Tag Archives: Matthew Green

Why is a Montréal school pushing students to join the Israeli military?

Hebrew Academy bombards its students with pro-Israel Defense Force messages. Montréal’s largest Jewish school shows movies that celebrate the Israeli military; students send gifts to IDF bases; Israeli emissaries lead kindergarten classes in “fun IDF programs”.

Why should Quebec taxpayers fund a school aggressively promoting a foreign military engaged in a brutal 50-year occupation? These efforts to entice impressionable young minds into oppressing Palestinians may even be illegal.

The Foreign Enlistment Act is supposed to prohibit Canadians from recruiting for a foreign army. It notes, “any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”

Hebrew Academy (HA) promotes those who join the Israeli military. An April 2020 article from the school website notes, “following a nod to HA alumni serving in the IDF and a prayer for chayalei Tzahal [IDF] by School Rabbi Rabbi Eddie Shostak, Head of School Dr. Laura Segall relayed that her parents both served in the IDF.” That month HA also posted a video to its Facebook page of alumni currently serving in the IDF. Under the caption “A meaningful video featuring our HA alumni who are serving in the Israel Defense Forces”, a half dozen alumni spend 12 minutes telling students about the importance of serving in the violent occupation force.

The school considers joining the IDF a special accomplishment. Last March 24 HA posted a picture of three young men to its Facebook with the caption: “Mazel tov to class of 2018 alumni Michael Kuperstok, Nathan Bebuzru and Yehuda Besner who are enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces this week. We are beyond proud of you!”

A number of initiatives may more directly seek to entice students to join the IDF. Former Israeli soldiers visit HA students about to graduate (Grade 11 in Québec). In 2016 their website reported, “only one week into the new school year, Grade 10 and 11 students were privileged to meet three former members of the IDF who are in Montreal on a two-week visit as representatives of Beit Halochem.”

HA is a federal government recognized Community Learning Centre and is registered with the Québec education ministry. Private schools in Québec receive 60% of the per-pupil operational funding of public schools and 40% of their total funds generally come from the provincial government. But, this sum doesn’t include the cost to the public purse of the tax receipts given to charities. A sizable share of tuition at HA can also be deducted from an individual’s federal income tax and HA receives significant support from Federation Combined Jewish Appeal of Montréal and other registered charities.

A recent parliamentary petition is putting a spotlight on recruitment and inducement for the Israeli military. Submitted by Rabbi David Mivasair and sponsored by NDP MP Matthew Green, the petition calls “upon the Minister of Justice to undertake a thorough investigation of those who have recruited or facilitated recruiting for the Israel Defense Forces, and if warranted lay charges against those involved in recruiting and encouraging recruiting for the IDF.” It is part of a multi-faceted campaign that began in the fall with an open letter signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, filmmaker Ken Loach, author Yann Martel, former MP Jim Manly, poet El Jones and more than 150 others asking the federal government to apply charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act against those recruiting Canadians for the Israeli military.

While Canadian law makes it illegal to recruit soldiers for a foreign state, it is unclear where the line is between enticing impressionable young people to oppress Palestinians and formal recruitment.

Legal questions aside, should a Montreal school funnel youngsters into a foreign military engaged in a brutal 50-year occupation? And should taxpayers foot the bill?

 

 

Please sign the parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into illegal Israeli military recruitment in Canada.

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Filed under Israel, Israel Lobby

Time to disrupt IDF promotion network

Once again a human rights group has determined that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to apartheid. Human Rights Watch is calling for governments around the world “to impose sanctions and reconsider trade deals,” according to Tuesday’s Globe and Mail.

Once again supporters of Israel claim “bias” and “anti-Semitism” instead of acknowledging the obvious crime against humanity and promising to change. These apartheid deniers also complain it is unfair to compare Israel to South Africa. And maybe it is, just not in the way Israeli nationalists mean.

As Noam Chomsky has noted, that country’s oppression of Palestinians is “much worse” than the racism of the South African regime. Similarly, Canadian support for Israeli apartheid is far greater than it was for the South African variant.

For example, can anyone imagine major Canadian institutions flouting the law to recruit young whites to join apartheid South Africa’s brutal military in the 1980s? But that’s exactly what’s happening today with the recruitment of Canadians for the military that enforces Israeli apartheid.

More than a few taxpayer-subsidized groups flout Canadian law to induce young people to move 10,000 kilometers to add their boots to the many already choking Palestinians. Fortunately, a new parliamentary petition is calling for an investigation into illegal Israeli military recruitment in Canada. Submitted by Rabbi David Mivasair and sponsored by NDP MP Matthew Green, the petition calls “upon the Minister of Justice to undertake a thorough investigation of those who have recruited or facilitated recruiting for the Israel Defense Forces, and, if warranted, lay charges against those involved in recruiting and encouraging recruiting for the IDF.”

The petition is part of a campaign backed by Chomsky, Roger Waters, Yann Martel and numerous other prominent individuals that delivered evidence of Israeli military recruitment to the justice minister and RCMP commissioner. While aiming to end formal recruitment, the goal is also to disrupt a vast IDF promotion network in Canada.

The reality is many Canadian institutions celebrate Israel’s occupation force and some of them do so with taxpayer support. Receiving nearly half of its funds from the public purse, Montréal’s largest Jewish school, Hebrew Academy, shows movies that celebrate the Israeli military; students send gifts to IDF bases; Israeli emissaries lead kindergarten classes in “fun IDF programs”. Toronto schools Heschel, Bialik Hebrew, Netivot HaTorah, Bnei Akiva and Leo Baeck also promote the IDF in different ways. These schools feed students to TanenbaumCHAT, Canada’s largest private high school, which organizes fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives and holds regular “IDF days.”

At the other end of the age spectrum a group of 80-something Torontonians gathered regularly before the pandemic to make hand-knitted tuques for IDF soldiers. They are part of the Hats for Israeli Soldiers initiative. Another organization that supports the occupation force is Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans-Canada, which is a registered charity and partly funded by the Israeli government.

Sar-El offers more concrete support to the IDF. Some 150 Canadians volunteer on Israeli army supply bases each year with an organization founded by an IDF general. A regular ad in the Canadian Jewish News for Sar-El noted: “Express your Zionism by serving as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli army supply base.”

For its part, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (Canada) has sponsored “fun activities” for “lone soldiers”. Established by billionaire power couple Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers also supports non-Israelis in the IDF.

At its Toronto office, the Friends of Israeli Scouts’ Garin Tzabar program provides Hebrew lessons and support services, as well as help with transport and accommodation in Israel, for Canadian “lone soldiers”. Nefesh B’Nefesh also helps non-Israelis join the IDF. In probable contravention of the Foreign Enlistment Act, registered charities United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto and Federation Combined Jewish Appeal Montréal publicized a webinar by Nefesh-B’Nefesh last June titled “Joining the IDF”, which claimed to offer participants “everything you need and want to know about joining the IDF.”

A few months before the pandemic began 1,100 people attended an Association for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada and Canadian Zionist Cultural Association event in Toronto. “The evening featured heartfelt and captivating speeches from IDF commanders, as well as a performance by the IDF Ensemble”, reported the Canadian Jewish News.

Association for the Soldiers of Israel in Canada, Sar-El, Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans, Beit Halochem Canada (Disabled Veterans of Israel), Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, Hats for Israeli Soldiers, etc. have all received sympathetic coverage in the Canadian Jewish News. The news site has published dozens of articles promoting these organizations and repeatedly celebrated Canadians who join or promote the Israeli military.

While it is immoral to promote and join the occupation force, it’s logical from an Israeli nationalist perspective. The military is at the heart of Israeli society. “Israel is an army with a state”, goes the saying. Considering its small size, Israel is among be the most warlike nation in the history of humanity. Born of months of ethnic cleansing, the country has almost always been at war. In addition to suffocating Gaza, occupying the West Bank, regularly invading Lebanese airspace and annexing Syria’s Golan Heights, Israel has recently attacked Iranian ships and bombed Syria dozens of times. Over the years it’s also bombed Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Iraq and unleashed violence in many other places.

Every time one sees an IDF soldier put their boot on a Palestinian’s neck in the West Bank, shoot a protester in Gaza or bomb Syria, it’s important to recognize the Canadian groups actively promoting Israel’s military. Anger with these groups is the first step towards disrupting promotion of the IDF in Canada.

Those of us who oppose all forms of apartheid must challenge IDF recruitment in Canada, which contravenes the law and is obviously immoral. Complaints must also be made against registered charities supporting the IDF in breach of Canada Revenue Agency restrictions on non-Canadian military support. Schools and other groups that promote the IDF should be publicly shamed.

Finally, please sign the parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into illegal Israeli military recruitment. We need to disrupt Canadian support for the agents of Palestinian misery.

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Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel Lobby

Israel lobby paralyzed by anti-recruitment campaign

What are the primary Israel lobby groups in Canada afraid of?

When their favoured colonial outpost in the Middle East is maligned the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B’nai B’rith and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC) are usually quick to attack. In recent months they’ve put out statements labeling a modest NDP resolution a “toxic obsession with Israel”, a University of Toronto graduate students’ motion “institutional anti-Semitism” and a small restaurant’s Instagram posts and “I Love Gaza” sign “antisemitic statements” and “antisemitic tropes”.

But when a Member of Parliament sponsors a House of Commons petition suggesting the Israel lobby is breaking Canadian law by promoting recruitment into a military that “has repeatedly contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention, and illegally attacked Syria and Lebanon” they respond with … silence. No press releases, no tweets, nothing. Nor did they bother to offer a comment when the Canadian Jewish News wrote about NDP MP Matthew Green’s parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into illegal recruitment for the Israeli military.

An MP sponsoring a parliamentary petition suggesting Israel lobby criminality is certainly more significant than the University of Toronto graduate student union passing a resolution or a sandwich shop putting a pro-Palestinian message in their window. So why aren’t they bemoaning Green’s “bias”, “obsession”, “defiance of IHRA definition of anti-Semitism”, etc.?

It’s not fear of confronting Green. When he tweeted about Israel demolishing a COVID testing centre in the Palestinian city of Hebron in the summer CIJA and B’nai B’rith attacked Green.

The lack of reaction isn’t about who sponsored the petition but rather the subject. The Israel lobby doesn’t want to draw attention to an issue that divides their conservative base.

The parliamentary petition is part of a multi-faceted campaign that began in the fall with a formal complaint and open letter signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, author Yann Martel, poet El Jones and more than 150 others. The letter called on the federal government to apply charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act against those recruiting Canadians for the Israeli military.

For over six months CIJA, B’nai B’rith and FSWC have ignored suggestions their crew is engaged in criminal activity despite the campaign generating nearly two dozen stories, a response from the justice minister and multiple action alerts, including a parliamentary petition that has garnered nearly three times the signatures required to be read in Parliament in its first week.

How to explain their lack of reaction?

Discomfort with the legal question partly explains their silence. Drawing on information accessible through a simple Google search, the Israeli consulate, United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto and Federation Combined Jewish Appeal Montréal have all violated the Foreign Enlistment Act over the past year and a half. Additionally, Hebrew Academy, TanenbaumCHAT and other Toronto and Montréal schools have enticed youngsters into the Israeli military in possible contravention of the law. A proper police investigation would likely uncover far more evidence regarding violations of the Foreign Enlistment Act.

Nonetheless, it’s exceedingly unlikely anyone will be prosecuted, let alone convicted, for these violations of Canadian law. There is little political will to do so in relation to Israel and no one has ever been convicted under the legislation. So, the discomfort is not about anyone fearing spending time in jail but rather the bad press that comes from potentially breaking the law.

Tied to this is the political logic underpinning the Foreign Enlistment Act. While the 1937 act was written to stop leftist Canadians from fighting against Franco’s fascists in Spain, the Foreign Enlistment Act is the successor to an 1870 British act that applied in Canada. That legislation was the outgrowth of rising nationalism in Europe (which later stoked Zionism). It’s common for governments to seek to deter their citizens from joining other countries’ militaries.

On top of the Foreign Enlistment Act, the Canadian government restricts registered charities from supporting other countries militaries. Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) guidelines note, “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”

Promoting a foreign army rests uneasily with right-wing nationalist thinking, which is generally sympathetic to an anti-Palestinian outlook. In a 2014 interview about Canadians fighting in Israel, Syria and elsewhere, prominent military historian Jack Granatstein, said “in my view no one who is a Canadian should be able to enlist in some other country’s military and keep his Canadian citizenship.” That would put a stop to recruitment for the IDF!

The lack of response to Green and the recruitment campaign is also influenced by other considerations such as the fact the parliamentary petition was submitted by a Rabbi (David Mivasair) and has yet to penetrate the most important media. (The campaign has generated significant coverage in left, pro-Palestinian, Jewish and mainstream Québec outlets, but none in major English Canadian media.)

More than other Palestine-related demands, the anti-recruitment campaign puts the anti-Palestinian lobby on the backfoot. Part of its power is in its Canadian centric demand, which offers a broader lesson for pro-Palestinian campaigners.

Though little discussed, the most important support Canada has offered Israel in recent decades is tax deductible charitable donations. Since the federal government introduced deductions for charities in 1967 billions of dollars in subsidized donations have gone to Israel. In 1991 the Ottawa Citizen estimated that Canadian Jews sent more than $100 million a year to Israel and possibly as much as $200 million (with inflation this number would have doubled). Assuming $100 million has been sent to Israel yearly since 1967 and with approximately 30% of the $5.4 billion total subsidized by the taxpayer that’s around $1.7 billion in Canadian public support.

But there’s little discussion of the public funds that have gone to Israel through charitable donations in recent years. With the exception of the campaign to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund of Canada, which won a partial victory recently, there’s been almost no activism targeting Canadian charitable support for Israel. This despite some of these donations violating Canadian charity law. Funds supporting West Bank settlements, explicitly racist institutions and the Israeli military probably contravene CRA regulations. Without any direct pressure from the Palestine solidarity movement, Beth Oloth Charitable Organization lost its charitable status two years ago for “increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Israeli armed forces” and funding projects in the occupied West Bank. A registered charity since 1980, the Toronto-based organization had $61 million in 2017 revenue.

While not against current CRA regulations, there’s a strong argument to be made against Canadian taxpayers subsidizing donations to hospitals, universities, etc. in “Israel proper”. Is it right for all Canadians to pay a share of some individuals’ donations to a country with a GDP equal to Canada’s? How many Canadian charities funnel money to Sweden or Japan? Is the Israeli government subsidizing Canadian orchestras, museums, guide dog centres, nature conservatory, universities, hospitals, etc?

(Canadian Friends of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, Canadian Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Canadian Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Canadian Association For Labour Israel and Canadian Friends of the Israel Museum are among the many registered charities that raised over a quarter billion dollars for Israel-focused projects in 2018.)

Irrespective of CRA regulations, activists who promote the aims of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement should push to outlaw donations to Israel until that country complies with international law. As they’ve done with other countries, federal government sanctions on Israel should seek to cut off the flow of money from Canada (in compliance with international law).

Drawing attention to subsidized charitable donations, like IDF recruitment, puts the Israel lobby in an uncomfortable position. It is rooted in Canadian law and the Canadian centric nature of the demand undercuts their tired talking points, particularly the idea Israel is being ‘singled out’ unfairly. In fact, these issues demonstrate how the Israel lobby “singles Israel out” sometimes in contravention of Canadian law and often on the taxpayers’ dime.

 

If you are a citizen or permanent resident of Canada please sign the parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into illegal Israeli military recruitment.

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Filed under Israel Lobby

Challenging illegal Israeli military recruitment in Canada

The campaign to oppose illegal Israeli military recruitment in Canada has received a significant boost. A parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into IDF recruitment has quickly surpassed the number of signatures required to be presented in the House of Commons.

Submitted by Rabbi David Mivasair and sponsored by NDP MP Matthew Green, the petition “calls upon the Minister of Justice to undertake a thorough investigation of those who have recruited or facilitated recruiting for the Israel Defense Forces, and if warranted lay charges against those involved in recruiting and encouraging recruiting for the IDF.” In 48 hours over 1,000 individuals have signed the petition, which is twice what’s required for it to be read in Parliament. The government then has to respond.

The petition is part of a multi-faceted campaign that began in the fall with a formal complaint and open letter signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, filmmaker Ken Loach, author Yann Martel, former MP Jim Manly, poet El Jones and more than 150 others. The letter called on the federal government to apply charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act against those recruiting Canadians for the Israeli military.

It is a crime to recruit anyone for a foreign military or to encourage any person to serve in a foreign military. The Foreign Enlistment Act states, “Any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”

On several occasions the Israeli consulate in Toronto has advertised that they have an IDF representative available for personal appointments for those wishing to join the IDF. In 2019 the consulate announced, “an IDF representative will conduct personal interviews at the Consulate on November 11-14. Young people who wish to enlist in the IDF or anyone who has not fulfilled their obligations according to the Israeli Defense Service Law are invited to meet with him.” Subsequently, United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto and Federation Combined Jewish Appeal Montréal publicized a webinar last June by Nefesh-B’Nefesh titled “Joining the IDF”, which claimed to offer participants “everything you need and want to know about joining the IDF.”

As part of drawing attention to the recruitment, Justice Minister David Lametti received a formal complaint and letters from nearly 1,500 individuals. Additionally, the chief of staff for the office of the RCMP Commissioner, Rob O’Reilly, received a packet of evidence and 900 emails regarding illegal Israeli military recruitment in Canada.

The campaign has been widely covered in left Canadian and pro-Palestinian media. “Why is the Israeli military still recruiting in Canada?” (Canadian Dimension), “Canadians should not be recruited to fight for the Israeli army” (Rabble), “Canadians recruited for Israeli war crimes” (Spring), “Toronto schools push students to join Israeli military” (Canada Files), “What Constitutes Recruiting” (Jewish Independent), “Civil society groups demand action on illegal Israeli military recruiting in Canada” (Rabble), “National Campaign Against IDF Recruiting Begins in Canada” (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs), “Justice minister asked to investigate alleged illegal recruiting in Canada by Israeli Military” (Canada Talks Israel Palestine), “Canadians call on justice department to investigate IDF recruitment in Toronto schools” (Mondoweiss), “Israel illegally recruits Canadian citizens to its army” (Electronic Intifada), “Open letter declares opposition to the Illegal Recruitment of Canadians by the IDF” (Canada Files), “Campaign to stop Israeli military recruitment in Canada gathers pace” (Middle Eastern Monitor) are some of the articles published on the campaign.

In Québec Le Devoir discussed the campaign on its front page and in a follow-up article while Journal de Montréal also ran a story on the challenge to Israeli military recruitment in Canada. But, in English Canada the dominant media has ignored the evidence presented to the justice minister and RCMP. A number of reporters expressed interest in the campaign but got cold feet or were stopped by their editors from covering the public letter and evidence compiled. In February Davide Mastracci wrote a powerful article about how “Media Is Ignoring Alleged Illegal Israeli Army Recruitment In Canada”.

The lack of corporate media attention partly reflects the silence of the anti-Palestinian lobby. Generally quick to denounce pro-Palestinian activists “toxic obsession with Israel”, the Israel lobby have failed to find fault with a campaign suggesting they are engaged in criminal activity. They understand that publicly denouncing the anti-recruitment campaign would draw attention to an issue difficult to defend. The potential illegality of the recruitment is embarrassing and promoting a foreign army rests uneasily with even right-wing nationalist thinking, which is generally sympathetic to an anti-Palestinian outlook. Prominent military historian Jack Granatstein, for instance, told an interviewer, “in my view no one who is a Canadian should be able to enlist in some other country’s military and keep his Canadian citizenship.”

At the same time, the Israel lobby doesn’t want to stop convincing young people to join the IDF. According to 2017 statistics from the IDF, 230 Canadians served in the Israeli military. In 2020, 9 per cent of “lone soldiers” in the Israeli military were from Canada according to the IDF. Canadians staff West Bank checkpoints and ships enforcing the blockade of Gaza.

About 3,500 “lone soldiers” serve in the IDF. This is significant but a relatively small proportion of the 150,000 enlisted in the Israeli military.

But “lone soldiers” are of value beyond their military capacities. Foreigners volunteering to fight for Israel are a powerful symbol to pressure/reassure Israelis weary of their country’s violent behavior.

“Lone soldiers” also intensify the Zionist ethos within much of Canada’s Jewish community. If a friend or family member is willing to give up two years of their life to ‘protect the Jewish people’, goes a certain Zionist logic, I should at least donate to an Israel focused group, lobby a politician, undermine a pro-Palestinian professor, etc.

The campaign to oppose Israeli military recruitment in Canada challenges this ideological climate. Bringing the issue into the House of Commons is an important step in disrupting a dynamic where a young Torontonian can be in charge of overseeing Palestinian misery. Please sign the parliamentary petition.

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Filed under Israel, Israel Lobby

Will any MPs criticize Ottawa’s support for dictatorship in Haiti?

The Liberals’ commitment to a neo-Duvalierist dictatorship in Haiti is being tested. Hopefully Black History Month offers opposition parties an opportunity to finally echo growing grassroots criticism of Canadian policy in the hemisphere’s poorest country.

Since Monday a squatter has been occupying the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. On Sunday evening Supreme Court Justice Joseph Mecene Jean-Louis was appointed provisional interim President of Haiti by the opposition parties that say Jovenel Moïse’s mandate is over as the constitution states. But, Moïse has refused to leave, claiming another year on his mandate. He responded by arresting one Supreme Court judge and (unconstitutionally) dismissing three judges as well as sending police to occupy the Supreme Court building.

Moïse has been preparing for this moment for some time. In November he passed a decree criminalizing protests as “terrorism” and another establishing a new intelligence agency while in the summer he instigated a gang alliance to instill fear in the slums. Three months ago Moïse appointed Leon Charles head of the police. The former military man oversaw the police in the 17 months after the 2004 US, France and Canada sponsored coup. At that time Charles publicly referred to a “war” the police waged against the pro-democracy sector. Thousands were killed in political violence after the overthrow of elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Once again Ottawa appears to be backing Charles and a new war on civilians. A few weeks ago (Jan. 18) Canadian ambassador Stuart Savage met Charles to discuss “reinvigorating the police”. A few weeks earlier Savage met Moïse in another sign of the Liberals’ extensive support for the president.

Moïse has also built up the dreaded military revived by his patron, former president Michel Martelly. On Monday the military released a statement backing Moïse in the constitutional dispute and then proceeded to shoot two journalists at a protest, gravely injuring one.

There’s been push back in Canada to Justin Trudeau’s backing of Moïse’s authoritarianism. On Sunday 40 socially distanced demonstrators attended Solidarité Québec-Haïti’s “Rara” musical rally in Montréal against Canadian policy in Haiti and hundreds participated in its nighttime webinar titled “Non au retour du duvaliérisme soutenu par le Canada en Haïti!” Over the past week more than 300 individuals have emailed new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau (and all MPs) to call on Ottawa to “Stop Supporting the Return of Duvalierism in Haiti!”

On the weekend Le Regroupement des Haïtiens de Montréal contre l’Occupation d’Haïti released a statement declaring “No Canadian government support for the dictatorship in Haiti”. Additionally, the Concertation Pour Haïti, which includes Quebec’s major labour unions and a number of government-funded NGOs, demanded Canada “cease all support” for Moïse’s government, “which is increasingly criticized and denounced for its involvement in massacres and violence aimed at establishing a climate of terror, at destroying the opposition and at preventing the emergence of a real alternative.” The Concertation statement added that Ottawa should “cease all forms of support for the illegitimate electoral process and for the constitutional reform project that the authorities want to put in place, a process that does not respect the standards of independence required to establish the legitimacy of a government. The presidency, having failed to organize legislative elections provided for by the Constitution, now governs by decree, holding all the powers on its own.”

In the US Senior Senator Patrick Leahy and seven congresspeople called on the Biden administration to back a transition government. The congresspeople’s statement last week noted, “we feel it is essential that the United States unambiguously reject any attempt by President Moïse to retain power.”

In December the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Chris Aylward, sent a strongly worded letter to the PM critical of Canadian support for Moïse while earlier David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Linda McQuaig, George Elliot Clark and 150 others signed an open letter “calling on the Canadian government to stop backing a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president.” These statements followed on from multiple disruptions by Solidarité Québec-Haïti of ministers, including an occupation of Trudeau’s election office, over the government’s support for Moïse.

But, where are the opposition parties whose job it is to question and oppose government policy? With the exception of Bloc Québécois MP Mario Beaulieu – who sponsored a parliamentary petition critical of “the ‘Core Group’ that allegedly brought to power the governments of Martelly and Moïse, who have been accused of corruption and repression” – the silence has been deafening. I couldn’t find any statement from the NDP or Greens. Nor am I aware of left-wing MPs Paul Manly, Leah Gazan, Alexandre Boulerice, Niki Ashton or Matthew Green releasing anything. A number of these MPs have found time to criticize Chinese repression – where Ottawa has little influence – but have stayed silent when Canadian-trained, financed and diplomatically supported police kill Haitian protesters.

Two centuries ago the Haitian Revolution delivered a massive blow to slavery, colonialism and white supremacy. Is it too much to ask that during Black History Month these left-wing MPs (or their staffers) watch Haiti Betrayed or read some of the many articles critical of Canadian policy in Haiti and tweet their opposition to Canada’s role in reviving Duvalierism?

 

Please email new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau to call on Ottawa to stop supporting president Jovenel Moïse who is reviving the spectre of the brutal Duvalier dictatorship.

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti, Justin Trudeau

Canadian Left rejects Organization of American States

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When people say “America” everyone understands they mean one country, the USA. In a similar fashion it is time for all to understand that the Organization of American States (OAS) serves the interests of that country.

In a recent webinar on “Bolivia’s fight to restore democracy and Canada’s role” organized by the Canadian Latin America Alliance and Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Matthew Green forthrightly criticized Canadian policy in that country and the hemisphere. The NDP MP said “Canada is complicit in the attack on indigeneity in Bolivia” and that “we are an imperialist, extractivist country.” He added that “we ought not be a part of a pseudo-imperialist group like the Lima Group” and criticized “Canada’s involvement in the OAS.”

Green’s statements build on a Jack Harris, the NDP foreign affairs critic, recent comment that the OAS was a “tool of the United States” with “undue influence on other members.” In a Hill Times story titled “NDP, Green MPs raise concern over Canada’s trust in OAS election monitoring in Bolivia” Paul Manly also criticized the OAS. The Green MP said the Organization is “not a credible, impartial player when it comes to leftist governments in South America. It was established to advance U.S. interests.”

The head of the OAS, Luis Almagro, is promoting extreme pro-Donald Trump positions. Recently, the OAS released a statement condemning protesters in Bolivia calling for elections. The coup government there has repeatedly postponed elections after the country’s first ever indigenous president was ousted partly as a result of a highly politicized OAS criticism of last October’s election. As the Onion recently satirized about Bolivia, the best way to ensure there are no “electoral irregularities” is to avoid elections altogether.

In Nicaragua the OAS has backed those seeking to oust Daniel Ortega’s social democratic government. They’ve repeatedly condemned the Sandinista government, prompting Nicaragua to refuse the OAS entry to the country. At the same time the OAS has largely ignored Nicaragua’s Central American neighbour even though Juan Orlando Hernandez defied the Honduras constitution by running for a second term as president and then brazenly stole the election.

In Haiti Almagro has aggressively championed corrupt, repressive and widely despised President Jovenel Moïse. The Secretary General of the OAS recently stated that Moïse’s mandate expired in February 2022, not February 2021 as most Haitians want and constitutional experts have argued. There is also some evidence to suggest the OAS is setting up to support Moïse’s effort to rig the elections. Recently, Haiti’s entire nine person electoral council resigned in response to Moïse’s pressure and the OAS continues to engage with a process that almost all political actors in Haiti reject.

Haiti’s new foreign minister Claude Joseph (representative of a prime minister appointed extra-constitutionally) recently visited Almagro to discuss Moïse’s mandate and elections. During the trip to Washington Joseph also met with the anti-Venezuela Lima Group ambassadors.

In response Haïti Liberté’s Kim Ives noted, “what could be more ironic and ludicrous than Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse accusing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro of being ‘illegitimate and dictatorial’ while demanding that he immediately ‘hold free, fair, and transparent general elections’? But that is exactly the position of the Lima Group, a collection of 15 Latin American states and Canada, which Haiti joined in January 2020.”

Almagro is an extremist on Venezuela. Three years ago the former Uruguayan Foreign Minister’s actions as head of the OAS prompted Almagro’s past boss, former Uruguayan president José Mujica, to condemn his bias against the Venezuelan government. In 2017 Almagro appointed long-time critic of Hugo Chavez and vicious anti-Palestinian Canadian politician, Irwin Cotler, and two others to a panel that launched the process of bringing Venezuela to the International Criminal Court. In a Real News Network interview Max Blumenthal described “the hyperbolic and propagandistic nature” of the press conference where the 400-page Canadian-backed report was released at the OAS in Washington. At the event Cotler ridiculously claimed Venezuela’s “government itself was responsible for the worst ever humanitarian crisis in the region.”

A year later Almagro mused about an invasion of Venezuela. He stated, “as for military intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime, I think we should not rule out any option … diplomacy remains the first option but we can’t exclude any action.”

The OAS receives between 44% and 57% of its budget from Washington. While it’s now the organization’s second largestcontributor, Canada was not part of the OAS for its first 42 years. For decades Canada’s foreign-policy establishment wavered on joining the US-dominated organization. Not long after signing the free-trade agreement with the US, Brian Mulroney’s government joined the OAS in 1990.

The Matthew Green, Paul Manly and Jack Harris criticism of the OAS deserve a wide airing. All opponents of US bullying in the Americas should push for Canada to withdraw from the Organization of American States.

 

 

In an historic event on Thursday, August 20, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will discuss “Canadian Interference in Venezuela.” You can register for the webinar here.

 

 

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Filed under Latin America, Venezuela