Tag Archives: Dimitri Lascaris

Green leadership candidates to debate foreign policy

Debate is the lifeblood of democracy and a good one is fun to watch or listen to. Hopefully an upcoming Green Party debate will accomplish that while simultaneously strengthening progressives’ foreign policy expectations and infrastructure.

On September 10, Rabble and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute are organizing a Green Party leadership debate on “Canada’s Place in the World.” Moderated by journalist Judy Rebick, the event will allow people to “hear candidates’ views on Palestinian rights, Venezuela, NATO, the global climate crisis, as well as the international mining and arms industries. Candidates will also address the global pandemic, Donald Trump, tensions with China as well as the global struggle against anti-Blackness and Canada’s second consecutive failure to win a seat on the UN Security Council.”

The Greens, like other parties, generally treat foreign policy as an afterthought. There were two pages on international affairs at the end of their 82-page election platform last year. Of nine Green leadership candidates only Dimitri Lascaris, Andrew West and Amita Kuttner appear to have mentioned international affairs in their policy platforms.

When the Greens do engage on international issues, they are all over the place. Resolutions passed at conventions are generally pretty good and one of the three Green MPs, Paul Manly, has signed the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute’s call for a “fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy”, released following Canada’s second consecutive defeat in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Leadership front runner, Lascaris, has put forward a bold foreign policy platform that includes a call for Canada to withdraw from NATO and to reduce military spending by 50%. In 2011 outgoing Green leader Elizabeth May was the only MP to vote against Canada’s bombing of Libya.

But, May has also taken many pro-imperial positions. As I detailed a year ago in “Green leader May supports same old pro-imperialist foreign policies”, she’s lent her name to numerous initiatives targeting Iran and Venezuela organized by Irwin Cotler, a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes ‘enemy’ states while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US. Even if she’s come around somewhat on the subject, May forced a special party convention in 2016 because she refused to accept the clearly stated will of party members to support “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories].”

If politicians aren’t under constant pressure from social movements and progressive organizations they tend to follow the dominant media’s depiction of international affairs or gravitate towards individuals like Cotler, who no progressive should follow. In that sense May’s positions reflect the left’s failures as much as her own. If the left was as organized regarding international issues as on domestic affairs it’s unlikely she would have participated in Cotler’s press conferences targeting Venezuela and Iran.

The Rabble and Canadian Foreign Policy Institute leadership debate needs to be viewed within this optic. It’s about raising expectations and strengthening the Left’s foreign policy ecosystem.

Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East took a step in that direction. They recently surveyed the candidates on their Middle East policy. (Lascaris received top marks and Meryam Haddad was in second place while the top fundraiser in the leadership race, Annamie Paul, received bottom marks.)

The CJPME/IJV survey ups the left’s game on foreign policy. But this type of internationalist intervention needs to be adopted more broadly. It would be great if the newly formed Canadian Latin America Alliance had the resources to do a similar survey on Venezuela, Bolivia and Honduras or if Solidarity Québec Haiti could force the candidates to take a position on Canada’s role in Haiti (Lascaris participated in a discussion held by Solidarity Québec Haiti member Jean Saint-Vil). We also need groups hounding the candidates on Canada’s international mining behemoth, large government-backed arms export industry and the legality of Canadian sanctions.

Any individual seeking to lead a major political party should expect to be pressed to articulate their positions on Canada’s foreign policy. The Green leadership debate is an opportunity to ‘centre’ a left discussion of Canadian foreign policy.

Every progressive in this country should be eager to hear what the Green candidates have to say about “Canada’s place in the world”.

 

If you want to vote in the Green Party leadership election you have to become a member of the party by September 3.  It costs $10. 

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Liberals use RCMP in attempt to silence critics of their foreign policy

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RCMP agents removing Yves Engler from Transport Minister Marc Garneau press conference

On Tuesday two RCMP agents came to my house. Two large men in suits asked for me and when my partner said I wasn’t there they asked who she was.

Why didn’t they email or call me to talk or set up a meeting? If they have my address, the RCMP certainly has my email, Facebook, Skype or phone number. My partner asked for their badges, took their photo and asked them to leave the stairway they had entered.

They returned the next day. Not wanting to interact, my partner ignored them. They rang the doorbell multiple times over many minutes. After she saw people at the restaurant across the street wondering what was going on – from the ground you can see into the front of our place – she poked her head down the stairway where they caught her eye. They asked why I didn’t call even though they didn’t leave a number.

The visits are a transparent effort to intimidate me from directly challenging the government’s pro-corporate and pro-empire international policies.

The day before their first visit to my house two RCMP officers physically removed me from a press conference when I asked Transportation Minister Marc Garneau about Canadian arm sales to Saudi Arabia. When I sat down at an event that was already underway an officer took the seat next to me. When I began to ask a question at the end of the press conference he used the cover of private property to try to block me. On this video one can see the RCMP agent asking the building security twice if I’m welcome in the space. Deferring to police, the security guard tells him I’m not welcome. The RCMP agent, who doesn’t have the right to remove me from the room without a directive, then uses the authority derived from a representative of the building to physically eject me and threaten arrest.

Last Wednesday lawyer Dimitri Lascaris and I were blocked from a talk by the prime minister at the Bonaventure Hotel in a similar way. In my case an RCMP agent called out my name as I entered the hotel and then accompanied me in the elevator, through a long lobby and down an escalator to ‘introduce’ me to hotel security. The representative of the hotel then said I wasn’t welcome, which gave the officer the legal authority to ask me to leave. Lascaris details the incident in “The RCMP’s Speech Police Block Yves Engler and Me From Attending A Speech By Justin Trudeau.”

After starting to write this story, I was targeted by the RCMP for removal from a press conference by Justice Minister David Lametti. On Thursday, a Concordia University security guard, who I walked past to enter the room, came up to me 15 minutes later and asked for my press credentials. There were two dozen people in the room who didn’t have press credentials and the release for the event said nothing about needing them. The RCMP agent admitted that he asked Concordia security to approach me. He also said he was only there for the physical — not political — protection of the minister, but refused my suggestion that he and the Concordia security agents sit next/in front of me to ensure the minister’s physical safety.

(Here is the question I planned to ask the Justice Minister: “Minister Lametti you have an important decision to make in the coming days about whether you believe in international law and consumer rights. As you know the Federal Court recently ruled against your government’s decision to allow wines produced on illegal settlements in the West Bank to be labeled as ‘Products of Israel’. While anti-Palestinian groups are pressuring your government to appeal the decision, the NDP and Greens want you to stop wasting taxpayer money on this anti-Palestinian agenda. Will you commit to accepting the court’s sensible ruling that respects consumers, international law and Palestinian rights?”)

Over the past six months Lascaris, I and other members of Solidarité Québec-Haiti and Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix have interrupted a dozen speeches/press conferences by Liberal ministers/prime minister to question their anti-Palestinian positions, efforts to topple Venezuela’s government, support for a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president, etc. We are open about our actions and intentions, as you can read in this commentary. We film the interruptions and post them online. (If any illegal act were committed the RCMP could easily find all they need to charge me on my Facebook page!) The interruptions usually last no more than a couple of minutes. No politician has been stopped from speaking, let alone threatened or touched.

Did the RCMP receive a directive from a minister to put a stop to our challenging their policies? The federal election is on the horizon and government officials will increasingly be in public. The Trudeau government is playing up its ‘progressive’ credentials, but the interventions highlight how on one international policy after another the Liberals have sided with corporations and empire.

From the government’s perspective, having their PR announcements disrupted is a headache, but that’s democracy. The right to protest, to question, to challenge policies outweighs politicians’ comfort.

 

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