Tag Archives: Rideau Institute

Elizabeth May accepts right-wing billionaire’s debate

images-1It is great that Elizabeth May wants to debate foreign policy issues, but why would the Green Party leader want to participate in an event designed and controlled by an organization funded by right-wing capitalists who profit from the super exploitation of poor people and countries across the planet?

In recent days Munk Debates has repeatedly run a Facebook ad calling on individuals to pressure other party leaders to agree to their debate. It notes, “thank you Elizabeth May and Andrew Scheer for accepting our invitation to participate in the Munk federal election debate on foreign policy. Help us convince Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau to take part in the debate by visiting our website. Email Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau. More debates = more democracy.”

Generally, political debates do reflect vibrant democracy but that is not necessarily the case when the forum was set up and financed by one of Canada’s richest and most right-wing capitalists. Through his Aurea Foundation, Peter Munk, the founder of rapacious global mining firm Barrick Gold, established Munk Debates a decade ago. Peter’s son Anthony Munk is on the committee overseeing the debate series.

Set up to promote Peter Munk’s vision of the world, the Aurea Foundation has doled out millions of dollars to right-wing think tanks such as the Fraser Institute, Canadian Constitution Foundation and Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Now deceased, Peter Munk espoused far-right political views. In 1997 he publicly praised dictator Augusto Pinochet for “transforming Chile from a wealth-destroying socialist state to a capital-friendly model that is being copied around the world” while two years later the Canadian Jewish News reported on a donation Munk made to an Israeli University and speech in which he “suggested that Israel’s survival is dependent on maintaining its technological superiority over the Arabs.” In 2006 he attacked leftist Bolivian president Evo Morales and the next year wrote a letter to the Financial Times comparing Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to Hitler. In a March 2011 Globe and Mail interview Munk dismissed criticism of Barrick’s security force in Papua New Guinea by claiming “gang rape is a cultural habit” in that country and he responded to a 2014 Economist question about whether “Indigenous groups appear to have a lot more say and power in resource development these days” by saying “globally it’s a real problem. It’s a major, major problem.”

In the lead-up to the 2015 election 50,000 individuals and 175 group signed a petition calling for a debate on women’s issues. It never happened, but in a sign of how “money talks” in politics, a Munk foreign policy debate did. And the questions asked were in line with the debate sponsor’s worldview.

This election tens of thousands have called on CBC to hold a climate change debate, but it has yet to be scheduled. Instead, the Conservatives, who would rather not discuss the environment, and the Greens have agreed to another debate organized by a billionaire’s foundation.

There are two ways to look at May’s participation in the Munk Debate.

  • Having been excluded from previous election debates, she is simply keen to partake in these forums and is sincerely committed to an exchange of ideas.
  • And/or, May’s decision to participate in this right wing circus means she is comfortable participating in the Munk Debate because she shares much of their foreign policy outlook. (I detailed this in “Green leader May supports same old pro-imperialist foreign policies.”)

To avoid reinforcing this impression, May could have conditioned her participation in the debate on the Rideau Institute or Project Ploughshares playing a role in determining the questions or co-sponsoring the debate.

While it is good May is willing to debate international issues, the devil is in the details. And if one of those details is committing to the interests of billionaire capitalists, banks and mining companies, instead of ordinary people around the globe, then the Green Party leader is just another establishment politician.

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Where seeking mainstream media attention leads

Do Black (Haitian) lives matter to Canada’s leading ‘left-wing’ foreign-policy think tank? Apparently not as much as having the corporate media mention their work by getting in bed with militarism disguised as peacekeeping.

At the start of Black History Month the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute co-published Unprepared for Peace?: The decline of Canadian peacekeeping training (and what to do about it). On the cover of the report a white Canadian soldier, with a massive M-16 strapped around his shoulder, is bent over to hold the hand of a young black boy. In the background are Canadian and UN colours.

A call for the Canadian Forces to offer its members more peacekeeping training, Unprepared for peace? is premised on the erroneous notion that UN missions are by definition socially useful. And it repeatedly implies that Canada’s most significant recent contribution to a UN mission — the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) — was an operation we should be proud of.

The lead author of the report is Rideau Institute board member Walter Dorn, who has worked with and publicly lauded the UN mission in Haiti. “With financial support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade”, Dorn wrote, “the United Nations sent me on research trips to the UN missions in Haiti” and elsewhere in 2006. During a sabbatical that year Dorn served as a consultant to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and later briefed the “Military Directors of the UN Mission in Haiti” on “Technologies for Peacekeeping”. With help from MINUSTAH he published Intelligence-led Peacekeeping: The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), 2006–07. In it Dorn claims the intervention to overthrow Haiti’s elected government in 2004 was designed “to create basic conditions for security and stability.” The report largely focuses on UN intelligence activities in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s poorest neighbourhood.

In applauding UN operations in Cite Soleil, Dorn ignores MINUSTAH’s political role. After helping oust Jean-Bertrand Aristide and thousands of other elected officials, 500 Canadian soldiers were incorporated into a UN mission that backed up the coup government’s violent crackdown of Haiti’s pro-democracy movement from March 2004 to May 2006. The UN force also participated directly in pacifying the slums, which left dozens of civilians dead in Cité Soleil (a bastion of support for Aristide).

Dorn has delivered a number of lectures and interviews in favour of the UN force. In 2010 he presented on “The Protection of Civilians: The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.” The next year he told CBC Radio’s The World This Weekend the world is “crying for Canada” to expand its military role within the UN, noting “we have a long-standing police contribution in Haiti but we could easily contribute to the military side.”

He also rebuked critics of the UN. In 2012 the author of a Council of Hemispheric Affairs report, Courtney Frantz, told IPS MINUSTAH “perpetrated acts of violence” and had “become an instrument of the U.S., France and Canada in terms of their economic interests (including privatisation in Haiti).” In the article, Dorn countered Frantz, saying UN forces delivered “law and order”.

The next year Dorn told the Canadian Press that adding 34 Canadian soldiers to MINUSTAH was a “positive development. It helps Haiti. It helps the United Nations, the United States and Brazil.”

While dispatching Canadian soldiers may have helped the US and Brazil (the country leading the military mission), most Haitians see the UN as an occupying force responsible for innumerable abuses. Aside from the above-mentioned political repression, the UN’s disregard for Haitian life caused a major cholera outbreak, which left at least 8,000 Haitians dead and 750,000 ill. In October 2010 a UN base in central Haiti discharged sewage, including the feces of newly deployed Nepalese troops, into a river where people drank. This introduced the water-borne disease into the country.

Haiti represents but one example of Dorn’s support for Canadian backed UN violence. In writing about the early 1960s UN mission in the Congo Dorn ignores that mission’s role in the assassination of elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Similarly, he provides a wildly one-sided version of the early 1950s “UN police action” in Korea, which left as many as four million dead.

Dorn promotes greater Canadian engagement in UN military actions, but doesn’t mind if this takes place alongside US/NATO led wars. Last March he wrote, “the two approaches can coexist. It’s not one or the other and nothing in between. We can excel in combat and excel in peacekeeping.”

Sympathetic to Washington’s worldview, Dorn isn’t troubled by UN forces standing in for NATO. In Unprepared for Peace? he writes: “In the post-Afghanistan period, the burden of addressing emerging international crises is increasingly shifted towards the United Nations, with NATO limiting its intervention primarily to air strikes such as those used in Libya in 2011.”

In the case of the Canada/France/Britain/US war in Libya, Dorn called for a UN force to mop up a conflict he deemed, even four years after, “justified… easily passing a Just War threshold.” Five months into that war the Independent reported him saying, a “peacekeeping mission in Libya would present the UN with an opportunity to overcome its surprisingly outmoded attitude to new military technology.”

As he campaigns for improved UN military capacity, Dorn enthused about the Obama administration’s commitment to strengthening UN weaponry. “The U.S. effort is genuine”, he said in March. “I’ve been to Washington three times in recent months to talk with the (U.S.) Department of Defense on helping bring United Nations peacekeeping technology into the 21st century.”

Dorn attracts corporate media interest, which presumably explains the Rideau Institute’s interest in collaborating. Unprepared for Peace? was cited throughout the dominant media and the Toronto Star editorial board even praised its conclusions.

But, Dorn’s establishment standing is largely due to his position at the Royal Military College and Canadian Forces College. The military’s website describes Dorn as a “professor at the Canadian Forces College and Chair of the Master of Defence Studies programme at RMC [Royal Military College].” Dorn survives, even thrives, at the military run colleges because elements of the Canadian Forces have long viewed “peacekeeping”, which demands a military force, as a way to maintain public support for its budget.

An indication of his opinion towards military spending, in 2014 Ipolitics reported, “[Dorn] said he is satisfied with the current size of the military. He said anything smaller would mean Canada is spending less than 1 per cent of GDP on its Armed Forces – and, as a professor of defence studies, that’s not something he could support.”

Perhaps some might argue that the “foreign policy left” should be a broad coalition that includes anyone who is in favour of anything called “peacekeeping” or that the Rideau Institute has simply not thought through the implications of promoting Dorn’s views. But how do you square either argument with Richard Sanders, coordinator Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, appeal to peace activists attending a 2010 Rideau Institute sponsored event with Dorn: “Knee-jerk support for anything with the UN ‘peacekeeping’ brand can lead folks to supporting mass murder of innocent civilians.”

Unfortunately, Canada’s preeminent ‘left-wing’ foreign policy think tank has spurned demilitarization and anti-imperialist voices to promote the views of the liberal end of the military. The Rideau Institute works with an individual who aggressively supported Canada’s worst foreign-policy crime of the first decade of the 21st century. But the victims were poor black Haitians so apparently that does not matter.

Happy Black History Month.

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