Tag Archives: foreign affairs

Ottawa helped overthrow Africa’s most popular leader

A half-century and one year ago today Canada helped overthrow a leading pan Africanist president. Ghana’s Canadian-trained army overthrew Kwame Nkrumah, a leader dubbed “Man of the Millennium” in a 2000 poll by BBC listeners in Africa.

Washington, together with London, backed the coup. Lester Pearson’s government also gave its blessing to Nkrumah’s ouster. In The Deceptive Ash: Bilingualism and Canadian Policy in Africa: 1957-1971, John P. Schlegel writes: “the Western orientation and the more liberal approach of the new military government was welcomed by Canada.”

The day Nkrumah was overthrown the Canadian prime minister was asked in the House of Commons his opinion about this development. Pearson said nothing of substance on the matter. The next day External Affairs Minister Paul Martin Sr. responded to questions about Canada’s military training in Ghana, saying there was no change in instructions. In response to an MP’s question about recognizing the military government, Martin said: “In many cases recognition is accorded automatically. In respective cases such as that which occurred in Ghana yesterday, the practice is developing of carrying on with the government which has taken over, but according no formal act until some interval has elapsed. We shall carry on with the present arrangement for Ghana. Whether there will be any formal act will depend on information which is not now before us.”

While Martin and Pearson were measured in public, the Canadian high commissioner in Accra, C.E. McGaughey, was not. In an internal memo to External Affairs just after Nkrumah was overthrown, McGaughey wrote “a wonderful thing has happened for the West in Ghana and Canada has played a worthy part.” Referring to the coup, the high commissioner added “all here welcome this development except party functionaries and communist diplomatic missions.” He then applauded the Ghanaian military for having “thrown the Russian and Chinese rascals out.”

Less than two weeks after the coup, the Pearson government informed the military junta that Canada intended to carry on normal relations. In the immediate aftermath of Nkrumah’s overthrow, Canada sent $1.82 million ($15 million today) worth of flour to Ghana and offered the military regime a hundred CUSO volunteers. For its part, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which had previously severed financial assistance to Nkrumah’s government, engaged immediately after the coup by restructuring Ghana’s debt.

Canada’s contribution was an outright gift. During the three years between 1966 and 1969 the National Liberation Council military regime, received as much Canadian aid as during Nkrumah’s ten years in office with $22 million in grants and loans. Ottawa was the fourth major donor after the US, UK and UN.

Two months after Nkrumah’s ouster the Canadian high commissioner in Ghana wrote to Montréal-based de Havilland Aircraft with a request to secure parts for Ghana’s Air Force. Worried Nkrumah might attempt a counter coup, the Air Force sought parts for non-operational aircraft in the event it needed to deploy its forces.

Six months after overthrowing Nkrumah, the country’s new leader, General Joseph Ankrah, made an official visit to Ottawa as part of a trip that also took him through London and Washington.

On top of diplomatic and economic support for Nkrumah’s ouster, Canada provided military training. Schlegel described the military government as a “product of this military training program.” A Canadian major who was a training advisor to the commander of a Ghanaian infantry brigade discovered preparations for the coup the day before its execution. Bob Edwards said nothing. After Nkrumah’s removal the Canadian high commissioner boasted about the effectiveness of Canada’s Junior Staff Officers training program at the Ghanaian Defence College. Writing to the Canadian under secretary of external affairs, McGaughey noted, “All the chief participants of the coup were graduates of this course.”

After independence Ghana’s army remained British dominated. The colonial era British generals were still in place and the majority of Ghana’s officers continued to be trained in Britain. In response to a number of embarrassing incidents, Nkrumah released the British commanders in September 1961. It was at this point that Canada began training Ghana’s military.

While Canadians organized and oversaw the Junior Staff Officers course, a number of Canadians took up top positions in the Ghanaian Ministry of Defence. In the words of Canada’s military attaché to Ghana, Colonel Desmond Deane-Freeman, the Canadians in these positions imparted “our way of thinking”.

Celebrating the influence of “our way of thinking”, in 1965 High Commissioner McGaughey wrote the under secretary of external affairs: “Since independence, it [Ghana’s military] has changed in outlook, perhaps less than any other institution. It is still equipped with Western arms and although essentially non-political, is Western oriented.”

Not everyone was happy with the military’s attitude or Canada’s role therein. A year after Nkrumah’s ouster, McGaughey wrote Ottawa: “For some African and Asian diplomats stationed in Accra, I gather that there is a tendency to identify our aid policies particularly where military assistance is concerned with the aims of American and British policies. American and British objectives are unfortunately not regarded by such observers as being above criticism or suspicion.” Thomas Howell and Jeffrey Rajasooria echo the high commissioner’s assessment in their book Ghana and Nkrumah: “Members of the ruling CPP tended to identify Canadian aid policies, especially in defence areas, with the aims of the U.S. and Britain. Opponents of the Canadian military program went so far as to create a countervailing force in the form of the Soviet equipped, pro-communist President’s Own Guard Regiment [POGR]. The coup on 24 February 1966 which ousted Kwame Krumah and the CPP was partially rooted in this divergence of military loyalty.”

The POGR became a “direct and potentially potent rival” to the Canadian-trained army, notes Christopher Kilford in The Other Cold War: Canada’s Military Assistance to the Developing World, 1945-1975. Even once Canadian officials in Ottawa “well understood” Canada’s significant role in the internal military battle developing in Ghana, writes Kilford, “there was never any serious discussion around withdrawing the Canadian training team.”

As the 1960s wore on Nkrumah’s government became increasingly critical of London and Washington’s support for the white minority in southern Africa. Ottawa had little sympathy for Nkrumah’s pan-African ideals and so it made little sense to continue training the Ghanaian Army if it was, in Kilford’s words, to “be used to further Nkrumah’s political aims”. Kilford continued his thought, stating: “that is unless the Canadian government believed that in time a well-trained, professional Ghana Army might soon remove Nkrumah.”

During a visit to Ghana in 2012 former Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean laid a wreath on Nkrumah’s tomb. But, in commemorating this leading pan-Africanist, she failed to acknowledge the role her country played in his downfall.

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Capitalism underpins Canada’s relationship with Cuba

Has Canada been a “friend” to Cuba?

While Ottawa’s position towards Fidel Castro’s Cuba was far more progressive than our southern neighbour’s, the story is more complicated than liberals are likely to suggest in their commentary over Castro’s passing.

Canada did not play a central role in U.S. efforts to squash the social reforms and independence of the island nation. Rather than participate in hundreds of CIA assassination attempts on the life of Fidel, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared “Viva Castro” during an official trip to Cuba in 1976. But, there’s a little-known unsavory side to Canadian relations with Cuba.

Business is business seems to be Canada’s slogan for relations with Cuba from the U.S. occupation in 1898 through the dictator Batista to Castro’s revolution in 1959.  In 1900 the Canadian Journal of Commerce noted: “Canadian capital and clearer northern brains” were turning Cuba into a “modern hive of industry.” A few months after the U.S. began its 1898-1902 occupation the Royal Bank opened its first branch in Havana. According to one bank history: “[Royal Bank] General Manager, Mr. E.L. Pease, took a quick trip to Cuba at the end of the Spanish-American War and got in on the ground floor of banking there; his American friends, who put capital into the bank, helped him to expand there. (The bank was appointed agent for the payment of claims of the Army of Liberation.)” Before his trip to Havana Pease asked Henry White of New York’s Chase National to “smooth the way through the American authorities.” And once in that beautiful city Pease befriended U.S. Consul Joseph Springer, who indicated that the U.S. planned to reform Cuba’s financial sector. (It was relatively easy for the Royal to get priority of place because, until 1914, national U.S. banks were forbidden from establishing foreign branches.)

The Canadian bankers saw themselves as American and after the U.S. occupation formally ended they felt covered by the protective umbrella of the Platt amendment. (Inserted into the Cuban constitution by Washington, the Platt amendment gave the U.S. the right to intervene on the island whenever necessary). “The United States authorities have the affairs of the Island well in hand at the present time,” Pease told the Financial Post in 1907. Royal Bank branches sprouted up across the island, usually along the newly built railroad through central Cuba. “The bank consciously established its branches wherever it could facilitate the spread of foreign investment entering Cuba.” The Royal Bank’s best customer was Canadian businessman William Van Horne’s Cuba Company and its offspring, the Cuba Railroad. Famous for his role in constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway, Van Horne “took advantage of Spain’s defeat and his influence in U.S. financial circles to start building a trans-island railway before any government had the power to stop him.” Van Horne had two U.S. generals sit on the company’s board and “land for the railroad was not purchased, but seized by the [U.S. military].” Van Horne also benefited from Cuba’s postwar railway law. He and a colleague wrote it. The Cuban railway was completed in 1902 and Van Horne proceeded to purchase tramways and sugar mills on the island.

With a wave of foreign investment into Cuba, business was good for the Royal Bank. By the mid-1920s, the Royal had 65 branches in the country. Popularly known as “Banco de Canada” during this period, “the Canadian bank acted as Cuba’s de facto central banker.” A quarter century later, Canadian banks still controlled 28 percent of total deposits in commercial Cuban banks. U.S. interests controlled 36 percent and Cuban interests 35 percent. Beyond banking, Canadian insurance companies sold two-thirds of the country’s total annual premiums in the mid-1950s, while the Cuban- Canadian sugar company owned 66,000 acres and 2,720 head of cattle. Another Canadian-owned ranch covered 75,000 acres and the Canada- Cuba Land and Fruit Company ran 100 tobacco plantations.

“Since Canada’s ties with Cuba are primarily commercial,” External Affairs advised the Canadian ambassador to Cuba in March 1949 that his two “main duties” were to defend Canadian commercial interests and increase trade opportunities on the island. Ottawa’s focus on Canadian commercial interests helps explain the embassy’s attitude to the pro-capitalist dictator, General Fulgencio Batista. Twenty months before the brutal despot was overthrown, the Canadian ambassador said Batista was “still the best hope for the future” because he “has offered the stability demanded by foreign investors.” A year earlier the Canadian ambassador said “the benevolence of President Batista is not to be questioned. He may be lining his pockets at Cuba’s expense but it is traditional for Cuban Presidents to do so and it is in part made necessary by the uncertainty of political life here. But as a dictator he is a failure, if the standard is Hitler or Mussolini. Public protests against the regime are possible; an opposition is in existence and is weak only because of fundamental weaknesses in the personalities of the opposition.”

After Batista’s downfall in January 1959 the new government tried to gain greater control over the economy. Among other steps, U.S. banks were nationalized without compensation. Canadian banks were also nationalized, but more amicably — with compensation. In response to these moves by the new Cuban government, U.S. hostility rose and Uncle Sam eventually cut off trade and diplomatic relations with the country. The U.S. also supported an invasion of Cuba, which Ottawa endorsed. Just days after the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker claimed Castro was a threat to the security of the hemisphere.  On April 19, 1961, he told the House of Commons that events in Cuba were “manifestations of a dictatorship which is abhorrent to free men everywhere.”

Despite tacit support for U.S. actions against Cuba Ottawa never broke off diplomatic relations, even though most other countries in the hemisphere did. Three Nights in Havana explains 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 U.S. lost.

Ottawa has not let Washington down in regards to intelligence gathering. For nearly half a century Canada has spied on Cuba. Since the start of the 1960s the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), an intelligence department of the federal government, has listened to Cuban leaders secret conversations from an interception post in the Canadian embassy in Havana. A senior Canadian official, close to Washington, “admitted that the U.S. made ‘far greater use’ of our intelligence during the [October 1962] Cuban Missile Crisis than has been revealed.” Pentagon and State Department sources cite the U.K. and Canada as the only countries that “supply any real military information on Cuba” with Canada providing “the best” military intelligence. Canada has even spied on Cuba from outside that country. The CSE wanted to establish a communications post in Kingston, Jamaica, to intercept “communications from Fidel Castro’s Cuba, which would please [the US government’s] NSA to no end.”

To paraphrase Charles de Gaulle, perhaps Canada does not have friends, only interests. But the reality of Canada’s “interests” in Cuba have always been based on what’s best for the ruling class, not those of ordinary people.

Hasta la victoria siempre!

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Global affairs scholars too close to institutions they study

Should social scientists seek the truth regardless of whose toes may be stepped on and cite, up front, possible conflicts of interest regarding matters they study?

All academia disciplines certainly claim independence of thought and transparency are critical principles that guide good research.

So, what then are we to make of academic discussion of Canada’s foreign policy, which is dominated by individuals with ties to the very decision-making structures they study?

The highly regarded Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) is a prime example.

The oldest global affairs school in Canada, Carleton University’s graduate program was established in 1965 with $400,000 ($5 million today) from long-time Senator Norman Paterson, a grain-shipping magnate.[i] During World War II his company provided vessels for Atlantic convoys and Paterson was a major player within the Liberal Party.

Twice under-secretary of External Affairs and leading architect of post-World War II Canadian foreign policy, Norman Robertson was the school’s first director. Unhappy in a diplomatic post in Geneva, External Affairs colleagues secured Robertson the NPSIA position.[ii] During his time at Carleton, Robertson continued to be paid as a “Senior Advisor” to External Affairs, overseeing a major review of a department concerned about growing criticism that it was acting as a U.S. “errand boy” in Vietnam.[iii]

The initial chair of Strategic Studies at NPSIA was a former deputy minister of Veterans Affairs and Canada’s principal disarmament negotiator between 1960 and 1968.[iv] Lieutenant-General Eedson L. M. Burns left government to take up the Carleton post.[v]

Three months after stepping down as prime minister in 1968 Lester Pearson began teaching a seminar on Canadian foreign policy at NPSIA. In a foreword to Freedom and Change: Essays in Honour of Lester B. Pearson, Senator Norman Paterson wrote, “the idea of creating a School of International Affairs in Canada and thoughts on how Lester Pearson might spend part of his time after retiring from public life became intimately bound together in my mind.”[vi]

After Pearson died in 1972 his friends raised funds to establish the Lester B. Pearson Chair of International Affairs at NPSIA.[vii] A former Canadian ambassador to Egypt and the USSR, as well as secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Arnold Cantwell Smith, was the first Lester B. Pearson chair.[viii]

The close association between NPSIA and Global Affairs continues. Former Canadian ambassador to the UN, president of the Security Council and director of the government-created Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security, William Barton gave $3 million to establish a chair at NPSIA in 2008.[ix] The NPSIA faculty includes numerous former Canadian diplomats, including ambassador to Washington Derek Burney, long-time diplomat Colin Robertson and former ambassador to Jordan, Egypt and Israel Michael Dougall Bell.[x] A former director of DND’s Directorate of History, Norman Hillmer, security analyst Stephanie Carvin and special advisor to the external minister Gerald Wright are also faculty members.[xi]

NPSIA is but one example of the foreign-policy government apparatus’s influence in academia. Into the late 1960s individuals who’d worked in the military’s historical sections dominated academic posts in military history and associated fields while current or former DND and Global Affairs historians remain influential within academia.[xii]

DND has also instigated a handful of “security studies” programs and its Security Defence Forum funds more than a dozen of these university initiatives. Similarly, the Canadian International Development Agency spawned and financed various “development studies” programs.

Is it any wonder that critical discussion of Canadian foreign policy is almost non-existent? Or that much of what does exist seems more like cheerleading than serious academic research?

Canadians deserve better from the institutions they rely upon to tell them the truth.

A version of this article first appeared in The Hill Times

 

[i] Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Paterson_School_of_International_Affairs)

[ii] J. L. Granatstein, A Man of Influence: Norman A. Robertson and Canadian Statecraft, 1929-68, 371

[iii] Ibid, 372/374

[iv] E. L. M. Burns (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._L._M._Burns)

[v] Ibid

[vi] Michael Fry, Freedom and Change: Essays in Honour of Lester B. Pearson, Foreword

[vii] Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Paterson_School_of_International_Affairs#cite_note-13)

[viii] Ibid

[ix] William and Jeanie Barton Chair in International Affairs (https://carleton.ca/npsia/about/william-and-jeanie-barton-chair-in-international-affairs/)

[x] Faculty (http://carleton.ca/npsia/faculty/)

[xi] Ibid

[xii] Tim Cook, Clio’s Warriors, 210/221

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Filed under A Propaganda System

Message to reporters: Do you enjoy being duped?

When reading wild propaganda about Canada’s role in Haiti I often wonder if the reporter is a sycophant or whether they’ve been duped.

With the Caribbean nation set to hold its most credible presidential election in sixteen years Ottawa announced it was withdrawing support for the October 9poll. The Trudeau government’s decision to follow Washington in seeking to undermine the election was confirmed in an anti-Haitian screed titled“Canada showing Haiti some tough love”. In it CBC reporter Evan Dyer ignores Washington and Ottawa’s intervention in the 2010 election to bring far right president Michel Martelly to power and how their and Martelly’s attempt at a rerun sparked the popular backlash that postponed last year’s vote. Dyer also ignores Canada’s role in plotting, executing and consolidating the 2004 coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government or the fact his Fanmi Lavalas party has been effectively excluded from elections since.

Dyer describes Canada as “Haiti’s most loyal backer”, working tirelessly to advance democracy in the Caribbean nation. In a particularly embarrassing bit he turns Canada’s role in the post-coup election, which followed widespread political repression and excluded Haiti’s most popular political party, into a noble democratic exercise. Dyer reports:

In 2006, Canada’s then-chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, personally led a team of Canadian observers to Haiti. One of them, Cheickh Bangoura of Ottawa, was shot in the arm carrying out his duties in Port-au-Prince, but was back at his post observing the vote the next day.

Lauding Kingsley and Canada’s role in Haiti’s 2006 election is comical. After widespread fraud in the counting, including thousands of ballots found burned in a dump, the country was gripped by social upheaval. In response, the chair of the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections released a statement claiming, “the election was carried out with no violence or intimidation, and no accusations of fraud.” Kingsley’s statement went on to laud Jacques Bernard, the head of the electoral council despite the fact that Bernard had already been widely derided as corrupt and biased even by other members of the coup government’s electoral council.

Kingsley’s connections in Ottawa put his impartiality into serious doubt. In addition, his close ties to the International Foundation of Electoral Systems (IFES), which received about 80 percent of its funding from the US government, helps explain his partisan statements. At the time of Haiti’s election, Kingsley sat on the board of IFES and a year after the election Kingsley stepped down from Elections Canada to become president of IFES. A University of Miami Human Rights Investigation that appeared more than a year before the election summarised the “multi-million dollar” IFES project in Haiti:

IFES workers … completely take credit for ousting Aristide. … IFES … formulated groups that never existed, united pre-existing groups, gave them sensitization seminars, paid for people to attend, paid for entertainment and catering, and basically built group after group. … They reached out to student groups, business … [and] human rights groups which they actually paid off to report human rights atrocities to make Aristide look bad. … They bought journalists, and the IFES associations grew into the Group of 184 that became a solidified opposition against Aristide…. Gérard Latortue, the [coup] prime minister, was an IFES member for a couple of years before the ouster of Aristide. … Bernard Gousse, the [coup] justice minister … in charge of prisons and police, was in [IFES] for many years.

Dyer is probably ignorant of this history. Someone at Global Affairs Canada likely fed him the bit about Kingsley to build their “we’ve tried to bring democracy to Haiti” storyline and Dyer didn’t bother looking into the sordid affair.

Dyer is not the first mainstream reporter to make a mockery of facts and logic when covering Canada’s role in Haiti. With evidence of the coup government’s violence mounting Marina Jimenez published an article puppeting the Canadian-backed regime’s perspective on the killings. In a January 2005 story headlined “Backyard Baghdad”, she wrote that ousted President Aristide “from his South Africa exile” is “funding” and “directing” a “war.” Jimenez reported about a purported pro-Aristide campaign to murder police officers, “Operation Baghdad”, but the story made no mention that independent observers said this was an invention of the coup government to justify their attacks on the pro-Aristide slums. Or that a month before her article appeared more than ten thousand pro-constitution demonstrators marched in Cap Haitien behind a banner claiming “Operation Baghdad” was a plot created by pro-coup forces to demonize Aristide supporters.

Efforts to communicate with the then Globe and Mail reporter had little impact. A year and a half later Jimenez would smear the author of a Lancetmedical journal study detailing widespread human rights violations in the 22 months after Aristide’s ouster. After the report received front-page coverage in the Montréal Gazette and National Post, with quotes from Haiti Action Montréal adding political context, Jimenez sought to discredit a study that estimated 8,000 were killed and 35,000 raped in Port au Prince. Jimenez quoted Nicholas Galetti, in charge of Haiti at the Canadian government’s Rights and Democracy, baselessly claiming the peer-reviewed study was “based on flawed methodology.”

Former Montréal Gazette reporter Sue Montgomery’s coverage of Haiti reveals how a journalist can be duped, but also the importance of pressuring journalists to investigate troubling claims about this country’s foreign policy. Given only two days to prepare for her assignment, Montgomery was ripe to be manipulated by the Canadian ambassador and Ottawa-funded organizations in Haiti. In “Parachute Journalism” in Haiti: Media Sourcing in the 2003-2004 Political Crisis Isabel Macdonald writes:

Montgomery recalled being given anti-Aristide disinformation when she called the Canadian embassy immediately after she had been held up by armed men while driving through Port-au-Prince days before the coup. Canada’s ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Cook, told her, ‘We’ve got word that Aristide has given the order to the chimeres [purported pro-Aristide thugs] to do this kind of thing to international journalists because he’s not getting any support.’ According to Montgomery, Cook had urged her to tell the other international journalists who were staying at the same hotel: ‘I think you should let all your colleagues at the Montana know that it’s not safe for them.’

Though she later realized the ambassador’s claim was ridiculous, Montgomery told other journalists at Hotel Montana (where most international journalists stay in Port-au-Prince) that Aristide’s supporters were targeting them. The ambassador’s disinformation also coloured her reporting in the critical days before and after the February 29, 2004 coup.

A few months after the coup I described Montgomery as “once progressive” in a piece criticizing her coverage of Haiti. The article sparked the hoped-for reaction, contributing to a re-evaluation of her position. Over the next year and a half she performed a 180° turn on the issue and during the 2006 federal election campaign Montgomery wrote an opinion piece titled “Voters should punish MPs for Haiti”. It argued that Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew and the prime minister’s special advisor on Haiti, Denis Coderre, should lose their seats for undermining Haitian democracy.

When seeking to understand coverage of Canada’s role in Haiti one should probe the structural forces shaping the flow of information. But, within the prevailing structural constraints individuals have some flexibility in whether they ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’ or serve power.

I invite readers to email Dyer (ac.cbc@reyd.nave) to ask if he was duped by Canadian officials.

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Mining companies receive Canadian ‘aid’

Significant sums in Canadian “aid” are spent promoting international mining initiatives.

In a press release last week Ontario-based Carube Copper said it acquired over “500 square kilometres of the most prospective ground in Jamaica based on historic showings, the work completed and reported in 1993 by the Canadian International Development Agency (‘CIDA’).”

Canadian aid has facilitated similar work elsewhere. Researching Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation I discovered examples of Ottawa funding the collection of geological data in Tanzania, Angola, Cameroon, Niger, Uganda, Kenya and elsewhere. Long time West Africa-based freelance journalist, Joan Baxter, describes a chance encounter with Canadian geologists in her 2008 book Dust From Our Eyes: an Unblinkered Look at Africa. “Another CIDA employee I met one evening in Bamako [Mali] told me his work with CIDA had been a long-term project to map the mineral resources of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. When we spoke, he was on a two-year sabbatical from CIDA, working with Canadian mining companies that had taken out concessions in that country.”

Ottawa has financed various mining-related educational initiatives. CIDA sponsored the Zimbabwe School of Mines, a mid-1990s government-industry collaboration, and financed a Senegalese school for geomatics (combining geography and information technology to map natural resources), which received an added $5 million in 2012. In 2014 Ottawa announced $12.5 million for the Project Strengthening Education for Mining in Ethiopia “to develop more industry driven geology and mining engineering undergraduate programs” at Ethiopian universities. In 2012 CIDA put up $25 million for the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development (CIIEID), a university hosted think tank, which International Development Minister Julian Fantino told a Mining Association of Canada meeting would “be your biggest and best ambassador.”

While mining education and geological data collection indirectly benefit Canadian mining companies, millions of dollars have been ploughed directly into corporate social responsibility projects. Ottawa gave $4.5-million to Lundin for Africa, the philanthropic arm of mining giant Lundin Group of Companies, for its operations in Ghana, Mali and Senegal and put up $5.6 million for a project between NGO Plan Canada and IAMGOLD near the company’s mine in Burkina Faso. These aid projects are often about mollifying local opposition to mining projects. In 2012 CIDA invested $500,000 in a World Vision Canada/Barrick Gold project in Peru described as “tantamountto running a pacification program” while between 2003 and 2005 Calgary-based TVI Pacific dispersed tens of thousands of dollars in Canadian aid money to a community opposed to its mine on the Philippine island of Mindanao.

In the most significant boon to international mining firms, Canadian aid has helped liberalize mining legislation. Authors of Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries Alain Deneault and William Sacher cite Botswana, Zimbabwe, Guinea and Zambia among the countries where Canadian aid has shaped mining legislation. Gwendolyn Schulman and Roberto Nieto write: “Canadian cash, technocrats and know-how have also been involved in rewriting mining codes in Malawi, Ghana, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo (with, in this last case, civil war as a backdrop).”

In the best documented example, Ottawa began an $11 million project to re-write Colombia’s mining code in 1997. CIDA worked on the project with a Colombian law firm, Martinez Córdoba and Associates, representing multinational companies, and the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), an industry think-tank based at the University of Calgary. The CIDA/CERI proposal was submitted to Colombia’s Department of Mines and Energy and became law in 2001.

The “new code flexibilised environmental regulations, diminished labour guarantees for workers and opened the property of Afro-Colombian and indigenous people to exploitation,” explained Francisco Ramirez, president of SINTRAMINERCOL, Colombia’s State Mine Workers Union. “The CIDA-backed code also contains some articles that are simply unheard of in other countries,” added Ramirez. “If a mining company has to cut down trees before digging, they can now export that timber for 30 years with a total exemption on taxation.” The new code also reduced the royalty rate companies pay the government to 0.4 percent from 10 percent for mineral exports above 3 million tonnes per year and from 5 percent for exports below 3 million tonnes. In addition, the new code increased the length of mining concessions from 25 years to 30 years, with the possibility that concessions can be tripled to 90 years.

“Aid” has helped Canada’s companies dominate a global mining industry often mired in conflict and criticized for providing meagre benefits to local communities. It’s hard to understand why this would be considered “aid”.

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Sordid tales of Canada-UN history in Africa

Canadian officials have long done as they pleased in Africa, loudly proclaimed this country’s altruism and only faced push back from hard rightists who bemoan sending troops to the  “Dark Continent” or “dens of hell”.

With many Canadians normally opposed to war supporting anything called “peacekeeping”, unless troops deployed with an African UN mission are caught using the N-word and torturing a teenager to death (the 1993 Somalia mission) they will be portrayed as an expression of this country’s benevolence. So, what should those of us who want Canada to be a force for good in the world think about the Trudeau government’s plan to join a UN stabilization mission in Mali, Congo, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic or South Sudan?

First, we have good reason to be cynical.

On his recent five country African “reconnaissance” tour defence minister Harjit Sajjan included an individual whose standing is intimately tied to a military leader who has destabilized large swaths of the continent. Accompanying Sajjan was General Romeo Dallaire, who backed Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front in 1993/94 and continues to publicly support the “Butcher of the Great Lakes”.

In his 2005 book Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (The Boss of Dallaire Speaks), Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, a former Cameroon foreign minister and overall head of the mid-90s UN mission in Rwanda, claims Dallaire ignored RPF violence, turned a blind eye to the weapons they received from Uganda and possibility shared UN intelligence with the Ugandan sponsored rebels. Dallaire doesn’t deny his admiration for Kagame. In Shake Hands with the Devil, published several years after Kagame unleashed unprecedented terror in the Congo, Dallaire wrote: “My guys and the RPF soldiers had a good time together” at a small cantina. Dallaire then explained: “It had been amazing to see Kagame with his guard down for a couple of hours, to glimpse the passion that drove this extraordinary man.” Dallaire’s interaction with the RPF was not in the spirit of UN guidelines that called on staff to avoid close ties to individuals, organizations, parties or factions of a conflict.

Included on the trip because he symbolizes Canadian benevolence, Dallaire hasn’t moved away from his aggressive backing for Kagame despite the Globe and Mail reporting on Kagame’s internal repression, global assassination program and proxies occupying the mineral rich Eastern Congo. The recently retired Senator has aligned his depiction of the 1994 Rwandan tragedy to fit the RPF’s simplistic, self-serving, portrayal and Dallaire even lent his name to a public attack against the 2014 BBC documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story. In February the former senator met with the Rwandan dictator in Toronto.

Three weeks ago the ruling party in Burundi released a statement criticizingthe Canadian general’s role in Rwanda and his inclusion on Sajjan’s trip. Still, I’ve yet to see any mention of Dallaire’s backing of Kagame or the fact his ally in Kigali has significant interest in the UN mission in Eastern Congo.

Another piece of history that should be part of any debate about a UN deployment to the continent is Canada’s link to the UN force in the Congo, which is an outgrowth of the mid-1990s foreign invasion. In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead. Since then Rwanda and its proxies have repeatedly invaded the Eastern Congo.

Kigali justified its 1996 intervention into the Congo as an effort to protect the Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsi) living in Eastern Congo from the Hutus who fled the country when the RPF took power. As many as two million, mostly Hutu, refugees fled the summer 1994 RPF takeover of Rwanda.

The US military increased its assistance to Rwanda in the months leading up to its fall 1996 invasion of Zaire. In The Great African War: Congo and Regional Geopolitics, 1996-2006 Filip Reyntjens explains:

The United States was aware of the intentions of Kagame to attack the refugee camps and probably assisted him in doing so. In addition, they deliberately lied about the number and fate of the refugees remaining in Zaire, in order to avoid the deployment of an international humanitarian force, which could have saved tens of thousands of human lives, but which was resented by Kigali and AFDL [L’Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo, a Rwandan backed rebel force led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila].

Ottawa played an important part in this sordid affair. In late 1996, Canada led a short-lived UN force into eastern Zaire, meant to bring food and protection to Hutu refugees. The official story is that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien organized a humanitarian mission into eastern Zaire after his wife saw images of exiled Rwandan refugees on CNN. In fact, Washington proposed that Ottawa, with many French speakers at its disposal, lead the UN mission. The US didn’t want pro- Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko France to gain control of the UN force.

On November 9, 1996, the UN Security Council backed a French resolution to establish a multinational force in Eastern Congo. Four days later, French Defence Minister Charles Millon, urged Washington to stop stalling on the force. ‘‘Intervention is urgent and procrastination by some countries is intolerable,’’ Millon said in a radio interview. ‘‘The United States must not drag its feet any longer.’’

Canada’s mission to the Congo was designed to dissipate French pressure and ensure it didn’t take command of a force that could impede Rwanda’s invasion of the Eastern Congo. “The United States and Canada did not really intend to support an international force,” writes Belgian academic Filip Reyntjens. “Operation Restore Silence” was how Oxfam’s emergencies director Nick Stockton sarcastically described the mission. He says the Anglosphere countries “managed the magical disappearance” of half a million refugees in eastern Zaire. In a bid to justify the non-deployment of the UN force, Canadian Defence Minister Doug Young claimed over 700,000 refugees had returned to Rwanda. A December 8 article in Québec City’s Le Soleil pointed out that this was “the highest estimated number of returnees since the October insurrection in Zaire.”

The RPF dismantled infrastructure and massacred thousands of civilians in the Hutu refugee camps, prompting some 300,000 to flee westward on foot from refugee camp to refugee camp. Dying to Live by Pierre-Claver Ndacyayisenga describes a harrowing personal ordeal of being chased across the Congo by the RPF and its allies.

Ultimately, most of the Canadian-led UN force was not deployed since peacekeepers would have slowed down or prevented Rwanda, Uganda and its allies from triumphing. But, the initial batch of Canadian soldiers deployed to the staging ground in Uganda left much of the equipment they brought along. In Le Canada dans les guerres en Afrique centrale: génocides et pillages des ressources minières du Congo par le Rwanda interposé (Canada in the wars in Central Africa: genocide and looting of the mineral resources of the Congo by Rwanda interposed) Patrick Mbeko suggests the Ugandan Army put the equipment to use in the Congo.

Prior to deploying the Canadian-led multinational force, Commander General Maurice Baril met with officials in Kigali as well as the Director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. Hinting at who was in the driver’s seat, the New York Times reported that Baril “cancelled a meeting with United Nations officials and flew instead to Washington for talks.” In deference to the Rwandan-backed forces, Baril said he would only deploy UN troops with the rebels’ permission. ‘‘Anything that I do I will coordinate with the one who is tactically holding the ground,’’ Baril noted.

Much to Joseph Mobutu’s dismay, Baril met rebel leader Laurent Kabila who was at that time shunned by most of the international community. The meeting took place in a ransacked mansion that had belonged to Zaire’s president and as part of the visit Kabila took Baril on a tour of the area surrounding Goma city. Baril justified the meeting, asserting: “I had to reassure the government of Canada that the situation had changed and we could go home.”

The book Nous étions invincibles, the personal account of Canadian special forces commando Denis Morrisset, provides a harrowing account of the Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) operation to bring Baril to meet Kabila. The convoy came under attack and was only bailed out when US Apache and Blackhawk helicopters retaliated. Some thirty Congolese were killed by a combination of helicopter and JTF2 fire.

Despite the bizarre, unsavory, history outlined above, Canada’s short-lived 1996 UN force to the Congo is little known. The same can largely be said about Dallaire (and Ottawa’s) support for the RPF during the mid-90s UN mission in Rwanda or Canada’s role in the UN force that helped kill Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba.

Widespread ignorance enables a political culture that gives politicians immense latitude to pursue self-serving policies, present them as altruistic and face few questions. Unless progressives upend this culture the loud expressions of Canadian benevolence are unlikely to align with reality.

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Tax dollars used to shape the news

Last Saturday the Ottawa Citizen published a feature titled “The story of ‘the Canadian vaccine’ that beat back Ebola”. According to the article, staff reporter Elizabeth Payne’s “research was supported by a travel grant from the International Development Research Centre.” The laudatory story concludes with Guinea’s former health minister thanking Canada “for the great service you have rendered to Guinea” and a man who received the Ebola vaccine showing “reporters a map of Canada that he had carved out of wood and displayed in his living room. ‘Because Canada saved my life.’”

A Crown Corporation that reports to Parliament through the foreign minister, the International Development Research Centre’s board is mostly appointed by the federal government. Unsurprisingly, the government-funded institution broadly aligns its positions with Canada’s international objectives.

IDRC funds various journalism initiatives and development journalism prizes. Canada’s aid agency has also doled out tens of millions of dollars on media initiatives over the years. The now defunct Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has funded a slew of journalism fellowships that generate aid-related stories, including a Canadian Newspaper Association fellowship to send journalists to Ecuador, Aga Khan Foundation Canada/Canadian Association of Journalists Fellowships for International Development Reporting, Canadian Association of Journalists/Jack Webster Foundation Fellowship. It also offered eight $6,000 fellowships annually for members of the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, noted CIDA, “to report to the Canadian public on the realities lived in developing countries benefiting from Canadian public aid.”

Between 2005 and 2008 CIDA spent at least $47.5 million on the “promotion of development awareness.” According to a 2013 J–Source investigation titled “Some journalists and news organizations took government funding to produce work: is that a problem?”, more than $3.5 million went to articles, photos, film and radio reports about CIDA projects. Much of the government-funded reporting appeared in major media outlets. But, a CIDA spokesperson told J-Source, the aid agency “didn’t pay directly for journalists’ salaries” and only “supported media activities that had as goal the promotion of development awareness with the Canadian public.”

One journalist, Kim Brunhuber, received $13, 000 to produce “six television news pieces that highlight the contribution of Canadians to several unique development projects” to be shown on CTV outlets. While failing to say whether Brunhuber’s work appeared on the station, CTV spokesperson Rene Dupuis said another documentary it aired “clearly credited that the program had been produced with the support of the Government of Canada through CIDA.”

During the 2001–14 war in Afghanistan CIDA operated a number of media projects. A number of CIDA-backed NGOs sent journalists to Afghanistan and the aid agency had a contract with Montréal’s Le Devoir to “[remind] readers of the central role that Afghanistan plays in CIDA’s international assistance program.”

The military also paid for journalists to visit Afghanistan. Canadian Press envoy Jonathan Montpetit explained, “my understanding of these junkets is that Ottawa picked up the tab for the flight over as well as costs in-theatre, then basically gave the journos a highlight tour of what Canada was doing in Afghanistan.”

A number of commentators have highlighted the political impact of military sponsored trips, which date back decades. In Turning Around a Supertanker: media-military relations in Canada in the CNN age, Daniel Hurley writes, “correspondents were not likely to ask hard questions of people who were offering them free flights to Germany” to visit Canadian bases there. In his diary of the mid-1990s Somalia Commission of Inquiry, Peter Desbarats made a similar observation. “Some journalists, truly ignorant of military affairs, were happy to trade junkets overseas for glowing reports about Canada’s gallant peacekeepers.”

The various arms of Canadian foreign policy fund media initiatives they expect will portray their operations sympathetically. It’s one reason why Canadians overwhelmingly believe this country is a benevolent international actor even though Ottawa long advanced corporate interests and sided with the British and US empires.

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