgian or British) over Katanga and like almost all missionaries sought to undermine local ways.

Following Faulknor, Toronto-born Henry Grattan Guinness II established the Congo Balolo Mission in 1889. Congo Balolo Mission missions were located in remote areas of the colony, where King Leopold’s Anglo-Belgian Rubber Company obligated individuals and communities to gather rubber latex and chopped off the hands of thousands of individuals who failed to fulfill their quotas.

Faced with the violent disruption of their lives, the Lulonga, Lopori, Maringa, Juapa and Burisa were increasingly receptive to the Christian activists who became “the interpreter of the new way of life,” writes Ruth Slade in English-Speaking Missions in the Congo Independent State. Not wanting to jeopardize their standing with Leopold’s representatives, the Congo Balolo Mission repeatedly refused British-based solidarity campaigners’ appeals to publicly expose the abuses they witnessed.

In the 1920s the Canadian trade commissioner in South Africa, G.R. Stevens, traveled to the Congo and reported on the Katanga region’s immense resources. In de-facto support of Belgian rule, a Canadian trade commission was opened in the colony in 1946. In response to a series of anti-colonial demonstrations in 1959, Canadian Trade Commissioner K. Nyenhuis reported to External Affairs that “savagery is still very near the surface in most of the natives.”

Ottawa backed Brussels militarily as it sought to maintain control of its massive colony. Hundreds of Belgian pilots were trained in Canada during and after World War II and through the 1950s Belgium received tens of millions of dollars in Canadian NATO Mutual Aid. Canadian Mutual Aid weaponry was likely employed by Belgian troops in suppressing the anti-colonial struggle in the Congo.

Immediately after independence Canada played an important role in the UN mission that facilitated the murder of anticolonial Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in 1961. Canadian Colonel Jean Berthiaume assisted Lumumba’s political enemies by helping recapture the popular independence leader. Lumumba was handed over to soldiers under military commander Joseph Mobutu.

Canada had a hand in Mobutu’s rise and Ottawa mostly supported his brutal three-decade rule. Then, Canada also helped get rid of Mobutu.

Ottawa supported Rwanda and Uganda’s invasion, which ultimately drove Mobutu from power. In 1996, Canada led a short-lived UN force into eastern Zaire (Congo) designed to dissipate French pressure and ensure pro-Mobutu Paris didn’t take command of a force that could impede the Rwandan-led invasion. As Rwanda has unleashed mayhem in the Congo over the past two decades, Ottawa has backed Kigali.

In 2002 a series of Canadian companies were implicated in a UN report titled “Report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other Forms of Wealth in the Congo.” Ottawa responded to the report by defending the Canadian companies cited for complicity in Congolese human rights violations.

At the G8 in 2010, the Canadian government pushed for an entire declaration to the final communiqué criticizing the Congo for attempting to gain a greater share of its vast mineral wealth. Earlier that year Ottawa obstructed international efforts to reschedule the country’s foreign debt, which was mostly accrued during Mobutu’s dictatorship and the subsequent wars. Canadian officials “have a problem with what’s happened with a Canadian company,” Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende said, referring to the government’s move to revoke a mining concession that First Quantum acquired under dubious circumstances during the 1998-2003 war.

With about $4.5 billion invested in the Congo, Canadian mining companies have been responsible for numerous abuses. After a half-dozen members of the little-known Mouvement revolutionnaire pour la liberation du Katanga occupied Anvil Mining’s Kilwa concession in October 2004 the Canada-Australian company transported government troops who killed 100 people. Most of the victims were unarmed civilians.

In recent months a number of individuals have been killed at Banro’s mines in eastern Congo. Over the past two decades the secretive Toronto-based company has been accused of fuelling conflict in a region that’s seen incredible violence.

Of course one cannot expect a detailed history of Canada’s role in impoverishing Congo in a story about a government aid announcement or a 1,300-word article about an initiative to standardize pay for some of the world’s most vulnerable miners. But, The Globe‘s failure to even mention the broader story reflects its bias and helps to explain why Canadians are so confused about their country’s role in the world.

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The Left’s racism problem concerning Israel

Most progressives would agree that opposing all forms of racism is a key element of what makes them left wing. But it is not always straightforward how best to confront white privilege, avoid cultural appropriation, tackle colonial attitudes towards indigenous peoples or avoid being labelled anti-Jewish when working for Palestinian human rights. And in the later case, accusations of Left anti-Semitism actually mask a more significant racism problem on the Left.

In response to the recent controversy at Chicago’s Dyke March Toronto activist Alex Hundert tweeted “And to think ppl keep tryna ridicule me for calling out #antisemitism on the Left… #leftfail.” The self-declared radical linked to a Ha’aretz story headlined “Chicago ‘Dyke March‘ Bans Jewish Pride Flags: ‘They Made People Feel Unsafe’”.  But according to march organizersJewish Voices for Peace and Electronic Intifada the whole thing was a set-up and part of an orchestrated attack by a pro-Israel queer group. In one of many efforts to turn the Dyke March incident against critics of Israel and the left more generally, New York Times opinion section editor Bari Weiss opined that by echoing criticism of Israeli policy in recent years left Jews have opened the door to pogroms or genocide (“if history has taught the Jews anything it’s that this kind of contortion never ends well”), concluding that “anti-Semitism remains as much a problem on the far-left as it is on the alt-right.”

The Dyke March incident is not the first time Hundert has taken up this criticism of Left political movements. “Everytime I’m almost ready to start organizing again,” the former Upper Canada College student tweeted a couple months ago, “I see some stupid left antisemitism that reminds me I’m glad I switched to advocacy.” Hundert is echoing an increasingly common refrain. At the liberal end of the dominant media the CBC’s Neil MacDonald asked last year “Has the activist left decided anti-Semitism doesn’t exist?” while the far right Rebel denounced “Tom Mulcair, Olivia Chow and the NDP’s huge anti-Semitic problem”. For its part, B’nai Brith has specifically cited “far-left-winggroups”, alongside “anti-Israel agitators”, as a major source of anti-Semitic incidents in its annual audit. During the 2012 Québec student strike B’nai B’rith condemned protesters purported “hate …that has outraged the Jewish community.” A Canadian Jewish News editorial and front page cover about the NDP supporting the Leap Manifesto in 2016 suggests the Jewish community’s leading organ would likely cry “anti-Semitism” if the NDP elects a left-wing leader.

Internationally Zionist groups, media commentators and Blairites in the British Labour Party whipped up an “anti-Semitism” crisis last year to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Similar accusations were levelled earlier this year at leftist French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and previously against Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

Let me be clear: Anti-Jewish prejudice exists on the left. Many who bemoan “Zionist controlled governments” and other such formulations are referencing stereotypical tropes about Jewish control. Some ‘Jews as Jesus killers’ prejudice also lingers in a country with Christian (colonial) roots. Anti-Semitism should be condemned since all forms of ethnic/religious discrimination are wrong. Additionally, simplistic ethnic/religious explanations of power do a disservice to movements seeking to make the world better a place.

But, while it exists, left anti-Jewish prejudice should be put in context. Is there more anti-Jewish prejudice on the left than anti-black, indigenous, south Asian, Chinese, etc. racism? Or how about patriarchal attitudes? Or even class bias against “unskilled” workers? But, unlike indigenous or black people or women, Jews are not underrepresented in positions of influence on the Canadian Left, just as they are not underrepresented in the structures of power in this country.

So, what is going on with this focus on the left’s anti-Semitism? The answer is obvious. It is a way for supporters of Israel to shut down criticism of that country.

While one hears a great deal about the relatively marginal problem of left anti-Semitism, explicit Jewish/Israeli supremacism passes with little comment. NDP officials, for instance, continue to promote the openly racist Jewish National Fund. Five months after speaking at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington D.C., Hélène Laverdière participated in a November 2016 JNF tree planting ceremony in Jerusalem. During a visit to Israel with Canada’s Governor General the NDP’s foreign critic attended a ceremony with JNF World Chairman Danny Atar. In 2011 Nova Scotia NDP Premier Darrell Dexter donned a JNF hat as he planted a tree at a JNF garden. Manitoba NDP Premier Gary Doer was honoured at a 2006 JNF Negev Dinner in Winnipeg and cabinet minister Christine Melnick received the same honour in 2011. During a 2010 trip to Israel subsequent Manitoba NDP Premier Greg Selinger signed an accord with the JNF while water stewardship minister Melnick spoke at the opening ceremony for a park built in Jaffa by the JNF, Tel Aviv Foundation and Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable. (In MayMelnick won a B’nai Brith Zionist action figures prize for writing a piece about a friend who helped conquer East Jerusalem and then later joined the JNF).

In 2013 Green Party leader Elizabeth May attended a JNF Ottawa fundraiser, even lauding “the great work that’s [the JNF] done in making the desert bloom.” May’s comment erased the existence of the indigenous Palestinians and promoted an explicitly racist institution that has Judaized historically Arab areas and continues to discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in its land use policies, as the UN, US State Department and the organization’s own website make clear.

While less flagrantly supremacist than supporting the JNF, most left politicians, representatives and commentators express support for a “Jewish state”. From a Palestinian, or internationalist, perspective this is a decidedly racist characterization and goes against hundreds of years of left support for a secular state.

In an effort to appease critics, some left organizations have even stated formally that opposing a Jewish supremacist state is itself a form of discrimination. After being raked over the coals for refusing a politicized resolution calling on it to align with a pro-Israel group in promoting Holocaust Education Week, the Ryerson Student Union recently adopted the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” as part of its definition of anti-Jewish prejudice. The Protocol conflatesopposition to political Zionism with anti-Jewish prejudice or, in other words, it says it is anti-Semitic to oppose a “Jewish state”. Promoted by Students Supporting Israel and Stand With Us Canada, the student union’s move was immediately applauded by staunch Israeli nationalist National Postcolumnist Barbara Kay.

Even individuals and groups focused on challenging racism often provide an exemption for explicit Jewish/Israeli racism. In January one of Toronto’s leading anti-racist writers, Desmond Cole, spoke at a forum on “increased racist and xenophobic attacks” in the time of Trump with three individuals (Bernie Farber, Karen Mock and Warren Kinsella) who have ties to the only (to my knowledge) explicitly racist institution sanctioned by the Canadian state to give tax write-offs: the JNF.

After I recently wrote about Warren Kinsella speaking at a Jewish Defense League meeting in 2009, it came to light that a moderator made the former Canada-Israel Committee board member part of a private Toronto Facebook group set up to oppose overtly racist groups like the JDL. In a sign he still condones explicit racism, last year Kinsella condemned a Green Party of Canada resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status because of its “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel.” (Imagine someone who spoke at a KKK meeting or defended them being invited to a private antiracist Facebook group.) The sober reality is that large swaths of the left still accept, even promote, explicit Jewish/Israeli racism.

When Hundert, Macdonald, B’nai Brith etc. attack the left for being anti-Jewish they reinforce an ideological climate that still sees many labour leaders, NGO representatives, left politicians etc. remaining silent in the face of substantial Canadian support for the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism, precisely because they fear being labeled “anti-Semitic”. Whatever one’s motives in launching these attacks on anti-Semitism, their effect is to deter Canadians from condemning our foreign minister for calling Israel a “close friend”, opposing Palestinian rights at the UN, delivering aid to prop up Israel’s illegal occupation and subsidizing charities that channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military, racist institutions and illegal settlements.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Trudeau’s foreign policy a lot like Harper’s

When Justin Trudeau looks in the foreign policy mirror who does he see? Someone very much like Stephen Harper.

On the world stage Canada under Trudeau the Second has acted almost the same as when Harper was prime minister. The Liberals have followed the previous government’s posture on issues ranging from militarism to Russia, nuclear weapons to the Gulf monarchies.

Aping the ancien régime’s position, the Liberals recently voted against UN nuclear disarmament efforts supported by most countries of the world. As such, they’ve refused to attend the ongoing Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.

Earlier this month the Liberals released a defence policy that calls 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 over seven years.

The government’s recent defence policy also includes 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 upwards of one hundred billion dollars on new fighter jets and naval ships.

Initiated by the Conservatives, last year the Liberals signed off on a government-contracted $15 billion Light Armoured Vehicle sale to Saudi Arabia. Trudeau has also maintained the Harper created Canada-Gulf Cooperation Council Dialogue, which is a platform for foreign ministers to discuss economic ties and the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The GCC includes the monarchies of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, which have almost all intervened in the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The Trudeau government has continued to isolate Canada from world opinion on Palestinian rights. They’ve voted against numerous UN resolutions supported by almost the entire world upholding Palestinian rights.

The Harper regime repeatedly attacked Venezuela’s elected government and in recent weeks the Liberals have picked up from where they left off. The Liberals have supported efforts to condemn the Nicolás Maduro government at the Organization of American States and promoted an international mediation designed to weaken Venezuela’s leftist government (all the while staying mum about Brazil’s imposed president and far worse human rights violations in Mexico).

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

Nearly two years into their mandate the Liberals haven’t restarted diplomatic relations with Iran or removed that country from Canada’s state sponsor of terrorism list (Syria is the only other country on the list). Nor has the Trudeau regime adopted any measure to restrict public support for Canadian mining companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. With regards to Canada’s massive and controversial international mining industry, it has been status quo ante.

A recent cover of Canadian Dimension magazine provided a cheeky challenge to Trudeau’s bait and switch. Below the word “SURPRISE!” it showed a Justin Trudeau mask being removed to reveal Stephen Harper.

The sober reality is that Trudeau represents a continuation of his predecessor’s foreign policy. I might even need to redo my 2012 book The Ugly Canadian, but this time with the tagline “Justin Trudeau’s foreign policy”.

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

Canada’s contribution to the Belgian Congo holocaust

Canada’s 150th anniversary offers a unique opportunity to shed light on some darker corners of Canadian history. One of the dustier chapters is our contribution to one of the most barbarous regimes of the last century and a half.

In a bid to extract rubber and other commodities from his personal colony, Belgian King Léopold II instituted a brutal system of forced labour in the late 1800s. Individuals and communities were given rubber collection quotas that were both hard to fulfill and punishable by death. To prove they killed someone who failed to fulfill a quota soldiers from the Force Publique, the colonial police, were required to provide a severed hand. With Force Publique officers paid partly based on the number collected, severed hands became a sort of currency in the colony and baskets of hands the symbol of the Congo Free State.

Between 1891 and 1908 millions died from direct violence, as well as the starvation and disease, caused by Leopold II’s terror. A quarter of the population may have died during Leopold’s reign, which sparked a significant international solidarity movement that forced the Belgian government to intervene and buy the colony.

Halifax’s William Grant Stairs played an important part in two expeditions that expanded Leopold II’s immensely profitable Congolese venture. The Royal Military College of Canada trained soldier was one of 10 white officers in the first-ever European expedition to cross the interior of the continent and subsequently Stairs led an expedition that added 150,000 square kilometres to Leopold’s colony.

In 1887 Stairs joined the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, which was ostensibly designed to “rescue” the British-backed governor of Equatoria, the southern part of today’s South Sudan. Scottish merchant William MacKinnon asked famed American ‘explorer’ Henry Morton Stanley to lead a relief effort. At the time of the expedition Léopold II employed Stanley, who had been helping the king carve out the ‘Congo Free State’. Seeing an opportunity to add to his colony, Leopold wanted Stanley to take a circuitous route all the way around South Africa, up the Congo River and across the interior of the continent.

One of ten whites, Stairs quickly became second-in-command of the three-year expedition. Read from a humanistic or internationalist perspective, the RMC graduate’s diary of the disastrous expedition is incredibly damning. Or, as Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke put it, “Stairs’ account of his atrocities establishes that even Canadians, blinded by racism, can become swashbuckling mass murderers.”

Stairs’ extensive diary, which he asked to be published upon his and Stanley’s death, makes it clear that locals regularly opposed the mission. One passage notes, “the natives made a tremendous noise all night and canoes came close to us, the natives yelling frantically for us to go away” while another entry explains, “the natives destroyed their food rather than let it fall into the hands of the invaders.”

Stairs repeatedly admits to “ransacking the place”. A December 11, 1887 diary entry notes:

Out again at the natives, burned more houses and cut down more bananas; this time we went further up the valley and devastated the country there. In the afternoon [white officer, A. J. Mounteney] Jephson and I went up to some high hills at the back of the camp and burnt all we could see, driving off a lot of natives like so much game. I managed to capture some six goats and yesterday I also got six, which we gave to the men. The natives now must be pretty sick of having their property destroyed in the way we are doing, but it serves them right as they were the aggressors and after taking our cloth, fired on us.

On a number of occasions the expedition displayed mutilated bodies or severed heads as a “warning” to the locals. Stairs notes:

I often wonder what English people would say if they knew of the way in which we go for these natives; friendship we don’t want as then we should get very little meat and probably have to pay for the bananas. Every male native capable of using the bow is shot. This, of course, we must do. All the children and women are taken as slaves by our men to do work in the camps.

Stairs led numerous raiding parties to gather “carriers”, which were slaves in all but name. According to The Last Expedition, “[the mission] routinely captured natives, either to be ransomed for food, to get information, or simply to be used as guides for a few days.”

To cross the continent the expedition relied on its superior firepower, which included the newly created 600-bullet-per-minute Maxim gun. Stairs describes one battle, stating that his men were “ready to land and my Maxim ready to murder them if they should dare to attack us.” On another day the firearm aficionado explained, “I cleaned the Maxim gun up thoroughly and fired some 20 or 30 rounds at some howling natives on the opposite bank.” Twenty months into the mission Stairs coyly admits “by what means have we traveled over 730 miles of country from the Congo to the lake? Why by rifle alone, by shooting and pillaging.”

Beyond the immediate death and destruction, the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition opened new areas of the African interior to Arab slave traders and it is thought to be the source of a sleeping sickness epidemic that ravaged the region. The expedition was also devastating for its participants. With little food and much abuse from the white officers, only 253 of the 695 African porters and soldiers who started the mission survived. Additionally, hundreds of other Africans who became part of the expedition at later stages died as well.

There are disturbing claims that some white officers took sex slaves and in one alarming instance even paid to have an 11-year-old girl cooked and eaten. This story scandalized the British public.

For his part, Stairs became almost pathologically inhumane. His September 28, 1887 diary entry notes:

It was most interesting, lying in the bush and watching the natives quietly at their days work; some women were pounding the bark of trees preparatory to making the coarse native cloth used all along this part of the river, others were making banana flower by pounding up dried bananas, men we could see building huts and engaged at other such work, boys and girls running about, singing, crying, others playing on a small instrument common all over Africa, a series of wooden strips, bent over a bridge and twanged with the thumb and forefinger. All was as it was every day until our discharge of bullets, when the usual uproar of screaming of women took place.

Even with some criticizing the expedition in Britain, Stairs’ efforts were celebrated in Canada. An honouring committee established by the mayor of Halifax decided to give him a sword made in London of Nova Scotia steel and the city organized a reception attended by the Lieutenant-Governor with a military band playing “Here the Conquering Hero Comes.”

Within two years of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition Stairs helped King Leopold II conquer the resource-rich Katanga region of the Congo. Suggested to Leopold by British investors and having already impressed Stanley with his brutality, Stairs headed up a heavily armed mission that swelled to 2,000.

The goal of the expedition was to extend Leopold’s authority over the Katanga region and to get a piece of the copper, ivory and gold trade. Stairs’ specific objective was to get Msiri, the ruler of the region, “to submit to the authorities of the Congo Free State, either by persuasion or by force.” In his diary Stairs says more or less as much, writing that his goals were “above all, to be successful with regard to Msiri … to discover mines in Katanga that can be exploited … to make some useful geographic discoveries.” Investigating the area’s suitability for European settlement and for raising domestic animals were other aims of the mission.

As leader of the mission Stairs prepared a daily journal for the Compagnie du Katanga. It details the terrain, resources and inhabitants along the way as well as other information that could assist in exploiting the region. It also explains his personal motivations for taking on the task despite spotty health. “I wasn’t happy [garrisoned with the Royal Engineers in England] in the real sense of the word. I felt my life passing without my doing anything worthwhile. Now I am freely making my way over the coastal plain with more than 300 men under my orders. My least word is law and I am truly the master.” Later, he describes his growing force and power. “I have thus, under my orders, 1350 men — quite a little army.”

Stairs admitted to using slaves even though Leopold’s mission to the Congo was justified as a humanistic endeavour to stop the Arab slave trade. He wrote about how “the anti-slavery society will try and jump upon me for employing slaves as they seem to think I am doing… however, I don’t fancy these will disturb me to a great extent.” The RMC graduate also regularly severed hands and reportedly collected the head of an enemy.

The expedition accomplished its principal objective. Stairs had Msiri killed and threatened Msiri’s brothers with the same fate unless they accepted Leopold as sovereign. After securing their submission Stairs divided the kingdom between Msiri’s adopted son and brothers.

Stairs used a series of racist rationalizations to justify conquering Katanga. He describes the population as “unfortunate blacks who, very often, are incapable of managing their own affairs” and asked in the introduction of his diary: “Have we the right to take possession of this vast country, take it out of the hands of its local chiefs and to make it serve the realization of our goals? … To this question, I shall reply positively, yes. What value would it have [the land he was trying to conquer] in the hands of blacks, who, in their natural state, are far more cruel to one another than the worst Arabs or the wickedest whites.”

At another point Stairs cites another standard colonial justification: “Only rarely do the natives think of improving their lot — that’s the great weakness among the Africans. Their fathers’ ways are theirs and their own customs will be those of their sons and grandsons.”

While Stairs died in the Congo his exploits were lauded in Ottawa when Senator W.J. Macdonald sought to move “a parliamentary resolution expressing satisfaction for Stairs’ manly conduct.” There’s a Stairs Street in Halifax and two brass plaques honour him at the RMC (one for Stairs alone and another dedicated to him and two others). The main plaque reads: “William Grant Stairs, Captain the Welsh Regiment. Born at Halifax Nova Scotia 1 July 1863. Lieutenant Royal Engineers 1885-91. Served on the staff of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition 1887 under the leadership of H.M. Stanley and exhibited great courage and devotion to duty. Died of fever on the 9 June 1892 at Chinde on the Zambesi whilst in command of the Katanga Expedition sent out by the King of the Belgians.” Another plaque was erected for Stairs (and two others) at St. George Cathedral in Kingston, Ontario. And a few hundred kilometers to the southwest “Stair’s Island” was named in his honour in Parry Sound.

Stairs was one of hundreds of Canadians who helped conquer different parts of Africa at the turn of the 20th century. Accounts of Canada’s first 150-years are incomplete without this chapter in our history.

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Filed under Canada in Africa

Canadian, US complaints about Russian election meddling hypocritical

If a guy does something bad to someone else, but then complains later when another person does that same thing to him, what do we say? Stop being a hypocrite. Either you change direction or you got what you deserved.

Does the same moral logic apply to countries?

Purported Russian meddling in U.S., French and other elections has received significant attention recently. “Russian meddling abroad underscores need for electoral reform in Canada” declared a rabble.ca headline this week while CBC noted “Russian attempts to infiltrate U.S. election systems found in 21 states: officials.” An earlier Globe and Mailheadline stated “Russia was warned against U.S. election meddling: ex-CIA head,” while a Global News story noted “Canada should worry about Russian interference in elections: former CSIS head.”

Interference in another country’s election is an act of aggression and should not happen in a just world so these accusations deserve to be aired and investigated. But, how can one take the outrage seriously when the media commentators who complain about Russia ignore clear-cut Canadian meddling elsewhere and the decades-long history of U.S. interference in other countries’ elections around the world, including in Canada.

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

Canada has also interfered aggressively in Haitian elections. After plotting, executing and consolidating the 2004 coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government, Canadian officials interceded in the first election after the coup. In 2006 Canada’s then-chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, led a team of Canadian observers to Haiti for elections that excluded the candidate — Father Gérard Jean Juste — of Haiti’s most popular political party Fanmi Lavalas. With the country gripped by social upheaval after widespread fraud in the counting, including thousands of ballots found burned in a dump, Kingsley released a statement claiming, “the election was carried out with no violence or intimidation, and no accusations of fraud.” Chair of the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections, Kingsley’s statement went on to laud Jacques Bernard, the head of the electoral council despite the fact that Bernard had already been widely derided as corrupt and biased even by other members of the coup government’s electoral council.

In the 2010 election Ottawa intervened to bring far-right president Michel Martelly to power (with about 16 per cent of the votes, since the election was largely boycotted). Canada put up $6 million for elections that excluded Fanmi Lavalas from participating. After the first round, our representatives on an Organization of American States Mission helped force the candidate the electoral council had in second place, Jude Celestin, out of the runoff. The Center for Economic and Policy Research explained, “the international community, led by the U.S., France, and Canada, has been intensifying the pressure on the Haitian government to allow presidential candidate Michel Martelly to proceed to the second round of elections instead of [ruling party candidate] Jude Celestin.” Some Haitian officials had their U.S. visas revoked and there were threats that aid would be cut off if Martelly’s vote total wasn’t increased as per the OAS recommendation.

Half of the electoral council agreed to the OAS changes, but half didn’t. The second round was unconstitutional, noted Haïti Liberté’s Kim Ives, as “only four of the eight-member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) have voted to proceed with the second round, one short of the five necessary. Furthermore, the first round results have not been published in the journal of record, Le Moniteur, and President Préval has not officially convoked Haitians to vote, both constitutional requirements.”

The absurdity of the whole affair did not stop the Canadian government from supporting the elections and official election monitors from this country gave a thumbs-up to this farcical exercise in “democracy.” Describing the fraudulent nature of the elections, Haiti Progrès explained “the form of democracy that Washington, Paris and Ottawa want to impose on us is becoming a reality.”

Washington has, of course, interfered in hundreds of elections in dozens of countries, including Italy, France, Greece, Chile, Ecuador, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Australia and, yes, Canada.

You haven’t heard about that one?

During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis the Kennedy administration wanted Ottawa’s immediate and unconditional support in putting the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) on high alert. Diefenbaker hesitated, unsure if Washington was telling him the full story about Soviet/Cuban plans or once again bullying the small island nation.

Not happy with Diefenbaker’s attitude during the Cuban Missile Crisis or his ambivalence towards nuclear weapons in Canada, President John F. Kennedy worked to precipitate the downfall of his minority Conservative government. Kennedy preferred Lester Pearson’s Liberals who criticized Diefenbaker on Cuba and were willing to accept nuclear-armed Bomarc missiles.

“In the fall of 1962,” notes Peter McFarlane in Northern Shadows: Canadians and Central America, “the State Department began to leak insulting references about Diefenbaker to the U.S. and Canadian press.” Articles highly critical of the Canadian prime minister appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek and other major U.S. media outlets. On January 3 the outgoing commander of NATO, US General Lauris Norstad, made a surprise visit to Ottawa where he claimed Canada would not be fulfilling her commitments to the north Atlantic alliance if she did not acquire nuclear warheads. Diefenbaker believed the US general came to Canada “at the behest of President Kennedy” to set the table “for Pearson’s conversion to the United States nuclear policy.”

A future prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, concurred. He asked: “Do you think that General Norstad, the former supreme commander of allied forces in Europe, came to Ottawa as a tourist on January 3 to call publicly on the Canadian government to respect its [nuclear] commitments? Do you think it was by chance that Mr. Pearson, in his speech of January 12, was able to quote the authority of General Norstad? Do you think it was inadvertent that, on January 30, the State Department gave a statement to journalists reinforcing Mr. Pearson’s claims and crudely accusing Mr. Diefenbaker of lying?…you believe that it was by coincidence that this series of events ended with the fall of the [Diefenbaker] government on February 5?”

A State Department official, Willis Armstrong, described Kennedy’s attitude towards the March 1963 Canadian election: “He wanted to intervene and make sure Pearson got elected. It was very evident the president was uptight about the possibility that Pearson might not win.” Later Kennedy’s Secretary of State Dean Rusk admitted, “in a way, Diefenbaker was right, for it was true that we preferred Mike Pearson.”

During the 1963 election campaign Kennedy’s top pollster, Lou Harris, helped Pearson get elected prime minister. Kennedy backed Harris’ move, though he opposed an earlier request for the pollster to help British Labour leader Harold Wilson, which Harris then declined. Since Harris was closely associated with the US president the Liberals called Kennedy’s pollster by a pseudonym.

Washington may have aided Pearson’s campaign in other ways. Diefenbaker wondered if the CIA was active during the 1963 election while External Affairs Minister Howard Green said a U.S. agent attended a couple of his campaign meetings in B.C.

To Washington’s delight, Pearson won the election and immediately accepted nuclear-armed Bomarc missiles.

The lesson? Perhaps Washington and Ottawa should treat other countries in the same way they wish to be treated. Perhaps it is time for a broader discussion about election meddling.

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

The lies told to justify Canadian foreign policy

Lies, distortions and self-serving obfuscations are to be expected when political and business leaders discuss far away places.

In a recent Toronto Star column Rick Salutin observed that “foreign policy is a truth-free, fact-free zone. When leaders speak on domestic issues, citizens at least have points of reference to check them against. On foreign affairs they blather freely.”

Salutin vividly captures an important dynamic of political life. What do most Canadians know about our government’s actions in Afghanistan or Haiti? Most of us have never been to those countries and don’t know anyone living there, from there or even who’ve been there. We are heavily dependent on media and politicians’ portrayals. But, as I detail in A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation, international correspondents generally take their cue from the foreign policy establishment or diplomats in the field.

Journalists are prepared to criticize governments and corporations to a certain extent on “domestic” issues, but the spirit of “challenging power” largely disappears regarding foreign policy. One reason is that nationalism remains an important media frame and the dominant media often promotes an “our team” worldview.

Another explanation is the web of state and corporate generated ideas institutes, which I review in A Propaganda System, that shape the international discussion. In a forthcoming second volume I look at the Canadian Left’s contribution to confusing the public about international policies.

The state/corporate nexus operates largely unchallenged in the Global South because there is little in terms of a countervailing force. Instead of criticizing the geo-strategic and corporate interests overwhelmingly driving foreign policy decisions, the social democratic NDP has often supported them and contributed to Canadians’ confusion about this country’s international affairs. The NDP endorsed bombing Serbia and Libya and in recent years they’ve supported military spending, Western policy in the Ukraine and the dispossession of Palestinians. The NDP has largely aligned with the foreign policy establishment or those, as long time NDP MP Libby Davies put it, who believe a “Time Magazine version” of international affairs.

Closely tied to the NDP, labour unions’ relative indifference to challenging foreign policy is another reason why politicians can “blather freely” on international affairs. On many domestic issues organized labour represents a countervailing force to the corporate agenda or state policies. While dwarfed by corporate Canada, unions have significant capacities. They generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual dues and fund or participate in a wide range of socially progressive initiatives such as the Canadian Health Coalition, Canadian Council for Refugees and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. But, unions rarely extend their broader (class) vision of society to international affairs. In fact, sometimes they endorse unjust international policies.

To the extent that politicians’ “blathering” is restrained it is largely by other countries. The recent political conflict in the Ukraine provides an example. Canadian politicians have aggressively promoted a simplistic, self-serving, narrative that has dominated the media-sphere. But, there is a source of power countering this perspective. Moscow financed/controlled media such as RT, Sputnik and others have offered a corrective to the Western line. A comparatively wealthy and powerful state, Russia’s diplomats have also publicly challenged the Canadian media’s one-sided portrayal.

An important, if rarely mentioned, rule of foreign policy is the more impoverished a nation, the greater the gap is likely to be between what Canadian officials say and do. The primary explanation for the gap between what’s said and done is that power generally defines what is considered reality. So, the bigger the power imbalance between Canada and another country the greater Ottawa’s ability to distort their activities.

Haiti provides a stark example. In 2004 Ottawa helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government and then supported an installed regime that killed thousands. Officially, however, Ottawa was “helping” the beleaguered country as part of the “Friends of Haiti” group. And the bill for undermining Haitian democracy, including the salaries of top coup government officials and the training of repressive cops, was largely paid out of Canada’s “aid” to the country.

A stark power imbalance between Ottawa and Port-au-Prince helps explain the gulf between Canadian government claims and reality in Haiti. Describing the country at the time of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s ouster, former Globe and Mail foreign editor Paul Knox observed, “obviously, in the poorest country of the Americas, the government is going to have fewer resources at its disposal to mount a PR exercise or offensive if it feels itself besieged.”

With a $300 US million total budget for a country of eight million, the Haitian government had limited means to explain their perspective to the world either directly or through international journalists. On the other hand, the Washington-Paris-Ottawa coup triumvirate had great capacity to propagate their perspective (at the time the Canadian International Development Agency and Foreign Affairs each spent 10 times the entire Haitian budget and the Department of National Defence 60 times). The large Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince worked to influence Canadian reporters in the country and their efforts were supplanted by the Haiti desks at CIDA and Foreign Affairs as well as the two ministries’ communications departments and Canadian military officials.

While an imbalance in communications resources partly explains the coverage, there is also a powerful ideological component. The media’s biased coverage of Haiti cannot be divorced from ‘righteous Canada’ assumptions widely held among the intelligentsia. As quoted in an MA thesis titled “Covering the coup: Canadian news reporting, journalists, and sources in the 2004 Haiti crisis”, CBC reporter Neil McDonald told researcher Isabel McDonald the Canadian government was “one of the most authoritative sources on conflict resolution in the world.”

According to Isabel McDonald’s summary, the prominent correspondent also said, “it was crazy to imagine Canada would be involved in a coup” and that “Canadian values were incompatible with extreme inequality or race-based hegemony”, which Ottawa’s policies clearly exacerbated in Haiti. (Neil Macdonald also said his most trusted sources for background information in Haiti came from Canadian diplomatic circles, notably CIDA where his cousins worked. The CBC reporter also said he consulted the Canadian ambassador in Port-au-Prince to determine the most credible human rights advocate in Haiti. Ambassador Kenneth Cook directed him to Pierre Espérance, a coup backer who fabricated a “massacre” used to justify imprisoning the constitutional prime minister and interior minister. When pressed for physical evidence Espérance actually said the 50 bodies “might have been eaten by wild dogs.”)

The Canadian Council on Africa provides another example of the rhetoric that results from vast power imbalances and paternalist assumptions. Run by Canadian corporations operating on the continent, the council said it “focuses on the future of the African economy and the positive role that Canada can play meeting some of the challenges in Africa.”

Similar to the Canadian Council on Africa, the Canadian American Business Council, Canada China Business Council and Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce also seek to advance members’ profit-making potential. But, the other lobby groups don’t claim humanitarian objectives. The primary difference between the Canadian Council on Africa and the other regional lobby organizations is the power imbalance between Canada/the West and African countries, as well as the anti-African paternalism that dominates Canadian political culture. A group of Canadian corporations claiming their aim was to meet the social challenges of the US or UK would sound bizarre and if they said as much about China they would be considered seditious. (Ironically the US-, Britain- and China-focused lobby groups can better claim the aid mantle since foreign investment generally has greater social spinoffs in more independent/better regulated countries.) But, paternalist assumptions are so strong — and Africans’ capacity to assert themselves within Canadian political culture so limited — that a lobby group largely representing corporations that displace impoverished communities to extract natural resources is, according to the Canadian Council on Africa’s previous mission statement, “committed to the economic development of a modern and competitive Africa.”

To counter the “fact free zone” individuals need to educate themselves on international issues, by seeking alternative sources of information. More important, we should strengthen internationalist social movements and left media consciously seeking to restrict politicians’ ability to “blather freely”.

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How Canadian military tries to control what soldiers think

The Canadian Forces spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to shape popular discussion of military affairs. But, did you know that commanding officers also aim to control the flow of information to rank and file soldiers?

Recently, the newspaper at the Esquimalt, British Columbia, naval base rejected an ad from a law firm seeking to represent CF members who had been sexually harassed/assaulted. Quoting a comment by Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance on the impact of sexual assault in the military, Acheson, Sweeney, Foley and Sahota sought to advertise a “safe and supportive environment to tell your story.”

Esquimalt’s Lookout is among dozens of military run newspapers, journals and websites aimed at armed forces personnel. CF public relations officials generally decide what is published in them. The top brass has also sought to control independently owned media targeted at soldiers, notably Esprit de Corps, which aims “to contribute to the esprit de corps that has made the Canadian military one of the finest professional armed forces in the world.”

To gain access to Air Canada military charters in the late 1980s, the magazine was supposed to obtain DND “approval for all editorial content prior to publication.” But, in 1991 Esprit de Corps criticized the appointment of Marcel Masse as defence minister and interviewed Vice Admiral Chuck Thomas after he resigned as vice chief of defence. In response DND directed Air Canada to stop carrying Esprit de Corps. According to founding editor Scott Taylor in Unembedded: Two Decades of Maverick War Reporting, the airline sent the magazine a note saying, “due to concerns over editorial content, the Department of National Defence has ordered Air Canada to cease distribution of Esprit de Corps aboard military charter flights.”

Almost entirely distributed in-flight at the time, DND’s move would have crippled the magazine. The CF only backed down after Esprit de Corps went public and then privately threatened to reveal a possible conflict of interest between Chief of Defence Staff John de Chastelain and Canadian Defence Quarterly.

When Esprit de Corps helped expose the military’s attempt to cover up the 1993 Somalia Affair killings, the CF again targeted the magazine. Taylor writes, “memos were sent to the CANEX military retail stores, ordering them to cease the sale of our publication; the copies we had donated through the Royal Canadian Legion were to be burned, according to the official directive from National Defence Headquarters.” Even more debilitating for the magazine, DND asked Esprit de Corps defence clients to “cancel their advertising contracts.”

The military seeks to control what active soldiers can say publicly or post online. Under the Defence Administrative Orders and Directives and Queens Regulations and Orders, soldiers are not allowed to discredit the CF or discourage other troops from their duties.

With the rise of social media the Chief of Defence Staff ordered CF members to obtain authorization before posting information on Facebook or other online outlets. In 2006 Rick Hillier wrote, “[CF] members are to consult with their chain of command before publishing [CF]-related information and imagery to the internet, regardless of how innocuous the information may seem.”

In a reiteration of standing policy, in 2013 the CF required soldiers wounded in Afghanistan to sign a form saying they wouldn’t criticize senior officers on Facebook or other social media. Given to injured personnel transferred to the Joint Personnel Support Unit, the form stated “it must be clearly understood that the inappropriate use of social media can have serious ramifications for the CAF; it can erode public trust, cause serious breeches of security and destroy team cohesion.”

Alongside overt information control, DND operates numerous educational institutions. With two television studios, two radio studios, editing suites, a control room and 25 staff, the Defence Public Affairs Learning Centre trains soldiers in public relations. The Canadian Special Operations Training Centre trains Joint Task Force 2 and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment. Canadian Defence Academy includes the Toronto-based Canadian Forces College, Royal Military College Saint-Jean and Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) in Kingston. With over 150 faculty the RMC is the only federally run degree-granting university. DND provides about $70 million annually to RMC and the defence minister is chancellor of a university with 2,500 students.

The federal government spends heavily on shaping soldiers attitudes. With 120,000 active soldiers, reservists and DND employees the military’s internal ideological capacity has a wide reach.

In a mainstream media story about one of Canada’s “enemies,” this sort of activity would be called brainwashing.

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Does NDP support Trudeau’s caving in to Trump, spending more on military?

It’s no wonder the Trudeau government has moved to ramp up military outlays. Even “left” commentators/politicians are calling for increased spending on Canada’s ecologically and socially destructive war machine.

Recently Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced a more than 70 per cent increase in military spending over the next decade. Canada’s new defence policy includes a significant increase in lethal fighter jets and secretive special forces, as well as enhancing offensive cyber-attack capabilities and purchasing armed drones.

A Globe and Mail story about the defence policy yesterday quoted David Perry, an analyst with the unabashedly militarist Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and UBC Professor Michael Byers, who has been described as the “angry academic voice of Canadian foreign policy” to denote his purportedly critical stance. In the story titled “Canada’s new defence spending must come quickly, experts say,” the paper reported:

Byers said the Forces are currently in a state of ‘extreme crisis,’ with the Royal Canadian Navy running out of functioning ships and the Royal Canadian Air Force still years away from getting its new fleet of fighter jets. ‘The government has inherited a badly broken Canadian Forces and it clearly has a monumental task ahead that is only beginning,’ he said.”

Despite his affiliation with a peace organization, Byers supports increased military spending. The Rideau Institute board member has repeatedly expressed support for Canada’s war machine.

In 2015 the UBC professor published “Smart Defence: A Plan for Rebuilding Canada’s Military” which begins:

“Canada is a significant country. With the world’s eleventh largest economy, second largest landmass and longest coastline, one could expect it to have a well-equipped and capable military. However, most of this country’s major military hardware is old, degraded, unreliable and often unavailable. When the Harper government came to power in 2006, it pledged to rebuild Canada’s military. But for nine long years, it has failed to deliver on most of its promises, from new armoured trucks and supply ships to fighter jets and search-and-rescue planes.”

The Rideau Institute/Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report was partly an attack against the Stephan Harper government’s supposed lack of military commitment. In “Smart Defence,” Byers writes, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has reduced defence spending to just 1.0 per cent of GDP — the lowest level in Canadian history.”

Byers has long called for increased military spending. In a chapter in Living with Uncle: Canada-U.S. relations in an age of Empire, edited by then CCPA leaders Bruce Campbell and Ed Finn, Byers notes that “the defence budget, roughly 1.2 per cent of GDP, is a bit low by comparable standards.” He describes writing a 2004 paper for NDP Defence Critic Bill Blakey that called for a $2- to 3-billion-per-year increase in military spending. “A defence budget increase,” it noted, “essentially repairs some of the damage that was done by a decade and a half of neglect.” But the military budget was about $15 billion and represented 10 per cent of federal government outlays at the time.

A former NDP candidate and adviser to Tom Mulcair, Byers’ position is similar to that of the social democratic party’s leadership. After the federal budget in March the NDP Leader criticized the Liberals for not spending enough on the military. “Canadians have every right to be concerned,” Mulcair said. “We are in desperate need of new ships for our Navy, we’re in desperate need of new fighter aircraft for our Air Force, and there’s no way that with the type of budget we’ve seen here that they’re going to be getting them.”

The NDP has staunchly defended Canadian militarism in recent years. During the 2011 and 2015 federal elections the party explicitly supported the Harper government’s large military budget. In 2011 party leader Jack Layton promised to “maintain the current planned levels of Defence spending commitments” and the 2015 NDP platform said the party would “meet our military commitments by maintaining Department of National Defence budget allocations.”

In addition to backing budget allocations, the NDP has criticized base closures and aggressively promoted the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, a $60-billion effort to expand the combat fleet over three decades (over its lifespan the cost is expected to top $100 billion).

I’ve yet to come across a formal party statement about yesterday’s announcement. What do those currently vying for NDP leadership think of the Trudeau’s new defence policy and how will they respond?

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Dallaire does not deserve accolades from progressive organizations

Repeat after me: Roméo Dallaire is not progressive. And paying Dallaire to speak at your meeting does not further the cause of international peace and a just system of international relations.

I was reminded yet again of how many supposed “progressive” organizations seem confused about Dallaire and what he represents after learning he and Irwin Cotler were the keynote speakers at a recent human rights forum. As it was about to begin I interjected to tell attendees that these two former politicians don’t deserve the label “human rights champions”. While I mentioned Cotler’s endless apologetics for Israeli belligerence, my focus was the famed general’s support for the “Butcher of Africa’s Great Lakes” region, Paul Kagame.

Conference cosponsor Amnesty International – and many progressive Canadians – consider Dallaire an internationalist, humanist, “hero” (The Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, Canadian Auto Workers and Unifor have all given awards or a convention platform to Dallaire.) But, this ignores a background rooted in an authoritarian institution and his pro–military/imperial positions.

A retired general, Dallaire is the son of a military man (his son and father-in-law are also military men). Before his 1993 deployment to Rwanda, which he said at the time he couldn’t find on a map, “his defence knowledge was predicated almost exclusively on the needs of the NATO alliance”, according to biographer Carol Off. Aren’t progressives usually reticent of the international outlook of those close to NATO and the military command?

Beyond his background, Dallaire has taken numerous positions hard to align with championing international human rights:

  • Dallaire opposed calls to withdraw Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan, saying they should stay until the job is done.
  • Dallaire has called for increased military spending.
  • Dallaire is a proponent of Canada joining US Ballistic Missile Defence.
  • Dallaire spoke alongside Paul Kagame, who runs a North Korea style dictatorship, in February 2016  (among other occasions). In 2004 Dallaire described Kagame as an “extraordinary man.”
  • Dallaire regularly speaks to Israeli nationalist groups and repeated their claims about the “genocidal intent of the Iranian state”. At a 2011 Senate inquiry looking at the plight of the Baha’i in Iran, he claimed “the similarities with what I saw in Rwanda are absolutely unquestionable, equal and, in fact, applied with seemingly the same verve. We are witnessing a slow-motion rehearsal for genocide.”
  • Dallaire argued that Canada should have secured Baghdad before the 2003 US invasion, according to an October 2006 Edmonton Journal article titled “Canada should have led Iraq invasion, Dallaire says” (but he did not want Canada to participate in the actual US-led coalition).
  • Dallaire said Canadian air strikes in Iraq/Syria in 2014-16 weren’t sufficient. “There is no way that you will destroy that enemy without boots on the ground,” he said.
  • Dallaire supported the overthrow of Haiti’s elected government in 2004, according to the Montreal Gazette. In a story five days after the Canadian backed coup titled “Dallaire fears new Rwanda disaster in Haiti: Ex-UN commander urges Canada to act”, the former General said, “anywhere people are being abused, the world should be involved.
  • Comparing Darfur in the mid-2000s and Syria last year to Rwanda, Dallaire called for western intervention there.
  • Dallaire backed the 2011 NATO war on Libya. He said Gaddafi was “employing genocidal threats to ‘cleanse Libya house by house’”. After the war he complained we didn’t go in “forcefully enough … when Gaddafi said ‘I am going to crush these cockroaches and stay in power,’ those were exactly the words that the genociders in Rwanda used.”

The General is also an aggressive proponent of the liberal imperialist Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. Dallaire publicly promoted the Paul Martin government’s push to have the UN adopt R2P in 2005 and cited the doctrine to justify the 2011 NATO war on Libya. Dallaire is co-director of the Will to Intervene Project, which seeks to build “domestic political will in Canada and the United States to prevent future mass atrocities.” But the architects of W2I don’t mean the “political will” to stop Washington from spurring “mass atrocities” à la Iraq, Vietnam, Somalia, Haiti, Korea etc. Human rights rhetoric aside, W2I is an outgrowth of the R2P doctrine, which was used to justify the 2011 NATO war in Libya and 2004 overthrow of Haiti’s elected government. While the less sophisticated neoconservatives simply call for a more aggressive military posture, the more liberal supporters of imperialism prefer a high-minded ideological mask to accomplish the same end. W2I is one such tool.

For many Dallaire embodies R2P and his name has been invoked to justify imperialist interventions. On January 31, 2003, Liberal Secretary of State for Latin America and Minister for La Francophonie Denis Paradis organized the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” to discuss that country’s future. No Haitian officials were invited to this two-day assembly where high-level US, Canadian and French officials discussed removing Haiti’s elected president, re-creating the dreaded army and putting the country under UN trusteeship. To justify the government’s plans in Haiti, Paradis cited purported inaction in Rwanda and Dallaire’s personal breakdown thereafter. The minister told the March 15, 2003, issue of l’Actualité, which brought the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” meeting to public attention, “I do not want to end up like Roméo Dallaire”, which was his reason why Canada needed to intervene in Haiti.

In the House of Commons debate after Haiti’s elected president and thousands of local officials were ousted in February 2004, Liberal MP and self-described human rights activist, David Kilgour, repeated the theme. “Canadians have much to learn from the experiences of General Roméo Dallaire in Rwanda. We must intervene when necessary and we must do so expeditiously and multilaterally. This is why I am delighted to hear that 450 Canadian troops are set to join U.S. forces in Haiti.”

To be fair, one should not blame an individual just because someone cites his name to justify a dastardly deed. Unless, of course, that individual has deliberately twisted the events in which he has participated in a way that aligns with those seeking an ideological cover to justify Western interventions (and a US backed dictatorship in Kigali). According to the standard narrative of the Rwandan Genocide, ethic enmity erupted in a pre-planned 100-day rampage by Hutus killing Tutsis, which was only stopped by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). A noble Canadian general tried to end the bloodletting but a dysfunctional UN refused resources. Washington was caught off guard by the slaughter, but it has apologized for failing to intervene and has committed to never again avoid its responsibility to protect.

Dallaire has propagated this wildly simplistic account of the tragedy that gripped Burundi and Rwanda in the mid-1990s. He has ignored the overwhelming evidence and logic that points to the RPF’s responsibility for blowing up the presidential plane that unleashed the mass killings in April 1994. Prior to the murder of the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and much of the Hutu-led Rwandan military command, Dallaire was seen as favouring the US-backed RPF in contravention of UN guidelines. In response to the general’s self-serving portrayal of his time in Rwanda, the overall head of the UN mission in Rwanda, Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, published Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (The Boss of Dallaire Speaks). Almost entirely ignored by the Canadian media, the 2005 book by the former Cameroon foreign minister claims the Canadian general backed the RPF and had little interest in their violence despite reports of summary executions in areas controlled by them.

To align with Kagame’s claim of a “conspiracy to commit genocide” Dallaire has changed his depiction of the Rwandan tragedy over the years. Just after leaving his post as UNAMIR force commander Dallaire replied to September 14, 1994 Radio Canada Le Point question by saying, “the plan was more political. The aim was to eliminate the coalition of moderates…. I think that the excesses that we saw were beyond people’s ability to plan and organize. There was a process to destroy the political elements in the moderate camp. There was a breakdown and hysteria absolutely…. But nobody could have foreseen or planned the magnitude of the destruction we saw.”

To a large extent the claim of a “conspiracy to commit genocide” rests on the much celebrated January 11, 1994, “genocide fax”. But, this fax Dallaire sent to the UN headquarters in New York is not titled, to quote International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda lawyer Christopher Black, “‘genocide’ or ‘killing’ but an innocuous ‘Request For Protection of Informant.’” The two-page “genocide fax”, as New Yorker reporter Philip Gourevitch dubbed it in 1998, was probably doctored a year after the mass killings in Rwanda ended. In a chapter devoted to the fax in Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Year Later, Edward Herman and David Peterson argue two paragraphs were added to a cable Dallaire sent to UN headquarters about a weapons cache and protecting an informant (Dallaire never personally met the informant). The two (probably) added paragraphs said the informant was asked to compile a list of Tutsi for possible extermination in Kigali and mentioned a plan to assassinate selected political leaders and Belgian peacekeepers.

Mission head Booh-Booh denies seeing this information and there’s no evidence Dallaire warned the Belgians of a plan to attack them, which later transpired. Finally, a response to the cable from UN headquarters the next day ignores the (probably added) paragraphs. Herman and Peterson make a compelling case that a doctored version of the initial cable was placed in the UN file on November 27, 1995, by British Colonel Richard M. Connaughton as part of a Kigali–London–Washington effort to prove a plan by the Hutu government to exterminate Tutsi.

Even if the final two paragraphs were in the original version, the credibility of the information would be suspect. Informant “Jean-Pierre” was not a high placed official in the defeated Hutu government, reports Robin Philpott in Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa: From Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction. Instead, “Jean-Pierre” was a driver for an opposition political party, MRND, who later died fighting with Kagame’s RPF.

Incredibly, the “genocide fax” is the primary source of documentary record demonstrating UN foreknowledge of a Hutu “conspiracy” to “exterminate” Tutsi, a charge even the victors justice at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda failed to convict anyone of. According to Herman and Peterson, “when finding all four defendants not guilty of the ‘conspiracy to commit genocide’ charge, the [ICTR] trial chamber [known as Military I] also dismissed the evidence provided by ‘informant Jean-Pierre’ due to ‘lingering questions concerning [his] reliability.’”

At the end of their chapter tracing the history of the “genocide fax” Herman and Peterson write, “if all of this is true, we would suggest that Dallaire should be regarded as a war criminal for positively facilitating the actual mass killings of April-July, rather than taken as a hero for giving allegedly disregarded warnings that might have stopped them.”

During a 2003 Parliamentary debate Liberal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aileen Carroll, and former NDP leader Alexa McDonough both complained that Conservative MP Chuck Strahl had disrespected Dallaire (he hadn’t). In response Strahl said, he “is a man admired by all Canadians and I am among them.”

 

Not all of us. Count this Canadian as someone who does not admire Dallaire.

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Banro’s quest for Congo gold yields deaths, kidnapping

When one Canadian mining company goes, violence seems to follow.

Last week a police officer and soldier were killed at a Banro Corporation-run mine in the east of the Congo. One “assailant” was also killed at the Toronto-based company’s Namoya mine. In February three police were killed at another Banro mine about 200km to the southwest. An “assailant” was also killed at Twangiza in what the gold-mining firm labelled an attempted robbery.

In March, five Banro employees from Tanzania, France and the Congo were kidnapped at Namoya. Four of them were released over the weekend by a militia that had apparently been threatening the company for months. Claiming Banro expropriated their lands, the population near its Namoya mine want restitution so they can continue small-scale mining. A 2013 Jesuit European Social Center report pointed out that local communities have not been allowed to see the environmental impact study or community plan for the mine, and said the company paid the central government a million dollars for a tax exemption.

Banro operates in a region that’s seen incredible violence over the past two decades and the secretive company has been accused of fuelling the conflict. In 1996 Banro paid $3.5 million for 47 mining concessions that covered more than one million hectares of land in Congo’s North and South Kivu provinces. At the time over one million refugees were in eastern Congo, and in September 1996 Rwandan (and Ugandan) forces invaded the area.

Resources fuelled the Rwandan/Ugandan invasion. Prominent Belgian Great Lakes journalist Colette Brackman produced a map showing that the zigzag progression of the Rwandan-backed rebels was based on the location of minerals. Multinationals signed deals worth billions of dollars with Laurent Kabila’s rebels before he took office. In an article headlined “Mining Firms Want a Piece Of Zaire’s Vast Mineral Wealth,” the Wall Street Journal explained:

At a time when rebel forces are threatening to topple dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire’s vast mineral resources are beckoning foreign companies, prompting a scramble that recalls the grab for wealth 120 years ago in this vast land, once known as the Congo. American, Canadian and South African mining companies are negotiating deals with the rebels controlling eastern Zaire. These companies hope to take advantage of the turmoil and win a piece of what is widely considered Africa’s richest geological prize — and one of the richest in the world.”

Ultimately, the Rwandan forces marched 1,500km to topple the regime in Kinshasa. After the Congolese government installed by Kigali expelled Rwandan troops, they re-invaded, leading to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003 that left millions dead. Since then, Rwanda and its proxies have repeatedly invaded the eastern Congo. At the end of 2012, the Globe and Mail‘s Geoffrey York described how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence” in the mineral-rich east. The rebel group added “a [new] layer of administrators, informers, police and other operatives” in and around Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, in part to “bolster” its “grip on the trade in ‘blood minerals.'”

As one of the only western mining companies operating in the border provinces of North and South Kivu, Banro reportedly worked closely with the Rwandan government. Keith Harmon Snow claims that “Canadian Banro Corporation is one of the most secretive corporations operating in Congo, and they have established and maintained their control through very tight relations with the Kagame regime. Banro has taken over thousands of hectares of South Kivu province by manipulating the local mwamis (chiefs), by bribing officials and by infiltrating officials into power who are friendly to Banro and Kagame’s interests.”

Upon expelling Rwandan troops from the Congo in 1998, Laurent Kabila revoked Banro’s concessions. With all of its business activity in eastern Congo, the company responded by filing a $1-billion “unlawful” expropriation claim at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington. In “Digging Deeper: How the DR Congo’s Mining Policy is Failing the Country,” Dominic Johnson and Aloys Tegera explain:

“On July 29, 1998, just before war again started in Congo, President Laurent-Désiré Kabila annulled the Banro deal and gave ex-Sominki to a newly created Congolese state company called Somico (Société Minière du Congo) led by a Kivu traditional leader. Much of the subsequent fighting around Eastern Congo’s mining pitted Banro supporters, mostly supporting the [Rwandan backed] RCD rebels and backed by business interests, against Somico supporters, mostly consisting of Mai-Mai and supported by the Kabila government.”

Alongside the regional peace accord that officially ended the eight-country war in the Congo, Joseph Kabila (who took over after his father was assassinated) returned the concession to Banro in 2003.

Canadians have heard almost nothing from the dominant media about Banro’s violent quest for billions of dollars in minerals. The little that has been reported is mostly the company justifying its operations. But where are the voices of ordinary Congolese? Don’t they deserve to be heard?

Canadians need to know what this country’s mining companies are doing around the world.

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Rwanda’s tragedy used to fool people, slander others

Rwanda’s tragedy has been exploited for many purposes. Add slandering a pro-Palestinian activist to the list.

Since I wrote this article about the Jewish Defense League last month, Toronto’s Alex Hundert has repeatedly labeled me anti-Semitic. The self-declared “anti-fascist” tweeted at Pacific Free Press, Rabble, the NDP and others to “cut ties” with me.

In response to this article the former Upper Canada College student harangued at least one prominent woman for posting it on her Facebook page. Hundert told her — wait for it — I’m anti-Semitic. Lacking in evidence or maybe sensing diminishing returns with that smear he added that I’m a Rwandan genocide denier.

If he means a researcher and writer on foreign affairs who always questions official government narratives/propaganda then I guess a “no contest” plea would be appropriate. The common portrayal of the Rwandan Genocide in Canada omits important context and is factually incorrect in substantial ways. It is also logically hollow, only believable because of widespread racism and anti-Africanism. (According to the most outlandish aspect of the official story, Hutu extremists murdered the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and much of the Hutu-led Rwandan military command, which brought the Hutu to their weakest point in three decades, and then decided to begin a long planned systematic extermination of Tutsi.)

Do I believe hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Tutsi were slaughtered in mid-1994? Yes, definitely.

Was there a long planned high-level effort to wipe out all Tutsi? Probably not.

Were tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of Hutu also slaughtered in mid-1994? It’s likely.

Was Paul Kagame, the person widely hailed for ending the killing, instead the individual most responsible for the mass slaughter? Probably, since his forces invaded Rwanda from Uganda, engaged in a great deal of killing and blew upthe presidential plane that unleashed the genocidal violence.

It’s telling Hundert would seek to smear me as a Rwanda genocide denier, rather than criticize my other controversial views such as that the private automobile should be eliminated, or that former Prime Minister Lester Pearson was a war criminal or that Canadian peacekeeping is often a form of imperialism. Maybe it’s because the label “genocide denier” hints at some type of hatred rather than a political disagreement. Or maybe Hundert hopes to associate me with Nazi Holocaust denial, which we’ll see more about below.

Fundamentally Hundert chose the issue because most Canadians know little about Rwanda and, to the extent they know anything about the country, they’ve heard an extremely one-sided media account of the complex tragedy that engulfed Rwanda and Burundi in the mid-1990s. News consumers are generally familiar with a Rwanda fairy tale focused on a white Canadian saviour. According to serial Kagame-Rwanda propaganda spreader Gerald Caplan, “the personal relationship so many Canadians feel with Rwanda can be explained in two words: Roméo Dallaire.” In a forthcoming book about left Canadian foreign policy I detail how, in their haste to laud a Canadian military “hero”, progressives have echoed a highly simplistic version of Rwanda’s tragedy, which has legitimated Africa’s most blood-stained dictator, Paul Kagame.

Beyond aligning with liberal Canadian foreign policy mythology, Hundert is tapping into the US Empire’s narrative. Washington and London’s support for the Uganda backed Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), as well as Kagame’s more than two-decade long rule in Kigali, explains the dominance of the Rwandan Genocide story. According to Edward Herman and David Peterson in Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Year Later, “[US and British] support, combined with the public’s and the media’s distance from and unfamiliarity with central African affairs, made the construction and dissemination of false propaganda on Rwanda very easy.”

After the Cold War, Washington viewed Kagame’s RPF as an imperial proxy force in a French-dominated region. A trio of authors explain in The Congo: Plunder and Resistance: “The plan expressed clearly by the White House at the time was to use the Rwandan army as an instrument of American interests. One American analyst explained how Rwanda could be as important to the USA in Africa as Israel has been in the Middle East.” Over the past two decades Kagame has repeatedly invaded the Congo, which has as much as $24 trillion in mineral riches.

Alongside his role as a US client, Kagame has drawn close to Israel. Trained at the US Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Kagame visited Israel for the first time in 1996 and Africa’s most bloodstained dictator has been back repeatedly. In March Kagame was the only international head of state and first-ever African leader to speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference. On May 21 Kagame received the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Prize for Outstanding Friendship with the Jewish People at a New York event with Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer and Alan Dershowitz. In 2013 the “butcher ofAfrica’s Great Lakes” shared a New York stage with staunch Zionists Elie Wiesel, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.

“He is the only living man to stop a genocide,” said Boteach to the Jewish Forward in 2014. “You need to look at the criticism on Rwanda through the same lens you look at criticism against Israel.” (After National Security Adviser Susan Rice criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for speaking to Congress about the Iran nuclear agreement without President Obama’s approval, Boteach placed an ad in the New York Times which read “Susan Rice has a blind spot: Genocide … both the Jewish people’s and Rwanda’s”.)

Pro-Israel Jewish groups have bequeathed Kagame the genocide moniker. Author of Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa: From Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction, Robin Philpot explains that long-time director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, Efraim Zuro, and former US Holocaust Memorial Museum project director, Michael Berenbaum, were invited to a conference in Kigali a year after the mass slaughter in Rwanda. Philpot notes, “Efraim Zuro then became an advisor to the Rwandan government in its hunt for génocidaires, and from then on Zionists throughout the world were willing to share the use of the term ‘genocide’ with Rwandan Tutsis. Israel has very jealously guarded the use of that term; they have, for example, never agreed to share it with Armenians, largely because of Israel’s strategic alliance with Turkey.”

But, those who draw an analogy between the 6 million killed in the Shoah and the hundreds of thousands slaughtered in Rwanda are partaking in something akin to Nazi Holocaust denial (or extreme minimization). European Jews were targeted because of their religion/ethnicity, the violence was state organized and it mostly flowed from an ideology promoted from above.

The context in Rwanda was different. Speaking the same language, sharing the same culture and practising the same religion, the Tutsi/Hutu divide is historically a caste-type distinction the Belgians racialized. “Prior tocolonization,” explains Ann Garrison, “the Tutsi were a cattle owning, feudal ruling class, the Hutu a subservient peasant class. Belgian colonists reified this divide by issuing ID cards that labeled Rwandans and Burundians as Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa [1% of the population].”

The genocidal killings were not a long planned attempt to exterminate all Tutsi, which even the victors’ justice dispensed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) effectively concluded. Instead, it was the outgrowth of a serious breakdown in social order that saw hundreds of thousands slaughtered by relatively disorganized local commands fearful of a foreign invasion that eventually conquered Rwanda and drove a quarter of the population out of the country. Probably an equal — and possibly a greater — number of Hutu were killed.

Jews didn’t end up in power in European countries after World War II, nor did the Herero in Namibia, Armenians in Turkey, indigenous people in North America, Maya in Guatemala, etc. Rwanda is a peculiar case where the minority — 10% of population — targeted for extermination ended up rulingafter the bulk of the violence subsided.

Of course, Hundert doesn’t care about what happened in Rwanda. He’s labeling me a genocide denier because I’ve challenged Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession. Hundert seems particularly bothered by my linking pro-Israel Jewish organizations to fascistic, anti-Muslim groups, which pits his “anti-fascism” against his liberal-Zionism.

The Rwandan tragedy is often invoked in Canada for ulterior purposes. The Romeo Dallaire fairy tale is part of developing a “do-gooder” foreign policy mythology designed to lull Canadians into backing interventionist policies. More generally, a highly simplistic account of the Rwanda Genocide has repeatedly been invoked to justify liberal imperialism, particularly the Responsibility to Protect doctrine.

Maybe I should be honoured that Rwanda is now cited as a reason to suppress my writing.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada in Africa

Snowbirds so much more than just pilots and planes

Canada’s massive military cultural outreach effort suffered a blow last week. The Snowbirds aerobatic team was forced to cancel a half-dozen scheduled appearances because they require “additional practice and training.”

Each year the famed Snowbirds participate in some 60 air shows across North America. Over the years they’ve flown more than 2500 shows and cultural events such as Canada Day celebrations. As many as six million people watchSnowbird planes fly annually. Additionally, the military’s demonstration team has been celebrated in books and on Canada Post stamps.

Eighty Canadian Force’s (CF) personnel work full-time with the squadron and the military spends $4.3 million annually on flying costs for the Snowbirds. The CF plans to spend $755-million on a new fleet of aircraft for the aerobatics team.

But, the Snowbirds do not contribute to the CF’s combat capabilities. They are simply, according to the Department of National Defence, an “important public relations and recruiting tool.” Recruitment and community outreach are closely intertwined. DND spends $10-$20 million annually on recruitment. The CF advertises on Xbox video games and Twitter, as well as bus shelters and Stanley Cup playoff broadcasts. Describing it as “one of the primary windows through which Canadians view their military”, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Goodspeed calls “recruiting advertising … the most powerful form of PR available to the CF.” Its “Fight Distress, Fight Fear, Fight Chaos—Fight with the Canadian Forces” recruiting campaign won a series of marketing awards in the late 2000s.

At the height of the war in Afghanistan the CF launched Operation Connection to mobilize the whole armed forces to “make contact and attract recruits.” A message sent to soldiers in 2006 explained:

As a member of the Canadian Forces, we count on your presence at the hundreds of activities we will participate in over the next year … festivals, ship visits, visits to schools, car shows, job fairs, air shows, sports events … Telephone your children’s schools or your grandmother’s seniors’ residence and ask if you and/or your unit could be of help planning a Canadian Forces Day event or setting up a Remembrance Day program.

Operation Connection showcased the CF at Canada Day festivities, Santa Claus parades, NHL games etc. CBC Our World host Brian Stewart describedthe “information machine” responsible for Op Connection as “a public affairs unit that dwarfs all other government promotion offices.”

In 2010-11 the CF admitted to spending $354 million on public relations and related military commemorations. Six hundred and sixty-one staff members worked on this effort. According to another 2011 report, the Department of National Defence’s Public Affairs department had 286 staff. Public Affairs Officers’ write press releases, organize press conferences, monitor the news, brief journalists, befriend reporters and editors, or perform various other media-related activities. A large proportion of the news stories about the military are based on CF statements and events.

Ottawa also celebrates specific wars and battles. Recently, the government spent millions of dollars to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. In 2012 the federal government launched a $28 million initiative to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

Commemorating “glorious” wars can boost the CF’s standing. Bruised by the long and unpopular war in Afghanistan, the CF sought “several positive, proactive communication opportunities” to shore up its image. According to an internal file Canadian Press uncovered, the military had “plans for commemorative activities, including a series of World War I events”, which were to receive millions of dollars of CF money through 2020.

Alongside specific war commemorations, the federal government spends tens of millions of dollars on war monuments. Ottawa is home to a National War Memorial, Korean War Monument, National Victoria Cross Memorial, Veterans Memorial Highway, National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, Boer War Memorial etc. There are more than 7,500 memorials registered with Veterans Affairs’ National Inventory of Military Memorials.

Veterans Affairs allocates tens of millions of dollars annually to war memorials and related “awareness” activities. Between 2006 and 2014 the department’s Community Engagement Partnership Fund dished out $13 million for hundreds of small projects recognizing veterans such as $5,000 for a Remembrance Day service at the University of British Columbia. During 2010-11 fiscal year $41 million was spent on Canada Remembers, which included“awareness and participation of Canadians in remembrance activities” and “maintenance and improvements of memorials, cemeteries and grave markers.”

The Snowbirds’ recent troubles are a small setback to the government’s massive cultural outreach. It’s time, however, for a concerted challenge to this unbridled militarism.

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Filed under A Propaganda System

Trudeau confuses anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism

Canada’s Prime Minister would like us to believe that the ideology that shaped Israel is designed to fight anti-Jewish prejudice. But, even when anti-Semitism was a significant political force in Canada, Zionism largely represented a chauvinistic, colonialist way of thinking.

On Israel Independence Day earlier this month Justin Trudeau delivered a speech by video to a rally in Montréal and published a statement marking the occasion. “Today, while we celebrate Israel’s independence, we also reaffirm our commitment to fight anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism”, declared the PM in a rare reference by a top politician to Israel’s state ideology.

Israel apologists often link anti-Zionism and anti-Jewishness, but it’s disingenuous. Canadian Zionism has long been comfortable with anti-Jewish sentiment and it has never been primarily an anti-prejudicial ideology.

When anti-Semitism was a social force of consequence in Canada it was not uncommon for anti-Jewish politicians to back Zionism. During a July 1922 speech to the Zionist Federation of Canada, anti-Semitic Prime Minister Mackenzie King “was effusive with praise for Zionism,” explains David Bercuson in Canada and the Birth of Israel. King told participants their aspirations were “in consonance” with the greatest ideals of the “Englishman.” According to Zachariah Kay in Canada and Palestine: The Politics of Non-Commitment, long-time Alberta Premier E.C. Manning “allowed his name to be associated with the [pre-state Zionist organization] Canadian Palestine Committee, but was known for anti-Jewish statements on his ‘back to the bible’ Sunday radio broadcasts.”

Known to support Zionism as a way to deal with the “Jewish problem,” in 1934 Prime Minister R.B. Bennett opened the annual United Palestine Appeal fundraiser with a coast-to-coast radio broadcast. Lauding the Balfour declaration and British conquest of Palestine, Bennett said, “scriptural prophecy is being fulfilled. The restoration of Zion has begun.”

At a policy level the government’s aversion to accepting post-World War II Jewish refugees was a factor in Canadian diplomats promoting the anti-Palestinian UN partition plan. An ardent proponent of the Zionist cause during the 1947 international negotiations dealing with the British mandate of Palestine, Canadian diplomat Lester Pearson believed sending Jewish refugees to Palestine was the only sensible solution to their plight.

Compared to six decades ago, anti-Semitism today barely registers in Canada. But, embers of anti-Jewish Zionism linger. Over the past decade the Charles-McVety-led Canada Christian College has repeatedly organized pro-Israel events – often with B’nai Brith – yet in the 1990s the College was in a dispute with the Canadian Jewish Congress over courses designed to convert Jews. Canada’s most influential Christian Zionist activist, McVety also heads the Canadian branch of Christians United for Israel, which believes Jews need to convert or burn in Hell upon the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

This dancing with the enemy is nothing new. Historically some Jews aligned with anti-Jewish Zionists. During World War I many Canadian Jewish Zionists enthusiastically supported Britain and recruited young men to help conquer Palestine, even though London was allied with Russia’s notoriously anti-Semitic czar. (At that time Zionism was commonly promoted as a way for Jews to escape czarist anti-Semitism.)

After World War II some Jewish Zionists tapped into anti-Jewish sentiment to advance their cause. In Canada’s Jews: a People’s journey Gerald Tulchinsky reports, “fully cognizant of the government’s reluctance to admit Jews to Canada, the [Zionist] delegation reminded [anti- Semitic Prime Minister Mackenzie] King that in the post war years, when ‘multitudes of uprooted people … would be knocking on the doors of all countries,’ Palestine could accommodate many of the Jews who might want to come to Canada.”

It is true that the Zionist colonies in Palestine absorbed tens of thousands of refugees after World War II and provided a safe haven to many Jews escaping Nazi persecution in the 1930s. But, it’s also true that Zionists were willing to stoke anti-Semitism and kill Jews if it served their nationalistic/colonialist purposes. To foil British efforts to relocate Jewish refugees fleeing Europe to Mauritius, in 1940 the Jewish Agency, the Zionist government-in-waiting in Palestine, killed 267 mostly Jews by bombing the ship Patria. In State of Terror: How Terrorism Created Modern Israel Tom Suarez concludes that the Zionist leadership was prepared to kill Jews if it aided the cause, because “persecuted Jews served the political project, not the other way around.”

Generally presented as a response to late 1800s European anti-Semitism — “Zionism … developed in the late 19th century in response to European antisemitism”, according to a recent story on the pro-Palestinian website Canada Talks Israel Palestine — the Theodore Herzl-led Zionist movement was, in fact, spurred by the Christian, nationalist and imperialist ideologies sweeping Europe at the time.

After two millennia in which Jewish restoration was viewed as a spiritual event to be brought about through divine intervention, Zionism finally took root among some Jews after two centuries of active Protestant Zionism. “Christian proto-Zionists [existed] in England 300 years before modern Jewish Zionism emerged,” notes Evangelics and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism. Until the mid-1800s Zionism was an almost entirely non-Jewish movement. And yet it was quite active. Between 1796 and 1800, notes Non-Jewish Zionism: its roots in Western history, there were at least 50 books published in Europe about the Jews’ return to Palestine. The movement reflected the more literal readings of the Bible that flowed out of the Protestant Reformation.

Another factor driving Jewish Zionism was the nationalism sweeping Europe in the late 1800s. Germany, Italy and a number of eastern European states were all established during this period.

Alongside nationalist and biblical literalist influences, Zionism took root at the height of European imperialism. In the lead-up to World War I the European “scramble” carved up Africa and then the Middle East. (Europeans controlled about 10 percent of Africa in 1870 but by 1914 only Ethiopia was independent of European control. Liberia was effectively a US colony.) At the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903 Herzl and two-thirds of delegates voted to pursue British Secretary of State for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain’s proposal to allocate 13,000 square km in East Africa as “Jewish territory … on conditions which will enable members to observe their national customs.”

As much as it was a reaction to anti-Semitism, Zionism was an attempt by European Jews to benefit from and participate in colonialism.

In Canada today Jewish support for Zionism has little to do with combating prejudice. If Zionism were simply a response to anti-Semitism, why hasn’t the massive decline of anti-Jewishness lessened its popularity in the Jewish community? Instead, the leadership and a significant segment of Canadian Jewry have become increasingly focused on supporting a highly militarized state that continues to deny its indigenous population the most basic political rights.

In 2011 the leading donors in the community scrapped the 100-year-old Canadian Jewish Congress and replaced it with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. As the name change suggests, this move represented a shift away from local Jewish concerns and towards ever greater lobbying in favour of Israeli policy.

With institutional barriers to advancement overcome a half century ago and an ever more secular society, Rabbis and Jewish organizations have to find a purpose. Israel has become many people’s primary connection to Judaism. In Understanding the Zionist Religion, Jonathan Kay wrote, “In some cases I have observed, it is not an exaggeration to say that Zionism is not just the dominant factor in Jews’ political lives—but also in their spiritual lives.”

Between the late 1960s and mid-2000s there was an inverse correlationbetween Jewish votes and pro-Israel governments. Though they were less pro-Israel, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien gained more support from Canadian Jewry than Brian Mulroney or Stephen Harper in his first victory in 2006.

The political trajectory of the Montréal riding of Mount Royal provides an interesting insight into the Jewish community’s shift towards focusing on Israel. Repeatedly re-elected in a riding that was then 50% Jewish, Pierre Trudeau distanced Ottawa from Israeli conduct more than any other prime minister before or since. Still, Pierre Trudeau was incredibly popular with the Jewish community. Representing Jewry’s ascension to the heights of Canada’s power structures, Trudeau appointed the first Jew to the federal cabinet, Herb Gray, and brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which strengthened religious freedoms. But, of recent the riding has become a battleground.

During the 2015 federal election Mount Royal was the only riding in greater Montréal the Conservative Party seriously contested. Even though Liberal party candidate Anthony Housefather is a staunch Israel advocate, he won his seat because of non-Jewish voters.

A similar dynamic is at play in the centre of Canadian Jewish life. Possibly the best placed of any in the world, the Toronto Jewish community faces little economic or political discrimination and has above average levels of education and income. Yet it’s the North American base of the Zionist extremist Jewish Defense League. It’s also a power base for an explicitly racist, colonialist, institution. In what was “reported to be the largest kosher dinner in Canadian history”, three years ago 4,000 individuals packed the Toronto Convention Centre to raise money for the Jewish National Fund in honour of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

No matter what Justin Trudeau says, Zionism and anti-Jewish prejudice have little to do with each other.

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Why would NDP foreign affairs critic legitimize Israeli racism?

Should a social democratic party’s spokesperson on foreign affairs address the Israel lobby’s top annual event and legitimize an explicitly racist institution? These are questions those currently vying for leadership of Canada’s New Democratic Party must be pressed to answer.

According to the Canadian Parliament’s recently released disclosure of members’ sponsored travel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) paid for the New Democratic Party’s foreign affairs spokesperson Hélène Laverdière to speak on a panel at its conference last year.

The notorious anti-Palestinian lobby group spent more than $740 on her flight and accommodation in Washington, DC.

Months after her AIPAC speech, Laverdière participatedin a Jewish National Fund tree-planting ceremony in Jerusalem. During a visit to Israel with Canada’s governor general, Laverdière attended a ceremony with the fund’s world chairman Danny Atar and a number of other top officials.

The Jewish National Fund controls 13 percent of Israel’s land, which was mostly seized from Palestinians forced from their homes by Zionist militias during the 1947-1948 ethnic cleansing known to Palestinians as the Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe.

The JNF systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up a fifth of the population. According to a UN report, Jewish National Fund lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.”

Echoing the UN, a 2012 US State Department report detailing “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel says the Jewish National Fund “statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”

If Laverdière doesn’t trust the State Department or the UN’s assessments she could just read the Jewish National Fund’s own website.

Responding to Palestinian citizens’ attempts via the Israeli high court to live on land controlled by the Jewish National Fund, the website explicitly denies their right to do so, despite being supposedly equal Israeli citizens.

The court “has been required to consider petitions that delegitimize the Jewish People’s continued ownership” of the land. The website states that these lawsuits were “directed against the fundamental principles” on which the Jewish National Fund was founded.

The petitions to the court amount to a demand that the JNF, “which serves as trustee for the lands of the Jewish People,” no longer have the “right to make use of these lands for the continuation of the Zionist enterprise in the Land of Israel.”

It adds that over 80 percent of Israeli Jews “prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.”

It is a moral outrage that the New Democratic Party foreign affairs spokesperson would legitimize an organization that practices discriminatory land-use policies outlawed in Canada six decades ago.

Laverdière legitimizing the Jewish National Fund and AIPAC reflects the backroom politics that dominate the New Democratic Party. In fact, the issue of Palestinian rights goes to the very heart of democracy within the party.

During the 2015 general election, the New Democratic Party ousted several individuals from running or contesting nominations for parliament because they had defended Palestinian rights on social media.

In the most high profile incident, Morgan Wheeldon was dismissed as a party candidate in Nova Scotia because he accused Israel of committing war crimes during its summer 2014 invasion of Gaza.

More than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children, were killed during the Israeli attack.

Leadership candidates must commit to respecting local party democracy and ending the purge against those who defend Palestinian rights. Standing up for Palestinian rights also represents popular will.

A February poll confirms that New Democratic Party members – and most Canadians – are critical of Israel and open to the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on that country.

According to the poll of 1,000 Canadians, almost 80 percent of those who expressed an opinion said they believe the Palestinians’ call for a boycott is “reasonable.”

In the context of the recent UN Security Council denunciation of settlement building in the West Bank, respondents were also asked “do you believe that some sort of Canadian government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable?”

Eighty-four percent of New Democratic Party supporters responded they were open to sanctioning Israel.

Leadership contenders must be pressed to make their position on Palestinian rights reflect members’ views. A 16 May Facebook post by leading candidate Niki Ashton is an important step.

“For more than 60 years, Palestine has been struggling to simply exist,” Ashton wrote. She added that she was “honored to stand with many in remembering the Nakba” at a recent event in Montreal that was also “a rally in solidarity with those on hunger strike in Palestine today.”

Ashton added: “The NDP must be a voice for human rights, for peace and justice in the Middle East. I am inspired by all those who in our country are part of this struggle for justice.”

In response to criticism from Israel lobby groups and Conservative Party leadership contender Brad Trost, Ashton stood by her participation in the rally.

“One must speak out in the face of injustice, whether here at home or abroad,” she said, and called for Canada to support “a balanced position and a just peace in the Middle East.”

While Ashton’s move is an important step, grassroots activists shouldn’t be naïve about the array of forces, both within and outside the party, that prefer the status quo. Asking nicely will not spark much-needed change.

Before a “youth issues” leadership debate in Montreal in March, the Young New Democrats of Québec asked the party leadership to include a question about Palestine. They refused.

At the upcoming leadership debates Palestine solidarity activists within the party should press the issue.

Contenders need to answer if they believe it is okay for the New Democratic Party foreign affairs spokesperson to speak at AIPAC or legitimize an explicitly racist institution like the Jewish National Fund.

 

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Canadian companies caught with hands in African colonial cookie jar

The recent seizure of phosphate from a Moroccan state company in South Africa and Panama is a blow to corporate Canada and a victory for national independence struggles. It should also embarrass the Canadian media.

This month courts in Port Elizabeth and Panama City okayed requests by the POLISARIO Front asking South Africa and Panama to seize two cargo ships with 100,000 tonnes of phosphate from Western Sahara, a sparsely populated territory in north-western Africa occupied by Morocco. Ruled by Spain until 1975, Moroccan troops moved in when the Spanish departed and a bloody 15-year war drove tens of thousands of Sahrawi into neighbouring Algeria, where they still live in camps.

No country officially recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. The UN calls it “occupied” and the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as the Rome Statute prohibit an occupying power from exploiting the resources of territories they control unless it’s in the interest of, and according to, the wishes of the local population. In 2002 the UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell described the exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources as a “violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.”

Saskatoon’s PotashCorp and Calgary’s Agrium, which are merging, have a partnership with Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s OCP Group to export phosphate mined in Western Sahara. The two Canadian companies buy halfof Western Sahara phosphates and it was an Agrium shipment that was seized in Panama.

To deflect from its complicity in violating international law, PotashCorp says OCP’s operations benefit the Sahrawi people. A 2014 PotashCorp statement claimed: “OCP has established a proactive affirmative action campaign to the benefit of the local people and, importantly, is making significant economic and social contributions to the entire region. As a result, we believe those who choose to make a political statement about OCP are effectively penalizing Saharawi workers, their families and communities.”

International solidarity activists have called on businesses to stop exploiting Western Sahara’s resources, which has led the Ethical Fund of Vancity credit union, four pension funds in Sweden and Norway’s $800 billion pension fund to divest from PotashCorp. A number of fertilizer companies have also severed ties to OCP, Morocco’s largest industrial company. The POLISARIO Front national liberation movement and African Union claim deals with OCP to export Western Sahara phosphate contravene international law and prop up Morocco’s control.

While only preliminary, the recent court decisions are important for national independence struggles. The South Africa case is thought to be the first time an independence movement has won legal action to intercept the export of state property.

Aside from a handful of stories in the business press, the Canadian media has basically ignored PotashCorp and Agrium’s role in violating international law. In the lead-up to the 2015 Saskatoon launch of Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation I submitted a piece about PotashCorp’s role in buying the non-renewable resources of Africa’s last remaining colony. The Saskatoon Star Phoenix opinion editor, who I’d communicated with on a few occasions when writing op-eds for a union, told me he was considering it and then responded a week later. “Hi Yves, Thanks, but I will pass on your op-ed. This issue has been on our pages in the past, with both sides of the debate making their points.” But when I searched the Star Phoenix database for articles on the largest publicly traded company in Saskatoon ties to Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara there was a single 264-word letter to the editor criticizing PotashCorp’s policy two and a half years earlier (and a rebuttal from a company representative). Apparently, the Saskatoon business titan’s role in violating international law only warrants 264 words.

As part of writing this story, I searched Canadian Newsstream for coverage of PotashCorp and Agrium’s ties to Western Sahara. I found eight articles (a couple appeared in more than one paper) in major dailies on the subject, as well as three letters to the editor, over the past six years. Yet, as if violating international law is only of interest to those making investment decisions, all but one of the articles appeared in the business pages. When the Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland brought a resolution to PotashCorp’s 2015 shareholder meeting about Western Sahara, the Canadian Press reported on it but only a few news outlets picked up the wire story.

While the Sahrawi struggle is unfamiliar to Canadians, it is widely known in African intellectual circles. Aninternational solidarity campaign, with a group in Victoria, has long highlighted corporate Canada’s ties to the Moroccan occupation. I wrote about it briefly in my Canada in Africa and in an article for a number of left websites. In September 2015 Briarpatch did a cover story titled A Very Fertile Occupation: PotashCorp’s role in occupied Western Sahara and last week OurSask.ca published a long article titled Why a Segment of Saskatchewan’s Economy, and Our Ethical Compass, Hinges on an Undeveloped, War-Torn African Nation. An activist in Regina has been crowd funding for a documentary project titled Sirocco: Winds of Resistance: How the will to resist a brutal occupation has been passed on to two women by their grandmothers.

As my experience with the Star Phoenix suggest, the mainstream media is not unaware of the subject. Rather, there is a deeply held bias in favour of the corporate perspective and unless activists politicize the issue editors will ignore corporate Canada’s complicity in entrenching colonialism in Africa.

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Canadian banks at centre of Caribbean tax avoidance schemes

A recent photo in French daily Liberation hints at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s role in facilitating tax avoidance, which is partly an outgrowth of Canadian banking prowess in the Caribbean and Ottawa’s role in shaping the region’s unsavoury financial sector.

Just before the second round of the French presidential election documents were leaked purporting to show that Emmanuel Macron set up a company in a Caribbean tax haven. The president-elect’s firm is alleged to have had dealings with CIBC FirstCaribbean, a subsidiary of Canada’s fifth biggest bank.

While Macron denies setting up an offshore firm and contests the veracity of the documents, this is immaterial to the broader point. If the documents are a fraudulent political attack, those responsible chose CIBC First Caribbean because it is a major player in the region and has been linked to various tax avoidance schemes.

CIBC registered 632 companies and private foundations in the tax haven of the Bahamas between 1990 and May 2016, according to documents released in the Panama Papers.

CIBC was named 1,347 times in a cache of leaked files concerning secret tax havens released by the Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2013.

FirstCaribbean was implicated in the 2015 FIFA corruption scandal. To avoid an electronic trail of a $250,000 payment to former FIFA official Chuck Blazer, a representative of FirstCaribbean allegedly flewto New York to collect a cheque and deposit it in a Bahamas account.

In 2013 the US Internal Revenue Service sent FirstCaribbean a summons for information on some of its customers who may have been evading US income tax and the CIBC subsidiary was placed on an IRS list of “financial institutions where taxpayers receive a harsher penalty if they are found to have undisclosed accounts.”

CIBC is apparently popular with wealthy, well-placed Africans. Economist Thierry Godefroy and legal expert Pierre Lascoumes write that the “Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is known as the bank of many African dignitaries” while French Africa specialist François-Xavier Verschave called it “the nefarious CIBC, favourite bank of African oil dictators.” In 1997, for instance, the Toronto-based financial institution was the conduit of a $22 million transfer from Geneva to the British Virgin Islands for Kourtas, which was owned by Gabonese dictator Omar Bongo.

CIBC is not only the Canadian bank with operations in a Caribbean financial haven. In fact, Canadian institutions dominate the region’s unsavoury banking sector. In 2013 CIBC, RBC and Scotiabank accounted for more than 60 percent of regional banking assets. In 2008 The Economist reported Canadian banks controlled “the English-speaking Caribbean’s three largest banks, with $42 billion in assets, four times those commanded by its forty-odd remaining locally owned banks.” With their presence in the region dating to the 1830s, Canadian banks have been major players in the Caribbean since the late 1800s.

(Going back further, much of the capital used to establish the current incarnation of CIBC came from supplying the Caribbean slave colonies. The Halifax Banking Company was the first bank in Nova Scotia and the founding unit of today’s CIBC. The Halifax Banking Company’s leading shareholder and initial president, Enos Collins, was a ship owner, who made his wealth by bringing high-protein, salty Atlantic cod to the Caribbean to keep hundreds of thousands of “enslaved people working 16 hours a day.” He was also a privateer, licensed by the state to seize enemy boats during wartime, and according to a biography, likely captured and resold slaves in the region.)

Ottawa shaped post-independence Caribbean banking regulations. Beginning in 1955, a former governor of the Bank of Canada and director of the Royal Bank of Canada, Graham Towers, along with a representative from the Ministry of Finance, helped write the Bank of Jamaica law of 1960 and that country’s Banking Law of 1960. These laws, which became the model for the rest of the newly independent English Caribbean, pleased Canadian banks. In The Banks of Canada in the Commonwealth CaribbeanDaniel Jay Baum writes, “the overall and firm impression with which one is left after reading the [Bank] Act is that its drafters did not intend to control the foreign operations of Canadian banks, or that if they intended to, they failed to do so.” More to the point, notes Towers of Gold, feet of clay: the Canadian banks, “West Indian banking laws, when they were written, were written with our help and advice and for our benefit.”

Alain Deneault details the work of Canadian politicians, businessmen and Bank of Canada officials in developing taxation and banking policies in a number of Caribbean financial havens in his 2015 book Canada: A New Tax Haven: How the Country That Shaped Caribbean Tax Havens Is Becoming One Itself. Deneault writes: “Beginning in the 1950s, at the instigation of Canadian financiers, lawyers, and policymakers, these jurisdictions changed to become some of the world’s most frighteningly accommodating jurisdictions. In 1955, a former governor of the Bank of Canada most probably helped make Jamaica into a reduced-taxation country. In the 1960s, as the Bahamas were becoming a tax haven characterized by impenetrable bank secrecy, the Bahamian finance minister was a member of the board of administrators of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). A Calgary lawyer and former Conservative Party honcho drew up the clauses that enabled the Cayman Islands to become an opaque offshore jurisdiction.”

Another way Canada has enabled the offshore financial infrastructure is by signing tax treaties and Tax Information Exchange Agreements with Caribbean tax havens. Due to a 2011 Tax Information Exchange Agreement, Deneault writes, “subsidiaries of Canadian companies that record their profits in the Caymans can now transfer them to Canada without paying any taxes.”

While they’ve proliferated in recent years, the first double taxation treaty Canada signed with a Caribbean tax haven dates to Wayne Gretzky’s inaugural season in the NHL. In 1980, Joe Clark’s short-lived Conservative government signed a double taxation treaty with Barbados. This allowed Canadians to park their international profits in Barbados, which taxes companies at between 0.25% and 2.5%, and transfer them here without paying tax in Canada.

Ottawa has actively defended the Caribbean financial system. In response to a push for greater regulation of the offshore world, in 2009 Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty told the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (where Canada represents most members of the Commonwealth Caribbean as well as Ireland): “Someof our Caribbean countries have significant financial sector activities. There is a risk that changes to financial sector regulation in advanced countries could have negative unintended consequences on these activities. In particular, there is a risk that measures taken against non-cooperative jurisdictions, including tax havens, could have unintended negative impacts on well-regulated, transparent, financial centres. I believe that this should be avoided. Countries that comply with international standards should be protected from such measures.”

Canada has shaped the Caribbean’s opaque financial sector and CIBC seems to be at the centre of international offshore tax avoidance.

Let’s go Canada! Time to clean up the mess we created in the Caribbean.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Canada no friend of Haiti or rest of Caribbean

Can cute Canadian Caribbean dreams about enchanted islands come true? Or is reality more complicated and Canada a far less benign actor than we imagine ourselves to be?

In a recent Boston Globe opinion titled “Haiti should relinquish its sovereignty”, Boston College professor Richard Albert writes, “the new Haitian Constitution should do something virtually unprecedented: renounce the power of self-governance and assign it for a term of years, say 50, to a country that can be trusted to act in Haiti’s long-term interests.” According to the Canadian constitutional law professor his native land, which Albert calls “one of Haiti’s most loyal friends”, should administer the Caribbean island nation.

Over the past 15 years prominent Canadian voices have repeatedly promoted “protectorate status” for Haiti. On January 31 and February 1, 2003, Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government organized the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” to discuss that country’s future. No Haitian officials were invited to this assembly where high-level US, Canadian and French officials decided that Haiti’s elected president “must go” and that the country would be put under a Kosovo-like UN trusteeship.

Four months after Ottawa helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government Prime Minister Paul Martin reaffirmed his government’s desire to keep Haiti under long-term foreign control. “Fragile states often require military intervention to restore stability”, said Martin at a private meeting of “media moguls” in Idaho. Bemoaning what he considered the short-term nature of a previous intervention, the prime minister declared “this time, we have got to stay [in Haiti] until the job is done properly.”

A few months later a government-funded think tank, home to key Haiti policy strategists, elaborated a detailed plan for foreigners to run the country. According to the Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) plan for Haiti’s future, commissioned by Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, the country’s different ministries would fall under Canadian oversight. Québec’s ministry of education, for instance, would oversee Haiti’s education system. The FOCAL plan put Haiti’s environment ministry under Canadian federal government supervision.

FOCAL’s proposal was made after the 2004 US/France/Canada coup weakened Haiti’s democratic institutions and social safety network, spurring thousands of violent deaths and a UN occupation that later introduced cholera to the country. Irrespective of the impact of foreign intervention, colonialists’ solution to Haiti’s problems is to further undermine Haitian sovereignty.

Haiti is but one piece of the Caribbean that Canadians’ have sought to rule. Earlier this year NDP MP Erin Weir asked if Canada should incorporate “the Turks and Caicos Islands into Confederation.” Weir echoed an idea promoted by NDP MP Max Saltzman in the 1970s, Conservative MP Peter Goldring through the 2000s and an NDP riding association three years ago. A resolution submitted to the party’s 2014 convention noted, “New Democrats Believe in: Engaging with the peoples and government of Turks and Caicos Islands, and the British government to have the Turks and Caicos Islands become Canada’s 11th Province.” As I discuss in the current issue of Canadian Dimension magazine, leftists have long supported the expansion of Canadian power in the region.

In a 300-page thesis titled “Dreams of a Tropical Canada: Race, Nation, and Canadian Aspirations in the Caribbean Basin, 1883-1919” Paula Pears Hastings outlines the campaign to annex territory in the region. “Canadians of varying backgrounds campaigned vigorously for Canada-West Indies union”, writes Hastings. “Their aspirations were very much inspired by a Canadian national project, a vision of a ‘Greater Canada’ that included the West Indies.”

Canada’s sizable financial sector in the region played an important part in these efforts. 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.”

Proposing Canada acquire Turks and Caicos or rule Haiti may be outlandish, but it’s not benign. These suggestions ignore Caribbean history, foreign influence in the region and whitewash the harm Ottawa has caused there. Even worse, they enable politicians’ to pursue ever more aggressive policies in the region.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada in Haiti

Kay’s journey from Islamophobia to defender of cultural appropriation

Jonathan Kay’s resignation from the Walrus for his role in promoting a prize for a writer who engages in cultural appropriation is a relief for the magazine. But, Canada’s leading liberal magazine can’t say they didn’t know Kay was intolerant when they hired him to be editor-in-chief two years ago. Kay has repeatedly smeared Arabs and Muslims in the service of Israeli expansionism.

After protests against Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech at Concordia in 2002 Kay let loose about “an Arabist rabble … well-steeped in the specious propaganda of the Arab world” that made the Montréal university “the centre of militant Arabism”. Writing in the National Post, Kay added, “it is only among the school’s Arabs — many of whom like [activist Laith] Marouf, are immigrants from Arab nations where free speech is non-existent and anti-Semitic filth is widespread — that it is considered acceptable to shut your opponent up by force.” (In fact, hundreds of white and other non-Arab leftists were part of the protests that led to the cancellation of Netanyahu’s speech.)

Kay supported George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. In a 2002 column bemoaning the region’s “medieval hatreds” he wrote that Israel “can be trusted with nukes. But Iraq and its Muslim neighbours cannot.”

During its 2006 war on Lebanon Kay claimed the media focused on Israeli killing because the world had become “inured” to “watching Arab terrorists kill innocent Jews for two generations.” He added a macho twist to his Israel apologetics. “Hezbollah may wage war while hiding behind women’s skirts and baby rattles”, Kay wrote, “but Israel stubbornly adheres to a more humane creed.” Over 1,000 Lebanese, including 300 children under 13, were killed during the 34-day war while 165 Israelis, including 44 civilians, perished.

In a 2007 column Kay bemoaned how if you “connect the dots between Canada’s radicalized mosques and the terror threat… you get accused of Islamophobia” and two years later “applauded Jason Kenney for smacking down the Canadian Arab Federation.” The National Post editorial page editor wrote that CAF’s support for the Palestinian cause made them “a radicalized embarrassment to Canadian Arabs.” (Imagine a columnist calling the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs “a radicalized embarrassment to Canadian Jews” for cheerleading Israel’s slaughter in Gaza.) In his column Kay claimed, that in an interview with his paper’s editorial board a year earlier, CAF representatives “laid blame for virtually every problem the world faces on Israel—including the alienation of Arab-Canadian children in Canada’s public school system.” Cue the image of a crazed CAF representative ranting about how Israel is directing Toronto school officials to diagnose Arab children with ADHD. I wasn’t there but count me skeptical.

After Israel killed 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza in late 2008–2009 Kay wroteabout “the difference between Israel and the terror-worshiping cultures that besiege it.” He described the “Arabs … sick spectacle”, which he contrasted to Israel as “a civilized culture that values human life.” For Kay criticism of Israel killing 300 children simply reflected longstanding anti-Jewish prejudice. “From the opening days of the Gazan campaign,” wrote Kay, “the blood-libels of ‘massacre’ and ‘genocide’ have flown thick and fast.”

In 2010 Kay published a wildly Islamophobic screed, diseminated by the Jewish Defense League, titled “Jonathan Kay on Muslim anti-Semitism: A hate reaching back 1,400 years.” In it he wrote: “The rhetoric and barbarism hurled against Israeli Jews after the Zionist project began were not new but simply the old, more diffuse rhetoric and barbarism being redirected, as by a lens, toward a particular pinprick on a map. .… the continued vibrancy and economic success of Jewish civilization — so close to Islam’s very heartland — is precisely what has fed Muslim rage and jealousy for 14 centuries.” Kay added that violence is “encouraged and fetishized in such a lurid manner and [is] why so few Middle Eastern Muslims regard them [“suicide terrorism and missile volleys”] as a disgraceful or even regrettable part of their culture.”

In a 2014 piece titled “Ezra Levant’s trial echoes a time when Canada’s radical Muslim activists were taken seriously” he defended the Islamophobe’s slanderous attacks against Khurrum Awan. Found guilty of libeling Awan, Levant was ordered to pay him $80,000.

Claiming Gaza is home to “more than a million Palestinians seething with anti-Semitic hatred”, Kay repeatedly justified Israel’s 2014 attacks, which left 2,200 mostly civilians dead (6 Israeli civilians were killed). According to Kay, “hundreds of Palestinian children … died as unwilling martyrs to Hamas’ barbaric human-shield military strategy” in which “Hamas fighters hide behind skirts and baby strollers.” For Kay the battle was “waged between a nation seeking to live in peace and a terrorist group whose whole stated reason for existence is the extermination of the Jewish state and its inhabitants.”

Kay’s appointment to head a purportedly liberal magazine says a great deal about the Canadian media landscape and broader political culture. Alongside his Walrus gig, Kay is regularly invited to address liberal Zionist organizations. In 2015 he spoke at an event organized by the “progressive” New Israel Fund and at a York Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies panel titled “Trudeau – Good for the Jews?” Last year Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto held a Kay vs. Kay debate, widely publicized by the Canadian Jewish News, on “whether liberal Jews are trapped by their own ideology.” Jonathan argued the “progressive” position and was countered by his hilariously right-wing mother, Barbara Kay, whose National Post column is largely devoted to stories of women oppressing men and the glory of Israel.

Jonathan Kay would probably deny any kinship with the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens, Rise Canada, Soldiers of Odin and other openly Islamophobic/white supremacist groups. But, his Jewish/Western-supremacist outlook has led him to repeatedly denigrate Arabs and Muslims, which has contributed to the milieu that has seen the rise of these groups.

Why did the Walrus hire this guy?

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Filed under A Propaganda System

Are corporations only responsible for making money?

Imagine if a corporation had to justify its existence beyond making money for capitalists. What would happen if a social balance sheet, as well as financial one, had to be filed every year and companies continually in a deficit position would eventually disappear?

Consider Barrick Gold. Would the world be better off if the world’s largest gold miner ceased to exist?

Pick a continent and you will find a Barrick run mine that has ravaged the environment and spurred social tension. Present at the company’s recent shareholders meeting in Toronto were two women from Papua New Guinea who say they were raped by Barrick security. A few hundred women have been sexually assaulted by company employees near its Porgera mine in the Oceanian country. While the company has provided nominal compensation to some sexual assault victims, in 2011 Barrick founder Peter Munk dismissed the matter in a Globe and Mail interview, claiming “gang rape is a cultural habit” in Papua New Guinea.

Three weeks before the shareholder meeting Barrick’s Veladero mine in Argentina spilled cyanide solution into a handful of rivers in the western San Juan province. This was the third major cyanide spill at the mine in 18 months. An Argentinian court fined Barrick $9.3 million U.S. for spilling one million litres of cyanide into five rivers in September 2015 and is set to impose further fines and restrictions on its operations over its failure to complete mandated improvements that could have prevented the third spill. 270,000 people have signed a petition calling on Argentina’s president to shutter the Veladero mine.

In 2014, reported the National Observer, Barrick dismissed a senior engineer allegedly for raising “serious safety concerns” about the Veladero mine. Raman Autar later sued Barrick in Canadian court for wrongful dismissal.

It’s unknown whether Autar’s warning could have prevented the cyanide spills, but it’s clear the company has repeatedly ignored environmental concerns and targeted those trying to curtail its ecological devastation. In 2009 former Argentine environment minister Romina Picolotti told a foreign affairs committee meeting to discuss bill C-300, which would have reduced Ottawa’s support for the worst corporate offenders abroad, that her staff was “physically threatened” after pursuing environmental concerns about Barrick. “My children were threatened. My offices were wiretapped. My staff was bought and the public officials that once controlled Barrick for me became paid employees of Barrick Gold.”

On the other side of the globe the Toronto company is pressuring the Tanzanian government to abandon an effort to increase the domestic economic benefits from its natural resources. A majority-owned Barrick subsidiary, Acacia Mining is threatening to withdraw from the East African country if the government doesn’t rescind a measure to halt the export of unprocessed ore. Tanzania wants foreign companies to build more gold smelters in the country. By shuttering its operations Barrick is hoping the short-term loss in employment will pressure the government to back off of its efforts to increase the country’s stake from its natural resources.

Last year a Tanzanian tribunal ruled that Barrick organized a “sophisticated scheme of tax evasion” in the East African country. As its Tanzanian operations delivered over $400-million U.S. profit to shareholders between 2010 and 2013, the Toronto company failed to pay any corporate taxes, bilking the country out of $41.25 million.

Two weeks ago Canadian Journalists for Free Expression published a statement decrying the “persecution…journalists in Tanzania are facing… for reporting on mines operated by Acacia Mining.” One reporter fled the country after being threatened by individuals reportedly associated with the company and another received a notice from the government to stop reporting on Acacia.

Since 2006 security and police paid by Barrick have killed at least 65 people at, or in, close proximity, to the Toronto company’s North Mara mine in Tanzania. Most of the victims were impoverished villagers who scratch rocks for tiny bits of gold and who mined these territories prior to Barrick’s arrival.

Within Canada Barrick is a right wing political force. Benefiting from Canadian aid money, Export Development Canada financing and diplomatic support, the company has aggressively opposed moves to withhold diplomatic and financial support to Canadian companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. Barrick is part of regional corporate lobby groups the Canadian Council of the Americas and the Canadian Council on Africa, as well as being represented on the Senate of the Canadian International Council and the board of the C.D. Howe Institute. The company has sponsored various other right wing groups and events.

Founder and long-time Barrick CEO Peter Munk has provided at least $60 million (he receives tax credits for donations) to right-wing think tanks such as the Fraser Institute and Frontier Centre for Public Policy as well as the Munk Debates and University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. In 2010 the Fraser Institute gave Munk its most prestigious award “in recognition of his unwavering commitment to free and open markets around the globe.”

If it had to justify its existence beyond making money for capitalists Barrick, which mainly produces a mineral of limited social value anyways, would have ceased to exist and the world would be better off.

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

No joke, Canadian imperialism is longstanding in Caribbean

Perhaps a new rule is in order: Everyone must take a history lesson before seeking some fun in the sun.

Recently, NDP Member of Parliament Erin Weir asked if Canada should try to expand into the former British slave colonies. “The slush we’re getting in Regina is no fun. Right about now, a lot of people are wondering — would Canadians benefit from a tropical territory?” Former NDP MP Max Saltzman proposed welcoming the Turks and Caicos Islands into Confederation if its people make a democratic decision to join Canada. Former Conservative MP Peter Goldring recently endorsed this proposal.

But, Canadian imperialism in the Caribbean is no joke and should not be ignored or taken lightly by left-wing leaders.

In fact, moves to extend Ottawa’s dominion over the region date back to when the Canada First Movement sought “a closer political connection” with the British West Indies in the 1870s. By the early 1900s, Canadian policy supported annexing the British Empire’s Caribbean possessions (the various islands as well as today’s Belize and Guyana). 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.

Canada’s sizable financial sector drove these efforts. With their presence in the region dating to the 1830s, Canadian banks were major players by the late 1800s. 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….”

Organized labour backed Canadian influence in the region. During British rule, the Trades and Labour Congress’ (Canadian Labour Congress’ predecessor) journal pushed for a publicly owned steamship service to increase “contact” with the West Indies. A 1929 editorial in the Canadian Congress Journal claimed, “there is every reason to believe that a considerable trade of benefit to both countries will be developed.” In a story the previous year titled “Development of Trade with the West Indies,” the Journal depicted ties to the former slave plantation colonies glowingly. Referring to the great wealth generated trading with the Caribbean slave colonies, the article noted, “for well over 100 years, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick traders and sailors established contact with the islands, bringing Canadian fish and produce in exchange for fruits, sugar and other products.” Unwilling to devote valuable sugar planting space to food crops, Caribbean plantation owners bought high- protein, salty Canadian cod to keep hundreds of thousands of “enslaved people working 16 hours a day.”

Other writers have pointed out the Left’s indifference to Canadian imperialism in the region.

In Canada: A New Tax Haven: How the Country that Shaped Caribbean Tax Havens is Becoming One Itself, Alain Deneault discusses the Left’s blindness to Canadian power in the region. Deneault notes:

How is it that Canadian intellectuals with a back- ground in political economy and the critical tradition have not noticed the troubling nature of Canadian influence in the Caribbean as exerted by MPs, banks, development agencies and experts of all shades and stripes? Even when they have information that ought to lead them in this direction, Canada’s ‘critical’ intellectuals do not feel that this is their responsibility… The problem is not that they are blind to the involvement of foreign states in Caribbean development; rather, they suffer from a specific form of blindness to Canada’s agency. Canada’s political culture is the issue here, including, first and foremost, the political culture of its left-wing academics….

Deneault highlights prominent Left nationalist Kari Polanyi Levitt, author of Silent Surrender: The Multinational Corporation in Canada. An economics professor in Jamaica and Trinidad for many years, Levitt ignores Canada’s pernicious role there. Deneault writes: “While it is impossible for her not to see the domination of Canadian financial institutions such as Scotia Bank or the Royal Bank of Can- ada in cities in which she spends time such as Kingston or Port of Spain, Levitt manages to make them arbitrarily into symbols of Canadian commitment to the development of the Caribbean! The same denial comes into play when she looks at the role of Alcan in Jamaica. Of course, nothing in the behaviour of this multinational sets it apart from its American counterparts, but Levitt in 2012 stubbornly persists in viewing it as a company that, had it not been bought by Rio Tinto, would have been in the vanguard of a possible Canadian response to American domination in the countries of the South.”

Why are many on the Left unable to understand that opposition to imperialism needs to include the version closest to home?

This article first appeared in Canadian Dimension.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Toronto has too much ‘public’ space, not too little

Does Toronto have too little or too much public space?

Depends on what the “public” space is used for.

This seems such an obvious answer but one of Toronto’s best urban affairs writers can’t seem to separate the private cars from the public space they destroy.

In an otherwise excellent defence of the square where younger, poorer and darker fans enjoy Raptors and Maple Leaf games outside the arena, Toronto Star columnist Christopher Hume concludes that “the lack of public space in Toronto is a perennial problem.” Huh! How could a commentator, who has promoted sensible urban planning as much as to be expected in a newspaper that relies on auto ads for much of its revenue, express such confusion?

It is the exact opposite. To build a healthier, safer, more pleasant and ecologically sustainable city Toronto needs to jettison a significant share of its current “public space”.

Why is this? The answer is simple and so overwhelmingly a part of our shared existence that even one of Toronto’s most enlightened urban affairs writers can’t see it: Most public land is devoted to noisy, dangerous and polluting vehicles, which contribute significantly to the climate crisis. What’s more, the city pays to pave, repair, police and clean land that generates little or no tax revenue.

Roadways take up 27.4 percent of the area of Toronto while parks and open spaces cover 13 per cent. Many beautiful, walkable, old cities have less than half as much as Toronto’s 40 percent “public” land. On the Old Urbanist blog Charlie Gardner writes, “the traditional city of narrow streets and small squares, typified by towns of medieval plan, find ten or fifteen per cent [public space] perfectly adequate.”

Last year I had the opportunity to visit a handful of wonderful, old Italian cities. Homes, shops, restaurants, public buildings etc. cover the bulk of the cityscape with narrow, mostly walking oriented, streets facilitating travel. In these areas even small squares and parks are attractive since there are few (or no) noisy, dangerous and polluting vehicles destroying the ambiance or taking up space. The famed Piazza del Campo in Siena is a tenth the size of Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square but feels as big and is considerably more impressive. Ten different streets, alleys and staircases funnel pedestrians into the remarkable square.

Paradoxically, Toronto’s dominant form of public land ruins large swaths of its park space and public areas. Few people want to relax in a square or park next to multiple lanes of traffic.

The ongoing effort to turn 1.75-kilometers of wasteland under the western section of the Gardiner Expressway into an appealing place to walk, bike and hang out will test this dynamic. About $25 million is being invested to reclaim an area that currently acts as a barrier between downtown and Lake Ontario. Hopefully the “Under Gardiner” project will work, but the surefire way to improve this prime piece of the city is to remove the expressway.

Probably the largest swath of public space ruined by the dominant form of public land is the area along the Don Valley Parkway. It is barely used partly because of the highway running through it.

While Toronto needs more publicly owned housing, daycares and businesses, it doesn’t need more public land or park space. It needs less area devoted to private cars.

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Filed under Stop Signs

Media ignores Canada’s role in suppressing Palestinian protests

The Canadian media has mostly ignored recent Palestinian efforts to non-violently disrupt a half-century old occupation. They’ve barely reported on a prisoners’ hunger strike and associated solidarity protests, let alone Canada’s effort to suppress popular protests in the West Bank.

Around 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons have been on hunger strike since April 17. In the occupied West Bank thousands of protesters have taken to the streets and gone on strike in solidarity with the 6,500 Palestinians currently imprisoned by Israel. The issue resonates with Palestinians since Israel has arrested 40 per cent of the West Bank’s male population — 800,000 people — since 1967.

The hunger strike is directed at the occupying regime, but, it’s also a challenge to the “subcontractor of the Occupation” — the Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud Abbas. Ramzy Baround labelled it “a revolt within Fatah against their disengaged leadership, and a frantic attempt by all Palestinians to demonstrate their ability to destabilize the Israeli-American-PA matrix of control.” Nazareth-based commentator Jonathan Cook points out that Abbas wants the hunger strike to end since it threatens his negotiations with Donald Trump and “tight security cooperation with Israel.”

Growing opposition to PA security coordination with Israel is an important backdrop to the hunger strike and recent protests. For years PA security forces have been providing information to Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency and Israel often arrests Palestinian activists after they’ve been released from PA detention. Israeli soldiers recent assassination of prominent activist Basel al-Araj, after being released from PA detention, sparked protests against PA security cooperation with Israel. In mid-March Amnesty International criticized a PA security assault that hospitalized 17 Palestinians protesting security cooperation with Israel after al-Araj’s death.

Like all colonial authorities throughout history, Israel has looked to compliant locals to take up the occupation’s security burden. What is unique about the PA security forces’ operations are their international ties. In a 2011 story detailing how PA security “undermine efforts by Palestinians to challenge the occupation,” Adam Shatz writes: “It is an extraordinary arrangement: the security forces of a country under occupation are being subcontracted by third parties outside the region to prevent resistance to the occupying power, even as that power continues to grab more land.”

Since the mid-2000s Palestinian security forces have been trained by US, British and Canadian troops and police at the US-built International Police Training Center in Jordan (established to train Iraqi security after the 2003 invasion). Part of the US Security Coordinator office in Jerusalem, the Canadian military mission in the West Bank also trains and aids Palestinian security forces. Dubbed Operation Proteus, Canada’s involvement includes Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers as well as officials from the foreign ministry, Justice Canada and the Canadian Border Services Agency. In a September 2010 interview with The Jerusalem Post, minister of state for foreign affairs Peter Kent said Operation Proteus was Canada’s “second largest deployment after Afghanistan” and it received “most of the money” from a five-year $300 million Canadian aid program to the PA.

With little media attention, over the past decade tens (possibly hundreds) of millions of dollars in Canadian aid money has gone to training and supporting a Palestinian security force that serves as an arm of Israel’s occupation. Internal government documents unearthed by Postmedia’s Lee Berthiaume confirm that as the overriding objective of Canada’s $300 million five-year aid program to the Palestinians.

There have been increasing references in the past months during high-level bilateral meetings with the Israelis about the importance and value they place on Canada’s assistance to the Palestinian Authority, most notably in security/justice reform,” read a November 2012 note signed by former Canadian International Development Agency president Margaret Biggs. “The Israelis have noted the importance of Canada’s contribution to the relative stability achieved through extensive security co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

The heavily censored note suggests the goal of Canadian aid was to protect a corrupt Mahmoud Abbas, whose electoral mandate expired in 2009, from popular backlash. Biggs explained that “the emergence of popular protests on the Palestinian street against the Palestinian Authority is worrying and the Israelis have been imploring the international donor community to continue to support the Palestinian Authority.”

Berthiaume effectively confirmed that Canadian aid money is used to train a Palestinian security force to serve as an arm of Israel’s occupation, but this startling information has simply been sent down the memory hole. While Berthiaume’s article was published in a number of Postmedia papers, there was no commentary in a major paper or follow-up stories about Biggs’ internal note or Operation Proteus (with the exception of stories in small town papers covering individual police or soldiers leaving for the mission).

Two years before Berthiaume’s revelation I emailed Globe and Mail Middle East correspondent Patrick Martin about Canada’s aid/military mission to support Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. I wrote, “Hi Pat, not sure if you saw Peter Kent’s comment on Operation Proteus, Canada’s military mission in the West Bank. In a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post Kent dubbed Proteus Canada’s ‘second largest deployment after Afghanistan’ and said it receives ‘most of the money’ from a five-year $300 million Canadian aid program to the Palestinians. It’s an issue that has barely been discussed and I thought it might interest you. Below is a piece I recently wrote partly on it.”

Martin responded, “it’s a good idea,” but the Globe has yet to publish anything on Operation Proteus or Biggs’ comment that Canadian aid to the PA was designed to suppress popular protest by a people suffering under a 50-year illegal occupation. (During John Baird’s 2012 trip to Ramallah Martin quoted the then foreign minister saying Canada was “incredibly thrilled” by the West Bank security situation, which Baird said benefited Israel).

It’s not too late for the Globe and other media to cover Canada’s role in suppressing “popular protests” in the West Bank. Operation Proteus continues with Brigadier-General Conrad Joseph John Mialkowski recently appointed the new head of the military mission. When Canada’s five-year aid package to the PA concluded in 2013 the Stephan Harper government extended it and the government’s website says $30 million was dispersed to Palestinians in 2014–15 (the last year cited).

The Canadian media should cover the prisoners’ hunger strike and its challenge to PA security cooperation with Israel. Even better, it ought to report on Canada’s role in entrenching Israel’s 50-year-old occupation.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Canada should apologize for its role in colonizing Palestine

The year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a crass expression of colonial thought that Canada helped realize.

Just before capturing Jerusalem in late 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour proclaimed support for a Jewish homeland on land occupied mostly by Muslim and Christian Palestinians. In a letter to Walter Rothschild and the Zionist Federation of Great Britain, Balfour wrote, “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.” Balfour later explained his thinking: “In Palestine we do not propose to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. … The four great powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

At war with the crumbling Ottoman Empire, in January 1916 Britain and France signed a secret accord to divvy up the Ottoman-controlled Middle East. Fresh from leading the First World War Anglo-French conquest of German West Africa, Québec City-born Lt-Gen. Charles Macpherson Dobell commanded a force that attempted to seize Gaza during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. As many as 400 Canadians (about half recruited specifically for the task) also fought in British General Edmund Allenby’s Jewish Legion that helped conquer modern day Israel/Palestine. The Federation of Zionist Societies of Canada mobilized Jews to join Allenby’s Jewish Legion, which won sometimes beleaguered Jewish communities’ praise.

During the two decades after the Balfour Declaration, the British empire provided the Zionist movement with the necessary protective umbrella to thrive. Spurred on by British support, between 1919 and 1921, Canadians raised $458,000 ($5.8 million in 2016 dollars) to support projects colonizing Palestine. At the end of the 1920s, Canadians raised $1 million for a Jewish National Fund project to pay an absentee landlord in France for 7500 acres of coastal territory between Haifa and Tel Aviv, which would displace over 1,000 (mostly nomadic) Bedouin whose descendants had lived on the land for hundreds of years. Citizens of a British dominion, elite Canadian Jews were more active Zionists than their U.S. counterparts during this period.

Many Canadian political leaders were over- joyed by the Balfour Declaration. Several years after the First World War, Conservative Party leader Arthur Meighen, a Christian Zionist, claimed, “of all the results of the (war), none was more important and more fertile in human history than the reconquest of Palestine and the rededication of that country to the Jewish people.” A dozen years later, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett told a coast to-coast radio broadcast for the launch of the United Palestine Appeal that the Balfour Declaration and the British conquest of Palestine represented the beginning of the fulfillment of biblical prophecies.

Three decades after the release of the declaration, Canada’s representative on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, which was dis- patched to the region to propose a solution for the British mandate, challenged members of UNSCOP who failed to recognize the legitimacy of the Balfour Declaration. In response to criticism of his proposal to give the Zionist movement a larger piece of land than they officially requested, Canadian Supreme Court justice Ivan C. Rand argued “that since Britain had not fulfilled its obligations to the Jews, they deserved to be compensated by the United Nations.”

The Palestinian Authority and over 100,000 Brits recently petitioned London to apologize for the Balfour Declaration. The centennial is also a good time to mark Canada’s contribution to Palestinians’ loss.

This article first appeared in Canadian Dimension.

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Filed under Canada and Israel

Global Affairs Institute pushes right wing, militarist foreign policy

A registered “charity” with buckets of donations from arms manufacturers and other corporate sources is aggressively trying to push Canadian foreign policy further towards militarism and the use of violence.

And the right wing Canadian Global Affairs Institute seems to be growing in influence, or at least media prominence.

Since last month’s federal budget senior CGAI analyst David Perry has been quoted throughout the media arguing for increased military spending. “I’m stunned this budget is actually taking money away from the military and pretending to give it back several decades in the future,” Perry told CBC.

In its reports, conferences and commentary the Calgary-based institute promotes aggressive, militarist positions. In the midst of a wave of criticism towards General Dynamics’s sale of Light Armoured Vehicles to Saudi Arabia, CGAI published a paper titled “Canada and Saudi Arabia: A Deeply Flawed but Necessary Partnership” that defended the $15-billion deal. At least four of the General Dynamics-funded institute’s “fellows” wrote columns justifying the sale, including an opinion Perry published in the Globe and Mail Report on Business titled “Without foreign sales, Canada’s defence industry would not survive.”

Previously, CGAI has called for Ottawa to set up a foreign spy service — think CIA, M-16 or Mossad. At the height of the war in Afghanistan they commissioned a survey claiming most “Canadians are willing to send troops into danger even if it leads to deaths and injuries as long as they believe in the military’s goals.”

Beyond the media work most think tanks pursue, the institute expends considerable effort influencing news agencies. Since 2002 the institute has operated an annual military journalism course together with the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. A dozen Canadian journalism students receive scholarships to the 9-day program, which includes a media-military theory component and visits to armed forces units. The stated objective of the course is “to enhance the military education of future Canadian journalists who will report on Canadian military activities.” But that description obscures the political objective. In an article titled “A student’s look inside the military journalism course” Lola Fakinlede writes: “Between the excitement of shooting guns, driving in tanks, eating pre-packed lunches, investigating the insides of coyotes and leopards — armoured vehicles not animals — and visiting the messes, we were learning how the military operates. … Being able to see the human faces behind the uniform, being able to talk to them like regular people, being able to see them start losing the suspicion in their eyes and really start talking candidly to me — that was incredible.”

Captain David Williams was forthright concerning the broader political objective of the program. In 2010 he wrote, “the intent of this annual visit has always been to foster a familiarity and mutual understanding between the CF and the future media, two entities which require a symbiotic relationship in order to function.”

Along with the Conference of Defence Associations, the institute gives out the annual Ross Munro Media Award recognizing a “journalist who has made a significant contribution to understanding defence and security issues.” The winner receives a handsome statuette, a gala dinner attended by Ottawa VIPs and a $2,500 prize. The political objective of the award is to reinforce the militarist culture among reporters who cover the subject.

Journalist training, the Ross Munro award and institute reports/commentators are a positive way of shaping the discussion of military matters. But, CGAI also employs a stick. In detailing an attack against colleague Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen military reporter David Pugliese pointed out that it’s “not uncommon for the site to launch personal attacks on journalists covering defence issues. It seems some CDFAI [CGAI’s predecessor] ‘fellows’ don’t like journalists who ask the government or the Department of National Defence too many probing questions. … Last year I had one of the CDFAI ‘fellows’ write one of the editors at the Citizen to complain about my lack of professionalism on a particular issue. … the smear attempt was all done behind my back but I found out about it. That little stunt backfired big time when I showed the Citizen editor that the CDFAI ‘fellow’ had fabricated his claims about me.”

While it may not have succeeded in this instance, online criticism and complaints to journalists’ superiors do have an impact. If pursued consistently this type of ‘flack’ drives journalists to avoid topics or be more cautious when covering an issue.

While not exactly forthcoming about its funders, the institute has received some military backing. The Canadian Forces identified CGAI’s predecessor, the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, under the rubric of “defence-related organization and defence and foreign policy think tanks.” DND’s Security and Defence Forum provided funding to individuals who pursued a year-long internship with the Institute and CGAI has held numerous joint symposiums with DND, NATO and NORAD.

The institute has received financial backing from arms contractors. General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin Canada, as well as Edge Group, C4i, Com Dev, ENMAX, SMART Technologies, the Defense News Media Group and Canadian Council of Chief Executives have all supported CGAI.

Beyond weapons makers, the institute has wealthy patrons and ties within the corporate world. Rich militarist Frederick Mannix helped found the registered charity and recent directors include the CEO of IAMGOLD Steve Letwin, Royal Bank Financial Group executive Robert B. Hamilton and ATCO director Bob Booth.

A bastion of pro-corporate, militarist, thinking, the Canadian Global Affairs Institute is increasingly influential in shaping the foreign policy discussion in this country.

Canadians who disagree with militarism, who wish for diplomacy over war, and who support a Do Unto Others as We Would Have Them Do Unto Us foreign policy must raise their voices loudly and clearly so that we too are heard by government.

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Filed under A Propaganda System

Tax subsidized schools rally children to glorify Israel colonialism

On Tuesday thousands will gather to celebrate the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism. Organizers of Montréal’s annual Israel Day rally claim it is the largest event of its kind in the country.

A significant proportion of the crowd will come from the city’s 15 Jewish day schools, which receive most of their funds from the public purse. Many of the kids bused downtown will carry Israeli flags and their faces will be painted in its colours. At the 2014 Israel Day rally a 12-year-old Herzliah student, Jon Frajman, told the Montréal Gazette, “if we didn’t support Israel, we wouldn’t have a place to call home.”

(A few years ago I witnessed a similar type of child abuse at an anti-abortion protest in Ottawa packed with Catholic school students.)

Herding students to a weekday rally is a visible form of activism, but it’s a small part of these schools’ crusading for Israel. A recent Canadian Jewish News cover story titled “What to teach Jewish students about Israel?” detailed the growing importance given to classes on Israel at Jewish day schools. While students have long been “taught from a young age to see Israel as the land of milk and honey”, in recent years Jewish day schools have ramped up their indoctrination in reaction to “anti-Israel student groups on campuses throughout North America.”

Head of Winnipeg’s Gray Academy of Jewish Education, Lori Binder told CJN that Israel education is taught from junior kindergarten to graduation. But, “the crescendo I guess, is a full-year course for all our Grade 12 students in a course called Israel advocacy.”

Gray Academy’s Israel advocacy course was set up eight years ago. Recently, the Combined Jewish Appeal Israel Engagement Initiative developed a program for Grade 10 students at Montréal schools called Israel Update and Vancouver’s King David High School organizes an annual trip to Israel for Grade 8 students.

One of the five “Faces of Success” in a Federation CJA booklet promoting Montréal Jewish schools is a man named Oliver Moore, a graduate of McGill Law who works with NGO Monitor in Jerusalem. Moore is quoted stating: “My experience attending Jewish high school imprinted me with a Zionist ethic and a profound appreciation for Israel’s importance. It troubles me that Israel is under constant political threat and that its legitimacy is questioned. What I find especially disturbing is that the language of human rights has been distorted to dispute its right to exist. That is why I’ve decided to go to Israel and examine this issue in depth, and when I return to Canada, to contribute to Israel advocacy.”

Day schools aren’t the only institutional setting in which the young are taught to support Israeli violence and expansionism. Some Jewish Community Centres and summer camps promote Zionism to kids.

The Jewish National Fund has long tried to convince young minds of its colonial worldview. The registered Canadian “charity” offers various youth outreach initiatives to help build the “bond between the Jewish people and their land.” The JNF has produced puzzles and board games as well as organizing kids dances and a Youth Summer experience program. According to JNF Canada’s Education Department, the group “educates thousands of young people in Israel and abroad, helping them forge an everlasting bond with the Land of Israel.”

An explicitly racist institution, the JNF promotes an expansionist vision of “Eretz Yisrael”. The mainstay of their youth outreach, JNF Blue Boxes’ include a map that encompasses the illegally occupied West Bank. Over the last century millions of Blue Boxes have been distributed around the world as part of “educating Jewish youth and involving them in these efforts in order to foster their Zionistic spirit and inspire their support for the State of Israel. For many Jews, the Blue Box is bound up with childhood memories from home and the traditional contributions they made in kindergarten and grade school.”

The best way to reverse Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession is to educate and mobilize the broad public about an issue removed from most people’s daily lives. But, there’s also a need to challenge Israeli nationalist opinion within the Jewish community. One way to do so is by criticizing the indoctrination of children. One means might be to respectfully picket JNF events targeted at kids or perhaps by plastering posters about Israeli violence and expansionism around Jewish schools.

While pro-Israel groups would likely denounce such efforts as “anti-Semitic”, children at these institutions deserve to hear an alternative, universalist, anti-racist perspective. They need to know that not all Jews, Montrealers, Torontonians, Canadians, etc. support the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism. They need to learn to think for themselves, instead of blindly accepting the Israeli nationalist propaganda aimed their way.

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Canada’s long history of missionaries abroad has lessons for NGOs

For more than a century Canadians have gone abroad to do “good” in poorer parts of the world. Whether they spurred positive change or simply became foreign agents should be of interest to international non-governmental organizations.

Last week the Globe and Mail reported on the Canadians Christians who set off to proselytize in China in 1891. Focused on their medical achievements, the laudatory story hinted at a darker side of their work. It quoted a missionary who was “critical of the lifestyle most of the missionaries led, with their large houses, many servants and imported comforts which contrasted with the far lower standard of living of their Chinese fellow Christians.”

Of more consequence than their opulence, Canadian missionaries aggressively supported colonial officials, as I discovered researching Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation. By the end of the colonial period 2,500 Canadian missionaries were proselytizing in Africa and Canadian churches raised large sums to support mission stations across the continent.

Four Québec Jesuit fathers left for the Zambesi Mission in southern Africa in 1883. Alphonse Daignault rose through the ranks of the Catholic male congregation to become Prefect Apostolic of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). Then Superior of the Jesuits’ Zambezi Mission, Daignault backed the British South Africa Company’s invasion of Mashonaland (Zimbabwe) in 1890. With their evangelizing shunned by the Ndebele people, the Jesuits and other foreign missionaries supported the “destruction of [the] Ndebele system.”

Granted a charter from London in 1889, Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company offered white men in Kimberley, South Africa, 3,000 acres of land and mining rights if they joined the Company’s fight to conquer part of today’s Zimbabwe. Daignault offered the invading force chaplaincy services, mobile ambulances and nurses. The British South Africa Company paid the Jesuit nurses’ costs and compensated Daignault’s mission with conquered territory, including a major piece of land on the outskirts of today’s Harare. In A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe C. J. M. Zvobgo writes that the Harare “farm which consisted of 12,000 acres, beautifully surrounded by hills, was given to the Jesuits by the BSA Company in recognition of FR Alphonse Daignault’s service to the [Company’s] sick.”

The Québec Jesuit leader worked with Rhodes and British officials for years. He also supported the colonial authorities’ efforts to drive Africans from their traditional economies into wage work. Reflecting the settler community’s attitude in 1897, Daignault told the deputy administrator of the city of Bulawayo in 1897 that the “natives of this country… are but grown-up children” prone to “idleness”. “Men in authority who have the true interests of the natives at heart ought to treat the natives not only as children but are also to do all they can to make them acquire habits of work. As this cannot be obtained by mere moral persuasion, authority must necessarily be used.”

To the north, dozens of Canadian missionaries helped the colonial authority penetrate Ugandan societies in the early 1900s. The preeminent figure was John Forbes who was a bishop and coadjutor vicar apostolic, making him second in charge of over 30 mission posts in Uganda. A 1929 biography of the founder of the White Father in Canada describes his “good relations” with British colonial authorities and the “important services Forbes rendered the authorities of the Protectorate.”

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

During World War I, Canadian White Fathers Ernest Paradis and Wilfred Sarrazin helped Brigadier General Edward Northey conquer German East Africa. Serving as civilian transport officers, Paradis and Sarrazin focused on organizing African carriers, who were generally press ganged into service. Paradis became Senior Transport Officer for all British forces east of Nyasaland and North of Zambesi in today’s Malawi and Zimbabwe.

By volunteering to join the war, the White Fathers sought “respectability … in the eyes of planters and government officials.” Afterwards, Paradis used his heightened status to gain the colonial administration’s support for the White Fathers’ educational work.

Paradis evangelised in Malawi for several decades. He led the White Fathers campaign to supress “the Nyau”, a religious belief among the Chewa and Nyanja people that included elaborate dances. In May 1929 Paradis wrote an East Africa article titled “Devil Dancers of Terror” that claimed Nyau dances were seditious.

Another Canadian missionary engaged in the White Fathers’ efforts to outlaw Nyau customs in Nyasaland. Father Superior David Roy called on colonial officials to criminalize their dances and in 1928 Christians in the Likuni district, which he oversaw, killed two Nyau.

Thomas Buchanan Reginald Westgate was a Canadian missionary who joined the Church Missionary Society in German East Africa in 1902. With the support of the Ontario branch of the Church Mission Society, Westgate remained in Tanzania for over a decade. The Watford, Ontario, born missionary translated parts of the Old Testament into Cigogo, the language spoken by the Gogo nation in the central region of the colony.

Westgate worked with the colonial administration. His son, Wilfrid Westgate, authored a book about his father’s life titled T. B. R. Westgate: A Canadian Missionary on Three Continents. In the biography, Westgate writes: “Governor [Heinrich] Schnee looked upon the mission as an asset to this part of the German colonial empire.” German soldiers protected the Canadian’s mission post when the population rose up in 1905 against the colonial authority. Dissent was sparked by measures to force Africans to grow cotton for export, and an uprising known as the Maji Maji rebellion swept across the vast colony. It lasted two years. During the rebellion, Westgate coordinated with German Captain von Hirsch. Westgate’s wife, Rita, later wrote, “at times we feared the Germans could not suppress the rising.” The Germans succeeded, however, and the Westgate’s fears did not come to pass. In The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective, Isabel Hull writes that 15 Europeans and 389 allied African soldiers were killed by the rebels. By contrast, writes Hull, whole areas of the colony were depopulated with 200,000 to 300,000 Tanzanians killed between 1905 and 1907.

Another Ontario native by the name of Marion Wittich (later Marion Keller) felt called to missionary work while working as an Anglican schoolteacher in Parry Sound, Ontario. She set off with her husband to proselytize in Tanzania in 1913. Her husband died in Tanzania and several years later she remarried a man by the name of Otto Keller, a German born US émigré, who the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada sponsored to set up a mission station in western Kenya. In 1914 Otto Keller claimed that “here [Africa] we see the power of the devil in an astonishing form, almost beyond belief. The noise of drunken men and women, fulfilling the lusts of the flesh come to our ears. All seemingly bound and determined to fulfill the cup of their iniquity.” By the time Marion Keller died in 1942, the socially conservative Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada had over 200 branch churches in Kenya.

An official history of the Canadian church attacked the anti-colonial movement in Kenya as “a resurgence of primitive animism.” Published in 1958, What God Hath Wrought: A History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada notes: “Unfortunately, sinister forces were bidding high for the souls of Kenya’s millions. In the 1950s there was to be a resurgence of primitive heathenism which had as its aim the expulsion of the white man from Kenya and the extinction of everything Christian in their land. This was the Mau Mau uprising.” In putting down the uprising the British killed tens of thousands.

In 1893 Torontonians Walter Gowans and Rowland Victor Bingham founded what later became the largest interdenominational Protestant mission on the continent: the Sudan Interior Mission (Though SIM initially focused on modern- day Nigeria, at the time “Sudan” generally referred to the area south of the Sahara and North of the equator from the east to west coast of the continent.) Head of SIM for four decades, Bingham described “facing millions of people in the darkness of their heathenism” and “seeing the people in all their savagery and sin.”

In the 1950s SIM described growing Nigerian nationalism as “dark and threatening”. Adeleye Liagbemi writes that “the nationalist upsurge of the post Second World War era engendered a new spirit of independence and experimentation; positive, forward-looking, purposeful and militant. The situation sent chills down the spines of some Christian missionary organizations in the country — including the S.I.M.” In response SIM ramped up its literature output, deciding to “take the offensive out of Satan’s hands”, which it felt had “been winning the war of words among the new literates” of Africa.

Official Canada generally supported these Christian activists. Missionary leaders were well-regarded and received sympathetic media coverage. Leading business people financed mission work and Ottawa sometimes looked to missionaries for advice.

Most of the Canadians who proselytized in Africa were “good Christians” who saw themselves as helping to “civilize the dark continent”. While formal colonialism is over and paternalism has been tempered, Canadians supportive of international NGOs should reflect on missionary history.

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

Condemning neo-fascists is anti-Semitic? Really?

Weirdly, even some self-declared “anti-fascists” who claim to be intent on “punching Nazis” get uncomfortable when you criticize the Jewish Defense League.

In an incident akin to Canadians organizing to thwart freedom riders during the US civil rights movement, the Toronto-based JDL organized a mob that attacked protesters at last month’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington DC. Over the past decade the JDL has built itself up by aggressively harassing pro-Palestinian activists in Toronto, which has won them active or passive support from much of the Jewish establishment, dominant media and the city’s broader power structure. As I was slandered for discussing in a previous article, JDL Toronto is now seeking to export their extremist ideology to the USA and is building neo-fascist alliances focused on bashing Muslims in Toronto.

Until recently liberals largely treated JDL thuggery with kid gloves. For many years the former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie Farber, gave the group political cover. The same can be said for former Canada-Israel Committee board member Warren Kinsella, who spoke at a JDL meeting in 2009. These prominent liberals supported JDL intimidation of Palestinian solidarity activists. But, they are now uncomfortable with the group’s racism against Canadian Muslims and ties to other more marginal white supremacist groups such as the English Defence League and Soldiers of Odin.

Incredibly, some people on the “left” also seem to share this opinion. Alex Hundert says it’s anti-Semitic to challenge the JDL if you’re not Jewish or Muslim. In response to my article on the JDL, he tweeted “If ur neither jewish nor muslim, and obsessed w@JDLCanada, ur definitely an anti-Semite.” He added that “a small group of Kahanist [JDL] extremists banding together can’t b excuse for Engler to target Jewish ‘Establishment.’” And to make sure no one was confused about his opinion of my article he slandered me directly, writing “I wish I had the energy to actually take on antisemites like Engler.”

Two weeks earlier some other self-described leftists became similarly defensive when an activist posted a picture in an anti-racist Facebook group of a man wearing a JDL jacket with their arm around somebody in a Soldiers of Odin jacket. A tag was added to the picture of the Toronto rally saying, “JDL and Soldiers of Odin: this has the making of a hilarious sitcom.”

A number of individuals in the forum criticized making light of the growing alliance between the JDL and Soldiers of Odin as a threat to Jews, not to the Muslims or People of Colour mostly targeted by those groups. One person wrote, “I feel really uncomfortable about this being made into a joke. … as a Jew this is less hilarious to me and more shameful – and scary, because it gives leftists ammunition against Jews and puts us in further danger.” Another individual on the private leftist anti-racism forum wrote, “this is exactly what i was afraid of – now in order to be considered one of the ‘good jews’ i have to repudiate the JDL loudly and vocally and make sure no one thinks i’m a zionist, or else no one on the left will protect me.”

While sympathetic to individuals working out their conflicted loyalties and testing their political positions, it is important to note no one was asked to “repudiate” anything in the Facebook group. And it should go without saying that anti-racist leftists would have no qualms denouncing an organization the FBI labeled “a right-wing terrorist group” in 2001.

Sensitivity towards criticism of the JDL undermines both Palestinian solidarity activism and work to counter the group’s role in rekindling fascism in the city.

But perhaps people are confused by their limited knowledge of history. Weren’t Jews the victims of fascism? It’s counter-intuitive that Jews – though some leading members of the JDL may not be Jewish – would play an important role in reviving white supremacist/fascist politics in Toronto.

But, historically, some Jews did support and even help build the original fascism. In A History of Fascism, 1914–1945 Stanley Payne writes:

The Fascist movement was itself disproportionately Jewish — that is, Jews made up a greater proportion of the party at all stages of its history than of the Italian population as a whole. Five of the 191 sansepolcristi who had founded the movement in 1919 had been Jewish, 230 Jewish Fascists had participated in the March on Rome, and by 1938 the party had 10,215 adult Jewish members.

Labeling Margherita Sarfatti “The Jewish Mother of Fascism”, Ha’aretzdescribed Benito Mussolini’s favoured and most influential mistress this way:

The aristocratic, intellectual and ambitious wife of wealthy Zionist lawyer Cesare Sarfatti, and mother of their three children, did not only share her bed with Il Duce. She also helped him forge and implement the fascist idea; she contributed advice — and Sullivan says, money — to help organize the 1922 March on Rome in which Mussolini seized power.

Additionally, Francisco Franco received support from many Moroccan Jews when he sought to oust Spain’s Republican government in 1936 and some prominent figures in Portugal’s small Jewish community backed António de Oliveira Salazar. Early on a small number of German Jewish fascists even backed Hitler. The Association of German National Jews, for instance, supported the Nazis.

Hitler’s efforts to eliminate European Jewry obviously discredited fascism in the eyes of most Jews. But, Israeli politics has seen a surge of supremacist neo-fascism in recent years, which has strengthened the JDL in Toronto.

Another explanation for why people don’t associate Jews with fascism/white supremacy is a perception that Jews are an “oppressed community”, as Anne Frank Center director Steven Goldstein recently put it on Democracy Now. But, Canadian Jews are widely viewed as white and the community is well integrated into Toronto’s power structures. Possibly the best placed of any in the world, the Toronto Jewish community faces little economic or political discrimination and has above average levels of education and income.

As such, a militant group ‘representing’ Toronto Jewry would tend to be “supremacist” rather than “defensive”. To understand this point it may help to consider similar types of groups/actions.

No matter one’s opinion about their tactics, it wasn’t supremacist when Montréal feminists aggressively disrupted Roosh V last year since the “pro-rape” blogger crassly reinforces patriarchy. Ditto for a Black Panther Party patrol. The English Defence League, on the other hand, is a supremacist organization because those it claims to be “defending” – white, English, people – actually dominate that country.

Considering their minority religious status, the history of anti-Jewish prejudice and continued cultural (if not structural) anti-Semitism, the “supremacist” character of the JDL isn’t as clear-cut as in the case of the EDL. But, when it comes to the Palestinian struggle the JDL is an entirely supremacist organization. On that issue the JDL acts as the thuggish tool of the Israeli nationalist Jewish establishment, which themselves operate within a decidedly pro-Israel Canadian political culture.

Despite film of JDL thugs beating a 55-year-old Palestinian professor and a younger Jewish activist, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs couldn’t bring itself to criticize the attacks. CIJA spokesperson Martin Sampson responded to a National Post inquiry by simply stating, “the approach adopted by the JDL is not reflective of the mainstream Canadian Jewish community.”

But, where does the JDL get its funds? Why has it been allowed to march in Toronto’s annual Walk with Israel? Why has it been allowed to recruit in Jewish schools? CIJA, B’nai B’rith and the other Zionist organizations that have enabled the JDL should be pressed to answer for its violence.

Palestinian solidarity activists should also exploit the tension between those who back the JDL’s anti-Palestinian posture, but oppose its alliances with fascist/white supremacist organizations. We must consistently point out that if you are against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, you must oppose all forms of fascism. History points to where that leads.

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We have an addiction problem — cars

I often read troubling reports about the world’s unfolding climate catastrophe while working at McGill, but, ironically, steps from the university library I am reminded of Montréal’s unwillingness to make the changes required to avoid civilizational collapse.

During recent construction on Sherbrooke Street police have been stationed on corners near the university to direct traffic. Since three of the streets don’t continue north most of what the police do is hold up pedestrians seeking to cross Sherbrooke while cars roll slowly by. Why not close the street to vehicle traffic? It would save on police costs while speeding construction and pedestrian travel. But of course, closing part of Sherbrooke to cars during construction would further inconvenience the drivers of private automobiles, who seem to believe they have a “right” to travel around the city spewing greenhouse gases, damn the planetary consequences.

The reality is our municipal, provincial and federal governments remain enthralled to private automobility regardless of the climate consequences.

The evidence, large and small, is so ubiquitous we no longer notice:

  • Across from Complexe Guy-Favreau a metal barrier was recently installed over two blocks on René Lévesque. The presumed objective of this “highway-ization” of downtown is to stop pesky pedestrians from crossing halfway down the street.
  • In 2014 the various levels of government coughed up over 150 million dollars to host 10 years of Grand Prix car celebrations.
  • A recent directive from the Health Ministry substantially expands free parking at Quebec hospitals.
  • Last month Premier Philippe Couillard announced plans to extend Highway 19 north of the city and to widen Highway 50 from Gatineau to Montreal.
  • Last month’s provincial budget included $5 billion over two years in road repairs.
  • The provincial government is also ploughing over $3 billion into the Turcot Interchange.

Last year the Trudeau government axed the planned toll on the Champlain Bridge, which the federal government is rebuilding at a projected cost of over $4 billion. According to a government supposedly concerned about climate change, people have a “God-given right” to take their 3,000 pounds of metal 10, 30, 50, or 100 km a day (often solo) into the city without paying any direct road costs.

As climate science warns us of impending disaster, the Montréal region gained 200,000 new cars over the past five years. With 3.4 million people of driving age, greater Montreal’s car stock is on pace to reach 3 million next year.

The truth is automobiles are a major source of Canada’s extremely high per capita carbon emissions. Transport represents 40 percent of Montréal’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions and it is growing while emissions from other sectors decline. Between 1990 and 2013 GHG’s from the city’s road network increased 16-per-cent while emissions from homes dropped 45 per cent.

Our city is a microcosm of the continent and increasingly much of the world. Last year North American gasoline consumption reached its highest level ever and countries around the world are adopting North-American-style auto infrastructure.

Montréal’s unwillingness to save money, while speeding construction and pedestrian travel near McGill may be a relatively insignificant matter, but it reflects the continued dominance of automobility. In the current political culture many find it easier to imagine the collapse of civilization than the replacement of a transportation and urban planning system based on private cars.

What will our children and grandchildren think of us?

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Filed under Stop Signs

UN ends occupation of Haiti, but legacy of abuse remains

Last week the UN Security Council finally voted to end its military occupation of Haiti. Instigated by the US, France and Canada, it has been responsible for countless abuses during the past 13 years.

At the same time as the Security Council voted to draw down its military force (a police contingent will remain), the Associated Press published an in-depth investigation confirming widespread sexual abuse by UN troops in Haiti. The foreign soldiers had sex with minors, sodomized boys and raped young girls. An internal UN report uncovered by AP implicated 134 Sri Lankan troops in a sex ring that exploited nine children from 2004 to 2007. None of the MINUSTAH soldiers were imprisoned.

In early 2012 video footage came to light of five Uruguayan soldiers sexually assaulting an 18-year old Haitian. In that case as well the soldiers were sent home, but no one was punished.

At the time Haïti Liberté complained, “there are also almost monthly cases of UN soldiers sexually assaulting Haitian minors, all of which have gone unpunished.” According to the Status Forces Agreement signed between the UN and Haiti’s 2004-06 coup government, MINUSTAH is not subject to Haitian laws. At worst, soldiers are sent home for trial. Despite committing countless crimes, very few MINUSTAH soldiers have ever been held to account at home.

Beyond sexual abuse, the UN’s disregard for Haitian life caused a major cholera outbreak, which has left 10,000 dead and nearly 1 million ill. In October 2010 a UN base in central Haiti recklessly discharged sewage, including the feces of newly deployed Nepalese troops, into a river where people drank. This introduced the water-borne disease into the country. Even after the deadly cholera outbreak, UN forces were caught disposing sewage into waterways Haitians drank from. While they partly apologised for introducing cholera to the country, the UN has failed to compensate the victims of its recklessness or even spend the sums needed to eradicate the disease.

Imagine if the UN was going to the United States and raping children and bringing cholera,” Mario Joseph, a prominent Haitian lawyer, told AP. “Human rights aren’t just for rich white people.”

These abuses aren’t an unfortunate outgrowth of a well-meaning peacekeeping effort. Rather, MINUSTAH was established to consolidate the US, France and Canada’s anti-democratic policies and usurp Haitian sovereignty.

As former Haitian soldiers swept through the country killing police officers in February 2004, the UN Security Council ignored the elected government’s request for peacekeepers to restore order in a country without an army. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) called upon the Security Council to deploy an emergency military task force to assist the elected government and on February 26, three days before President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s removal, the Organization of American States’ permanent council asked the UN Security Council to, “take all the necessary and appropriate urgent measures to address the deteriorating situation in Haiti.” This appeal for assistance was flatly rejected by the world’s most powerful nations, but immediately after US/French/Canadian troops ousted the elected government the Security Council passed a motion calling for intervention to stabilize Haiti.

Immediately after US marines whisked Aristide from the country on February 29, 2004, 2000 US, French and Canadian soldiers were on the ground in Haiti. For years a Canadian led MINUSTAH’s police contingent and for six months 500 Canadian troops were part of the UN mission that backed up the coup government’s (2004-2006) violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters. The UN force also killed dozens of civilians directly in pacifying Cité Soleil, a bastion of support for Aristide. The worst incident was on July 6, 2005 when 400 UN troops, backed by helicopters, entered the densely populated neighbourhood. Eyewitnesses and victims of the attack claim MINUSTAH helicopters fired on residents throughout the operation. The cardboard and corrugated tin wall houses were no match for the troops’ heavy weaponry, which fired “over 22,000 rounds of ammunition”, according to a US embassy file released through a Freedom of Information request. The raid left at least 23 civilians dead, including numerous women and children. The UN initially claimed they only killed “gang” leader Dread Wilme. (Graphic footage of victims dying on camera can be viewed in Kevin Piña’s Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits.)

During the height of the violence Canadian diplomats pressured MINUSTAH to get tough. In early 2005 the head of the UN mission, General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, told a congressional commission in Brazil that “we are under extreme pressure from the international community [specifically citing Canada, France and the US] to use violence.” Later Canadian Ambassador Claude Boucher openly called for greater UN violence in the pro-Aristide slum of Cité Soleil.

It is good UN soldiers will soon be removed from Haiti. Haitians, however, will continue to suffer the consequences of MINUSTAH for years.

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Filed under Canada in Haiti

Victims of Canadian colonialism celebrated for joining imperialist war

Amidst an orgy of martial patriotism that is finally over, there was a sad irony.

In recent days the Canadian Forces, banks, politicians, sports TV networks, private foundations, the news media, etc. have all promoted the idea that the centennial of Canadian troops capturing some high ground in France during a minor Word War 1 battle somehow represented the “birth” of Canada. The notion that the battle of Vimy Ridge “created our country” is bizarre enough but the celebration of First Nations’ participation in this episode of Canadian imperialism pushed the exercise into the realm of the absurd.

One hundred years ago in northern France 10,000 Canadians and 20,000 Germans were hurt or killed during four days of fighting to capture Vimy Ridge. Despite the claim it represented the “birth” of Canada, the soldiers were under British command and the battle had little impact on the war. The young men fell in a war spurred by intra-imperialist competition in Africa and elsewhere.

Strangely, the recent Vimy commemorations included an indigenous component. The prime minister’s office put out a number of press releases that mentioned the “Indigenous organizations” part of his official delegation to France. APTN did a story titled “Métis man with special connection to Vimy Ridge battle will see history up close” while a CKOM headline noted, “Indigenous veteran reflects on personal ties to Vimy Ridge”. A Two Row Times article was titled “’Indian’ warriors of Vimy Ridge” and on CBC’s Unreserved former Native Women’s Association of Canada president Marilyn Buffalo discussed her grandfather, Henry Norwest, who died at Vimy.

Historically the racist, colonialist narrative erased the contribution of First Nations to Canadian warfare. But, the recent “truth and reconciliation” process has included significant attention devoted to indigenous members of the Canadian armed forces. The Canadian Forces, government commissions and indigenous veterans associations, often backed by Veteran Affairs, have produced much of the laudatory literature on aboriginal war veterans.

A dozen books and theses, as well as hundreds of articles, detailing first nations’ contribution to Canadian/British wars mostly echo the military’s perspective of those conflicts. In The Awakening Has Come: Canadian First Nations in the Great War Era, 1914-1932, Eric Story depicts WWI as a noble affair. “The Great War had put First Nations shoulder to shoulder with Euro-Canadians in a fight for human rights and dignity”, writes Story in Canadian Military History Journal. The editor of We Were There said the aim of the Saskatchewan Indian Veterans Association book is to convince kids they fought for “freedom”. “I wanted to publish… to let Indian children know that their fathers and grandfathers fought for the freedom we now cherish.” (In truth Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II.)

The Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association (alongside other indigenous veterans’ groups) have been pressing the federal government to proclaim November 8 National Aboriginal Veterans Day. In 2016 Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr attended an Ottawa celebration while Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett participated in a Fredericton ceremony. In a statement Hehr noted, “we thank the thousands of indigenous Canadians in uniform who answered the call of duty and made the ultimate sacrifice. Their contributions and efforts have helped our country in its efforts to make this world a safer place.”

There is even a current of ‘progressive’ thinking that draws on indigenous military contributions to legitimate criticism of Canadian colonialism while simultaneously promoting Canadian imperialism. In a 2013 Huffington Postblog titled “Whitewashing Remembrance: I Wear A Poppy For Native Veterans” Elizabeth Hawksworth made an anti-racist argument for wearing the red poppy. “I choose to wear it because as a woman with Native ancestry, I want to remember those whose faces we never see in the Heritage moments or on the Remembrance Day TV spots.… I wear the poppy not just as a way to remember, but as a statement: freedom doesn’t just belong to white folks.”

Of course, the red poppy is the property of, and raises funds for, the jingoist Royal Canadian Legion. Additionally, red poppies were inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian army officer John McCrae. The pro-war poem calls on Canadians to “take up our quarrel with the foe” and was used to promote war bonds and recruit soldiers during WWI.

In a TVO interview marking the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I author Joseph Boyden said indigenous men enlisted to “do what’s right”. As he denounced the mistreatment of indigenous peoples after WWI, the author of Three Day Road, a novel dedicated to “the native soldiers who fought in the Great War”, called their fighting a “beautiful corner” of Canadian history.

But, there was nothing “beautiful” about World War I. It was an inter-imperialist conflict that left 15 million dead. All the ordinary soldiers who participated in it were victims of the ruling classes’ imperial ambitions.

And glorifying First Nations’ participation in imperialist wars as part of overcoming Canada’s colonial treatment of First Nations is, at a minimum, ironic.

This is where blind foreign policy nationalism and so-called patriotism has taken us.

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Filed under A Propaganda System

Let’s inject some left wing political boldness into NDP leadership race

A leadership race is an opportunity to promote bold ideas and invigorate a political movement. Canada’s right-wing party seems to understand this, the left not so much.

In recent months Conservative Party leadership contenders have promoted a bevy of extremist ideas. Last week the spokesperson for Conservative contender Brad Trost boasted that his candidate is “not entirely comfortable with the whole gay thing.” Maxime Bernier is pushing to abolish taxes on those who make money from their money (capital gains), end supply management and lower the corporate tax rate to 10 per cent. Kellie Leitch called for the CBC to be “dismantled” while Chris Alexander labelled most of the world “anti-Semitic” for criticizing illegal Israeli colonies.

Outside the Conservative Party, rightist groups are leveraging their heightened influence — at a time when candidates need support from more right-leaning party members — to get contenders to amplify their views. In the highest profile instance, four Conservative leadership candidates spoke at a Rebel Media rally to protest Muslims — under the guise of protesting anti-Islamophobia Motion 103. At least one person in the Toronto crowd raised his arm in a Nazi salute.

Rebel Media also drew three leadership candidates to a December rally against Alberta’s planned carbon tax. Brad Trost told the Calgary audience “this whole climate-change agenda is not science fact-based.”

A hodgepodge of other extreme right groups have sought out Conservative candidates to legitimate their cause. Kellie Leitch, for instance, recently met neo-fascist Rise Canada member Ron Banerjee.

Rebel Media, Rise Canada and other right-wing groups aren’t worried about whether leadership contenders attending their events or expressing extreme ideas harm the Conservative party’s short-term electability. Rather, they are focused on strengthening their respective causes.

The NDP race is a study in contrasts. Despite being far further from winning office, caution has been the order of the day during the early stages of the NDP leadership campaign. Few bold ideas have been presented.

No one is calling for (re)nationalizing Bombardier or other companies receiving massive public support. No one is proposing to restrict relations with institutions benefiting from illegally occupied Israeli territory. No one is demanding Canada’s 150 birthday celebration be scrapped and the $500 million be spent on educating ourselves about colonialism. No one is promoting workplace democracy. No one has expressed the need to reduce tar sands output by 10 per cent a year. Heck, not one of the four candidates has even said explicitly that they oppose building new pipelines.

In short, none of the NDP candidates are offering an alternative to the “greed is good” narrative of the hardline supporters of capitalism.

Either the NDP is simply another party supporting the economic and political status quo or it is so afraid of being called “radical” by the mainstream media that itself-censorss to the point of political blandness.

Too many people around the NDP are concerned about the leadership race’s short-term impact on the party’s electoral prospects. Few seem concerned with its impact on the left’s long-term prospects.

Progressive party members must demand more from politicians seeking their vote. If leftists can’t significantly influence the discussion during a race to lead a purported left-wing party when will we?

NDP members are right to deride the ideas flowing from the Conservative leadership race, but they are wrong to dismiss it as a circus. The boldness and willingness to amplify their agenda is something the NDP should mimic.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Jewish Defence League organizes hate, violence

We live in strange and dangerous times. While Toronto thugs export their violence and extremist ideology to the USA and the Jewish Defence League works with neo-fascists to bash Muslims, the dominant Canadian media has placed a cone of silence over these disturbing developments.

At the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C., a mob organized by JDL Toronto attacked counter-protesters. In the worst incident, a 55-year-old Palestinian-American teacher was punched, kicked and hit with flagpoles. Bruised across his body, Kamal Nayfeh needed 18 stitches around his eye.

Thornhill JDL member Yosef Steynovitz was charged with assault causing significant injury and a hate crime.

Despite video of JDL thugs assaulting protesters in the US capital, no Canadian media except the Canadian Jewish News reported on the confrontation. Also ignored are JDL’s efforts to parlay Donald Trump’s xenophobia into a bigger presence down south. In January, JDL Toronto organized a meeting in the Big Apple. “We are trying to get something off the ground in New York. We have to resurrect it in other states in the US, in LA, Chicago, Florida, Philadelphia, I get emails from all over the US, we have to get this thing going,” JDL-Toronto leader Meir Weinstein told the New York meeting, according to a Ha’aretz story headlined “Drawing Inspiration From Trump, Far-right Kahane Movement Seeks U.S. Revival”.

The US JDL was labelled “a right-wing terrorist group” by the FBI in 2001. Its members were convicted of a series of acts of terror, including the killing of the regional director of the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee and a plot to assassinate a congressman. A member of the JDL’s sister organization in Israel killed 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre two decades ago.

Most people involved in Palestinian solidarity activism in Toronto have experienced JDL thuggery. During Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza in 2014, I was shoved, had my bike damaged and lock stolen by members of the JDL at a protest on the grounds of the Ontario legislature. The following day at Queen’s Park, a JDL member who worked with children at the Schwartz/Reisman Jewish Community Centre and was on a B’nai Brith softball team, Isaac Ezra Nacson, knocked a pro-Palestinian counter demonstrator to the ground and kicked him in the face. Half an hour after Nacson’s attack, a JDL member walked some 50 metres around a barricade to where I was standing alone chanting at the pro-war rally and spat on me three times. Both incidents were caught on tape by major media outlets, but little was done.

In 2014 the JDL sparked a violent confrontation at Palestine House in Mississauga. Three years earlier the RCMP launched an investigation against a number of JDL members who were thought to be plotting to bomb Palestine House.

While they’ve organized with the far right English Defence League and Pegida UK in the past, JDL has deepened its coordination with other local white supremacists in recent months. They’ve joined the Soldiers of Odin at Nathan Phillips Square on a couple of occasions to protest M-103, the anti-Islamophobia parliamentary motion.

Despite its racism and violence, the JDL finds support from much of the organized Jewish community and other powerful institutions. JDL has cosponsored demonstrations with B’nai B’rith and provided “security” for pro-Israel rallies. Canadian Jewish News coverage of the group has often been sympathetic, including publishing video of a speech by Meir Weinstein. Two years ago Barbara Kay penned a National Post column titled “In defence of the Jewish Defence League” and six weeks ago the Toronto Sun published an article headlined “Jewish Defence League alleges hate crime”. In 2014 former Prime Minister Stephen Harper even included a JDL member in his official delegation when he traveled to Israel.

Tacitly accepted or actively supported by much of the establishment, the JDL is probably the most powerful far right group in Toronto. The group is now using its influence to build neo-fascist alliances in the city and export its toxic politics south of the border.

People should be concerned.

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Filed under Canada and Israel

NDP leadership candidates call for foreign policy debate

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

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

Here’s the background:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Complete Canadian story includes slavery and underground railway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy