Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

Mainstream media boosts Trudeau’s popularity over Venezuela

US presidents have bombed or invaded places like Grenada, Panama, Iraq and Sudan to distract from domestic scandals or to gain a quick boost in popularity. But, do Canadian politicians also pursue regime change abroad to be cheered on by the dominant media as decisive leaders?

In a discussion on regime change in Venezuela after last Monday’s “Lima Group” meeting in Ottawa, Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole praised Canadian policy but added that the Liberals used the meeting of countries opposed to Nicolas Maduro’s government to drown out criticism of their foreign policy. O’Toole claimed the “Lima Group” meeting was “put together quite quickly and I think there are some politics behind that with some of the foreign affairs challenges the Trudeau government has been having in recent months.” In other words, O’Toole believes the Liberals organized a gathering that concluded with a call for the military to oust Venezuela’s elected president to appear like effective international players.

Understood within the broader corporate and geopolitical context, O’Toole’s assessment appears reasonable. After being criticized for its China policy, the Liberals have been widely praised for their regime change efforts in Venezuela. In a sign of media cheerleading, CTV News host Don Martin began his post “Lima Group” interview with foreign minister Chrystia Freeland by stating “the Lima summit has wrapped and the object of regime change is staying put for the time being” and then he asked her “is [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro any step closer to being kicked out of office as a result of this meeting today?” Later in the interview Martin applauded the “Lima Group’s” bid “to put the economic pincers around it [Venezuela’s economy] and choking it off from international transactions.”

In recent days Ben Rowswell, a former Canadian ambassador in Caracas, has been widely quoted praising the Liberals’ leadership on Venezuela. “It’s clear that the international community is paying attention to what Canada has to say about human rights and democracy,” Rowswell was quoted as saying in an article titled “Trudeau’s Venezuela diplomacy is a bright spot amid China furor”.

Rowswell heads the Canadian International Council, which seeks to “integrate business leaders with the best researchers and public policy leaders”, according to its billionaire financier Jim Balsillie. Long an influential voice on foreign policy, CIC hosted the above-mentioned forum with O’Toole that also included the Liberal’s junior foreign minister Andrew Leslie and NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière. CIC’s post “Lima Group” meeting forum was co-sponsored with the Canadian Council of the Americas, which is led by Kinross, Kinross, ScotiaBank, KPMG and SNC Lavalin. On the day of the “Lima Group” meeting CCA head Ken Frankel published an op-ed in the Globe and Mail headlined “Venezuela crisis will be a true test of Canada’s leadership in the hemisphere.” Frankel told CPAC he was “always supportive of Canadian leadership in the Hemisphere” and “the Venezuela situation has presented … a perfect opportunity for the Trudeau government to showcase the principles of its foreign policy.”

At the CCA/CIC forum Laverdière made it clear there’s little official political opposition to Ottawa’s regime change efforts. The NDP’s foreign critic agreed with Canada’s recognition of Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela, as she did on Twitter, at a press scrum and on CPAC during the day of the “Lima Group” meeting in Ottawa. (Amidst criticism from NDP activists, party leader Jagmeet Singh later equivocated on explicitly recognizing Guaidó.)

With the NDP, Conservatives, CIC, CCA, most media, etc. supporting regime change in Venezuela, there is little downside for the Liberals to push an issue they believe boosts their international brand. To get a sense of their brashness, the day of the “Lima Group” meeting the iconic CN Tower in Toronto was lit up with the colours of the Venezuelan flag. A tweet from Global Affairs Canada explained, “As the sun sets on today’s historic Lima Group meeting, Venezuela’s colours shine bright on Canada’s CN Tower to show our support for the people of Venezuela and their fight for democracy.”

The Liberals drive for regime change in Venezuela to mask other foreign-policy problem is reminiscent of Stephen Harper’s push to bomb Libya. Facing criticism for weakening Canada’s moral reputation and failing to win a seat on the UN Security Council, a Canadian general oversaw NATO’s war, seven  CF-18s participated in bombing runs and two Royal Canadian Navy vessels patrolled Libya’s coast.

The mission, which began six weeks before the 2011 federal election, may have helped the Conservatives win a majority government. At the time Postmedia published a story titled “Libya ‘photo op’ gives Harper advantage: experts” and Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom published a commentary titled “Libyan war could be a winner for Harper”.  He wrote: “War fits with the Conservative storyline of Harper as a strong, decisive leader. War against a notorious villain contradicts opposition charges of Conservative moral bankruptcy. The inevitable media stories of brave Canadian pilots and grateful Libyan rebels can only distract attention from the Conservative government’s real failings.”

Similar to Venezuela today, the regime change effort in Libya was unanimously endorsed in Parliament (three months into the bombing campaign Green Party MP Elizabeth May voted against a second resolution endorsing a continuation of the war). “It’s appropriate for Canada to be a part of this effort to try to stop Gadhafi from attacking his citizens as he has been threatening to do,’’ said NDP leader Jack Layton. After Moammar Gaddafi was savagely killed six months later, NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel released a statement noting, “the future of Libya now belongs to all Libyans. Our troops have done a wonderful job in Libya over the past few months.”

Emboldened by the opposition parties, the Conservatives organized a nationally televised post-war celebration for Canada’s “military heroes”, which included flyovers from a dozen military aircraft. Calling it “a day of honour”, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the 300 military personnel brought in from four bases: “We are celebrating a great military success.”

Today Libya is, of course, a disaster. It is still divided into various warring factions and hundreds of militias operate in the country of six million.

But who in Canada ever paid a political price for the destruction of that country and resulting destabilization of much of the Sahel region of Africa?

A similar scenario could develop in Venezuela. Canadian politicians’ push for the military to remove the president could easily slide into civil war and pave the way to a foreign invasion that leads to a humanitarian calamity. If that happened, Canadian politicians, as in Libya, would simply wash their hands of the intervention.

Canadians need to reflect on a political culture in which governing parties encourage regime change abroad with an eye to their domestic standing.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Playing Left Wing, Uncategorized

Canadian interference in Venezuela domestic affairs decades old

According to the official story that the Liberal government and most of the mainstream media have been trying to sell, Ottawa recently recognized the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly as that country’s president because Nicolas Maduro suspended the constitution 18 months ago and thus lost legitimacy. Thus, Ottawa intervened aggressively to re-establish democratic order there. But this narrative of Canada’s involvement omits its long-standing hostility to the Venezuelan government.

In recent days Canada’s former ambassador to Venezuela, Ben Rowswell, has repeatedly claimed that Canada’s effort to overthrow Venezuela’s government began with Maduro’s call for a Constituent Assembly in July 2017, which Rowswell considers illegitimate. Canada’s “approach to democracy promotion … can be traced to the summer of 2017, when Nicolas Maduro suspended the constitutional order,” he wrote in a Globe and Mail op-ed.

Ottawa wasn’t overly concerned about democracy in April 2002 when a military coup took Chavez prisoner and imposed an unelected government.

But Rowswell knows this is not true. In fact, when he departed as ambassador in July 2017, he sang a different tune, boasting that “we established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

At the time, Rowswell told the Ottawa Citizen, that anti-Maduro forces need not worry about his departure, “I don’t think they have anything to worry about because Minister (of Foreign Affairs Chrystia) Freeland has Venezuela way at the top of her priority list.”

Direct Canadian assistance to the opposition dates to at least the mid-2000s. In January 2005, Foreign Affairs invited Maria Corina Machado to Ottawa. Machado was in charge of Súmate, an organization at the forefront of efforts to remove Hugo Chavez as president. Just prior to this invitation, Súmate had led an unsuccessful campaign to recall Chavez through a referendum in August 2004. Before that, Machado’s name appeared on a list of people who endorsed the 2002 coup, for which she faced charges of treason. She denied signing the now-infamous Carmona Decree that dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme Court and suspended the elected government, the attorney general, comptroller general, and governors as well as mayors elected during Chavez’s administration. It also annulled land reforms and reversed increases in royalties paid by oil companies.

Canada also helped finance Súmate. According to disclosures made in response to a question by NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough, Canada gave Súmate $22,000 in 2005–06. Minister of International Cooperation José Verner explained that “Canada considered Súmate to be an experienced NGO with the capability to promote respect for democracy, particularly a free and fair electoral process in Venezuela.”

Alongside large sums from Washington, Canada has provided millions of dollars to groups opposed to the Venezuelan government over the past 15 years. The foremost researcher on U.S. funding to opposition groups in Venezuela, Eva Golinger, cited Canada’s role, and according to a May 2010 report from Spanish NGO Fride, “Canada is the third most important provider of democracy assistance” to Venezuela after the U.S. and Spain.

In a 2011 International Journal article Neil A. Burron describes an interview with a Canadian “official [who] repeatedly expressed concerns about the quality of democracy in Venezuela, noting that the [federal government’s] Glyn Berry program provided funds to a ‘get out the vote’ campaign in the last round of elections in that country.” You can bet it wasn’t designed to get Chavez supporters to the polls.

Ottawa wasn’t overly concerned about democracy in April 2002 when a military coup took Chavez prisoner and imposed an unelected government. It lasted only two days before popular demonstrations, a split within the army, and international condemnation returned the elected government. While most Latin American leaders condemned the coup, Canadian diplomats were silent.

“In the Venezuelan coup in 2002, Canada maintained a low profile, probably because it was sensitive to the United States ambivalence towards Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez,” writes Flavie Major in the book Promoting Democracy in the Americas.

The Stephen Harper government didn’t hide its hostility to Chavez. When Chavez was re-elected president with 63 per cent of the vote in December 2006, 32 members of the Organization of American States — which monitored the election — supported a resolution to congratulate him. Canada was the only member to join the U.S. in opposing the message.

Just after Chavez’s re-election, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs, Thomas Shannon, called Canada “a country that can deliver messages that can resonate in ways that sometimes our messages don’t for historical or psychological reasons.” Six months later Harper toured South America to help stunt the region’s rejection of neoliberalism and U.S. dependence. (“To show [the region] that Canada functions and that it can be a better model than Venezuela,” in the words of a high-level Foreign Affairs official quoted by Le Devoir.)

During the trip, Harper and his entourage made a number of comments critical of the Chavez government. Afterwards the prime minister continued to demonize a government that had massively expanded the population’s access to health and education services. In April 2009 Harper responded to a question regarding Venezuela by saying, “I don’t take any of these rogue states lightly.” A month earlier, the prime minister referred to the far-right Colombian government as a valuable “ally” in a hemisphere full of “serious enemies and opponents.”

After meeting opposition figures in January 2010, Minister for the Americas Peter Kent told the media, “Democratic space within Venezuela has been shrinking and in this election year, Canada is very concerned about the rights of all Venezuelans to participate in the democratic process.”

“During my recent visit to Venezuela, I heard many individuals and organizations express concerns related to violations of the right to freedom of expression and other basic liberties,” said Kent.

Virginie Levesque, a spokesperson for the Canadian Embassy in Venezuela, also accused the Chavez government of complicity with racism against Jews.

“The Canadian Embassy has encouraged and continues to encourage the Venezuelan government to follow through on its commitment to reject and combat anti-Semitism and to do its utmost to ensure the security of the Jewish community and its religious and cultural centers” said Levesque.

Even the head of Canada’s military joined the onslaught of condemnation against Venezuela. After a tour of South America in early 2010, Walter Natynczyk wrote:,“Regrettably, some countries, such as Venezuela, are experiencing the politicization of their armed forces.” (A Canadian general criticizing another country’s military is, of course, not political.)

After Chavez died in 2013 Harper declared that Venezuelans “can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.” And when Maduro won the presidential election later that year Ottawa called for a recount, refusing to at first to recognize the results.

Canada’s bid to oust Venezuela’s elected president is not new. These efforts have grown over the past year and a half mostly because of Venezuela’s economic troubles, the rightward shift in the region, and Donald Trump’s hawkishness on the issue.

This report first appeared on Ricochet

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Uncategorized

Will Canada’s love affair with Israel last?

Pro-Israel lobbyists have had it good in Canada. The outgoing government is wildly supportive and the “Left” party recently purged a number of candidates for publicly expressing pro-Palestinian sympathies. But the election this fall may turn out to be zenith of Israeli influence.

Stephen Harper’s pro-Israelism is legend. At the General Assembly this week, Canadian diplomats voted against the vast majority of the world in opposing a bid to fly the Palestinian flag at the UN headquarters. Further adding to Harper’s Zionist cred, Canada and Israel recently expanded their free trade agreement, which allows products produced in illegal Israeli settlements to enter Canada duty-free. The European Union trade agreement, on the other hand, explicitly precludes Israel from putting made in Israel on goods produced in the occupied West Bank.

Aside from Israel, Canada may be the only country that isn’t officially supporting the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (permanent UN Security Council members US, Russia, China, England and France as well as Germany). While they’ve criticized the accord for not guaranteeing that Iran won’t pursue a nuclear weapon, the Conservatives have repeatedly opposed initiatives to create a nuclear-free Middle East. In the spring, Canada joined the US and Britain in opposing consensus at a Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference that proposed a plan to create a Middle East nuclear-weapons-free zone. As the region’s only nuclear armed state, Israel objected to the NPT scheduling a conference on a nuclear free Middle East even though it hasn’t signed the NPT. In a bid to protect Israel’s large nuclear stockpile, Canadian diplomats worked to scuttle the meeting.

Painful as it is to admit, Harper has deftly turned Israel to his political advantage. The Prime Minister’s aggressive public defense of Israeli actions pleases elements of his Christian evangelical base and plays well with most of the Jewish community all the while strengthening his neoconservative bona fides. But, the Conservatives have also successfully stoked tensions within the opposition parties over Israel.

At the start of the ongoing election campaign the Conservatives set up a website called, “Meet the NDP,” detailing purportedly controversial statements its candidates have made on various issues, including a number of comments critical of Israel. One NDP candidate the Conservatives targeted, Morgan Wheeldon, was forced to resign by the party leadership because he wrote on his Facebook page that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza last summer and that “one could argue that Israel’s intention was always to ethnically cleanse the region — there are direct quotations proving this to be the case.” Apparently, the NDP has excluded as many as eight individuals from contesting riding nominations because of comments criticizing Israel.

(A pro-Palestinian version of “Meet the Conservatives” would not be based on candidates’ Facebook posts, but the slightly more consequential actions of a sitting Prime Minister. Did you know, it might read, Harper addressed an organization — Jewish National Fund — that practices explicit ethnic/religious discrimination in its land use policies and he invited a representative of a group banned in the US and Israel — the Jewish Defense League — to join his delegation to Israel.)

When the NDP blocked Paul Manly, a filmmaker and son of a former NDP MP, from seeking the NDP candidacy in Nanaimo-Ladysmith at the start of the year, he decided to run for the Green party. (In 2012 Manly criticized the NDP after it failed to call on Israel to release his father after illegally seizing a Gaza-bound boat he was aboard.) The Green Party’s embrace of Manly reflects the growing clout of pro-Palestinian activists inside Canada’s fourth national party.

In November 2013 a Jewish Tribune reporter challenged Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, over her planned participation in a fundraiser for Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CPJME). Apparently thinking the interview wouldn’t be read outside pro-Israel circles, May told the Tribune CJPME was “anti-Israel” and noted that she had attended a recent Jewish National Fund fundraiser in Ottawa, even lauding “the great work that’s [the JNF] done in making the desert bloom.” (In actual fact the JNF has helped dispossess Palestinians and Judaize historically Arab areas of Israel.)

While the Tribune likely saw their intervention as a way to pressure May, it sparked a pro-Palestinian backlash that jolted the Green Party’s only Member of Parliament and pushed the party towards a better position on the issue. A few months later the party adopted a resolution critical of Israeli expansionism and when Green Party President Paul Estrin published an anti-Palestinian screed in the midst of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza he was soon forced to resign.

It seems Green Party activists are no longer willing to accept blatant anti-Palestinian sentiment. Moreover, the party leadership has realized they can bleed support from the NDP, particularly among activists, over Israel. If NDP leader Tom Mulcair — who once said “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances” — continues to take anti-Palestinian positions, the Greens are likely to gain more traction among those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, which should in turn push the party to take stronger positions in favor of Palestinian liberation.

Internal fissures within the NDP concerning Palestine are likely to grow. With the most violent and colonialist forces in ascendance, Israel will likely launch another assault on Gaza like those of 2008/09, 2012 and 2014, which left 3700 Palestinians dead, including over 800 children. During last summer’s Israeli attack, Ipolitics described the “NDP’s Simmering Civil War over Gaza.” Deep antipathy towards Harper has tempered some internal criticism, but Mulcair can’t expect this to continue indefinitely if he becomes Prime Minister.

The NDP’s purge of pro-Palestinian candidates, which largely bypassed those with a strong chance of winning seats in the House of Commons, was a depressing reminder of the official dominance of the Israeli perspective. But the large number of individuals targeted, and their disbursement across the country, reflects the growing number of NDP activists critical of Israel.

A historical perspective helps to see the shift. By far Canada’s most significant contribution to Palestinian dispossession: In 1947, Canadian diplomats played an important role in shaping the UN partition plan, which gave the new Jewish state the majority of Palestine despite the Jewish population owning only seven per cent of the land and representing less than a third of the population. The partition plan provided diplomatic legitimacy to a Zionist movement intent on expelling Palestinians from their homeland. But few Canadians understood, let alone protested, Ottawa’s actions. Yet when Israel attacked Gaza last year, tens of thousands demonstrated. In recent years tens of thousands more have voted through their labour union, student union or church to support the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

History may view 2015 as the zenith of pro-Israel influence in Canada.

A version of this article appeared on Electronic Intifada.

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Filed under Canada and Israel, The Ugly Canadian

Canada in Africa book tour begins this week

Stephen Harper is not The Problem but getting rid of him is a necessary first step in changing Canada’s militaristic, pro-corporate international posture that focuses on what’s best for business rather than helping the world’s poorest.

This will be one of the messages during a 20-city pre-election tour for the just-released Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation. Author Yves Engler says one important reason for writing the book was to educate Canadians about what the government is doing in their name around the world. “The more Canadians understand our foreign policy the more they will be upset. My goal is to prod people into voting as global citizens. The more we see ourselves as part of a collective humanity the less likely we are to vote Conservative.”

Engler’s new book, following on The Ugly Canadian — Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy, reveals how over the past decade the Conservatives have aggressively worked to increase corporate mining profits in Africa at the expense of local communities and how in 2011 they waged an illegal war on Libya, destabilizing that country and surrounding states. The book details diplomatic bullying and the spending of tens of millions of tax dollars to promote privatizations, trade agreements and other “aid” to “private” corporations. Most troubling of all, the book describes the damage Harper’s environmental policies are having and will continue to have on the continent least responsible for, but most at risk from, climate change.

But, the book also argues, Canada’s hostile posture towards Africa didn’t begin with Harper.

“Unfortunately Canada’s policies towards Africans have long been colonial and racist,” says Engler. “My research has uncovered a distressing legacy of shameful Canadian behaviour going back even before Confederation.”

The author offers a taste of the book in the following:

Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Canada’s Role in Africa.

  • Canada delivered (free of charge) billions of dollars in weaponry to the colonial powers during the last decade of colonial rule.
  • Canada trained the army command that overthrew Ghanaian independence leader Kwame Nkrumah and Canada’s high commissioner privately celebrated the coup.
  • A Canadian led the expedition to conquer the Katanga region of the Congo on behalf of Belgian King Leopold II.
  • In exchange for land near present-day Harare a Canadian missionary organized health services for Cecil Rhodes’ army that conquered Zimbabwe.
  • Canadian military officials were complicit in the killing of Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba.
  • An Ottawa-based consulting firm has overseen the privatization of tens of billions of dollars in public African infrastructure.
  • Much of Atlantic Canada’s early wealth was generated from feeding Caribbean slave plantations.
  • Canadians rose to become governors of colonial-era Ghana, Kenya and Northern Nigeria.
  • Canadian officials were initially sympathetic towards Idi Amin’s coup in Uganda.
  • Canadian mining companies dominate resource extraction in Africa.

For more information about the book and the tour: https://yvesengler.com/ or email yvesengler [at] hotmail.com

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Got a billion? They will listen

We’ve all heard many times that “money talks” in politics but it was unclear how loudly. Now we know –one billionaire is heard over 50,000 ordinary Canadians.

While about 50,000 people and 175 organizations supported Up for Debate’s call for an election debate focused on women’s issues, it won’t happen because Stephen Harper refused to participate and NDP leader Tom Mulcair is unwilling to appear if the prime minister is not there to bash.

But the same politicians have agreed to a September 28 debate on foreign policy sponsored by an organization named after and financed by one of Canada’s richest and most right-wing capitalists.

Through his Aurea Foundation, Peter Munk, the founder of Barrick Gold, established Munk Debates in 2008. Peter’s son Anthony Munk, a close friends of Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright, is part of the four-person 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 Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Canadian Constitution Foundation as well as the Fraser Institute’s Global Centre for Mining Studies.

Peter Munk espouses 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.

Operating some of the most controversial mining projects in the world, Munk cultivated influence with politicians. He appointed former U.S. President George H. Bush and Tennessee Senator Howard Baker to Barrick Gold’s board, while former Canadian PM Brian Mulroney currently chairs its international advisory board. (When asked why he appointed Mulroney to Barrick’s board, Munk told Peter C. Newman: “He has great contacts. He knows every dictator in the world on a first name basis.”) A month after stepping down as Canada’s foreign minister in February John Baird also joined Barrick’s international advisory board.

While the Munk Debates presents itself as a forum of ideas, Peter Munk has a direct personal stake in Canadian foreign policy. Operating mines on six continents, Barrick Gold has benefited from Canadian aid money and diplomatic support. The company has aggressively opposed moves to withhold diplomatic and financial support to Canadian companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. In 2008 it opposed the recommendations of a business/civil society mining roundtable launched by the previous Liberal government, and two years later the company successfully lobbied against Liberal MP John McKay’s private members bill C 300 (An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas Corporations in Developing Countries).

While Canadian foreign policy should be debated during an election it is not more important than issues that effect women.

And while Canada’s status as a global mining superpower ought to be part of a foreign policy debate, don’t expect any discussion of regulating mining activities abroad or the appropriate level of government “aid” to profitable “private” companies on September 28. Nor should we expect discussion about matters likely to embarrass the military or major corporations, such as what role Canada has played in Libya’s descent into chaos or Canada’s refusal to support international agreements to restrict carbon emissions. After all, a billionaire might be offended.

Ordinary Canadians have been put in their place — 50,000 of us can be dismissed. How many will it take before the politicians are forced to listen to us and ignore the billionaires?

 

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Top 10 things you didn’t know about Canada in Africa

10. Canada is a mining superpower in Africa. With mines in 35 countries, Canadian companies operate hundreds of mineral projects across the continent.

9. Canada trained the army command that overthrew Ghanaian independence leader Kwame Nkrumah and Canada’s high commissioner privately celebrated the coup.

8. A Canadian led the expedition to conquer the Katanga region of the Congo on behalf of Belgian King Leopold II.

7. In exchange for land near present-day Harare a Canadian missionary organized health services for Cecil Rhodes’ army that conquered Zimbabwe.

6. Canadian military officials were complicit in the killing of Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba.

5. An Ottawa-based consulting firm has overseen the privatization of tens of billions of dollars in public African infrastructure.

4. Much of Atlantic Canada’s early wealth was generated from feeding Caribbean slave plantations.

3. A Canadian intelligence officer/diplomat led the Nairobi police force that arrested Kenya’s future president and violently suppressed the Mau Mau independence movement in the 1950s.

2. Canadians rose to become governors of colonial-era Ghana, Kenya and Northern Nigeria.

And the No. 1 thing that you didn’t know about Canada in Africa is: Tens of thousands of Africans have protested Canadian corporate behaviour across the continent where 45% of people live on less than a dollar a day.

Yves Engler’s new book Canada in Africa — 300 years of Aid and Exploitation is the first critical overview of Canadian policy towards the continent. It documents Canadian involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, “scramble for Africa”, missionary movement and European colonialism as well as Ottawa’s opposition to anticolonial struggles and promotion of neoliberal economic prescriptions, which have benefited Canadian mining companies that have bought up much of the continent’s mineral resources, but are often bitterly resisted by local communities.

For more information contact yvesengler [at] hotmail.com

 

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Canadian crimes against humanity in Africa

Should Africans pursue Stephen Harper for crimes against humanity?

The Africa Progress Report 2015 suggests they may have a solid moral, if not necessarily legal, case.

Led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Africa Progress Panel highlights Canada and Australia as two countries that “have withdrawn entirely from constructive international engagement on climate.” The mainstream group concludes that Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda have shown “far higher level of ambition” to lessen CO2 emissions than Canada.

The report, which was released last week, adds to a significant body of evidence showing that anthropogenic global warming poses a particularly profound threat to Africans. Although hardest hit by climate change, the terrible irony is that Africa, among all continents, is least responsible for the problem.

If nothing is done to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, average temperatures may rise 7°C in southern Africa and 8°C in the north by century’s end. Reaching nearly twice the global average, this would destabilize human life on large swaths of the continent.

Still, a skeptic might argue, how does this amount to charging Stephen Harper with crimes against humanity? Doesn’t that require some form of mass murder or genocide?

Back in 2012 the Climate Vulnerability Monitor concluded that climate disturbances were responsible for 400,000 deaths per year, mostly in Africa. Nigerian ecologist Nnimmo Bassey has dubbed growing carbon emissions a “death sentence for Africa” while Naomi Klein reports that “African delegates at UN climate summits have begun using words like ‘genocide’ to describe the collective failure to lower emissions.”

Various ecological, economic and social factors explain the continent’s vulnerability. Most Africans are directly dependent on resource sectors – fisheries, forestry and agriculture – that are particularly vulnerable to climate conditions. Between half and two thirds of the continent are subsistence farmers who largely rely on natural rainfall, rather than irrigation, to water their crops. Additionally, large swaths of the continent are arid and a third of Africa’s productive area is already classified as dry land. As such, subsistence farmers’ crop yields and incomes are easily damaged by reduced or intermittent rainfall. According to Tanzanian Minister of State for the Environment Binilith Mahenge, “global warming of 2˚C would put over 50 per cent of the African continent’s population at risk of undernourishment.”

CO2 induced food shortages are not in some far off dystopian future. A study by Britain’s Met Office concluded that global warming sparked a major famine in Somalia in 2011 during which 50,000 Somalis died.

While water shortages represent a threat to many, an excess of this same element poses a hazard elsewhere. A quarter of Africa’s population lives within 100km of the continent’s 38,000 km coastline. Without significant investments to mitigate risks to major metropolises, such as Dar es Salaam, Mombasa and Lagos, the threat of flooding looms.

Carbon can also trigger the taking up of arms. Climate change has spurred violent cattle raids in north-western Kenya and triggered the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali while the mid-2000s violence in Sudan’s Darfur region was dubbed the world’s “first climate change war.” A University of California, Berkeley, study found a statistical link between the hotter temperatures generated by climate change and the risk of armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. The Colorado researchers forecast a 54 per cent rise in civil conflict on the continent due to climate change by 2030, causing 393,000 more combat deaths.

Increasing the strain on governance structures, climate change has already exacerbated inequities and ethnic divisions in parts of the continent. Climate change may well propel large areas of Africa into a downward cycle, further undermining the capacity of communities and governments to cope.

But most African governments can contribute little to curtail runaway global warming because their countries’ carbon footprints are negligible compared to the biggest capitalist economies. Per capita emissions in most African countries amount to barely 1% of Canada’s rate. In Uganda, Congo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda and Mozambique, per capita emissions comprise less than 1/150th of Canada’s average. In Tanzania, Madagascar, Comoros, The Gambia, Liberia and Zambia per capita emissions are less than 1/80th Canada’s average.

Forward looking comparisons are equally stark. If plans to double tar sands production proceed, by 2030 Alberta’s project will emit as much carbon as most sub-Saharan African countries combined.

Canadian officialdom has done little to regulate tar sands emissions and has, in fact, subsidized its expansion. The Conservative government has campaigned aggressively against any international effort to reduce carbon emissions from fuel sources, which might impact sales of Alberta bitumen. Canadian diplomats worked with feverish determination to undermine the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive, a modest bid that would force suppliers to privilege lower-emission fuels. To the south, the Canadian government also lobbied aggressively against any US legislation that might curtail tar sands expansion and in favour of the Keystone XL pipeline to take oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

Despite the rising toll of climate change in Africa, the Canadian government pushed to grow the global “carbon bomb” in international forums. At every turn, Harper’s Conservatives have blocked progress on setting minimally serious targets for reducing CO2 emissions, repeatedly receiving the Colossal Fossil given out by hundreds of environmental groups to the country that did the most to undermine international climate negotiations meetings. At this week’s G7 meeting, Canadian officials reportedly sought to undermine German chancellor Angela Merkel’s bid for a statement committing countries to a low carbon economy by 2050.
Under Conservative government leadership, Canada became the first country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement committing leading industrial economies to reducing GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2012. (Instead of attaining its 6% reduction target, Canada’s emissions increased 18 per cent.)

In addition to undermining international climate negotiations and the efforts of other nations to reduce GHGs, the Harper government made a mockery of its own commitments. As part of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, Ottawa pledged to reduce carbon emissions 17 per cent by 2020 (from the levels in 2005). Five years later, however, Environment Canada admitted this target would not be reached. In fact, Environment Canada suggested emissions would rise 20% by 2020.

In a sign of Ottawa’s near total indifference to the impact of global warming in Africa, the Conservatives pulled out of an international accord to study the consequences of desertification, a process ravaging parts of the African continent. In 2013, Canada withdrew from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in countries seriously affected by drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.

Adopted in 1994, this international convention collects and shares scientific information about drought and ways to curb its spread. By becoming the sole nation outside the convention, Canada saved itself a paltry $300,000 a year. While the savings barely registered in the federal government’s $260 billion budget, the message was clear.

Clearly Harper’s Conservative government has wilfully ignored the interests of Africans and pursued an environmental, economic and political course that has already killed hundreds of thousands.

In a just world a Fulani pastoralist in Burkina Faso would have a forum to pursue Stephen Harper for crimes against humanity.

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