All posts by Kim Petersen

The Moral Fiber of Justin Trudeau

For any appeal to ethics and morality to have any legitimacy, the principles so enounced must be applied rigorously, without favor or prejudice, to all human beings whatever grouping they may be slotted into. In other words, favoritism and morality are an antithetical mixture.

The principle that holds morals apply equally to all humans seemingly eludes Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau.

On 7 November, Trudeau stood in the House of Commons and railed against anti-Semitism and rightly so. Anti-Semitism, as with any form of racism or hatred expressed against any grouping, is anathema.

Yet Trudeau’s taking up the cause of anti-Semitism by attacking the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is transparently, logically, and morally flawed.

Trudeau correctly apologized for Canada’s turning away Jewish refugees in 1939. Trudeau followed up the apology bemusedly:

Anti-Semitism is far too present. Jewish students still feel unwelcomed and uncomfortable on some of our colleges and university campuses because of BDS-related intimidation.

And out of our entire community of nations, it is Israel whose right to exist is most widely and wrongly questioned.

Any form of racism in any iota is an iota too much. This applies to all groupings of humans. No one should be despised, looked down upon, or discriminated against merely by virtue of being attached to a group through birth or circumstances beyond one’s control.1

Yes, anti-Semitism exists. Probably every form of racism exists. It is deplorable to despise someone for the mere fact of being Jewish. However, Zionism is a different animal. Political Zionism is racist to its core and highly discriminatory. Hence, if one is opposed to racism, then one must also speak out against racism by Jews against others. Some try to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism; however, this is palpably fallacious. Imagine if someone tried to argue that if a person is opposed to the KKK that that person must therefore be against all white people (which would include most Jews). It is patently ludicrous, and it speaks ill to the intellectual rigor of any individual who would make such a claim.

Trudeau made blanket assertions. He did not back up what he said. What did he mean by they “feel unwelcomed”? What is “BDS-related intimidation”? BDS is widely understood to be a non-violent means of attempting to end Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

Furthermore, even if there were intimidation, it would pale in comparison to the slow-motion genocide experienced by Palestinians, the open-air concentration camp maintained by Israel against Palestinians (in blatant contravention of the Geneva Conventions — thus being a war crime), and the myriad racist laws designed to humiliate Palestinians. BDS is a means for Palestinians to keep their heads up and resist with dignity. Trudeau attempts to take this dignity away from Palestinians.

One might even think after listening to Trudeau that Jews were being oppressed by Palestinians instead of vice versa. Renowned academic Noam Chomsky put the racism into a comparative framework:

Anti-Arab racism is, however, so widespread as to be unnoticeable; it is perhaps the only remaining form of racism to be regarded as legitimate.2

… Contempt for the Arab population is deeply rooted in Zionist thought.3

And what should one make of Trudeau’s proclamation that “it is Israel whose right to exist is most widely and wrongly questioned”? What about the state of Palestine? When has the government of Canada, and when has Trudeau, ever spoken sincerely of the right for a Palestinian state to exist?

Could Trudeau be unaware of how the Canadian state came to be? It is established on the territory of the First Nations, also through the dastardly crime of genocide.4 What about the right of First Nations to a nation state or nation states?

Trudeau might do well to learn from anti-racism activist Tim Wise who explained the antipathy that Jewish Zionism arouses.5

Of course, Israel itself is a suicide culture, though they left this part out of my Hebrew School classes. What else could one call a nation erected amidst folks who don’t want you there, whose land you had to steal, if not a land rooted in a death wish? We may not blow ourselves up, but we sure as hell have come up with a creative way to put our individual and collective lives in danger — become usurpers of other people’s stuff: always a sure way to make people hate you.6

Human rights and opposition to racism are not pick-and-choose principles. To be regarded seriously and exude moral integrity, one must resolutely support the equal and fair application of human rights for all humans, and one must resolutely oppose racism against any group of people.

  1. For example, some mitigating circumstances might exist such as having been raised in a white-supremacist household.
  2. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Haymarket Books): 550.
  3. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: 551.
  4. See, for example, Bruce Clark, Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights (2018). Review. Tamara Starblanket, Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State (Clarity Press, 2018). Review. Kerry Coast, The Colonial Present: The Rule of Ignorance and the Role of Law in British Columbia (Clarity Press and International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, 2013). Review. Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). Review.
  5. Yes, there are Christian Zionists as well. They are basically motivated by Scriptural interpretation rather than the racially based in-group supremacism of Jews. Also, it should be axiomatically understood that when one speaks of a group that the members of a group do not form a monolithic consciousness.
  6. In Adam Engel, A Conversation with Tim Wise, Counterpunch, 6 December 2003.

Canadian Legal System’s Complicity in Genocide

[T]he US government no less than the government of Canada is required to obtain the consent of the Indian nations’ before assuming jurisdiction to invade, occupy and govern the yet unceded Indian national territories.

– Bruce Clark, Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights (2018), p 25-26

I have only been physically inside a courtroom once, and that was to support a falsely accused colleague. It struck me that a typical western courtroom is set up not to exude justice but to intimidate, not just the accused but all people present, with the power of the State. The judge is invariably seated centrally on a dais, able to observe all that transpires below in the courtroom. When the judge enters, all present are required to stand, and none may be seated until permission is granted by his “honor.” When the proceedings are displeasing to her honor, she may strike a gavel on the dais to summon order in the courtroom.

Witness the power of the State: the power to mete out punishment for persons found guilty of something the State has determined to be illegal. It is a power that may be, and has been, wielded in what would be construed to be a thoroughly criminal manner in a moral universe. After all, gift giving and dancing were once deemed illegal by the Canadian State, and thus the tradition of First Nation Potlatches were banned until a sense of sanity and seeming propriety prevailed.

Such legal chicanery is not surprising to those who subscribe to Emery Dahlberg’s admonition that power corrupts.1 When law is unjust or when the punishment for wrongdoing is unjust, then the State has abused its power. The State’s power to prescribe justice can, moreover, be argued to represent State violence – in that the threat of punishment is used by the State to coerce behavioral compliance with the societal norms as dictated by the State.

To any informed person, Canada is undeniably a nation state erected on pre-existing nation states. The founding of Canada was unquestionably rooted in the genocide of the Original Peoples of the territory.2 Genocide is a heinous act often rooted in racism and supremacism. One group of humans considers itself privileged and accords itself rights, god-given or not, to the land and resources regardless of whichever people inhabit such territory or how long the territory has been the domain of its inhabitants.

That the law is not a moral construct is adduced by the fact that it has served as a vehicle for carrying out great crimes. The so-called New World was gifted by the Papal Bull Inter Caetera (1493) for division among the Spanish and Portuguese. Non-Christian savages had no rights according to the papacy. Albeit this was later superseded by the Papal Bull Sublimis Deus (1537). Nonetheless, the entirety of the western hemisphere remains controlled by elitist European settler-colonialists.3 Hence, Original Peoples find themselves stripped of sovereignty, ethnically cleansed from gargantuan swaths of unceded territory (reality check: who knowingly agrees to ceding a people’s territory anyway?), marginalized from decision-making regarding their lands, with many people having been forcibly assimilated into the dominating culture.

How to achieve actual justice for the dispossessed?

Bruce Clark is a man who made his living in the courtroom as a lawyer. He is an expert in law as applied to Indigenous peoples, having achieved a doctorate in comparative jurisprudence. Clark believes in the notion of applying law to achieve justice. Justice is a concept that is higher than the self, thus Clark took on the establishment to seek justice for his Indigenous clients. In the end he was punished for his zeal for justice.

I first became aware of Bruce Clark when he was providing counsel to the Sundancers at Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake). To protect the claimed rights of an American rancher to property on unceded Secwepemc territory, the provincial government resorted to para-military measures to evict the Sundancers; it was astoundingly reprehensible to me. Natural law was stood on its head by the provincial authorities. It is a matter that all “British Columbians” and “Canadians” should make themselves deeply informed about and act thereupon according to their consciences.

Bruce Clark is speaking and writing words extremely discomfiting to many non-Indigenous people. He is the author of Justice in Paradise and Native Liberty, Crown Sovereignty: The Existing Aboriginal Right of Self-Government in Canada. Just published is a collection of Clark’s subsequent writings, Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights. In Ongoing Genocide Clark presents the legal case for Indigenous sovereignty such that the layperson can readily grasp the arguments.

Clark examines the constitutional law, international law, and case studies based on the law of the invaders. When interpreted without bias, the compelling arguments of Clark strongly refute any credence to the newcomers’ doctrine of discovery, especially over lands previously inhabited for millennia. That invader courts should have any authority in the territory invaded is, on its face, risible.

While constitutional and international law should be preeminent, in Canada writes Clark, “The modus operandi of the legal establishment and its collaborating Indian accomplices is the suppression of the constitutional and international law that the establishment intentionally is breaking.” (p 15)

The corruption in the system is political, economic, and legal. Clark finds that the legal profession and the judiciary are complicit in misprision of treason, fraud, and genocide. (p 31) The legal system has politicized law through artifices such as “the rule of judicial discretion” substituted for “the rule of law.” (p 40) Clark criticizes, “The lie, recently invented by the Supreme Court of Canada in willful blindness, is that the aboriginal right is no more than ‘the right to be consulted’…” (p 142)

The legal system has shielded itself from scrutiny in its complicity with crimes committed. Writes Clark,

Immunity anywhere signifies the non-existence of the rule of law everywhere. But again that will not happen, because like Canada the legal establishment of the United States practices the same willful blindness to the unconstitutional genocide at the historical heart of its legal system. (p 50)

A number of court decisions are mistakes, per incuriam, and are not a binding precedent, writes Clark.

Clark cites legal documents and precedents, in particular, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which sets aside the Hunting Grounds to Indian nations in which the Indians are to be unmolested.

Clark has tried to challenge the constitutionality of Canada’s usurpation of Indigenous territory. A Catch 22 has been designed to block this. Clark relates how the Supreme Court demands a lower court ruling on the matter while the lower courts insist it is a Supreme Court matter. (p 127) It is clear to Clark that an independent, third party adjudication is required, this having already been established in the 1703 case of the Mohegan Indians v. Connecticut for Indian land claims throughout British North America.

Pressing to have his legal arguments heard and a decision rendered in court ultimately cost Clark his career as a lawyer. But this was not the end of Clark or the quest for justice.

Clark remains dangerous to the system that upholds the dispossession. A Vancouver Sun diatribe against Clark revealed this. Clark is described as “too radical for B.C. courtrooms, and too rambunctious for the Ontario bar,” and “a colourful but fatally misguided militant zealot.” Yet the critic acknowledges, “… Clark’s well-articulated ideas are definitely threatening to the status quo.”

Clark touches upon many topics in Ongoing Genocide among them the effects of Indian Residential Schools, the Indian Act, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“… an expensive fraud upon the public but a cruel imposition upon the victims, who are encouraged to air their innermost suffering in the mistaken belief that it will lead to closure.” [p 20]), the so-called 60’s scoop of Indigenous children, and more.

The book concludes by pointing out an error in the Supreme Court Case Tsilhqot’in v. British Columbia, 2014 that is at odds with precedents such as the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and section 109 of the Constitution Act, 1867. In recent years the BC provincial government and federal government have apologized for the wrongful hanging of six Tsilhqot’in chiefs.4 Despite this, the BC government and Taseko Mines have continued to undermine Indigenous sovereignty, with repeated attempts to set up and operate a platinum mine in the Tsilhqot’in nation.

Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights puts forward the case over which Canadian law courts dare not deliberate. That should not preclude people of conscience becoming informed. Is Canada a just society? Read the book and judge for yourself. Then do something about it. Humanity requires many more brave warriors like Bruce Clark.

  1. I hold that Dahlberg’s aphorism should not be considered too simplistically – that it has many layers. E,g, there is probably something already present in the nature of many humans that leads them to covet power.
  2. See Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). Read review.
  3. A noteworthy exception is Warisata (Bolivia) which has been governed by an Indigenous president, Evo Morales, since 2006.
  4. Emilee Gilpin, “Minister Carolyn Bennett says exoneration of Tsilhqot’in chiefs opens door to reconciliation,” National Observer, 27 March 2018; Tom Swanky, “Exoneration of the Chilcotin Chiefs,” 10 September 2015.

What Is the Left in Canada?

A claim to righteousness in international affairs is fundamental to Canadian exceptionalism, the idea that this country is morally superior to other nations.

— Yves Engler1

In early August of this year, the Canadian minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, tweeted for Saudi Arabia to release human rights activists. This greatly angered the Sauds who issued a series of sanctions that included selling off Saudi assets in Canada, ceasing purchases of Canadian wheat and barley, expelling Canada’s ambassador, suspending all Saudi Arabian Airlines flights to and from Toronto, and ordering Saudi students to leave Canadian schools.

So far Canadian government officials have not responded other than to state Canada will continue to speak out on human rights abuses. That Canada speaks about human rights abuses comes across as rank hypocrisy to some Canadians. Given that Canada exists through a genocide against its Original Peoples; given that Canada is a partner in US imperialist wars; given that Canadian corporations, especially mining corporations, have been exploiting the third world whereby do Canadian officials living in their government greenhouse deign to cast rocks at other houses?

Canada touts itself as a multicultural land that embraces diversity. Canada tends to align itself more so with the Scandinavian welfare-state model rather than the rugged individualism of its neighboring United States. And Canada has a politically represented Left, or what purports to be a Left, in the New Democratic Party (NDP) — even a Communist Party and Marxist-Leninist Party, although neither are electorally successful.

Yves Engler has written Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada (Black Rose Books, 2018) which examines the Left in Canada. I tend to use the term progressivism because it refers to a grouping “that encompasses a wide spectrum of social movements that include environmentalism, labor, agrarianism, anti-poverty, peace, anti-racism, civil rights, women’s rights, animal rights, social justice and political ideologies such as anarchism, communism, socialism, social democracy, and liberalism.” The term the Left points to a bipolar split rather than a spectrum. Nonetheless, progressivism and the Left are referring toward a similar orientation.

In Left, Right Engler examines the NDP (and its earlier incarceration as the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation or CCF), the labor movement, leftist institutions, and leftist personalities (and other actors) for just how leftist or left-leaning they actually are. If one self-identifies as Left, then its seems perfectly reasonable that one should adhere to leftist principles. Actions will define a social/political orientation with greater clarity than words (which are also important). To belong to a party deemed leftist which then pursues right-wing policies presents a contradiction — and in the worst case, exposes one to criticism for hypocrisy.

Engler critiques the CCF/NDP for its militarist support, lack of compassion for foreign workers, and moral corruption of its leaders. For instance, NDP stalwart “Stephen Lewis was stridently anti-Palestinian,” writes Engler. (p 31) Ex-federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair was a front-and-center Zionist. Engler notes that another ex-federal NDP leader Jack Layton was passionate about the role of Canada’s military in Afghanistan. (p 35)

Engler asks,

Has the desire of some in the NDP to replace the Liberals as the slightly leftist alternative to the Conservatives caused the party to move so far to the right that it agrees with Canada being a partner in enforcing imperialism? If so, what sort of home does it offer to those who oppose US Empire and all forms of imperialism? (p 48)

This reviewer does not consider any major Canadian party to be Left. The Conservatives are staunchly neoliberal. Ditto for the Liberals (just a bite less to the Right than the Conservatives). The NDP also are a Right of Center party. Their lack of internationalism, support for militarism, racism among leaders, etc locate them at a great distance from leftist principles. At best the NDP are faux-Left.

The labor movement has also seen jingoism, militarism, racism among labor leaders, anti-communism, and a lack of solidarity (a sine qua non for the dignity of labor).

Engler writes that the Right has caught the ear of many labor leaders. (p 86-94)

Even “left-wing” think tanks bend to the Right, as do “leftist” critics. Engler notes that the Rideau Institute’s support for “peace-keeping” plays into mythologizing Canada as a peaceful kingdom while aligning with military objectives. (p 99)

As far as I can tell, major Canadian peacekeeping missions have always received support from Washington. Ignoring the power politics often driving peacekeeping missions has resulted in (unwitting) support for western imperialism. (p 100)

The author dispels the obfuscation of corporate/state media and its purveyors to cut through disinformation that has captured some of the “leftist” imagination. Engler shreds the role of a good Canada historically and more contemporaneously, among others, in supporting Zionism, the US-France-Canada orchestrated coup in Haiti, as well as the lauded (nauseatingly by corporate/state media) Canadian general Roméo Dallaire who twisted the genocide in Rwanda. Dallaire is a strong proponent of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, a cover for western imperialism. (p 176)

Even among Original Peoples — traditionally considered, in at least a societal sense as leftist2 — have seen their “leaders” support militarism, colonialism, imperialism, corporate plunder, and environmental degradation. Engler says an online search will reveal the Assembly of First Nations insouciance about how Canadian policy impacts on rest of the world. (p 179) The Assembly of First Nations is, however, problematic insofar being viewed as a legitimate representative of Original Peoples. (p 192)3

The Left treads a slippery slope when it agrees with or takes up right-wing causes such as militarism, acquiescing when environmental destruction is at stake, and failure to support solidarity networks outside Canada. Engler broaches the antidote which is genius in its simplicity and obviousness: the Do No Harm principle backed by the Golden Rule.

Yet contrariwise Engler opines, “Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II.” (p 52) No explanation is proffered by the author for this opinion. One wonders how the Do No Harm principle was satisfied by Canadians fighting overseas? Also Engler’s contention of a morally justifiable4 war is challengeable, and it is challenged by history professor Jacques Pauwels in his book The Myth of the Good War.5

Engler writes in a very readable style, and his work is solidly backed by sourcing. Most saliently, his work has a moral core. Left, Right is important and valuable in that it does not only illustrate and lament the corruption of leftist principles, but it also provides solutions about how leftist principles can be upheld; pushing the Left leftwards.

Read Left, Right and find out about how the NDP can be made relevant on the Left, about how to increase public awareness, and about how to grow the leftist movement.

  1. Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada (Black Rose Books, 2018): 151.
  2. This was anathema for colonialism and its capitalist ideology. “The communal–they [colonialists who decided that “the Indians were to be individualized and completely Americanized” (p 3)] called them ‘communistic’–patterns of the Indians were an affront to their sensibilities. Unless the Indian could be trained to be selfish, they felt there was little hope of civilizing and assimilating them.” In Francis Paul Prucha (ed), Americanizing the American Indians (Harvard University Press, 1973): 8.
  3. Something pointed out by Indigenous warrior Splitting the Sky: “The Assembly of First Nations is a neo-colonial elected system and their Chiefs are dependent on federal funds, therefore they are considered as collaborators of a foreign power.” In Splitting the Sky with She Keeps the Door, From Attica to Gustafsen Lake (Chase, BC: John Boncore Hill, 2001): 84. Review.
  4. The language is slippery here because Engler does not state that WWII was morally justified, just indicating that moral justifications could be made. But is that not true for almost any war? And do not the war-initiating nations invariably purport some sort of moral rationale to justify aggression?
  5. E.g., US motivations during WWII were based on corporate interests: “… the US power elite is motivated first and foremost by economic interests, by business interests… (p 240; see also p 29-41); not on fighting fascism as GIs “first became acquainted with fascist (or at least quasi-fascist) practices, in the form of petty mistreatments and humiliations…. The American soldiers had not wanted this war, and they did not fight for the beautiful ideas of freedom, justice, and democracy; they fought to survive, to win the war in order to end it, in order to be able to leave the army, in order to be able to go home.” (p 22) In Jacques R. Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War (Toronto: Lorimer, 2015).

Have Humans Evolved to be Violent?

Ron Newby, a former researcher at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, begins his book Tribal: Truth and Consequences by quoting mathematician Jacob Bronowski on the uniqueness of humans among animals.

Newby notes that 98% of the human genome is identical with that of chimpanzees. Members of both species have exhibited acts of violence. Is this the direction of evolution? Newby also notes that the close cousin to chimps, the bonobos, engage in sexual activity and avoid conflict. Despite this Newby posits determinism: “There can be little doubt that interpersonal violence is inherited from our ancient primate ancestors.” (p 14)

Tribal is an 82 page discussion of what drew humans into groupings and what effect this has had on human evolution and what are the future prospects for humans.

The book is uneven though. For example, Newby considers boys liking guns and girls liking dolls to be instinctual behaviors. (p 15) He provides no definition of instinct, but generally an instinct is considered by psychologists to be an unlearned, automatic, and fixed behavior. Thus instinctual hardly applies to liking guns and dolls.

On p 16 Newby writes, “There are likely genetic factors that influence our killer behavior, however there have been no killer gene or genes that have been linked to our proclivity toward killing.” [italics added] By writing with the pronoun “our,” Newby conveys the impression that killing, or the tendency toward killing, is widespread among humans. But this is clearly a marginal behavior. One calculation was that murder was accounted for by 0.0046% of Americans in 2013, and such a percentage may be even lower today.

Moreover, the fact that soldiers having experienced violence or death on the battlefield incur PTSD speaks against a widespread proclivity toward violence; rather it would posit an aversion toward lethal violence.

Following the evolutionary trail and the absence of other hominids, Newby speculates whether Homo sapiens may have killed off the Neanderthals. (p 17) Yet current knowledge indicates that humans and Neanderthals interbred. Academics point out, “Recent genomic research has shown that hybridization between substantially diverged lineages is the rule, not the exception, in human evolution.”

Newby first and foremost states that tribalism offered the advantage of security from outsiders. (p 17) Companionship and pair bonding are mentioned thereafter. (p 18) Hence, a bias appears in Tribal, that of humans being naturally violent.

The book, however, finds its footing in the middle section when it discusses the neurochemical and biological bases for behaviors. Newby then segues into the profoundly important topic of the danger facing humanity from anthropogenic climate change. Everyone should be informed on the topic and what the ramifications for current and future generations might be.

The author pontificates that conspiracy theorists are tribe creators “by offering alternate explanations of events, rather than accepting the reliable and tested theories. Prime examples would include the deniers of the Holocaust — (never happened), deniers of the accepted cause of 9/11 — (It was Israel)…” (p 26) First, who denies that the Nazis rounded up communists, Jews, Roma, homosexuals, etc into concentration camps where many people perished? I am aware of people who question the widespread narrative of the numbers and the method by which prisoners died. I am unaware of people who deny that there were concentration camps and that people died there. Second, I wonder what the author considers to be the “accepted cause of 9/11”? Newby does not state this. Apparently Newby denigrates the over 3,000 architects and engineers who call for a new investigation into the events of 9-11 as conspiracy theorists. In addition, over half of Americans doubt the “official” explanation. Newby fails to grasp that knowledgeable people can posit legitimate theories based on evidence and logic counter to the “official” theory solicited by the George W Bush administration. Such theories may be incorrect, but so might also be the “official” theory. A theory is not a fact. Third, resorting to ad hominem of contrasting views speaks ill of the mud slinger; it is unbecoming; and is not an argument worth contemplation.

Finally, I dislike quotations provided without sourcing as so many turn out to be incorrectly attributed or even conjurations. The only two quotations that I researched turned out both to be dubious. Newby incorrectly attributes the following quotation to Albert Einstein: “Only two things are infinite; the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”(p 14) On p 59, the author quotes D.H. Lawrence: “Tragedy is like strong acid — it dissolves away all but the very gold of truth.”

Newby intended Tribal as an unhindered read without the clutter of footnotes accessible to the everyday person. That Tribal is, but it consequently lacks depth and oft times left this reader wondering about the factual accuracy and logical coherence of what is being discussed.

How Does Canada Escape Prosecution for Genocide?

Can Canada continue to commit what is an enumerated act of genocide by the UNGC [United Nations Genocide Convention] and excuse itself by continuing to say that it is not intending what the Genocide Treaty recognizes as the result of such an act… ?

— Tamara Starblanket1

Genocide is a heinous crime that fractures and dehumanizes humanity. Science tells us that we are all taxonomically Homo sapiens. Yet most of us tend to divide into Us and Them groupings, sometimes leading to in-group and out-group competition that can turn violent. In the worst cases, the monstrous result is the decimation of the different group.

The carrying out of a genocide doesn’t require annihilatory bombing or the mowing down of a particular targetted group. Neither does genocide require a lightning temporality in execution. Genocide merely requires the intent to bring about the destruction of a targetted group by whatever manner, unbounded by a specific timeframe. Humans steer genocide: a malicious force capable of an evil genius in linguistically guising its execution, as well as being capable of extreme patience in achieving its pernicious aims.

A particular example of an under-the-radar genocide is that carried out by European settler-colonialists who denationalized all the Original Nations of the western hemisphere. There are non-indigenous people who are aware and acknowledge that genocide occurred, but few would realize or acknowledge that the genocide continues. That is much of the importance of Tamara Starblanket’s Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State (Clarity Press, 2018).

Starblanket is a Nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman) from Ahtahkakoop First Nation in Treaty Six Territory — in the region colonially designated as Shell Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada. Her Suffer the Little Children is based on her Master of Laws thesis which, she relates, met with obstruction from “Canada’s academic gatekeepers.”2

Suffer the Little Children details the Canadian state’s Indian Residential School (IRS) program — a policy whose intent was the disappearance of Indigenous peoples. As such it constitutes genocide. Moreover, by prefacing the genocide with the descriptor “cultural,” as in cultural genocide, the destruction seemingly points to the abstraction of culture, thereby eliding the lethal effects on humans.

Starblanket cuts through the lexical obfuscation and compellingly makes known that the genocide continues “in somewhat altered form, and the toll continues to mount.” (p 22)

One narrative, however, is largely controlled by the state and dependent media. A stark example is the “apology” read by then Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper about the “sad chapter” of the IRS.

How sincere an “apology” was it? Has the Canadian state subsequently set out to meaningfully atone for the genocide? The author asks:

But has the Canadian state put effort into assisting the victims of the residential schools to re-learn traditional parenting skills before the birth of children? Has the state stopped the forcible removals in the child welfare system? All the aggravates not mitigates the Canadian government’s conduct? (p 265)…

It is hypocritical for the state of Canada and Canadians to pretend to Indigenous Peoples and Nations and to the world at large that they are ‘sorry’ when it’s obvious the Canadian state, at least, is anything but…. Furthermore, there is no ‘apology’ that would undo or make the atrocious crimes it has engaged in ‘forgiveable’. It is a smokescreen designed by the colonizer to absolve itself of the crimes it knowingly engages in against the innocent.” (p 273-274)

The “apology” was followed by a government-created Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to document the history and make known what happened in IRS. Starblanket, however, argues that “the TRC adheres to the federal script in every significant respect,” (p 27) evades addressing genocide, (p 28) and is “very far from the truth.” (p 28)

The Canadian government apparently attempted to burnish its image based on the goodwill and generosity demonstrated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. In South Africa, the TRC was establised by the people who survived the apartheid regime — not by the oppressors. Unlike in South Africa, the Canadian TRC was set up by the colonial-settler political estalishment.

Evading a monstrous crime such as genocide is problematic on many levels, including legally and morally; nonetheless the evasion continues in Canada. One legal obstacle is demostrating the intent of the genocidaire. Starblanket writes that “the specific intent requirement actually serves the denial of genocide due to its difficulty to prove.” (p 32)

Starblanket cites the International Criminal Tribunal findings in Karadzic and Akayesu as indicating: “If the destruction is massive, widespread and systematic this will satisfy the specific intent requirement.” (p 74)

However, Canada and the colonial powers displayed bad faith in the drafting of the UNGC. “In effect, as a result of the colonial powers’ dominance over the drafting process, international laws fail to protect against the imposition of a colonial framework of destruction over Indigenous Peoples.” (p 77) “The necessary point to draw … is that colonialism is regarded as a genocidal process by the very fact that it came up in the drafting process of the genocide convention.” (p 81)

Starblanket argues that Canada was aware of legal loopholes in the Genocide Convention that would allow it to evade culpability. (p 213) Furthermore, “If Canada intended to have entire segments of the convention excluded from its domestic laws, it was under an obligation to make a formal reservation.” (p 229)

That the forced transfer of children has taken place suggests an implied reservation by Canada. (p 229) Yet the International Court of Justice determined that parties to the Genocide Convention could not make sovereign reservations to the convention. (p 232) Building her case further, Starblanket points to Article 18 of the Vienna Convention which prohibits states involved in criminal conduct from entering into treaty on such a conduct, in this case genocide. (p 235)

Starblanket describes the IRS as a total institution, an institution whose purpose is dehumanization. (p 97, 342) Among the outcomes wrought by the IRS total institution are:

  1. linguicide3 — as the state realized the importance of transmitting culture from one generation to the next and sought to stultify such transference; colonial language attempts to finalize domination and dehumanization (p 162); “… children do not learn that we have names in our original languages that identify our lands and territories.” (p 189); “Spiritual laws are encoded into Indigenous languages.” (p 202)
  2. deculturation
  3. religious indoctrination
  4. slave labor
  5. torture
  6. starvation
  7. trauma — such as compelling Indigenous students to witness the public execution of eight Cree men (p 118)
  8. beatings, rapes, killings — all this disguised euphemistically to thwart legal efforts proving state culpability. (p 156)

The genocide continues unabated. The author writes that the IRS negated adult survivors’ ability to parent. IRS children lived the example of violence used to coerce their obedience. Post-IRS enter the child welfare system and children continue to be “removed” and isolated from biological parents, family, community, and their First Nation. This was not, as the language implies, a Sixties Scoop. Starblanket finds that such naming masks the ongoing genocide within Canada’s child welfare system. (p 221) The ongoing genocide is revealed by 2011 statistics: whereas Indigenous children represent 7% of all children in Canada, they account for 48% of children placed in foster care. (p 133-134)

Starblanket points to cognitive conditioning whereby:

… ‘laws of occupation’ … serve as the cornerstone of legalized persecution and oppression of Indigenous Nations in the colonizer’s quest for land. Colonial domination justified by the dehumanizing Western doctrine of racial superiority is vital to the process of genocide. (p 190)

Starblanket argues, “The application of the law [will] show beyond a reasonable doubt, to say nothing of a preponderance of the evidence, that the Canadian government is culpable for crimes of genocide.” (p 244) After reading Suffer the Little Children, it is difficult to rationally or morally reach a different conclusion.

The book is bold and well-argued, and it should be read widely; however, a few points vexed me.

1) Starblanket cites the ruling from Akayesu and the purported genocide of Tutsis committed by Hutus. (p 263) Granted, Starblanket is interested in the legal determinations concerning the genocide, and, of course, the ruling of the court has salience. However, when the validity of the court is dubious and the question is raised of whether a genocide could be insidiously twisted such that the perpetrators escape justice and even benefit from the horrific crime then such matters demand addressing.4,5

2) Starblanket cites academics David MacDonald and Graham Hudson who state that there have been few occasions for Canadian courts to consider the Genocide Convention in criminal proceedings. (p 211; See David MacDonald and Graham Hudson, “The Genocide Question and Indian Residential Schools in Canada,” 2012. PDF: p 14.) Suffer the Little Children has not cited Bruce Clark, PhD in comparative law,6 who has doggedly (some may say overzealously; but how can one be overzealous in fighting against genocide?) attempted to pursue the matter of genocide in Canadian courts where he and his clients have been stymied by the legal system’s Catch-22. This is missing from MacDonald and Hudson’s paper and Starblanket’s thesis. It seems pertinent.

Starblanket replied that she was not encouraged to include Clark’s work since she was building her own case and it was considered unnecessary to prove her legal arguments to her committee.7 Maybe so. But it seems crucial to points she raised in her book.8

3) Granted, Starblanket is focused on IRS and Article 2(e) of the Genocide Convention: “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Yet no mention was made of biological warfare against Original Peoples.9

A Quick Historical Overview, Solution, and Duty

The Original Peoples had lived on Turtle Island for millennia when the Europeans first reached the continent’s shores. The Europeans brought with them their supremacist notions and dehumanized the Original Peoples as savages and heathens. Preposterously, the colonial-settlers considered that this gave them the right to dispossess the First Nations and wreak a genocide. First Nations’ children were kidnapped and indoctrinated into the White man’s ways. Today, the dispossessed remain dispossessed and the genocide continues within the child welfare system.

The solution (the only solution according to the author) to the injustices lies in Indigenous peoples ridding themselves of the yoke of colonial dispossession and seizing what is their sovereign right to self-determination.

Starblanket speaks to non-indigenous Canadians:

It is up to you finally to be the generation of settlers that stands up against the crimes that are committed against Original Peoples and Nations of this Western hemisphere and the world. (p 278)

I concur. For those not already aware (and those who wish to deepen their knowedge), read the book and stand in solidarity against the crimes that are committed against Original Peoples and their nations.

  1. In Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State (Clarity Press, 2018): p 208.
  2. Academic gatekeeping regarding Original Peoples is no surprise to this writer. See “Canadian Government and Academia: ‘Othering’ Original Peoples,” Dissident Voice, 2014.
  3. In 1890, 100% of First Nations people spoke the Indigenous tongue compared to 5.1% in 2010. “Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2010.”
  4. See Keith Harmon Snow, “The Rwanda Genocide Fabrications,” Dissident Voice, 13 April 2009 and “Real Rwandan Genocide and Brainwashing of the Western Mind,” Dissident Voice, 11 April 2014. Edward S. Herman and David Peterson in Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014) write that the victims and the perpetrators of genocide have been inverted, abetted by the US, UK, and Canada. Moreover, “a larger–apparently substanially larger–death toll was suffered by Hutu [compared to Tutsi]…”
  5. Keith Harmon Snow, who has been working on the politics of genocide for years, sees the merit and power of Starblanket’s book. But he wonders, “How so many people cite wrong cases of genocide, or fail to cite true cases, and all the other kinds of political, intentional, accidental, ethical errors and commissions and propaganda.” Snow considers, “Akayesu, and many of the other cases were a complete sham.” Snow particularly dissents from Starblanket’s promulgation of the establishment narrative on page 74: “‘(Tutsi peoples)’ as victims but this lacks all appropriate situating of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity in Rwanda, and so it contributes to the perpetuation of genocide (ongoing) against the Hutu peoples in service to the establishment interests.” Herein Snow identifies a problem: “On the one hand she [Starblanket] wants to challenge the establishment; on the other she uses the tools of the empire (establishment agents) to try to do so.” Personal communication, 1 August 2018.
  6. Clark is the author of Indian Title in Canada (1986) and Native Liberty, Crown Sovereignty: The Existing Aboriginal Right of Self-Government in Canada (1990), Justice in Paradise (2004), and the upcoming (2018) Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights.
  7. Dana Kaminstein, professor and capstone advisor at the University of Pennsylvania states, “The literature review for a master’s thesis or capstone… needs to be a substantive part of the paper. The focus should be on making sure that the literature that is covered is directly related to the research question(s) in the thesis, as well as being clear about what areas have been left out, and the reasons for excluding them. (p 3)
  8. E.g., at footnote 88 (p 352) Starblanket writes, “The point being there is no Canadian Court that has applied the term genocide or acknowledged the application of genocide in international law to government culpability into genocide.” That is precisely what Clark has been struggling against at great personal cost.
  9. See Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). Review.

What Should “We” Do about Julian Assange?

Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno is reportedly close to reneging on asylum granted to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange by Ecuador. Assange, who holds Ecuadorian citizenship and is entitled to protection as such by his country of citizenship, is expected to be turned over to the UK very soon.

And for what? WikiLeaks dared to expose the perfidy of the United States to the world’s public. The pro-transparency organization enraged the US military-industrial complex by publishing a slew of classified documents, emails, and graphic accounts like the “Collateral Murder” video that adduced US war crimes in Iraq.

In other words, Assange is being painted as a criminal for revealing the crimes of US empire. War is peace. And revealing crimes is criminal.

In mid-July, during president Donald Trump’s visit to England, one press headline reported: “Trump UK visit:’100,000′ take to London’s streets in astonishing show of opposition to ‘horrible’ president.”

And prior to the US-UK attack on Iraq (based on fixing the intelligence and facts around the policy), police estimated “at least 750,000” people turned out demonstrate against partaking in the war against Iraq.

Julian Assange, as a publisher, performed a massive service to humanity in allowing those who want to be informed about what acts their governments are involved in, support, or are silent about. WikiLeaks respects “our” right to know.

Clearly, Assange must be protected. Now is a moment that calls for people power, and its seems this time a people’s movement stands a good shot at a moral victory. Imagine, for a moment, if a million people showed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London ready to form a swarm around Assange when he emerges, thereby barring police access to a man charged with no crime.

Imagine if the day of Assange’s exit were co-ordinated worldwide by an organized resistance to empire and its cronies, and another million people plus from around the world joined the Brits at the Ecuadorian embassy. Imagine if they all of them wore Guy Fawkes masks and black hoodies and Assange were provided with the same by the crowd. Then the massive crowd raises umbrellas and plays a shell game such that Assange’s whereabouts in the crowd becomes nigh impossible to ascertain.

The feasibility or probability of success of such a proposal is unknown to this writer.

What is palpable is that a man, in service of the wider humanity, has courageously put himself in the crosshairs of the 1%-ers. This poses a challenge to the 99%-ers. What are “we” going to do about it? It surely is incumbent to protect one of “our” own, gain a victory for social justice and humanity in the process, and — at the same time — slap back at the 1%-ers.

If someone co-ordinates this, I pledge to buy my ticket to London.

What Should “We” Do about Julian Assange?

Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno is reportedly close to reneging on asylum granted to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange by Ecuador. Assange, who holds Ecuadorian citizenship and is entitled to protection as such by his country of citizenship, is expected to be turned over to the UK very soon.

And for what? WikiLeaks dared to expose the perfidy of the United States to the world’s public. The pro-transparency organization enraged the US military-industrial complex by publishing a slew of classified documents, emails, and graphic accounts like the “Collateral Murder” video that adduced US war crimes in Iraq.

In other words, Assange is being painted as a criminal for revealing the crimes of US empire. War is peace. And revealing crimes is criminal.

In mid-July, during president Donald Trump’s visit to England, one press headline reported: “Trump UK visit:’100,000′ take to London’s streets in astonishing show of opposition to ‘horrible’ president.”

And prior to the US-UK attack on Iraq (based on fixing the intelligence and facts around the policy), police estimated “at least 750,000” people turned out demonstrate against partaking in the war against Iraq.

Julian Assange, as a publisher, performed a massive service to humanity in allowing those who want to be informed about what acts their governments are involved in, support, or are silent about. WikiLeaks respects “our” right to know.

Clearly, Assange must be protected. Now is a moment that calls for people power, and its seems this time a people’s movement stands a good shot at a moral victory. Imagine, for a moment, if a million people showed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London ready to form a swarm around Assange when he emerges, thereby barring police access to a man charged with no crime.

Imagine if the day of Assange’s exit were co-ordinated worldwide by an organized resistance to empire and its cronies, and another million people plus from around the world joined the Brits at the Ecuadorian embassy. Imagine if they all of them wore Guy Fawkes masks and black hoodies and Assange were provided with the same by the crowd. Then the massive crowd raises umbrellas and plays a shell game such that Assange’s whereabouts in the crowd becomes nigh impossible to ascertain.

The feasibility or probability of success of such a proposal is unknown to this writer.

What is palpable is that a man, in service of the wider humanity, has courageously put himself in the crosshairs of the 1%-ers. This poses a challenge to the 99%-ers. What are “we” going to do about it? It surely is incumbent to protect one of “our” own, gain a victory for social justice and humanity in the process, and — at the same time — slap back at the 1%-ers.

If someone co-ordinates this, I pledge to buy my ticket to London.

The Chinese Dream of Hegemony?

On 30 May, United States Admiral Harry Harris, slated to become the next US ambassador to South Korea, said: “China remains our biggest long-term challenge. Without focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies and partners China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia.”

This is starkly at odds with how Chinese leaders describe the Chinese Dream. Chinese chairman Xi Jinping explained:

… the Chinese Dream of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation means that we will make China prosperous and strong, rejuvenate the nation, and bring happiness to the Chinese people.1

Xi averred that it is through the cause of Chinese socialism – whose core vales are prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendliness – that the Chinese Dream will be attained.1

And the Chinese Dream is not exclusively for the benefit of Chinese people. Xi spoke of cooperation with other countries “on the path to realizing the great dream of development and prosperity.”1

To realize the Chinese Dream… We will both on China’s development and on our responsibilities and contributions to the world as a whole. We will bring benefits to the Chinese people and the rest of the world. The realization of the Chinese Dream will bring the world peace, not turmoil, opportunities, not threats.1

Admiral Harris presents a strictly militarist perspective. This is the perspective of a person who views the world in Manichean terms: ally or enemy.

That China is participating in the capitalist market-economy and performing far more spectacularly than the US is no reason to call China a hegemonic aspirant.2

Yet Harris’ opinions came on the heels of US warships entering the waters around Chinese-claimed territory in the South China Sea.3

The US frequently sends its warships through the region on so-called freedom of navigation patrols, and when the navigation steers provocatively near to islands/islets claimed by China, it causes consternation in Beijing. China abides by freedom of passage through the South China Sea, but as UNCLOS states such passage must be innocent. This should be understandable in Washington because it seems certain how the US would react to Chinese warships sailing through the Straits of Florida.4

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said admiral Harris was “obsessed with hegemony,” fearful that others might try to usurp it from the US.

In his book, The Governance of China, chairman Xi Jinping seven times mentions the Chinese aversion to hegemony. Among them:

We stand for peaceful resolution of all disputes, oppose all forms of hegemony and power politics, and never seek hegemonism nor engage in expansion. (location 594)

China has stood up. It will never again be bullied by any nation. Yet it will never follow in the footsteps of big powers, which seek hegemony once they grow strong. Our country is following a path of peaceful development. (loc 2675)

And we have made a solemn pledge to the whole world that we will never seek hegemony or commit any act of expansion… (loc 3664)

China does not subscribe to the outdated logic that a country will invariably seek hegemony when it grows strong. Are colonialism and hegemony viable today? Absolutely not. (loc 3956)

China would stick to a path of peaceable development, a mutually beneficial strategy and opening up, and the pledge of never seeking hegemony. China would pass its commitment from generation to generation. (loc 6490)

Given the words of the to-be US ambassador to South Korea, one can only assume that the Harris is either ignorant or he is implying that Xi is a liar. Hardly an auspicious start for a job posting that obviously calls for diplomatic skills.

Even if there is substance to what Harris states, it would at best be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Does China have the equivalent of a Monroe Doctrine (by which the US has granted itself preeminence — also referred to as hegemony — in the western hemisphere)? Are Chinese troops warring in Africa? Is China supporting a coup government in Honduras? Is China pursuing “regime change” in Venezuela? In Syria? Is China supporting the oppression and slaughter of Palestinians by Israeli Jews? Does Xi Jinping threaten North Korea with genocide? Has China ringed countries around the world with Chinese military bases?

If China does not engage in such imperialistic acts, then who is actually acting a like a hegemon?

Image from
The Daily Economist

  1. Xi Jinping, “The Chinese Dream” in The Governance of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014).
  2. I already addressed the topic of China as a hegemon, but Harris’ comments call for reply.
  3. Curtis Stone, “Washington provokes Beijing in the South China Sea at its own peril,” People.cn, 28 May 2018.
  4. For elaboration on the situation in the South China Sea, read “Who has Sovereignty in the South China Sea?

Local Autonomy: A Key to Protection of the Ecosystem

When Europeans first visited the east Atlantic seaboard, the hyperabundance of cod would not go unnoticed. In 1602, English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold named the peninsula, where the Nauset and Wampanoag people lived, Cape Cod after its fish stocks.

The Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Georges Bank of Massachusetts and Nova Scotia were immensely rich fishing grounds that were plundered by the early 1990s. Subsequently, a moratorium was imposed on the fisheries in hopes of recovery.1

In the case of the Grand Banks, one analysis laid the blame squarely on technology, draggers, factory trawlers and “the expansionary dynamics of capitalism [that] caused Canadian vessels to scour the seas for ever increasing profit…”2 “[O]verfishing, primarily driven by the capitalist ethic, was one of the major causes of the collapse of the North Atlantic Cod fishery.”3,4

In his book, The Plundered Seas, Michael Berrill called the Grand Banks and Georges Bank maybe the saddest story of overfishing.5 Berrill recognized the problem of protecting straddling stocks, as projections of the Grand Banks were outside Canada’s EEZ; moreover, Spain and the EU ignored the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization quotas.6

Worldwide, Berrill pointed to a peak in captured fish stocks in 1989, that signaled a maximum sustainable global catch having been approached.7 The FAO concurred, finding that “unregulated fisheries were often leading to resource depletion.”8 Given that the global fisheries are considered important for the food security and nutritional needs of the world’s population9 this should be a cause for concern.

Berrill’s solution was the management of Large Marine Ecosystems.10

There is much evidence for the efficacy of marine reserves and site management. In one study, for example, crab fishery data from 1996 to 2013 indicated that the decrease in catches after closure to trawling and gillnetting was significantly greater outside than inside closure zones.11

In the face of uncertainty, adherence to the precautionary principle seems prudent.12 Prudent and logical, but not easy.

“Fishers, like most other people, don’t like to be managed at all,” Berrill noted.13 Consequently, rules to protect the environment and its ecosystems are faced with difficulties posed by cheating, lack of enforcement, and insufficient funding.14

To overcome this these challenges, Berrill advocated that the marine reserves for protecting fish stocks should be managed by local communities.15

Community management of the Apo Island marine sanctuary

Apo Island seen from Negros

Among the over 7,000 islands in the Philippines, lies Apo Island, a diminutive tropical island, nestled at the bottom of Cebu and southeast from nearby Negros. A sign on Apo Island’s main beach informs that the island is 72 hectares of protected landscape and 619 hectares of protected seascape.

The seascape includes 106 hectares of coral reef. The reserve lies on the south-eastern side of Apo Island and was established in 1982 as a no-take area. It consists of 22.5 hectares along a 0.45 km stretch of the island that represents about 10% of the coral reef. Fishing is the major income-generating activity in the area.

The island is distinctive. There are no roads or motorized vehicles. You get around by walking. Electricity is available only from 6 PM to 10 PM each day. All the lodgings are simple backpacker style. To some this island is paradise.

Main thoroughfare on Apo Island

But people in paradise must not be complacent as a sign affixed to the side of a thatched bamboo hut warns. Titled “Threats to Philippine Biodiversity,” those listed were deforestation, mining, hunting and wildlife trade, pollution, population growth, lack of education, and illegal fishing.

Apo Island is very dependent on fishing for sustenance. But over the years, a decline in catch was noticed and fishers were having to venture farther offshore to catch fish.

Apo Island found a solution: the establishment of a marine sanctuary. This venture was led by Dr. Angel Alcala, a marine scientist from Silliman University. Apo Islander Mario Pascobello, owner of a family-operated diving and homestay business, told of the sensitive negotiations undertaken to persuade fisherfolk to accede to a sanctuary and dissuade them from deleterious fishing practices — among them dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, muro-ami, and using nets with overly small mesh.

Pascobello related that initially the islanders agreed to 10 percent of the waters being designated a marine sanctuary. When they results turned out favorably, with an increase in near-shore catch, the Apo Islanders agreed to expand the sanctuary.

Pascobello noted that the Apo Island success has led to the establishment of over one thousand marine sanctuaries throughout the Philippines. Pascobello even was invited to Bunaken Island in Indonesia to share the Apo Island experience that helped lead to the setting up of a marine reserve there.

Blue sea star on Apo Reef

Apo Island is indeed a picturesque underwater realm. This I experienced on several dives, from swimming over a sandy plain speckled with gently bubbling vents that belied the volcanic origin of the island to admiring the kaleidoscopic color provided by nature’s marine garden of hard and soft corals — all this backdropped by a clear blue seascape. There are a multitude of sea creatures to be encountered. Anemonefishes danced in their namesake homes, sea snakes poked their heads under coral ledges in search of a meal, sea turtles glided by in ungainly fashion, while schools of big-eye trevallies and barracuda rode the currents of the outer reef. Apo Island is a testament to restoring a vibrant fishing ground, preserving the environment for future generations, and creating economic opportunities through tourism.


Turtles abound in the waters surrounding Apo island

Pascobello averred that community leadership, community monitoring, and education are the keys to the success of the marine reserve.

A 2018 UBC study suggests caution, finding that destructive illegal fishing practices still persist in the Philippines. It seems increased vigilance along with continuing education are ever more needed.

Nonetheless, Apo Island is a testament to land and marine sanctuaries as a winning proposition for the entire community.

  • All photos by Kim Petersen.
    1. It may well be that a recovery is underway, as there are signs that the the cod stocks are bouncing back. See Aaron Beswick, “The cod are coming back to Newfoundland — and they’re eating the shrimp that had taken over,” National Post, 23 March 2017.
    2. Fred Mason, “The Newfoundland Cod Stock Collapse: A Review and Analysis of Social Factors,” Electronic Green Journal, 1(17): 4-5.
    3. Fred Mason, 7.
    4. In his book 2030: Confronting Thermogeddon in our Lifetime (Arcade Publishing, 2003), Robert Hunter told of an Atlantic fishboat captain who admitted that every country’s fishers had knowingly pillaged the east coast cod for the sake of immediate personal gain.
    5. Michael Berrill, The Plundered Seas: Can the World’s Fish Be Saved? (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1997): 124.
    6. Michael Berrill, 125-129.
    7. Michael Berrill, 2.
    8. FAO, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016, 83.
    9. FAO, 200.
    10. Michael Berrill, 40-56.
    11. Kate Kincaid, George Rose, “Effects of closing bottom trawling on fisheries, biodiversity, and fishing communities in a boreal marine ecosystem: the Hawke Box off Labrador, Canada,” Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2017, 74(9): 1490-1502.
    12. Michael Berrill, 55-56.
    13. Michael Berrill, 57.
    14. Michael Berrill, 38-59.
    15. Michael Berrill, 83-84.

    The Libya Model is a Distraction

    On Fox News Sunday, United States national security advisor John Bolton brought up the Libya model as a template for the denuclearization of North Korea.

    Following up, president Donald Trump noted, “In Libya, we decimated that country. That country was decimated.” However, Trump did assure North Korean chairman Kim Jong-un that he’d remain in power after denuclearization.

    Then came US vice-president Michael Pence on Fox News:

    There was some talk about the Libyan model last week, and you know, as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal.

    When told that such a comparison could be viewed as a threat, Pence instead considered: “Well, I think it’s more of a fact.”

    History tells a tale. After Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi gave up Libya’s nuclear weapons program, he was eventually deposed by NATO bombing in support of rebels who brutally murdered Gaddafi in cold blood. Hillary Clinton gleefully cackled about it on CBS News afterwards.

    What kind of dunderhead would Kim have to be not to realize the behind-the-curtain machinations Washington has planned for him and his government. The US simply should not be believed or trusted.

    But there seems to be an apparent wrench in the works of Washington’s scheming. Kim, after all, has a nuclear bomb. It makes one wonder: what do Donald Trump and the US military establishment not understand about nuclear deterrence? There are no winners in a nuclear war.

    All the blather about a Libya model merely reinforces the correctness of the North Korean decision and the necessity to develop a nuclear deterrence. It must be emphasized that — despite wild proclamations from Washington1 — what North Korea possesses is a nuclear deterrence and not a nuclear threat. Obviously, to initiate a nuclear attack would be sheer folly and a suicidal act for Kim Jong-un and his government. However, North Korea is on record as asserting a no-first-use policy for nukes.2 This is a rational stance.

    Contrariwise, the US does not reject its first use of nukes. Thus, the US nukes exist as other than a deterrence factor.

    Is the US an irrational actor?

    The bigwigs in the Trump administration are not dunderheads either. There is a method to their madness — a desired outcome. The US, despite administration declamations to the contrary, is quite aware that North Korea would not start a nuclear war. The North Koreans are known to be rational.

    Yet the strategizing of the military-industrial complex is also based in rationality when its capitalistic motivations are considered. When it comes to warmongering, the greater the number of enemies the US is faced with, the more opportunities for weapons deals to replenish homeland armories and supplying fearful allied countries. Moreover, there are the opportunities created for morally challenged investors to seek profit from war.

    The military-industrial complex’s lust for war profiteering motivates it to maintain a hostile posture to designated enemies like North Korea. This is rational in the pecuniary sense. It is rational for the military-industrial complex to assume a hostile posture to Iran. It is logical to support war crimes by the Jewish State against the civilian population of Gaza and also to support the siege of Gaza in hopes of fomenting a violent uprising. It’s rational to keep Syria in conflagration.

    It is even rational to poke the Russian bear and prod the Chinese dragon. The more formidable the designated enemy, the greater the potential for evoking fear among home populations and crank over the wheels of the military-industrial ever more.

    In this manner arms sales are stimulated, share prices for armaments are sent rising, and thus it happens that the undiplomatic bombast and war crimes committed by military industrialists is rewarded with ensanguined lucre.

    Nonetheless, all the money in the world means nothing come a nuclear winter.

    1. Michael Pence in his recent interview stated that the US “is not going to tolerate the regime in North Korea possessing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that threaten the United States and our allies…”
    2. A translation of the North Korean news agency KCNA quotes Kim saying, “As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes.”