Tag Archives: Chrystia Freeland

Liberal ‘feminist’ policy funds Haitian police (for real)

An important component of Trudeau’s international branding has been his government’s purported “feminist foreign policy”. A recent aid contract to Haiti highlights the hollowness of these Liberal claims.

Under its Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) the Trudeau government has tendered a $12.5 million contract in operational support to the Haitian police. According to Buyandsell.gc.ca, “the Support for a Professional and Inclusive Police in Haiti (SPIP) Project will contribute to 3 of Canada’s 6 Feminist International Assistance Policyaction areas: (i) gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, (ii) inclusive governance, and (iii) peace and security. By strengthening the HNP’s [Haitian national police] institutional and operational capacities, the project will help stabilize the country politically and socially, and maintain peace and public safety in a fragile country, which are essential to sustainable development in Haiti.”

One must employ an extremely elastic definition of “feminism” to claim funding the Haitian police especially benefits women. Haiti’s Canadian trained and funded police force is what has sustained the repressive, corrupt and illegitimate Jovenel Moïse as President. Since a popular uprising began in July 2018 against Moïse the police have killed dozens, probably over 100 people, with nary any criticism from the Trudeau government.

But this is not the first time the Liberals have used funding under its Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) to pursue policies that have little to do with any serious definition of feminism.

Along with praise for Moïse, Global Affairs’ webpage about “Canada’s international assistance in Haiti” focuses on gender equity and during a February 2018 visit international development minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau, launched the first project under FIAP’s Women’s Voice and Leadership Program. “It’s a new president and we want to support him,” Bibeau told CBC before leaving on a trip that included a meeting with Haiti’s illegitimate president.

In June 2017 the Trudeau government released its FIAP, which is supposed to direct bilateral aid towards gender focused initiatives. Sixteen months later Chrystia Freeland convened a first ever Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with representatives from about 20 countries. At the September 2018 gathering in Montréal Freeland announced that the Liberals would appoint an Ambassador for Women Peace and Security, which Trudeau later said would “help advance Canada’s feminist foreign policy.”

But, the Liberals’ “viewed ‘feminist’ as a branding tool rather than a realignment of power relations”, noted Rafia Zakaria in a Nation story headlined “Canada’s ‘Feminist’ Foreign Aid Is a Fraud.” The Liberals commitment to feminist internationalism was paper-thin.

In July 2019 Ottawa joined Washington as the only other government to vote against a UN Economic and Social Council resolution stating, “the Israeli occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women and girls with regard to the fulfillment of their rights.” As the Liberals touted their “feminist foreign policy”, they sold armoured vehicles to the Saudis and deepened ties to other highly misogynistic Gulf monarchies. They also aligned with anti-woman Jihadists against a secular (if repressive) government in Syria.

Disregarding their promise to rein in Canadian mining abuses abroad also undercuts the Liberals’ “feminist foreign policy”. Sexual assault often plagues communities near Canadian-run mines and as the primary caregivers, women are disproportionately burdened by the ecological destruction caused by mining. At the same time, most mining jobs go to men.

Trudeau touted right-wing allies for being pro woman while seeking to get rid of leftist governments with stronger feminist credentials. The PM lauded far right Colombian president Ivan Duque for adopting “a gender-equal cabinet.” At the same time the Liberals sought to oust a Nicaraguan government in which women held more than half of all cabinet positions and 40 percent of the legislature. Canada’s feminist foreign minister also backed the overthrow of a Bolivian government, which adopted a series of legislative measures that greatly advanced women’s representation in politics.

Two days before launching FIAP the Liberals announced their defence policy review, which included a plan to increase military spending by 70% over a decade. The government committed $62 billion more to the military — already five times the aid budget — over 20 years.

The Canadian Forces is a highly patriarchal institution. Women represented 15.4% of military personnel in 2018. In 2015 former Supreme Court judge Marie Deschamps found a “culture of misogyny” in the CF “hostile to women.” Her officially sponsored investigation concluded, “the overall perception is that a ‘boys club’ culture still prevails in the armed forces.” Four years later Deschamps told a House of Commons defence committee there had been little progressin eliminating sexism within the CF.

Along with increasing military spending, the Liberals promoted the arms industry and their international sales. A male-dominated sector, Canadian weapons were sold to a number of violent, misogynist, governments. The Liberals deployed Canadian Forces on a number of aggressive missions. In Iraq, they boasted about killing a person with a three-kilometre sniper shot. A purveyor of violence, the Canadian military is the institutional embodiment of ‘toxic masculinity’. A genuine “feminist foreign policy” would seek to rein in — not expand — the CF.

The Liberals’ so called “feminist foreign policy” is another example of their ‘talking left and acting right’ agenda that is an insult to Canadian feminists, as well as all those who believe in a progressive foreign policy.

 

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti, Justin Trudeau

Canada’s regime change efforts in Nicaragua rife with hypocrisy

A woman stands near a burning barricade holding Nicaraguan flag, April 2018

Canada is supporting US efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s government.

A recently leaked USAID document highlights “the breadth and complexity of the US government’s plan to interfere in Nicaragua’s internal affairs up to and after its presidential election in 2021.” The stated aim is to replace president Daniel Ortega with “a government committed to the rule of law, civil liberties, and a free civil society.” HighlightingWashington’s aim, Ben Norton notes, “the 14-page USAID document employed the word ‘transition’ 102 times, including nine times on the first page alone.”

Recently Canada’s representative to the Organization of American States, Hugh Adsett, joined five other countries in calling on the OAS’ Secretary General to organize a special session focused on human rights and democracy in Nicaragua. At the recent OAS meeting Adsett criticized Nicaragua, saying the Covid-19 pandemic “should not be used to weaken democracy”.

Ottawa has supported a number of OAS resolutions and initiatives targeting Nicaragua’s government. Along with the US, Paraguay, Jamaica and Argentina, Canada was part of the 2019 OAS High-Level Diplomatic Commission on Nicaragua, which Managua blocked from entering the country. The commission claimed there was an “alteration of constitutional order that seriously affects the democratic order” in Nicaragua. But, the group failed to win majority support at the OAS General Assembly.

Ottawa has severed aid and sanctioned officials from a government former US national security adviser John Bolton listed as part of a “troika of tyranny” (Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua). Ortega’s government is part of the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA), which is a response to North American capitalist domination of the hemisphere.

Since the Sandinistas’ won power in 2007 poverty rates dropped substantially in the nation of six million. The government expanded access to electricity in rural areas and doubled the proportion of electricity from renewable sources to over half. Access to drinking water has increased as have health indicators improved. Women’s role in parliament grew sharply and Nicaragua’s murder rate remained a fraction of its northern neighbours. According to a July 2019 UN report, there were 8.3 murderers per 100,000 Nicaraguans compared with nearly 70 murders per 100,000 in El Salvador and Honduras.

A little more than a year after his third consecutive election victory a protest movement challenged Ortega’s presidency. Ostensibly what unleashed the uprising was a social security reform pushed by the International Monetary Fund. But, pension benefits were largely maintained with the government offloading most of the cost on to employers. Despite a relatively working-class friendly reform, many student organizations and NGOs aligned with the major employer federation, the wealthiest Nicaraguans and the conservative Catholic church to oppose the government. Many of these groups were financed and trained by the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy, USAID and Freedom House, which is close to the CIA. The movement was greatly influenced by Washington, which has long been powerful in the small, impoverished, country.

The protests quickly turned violent. At least 22 police officers were killed and as many as 300 lost their lives in politically related violence during 2018. The North American media and internationally connected NGOs blamed the government for all the rights violations. But, this was absurd, as the death toll of police highlight. It was also public knowledge that opposition rebels had been attacking government supporters for years. In March 2016 the New York Times published a long sympathetic story headlined “Ortega vs. the Contras: Nicaragua Endures an ’80s Revival” about a small number of anti-government rebels targeting police stations and Sandinistas in rural areas.

Still, Canadian officials blamed the government — either implicitly or directly — for the violence. Between April 23 and July 18, 2018, Global Affairs put out at least four press releases critical of the situation in Nicaragua. Chrystia Freeland’s statements became steadily stronger with the former foreign minister eventually demanding an immediate end to the “violence, repression, arbitrary detentions and human rights violations” and for “the government of Nicaragua to help create the conditions for safe, peaceful, and constructive discussions.” Subsequently Canada’s foreign minister questioned Ortega’s democratic legitimacy. In June 2019 Freeland declared, “Canada will continue to stand with the people of Nicaragua and their legitimate demands for democracy and accountability.” But, Ortega won the election in a landslide and it’s hard to imagine that he suddenly lost all support.

In March 2016 the New York Times reported, “Mr. Ortega enjoys strong support among the poor” while eight months later The Guardian noted he “cemented popular support among poorer Nicaraguans.” At the end of 2016 Ortega was re-elected with 72% of the vote in an election some in the opposition boycotted.

The Liberals raised the conflict in Nicaragua in international forums. At a Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Montréal in September 2018 Freeland said “Nicaragua” was one of “the pressing issues that concern us as foreign ministers.” The “situation in Nicaragua” was discussed between Freeland and foreign minister Aloysio Nunes at the third Canada-Brazil Strategic Partnership Dialogue a month later.

In August 2018 the Liberals officially severed aid to Nicaragua. Canadian funding for five major government backed projects was withdrawn.

Ten months later Canada sanctioned nine Nicaraguan government officials, including ministers and the president of the National Assembly. Individuals’ assets were frozen and Canadians were prohibited from dealing with said persons. The sanctions were adopted in co-ordination with Washington. “United States and Canada Announce Financial Sanctions to Address the Ongoing Repression in Nicaragua”, noted the US State Department’s release.

The Liberals’ stance towards Nicaragua contrasts sharply with its words and actions towards its Central American neighbour Honduras. While Canada condemned Ortega, severed aid and sanctioned officials, it maintained friendly relations and aid spending after Juan Orlando Hernandez defied the constitution by running for a second term as president and then brazenly stole the election.

The Liberals regime change efforts in Nicaragua are part of a broader pro-US/corporate policy in the hemisphere rife with hypocrisy.

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America

Media ignores explosives revelations about chemical weapons in Syria

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The Canadian media gets a failing grade when it comes to its coverage of chemical weapons in Syria.

Among the basic principles of reporting, as taught in every journalism school, are: Constantly strive for the truth; Give voice to all sides of a story; When new information comes to light about a story you reported, a correction must be issued or a follow-up produced.

But the Canadian media has ignored explosives revelations from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. It’s a stark example of their complicity with belligerent Canadian foreign policy in Syria.

In May 2019 a member of the OPCW Fact Finding Mission in Syria, Ian Henderson, released a document claiming the management of the organization misled the public about the purported chemical attack in Douma in April 2018. It showed that the organization suppressed an assessment that contradicted the claim that a gas cylinder fell from the air. In November another OPCW whistleblower added to the Henderson revelations, saying that his conclusion that the incident was “a non chemical-related event” was twisted to imply the opposite. Last week WikiLeaks released a series of internal documents demonstrating that the team who wrote the OPCW’s report on Douma didn’t go to Syria. One memo noted that 20 OPCWinspectors felt the report released “did not reflect the views of the team members that deployed to [Syria].”

I couldn’t find a single report about the whistleblowers/leaks in any major Canadian media outlet. Theyalso ignored explicit suppression of the leaks.

Journalist Tareq Haddad resigned from Newsweek after my attempts to publish newsworthy revelations about the leaked OPCW letter were refused for no valid reason.” Haddad wrote a long article explaining his resignation, which detailed how an editor who previously worked at the European Council on Foreign Relationsblocked it.

There is an important Canadian angle to this story. Twenty-four hours after the alleged April 7, 2018, chemical attack foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland put out a statement claiming, “it is clear to Canada that chemical weapons were used and that they were used by the Assad regime.” Five days later Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supported cruise missile strikes on a Syrian military base stating, “Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people.”

Canadian officials have pushed for the organization to blame Bashar al-Assad’s government for chemical attacks since Syria joined the OPCW and had its declared chemical weapon stockpile destroyed in 2013–14. Canada’s special envoy to the OPCW, Sabine Nolke, has repeatedly accused Assad’s forces of employing chemical weapons. Instead of expressing concern over political manipulation of evidence, Nolke criticized the leak.In a statement after Henderson’s position was made public she noted, “Canada remains steadfast in its confidence in the professionalism and integrity of the FFM [Fact-Finding Mission] and its methods. However, Mr. Chair, we are unsettled with the leak of official confidential documents from the Technical Secretariat.”

Amidst efforts to blame the Syrian government for chemical weapons use, Canadian officials lauded the OPCW and plowed tens of millions of dollars into the organization. AJune 2017 Global Affairs release boasted that “Canada and the United States are the largest national contributors to the JIM [OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism for Attributing Responsibility for Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria].” The statement added that Canada “is the largest voluntary cash contributor to the organization, having provided nearly $25 million since 2012 to help destroy chemical weapons in Libya and Syria and to support special missions and contingency operations related to chemical weapons use, investigation, verification and monitoring in Syria.” Two months after the Douma incident Freeland announced a $7.5 million contribution to the OPCW in a statement heavily focused on Syria.In August Governor General Julie Payette even traveled to The Hague to push OPCW Director-General, Fernando Arias, on Syria. After a “meeting focused on OPCW activities in Syria”, Payette highlighted Canada’s “$23 million in voluntary funds for Syria-related activities.”

Ottawa backed the group that produced the (probably staged) video purporting to show chemical weapons use in Douma. The Liberals backed the White Helmets diplomatically and financially. In a release about the purported attack in Douma Freeland expressed Canada’s “admiration for … the White Helmets”, later calling them “heroes.”Representatives of the White Helmet repeatedly came to Ottawa tomeetgovernment officials and Canadian officials helped members of the group escape Syria via Israel in July 2018. Alongside tens of millions of dollars from the US,British, Dutch, German and French governments, Global Affairs announced “$12  million for groups in Syria, such as the White Helmets, that are saving lives by providing communities with emergency response services and removing explosives.”

Credited with rescuing people from bombed out buildings, the White Helmets fostered opposition to Assad and promoted western intervention. Founded by former British army officer James Le Mesurier, the White Helmets operated almost entirely in areas of Syria occupied by the Saudi Arabia–Washington backed Al Nusra/Al Qaeda insurgents and other rebels. They criticized the Syrian government and disseminated images of its purported violence while largely ignoring civilians targeted by the opposition. Their members were repeatedly photographed with Al Qaeda-linked Jihadists and reportedly enabled their executions.

The White Helmets helped establish an early warning system for airstrikes that benefited opposition insurgents. Framed as a way to save civilians, the ‘Sentry’ system tracked and validated information about potential airstrikes.

Canada funded the Hala Systems’ air warning, which was set up by former Syria focused US diplomat John Jaeger. It’s unclear how much Canadian money was put into the initiative but in September 2018 Global Affairs boasted that “Canada is the largest contributor to the ‘Sentry’ project.”

Ottawa is dedicated to a particular depiction of the Syrian war and clearly so is the dominant media. Committed to a highly simplistic account of a messy and multilayered conflict, they’ve suppressed evidence suggesting that an important international organization has doctored evidence to align with a narrative used to justify military strikes.

Journalists are supposed to seek the truth, not simply what their government says. In fact, according to what is taught in J-school, journalists have a special responsibility to question what their government claims to be true.

No journalism program in Canada teaches that governments should always be believed, especially on military and foreign affairs. But that is how the dominant media has acted in the case of Syrian chemical weapons.

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Filed under Middle East

Canada backs coup against Bolivia’s president

Unknown-2In yet another example of the Liberals saying one thing and doing another, Justin Trudeau’s government has supported the ouster of Evo Morales. The Liberals position on Bolivia’s first ever indigenous president stands in stark contrast with their backing of embattled pro-corporate presidents in the region.

Hours after the military command forced Morales to resign as president of the most indigenous nation in the Americas, Chrystia Freeland endorsed the coup. Canada’s foreign affairs minister released a statement noting “Canada stands with Bolivia and the democratic will of its people. We note the resignation of President Morales and will continue to support Bolivia during this transition and the new elections.” Freeland’s statement had no hint of criticism of Morales’ ouster, who still has two months left on his 2015 election mandate. Elsewhere, leaders from Argentina to Cuba, Venezuela to Mexico, condemned Morales’ forced resignation.

Ten days ago Global Affairs Canada echoed the Trump administration’s criticism of Morales’ first round election victory. “It is not possible to accept the outcome under these circumstances,” said a Global Affairs statement. “We join our international partners in calling for a second round of elections to restore credibility in the electoral process.”

The Canadian government also financed and promoted an Organization of American States effort to discredit Bolivia’s presidential election. In a statement titled “Canada welcomes results of OAS electoral audit mission to Bolivia” Freeland noted,“Canada commends the invaluable work of the OAS audit mission in ensuring a fair and transparent process, which we supported financially and through our expertise.”

The OAS played a crucial role in bolstering right-wing anti-Morales protests after the presidential election on October 20. Morales won the first round, which no one seriously disputes. The dispute is about whether he won by a 10% margin, which is the threshold required to avoid a second-round runoff. The official result was 47.07 per cent for Morales and 36.51 per cent for US-backed candidate Carlos Mesa.

Immediately after the election the OAS cried foul. But, the Centre for Economic Policy Research’s report “What Happened in Bolivia’s 2019 Vote Count? The Role of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission” challenges the OAS claims. The CEPR concludes that there is no evidence the election results were affected by fraud or irregularities.

CEPR co-director Mark Weisbrot criticized the OAS for questioning the election results without providing any evidence. “The OAS press statement of October 21 and its preliminary report on the Bolivian elections raise disturbing questions about the organization’s commitment to impartial, professional, electoral observation,” said Weisbrot. “The OAS should investigate to find out how such statements, which may have contributed to political conflict in Bolivia, were made without any evidence whatsoever.”

While backing the ouster of Morales, Trudeau has offered support for beleaguered right-wing leaders in the region. Amidst massive demonstrations against his government, the Prime Minister held a phone conversation 10 days ago with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera who has a 14% approval rating. According to the published report of the conversation, Trudeau criticized “election irregularities in Bolivia”and discussed their joint campaign to remove Venezuela’s president. A CTV story noted, “a summary from the Prime Minister’s Office of Trudeau’s phone call with Pinera made no direct mention of the ongoing turmoil in Chile, a thriving country with which Canada has negotiated a free trade agreement.”

In Haiti the only reasonJovenel Moïse remains president is because of backing of Ottawa, Washington and other members of the so-called “Core Group”. Unlike Bolivia, Haiti is not divided. Basically, everyone wants Moïse to go. Reliable polling is limited, but a poll last month found that 81% of Haitians wanted the president to leave. Many are strongly committed to that view, which is why the country’s urban areas have been largely paralyzed since early September.

TheTrudeau governmentis obviously following the Trump administration in backing the removal of Morales. But, there has also been conflict between Canadian capital and the Morales government. Executives of Canadian mining companies have criticized Morales andexpressed fear over “resource nationalism” in the region more generally. In 2012 weeks of protest against South American Silver’s operations in central Bolivia — that saw an indigenous activist killed— prompted the Morales government to nationalize the Vancouver-based company’s mine. Ottawa immediately went to bat for South American Silver. Ed Fast’s spokesman Rudy Husny told the Vancouver Sun the trade minister instructed Canadian officials to “intensify their engagement with the Bolivian government in order to protect and defend Canadian interests and seek a productive resolution of this matter.”

Once again our government has prioritized the interests of Canadian corporations over the interest of indigenous people. Shame on Trudeau for supporting the ouster of Evo Morales.

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Filed under Latin America

Unifor aligns with Liberal foreign policy instead of international solidarity

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Chrystia Freeland and Unifor President Jerry Dias

Inviting Chrystia Freeland to address this week’s Unifor convention undermines the union’s claims of international solidarity. As Foreign Affairs Minister, Freeland has pursued staunchly pro-corporate and pro-US policies. She has been bad for workers and their families around the world. Let us count a few of the ways:

  1. Freeland’s department continues to offer diplomatic and other forms of support to mining companies responsible for major abuses abroad. The Liberals broke their promise to establish a genuine ombudsperson to supervise Canadian mining companies’ international operations.
  2. Freeland has campaigned aggressively to overthrow Venezuela’s government. She played a central role in establishing the “Lima Group” of governments opposed to President Nicolas Maduro and has introduced four rounds of unilateral sanctions against Venezuelan officials. The Associated Press reported on Canada’s “key role” in building international diplomatic support for claiming the right wing head of Venezuela’s national assembly was president, which included Freeland speaking to Juan Guaidó “the night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony to offer her government’s support should he confront the socialist leader.”
  3. One of Freeland’s allies in the Lima Group, which claims to be promoting Venezuela’s constitution, explicitly defied his own constitution in running for re-election. Global Affairs Canada immediately endorsed Honduran narco-dictator Juan Orlando Hernandez’ farcical 2017 election ‘victory’.
  4. Freeland has pressured Havana to turn on Caracas. Joining Washington’s effort to squeeze Cuba, Global Affairs Canada recently closed the visa section at its embassy in Havana, forcing Cubans wanting to visit Canada or get work/study permits to travel to a Canadian embassy in another country to submit their documents.
  5. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Ottawa has propped up a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president who has faced multiple general strikes and mass protests calling for his removal.
  6. The Liberals have also failed to keep their promise to re-engage diplomatically with Iran. Worse still, Freeland has echoed the warmongers in Washington and Tel Aviv.
  7. Freeland has deepened ties to an opponent of Iran pursuing violent, anti-democratic, policies in Yemen, Libya and Sudan. Last May Freeland met United Arab Emirates foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and the Liberals have signed a series of accords with the repressive monarchy.
  8. Freeland is anti-Palestinian. Just before a November meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Freeland touted Canada’s “unwavering and ironclad” support for Israel and her ministry has justified the killing of peaceful Palestinian protesters. Isolating Canada from world opinion, Freeland sided with the US, Israel and some tiny Pacific island states in opposing a resolution supporting Palestinian statehood backed by 176 nations.
  9. Freeland’s grandfather was a Nazi propagandist. While obviously not responsible for her grandpa’s misdeeds during World War II, Freeland has praised him and deflected questions on the matter by saying Moscow may be trying to “destabilize” Canadian democracy. In so doing she has stoked Russophobia. Ottawa has ramped up its military presence on Russia’s doorstep (Ukraine, Poland and Latvia) and recently added Ukraine to Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List, which allows Canadian companies to export weapons to that country with little restriction.

A March 2017 memo from the US embassy in Ottawa to the State Department in Washington entitled “Canada Adopts ‘America First’ Foreign Policy” claimed Justin Trudeau appointed Freeland foreign minister in order to promote the interests of the Donald Trump administration. The cable was authored just weeks after Freeland was appointed foreign minister and in it US officials conclude that Trudeau promoted Freeland “in large part because of her strong U.S. contacts” and that her “number one priority” was working closely with Washington.

A knowledgeable critic of Canadian foreign policy recently told me they thought Freeland was worse than Conservative foreign minister John Baird. This may be true. The question for Unifor is what more would Freeland have to do to make her unacceptable as a keynote speaker?

Inviting Freeland to their convention is part of the union’s controversial embrace of the Liberal Party (Prime Minister Trudeau also spoke). But, it also reflects indifference to the injustices Canada contributes to abroad. I couldn’t find a single Unifor statement that directly criticized Freeland or Canadian foreign policy (the union is a member of Common Frontiers, which has criticized Canadian policy in Venezuela and Honduras). But, the union has devoted significant energy and resources to promoting a boycott of GM cars made in Mexico. On Tuesday when Freeland addresses the convention Unifor is giving their Nelson Mandela award to Romeo Dallaire. As I detail here, applauding the aggressive liberal imperialist is wrong and giving Dallaire an award named after Mandela is simply embarrassing.

Giving a former general an award, boycotting Mexican cars and inviting Freeland/Trudeau – combined with failing to challenge Canadian foreign policy – reflects a union aligned with Canada’s ruling class against working people elsewhere. It’s a shame that six years after its creation Unifor has jettisoned the progressive, internationalist rhetoric that was part of its founding.

Hopefully, rank and file members can reclaim their union. A good way to start might be to demonstrate their disapproval of Freeland’s invitation to speak at the convention.

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Middle East, Venezuela

US says Trudeau adopts “America First” foreign policy, media ignores it

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Wouldn’t you think the corporate media would be interested in the US embassy’s reaction to the appointment of a new Canadian foreign minister? Especially if that reaction was to claim Ottawa had decided to adopt an “America First” foreign policy? Wouldn’t some big newspaper or TV station, dedicated to telling the truth about what our governments, corporations and other institutions are doing, find it noteworthy enough to report the existence of an embassy memo claiming Justin Trudeau appointed Chrystia Freeland foreign minister in order to promote the interests of President Donald Trump?

Surprise, surprise, no!

The reason? The best this long-time observer of Canadian foreign policy can come up with? Embarrassment.

At the start of the month Communist Party researcher Jay Watts disclosed a dispatch from the US embassy in Ottawa to the State Department in Washington entitled “Canada Adopts ‘America First’ Foreign Policy.” Uncovered through a freedom of information request, the largely redacted cable also notes that Justin Trudeau’s government would be “Prioritizing U.S. Relations, ASAP.”

The March 2017 cable was authored just weeks after Freeland was appointed foreign affairs minister. US officials concluded that Trudeau promoted Freeland “in large part because of her strong U.S. contacts” and that her “number one priority” was working closely with Washington.

The Grayzone’s Ben Norton wrote an article based on the cable. Appropriately, the New York based journalist linked the memo to Canadian policy on Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Nicaragua, Iran and elsewhere. A number of left-wing websites reposted Norton’s article and RT International invited me on to discuss the memo, but there was no other mention of the dispatch .

While the blackout was media wide, most striking was the lack of reaction by one of the most left-wing commentators afforded space in a corporate daily. In December Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick described Freeland as “likely winner of Canadian of the Year, should that prize exist.” In a number of previous columns she called Freeland “Canada’s famously feminist Foreign Minister”, a “brilliant and wonderful Liberal candidate” and lauded “a stark, extraordinary speech [Freeland delivered] in Washington on Wednesday after receiving a diplomat of the year award at the Foreign Policy forum.”

While she praises Freeland, Mallick is hostile to Donald Trump. I emailed Mallick to ask if she’d seen the cable, whether she planned to write about it and if she considered it ironic that US officials thought her “Canadian of the Year” was pursuing an ‘America First’ policy. She didn’t respond to two emails, but on Tuesday she praised Freeland again.

Clearly the media establishment understands that covering the memo would embarrass Freeland and the broader foreign policy establishment. Most Canadians don’t want Ottawa following US policy, particularly with a widely disliked individual as president.

For Freeland and the foreign policy power structure there are few ways to discuss a relatively straightforward memo that would not embarrass them and reveal the lie at the heart of the ‘Canada is a force for good’ mythology that is this country’s foreign policy self-image. So the best tactic is to take no notice.

But that’s not the case with many other international issues in which Ottawa is pursuing aggressive, inhumane, policy. In the case of Venezuela, for instance, the media can detail important elements of Canada’s campaign to oust the government since they’ve spent years demonizing it. In fact, Canada’s naked imperialism in Venezuela is often portrayed as benevolence!

While the dearth of coverage of the ‘America first’ Canadian foreign policy memo is outrageous, it isn’t surprising. In A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation I detail extreme media bias in favor of power on topics ranging from Palestine to East Timor, investment agreements to the mining industry. The suppression of critical information regarding Canada’s role in Haiti over the past decade and a half is particularly stark. Below are three examples:

  • On Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2003, Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government organized an international gathering to consider overthrowing Haiti’s government. At the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” Canadian, French and US officials discussed ousting elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, putting Haiti under UN trusteeship and re-creating the disbanded Haitian army. A year later the US, France and Canada invaded Haiti to overthrow Aristide’s government. Still, the dominant media all but ignored the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti”, even though information about it is easily accessible online and solidarity activists across the country referenced it repeatedly. A Canadian Newsstand search found not one single English-language report about the meeting (except for mentions of it by me and two other Haiti solidarity activists in opinion pieces).
  • The media largely refused to print or broadcast a 2011 Canadian Press story demonstrating that Ottawa militarized its response to the horrible 2010 earthquake to control Haiti’s traumatized and suffering population. According to an internal file the Canadian Press uncovered through an access to information request, Canadian officials worried that “political fragility has increased the risks of a popular uprising, and has fed the rumour that ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, currently in exile in South Africa, wants to organize a return to power.” The government documents also explain the importance of strengthening the Haitian authorities’ ability “to contain the risks of a popular uprising.” While 2,000 Canadian troops were deployed (alongside 10,000 US soldiers), a half-dozen Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Teams in cities across the country were readied but never sent.
  • On February 15, 2019, the Haiti Information Project photographed heavily-armed Canadian troops patrolling the Port-au-Prince airport in the midst of a general strike calling for the president to resign. I wrote a story about the deployment, wondering what they were doing in the country (The Haiti Information Project suggested they may have helped family members of President Jovenel Moïse’s unpopular government flee the country.) I was in contact with reporters at the Ottawa Citizen and National Post about the photos, but no media reported the Canadian special forces presence in Haiti.

The dominant media’s coverage of Canadian foreign policy is heavily biased in favor of power. It highlights the importance of following, sharing, contributing to and funding left and independent media.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Haiti, Justin Trudeau

Trudeau government squeezes Cuba

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Chrystia Freeland and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez

Ottawa faces a dilemma. How far are Trudeau’s Liberals prepared to go in squeezing Cuba? Can Canadian corporations with interests on the island restrain the most pro-US, anti-socialist, elements of the ruling class?

Recently, the Canadian Embassy in Havana closed its Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship section. Now most Cubans wanting to visit Canada or get work/study permits will have to travel to a Canadian embassy in another country to submit their documents. In some cases Cubans will have to travel to another country at least twice to submit information to enter Canada. The draconian measure has already undercut cultural exchange and family visits, as described in a Toronto Star op-ed titled “Canada closes a door on Cuban culture”.

It’s rare for an embassy to simply eliminate visa processing, but what’s prompted this measure is the stuff of science fiction. Canada’s embassy staff was cut in half in January after diplomats became ill following a mysterious ailment that felled US diplomats sent to Cuba after Donald Trump’s election. Four months after the first US diplomats (apparently) became ill US ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis met his Canadian, British and French counterparts to ask if any of their staff were sick. According to a recent New York Times Magazine story, “none knew of any similar experiences afflicting their officials in Cuba. But after the Canadian ambassador notified his staff, 27 officials and family members there asked to be tested. Twelve were found to be suffering from a variety of symptoms, similar to those experienced by the Americans.”

With theories ranging from “mass hysteria” to the sounds of “Indies short-tailed crickets” to an “outbreak of functional disorders”, the medical questions remains largely unresolved. The politics of the affair are far clearer. In response, the Trump Administration withdrew most of its embassy staff in Havana and expelled Cuban diplomats from Washington. They’ve rolled back measures the Obama Administration instituted to re-engage with Cuba and recently implemented an extreme measure even the George W. Bush administration shied away from.

Ottawa has followed along partly because it’s committed to overthrowing Venezuela’s government and an important talking point of the anti-Nicolás Maduro coalition is that Havana is propping him up. On May 3 Justin Trudeau called Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel to pressure him to join Ottawa’s effort to oust President Maduro. The release noted, “the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Lima Group [of countries hostile to Maduro], underscored the desire to see free and fair elections and the constitution upheld in Venezuela.” Four days later Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland added to the diplomatic pressure on Havana. She told reporters, “Cuba needs to not be part of the problem in Venezuela, but become part of the solution.” A week later Freeland visited Cuba to discuss Venezuela.

On Tuesday Freeland talked with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Venezuela and Cuba. Afterwards the State Department tweeted, “Secretary Pompeo spoke with Canada’s Foreign Minister Freeland to discuss ongoing efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela. The Secretary and Foreign Minister agreed to continue working together to press the Cuban regime to provide for a democratic and prosperous future for the people of Cuba.”

Ottawa supports putting pressure on Cuba in the hopes of further isolating/demonizing the Maduro government. But, the Trudeau government is simultaneously uncomfortable with how the US campaign against Cuba threatens the interests of some Canadian-owned businesses.

The other subject atop the agenda when Freeland traveled to Havana was Washington’s decision to allow lawsuits for property confiscated after the 1959 Cuban revolution. The Trump Administration recently activated a section of the Helms-Burton Act that permits Cubans and US citizens to sue foreign companies doing business in Cuba over property nationalized decades ago. The move could trigger billions of dollars in legal claims in US courts against Canadian and European businesses operating on the island.

Obviously, Canadian firms that extract Cuban minerals and deliver over a million vacationers to the Caribbean country each year don’t want to be sued in US courts. They want Ottawa’s backing, but the Trudeau government’s response to Washington’s move has been relatively muted. This speaks to Trudeau/Freeland’s commitment to overthrowing Venezuela’s government.

But, it also reflects the broader history of Canada-Cuba ties. Despite the hullabaloo around Ottawa’s seemingly cordial relations with Havana, the reality is more complicated than often presented. Similar to Venezuela today, Ottawa has previously aligned with US fear-mongering about the “Cuban menace” in Latin America and elsewhere. Even Prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who famously declared “viva Castro” during a trip to that country in 1976, denounced (highly altruistic) Cuban efforts to defend newly independent Angola from apartheid South Africa’s invasion. In response, Trudeau stated, “Canada disapproves with horror [of] participation of Cuban troops in Africa” and later terminated the Canadian International Development Agency’s small aid program in Cuba as a result.

After the 1959 Cuban revolution Ottawa never broke off diplomatic relations, even though most other countries in the hemisphere did. Three Nights in Havana explains part of why Ottawa maintained diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba: “Recently declassified State Department documents have revealed that, far from encouraging Canada to support the embargo, the United States secretly urged Diefenbaker to maintain normal relations because it was thought that Canada would be well positioned to gather intelligence on the island.” Washington was okay with Canada’s continued relations with the island. It simply wanted assurances, which were promptly given, that Canada wouldn’t take over the trade the US lost. For their part, Canadian business interests in the country, which were sizable, were generally less hostile to the revolution since they were mostly compensated when their operations were nationalized. Still, the more ideological elements of corporate Canada have always preferred the Cuban model didn’t exist.

If a Canadian company is sued in the US for operating in Cuba Ottawa will face greater pressure to push back on Washington. If simultaneously the Venezuelan government remains, Ottawa’s ability to sustain its position against Cuba and Venezuela is likely to become even more difficult.

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Trudeau continues push to overthrow Venezuela’s government

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to overthrow the elected government of Venezuela, but seems happy with repressive monarchies in Middle East.

The effort Justin Trudeau is putting into overthrowing Venezuela’s government is remarkable.

During the past 12 days the prime minister has raised the issue separately with the leaders of the EU, Spain, Japan and Cuba.On Tuesday Trudeau had a phone conversation with European Council President Donald Tusk focused almost entirely on Venezuela, according to the communiqué.“Prime Minister Trudeau reiterated his support for Interim President Juan Guaidó”, it noted.

The next day Trudeau talked to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez about ousting president Nicolás Maduro. Venezuela is the only subject mentioned in the official release about the call.

Venezuela was also on the agenda during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Ottawa on April 28. The post meeting release noted, “during the visit, Prime Minister Abe announced Japan’s endorsement of the Ottawa Declaration on Venezuela.” Produced at an early February meeting of the “Lima Group” of governments opposed to Maduro, the “Ottawa Declaration” called on Venezuela’s armed forces “to demonstrate their loyalty to the interim president” and remove the elected president.

On May 3 Trudeau called Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel to pressure him to join Ottawa’s effort to oust Maduro. The release noted, “the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Lima Group, underscored the desire to see free and fair elections and the constitution upheld in Venezuela.”

Four days later foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland added to the diplomatic pressure on Havana. She told reporters, “Cuba needs to not be part of the problem in Venezuela, but become part of the solution.”

Freeland was highly active after Guaidó, Leopoldo Lopez and others sought to stoke a military uprising in Caracas on April 30. Hours into the early morning effort Freeland tweeted, “watching events today in Venezuela very closely. The safety and security of Juan Guaido and Leopoldo López must be guaranteed. Venezuelans who peacefully support Interim President Guaido must do so without fear of intimidation or violence.” She followed that up with a statement to the press noting, “Venezuelans are in the streets today demonstrating their desire for a return to democracy even in the face of a violent crackdown. Canada commends their courage and we call on the Maduro regime to step aside now.” Then Freeland put out a video calling on Venezuelans to rise up and requested an emergency video conference meeting of the Lima Group. Later that evening the coalition issued a statement labeling the attempted putsch an effort “to restore democracy” and demanded the military “cease being instruments of the illegitimate regime for the oppression of the Venezuelan people.”

Three days later Freeland attended an emergency meeting of the Lima Group in Peru. The coalition released a communique after that get together accusing Maduro’s government of protecting “terrorist groups” in Colombia.

At another Lima Group meeting in Chile on April 15 Freeland announced the fourth round of Canadian sanctions against Venezuelan officials. Forty-three individuals were added to the list of 70 leaders Canada had already sanctioned. CBC reported that the latest round of (illegal) sanctions were designed to “punish Venezuelan judges who rubber-stamped Maduro’s moves” and “lower-ranking police officials who took prominent roles in suppressing the attempt by Venezuela’s opposition to bring humanitarian aid into the country on February 23.”

The Venezuelan government responded to Canadian sanctions by denouncing Ottawa’s “alliance with war criminals that have declared their intention to destroy the Venezuelan economy to inflict suffering on the people and loot the country’s riches.” A recent Center for Economic and Policy Research report gives credence to this perspective. Written by Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela” concluded that 40,000 Venezuelans may have died over the past two years as a result of US sanctions.

The Liberals want us to believe their campaign to oust Venezuela’s government is motivated by support for democracy and human rights. Yet in recent weeks the Trudeau government has deepened ties to repressive Middle East monarchies, gutted its promise to rein in international abuses by Canadian mining companies’ and justified Israeli violence against those living in the open-air prison known as the Gaza Strip.

Last month members of Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix interrupted a speech by Freeland at the University of Montréal to criticize Canada’s policy towards Venezuela. Activists should be disrupting Freeland and other Liberal MPs public events across the country to demand an end to their effort to overthrow the government of Venezuela.

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Step aside USA, Canada is the new bully in our South American ‘backyard’

Is this the new face of the Ugly Canadian?
Photo by G20 Argentina

Many Canadians are familiar with the Monroe Doctrine. First issued by the United States in 1823, it warned European powers against renewed colonization of the Western Hemisphere. Presented as anti-imperialist, the Monroe Doctrine was later used to justify US interference in regional affairs.

We may be seeing the development of a Canadian equivalent. The ‘Trudeau Doctrine’ claims to support a “rules-based order”, the “constitution” and regional diplomacy independent of the US. But, history is likely to judge the rhetoric of the Trudeau Doctrine as little more than a mask for aggressive interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation.

For two years Canada’s Prime Minister has been conspiring with Juan Guaidó’s hardline Voluntad Popular party to oust the government of Nicolas Maduro. In May 2017 Trudeau met Lilian Tintori, wife of Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo López. The Guardian recently reported on Tintori’s role in building international support for the slow-motion coup attempt currently underway in Venezuela. Tintori acted as an emissary for Lopez who couldn’t travel to Ottawa because he was convicted of inciting violence during the “guarimbas” protests in 2014. According to a series of reports, Lopez is the key Venezuelan organizer of the plan to anoint Guaidó interim president. Canadian diplomats spent “months”, reports the Canadian Press, coordinating the plan with the hard-line opposition. In a story titled “Anti-Maduro coalition grew from secret talks”, the Associated Press reported on Canada’s “key role” in building international diplomatic support for claiming the head of the national assembly was president. This included Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaking to Guaidó “the night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony to offer her government’s support should he confront the socialist leader.”

Just before the recent Lima Group meeting in Ottawa Trudeau spoke with Guaidó and at the meeting of countries opposed to Venezuela’s president he announced that Canada officially recognized Guaido’s representative to Canada, Orlando Viera Blanco, as ambassador. The PM has called the leaders of France, Spain, Paraguay, Ireland, Colombia and Italy as well as the International Monetary Fund and European Union to convince them to join Canada’s campaign against Venezuela. “The international community must immediately unite behind the interim president”, Trudeau declared at the opening of the Lima Group meeting in Ottawa.

At the UN General Assembly in September Canada announced it (with five South American nations) would ask the International Criminal Court to investigate the Venezuelan government, which is the first time a government has been formally brought before the tribunal by another member. Trudeau portrayed this move as a challenge to the Trump administration’s hostility to the court and described the ICC as a “useful and important way of promoting an international rules-based order.” In other words, Trudeau would challenge Washington by showing Trump how the “international rules-based” ICC could undermine a government the US was seeking to overthrow through unilateral sanctions, support for the opposition and threatening an invasion, which all contravene the UN Charter.

While Trudeau claims to support an “international rules-based order”, his government has adopted three rounds of illegal sanctions against Venezuela. It has also openly interfered in the country’s affairs, which violates the UN and OAS charters.

The Trudeau Doctrine emphasizes its interpretation of Venezuela’s constitution. On a whole series of platforms the Prime Minister has cited “the need to respect the Venezuelan Constitution”, even responding to someone who yelled “hands off Venezuela” at a town hall by lecturing the audience on article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution, which he claims makes the head of the National Assembly president. It doesn’t.

More fundamental to the Trudeau Doctrine is the mirage of a regional coalition independent of the regional hegemon – the United States.

Ottawa founded the anti-Maduro Lima Group coalition with Peru. Amidst discussions between the two countries foreign ministers in Spring 2017, Trudeau called his Peruvian counterpart, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, to “‎stress the need for dialogue and respect for the democratic rights of Venezuelan citizens, as enshrined in the charter of the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Democratic Charter.” But the Lima Group was established as a structure outside of the OAS largely because that organization’s members refused to back Washington and Ottawa’s bid to interfere in Venezuelan affairs, which they believe defy the OAS’ charter.

While many liberal Canadian commentators promote the idea that the Lima Group operates independently of Washington, their US counterparts are not deceived. In a story titled “Intervening Against Venezuela’s Strongman, Trump Belies ‘America First’” the New York Times described US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s influence over the Lima Group declaration of January 4 that rejected Maduro’s presidency. The paper reported that Pompeo is in “close contact with” Freeland “who has played a leading role in rallying global criticism of Mr. Maduro.”

The claim the Lima Group is independent of Washington conjures up a story Jean Chrétien recounts telling US President Bill Clinton in My Years as Prime Minister: “Keeping some distance will be good for both of us. If we look as though we’re the fifty-first state of the United States, there’s nothing we can do for you internationally, just as the governor of a state can’t do anything for you internationally. But if we look independent enough, we can do things for you that even the CIA cannot do.”

While currently focused on Venezuela, the nascent Trudeau Doctrine has wider regional implications. Freeland has justified Canada’s aggressive interference in Venezuela’s affairs by saying “this is our neighbourhood” while Trudeau’s personal representative for the G7 Summits and recent appointee to the Senate, Peter Boehm told CBC, “this is our backyard, the Western hemisphere. We have a role here.”

Describing Latin America as “our backyard” is the language favoured by so-called Ugly American politicians seeking to assert the Monroe Doctrine. Latin Americans should beware of the emergence of Ugly Canadians promoting the Trudeau Doctrine.

On February 23 protests are planned in Canada and around the world calling for “No War on Venezuela!”

This article first appeared in Canadian Dimension

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Uncategorized

Mainstream media boosts Trudeau’s popularity over Venezuela

US presidents have bombed or invaded places like Grenada, Panama, Iraq and Sudan to distract from domestic scandals or to gain a quick boost in popularity. But, do Canadian politicians also pursue regime change abroad to be cheered on by the dominant media as decisive leaders?

In a discussion on regime change in Venezuela after last Monday’s “Lima Group” meeting in Ottawa, Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole praised Canadian policy but added that the Liberals used the meeting of countries opposed to Nicolas Maduro’s government to drown out criticism of their foreign policy. O’Toole claimed the “Lima Group” meeting was “put together quite quickly and I think there are some politics behind that with some of the foreign affairs challenges the Trudeau government has been having in recent months.” In other words, O’Toole believes the Liberals organized a gathering that concluded with a call for the military to oust Venezuela’s elected president to appear like effective international players.

Understood within the broader corporate and geopolitical context, O’Toole’s assessment appears reasonable. After being criticized for its China policy, the Liberals have been widely praised for their regime change efforts in Venezuela. In a sign of media cheerleading, CTV News host Don Martin began his post “Lima Group” interview with foreign minister Chrystia Freeland by stating “the Lima summit has wrapped and the object of regime change is staying put for the time being” and then he asked her “is [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro any step closer to being kicked out of office as a result of this meeting today?” Later in the interview Martin applauded the “Lima Group’s” bid “to put the economic pincers around it [Venezuela’s economy] and choking it off from international transactions.”

In recent days Ben Rowswell, a former Canadian ambassador in Caracas, has been widely quoted praising the Liberals’ leadership on Venezuela. “It’s clear that the international community is paying attention to what Canada has to say about human rights and democracy,” Rowswell was quoted as saying in an article titled “Trudeau’s Venezuela diplomacy is a bright spot amid China furor”.

Rowswell heads the Canadian International Council, which seeks to “integrate business leaders with the best researchers and public policy leaders”, according to its billionaire financier Jim Balsillie. Long an influential voice on foreign policy, CIC hosted the above-mentioned forum with O’Toole that also included the Liberal’s junior foreign minister Andrew Leslie and NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière. CIC’s post “Lima Group” meeting forum was co-sponsored with the Canadian Council of the Americas, which is led by Kinross, Kinross, ScotiaBank, KPMG and SNC Lavalin. On the day of the “Lima Group” meeting CCA head Ken Frankel published an op-ed in the Globe and Mail headlined “Venezuela crisis will be a true test of Canada’s leadership in the hemisphere.” Frankel told CPAC he was “always supportive of Canadian leadership in the Hemisphere” and “the Venezuela situation has presented … a perfect opportunity for the Trudeau government to showcase the principles of its foreign policy.”

At the CCA/CIC forum Laverdière made it clear there’s little official political opposition to Ottawa’s regime change efforts. The NDP’s foreign critic agreed with Canada’s recognition of Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela, as she did on Twitter, at a press scrum and on CPAC during the day of the “Lima Group” meeting in Ottawa. (Amidst criticism from NDP activists, party leader Jagmeet Singh later equivocated on explicitly recognizing Guaidó.)

With the NDP, Conservatives, CIC, CCA, most media, etc. supporting regime change in Venezuela, there is little downside for the Liberals to push an issue they believe boosts their international brand. To get a sense of their brashness, the day of the “Lima Group” meeting the iconic CN Tower in Toronto was lit up with the colours of the Venezuelan flag. A tweet from Global Affairs Canada explained, “As the sun sets on today’s historic Lima Group meeting, Venezuela’s colours shine bright on Canada’s CN Tower to show our support for the people of Venezuela and their fight for democracy.”

The Liberals drive for regime change in Venezuela to mask other foreign-policy problem is reminiscent of Stephen Harper’s push to bomb Libya. Facing criticism for weakening Canada’s moral reputation and failing to win a seat on the UN Security Council, a Canadian general oversaw NATO’s war, seven  CF-18s participated in bombing runs and two Royal Canadian Navy vessels patrolled Libya’s coast.

The mission, which began six weeks before the 2011 federal election, may have helped the Conservatives win a majority government. At the time Postmedia published a story titled “Libya ‘photo op’ gives Harper advantage: experts” and Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom published a commentary titled “Libyan war could be a winner for Harper”.  He wrote: “War fits with the Conservative storyline of Harper as a strong, decisive leader. War against a notorious villain contradicts opposition charges of Conservative moral bankruptcy. The inevitable media stories of brave Canadian pilots and grateful Libyan rebels can only distract attention from the Conservative government’s real failings.”

Similar to Venezuela today, the regime change effort in Libya was unanimously endorsed in Parliament (three months into the bombing campaign Green Party MP Elizabeth May voted against a second resolution endorsing a continuation of the war). “It’s appropriate for Canada to be a part of this effort to try to stop Gadhafi from attacking his citizens as he has been threatening to do,’’ said NDP leader Jack Layton. After Moammar Gaddafi was savagely killed six months later, NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel released a statement noting, “the future of Libya now belongs to all Libyans. Our troops have done a wonderful job in Libya over the past few months.”

Emboldened by the opposition parties, the Conservatives organized a nationally televised post-war celebration for Canada’s “military heroes”, which included flyovers from a dozen military aircraft. Calling it “a day of honour”, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the 300 military personnel brought in from four bases: “We are celebrating a great military success.”

Today Libya is, of course, a disaster. It is still divided into various warring factions and hundreds of militias operate in the country of six million.

But who in Canada ever paid a political price for the destruction of that country and resulting destabilization of much of the Sahel region of Africa?

A similar scenario could develop in Venezuela. Canadian politicians’ push for the military to remove the president could easily slide into civil war and pave the way to a foreign invasion that leads to a humanitarian calamity. If that happened, Canadian politicians, as in Libya, would simply wash their hands of the intervention.

Canadians need to reflect on a political culture in which governing parties encourage regime change abroad with an eye to their domestic standing.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Playing Left Wing, Uncategorized