Category Archives: Canada

It is Not Love that Abandons Its Treaties

The Tsilhqot’in Struggle

On 26 March 2018, Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau spoke of the six Tsilhqot’in chiefs who were arrested during a sacred peace-pipe ceremony and subsequently hanged for their part in a war to prevent the spread of smallpox by colonialists: “We recognize that these six chiefs were leaders of a nation, that they acted in accordance with their laws and traditions and that they are well regarded as heroes of their people.”

“They acted as leaders of a proud and independent nation facing the threat of another nation.”

“As settlers came to the land in the rush for gold, no consideration was given to the rights of the Tsilhqot’in people who were there first,” Trudeau said. “No consent was sought.”

In recent years, the Tsilhqot’in people were engaged in a long, drawn-out fight to gain sovereignty over their unceded territory, spurred by the attempts of Taseko Mines to situate an open-pit copper-and-gold mine near the trout-rich Teẑtan Biny (Fish Lake). Also proposed was “destroying Yanah Biny (Little Fish Lake) and the Tŝilhqot’in homes and graves located near that lake, to make way for a massive tailings pond.”

The Supreme Court decision in Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia, (2014), upheld Indigenous title as declared in an earlier Supreme Court decision, Delgamuukw v British Columbia, (1997).

The Wet’suwet’in Struggle

Sometimes the law works (even colonial law), and sometimes it doesn’t. Neither the Tsilhqot’in or Delgamuukw legal precedents have, so far, buttressed the Wet’suwet’en people’s fight against the encroachment of a pipeline corporation.

In the unceded territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, corporate Canada and the government of Canada are violently seeking to ram a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory despite its rejection by all five hereditary chiefs; i.e., no consent has been given for the laying of a pipeline.

The Gidimt’en land defenders of the Wet’suwet’en turned to the international forum and made a submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People on the “Militarization of Wet’suwet’en Lands and Canada’s Ongoing Violations.”  The submission was co-authored by leading legal, academic, and human rights experts in Canada, and is supported by over two dozen organisations such as the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and Amnesty International-Canada.

The submission to the UN was presented by hereditary chief Dinï ze’ Woos (Frank Alec), Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham), and Gidimt’en Checkpoint media coordinator Jen Wickham. It makes the case that forced industrialization by Coastal GasLink and police militarization on Wet’suwet’en land is a repudiation of Canada’s international obligations as stipulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Their submission states:

Ongoing human rights violations, militarization of Wet’suwet’en lands, forcible removal and criminalization of peaceful land defenders, and irreparable harm due to industrial destruction of Wet’suwet’en lands and cultural sites are occurring despite declarations by federal and provincial governments for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. By deploying legal, political, and economic tactics to violate our rights, Canada and BC are contravening the spirit of reconciliation, as well as their binding obligations to Indigenous law, Canadian constitutional law, UNDRIP and international law.

Sleydo’ relates the situation:

We urge the United Nations to conduct a field visit to Wet’suwet’en territory because Canada and BC have not withdrawn RCMP from our territory and have not suspended Coastal GasLink’s permits, despite the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calling on them to do so. Wet’suwet’en is an international frontline to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples and to prevent climate change. Yet we are intimidated and surveilled by armed RCMP, smeared as terrorists, and dragged through colonial courts. This is the reality of Canada.

In the three large-scale police actions that have transpired on Wet’suwet’en territory since January 2019, several dozens of people have been arrested and detained, including legal observers and media. On 13 June 2022, the Unist’ot’en Solidarity Brigade expressed outrage that the BC Prosecution Service plans to pursue criminal contempt charges against people opposed to the trespass of Wet’suwet’en territory, including Sleydo’.

Treaty Treatment

The Wet’suwet’en are on their ancestral unceded lands. Would it have made a difference if they had signed a treaty with the colonial entity?

The book We Remember the Coming of the White Man (Durville, 2021), edited by Sarah Stewart and Raymond Yakeleya, does not augur a better outcome for the First People.

We Remember adumbrates how the treaty process operates under colonialism:

When our Dene People signed Treaty 11 in 1921, there had been no negotiation because the Treaty translators were not able to translate the actual language used in the document. There was not enough time for our People to consult with each other. Our Dene People were given a list that had been written up by bureaucrats declaring the demands of Treaty 11. They dictated to the Dene, ‘This is what we want. You have to agree, and sign it.’ We did not know what the papers contained. (p ix)

Treaties and contracts signed under duress are not legally binding. Forced signing of a treaty is on-its-face preposterous to most people with at least half a lobe. It is no less obvious to the Dene of the Northwest Territories:

How can you demand something from People who cannot understand? That’s a crime. I have often said that Treaty 11 does not meet the threshold of being legal. In other words, when we make a treaty, it should be you understand, I understand, and we agree. In this case, the Dene did not understand. (p x)

Unfortunately, the Dene trusted an untrustworthy churchman. The Dene signed on the urging of Bishop Breyant, a man of God, because they had faith in the Roman Catholic Church. (p x)

Oil appeals to those with a lust for lucre. This greed contrasts with traditional Dene customs. Walter Blondin writes in the Foreword,

We Dene consider our land as sacred and owned by everyone collectively as it provides life…. [T]here were laws between the families that insured harmony and sharing. No one was left behind to face hardships or starve when disasters such as forest fires devastated the lands. The Dene laws promoted sharing, and this was taken seriously as failure to follow these laws could lead to war and bloody conflict. (p 3)

The Blondin family of Norman Wells (Tlegohli) in the Northwest Territories experienced first hand the perfidy of the White Man. The Blondins gave oil samples from their land to the Roman Catholic bishop for testing. The Dene family never received any report of the results. Later, however, a geologist, Dr Bosworth staked three claims at Bosworth Creek that were bought by Imperial Oil in 1918. (p 5-6)

Imperial Oil told the families: “You are not welcome in your homes and your traditional lands and your hunting territory.” The Dene people were driven out. “Elders say, ‘It was the first time in living memory where the Dene became homeless on their own land.'” (p 6)

The Blondin family homes were torn down with possessions inside and pushed over the river bank. “No apology or compensation was ever received from Imperial Oil. Imperial Oil considered Norman Wells to be ‘their town—a White Man’s town’ and the Blondin family and other Dene were not welcome.” (p 6)

“Treaty 11 became the ‘treaty for oil ownership.'” (p 8)

“One hundred years after the fact, the Dene can see the collusion between the British Crown, Imperial Oil [now ExxonMobil] and the Roman Catholic Church in the fraud, theft and embezzlement of Dene resources.” (p 10)

Sarah Stewart writes, “Treaty 11 was a charade to legitimize the land grab in the Northwest Territories.” The land grab came with horrific consequences. Stewart laments that the White Man brought disease, moved onto Dene lands and decimated wildlife, and that the teaching of missionaries and missionary schools eroded native languages, cultures, and traditions. (p 14)

Indigenous People, whose land it was, were never considered equal partners in benefiting from the resource. As Indian Agent Henry Conroy wrote to the Deputy General of Indian Affairs in January 1921, the objective was to have Indigenous people surrender their territory ‘to avoid complications in the exploitation of oil.’ (p 15)

Filmmaker Raymond Yakeleya elucidates major differences between the colonialists and the Dene. He points to the capitalist mindset of the White Man: “‘How can we make money off this?’ Dene People are not motivated by that.” (p 24) A deep respect and reverence for all the Creator’s flora and fauna and land is another difference. “When you kill an animal, you have a conversation with it and give it thanks for sharing its body. There are special protocols and ceremonies you have to go through.” (p 28)

While Yakeleya acknowledges that not all missionaries were bad, (p 30) he points to a dark side:

A major confusion came to our People with the coming of the Catholic missionaries. I see the coming of the Black Robes as being a very, very dark cloud that descended over our People. All of a sudden you have people from another culture with another way of thinking imposing their laws. We see that they did it for money, control, and power. I heard an Elder say to me once that the Christians who followed the Ten Commandments were the same people who broke all of them.

The first time we ever questioned ourselves was with the coming of the Christians and to me, I think there was something evil that came amongst our People…. The missionaries were quick to say our ways were the ways of the devil, or the ways of something not good…. Now we see they are being charged with pedophilia and other crimes. (p 29)

As for the discovery of oil, Joe Blondin said, “The Natives found it and never got anything out of it and that’s the truth.” (p 159) As for Treaty 11, John Blondin stated emphatically, “We know that we did not sell our land.” (p 171)

At the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry in Fort McPherson [Teetł’it Zheh], Dene Philip Blake spoke words that resonate poignantly with the situation in Wet’suwet’en territory today:

If your nation chooses … to continue to try and destroy our nation, then I hope you will understand why we are willing to fight so that our nation can survive. It is our world…. But we are willing to defend it for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. If your nation becomes so violent that it would tear up our land, destroy our society and our future, and occupy our homeland, by trying to impose this pipeline against our will, but then of course we will have no choice but to react with violence. I hope we do not have to do that. For it is not the way we would choose…. I hope you will not only look on the violence of Indian action, but also on the violence of your own nation which would force us to take such a course. We will never initiate violence. But if your nation threatens by its own violent action to destroy our nation, you will have given us no choice. Please do not force us into this position. For we would all lose too much. (p 229)

The Nature of Colonialism and Its Treaties

Spoken word poet Shane L. Koyczan captures the nature of colonialism in Inconvenient Skin (Theytus Books, 2019):

150 years is not so long
that the history can be forgot

not so long that
forgiveness can be bought with empty apologies
or unkept promises

sharpened assurances that this is now
how it is

take it on good faith
and accept it

except that
history repeats itself
like someone not being listened to
like an entire people not being heard

the word of god is hard to swallow
when good faith becomes a barren gesture

there were men of good faith
robbing babies from their cradles
like the monsters we used to tell each other about

ripping children out of their mother’s arms
to be imprisoned in the houses of god
whose teachings were love

did no one hear?
did god mumble?

god said love

but the things that were done
were not love

our nation is built above the bones
of a genocide

it was not love that pried apart these families
it is not love that abandons its treaties

The post It is Not Love that Abandons Its Treaties first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Intellectual Prostitutes Call Critics Foreign Agents, Useful Idiots

A military funded academic, working at a school launched by Condoleezza Rice, claims leftist and anti-war journalists engage in Russian disinformation. His report doesn’t provide any evidence or refute anyone’s argument, but the legacy media laps it up.

On Thursday the University of Calgary School of Public Policy released “Disinformation and Russia-Ukrainian war on Canadian social media”. With the exception of a blog by Dimitri Lascaris that dismantled its absurd ideological premises, coverage of the report was almost entirely uncritical. Headlines included: “Canada target of Russian disinformation, with tweets linked to foreign powers” (Globe and Mail), “Why is Canada the target of a Russian disinformation campaign?” (CJAD Montréal) and “Canada is target of Russian disinformation, with millions of tweets linked to Kremlin” (City News Toronto). The report’s lead author Jean-Christophe Boucher was a guest on multiple TV and radio outlets, labeling those who question the role of NATO expansion, the far Right and 2014 coup against an elected president in understanding the war in Ukraine “useful idiots” of Vladimir Putin.

Boucher and his co-researchers claim to have mapped over six million tweets in Canada about the conflict in Ukraine. They claim over a quarter of the tweets fall into five categories they label “pro-Russian narratives”. But they don’t even attempt to justify the five categories. Instead, they simply list the most prominent commentators and political figures promoting these ideas under the rubric of “Top Russian-influenced Accounts”. The list includes leftist journalists Aaron Maté, Benjamin Norton, Max Blumenthal, Richard Medhurst and John Pilger. But no evidence is offered to connect these individuals to Russia.

While “Disinformation and Russia-Ukrainian war on Canadian social media” reveals little, it has served its political purpose. It will further insulate Canadian officials from criticism of their policies by suggesting anyone questioning Ottawa’s Ukraine/NATO policies are part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Boucher is a product of the Canadian military’s vast publicly financed ideological apparatus, which I detail in A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation. He has been a fellow at the military and arms industry funded Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Dalhousie Centre for the Study of Security and Development. He advocates theories amenable to the military’s interests, including “strategic retrenchment: falling back on the people you can really trust”, which is a sophisticated way of saying Canada should deepen its alliance with the US empire. His academic profile says Boucher “is a co-lead of the Canadian Network on Information and Security, funded by the Department of National Defence” while his Canadian Global Affairs Institute bio notes that “he is currently responsible for more than $2.4M of funding from the Department of National Defence (DND) to study information operations.”

The military put up the money to establish the Canadian Network on Information and Security (CANIS) as a joint project between the University of Calgary’s Public Policy Institute and Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies. A 2020-21 DND report labels CANIS among three initiatives “launched to tackle DND/CAF’s most pressing challenges.”

The University of Calgary School of Public Policy is essentially a right-wing think tank housed at a university, according to Donald Gutstein, author of two books on Canadian think tanks. It was set up in 2008 with $4 million from leading oil and gas lawyer James Palmer and launched at a $500-a-plate gala that included a keynote speech by George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The supporters of militarism would like us to believe that anyone criticizing Canada and NATO’s policies on Ukraine is a Russian agent or a useful idiot. But people being paid to promote opinions favourable to arms makers, the US empire and powerful individuals should have little credibility when it comes to criticizing the motivation of others.

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Educating Journalists about Canada’s Propaganda System an Eyeopener

Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.
—Noam Chomsky, Media Control:  The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, April 1, 1997

 Propaganda isn’t a euphemism for how the other side controls information. Nor is it simply about jailing journalists or shuttering media outlets. A serious discussion of the matter must look at the broader forces shaping information dissemination and suppression.

On May 22 I spoke on a panel at the Canadian Association of Journalists conference titled Censorship, Journalism and War. The Ukraine-focused exchange climaxed with journalist Justin Ling asking if I was “ashamed” for having been interviewed by RT. Nope.

The CEO of Ethnic Channels Group, Slava Levin, launched the discussion by describing how broadcasters Rogers, Bell and Shaw summarily removed RT from their networks. As the distributor of RT and many international channels in Canada, Levin pointed out how the decision subverted the regulatory process.

The broadcasters and Liberals indifference to the regulatory process warrants criticism but I sought to drive the discussion away from RT, Russia, China and authoritarian enemies. Even without formal restrictions, the corporate media (and CBC) permit only a narrow spectrum of opinion regarding Canadian foreign policy, as I detail in my 2016 book A Propaganda System: How Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation. Various internal and external factors explain the media’s biased international coverage. Most importantly, a small number of mega corporations own most of Canada’s media and depend on other large corporations for advertising revenue. Less dependent on advertising, CBC relies on government funds and has long been close to the foreign policy establishment. All major media firms rely on easily accessible information, which is largely generated by US wire services, Global Affairs, DND, internationally focused corporations and a bevy of think tanks and academic departments tied to the military, arms industry and corporate elite. Finally, the military, foreign affairs, organized ethnic lobbies and major corporations have the power to punish media that upset them.

In their coverage of Russia’s war with Ukraine/NATO the Canadian media and RT are the mirror image. They are exceedingly one-sided and their divergent reactions to antiwar disrupters highlight the point.

At the panel, I contrasted the Canadian and Russian ‘propaganda systems’ reaction to my March 21 interruption of foreign affairs minister Melanie Joly on Canada’s role in escalating violence in Ukraine, opposing the Minsk peace accord and promoting NATO expansion. With the exception of a short clip by CTV News World, Canadian media outlets that covered Joly’s speech on Ukraine ignored my intervention.

The Russian media treated the intervention differently. They portrayed me as an important author with a number of the top Russian channels inviting me on to comment. Russian media treated my disruption in a similar way to how the North American media covered Marina Ovsyannikova two weeks earlier. After she held a “no war” sign on Russia’s Channel One the western media hailed Ovsyannikova.

I told the audience that the CBC refuses to offer vital context. Just prior to the Russian invasion I wrote about senior CBC military writer Murray Brewster, who published a slew of reports in the proceeding weeks portraying Canada/US positively and Russia negatively while failing to report information he’d previously revealed that undercuts the notion that Canada is on the side of angels in the Ukraine crisis. In 2015 Brewster revealed that the protesters who overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 were stationed in the Canadian embassy in Kyiv for a week. That year Brewster also reported that Canadian soldiers trained neo-Nazi political forces in Ukraine and in 2008 that Canada pushed Ukraine’s adhesion to NATO against Russian, French and German objections. These measures increased tensions, led to war in the east part of the Ukraine and helped precipitate Russia’s illegal invasion.

In his intervention senior CBC international correspondent Saša Petricic described how in countries with more repressive media climates that an “atmosphere” of self-censorship develops. In response I asked who in the room had heard of the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti?

In 2003 Canadian officials brought together top representatives of the US and French governments to discuss Haiti’s future without inviting anyone from that country’s government. According to the March 15, 2003, issue of L’Actualité (Quebec’s equivalent to Maclean’s), they discussed ousting elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, putting Haiti under UN trusteeship and re-creating the disbanded Haitian army. Thirteen months later what was discussed largely transpired yet the dominant media largely ignored the Ottawa Initiative meeting. A Canadian Newsstand search I did in 2016 while writing A Propaganda System found not one single English-language report about the meeting (except for mentions of it by me and two other Haiti solidarity activists in opinion pieces). It wasn’t until 2020 that Radio-Canada’s flagship news program “Enquête” finally reported on the meeting, interviewing the minister responsible for organizing the meeting Denis Paradis.

What type of “atmosphere” exists in the Canadian media that would lead it to ignore this important meeting Haiti solidarity activists raised repeatedly?

I asked the room of 30 journalists if they knew which institution has the largest public relations apparatus in the country. No one answered. The Department of National Defence/Canadian Forces (CF) has the largest PR (propaganda) machine in Canada, employing hundreds of “public relations professionals” to influence the public’s perception of the military. Last fall the military, reported the Ottawa Citizen, established “a new organization that will use propaganda and other techniques to try to influence the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of Canadians.” Previously the head of CF called for the “weaponization of public affairs”, which proposed a plan to induce positive coverage and deter critical reporting. Journalists producing unflattering stories about the military were to be the target of phone calls to their boss, letters to the editor and other “flack” designed to undercut their credibility in the eyes of readers and their employers.

The editor in chief and executive director of CBC news, Brodie Fenlon, told the room it didn’t matter that DND had the largest PR apparatus in the country since they don’t determine what’s covered. True enough. But historically the public broadcaster’s close ties to the military have made it highly deferential to the CF. According to Mallory Schwartz in War on the Air: CBC-TV and Canada’s Military, 1952-1992, “When CBC-TV produced programs that raised controversial questions about defence policy, the forces or military history, it did so with considerable care. Caution was partly a result of the special relationship between the CBC and those bodies charged with the defence of Canada.” CBC’s ties to DND sometimes translated into formal censorship. After broadcasting The Homeless Ones in 1958 Deputy Federal Civil Defence Co-ordinator Major-General George S. Hatton requested the film’s withdrawal from the NFB Library and the public broadcaster cancelled its planned rebroadcast. Hatton insisted the CBC clear all content on civil defence with his staff.

The public broadcaster’s independence from DND has increased over the years. But since its inception the government has appointed CBC’s board and provided most of its funds.

Another element that helps make sense of Fenlon downplaying the importance of the CF’s PR machine is his (positive) assessment of the institution. But, as I pointed out, the CF is deeply integrated with the biggest purveyor of violence the world has ever seen — US military — and Canada has only fought in one war that could even be argued was morally justifiable. Sudan, South Africa, World War I, Korea, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya were not morally justifiable wars.

Fenlon is, of course, unlikely to have risen to a position of influence within CBC news if he shared my assessment of the Canadian military’s ties to the US Empire.

As I was leaving the room, a young CBC journalist came over to say how much she appreciated my work. She then laughed and said she hoped her boss hadn’t heard her.

 

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New York Times admits truth of Haitian coup

“A Haitian president demands reparations and ends up in exile”, declared the front-page of Wednesday’s New York Times. Eighteen years later those who opposed the US, French and Canadian coup have largely won the battle over the historical record.

French ambassador Thierry Burkard admits that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s call for the restitution of Haiti’s debt (ransom) of independence partly explains why he was ousted in 2004. Burkard told the Times the elected president’s removal was “a coup” that was “probably a bit about” Aristide’s campaign for France to repay Haiti.

Other major outlets have also investigated the coup recently. In 2020 Radio-Canada’s flagship news program “Enquête” interviewed Denis Paradis, the Liberal minister responsible for organizing the 2003 Ottawa Initiative on Haiti where US, French and Canadian officials discussed ousting the elected president and putting the country under UN trusteeship. Paradis admitted to Radio-Canada that no Haitian officials were invited to discuss their own country’s future and the imperial triumvirate broached whether “the principle of sovereignty is unassailable?” Enquête also interviewed long time Haitian Canadian activist and author Jean Saint-Vil who offered a critical perspective on the discussion to oust Aristide.

Radio-Canada and the Times’ coverage was influenced by hundreds of articles published by solidarity campaigners in left wing outlets. Damming the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment: Repression and Resistance in Haiti, 2004–2006, Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority, Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, the Earthquake and the UN Occupation, An Unbroken Agony Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President provide richer documentation about the coup, as do documentaries Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits, Haiti Betrayed and Aristide and the Endless Revolution.

The Times article on Aristide’s ouster was part of a series on imperialism in Haiti the paper published on its front page over four days. “The Ransom” detailed the cost to Haiti — calculated at between $21 billion and $115 billion — of paying France to recognize its independence. “A bank created for Haiti funneled wealth to France” showed how Crédit Industriel et Commercial further impoverished the nation in the late 1800s while “Invade Haiti, Wall Street urged, And American military obliged” covered the brutal 1915–34 US occupation, which greatly reshaped its economy to suit foreign capitalists.

The Times decision to spend tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of dollars on the series was no doubt influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement and the paper’s 1619 project on slavery. Additionally, Saint-Vil and other Haitian-North American activists have been calling for France to repay the ransom for more than two decades. In 2010 a group of mostly Canadian activists published a fake announcement indicating that France would repay the debt. Tied to France’s Bastille Day and the devastating 2010 earthquake, the stunt by the Committee for the Reimbursement of the Indemnity Money Extorted from Haiti (CRIME) forced Paris to deny it, which the Times reported. The group also published a public letter that garnered significant international attention.

While these campaigns likely spurred the series, a number of academics made it about themselves. White Harvard professor Mary Lewis bemoaned that her research assistant was cited in “The Ransom” but she wasn’t. Another academic even apologized for sharing the important story. “I regret sharing the NYT article on Haiti yesterday. So many scholars are noting their egregious editorial practices. The writers of the article did not properly credit their sources.” Unfortunately, the academics’ tweets received thousands of likes.

Leaving aside the pettiness of academia, the series is not without questions and criticisms. First, will the Times apply the historical logic of the series to its future coverage of Haiti or continue acting as a stenographer for the State Department? More directly, why didn’t the series mention the “Core Group” that largely rules Haiti today? The series is supposed to show how foreign intervention has contributed to Haitian impoverishment and political dysfunction, but the Times ignores a direct line between the 2004 coup and foreign alliance that dominates the country today.

Last week Haitians protested in front of the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince. They chanted against the Core Group, which consists of representatives from the US, Canada, EU, OAS, UN, Spain, Brazil and France. A protester banged a rock on the gates. Previously, protesters have hurled rocks and molotov cocktails, as well as burned tires, in front of the Canadian Embassy.

The Times series has solidified the historical narrative regarding the 2004 coup and popularized the history of imperialism in Haiti. The series is a boon to North Americans campaigning for a radical shift in policy towards a country born of maybe the greatest victory ever for equality and human dignity.

But the point of activism is not simply to describe the world, but to change it.

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NDP onboard with Cons, Liberals in warmongering over Ukraine

Canada’s “left wing” party is openly opposed to negotiating an end to the war in Ukraine.

In “Feds must do more to support Ukraine, say experts, Ukrainians, opposition MPs” NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson repeats the party’s call to send more weapons to fight Russia and suggests the NDP formally opposes negotiations. The Monday Hill Times article reported, “McPherson said while the NDP will always look at non-violent means of conflict resolution by diplomatic and humanitarian means, Russia’s war against Ukraine is not a case when it can be done.”

MP Charlie Angus is more forthright in his opposition to negotiations. Asked on Twitter last week “Do you agree that what is needed concerning Russia/Ukraine war is negotiations not more weapons?” Angus responded, “We will negotiate when Putin pulls his war machine out of Ukraine and the international war crimes unit is allowed to fully investigate his crimes.” (While they trend in different directions, one can support sending weapons and seeking to negotiate.)

Angus’ statement is a call to prolong and escalate the war. When I tweeted as much, Angus blocked me. Apparently, Angus talks tough about Ukrainians fighting until the end but is sensitive to being challenged on Twitter.

As part of their three-year pact with the Liberals the NDP agreed to a budget that allocated half a billion dollars for arms to fight Russia (on top of more than $100 million in arms delivered to Ukraine in previous weeks). McPherson and Angus’ statements on negotiations suggests the party also agrees with the Liberals’ hostility to seeking diplomatic pathways to end the violence in Ukraine.

On Monday foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly told CBC Radio, “at this point, like I said, the goal is not to be negotiating.” Two weeks into Russia’s illegal invasion Joly said “right now, it’s not about a diplomatic solution.” Prior to February 24 Canadian officials weren’t keen on negotiating either.

In word and deed Canada has sought to escalate tensions and extend the fighting. It is echoing evermore open calls by British and US officials to prolong the fighting and turn Ukraine into a proxy conflict. During an April 9 visit to Kyiv Boris Johnson reportedly pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to ditch peace talks and after the British PM met French President Emmanuel Macron last week his office released a statement saying “he urged against any negotiations with Russia on terms that gave credence to the Kremlin’s false narrative for the invasion.”

Hinting at what’s long been US policy in Ukraine, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin declared recently, “we want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.” In explaining his support for a $40 billion US arms and aid package to Ukraine, Congressman Dan Crenshaw tweeted, “Yeah, because investing in the destruction of our adversary’s military, without losing a single American troop, strikes me as a good idea.” Previously, Congressman Adam Schiff told the House of Representatives that the “United States aids Ukraine and her people so we can fight Russia over there and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

While less crass with their declarations, the NDP is aligned with this thinking. As I detailed here, the NDP has been pressing conflict with Russia for years and has consistently supported measures that escalate tensions in Ukraine.

This reflects the party’s tradition of belligerence that I detail in Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada. The NDP/CCF supported Canada fighting in Korea, Yugoslavia and Libya. To give but one example after Moammar Gaddafi was savagely killed in 2011 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.”

The NDP’s public opposition to negotiations that might end the horrors in Ukraine exposes the depth of the party’s warmongering.

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Would the U.S. and Canada Put People in Camps?

This is not an article about Indian Reservations — but it could be. That concept broke new ground in terms of domination and, as Nazi Germany initiated its plans of conquest in Europe, it became their playbook.

“Hitler took note of the indigenous people of the Americas,” notes author Ward Churchill, “specifically within the area of the United States and Canada, and used the treatment of the native people, the policies and processes that were imposed upon them, as a model for what he articulated as being the politics of living space.”

In essence, writes Ward Churchill, “Hitler took the notion of a drive from east to west, clearing the land as the invading population went and resettling it with Anglo-Saxon stock as the model by which he drove from west to east into Russia — displacing, relocating, dramatically shifting, or liquidating a population to clear the land and replace it with what he called superior breeding stock. He was very conscious of the fact that he was basing his policies in the prior experiences of the Anglo-American population in the area north of the Rio Grande River.”

So, yeah, there’s that and I will focus more on it at some point. For this particular article, the spotlight is aimed at the “good guys” who were allegedly fighting a war against racism in the 1940s.

On February 19, 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 giving the army the unrestricted power to arrest — without warrants or indictments or hearings — every Japanese-American on a 150-mile strip along the West Coast (roughly 110,000 men, women, and children) and transport them to internment camps in Colorado, Utah, Arkansas, and other interior states to be kept under prison conditions. This order was upheld by the Supreme Court and the Japanese-Americans remained in custody for over three years.

Thanks to an unending wave of anti-Japan propaganda, there was little public debate over this immoral crime. In fact, in 1942, a Los Angeles Times writer defended the forced relocations by explaining to his readers that “a viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched — so a Japanese-American, born of Japanese parents, grows up to be a Japanese, not an American.” In nearby countries, sentiments ran along these same lines, as historian Daniel S. Davis reports:

“Canada enacted similar removal and internment programs. Many Latin American countries were shaken by anti-Japanese riots. Some shipped their Japanese people to the United States at the urging of Washington. They were held in the camps our government set up. Ironically, after the war ended, the U.S. government tried to deport these Latin American Japanese on the grounds that they had entered the country without passports or official visas.”

The Canadian government used the War Measures Act to detain and dispossess more than 90 percent of Japanese-Canadians living in British Columbia. Roughly 21,000 people were interned without charges for the duration of the war. To fund this totalitarian salvo, the internees had their homes and businesses sold off by the Canadian government.

Life in the internment camps entailed cramped living spaces with communal meals and bathrooms. The one-room apartments measured 20 by 20 feet and none had running water. The internees were allowed to take along “essential personal effects” from home but were prohibited from bringing razors, scissors, or radios. Outside the shared wards were barbed wire, guard towers with machine guns, and searchlights. The atmosphere was often charged with a hostile discomfort.

Anger and disillusionment grew and these emotions led to tension and sometimes violence. On December 5, 1942, a scuffle between internees led to the U.S. military police firing shots into the crowd — killing one Japanese-American man, Jimmy Ito.

There were those who defied relocation. Fred Korematsu remained in San Francisco with his Caucasian girlfriend until he was arrested and jailed. It was then that he met with an ACLU lawyer and decided to challenge the constitutionality of the internment camps. He lost when the Supreme Court upheld the decision in December 1944.

Justice Frank Murphy, expressing a minority opinion, dissented on the Orwellian grounds that since the camps were “an obvious racial discrimination, the order deprives all those within its scope of equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.”

Re-read that a few times before you mention The Land of the Free™ again.

While 110,000 Japanese-Americans suffered in prison camps, the U.S. media whipped up a post-Pearl Harbor frenzy of fear on the West Coast. If one was to believe the news reports of the day, it would seem that it was always just a matter of hours until Japanese Zeros would be spotted over Hollywood — or anywhere on the Left Coast.

In January 1942, Edward R. Murrow stirred up fifth column worries by telling an audience in Seattle that if their city was ever bombed, they would “be able to look up and see some University of Washington sweaters on the boys doing the bombing.”

Despite widespread concerns of Japanese infiltration, an FBI report at the time admitted: “We have not found a single machine gun, nor have we found any gun in any circumstances indicating that it was to be used in a manner helpful to our enemies. We have not found a single camera which we have reason to believe was for use in espionage.”

Although there was never a proven case of any type of sabotage by Japanese-Americans on the West Coast, this did little to ease the minds of men like California attorney general Earl Warren (later the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court). “I believe that we are just being lulled into a false sense of security,” Warren declared, “and that the only reason we haven’t had a disaster in California is because it has been timed for a different date.”

The dislocated Japanese-Americans incurred an estimated loss of $400 million in forced property sales during the internment years, and therein may lie a more Machiavellian motivation than sheer race hatred.

“A large engine for the Japanese-American incarcerations was agri-business,” says Michio Kaku, a noted nuclear physicist and political activist whose parents were interned from 1942 to 1946. “Agri-businesses in California coveted much of the land owned by Japanese-Americans.”

A formal apology came to the 60,000 survivors of internment camps in 1990. The U.S. government paid them each $20,000. Two years prior to that, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney apologized on behalf of the Canadian government.

While Yale Law Professor Eugene V. Rostow later called the internment camps “our worst wartime mistake,” historian Howard Zinn pointedly asked: “Was it a ‘mistake’ or was it an action to be expected from a nation with a long history of racism and which was fighting a war, not to end racism, but to retain the fundamentals of the American system?”

Keep yer guard up…

The post Would the U.S. and Canada Put People in Camps? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Pakistan’s Pivot to Russia and Ouster of Imran Khan

Days before Imran Khan’s ouster on April 10 as prime minister in a no-trust motion in the parliament orchestrated by foreign powers, two impersonators were arrested in Washington for posing as US federal security officials and cultivating access to the Secret Service, which protects President Joe Biden, one of whom claimed ties to Pakistani intelligence.

Justice department assistant attorney Joshua Rothstein asked a judge not to release Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali, the men arrested on April 6 for posing as Department of Homeland Security investigators for two years before the arrest, the Guardian reported on April 8.

The men also stand accused of providing lucrative favors to members of the Secret Service, including one agent on the security detail of the first lady, Jill Biden. Prosecutors said in court filings they seized a cache of weapons from multiple DC apartments tied to the defendants.

Federal prosecutor Rothstein alleged one of the suspects, Haider Ali, “made claims to witnesses that he had connections to the ISI, Pakistan’s military intelligence service.” The Department of Justice (DoJ) is treating the case as a criminal matter and not a national security issue. But the Secret Service suspended four agents over their involvement with the suspects.

“All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and are restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment, and systems,” the Secret Service said in a statement.

Clearly, planning and preparations were underway to declare Pakistan a rogue actor sponsoring acts of subversion against the United States. Soon after the US-led “regime change” in Pakistan and the formation of government by imperialist stooges, however, the tone of the judge and prosecutors changed. The defendants were released on bail and placed in home detention, though they will not be allowed to go to airports or foreign embassies or to talk to any of the federal agents they allegedly duped.

During his hour-long ruling, Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey lambasted the Justice Department’s claims that the men were dangerous, were trying to compromise agents and were tied to a foreign government, the CNN reported on April 13.

Before his ouster as prime minister in a no-trust motion in the parliament on April 10, Imran Khan claimed that Pakistan’s Ambassador to US, Asad Majeed, was warned by Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu that Khan’s continuation in office would have repercussions for bilateral ties between the two nations.

Shireen Mazari, a Pakistani politician who served as the Federal Minister for Human Rights under the Imran Khan government, quoted Donald Lu as saying: “If Prime Minister Imran Khan remained in office, then Pakistan will be isolated from the United States and we will take the issue head on; but if the vote of no-confidence succeeds, all will be forgiven.”

During Imran Khan’s historic two-day official visit to Moscow on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, besides signing several bilateral contracts in agricultural and energy sectors, President Putin reportedly offered Imran Khan the S-300 air defense system, Sukhoi aircraft as replacement for the Pakistan Air Force’s dependence on American F-16s and an array of advanced Russian military equipment on the condition that Pakistan abandons its traditional alliance with Washington and forge defense ties with Russia, according to two government officials who accompanied Imran Khan on the Moscow visit.

Alongside China, India and Iran, Pakistan under the leadership of Imran Khan was one of the few countries that adopted a non-aligned stance and refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite diplomatic pressure from Washington.

After the United States “nation-building project” failed in Afghanistan during its two-decade occupation of the embattled country from Oct. 2001 to August 2021, it accused regional powers of lending covert support to Afghan insurgents battling the occupation forces.

The occupation and Washington’s customary blame game accusing “malign regional forces” of insidiously destabilizing Afghanistan and undermining US-led “benevolent imperialism” instead of accepting responsibility for its botched invasion and occupation of Afghanistan brought Pakistan and Russia closer against a common adversary in their backyard, and the two countries even managed to forge defense ties, particularly during the four years of the Imran Khan government from July 2018 to April 2022.

Since the announcement of a peace deal with the Taliban by the Trump administration in Feb. 2020, regional powers, China and Russia in particular, hosted international conferences and invited the representatives of the US-backed Afghanistan government and the Taliban for peace negotiations.

After the departure of US forces from “the graveyard of the empires,” although Washington is trying to starve the hapless Afghan masses to death in retribution for inflicting a humiliating defeat on the global hegemon by imposing economic sanctions on the Taliban government and browbeating international community to desist from lending formal diplomatic recognition or having trade relations with Afghanistan, China and Russia have provided generous humanitarian and developmental assistance to Afghanistan.

Imran Khan fell from the grace of the Biden administration, whose record-breaking popularity ratings plummeted after the precipitous fall of US in Kabul last August, reminiscent of the Fall of US in Saigon in April 1975, with Chinook helicopters hovering over US embassy evacuating diplomatic staff to the airport, and Washington accused Pakistan for the debacle.

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley squeamishly described the Kabul takeover in his historic Congressional testimony that several hundred Pashtun cowboys riding on motorbikes and brandishing Kalashnikovs overran Kabul without a shot being fired, and the world’s most lethal military force fled with tail neatly folded between legs, hastily evacuating diplomatic staff from sprawling 36-acre US embassy in Chinook helicopters to airport secured by the insurgents.

Apart from indiscriminate B-52 bombing raids mounted by Americans, Afghan security forces didn’t put up serious resistance anywhere in Afghanistan and simply surrendered territory to the Taliban. The fate of Afghanistan was sealed as soon as the US forces evacuated Bagram airbase in the dead of the night on July 1, six weeks before the inevitable fall of Kabul on August 15.

The sprawling Bagram airbase was the nerve center from where all the operations across Afghanistan were directed, specifically the vital air support to the US-backed Afghan security forces without which they were simply irregular militias waiting to be devoured by the wolves.

In southern Afghanistan, the traditional stronghold of the Pashtun ethnic group from which the Taliban draws most of its support, the Taliban military offensive was spearheaded by Mullah Yaqoob, the illustrious son of the Taliban’s late founder Mullah Omar and the newly appointed defense minister of the Taliban government, as district after district in southwest Afghanistan, including the birthplace of the Taliban movement Kandahar and Helmand, fell in quick succession.

What has stunned military strategists and longtime observers of the Afghan war, though, was the Taliban’s northern blitz, occupying almost the whole of northern Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, as northern Afghanistan was the bastion of the Northern Alliance comprising the Tajik and Uzbek ethnic groups. In recent years, however, the Taliban has made inroads into the heartland of the Northern Alliance, too.

The ignominious fall of Kabul clearly demonstrates the days of American hegemony over the world are numbered. If ragtag Taliban militants could liberate their homeland from imperialist clutches without a fight, imagine what would happen if the United States confronted equal military powers such as Russia and China. The much-touted myth of American military supremacy is clearly more psychological than real.

Imran Khan is an educated and charismatic leader. Being an Oxford graduate, he is much better informed than most Pakistani politicians. And he is a liberal at heart. Most readers might disagree with the assertion due to his fierce anti-imperialism and West-bashing demagoguery, but allow me to explain.

It’s not just Imran Khan’s celebrity lifestyle that makes him a progressive. He also derives his intellectual inspiration from the Western tradition. The ideal role model in his mind is the Scandinavian social democratic model which he has mentioned on numerous occasions, especially in his speech at Karachi before a massive rally of singing and cheering crowd in December 2012.

His relentless anti-imperialism as a political stance should be viewed in the backdrop of Western military interventions in the Islamic countries. The conflagration that neocolonial powers have caused in the Middle East evokes strong feelings of resentment among Muslims all over the world. Moreover, Imran Khan also uses anti-America rhetoric as an electoral strategy to attract conservative masses, particularly the impressionable youth.

It’s also noteworthy that Imran Khan’s political party draws most of its electoral support from women, youth voters and Pakistani expats residing in the Gulf and Western countries. All these segments of society, especially the women, are drawn more toward egalitarian liberalism than patriarchal conservatism, because liberalism promotes women’s rights and its biggest plus point is its emphasis on equality, emancipation and empowerment of women who constitute over half of population in every society.

Imran Khan’s ouster from power for daring to stand up to the United States harks back to the toppling and subsequent assassination of Pakistan’s first elected prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in April 1979 by the martial law regime of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.

The United States not only turned a blind eye but tacitly approved the elimination of Bhutto from Pakistan’s political scene because, being a socialist, Bhutto not only nurtured cordial ties with communist China but was also courting Washington’s arch-rival, the former Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union played the role of a mediator at the signing of the Tashkent Agreement for the cessation of hostilities following the 1965 India-Pakistan War over the disputed Kashmir region, in which Bhutto represented Pakistan as the foreign minister of the Gen. Ayub Khan-led government.

Like Imran Khan, the United States “deep state” regarded Bhutto as a political liability and an obstacle in the way of mounting the Operation Cyclone to provoke the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan and the subsequent waging of a decade-long war of attrition, using Afghan jihadists as cannon fodder who were generously funded, trained and armed by the CIA and Pakistan’s security agencies in the Af-Pak border regions, in order to “bleed the Soviet forces” and destabilize and weaken the rival global power.

Karl Marx famously said: “History repeats itself, first as a tragedy and then as a farce.” In addition to a longstanding CIA program aimed at cultivating an anti-Russian insurgency in Ukraine by training, arming and international legitimizing neo-Nazi militias in Donbas, Canada’s Department of National Defense revealed on January 26, two days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that the Canadian Armed Forces had trained “nearly 33,000 Ukrainian military and security personnel in a range of tactical and advanced military skills.” While the United Kingdom, via Operation Orbital, had trained 22,000 Ukrainian fighters.

A “prophetic” RAND Corporation report titled “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia” published in 2019 declares the stated goal of American policymakers is “to undermine Russia just as the US subversively destabilized the former Soviet Union during the Cold War,” and predicts to the letter the crisis unfolding in Ukraine as a consequence of the eight-year proxy war mounted by NATO in Russian-majority Donbas region in east Ukraine on Russia’s vulnerable western flank since the 2014 Maidan coup, toppling Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and consequent annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia.

Nonetheless, regarding the objectives of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, then American envoy to Kabul, Adolph “Spike” Dubs, was assassinated on the Valentine’s Day, on 14 Feb 1979, the same day that Iranian revolutionaries stormed the American embassy in Tehran.

The former Soviet Union was wary that its forty-million Muslims were susceptible to radicalism, because Islamic radicalism was infiltrating across the border into the Central Asian States from Afghanistan. Therefore, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 in support of the Afghan communists to forestall the likelihood of Islamist insurgencies spreading to the Central Asian States bordering Afghanistan.

According to documents declassified by the White House, CIA and State Department in January 2019, as reported by Tim Weiner for the Washington Post, the CIA was aiding Afghan jihadists before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. President Jimmy Carter signed the CIA directive to arm the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December the same year.

The revelation doesn’t come as a surprise, though, because more than two decades before the declassification of the State Department documents, in the 1998 interview to CounterPunch magazine, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, confessed that the president signed the directive to provide secret aid to the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan six months later in December 1979.

Here is a poignant excerpt from the interview. The interviewer puts the question: “And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic jihadists, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?” Brzezinski replies: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

Despite the crass insensitivity, one must give credit to Zbigniew Brzezinski that at least he had the courage to speak the unembellished truth. It’s worth noting, however, that the aforementioned interview was recorded in 1998. After the 9/11 terror attack, no Western policymaker can now dare to be as blunt and forthright as Brzezinski.

Regardless, that the CIA was arming the Afghan jihadists six months before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan has been proven by the State Department’s declassified documents; fact of the matter, however, is that the nexus between the CIA, Pakistan’s security agencies and the Gulf states to train and arm the Afghan jihadists against the former Soviet Union was forged years before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Pakistan joined the American-led, anticommunist SEATO and CENTO regional alliances in the 1950s and played the role of Washington’s client state since its inception in 1947. So much so that when a United States U-2 spy plane was shot down by the Soviet Air Defense Forces while performing photographic aerial reconnaissance deep into Soviet territory, Pakistan’s then President Ayub Khan openly acknowledged the reconnaissance aircraft flew from an American airbase in Peshawar, a city in northwest Pakistan.

Then during the 1970s, Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government began aiding the Afghan Islamists against Sardar Daud’s government, who had toppled his first cousin King Zahir Shah in a palace coup in 1973 and had proclaimed himself the president of Afghanistan.

Sardar Daud was a Pashtun nationalist and laid claim to Pakistan’s northwestern Pashtun-majority province. Pakistan’s security agencies were alarmed by his irredentist claims and used Islamists to weaken his rule in Afghanistan. He was eventually assassinated in 1978 as a consequence of the Saur Revolution led by the Afghan communists.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that although the Bhutto government did provide political and diplomatic support on a limited scale to Islamists in their struggle for power against Pashtun nationalists in Afghanistan, being a secular and progressive politician, he would never have permitted opening the floodgates for flushing the Af-Pak region with weapons, petrodollars and radical jihadist ideology as his successor, Zia-ul-Haq, an Islamist military general, did by becoming a willing tool of religious extremism and militarism in the hands of neocolonial powers.

The post Pakistan’s Pivot to Russia and Ouster of Imran Khan first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why Many Progressives Misrepresented and Condemned the Ottawa Trucker Protest

Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” began with protesting rules implemented in January by the Canadian and later the US governments requiring truck drivers to be fully vaccinated to enter their country. It snowballed into a demonstration against dysfunctional coronavirus restrictions. The Ottawa trucker protesters demanded: No Lockdowns, No Mandates, No Vaccine Passports, and if not, that Trudeau resign.

Working people are increasingly angry at the failures of the neoliberal regimes in Canada and the US to meet our needs. Unfortunately, we on the left are not positioned to effectively utilize this sentiment and grow our forces, leaving an open field for leaders with rightwing solutions to fill the vacuum. They played on public resentment to advocate getting the state off our backs rather than our demand that the state prioritize our well-being.

Working class activists should participate and build these protests, bring working class solutions to the problems we confront and lead the people in fighting back. Instead, many on the left condemned the trucker convoy, or sat on the sidelines, seeing themselves as mere critics, not leaders in this class struggle.

Liberal Party Prime Minister Trudeau called the truckers “a few people shouting and waving swastikas,” a “fringe minority” conspiracy theorists “with the tinfoil hats.” They “don’t believe in science.” He threatened, “Do we tolerate these people?”  These elitist anti-working class statements echo Hillary Clinton’s dubbing Trump supporters “deplorables.” The hysteria led by Trudeau and the corporate media even reached the point where a Member of Parliament absurdly declared trucker honking of horns meant Heil Hitler. Trudeau’s Big Business dictated covid policies even denied visas to vaccinated Cubans because they had Cuban, not Big Pharma vaccines.

Anti-trucker “Leftists” Repeat Trudeau’s Smears

Many left criticisms of the truckers follow the rulers’ talking points. For instance, they spread a corporate media cartoon smear, Bryan Palmer’s condemnation of the truckers as a “lumpen” alt-right petty bourgeois protest, as well as anti-war activist Stephen Gowans‘ early attack on the Ottawa occupation as “a far-right movement of racists, evangelicals, union-haters, and conspiracy-minded lunatics, inspired and supported by the likes of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Elon Musk.” Gowans complained the Ottawa police had “done nothing to liberate the city” from what were peaceful protesters.

Rather than refuting the rulers’ smears, many either repeated them or remained silent in face of the onslaught. They, in effect, allied with the imperial state’s attacks on the truckers and their working- class allies. They compounded their error by making only mild objections to the central rightwing feature of the Ottawa occupation: Trudeau using martial law measures to crush peaceful protests – measures which could be used against leftists in the future if we become a social force.

What were some of the distortions so many disseminated in their unwitting role as transmission belts for ruling class propaganda against the truckers?

  1. That the protesters were racists and fascists was repeated over and over. Enough evidence shows this was not a racist protest (and here), It was claimed, with scant evidence, that the protest contained numerous Nazi and Confederate flags. A photo showed a man with a Nazi flag and another one or two with a Confederate flag. One man had the Nazi flag on a long pole underneath a sign on top saying “F*ck Trudeau,” which could mean he was equating Trudeau with Nazis. The person holding a Confederate flag was considered to be a provocateur made to leave the protest. Government agent provocateurs have played a role in other Canadian protests.

Benjamin Dichter, who is Jewish, and key spokesperson for the protest, said “Let’s assume there were guys there who did have a Confederate flag. They believe in the Confederacy of states’ rights in a foreign nation? I don’t care. I’m not here to police people’s ideas.” In a swipe at Trudeau, Dichter added, “I want to hear unacceptable opinions because I want to challenge them.”

Another Freedom Convoy leader was Metis, Tamara Lich. Pat King, a fanatic racist in the Nazi mold, was portrayed as convoy leader, but this was denied by the actual leaders (and here).

  1. That the Right funded the trucker protest became a key charge. Republicans do fund popular protests to further their aims. So do the Democrats, as the women’s marches testify. A protest bringing out masses of people likely involves corporate political party funding. It is a political mistake to condemn or boycott movements, MeToo, Black Lives Matter, anti-vaccine mandate, or climate change protests because they had corporate donors. To condemn a protest funded by Republican corporate donors, but not those funded by Democratic ones, given these donors serve the same ruling class owners of the US, is a double standard. To do so suggests aligning ourselves with the Democratic (or Liberal) Party faction of the ruling class.

Reports on big right-wing funders of the trucker convoy failed to establish significant dollar contributions. PressProgress gave “a round up of some of the big money donors.” The corporate donors listed contributed merely $67,300 of the $10 million raised. That amounts to less than 1% of the total, showing corporate donors gave very minor support.

GiveSendGo raised another $8.6 million for the protesters. The largest, $215,000 came from an anonymous donor, $90,000 from billionaire Thomas M. Siebel, and $75,000 from another anonymous donor. Even if we assume these three are by big rightwing donors, that amounts to $380,000, 4.4% of the total.

Washington Post article on donors noted, “Only a handful of contributors gave more than $10,000 apiece,” which does not substantiate corporate and billionaire funding of the protests.

It seems these donations do not include seed money for the Freedom Convoy, but they do show it was not “fringe,” but had gained broad support.

The GoFundMe platform raised $10 million dollars for the convoy before being shut down. The reason given was for “violating the platform’s Terms of Service prohibiting the ‘promotion of violence and harassment.’” Yet no protester had been charged with violence. Defenders of civil liberties should have condemned that repression, not approve of it.

  1. That the trucker convoy represented a social fringe is belied simply by some news reports, such as this or this.
  2. Many falsely claimed the Freedom Convoy protesters were anti-vaxxers, pointing out that 90% of Canadian truckers are vaccinated. However, the protesters were united against vaccine mandates, not against vaccines. Benjamin Dichter and Chris Barber, two convoy leaders, said they were not anti-vaxxers but fully vaccinated.
  3. Some asserted the truckers were petty bourgeois owner-operators, therefore not working class, because they owned their instruments of production. Even assuming some of the truckers are in the petty bourgeoisie, that in itself is no reason to condemn a petty bourgeois movement in struggle with the big bourgeoisie.

Aren’t owner-operators among the millions of workers who companies “contract out” to cut labor expenses and increase their profits? Are Uber drivers also middle-class owner operators? Or any worker hired by a business as an “independent contractor”? This new category of atomized workers is a product of the long neoliberal offensive to weaken solidarity among workers.

  1. Many used Trump’s support for the truckers as another reason to condemn it. That makes no more sense than saying if Biden or Trudeau opposes the protest, we should too. This liberal-left fear and loathing of Trump ignores a number of commendable statements he made on issues anti-imperialists advocate for.
  2. Some bolstered their attacks on the truckers by referring to the Teamsters and Canadian Labour Congress. The Canadian Teamsters condemned the trucker convoy as a “despicable display of hate lead by the political Right,” but provided no evidence to back that up. The statement said nothing against the central demands of the protest. The Teamsters represent only 15,000 long haul truck drivers of the 300,000 long haul drivers in Canada.

The Canadian Labour Congress condemned the protest but was also silent on vaccine mandates. “This is not a protest, it is an occupation by an angry mob trying to disguise itself as a peaceful protest.” Of course protesters are angry, otherwise they do not protest. Being angry does not mean you are not peaceful. The CLC adds “This occupation of Ottawa streets…is having a devastating effect on the livelihood of already struggling workers and businesses.” Such statements could be used against the Occupy Movement in 2011, or against Black Lives Matter protests, as Trump did. “Frontline workers, from retail to health workers, have been bullied and harassed.” Yet so was at least one pro-trucker Ottawa store owner bullied and harassed for simply donating to the protest.

True, the Freedom Convoy had no working class demands for government action to ease the hardships workers face. Neither did the CLC or Teamsters, actual workers class organizations with the social and economic weight to have their demands met.

  1. Many followed Trudeau and claimed the convoy organizers were violent and extremists. However, the police reported no physical violence, and none of the protest leaders were arrested for violent acts.

Tamara Lich was charged with ‘counselling for the offense of committing Mischief,” convoy leader Chris Barber for the same charge, plus “counselling to commit the offense of Disobey a Police Order” and “counselling to commit the offense of Obstruct Police.” Pat King was charged with mischief, counselling to commit the offence of mischief, counselling to commit the offence of disobey court order, and counselling to commit the offence of obstruct police.

Many had claimed they were guilty of violence, sedition, and attempting to overthrow a “democratic” government. Here they are, charged with “counseling” mischief (interfering with or destroying someone’s property), telling people to defy a court order or police order. What activists have ever been innocent of these charges?

  1. It was claimed the police had treated the protesters with kid gloves. Maybe. Yet, once the police cracked down, they used horses to trample some protesters. When the 2011 union protesters in Madison Wisconsin seized the Capitol building — not for a day but for weeks — the police were not only letting us enter and exit, but periodically joined the protest (and here). That was no sign that the Madison protests were right-wing, nor did leftists object to their solidarity.

As Caleb Maupin pointed out, liberals and leftists took the Fox News playbook to denounce the Black Lives Matter movement and used the same methods to attack the trucker protest. Those who support Black Lives Matter suddenly were ok with police repression of the Ottawa protests. By favoring government crackdown on peaceful protests, we gave the ruling class rope to hang ourselves with.

Working Class and Right-Wing Programs towards Covid and Health care

Being vaccinated protects you from getting very sick if you have underlying conditions but does not protect you from being infected or infecting others. People know that, so resent government vaccine requirements.

Mandates work when applied by governments that put the protection of citizens over the protection of corporate profits — not the case in the United States or Canada. Targeted lockdowns once covid makes its appearance, constant testing of the population, combined with a wide array of public health measures neither Canada nor the US ever instituted, has enabled China to almost eliminate deaths from Covid.

China contained Covid long before their vaccine was even developed. China provided house to house care for those locked down, constant and widespread testing, as well as relatively free health care for all. As a result, China has had three Covid related deaths since January 2021, while the US has had one million.

Nicaragua, which has a free, universal preventive health care system, has by far the lowest Covid death rate per million inhabitants of all the Americas, yet never instituted any sort of mandate or lockdown, beyond wearing a mask inside public buildings.

Participate in the Ottawa Protests with Working Class Demands

While the demands of the trucker protest had some merit, the Freedom Convoy leaders were ideologically rightwing. Their view of health care as an individual responsibility does not conflict with the neoliberal model. This benefits those with the privileges and financial resources to handle it.

Our working class view sees the state as the protector of public health, since health is a public issue, not simply a “free” individual’s responsibility.

We missed an opportunity to participate in the Ottawa occupation and organize working class solidarity with our message: government should meet the health and economic needs of the people affected by the pandemic; the government protects big business and big pharma super profits during the pandemic while our standard of living suffers; health care is a community issue and should be a human right. It should focus on prevention, with continuous education of the public, and establish clinics in every neighborhood, cultivating regular interaction between the health workers and the community.

If we fail to help lead workers and popular struggles, we leave the field open for middle class or right-wing leaders. Even the sometimes liberal Nation recognized, “the far-right origins of the protest shouldn’t be an excuse for ignoring the fact it is attracting the support of a segment of the population that doesn’t identify with the far right but does feel economically marginalized and hurt by a pandemic now entering its third year… Those who have sympathy for the convoy tend to be poorer, younger, and less educated.”

Some activists did stand for the working class approach to the Ottawa occupation. Dust James, a trucker, encouraged the left to join the protesters and explain to them that all truckers share a common problem with others: small businesses and workers are being crushed by the larger monopolies, big banks are ripping off all of us.

Richard Wolff said leftists made a serious error by not actively participating in and solidarizing with the trucker protest, showing workers how to use their power to achieve their demands. A struggle to push back against mandates that don’t work can ignite actions against other policies that don’t serve people’s interests. Struggles often begin as a fight against a specific injustice, eventually opening the door to struggles on more fundamental issues.

Leila Mechoui and Max Blumenthal applauded actions by working class people to improve their situation and resist impositions by private and public authorities. The truckers protest scared the rulers because they fear losing their control over who determines how society is run. They don’t want workers thinking they should have some say in societal decision-making. They don’t want workers to start thinking “why should we do what the bosses tell us to do if it doesn’t make sense.”

Richard Wolff and Jimmy Dore emphasized we should be and can be everywhere workers are struggling. “The left should not put itself in a situation where the protesters can lump them together with the authorities as enemies of their struggle, which is the case now.” Here, the left isolated themselves from the working class by attacking the movement as a whole.

Why Many Repeated Ruling Class Liberal Smears of the Truckers

Being an anti-war writer like Stephen Gowans does not mean you have close connections with working class struggles at home. Likewise, many working class fighters do not possess an anti-imperialist outlook.  Unfortunately, working class and anti-war fighters often operate in distinct social and political milieus.

Many have made critiques of the convoy and Ottawa occupation, such as a recent webinar by left intellectuals. Yet the problem we face is that the function of a working class leftwing goes beyond evaluating a movement. Our function should be to create a plan of action to participate in and help lead social struggles in a working class direction through demands that benefit the working classes as a whole. We are not there, nor are we making headway in building the army of working class activists needed to carry it out.

At present, far too many critics of the truckers feel in their heart of hearts that our white working class is full of “deplorables.” That illustrates the current disconnect of leftists from the white working class. Too many feel the working class may be the force that will overthrow capitalism and build a just society, but not with the working class we have. This white working class today is too ignorant, bigoted, backwards, bought-off, too white privileged. If it is not kept in check, things could only get worse.

So, where do they turn for a social power to rotate around for building progressive social change? Often it means to the more enlightened intelligentsia, the more progressive politicians. That leads to the Democratic Party or the Canadian versions: pressure them from the left and build support for them in their struggle against Trumpers. This approach became pronounced as fear of Trumpism grew.

This may explain why many on the left repeated Trudeau’s smears and may be why they — who normally support workers — sided with the government against working people when they organized and protested. Such an approach, if not corrected, leads to more police state repression and an increasingly divided working class confused over where to turn to solve their problems.

The post Why Many Progressives Misrepresented and Condemned the Ottawa Trucker Protest first appeared on Dissident Voice.

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