Tag Archives: François-Philippe Champagne

Media refuses to publish op-ed by Venezuelan Foreign Minister

Despite claims to objectivity and fairness, when it comes to Canadian interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, there’s long been only one side to the story reported in the dominant media.

Even so, the pro-Ottawa slant on Venezuela is shocking.

Recently Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza published an op-ed titled “Regime Change with a Human (Rights) Face: Trudeau’s Venezuela Policy”. The commentary notes, “Relations between Venezuela and Canada are currently at their worst point. Although previous Canadian governments did not hide their dislike for our policies aimed at reclaiming sovereignty over our natural resources and prioritizing social policies, none had so actively imitated the U.S. regime change policy as much as the current Trudeau Administration.” Arreaza criticized Canadian sanctions on Venezuela and noted that “Canada was the only country in the world that specifically forbade Venezuelan diplomatic missions” from allowing Venezuelans to vote during the May 2018 election. Venezuela’s former vice president also invited Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne to meet to discuss restarting diplomatic relations.

Few saw Arreaza’s op-ed since it was published in The Canada Files, an upstart left-wing website. But, the article was submitted to a number of major daily papers. Apparently, the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and others didn’t consider criticism by the foreign minister of a country of 30 million, that’s had diplomatic relations with Canada for seven decades, important enough to offer their readers. Blind to the irony, they would likely justify their decision on the grounds that Venezuela’s government is authoritarian and suppresses oppositional voices!

In September lawyer Andrew Dekany published a long article arguing that Canada’s first round of sanctions on Venezuela contravened Canadian law. Licensed to practice in Ontario, Dekany wrote that the August 2017 sanctions weren’t in accordance with Canadian legislation stating that international sanctions be adopted only as part of international alliances. As such, the Trump administration aided the Trudeau government by creating the US-Canada“Association Concerning the Situation in Venezuela” to conform to the existing sanctions legislation. In a Venezuela Analysis article titled “Do Canadian Sanctions Against Venezuela Violate Canadian Law?”, Dekany writes, “there is no reason for Canada to ‘create’ this association but for its desire to help the U.S. out [by sanctioning Venezuela], having failed to persuade the one obvious organization (Organization of American States) which it had democratically joined to, among other things, act in such a way.” I couldn’t find any mention of Dekany’s arguments in any major Canadian media. (The Toronto Sun published an op-ed on the subject by Dekany in 2017.)

An April 2019 Center for Economic and Policy Research report written by prominent economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot concluded that 40,000 Venezuelans may have died in 2017 and 2018 as a result of US sanctions. The intensity of the US sanctions, as well as their impact on Venezuelans’ ability to eat and access medicine, has grown significantly since then. A search of Canadian Newsstand, Toronto Star and Globe and Mail elicited two mentions of Sachs and Weisbrot’s findings (A Halifax Chronicle-Herald story titled “Four million Venezuelans have fled crisis: UN” mentioned it at the bottom of the story and an op-ed in the Hill Times by Canadian Foreign Policy Institute director Bianca Mugyenyi.)

Since the fall of 2017 Canadian taxpayers have been paying a hardline pro-corporate, pro-Washington, former diplomat hundreds of thousands of dollars to coordinate the Liberal government’s bid to oust Venezuela’s government. There’s been total silence in the dominant media about Allan Culham’s role as Special Advisor on Venezuela.

As Arreaza pointed out in his op-ed, the Trudeau government’s Venezuela policy took a sharply belligerent turn after Donald Trump became president and Chrystia Freeland replaced Stéphane Dion as foreign affairs minister. In reaction to Freeland’s January 2017 appointment an official at the US embassy in Ottawa claimed Justin Trudeau appointed her to promote the interests of Washington. In July 2019 researcher Jay Watts disclosed a dispatch from the US embassy in Ottawa to the State Department in Washington entitled “Canada Adopts ‘America First’ Foreign Policy.” Uncovered through a freedom of information request, the largely redacted cable also notes that Trudeau’s government would be “Prioritizing U.S. Relations, ASAP.” Despite all kinds of fawning coverage of Freeland, the dominant media has completely ignored the US cable.

In A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation I detail extreme media bias in favour of power on topics ranging from Haiti to Palestine, investment agreements to the mining industry. Considering the pattern, the Venezuelan coverage is not surprising.

But, the growth of left and international media, as well as social media bubbles, makes it is easy to forget how few Canadians are actually receiving this critical information. Canadian media rejecting a commentary by the foreign minister of a country of 30 million is a reminder of just how biased foreign policy coverage is.

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Filed under Media, Venezuela

Trudeau lobbies Biden to maintain climate-destroying Trump policy

US President Donald Trump’s climate criminality has been shocking. His administration’s contribution to worsening this existential threat to humanity will be remembered as his most damaging policy.

Largely in response to the president’s ‘spew more fossil fuels’ outlook Noam Chomsky described Trump as “the worst criminal in human history.” Pressed on the matter, Chomsky recently told the New Yorker that Adolf Hitler “was an utter monster but [he was] not dedicating his efforts perfectly consciously to destroying the prospect for human life on earth.”

So why is Ottawa trying to maintain one of the Republican’s worst environmental policies?

Incredibly, the Trudeau government’s immediate reaction to US voters rejecting Trump was to press the president-elect to break a direct promise and maintain the worst of the Donald. Soon after Biden was declared winner Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told CBC that persuading the incoming president to build the Keystone XL Pipeline was at the “top of the agenda” for Canada.

As the first global leader to talk to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised a pipeline that would ship more than 800,000 barrels of heavy carbon emitting crude a day from Alberta to the US. In response to the Trudeau government’s bid to maintain the worst of Trump, Bill McKibben wrote to 350 Canada’s list, “It’s truly unacceptable that the Trudeau cabinet’s top agenda item is to weaken Biden’s position on climate.”

Under intense pressure from indigenous and environmentalist groups President Barack Obama denied TransCanada the permit for Keystone XL. But, immediately upon taking office Trump signed an executive order allowing the pipeline. In 2018 a federal court judge in Montana halted the project after concluding the US State Department hadn’t properly considered the pipeline’s environmental impact. In response, Trump signed a new order last year that bypasses the judge’s ruling and granted permission for construction.

During the election Biden promised to cancel Keystone XL within his first 100 days in office. But now the Trudeau government, Alberta and other oil interests are pressuring Biden to break his promise. This is not an idle threat. In response to a question on the matter Alberta’s lead representative at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, James Rajotte, told the CBC on Monday that he’s already lobbying aggressively on the matter. The Stephen Harper government established an oil sands advocacy strategy that, noted Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson, “put Canada’s entire diplomatic apparatus in the US behind the Keystone campaign.” In a 2011 series dubbed the “The War for the Oil Sands in Washington” The Tyee described the intensity of Canadian lobbying efforts on behalf of Keystone XL. One congressional aide compared Canadian officials to “aggressive” car salesmen. It “was the most direct encounter I’ve had with a lobbyist representing a foreign nation,” a congressional staffer told the Tyee. Canada’s 22 consular offices in the US were ordered to take up the Keystone cause.

The Keystone XL decision is in keeping with Trudeau’s support or indifference towards Trump’s climate policy. While Trump was “dedicating his efforts perfectly consciously to destroying the prospect for human life on earth”, Trudeau sought to avoid conflict with the president over his administration’s climate criminality. Spiegel Online reported that the Canadian prime minister rejected a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel to support a German initiative at the 2017 G20 summit to pressure Trump on climate change. The Liberals also refused to commit Canada to improved automobile fuel mileage standards the Obama administration negotiated with the auto industry. Against the wishes of even some carmakers, Trump announced the US would freeze planned fuel-economy targets at 2020 levels, which prompted a bitter battle with California and a number of other US states. With Canada, the collection of dissident states represented 40 per cent of the North American auto market, enough to push the (divided) auto industry to follow the previously agreed fuel mileage standards. But the Liberals failed to publicly commit to push forward with steadily improved fuel mileage standards.

Despite claiming to take the climate crisis seriously, the Trudeau government has failed to put the country on track to meet even dangerously insufficient targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Expansion of the tar sands guarantees that Canada will flout its international commitments to reduce GHG emissions.

As the climate crisis worsens, it’s outrageous that Trudeau would press the president-elect to break his promise to voters and maintain the worst of Trump. Makes one wonder what level of climate criminality posterity will assign to the current Canadian prime minister.

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Filed under Climate, Justin Trudeau

Ottawa’s ties with far right Colombian president undermines human rights rhetoric regarding Venezuela

 

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A week ago a former Canadian soldier instigated a harebrained bid to kidnap or kill Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Launched from Colombia, the plot failed spectacularly with most of the men captured or killed.

Still, the leader of the invasion Jordan Goudreau, a veteran of the Canadian military and US special forces, has been remarkably forthright about the involvement of opposition figure Juan Guaidó. A leaked contract between Guaidó’s representative in Florida and Goudreau’s Silvercorp USA describes plans for a multi month occupation force, which after ousting Maduro would “convert to a National Asset Unit that will act under the direction of the [Guaidó] Administration to counter threats to government stability, terror threats and work closely” with other armed forces. Apparently, Goudreau was hoping for a big payday from Venezuela’s opposition. He also had his eyes on the $15 million bounty Washington put up in March for Maduro’s capture as well as tens of millions dollars for other members of the government.

As the plot has unraveled, Ottawa has refused to directly criticize the invasion launched from Colombia. The military has also refused to release information regarding Goudreau’s time in the Canadian forces. What’s more, since the plot began Canada’s foreign affairs minister has reached out to regional opponents of Maduro and reasserted Ottawa’s backing for Guaidó. The PM also discussed Venezuela with his Colombian counterpart.

The Trudeau government’s reaction to recent events suggest the global pandemic has not deterred them from brazenly seeking to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In a bid to elicit “regime change”, over the past couple years Ottawa has worked to isolate Caracas, imposed illegal sanctions, took that government to the International Criminal Court, financed an often-unsavoury opposition and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.

The day after the first phase of the invasion was foiled foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke to his Colombian, Peruvian and Brazilian counterparts concerning the “Venezuela crisis and the humanitarian needs of Venezuelans.” Four days later Champagne tweeted, “great call with Venezuela Interim President Juan Guaidó. Canada will always stand with the people of Venezuela in their desire to restore democracy and human rights in their country.”

On Monday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Colombian President Iván Duque Márque. According to the official release, they “discussed the crisis in Venezuela and its humanitarian impact in the region which is heightened by the pandemic. They underscored the need for continued close collaboration and a concerted international effort to address this challenging situation.” Over the past 18 months Trudeau has repeatedly discussed Venezuela with a Colombian president who has offered up his country to armed opponents of Maduro.

 

The Trudeau government has been chummy with Duque more generally. After he won a close election marred by fraud allegations then Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland “congratulated” Duque and said, “Canada and Colombia share a commitment to democracy and human rights.” In August 2018 Trudeau tweeted, “today, Colombia’s new President, Ivan Duque, took office and joins Swedish PM, Norway PM, Emmanuel Macron, Pedro Sánchez, and others with a gender-equal cabinet. Iván, I look forward to working with you and your entire team.” A month later he added, “thanks to President Ivan Duque for a great first meeting at UNGA this afternoon, focused on growing our economies, addressing the crisis in Venezuela, and strengthening the friendship between Canada & Colombia.”

But, Duque is from the extreme right — “le champion du retour de la droite dure en Colombie”, according to a Le Soleil headline. The Colombian president has undercut the peace accord the previous (right, but not far right) government signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to end Colombia’s 50-year civil war, which left some 220,000 dead. Duque’s policies have increased violence towards the ex-rebels and social activists. Seventy-seven former FARC members were killed in 2019. Even more human rights defenders were murdered. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights found that at least 107 Colombian, mostly Indigenous, rights defenders were killed in 2019.

Through the first part of this year the pace at which social leaders and demobilized FARC members have been killed has increased. According to the UN observer mission in Colombia, 24 demobilized guerrillas have already been assassinated and a recent Patriotic March report on the “The other pandemic lived in Colombia” details 95 social leaders, human rights defenders and former guerrillas killed in the first four months of 2020.

Trudeau’s dalliance with Duque is difficult to align with his stated concern for human rights in Venezuela.

The same can be said for Ottawa’s failure to condemn the recent invasion attempt. The Trudeau government should be questioned on whether it was involved or had foreknowledge of the recent plot to invade Venezuela.

 

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America, Venezuela

Trudeau government seeks West African gold

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Despite the prime minister’s show of visiting a place where thousands of people were sold as commodities, the point of his trip was not to acknowledge the great wrong done to Africa during the slave trade but rather for Canadian companies to get their hands on Senegal’s resources.

During Justin Trudeau’s expedition to Senegal last month foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne “attended the issuance of operating licenses for Teranga and Barrick Gold alongside the minister of mines and geology, the minister of economy, planning & cooperation as well as the minister of environment of Senegal.”

Barrick Gold is Canada’s most controversial mining firm. Pick a continent and you will find a Barrick-run mine that has ravaged the environment and spurred social tension.

But, in Senegal Teranga Gold is the dominant player, operating the first industrial scale gold mine in the country. Taking its name from the Wolof word for “hospitality”, Teranga markets itself well. A search online generated a series of short videos and corporate social responsibility reports detailing the Toronto company’s purported good deeds and local support. But reality is more complicated. In 2010 a hundred soldiers were deployed to Teranga’s mine site to drive off long-standing artisanal miners whose digging helped the company determine where to prospect. One small-scale miner told Allo Dakar that “we prefer to die here rather than give the land to the company.” Despite the security presence, many continued to dig with the police periodically tear-gassing and arresting the artisanal miners.

According to Amnesty International’s “Mining and Human Rights in Senegal: Closing the Gaps in Protection”, a half-dozen families were displaced to make way for a Teranga waste disposal pond. They were given new homes a few kilometres away but felt their situation had significantly deteriorated. Amnesty documented another small community unhappy with Teranga and worried they would also be displaced as the mine expanded.

The mayor of a larger town, Sabadola, claimed the company misled the community. “At first we thought that we’d benefit from many things: electricity, housing and infrastructure,” said Mamadou Cissokho. “But we received none of that.” Instead, Cissokho decried the pulmonary infections caused by dust from the mine and the company’s encroachment on their land. “Even our fields, they took them. We do not know where to go. Certainly, they do this to suffocate us and to clear us off.”

In 2014 the director of Teranga’s Senegalese subsidiary, Macoumba Diop, was fired. His supporters told the press that Diop was let go because he protected Senegalese workers, largely confined to subordinate positions, from mistreatment by the foreign managers who were described as “colonialist”. In 2017 an employee died from an injury while working in the process plant of Teranga’s Sabodala mine.

Senegalese tax authorities accused Teranga of diverting funds to an offshore bank. In 2011 they claimed the Toronto-based company skipped out on $24 million in payments and then again failed to pay $2 million more in 2015.

Claiming the royalties mandated by Senegal were above the agreed upon rate, Teranga employed the services of former Québec Premier Jean Charest to navigate the issue with this active member of la Francophonie. “With his credibility and contacts, he was the right person to get the attention of the government and a fair deal for both sides,” Teranga CEO Richard Young told La Presse in 2013.

The controversy surrounding Teranga has failed to deter Canadian officials from backing the company. In early 2014 Canadian Ambassador Philippe Beaulne visited its mine with Senegalese president Macky Sall and Beaulne spoke during the public release of Teranga’s 2013 corporate social responsibility policy. In 2012 Prime Minister Stephen Harper met Teranga’s CEO and some other Canadian mining officials in Dakar. During the part of the meeting open to reporters the prime minister suggested, reported Canada.com, that Canadian companies’ “ethical practices gave them an edge over the competition.” Harper also told the press that Senegal “really has the opportunity to become the hub for Canadian investment in this entire region of Africa.” To prepare for an expansion in Canadian mining, Ottawa signed a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement (FIPA) with Senegal in 2014.

Canada has funded various mining projects in Senegal. Millions of dollars in Canadian aid has gone to a Senegalese school for geomatics (combining geography and information technology to map natural resources). In 2014 the federal government announced the launch of branch offices of a professional society, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, in Senegal and Burkina Faso. A press release stated: “The opening of a second office [in West Africa] allows Canada to further share best practices with the region and will make the knowledge and experience of Canadian miners, geologists and managers more available to their African counterparts.” Supported by the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum created the Institut Minier Ouest Africain. A series of other aid projects such as the 2016 “West Africa Governance and Economic Sustainability in Extractive Areas” supported mining initiatives in Senegal.

As with other countries in Africa, Ottawa is helping Canadian companies exploit Senegal’s minerals.

The PM’s trip to House of Slaves was a sideshow, what they want is the gold.

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Filed under Canada in Africa, mining