Tag Archives: Feminist International Assistance Policy

Trudeau’s fake feminist foreign policy targets progressives

Like a cereal company marketing sugar-covered GMO cornflakes as a “healthy breakfast”, Justin Trudeau’s government spouts progressive buzzwords that mask elitist, pro-corporate policies.

As part of their self-declared “feminist foreign policy” the Liberals established a Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), convened the first ever Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and appointed an Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security. Considered in isolation, each of these initiatives is praiseworthy. The problem is the government’s broader foreign policy is decidedly non-feminist and their ‘feminist’ marketing legitimates those policies.

For example, Honduras recently became the 50th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). As such, it will enter into force on January 22 for those nations that have adopted it. The Trudeau government opposed negotiating a treaty to abolish nuclear weapons, boycotted the conference where it was born and has steadfastly opposed signing the treaty. At the UN on Tuesday Canada voted against a resolution backed by 118 countries that reaffirmed support for the TPNW.

This is the opposite of a feminist foreign policy. In The Nation Ray Acheson, director of the disarmament program of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, wrote, “the TPNW is the first feminist law on nuclear weapons, recognizing the disproportionate impacts of nuclear weapons on women and girls and on Indigenous peoples, urging more equitable participation of women in disarmament, and mandating victim assistance and environmental remediation in relation to nuclear weapon use and testing.” Women exposed to nuclear radiation are significantly more likely to suffer deleterious health impacts than men.

Another example of Liberal hollow words: Bolivians recently defeated an elitist, Christian extremist, coup government. They did so through protests demanding an election and then a landslide victory at the polls. In the recent election women (mostly indigenous) won 57% of the seats in the Senate and 51% of the positions in the Chamber of Representatives. By way of comparison 29% of Canadian Members of Parliament are women.

From what I can tell the Trudeau government has remained silent on this feminist win. Understandably. Last year the Liberals backed the overthrow of the Bolivian government that adopted the legislative measures that greatly advanced women’s representation in politics.

The Liberals have also been seeking to oust a Nicaraguan government in which women hold more than half of all cabinet positions and 40 percent of the legislature. While seeking to get rid of leftist governments with stronger feminist credentials, Trudeau touts right-wing allies for being pro woman. In August 2018 the PM lauded extreme right Colombian president Ivan Duque for adopting “a gender-equal cabinet.” Over the past two years the number of women social movement leaders murdered has increased significantly at least partly because of Duque’s policies, notably his bid to scuttle the peace accord with the FARC rebels.

A number of repressive, elitist governments have claimed the feminist mantle to curry favour with Ottawa. When a parliamentary delegation led by Liberal MP Robert Oliphant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2018 the Egyptian president claimed his dictatorial regime promoted women’s rights. This hard-to-believe claim appeared in the delegation’s post trip report that whitewashed el-Sisi’s substantial repression.

In a similar vein, proposed Haitian Prime Minister Fritz William Michel presented a gender-balanced cabinet amidst massive protests in July 2019 calling for President Jovenel Moïse to go. Moïse’s appointee sought to align with a stated objective of his second most influential backer, which generated sympathetic Canadian headlines. 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 leader.

Taking the feminist justification for its support of the corrupt and repressive Haitian regime to an absurd extreme, the Trudeau government recently tendered a $12.5 million contract in operational support to the Haitian police under its Feminist International Assistance Policy! Haiti’s Canadian-trained and funded police force is what sustained Moïse as president while facing multiple general strikes between July 2018 and December 2019.

As the Liberals have touted their “feminist foreign policy,” they have also sold armoured vehicles to the Saudis and deepened ties to other misogynistic Gulf oil kingdoms. In another position hard to align with feminism, Canada was one of two countries to vote against a June 2019 United Nations 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.”

In a highly patriarchal and unequal world one cannot expect a government — even one, unlike the Liberals, genuinely committed to feminism — to be consistent on the subject. But, the Liberals have taken hypocrisy to new heights and this sort of fake feminist branding can weaken progressive resistance to reactionary policies, if people actually believe the marketing.

In fact, the FIAP was launched partly to dampen criticism of the dearth of aid spending at a time when they ramped up decidedly (patriarchal) military spending. The government launched their Feminist International Assistance Program two days before releasing their 2017 defence policy statement, which included a 70% increase in military spending over a decade. The FIAP didn’t include any new aid, which was at its lowest proportion of GDP in half a century. (As I’ve detailed, Canadian aid is far from as benevolent as often portrayed, but it’s preferable to military spending.) In “Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy: Bold Statement or Feminist Fig Leaf?” Stephen Brown and Liam Swiss write, “while the feminist aid policy will buttress the Liberal government’s feminist credentials, it will also provide a convenient fig leaf for the lack of political will to expand aid funding and decidedly un-feminist policies in other areas.”

The primary problem with the Liberals’ “feminist foreign policy” is not the specific initiatives or even the hypocritical double standards. It’s how the marketing drains all meaning from the word ‘feminist’ and sometimes succeeds in convincing progressives to support a foreign policy overwhelmingly driven by the US Empire and Canadian corporations.

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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

Trudeau ‘feminizes’ support for corrupt and repressive Haitian president

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Justin Trudeau and Jovenel Moïse

The Trudeau Liberals are attempting to “feminize” their support of an illegitimate government hated by the vast majority of Haitians. And Radio-Canada seems to have fallen for it.

After Radio-Canada published a story about nine of eighteen ministers in Jovenel Moïse’s newly proposed government being women, Haitian Canadian feminist Jennie-Laure Sully replied, “Haitians of all social classes have been demonstrating for more than a year demanding the resignation of the president and a change in the political system. But what does Radio-Canada talk about in this country? A cosmetic measure adopted by this fraudulently elected government accused of embezzlement and human rights violations. Gender parity in such conditions is a smokescreen (“poudre aux yeux”). Radio-Canada is doing identity politics of the lowest order while ignoring Canada’s role in maintaining corruption in Haiti.”

With little support among Haitians, Moïse needs good press in the two main countries sustaining his presidency. Recently he has been on a campaign to shore up his image in the US, publishing an op-ed in the Miami Herald and hiring a new Washington, DC, based lobbyist.

In presenting a gender balanced cabinet Moïse’s proposed Prime Minister, Fritz William Michel, deftly aligned with a stated foreign policy objective of Justin Trudeau. Along with praise for Moïse, Global Affairs Canada’s webpage about “Canada’s international assistance in Haiti” focusses on gender equity. At the top of the page, it lists a series of feminist goals under the heading of “To strengthen Haiti’s Government capacity to respond to gender equality issues.”

(In 2017 the Trudeau government launched a much-hyped Feminist International Assistance Policy, but their commitment to feminist internationalism is paper-thin. Since July 21, for instance, Ottawa joined Washington as the only country 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”; Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the misogynist UAE; the Trudeau government was criticized by the chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights Surya Deva for gutting their promise to rein in Canadian mining abuses abroad, which disproportionately affect women.)

Moïse has faced massive popular protests in recent months, including multiple general strikes. As I detail here and here, the only reason he remains in power is because of support from Washington, Ottawa and a number of other countries. Canada has provided financial, policing and diplomatic support to the unpopular government. In the latest indication of diplomatic backing, Canada’s ambassador in Port-au-Prince, André Frenette, met Moïse to discuss “bilateral cooperation” two weeks ago. The embassy also continues to support a police force responsible for countless abuses. On Sunday Global Affairs Canada’s Haïti account tweeted “congratulations” to police graduates who they trained in collaboration with the US.

On July 15 Solidarité Québec-Haïti #Petrochallenge 2019 activists interrupted a press conference by Minister of La Francophonie and Tourism Mélanie Joly to call on the Trudeau government to stop propping up a corrupt, illegitimate and murderous Haitian president. As this video shows, Joly was unable to respond to our simple question.

While the disruption was reported on by various media outlets, Radio Canada wasn’t interested. More than any other major media outlet, the French language public broadcaster has been the mouthpiece for Canadian imperialism in Haiti over the past 15 years. Unlike other outlets, Radio Canada covers Haitian affairs fairly regularly. But, it is almost entirely from the perspective of ‘Ottawa/Canada doing good’ in the impoverished nation.

Radio Canada largely failed to report on Canada’s role in planning the 2004 coup; destabilizing Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government; building a repressive Haitian police force; justifying politically motivated arrests and killings; militarizing post-earthquake disaster relief; pushing the exclusion of Haiti’s most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, from participating in elections.

When active with Haiti Action Montréal in the mid 2000s I experienced the politicized nature of the subject at Radio Canada. I called the news editor to inquire if they’d received our press release and instead of a yes/no we might/we can’t send anyone to cover the event that is usually part of this type of media outreach, the news editor somewhat angrily accused me of being an Aristide supporter, which was odd both because the event was focused on Canada’s role in Haiti and Aristide was elected by the country’s historically excluded.

In a 2008 article titled “Embedding CBC Reporters in Haiti’s Elitist Media” Richard Sanders describes Radio Canada’s participation in a Canadian government funded project to support media outlets that were part of L’Association Nationale des Médias Haïtiens (ANMH), which officially joined the Group of 184 that campaigned to oust Aristide. Sanders writes about Québec journalists sent to “train” Haitian reporters for a month, but who were in fact being “submerged in the propaganda campaigns of Haiti’s elite media.” Assistant program director for Radio Canada news, Guy Filion was one of the reporters who interned with ANMH. Even though ANMH outlets barred Haiti’s elected president from its airwaves in the lead-up to the coup, Filion described those who “formed the ANMH” as “pro-Haitian and they are pro neutral journalistic people … as much as it can be said in this country.” Filion also praised the media’s coverage of the 2006 election in which Aristide’s Lavalas was excluded. In a coded reference to Aristide supporters, Filion noted, “even thugs from [large slum neighbourhood] Cité Soleil were giving interviews on television!”

Radio-Canada’s reporting on gender parity in a proposed new government helps legitimate Trudeau’s support of Moïse. It puts a progressive veneer on a corrupt, repressive and unpopular president who is dependent upon Radio-Canada’s patron. It is yet another attempt to justify Canadian policy that sides with the interests of multinational corporations and a small elite over the needs of Haiti’s impoverished majority.

 

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti