Tag Archives: foreign aid

Media ignores Canada’s role in suppressing Palestinian protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Repressive regime’ in Ethiopia no ‘sea of stability’

Last Tuesday members of the Ethiopian community in Winnipeg called on Canada to sanction the North East African country. The protesters are angry about the regime’s violent crackdown in the Oromiya and Amhara regions of northern Ethiopia. Hundreds of peaceful protesters have been killed and many more jailed since unrest began over a land dispute 10 months ago.

As protesters called for sanctions in Winnipeg, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development Katrina Gould was in Addis Ababa. During a meeting with the Foreign Minister she was quoted saying, “Ethiopiahas managed to be a sea of stability in a hostile region.”

Gould’s trip follows on the heels of Harjit Sajjan’s visit last month. According to an Ethiopian News Agency summary, the defence minister told Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn:  “Canada values Ethiopia’s contribution in trying to bring stability to Somalia and the South Sudan.”

In 2006 50,000 Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia, which saw about 6,000 civilians killed and 300,000 flee the country. Washington prodded Addis Ababa into intervening and the US literally fuelled the invasion, providing gasoline, arms and strategic guidance as well as launching air attacks.

The invasion/occupation led to the growth of al-Shabab. Since the Ethiopia/US invasion the group has waged a violent campaign against the foreign forces in the country and Somalia’s transitional government. During this period al-Shabab has grown from being the relatively small youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union to the leading oppositional force in the country. It has also radicalized and has turned from being a national organization towards increasing ties to Al Qaeda.

The Stephen Harper Conservative government’s public comments on Somalia broadly supported Ethiopian/US actions. They made no criticism of US bombings and when prominent Somali-Canadian journalist Ali Iman Sharmarke was assassinated in Mogadishu in August 2007 then foreign minister Peter Mackay only condemned “the violence” in the country. He never mentioned that the assassins were pro-government militia members with ties to Ethiopian troops. The Conservatives backed a February 2007 UN Security Council resolution that called for an international force in Somalia. They also endorsed the Ethiopia-installed Somali government, which had operated in exile.

In what was perhaps the strongest signal of Canadian support for the outside intervention, Ottawa didn’t make its aid to Ethiopia contingent on withdrawing from Somalia. Instead they increased assistance to this strategic US ally that borders Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia. In 2009 Ethiopia was selected as a “country of focus” for Canadian aid and this status was reaffirmed in 2014. As one of the top donors, Canada has been spending over $100 million a year in the country.

Providing aid to Ethiopia has been controversial not only because of the invasion and occupation of its neighbor. An October 2010 Globe and Mailheadline noted: “Ethiopia using Canadian aid as a political weapon, rights group says.” Human Rights Watch researcher Felix Horne claimed Ottawa contravened its Official Development Assistance Accountability Act by continuing to pump aid into Ethiopia despite its failure to meet international human-rights standards. In addition to arbitrary detentions, widespread torture and attacks on political opponents, the Ethiopian government systematically forced rural inhabitants off their land. This “villagization” program cut many off from food and health services.

Canadian aid to Ethiopia faced another challenge. In February 2012 the family of a Somali-Canadian businessman sued Harper’s Conservatives to prevent them from sending aid to Ethiopia until Bashir Makhtal was released from prison. In January 2007 Makhtal was “rendered” illegally from Kenya to Ethiopia, imprisoned without access to a lawyer or consular official for 18 months and then given a life sentence. The lawsuit was a last ditch effort by the Makhtal family to force Ottawa’s hand.

Ottawa should take the recent protests by Ethiopian Canadian activists seriously. It can start by reversing its near total silence about the recent repression, which included dozens of demonstrators shot dead three days before Sajjan’s visit. While severing aid to pressure a government is often fraught with complications, Canada’s current policy seems to be enabling Ethiopia’s repressive, interventionist, policies.

Canada’s aid to Ethiopia has been a failed experiment in turning brutal dictators into democrats,” Ethiopian-Canadian human-rights activist Yohannes Berhe told the Globe and Mail. Ottawa’s policy is “tantamount to encouraging one of the most repressive regimes in Africa.”

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Filed under Canada in Africa

Canada in Haiti: Is this how friends act?

Reading the comments below a recent Toronto Star op-edreminded me of an important, if rarely mentioned, rule of Canadian foreign policy: the more impoverished a nation, the greater the gap is likely to be between what Canadian officials say and do.

In a rare corporate daily breakthrough, solidarity activist Mark Phillips detailed a decade of antidemocratic Canadian policy in Haiti. But, a number of readers were clearly discomforted by the piece titled “Hey Canada, stop meddling in Haitian democracy.”

“Money pumped into this dysfunctional country, is money down a rat hole,” read one. Another said, “Yes — let’s stop ‘meddling’ and while were at it — let’s stop sending them our hard-earned money!!!!.”

While these statements ought to be condemned, one should feel some sympathy for the comment writers. Assuming they only peruse the dominant media, Phillips’ op-ed ran counter to all they’d ever heard about Canada’s role in Haiti.

Over the past 12 years Canadian officials have repeatedly boasted about their good deeds in the Caribbean nation all the while aggressively undermining Haitian democracy and supporting violent right-wing political forces. In January 2003 Ottawa hosted a roundtable meeting dubbed the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti where high level U.S., Canadian and French officials discussed overthrowing elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, putting the country under international trusteeship and resurrecting Haiti’s dreaded military. Thirteen months after the Ottawa Initiative meeting, Aristide had been pushed out and a quasi-UN trusteeship had begun.

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

Even after a deadly earthquake rocked Haiti in 2010, Canadian officials continued their inhumane, antidemocratic, course. According to internal documents the Canadian Press examined a year after the disaster, officials in Ottawa feared a post-earthquake power vacuum could lead to a “popular uprising.” One briefing note marked “secret” explained: “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 documents also explained the importance of strengthening the Haitian authorities’ ability “to contain the risks of a popular uprising.”

To police Haiti’s traumatized and suffering population 2,050 Canadian troops were deployed alongside 12,000 U.S. soldiers and 1,500 UN troops (8,000 UN soldiers were already there). Even though there was no war, for a period there were more foreign troops in Haiti per square kilometer than in Afghanistan or Iraq (and about as many per capita). Though the Conservatives rapidly deployed 2,050 troops they ignored calls to dispatch this country’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) Teams, which are trained to “locate trapped persons in collapsed structures.”

While they were largely focused on “security,” the Harper Conservatives knew the public wanted Canada to aid earthquake victims. As such, they claimed Canadian troops were deployed to alleviate Haitian suffering. Harper told the press: “Ships of the Atlantic fleet were immediately ordered to Haiti from Halifax, loaded with relief supplies.” Not true. A [Halifax] Chronicle Herald reporter and photographer embedded with the military for the mission observed that they didn’t have much food, water, medical equipment or tents to distribute, beyond what they needed for their own crews. Nor did the other Canadian naval vessel dispatched have supplies to distribute.

The files uncovered by the Canadian Press about the government’s post-earthquake concerns go to the heart (or lack thereof) of Canadian foreign policy decisionmaking. Strategic thinking, not compassion, almost always motivates policy. And what is considered “strategic” is usually what corporate Canada wants.

To conceal this ugly reality officials boast about aid contributions and democracy promotion. But the primary explanation for the gap between what’s said and done is that power generally defines what is considered reality. So, the bigger the power imbalance between Canada and another country the greater Ottawa’s ability to distort their activities.

Unfortunately, the Toronto Star comments suggest Canadian officials have been quite effective in deceiving the public.

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