Category Archives: Canadian hypocrisy

Canada’s Anti-War Movement needs to Challenge Government

Should antiwar forces challenge power or praise government officials in the hopes of getting some crumbs for their pet issue?

Douglas Roche’s recent Hill Times column suggests the latter. In an article extolling Canada’s new ambassador to the UN Roche writes: “When Canada lost its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council the second successive time last June, I thought a foreign policy review from top to bottom was the solution to get Canada back on track internationally. But I’ve changed my mind for two reasons: the world is in multiple crises revolving around COVID-19 that need to be acted on now, and Bob Rae has arrived on the scene. I don’t mean to present the estimable new Canadian ambassador to the UN as a world saviour, but he has quickly established himself as a champion of the UN humanitarian agenda, which centres around reducing the grotesque economic inequalities that the pandemic has worsened.”

In essence Roche is saying that a few months ago he was troubled by the world’s rejection of Canadian foreign policy but now that Rae and Prime Minister Trudeau have delivered a couple of high-minded, internationalist statements there’s little need to challenge government policy.

But things are far from all fine and dandy. The Trudeau government refused to join 122 countries at a UN conference to ban nuclear weapons in 2017 and has failed to sign the resulting treaty. They have announced a 70% increase in military spending, oversaw record (non-US) arms exports last year and dispatched troops on US and NATO missions to Iraq and Latvia (not to mention breaking their promise to rein in Canadian mining companies’ abuses, support for a repressive Haitian president, unprecedented campaign to overthrow Venezuela’s government, anti-Palestinian positions, etc.)

Rather than representing a break from the Liberals’ pro-US, pro-militarist and pro-capitalist policies, Rae’s appointment reflects a continuation of this outlook. As I detailed in “New UN ambassador Bob Rae pushes pro-US, militarist and anti-Palestinian positions”, Rae aggressively promoted bombing Libya in 2011, allied with Stephen Harper to extend the occupation of Afghanistan and has repeatedly undercut Palestinian rights.

A few high-minded speeches by Rae and other government officials does not make a just foreign policy. Rather than make nice with Rae, peace and antiwar minded individuals should directly confront the Trudeau government’s foreign policy. The two recent national days of action at dozens of MPs’ offices against purchasing new fighter jets and selling arms to Saudi Arabia are a good step. So was the “no Canada on UN Security Council” campaign.

Unfortunately, Roche’s perspective on this issue matters. A former ambassador for disarmament, Progressive Conservative MP and senator has significant influence in peace circles. He’s influential within the Canadian Network for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons and two weeks ago Roche did an event with World Beyond War. But, Roche’s perspective is deleterious even if you stick to Roche’s main issue: nuclear disarmament.

If we are serious about forcing Ottawa to sign the UN nuclear ban treaty we need to grow the broader peace/demilitarization/anti-imperialist movement. More specifically, if many begin agitating against fighter jets and arms exports, or for Canada to leave the nuclear armed NATO alliance the government is more likely to concede to a push to sign the nuclear ban treaty.

Roche’s column praising Bob Rae should serve as a wake-up call to antiwar activists. The movement is far too focused on insider lobbying and policy wonkery. It needs to be much more oriented towards broad principled positions and social movement mobilization.

The post Canada's Anti-War Movement needs to Challenge Government first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Does Canadian Left Icon Stephen Lewis want Palestine to Disappear?

Stephen Lewis seems to want Palestine to disappear. The latest example in a long history of anti-Palestinian activism is his claim that Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN didn’t contribute to its defeat for a seat on the Security Council.

Recently I was forwarded an email that activist Elizabeth Block shared to Independent Jewish Voices’ discussion list in which she challenged Lewis’ omission of Palestine during a recent CBC interview that dealt with Canada’s Security Council defeat. In it Brian Mulroney’s former ambassador to the UN responded, “Dear Elizabeth Block: I’m glad you wrote because it allows me to provide an answer. I didn’t include the Israel/Palestine issue because I genuinely believe that it had nothing to do with Canada’s loss of the Security Council seat. It’s as straightforward as that. There was nothing devious or manipulative in the omission. I just don’t think it applied. The items I listed had, I believe, the decisive influence in Canada’s loss.”

While Lewis denies that Canada’s extremist anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN had any impact on the vote, a slew of officials and commentators have highlighted the importance of the Palestinian question in Canada’s loss. After the vote Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, told the Jerusalem Post, “we are disappointed that Canada didn’t make it, both because we have close ties with the country and because of the campaign that the Palestinians ran against Canada.” In “UN snub the latest in Liberals’ rancid record” Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin noted that Canada’s Security Council defeat was all about Canada’s anti-Palestinian record. He wrote, “there is one and only one reason, IMO [in my opinion], for the resounding defeat of Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat at the UN: Palestine.”

Canada’s voting record at the UN was at the heart of the grassroots No Canada on the UN Security Council campaign. An open letter launching the campaign from the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute noted, “since coming to power the Trudeau government has voted against more than fifty UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by the overwhelming majority of member states.” It added, “should it win a seat on the UNSC, Ottawa has stated that it will act as an “asset for Israel” on the Council.”

A subsequent open letter was signed by over 100 civil society groups and dozens of prominent individuals urging countries to vote against Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat due to its anti-Palestinian positions. The letter, organized by Just Peace Advocates, stated:

The Canadian government for at least a decade and a half has consistently isolated itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights at the UN. … Continuing this pattern, Canada ‘sided with Israel by voting No’ on most UN votes on the Question of Palestine in December. Three of these were Canada’s votes on Palestinian Refugees, on UNRWA and on illegal settlements, each distinguishing Canada as in direct opposition to the ‘Yes’ votes of Ireland and Norway.

Just Peace Advocates organized 1,300 individuals to email all UN ambassadors asking them to vote for Ireland and Norway instead of Canada for the Security Council. In a sign of the campaign’s impact, Canada’s permanent representative to the UN, Marc André Blanchard, responded with a letter to all UN ambassadors defending Canada’s policy on Palestinian rights. When Blanchard’s letter was made public days before the vote the former vice-chair of a UN committee on the Question of Palestine and Vicar of Gaza, Robert Assaly, responded to the Canadian ambassador’s empty claims and took the opportunity to remind all the UN ambassadors about Canada’s anti-Palestinian record.

There’s no question that Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record harmed its Security Council bid. The only serious question is how big of a role it played.

Omitting Palestine from the Security Council discussion is not motivated by a different interpretation of the facts but rather reflects the longstanding anti-Palestinian activism of Lewis and members of his family. Ontario NDP leader from 1970 to 1978, Lewis demanded the federal government cancel a major UN conference scheduled for Toronto in 1975 because the Palestine Liberation Organization was granted observer status at the UN the previous year and their representatives might attend (the conference had nothing to do with Palestine). In a 1977 speech to pro-Israel fundraiser United Jewish Appeal, which the Canadian Jewish News titled “Lewis praises [Conservative premier Bill] Davis for Stand on Israel”, Lewis denounced the UN’s “wantonly anti-social attitude to Israel” and told the pro-Israel audience that “the anti-Semitism that lurks underneath the surface is diabolical.”

At the NDP’s 2018 convention Lewis’ sister, Janet Solberg, was maybe the loudest anti-Palestinian voice. She led the charge against having the convention even discuss the “Palestine Resolution”. Former president of the Ontario NDP and federal council member, Solberg was a long time backroom organizer for her brother and works at the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Lewis’ wife Michele Landsberg wrote anti-Palestinian diatribes. In one of her latter Toronto Star columns the prominent feminist wrote, “to keep their people primed for endless war, Palestinians have inculcated racist hatred of Jews and of Israel in school texts, official newspaper articles and leaders’ pronouncements, in language so hideous it would have made Goebbels grin.”

Stephen’s father, David Lewis, was also viciously anti-Palestinian. After Israel conquered East Jerusalem in 1967, the long-time influential figure in the NDP promoted a “united Jerusalem”. “The division of Jerusalem,” said David Lewis, “did not make economic or social sense. As a united city under Israel’s aegis, Jerusalem would be a much more progressive and fruitful capital of the various religions.”

Just after stepping down as federal leader of the NDP in 1975 David Lewis was the “speaker of the year” at a B’nai B’rith breakfast. In the hilariously titled “NDP’s David Lewis urges care for disadvantaged”, the Canadian Jewish News reported that Lewis “attacked the UN for having admitted the PLO” and said “a Middle East peace would require ‘some recognition of the Palestinians in some way.’ He remarked that the creation of a Palestinian state might be necessary but refused to pinpoint its location. The Israelis must make that decision, he said, without interference from Diaspora Jewry.”

I can’t find any evidence of Stephen Lewis distancing himself from his or his family’s anti-Palestinian activism. His bid to erase Canada’s anti-Palestinian record from the Security Council defeat suggests he is still plugging away on the issue.

Unfortunately, Lewis’ views on this subject matter. He has access to major platforms and no individual/family has had a greater impact on the NDP’s position towards Palestinians than the Lewis clan.

The post Does Canadian Left Icon Stephen Lewis want Palestine to Disappear? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Canadian Troops in Saudi Arabia a Legacy of Support for Iraq War  

The revelation that Canadian soldiers have been in Saudi Arabia for 17 years highlights Canada’s ties to the repressive monarchy, contribution to the Iraq war and hollowness of Canadian foreign policy mythology.

Recently researcher Anthony Fenton tweeted, “raise your hand if you knew that there was a ‘Detachment’ of Canadian soldiers serving under US auspices operating AWACS spy planes out of a Saudi Arabian air base since the war on Iraq began in 2003 to THE PRESENT DAY.”

The Canadian soldiers stationed at Prince Sultan Air base near Riyadh represent another example of Canada’s military ties to the authoritarian, belligerent monarchy. Canadian naval vessels are engaged in multinational patrols with their Saudi counterparts in the region; Saudi Air Force pilots have trained in Alberta and Saskatchewan; Montreal-based flight simulator company CAE has trained Saudi pilots in numerous locales; Canadian-made rifles and armoured vehicles have been shipped to the monarchy, etc.

According to DND, Canada’s deployment to Saudi Arabia began on February 27, 2003. That’s four weeks before the massive US-led invasion of Iraq. The Canadians stationed in Riyadh were almost certainly dispatched to support the US invasion and occupation.

In another example of Canadian complicity in a war Ottawa ostensibly opposed, it was recently reported that Canadian intelligence agencies hid their disagreement with politicized US intelligence reports on Iraq. According to “Getting it Right: Canadian Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, 2002-2003”, Canada’s intelligence agencies mostly concluded that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, which was the justification Washington gave for invading Iraq. While CSIS delivered a report to their US counterparts claiming Iraq was seeking nuclear weapons capabilities, more serious analyses, reported the Canadian Press, were “classified ‘Canadian Eyes Only’ in order to avoid uncomfortable disagreements with the U.S. intelligence community which would exacerbate the sensitivities affecting relations at the political level.”

As Richard Sanders has detailed, Canada supported the US-led invasion of Iraq in many ways: Dozens of Canadian troops were integrated in US units fighting in Iraq; US warplanes enroute to that country refueled in Newfoundland; Canadian fighter pilots participated in “training” missions in Iraq; Three different Canadian generals oversaw tens of thousands of international troops there; Canadian aid flowed to the country in support of US policy; With Canadian naval vessels leading maritime interdiction efforts off the coast of Iraq, Ottawa had legal opinion suggesting it was technically at war with that country.

As such, some have concluded Canada was the fifth or sixth biggest contributor to the US-led war. But the Jean Chrétien government didn’t do what the Bush administration wanted above all else, which was to publicly endorse the invasion by joining the “coalition of the willing”. This wasn’t because he distrusted pre-war US intelligence or because of any moral principle. Rather, the Liberal government refused to join the “coalition of the willing” because hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets against the war, particularly in Quebec. With the biggest demonstrations taking place in Montréal and Quebecers strongly opposed to the war, the federal government feared that openly endorsing the invasion would boost the sovereignist Parti Québecois vote in the next provincial election.

Over the past 17 years this important, if partial, victory won by antiwar activists has been widely distorted and mythologized. The recent National Film Board documentary High Wire continues the pattern. It purportedly “examines the reasons that Canada declined to take part in the 2003 US-led military mission in Iraq.” But, High Wire all but ignores Canada’s military contribution to the war and the central role popular protest played in the “coalition of the willing” decision, focusing instead on an enlightened leader who simply chose to do the right thing.

The revelation that Canadian troops have been stationed in Saudi Arabia for 17 years highlights our military ties to the Saudi monarchy and warfare in the Middle East. It also contradicts benevolent Canada foreign policy mythology.

The post Canadian Troops in Saudi Arabia a Legacy of Support for Iraq War   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Canada’s Regime Change Efforts in Nicaragua Rife with Hypocrisy

Canada is supporting US efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s government.

A recently leaked USAID document highlights “the breadth and complexity of the US government’s plan to interfere in Nicaragua’s internal affairs up to and after its presidential election in 2021.” The stated aim is to replace president Daniel Ortega with “a government committed to the rule of law, civil liberties, and a free civil society.” Highlighting Washington’s aim, Ben Norton notes, “the 14-page USAID document employed the word ‘transition’ 102 times, including nine times on the first page alone.”

Recently Canada’s representative to the Organization of American States, Hugh Adsett, joined five other countries in calling on the OAS’ Secretary General to organize a special session focused on human rights and democracy in Nicaragua. At the recent OAS meeting Adsett criticized Nicaragua, saying the Covid-19 pandemic “should not be used to weaken democracy”.

Ottawa has supported a number of OAS resolutions and initiatives targeting Nicaragua’s government. Along with the US, Paraguay, Jamaica and Argentina, Canada was part of the 2019 OAS High-Level Diplomatic Commission on Nicaragua, which Managua blocked from entering the country. The commission claimed there was an “alteration of constitutional order that seriously affects the democratic order” in Nicaragua. But, the group failed to win majority support at the OAS General Assembly.

Ottawa has severed aid and sanctioned officials from a government former US national security adviser John Bolton listed as part of a “troika of tyranny” (Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua). Ortega’s government is part of the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA), which is a response to North American capitalist domination of the hemisphere.

Since the Sandinistas’ won power in 2007 poverty rates dropped substantially in the nation of six million. The government expanded access to electricity in rural areas and doubled the proportion of electricity from renewable sources to over half. Access to drinking water has increased as have health indicators improved. Women’s role in parliament grew sharply and Nicaragua’s murder rate remained a fraction of its northern neighbours. According to a July 2019 UN report, there were 8.3 murderers per 100,000 Nicaraguans compared with nearly 70 murders per 100,000 in El Salvador and Honduras.

A little more than a year after his third consecutive election victory a protest movement challenged Ortega’s presidency. Ostensibly what unleashed the uprising was a social security reform pushed by the International Monetary Fund. But, pension benefits were largely maintained with the government offloading most of the cost on to employers. Despite a relatively working-class friendly reform, many student organizations and NGOs aligned with the major employer federation, the wealthiest Nicaraguans and the conservative Catholic church to oppose the government. Many of these groups were financed and trained by the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy, USAID and Freedom House, which is close to the CIA. The movement was greatly influenced by Washington, which has long been powerful in the small, impoverished country.

The protests quickly turned violent. At least 22 police officers were killed and as many as 300 lost their lives in politically-related violence during 2018. The North American media and internationally connected NGOs blamed the government for all the rights violations. But, this was absurd, as the death toll of police highlight. It was also public knowledge that opposition rebels had been attacking government supporters for years. In March 2016 the New York Times published a long sympathetic story headlined “Ortega vs. the Contras: Nicaragua Endures an ’80s Revival” about a small number of anti-government rebels targeting police stations and Sandinistas in rural areas.

Still, Canadian officials blamed the government — either implicitly or directly — for the violence. Between April 23 and July 18, 2018, Global Affairs put out at least four press releases critical of the situation in Nicaragua. Chrystia Freeland’s statements became steadily stronger with the former foreign minister eventually demanding an immediate end to the “violence, repression, arbitrary detentions and human rights violations” and for “the government of Nicaragua to help create the conditions for safe, peaceful, and constructive discussions.” Subsequently Canada’s foreign minister questioned Ortega’s democratic legitimacy. In June 2019 Freeland declared, “Canada will continue to stand with the people of Nicaragua and their legitimate demands for democracy and accountability.” But, Ortega won the election in a landslide and it’s hard to imagine that he suddenly lost all support.

In March 2016 the New York Times reported, “Mr. Ortega enjoys strong support among the poor” while eight months later The Guardian noted he “cemented popular support among poorer Nicaraguans.” At the end of 2016 Ortega was re-elected with 72% of the vote in an election some in the opposition boycotted.

The Liberals raised the conflict in Nicaragua in international forums. At a Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Montréal in September 2018 Freeland said “Nicaragua” was one of “the pressing issues that concern us as foreign ministers.” The “situation in Nicaragua” was discussed between Freeland and foreign minister Aloysio Nunes at the third Canada-Brazil Strategic Partnership Dialogue a month later.

In August 2018 the Liberals officially severed aid to Nicaragua. Canadian funding for five major government backed projects was withdrawn.

Ten months later Canada sanctioned nine Nicaraguan government officials, including ministers and the president of the National Assembly. Individuals’ assets were frozen and Canadians were prohibited from dealing with said persons. The sanctions were adopted in co-ordination with Washington. “United States and Canada Announce Financial Sanctions to Address the Ongoing Repression in Nicaragua”, noted the US State Department’s release.

The Liberals’ stance towards Nicaragua contrasts sharply with its words and actions towards its Central American neighbour Honduras. While Canada condemned Ortega, severed aid and sanctioned officials, it maintained friendly relations and aid spending after Juan Orlando Hernandez defied the constitution by running for a second term as president and then brazenly stole the election.

The Liberals regime change efforts in Nicaragua are part of a broader pro-US/corporate policy in the hemisphere rife with hypocrisy.

Palestinian envoy fails to criticize Canada

With a representative like this Palestinians might be better off with no envoy in Canada. A recent profile of the Palestinian Authority’s agent in Ottawa confirms the PA is more a colonial tool than a voice for an oppressed people.

In the Hill Times interview Hala Abou-Hassira refuses to answer whether Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN had harmed its bid for a seat on the Security Council. Abou-Hassira responded by saying she didn’t know how different member states voted but hoped Canada would win a seat in the future. She even refused to criticize the Canadian government for repeatedly isolating itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights. “Abou-Hassira didn’t offer a position on Canada’s voting record, instead saying Canada has taken ‘positive steps towards peace in the region’”, reported the Hill Times. “Our struggle at the United Nations is not an issue of counting votes, it is a struggle for freedom,” she said.

According to research compiled by Karen Rodman of Just Peace Advocates, since 2000 Canada voted against 166 General Assembly resolutions critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Canada’s competitors for the two Security Council seats, Ireland and Norway, didn’t vote against any of these resolutions. Additionally, Ireland and Norway voted yes 251 and 249 times respectively on resolutions related to Palestinian rights during this period. Canada managed 87 yes votes, but only two since 2010.

While the Palestinian Authority’s representative in Ottawa deemed it politically unwise to point out the obvious, a slew of officials and commentators have highlighted the importance of the Palestinian question in Canada’s loss. After the vote Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, told the Jerusalem Post, “we are disappointed that Canada didn’t make it, both because we have close ties with the country and because of the campaign that the Palestinians ran against Canada.” In “UN snub the latest in Liberals’ rancid record” Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin noted that Canada’s Security Council defeat was all about Canada’s anti-Palestinian record. He wrote, “there is one and only one reason, IMO [in my opinion], for the resounding defeat of Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat at the UN: Palestine.”

Canada’s voting record at the UN was at the heart of the grassroots No Canada on the UN Security Council campaign. An open letter launching the campaign from the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute noted, “since coming to power the Trudeau government has voted against more than fifty UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by the overwhelming majority of member states.” A subsequent open letter was signed by over 100 civil society groups and dozens of prominent individuals urging countries to vote against Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat due to its anti-Palestinian positions. That letter organized by Just Peace Advocates stated, “the Canadian government for at least a decade and a half has consistently isolated itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights at the UN. … Continuing this pattern, Canada ‘sided with Israel by voting No’ on most UN votes on the Question of Palestine in December. Three of these were Canada’s votes on Palestinian Refugees, on UNRWA and on illegal settlements, each distinguishing Canada as in direct opposition to the ‘Yes’ votes of Ireland and Norway.”

Just Peace Advocates organized 1,300 individuals to email all UN ambassadors asking them to vote for Ireland and Norway instead of Canada for the Security Council. In a sign of the campaign’s impact, Canada’s permanent representative to the UN Marc André Blanchard responded with a letter to all UN ambassadors defending Canada’s policy on Palestinian rights.

There’s no question that Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record harmed its Security Council bid. The only serious question is how big of a role did it play. For their part, Palestinians have an interest in exaggerating, not downplaying, the impact Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record had on its Security Council loss.

But the PA is highly dependent on Israel, the US, Canada, and other countries’ “aid”. Over the past decade tens (possibly hundreds) of millions of dollars in Canadian aid money has gone to training and supporting a Palestinian security force that serves as an arm of Israel’s occupation. The PA has been labeled the “subcontractor of the Occupation”.

Abou-Hassira’s refusal to criticize this country’s UN voting record should be viewed as a manifestation of Canada’s anti-Palestinianism. Ottawa has helped build a political apparatus so removed from the needs and desires of the long-colonized Palestinians that it is unable to criticize a country for repeatedly isolating itself against world opinion on largely symbolic UN votes.

“Palestine is Still the Issue”: UN Vote Exposes, Isolates Canada

The notion that ‘Canada is better’, especially when compared with US foreign policy, has persisted for many years. Recent events at the United Nations have, however, exposed the true nature of Canada’s global position, particularly in the matter of its blind and unconditional support for Israel.

On June 17, Canada lost its second bid for the coveted UN Security Council seat, which, had it won, would have allowed Ottawa the opportunity to become a world leader, pushing its own agenda — and those of its allies — on the global stage.

However, this, too, was a wasted opportunity. Only 108 countries voted for Canada while 130 and 128 voted for Norway and Ireland respectively. Both these countries will be admitted to the Security Council, starting January 1, 2021.

What is striking about Canada’s missed opportunity is that it was in retribution for Canada’s bias towards Israel, at the expense of Palestine, international and humanitarian laws.  Over the last twenty years alone, for example, Canada has voted against 166 resolutions supporting Palestinian rights, says Canadian author and human rights advocate, Yves Engler.

Moreover, Canada has lobbied — and continues to lobby — against the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of war crimes in Palestine. Along with Germany, Austria and others, Canada has challenged the ICC’s jurisdiction on the matter, erroneously alleging that Palestine is not a State.

Shortly before the June vote on new Security Council members was held, a group of human rights activists circulated a letter to all UN members, detailing Canada’s poor record on Palestine.  “Despite its peaceful reputation, Canada is not acting as a benevolent player on the international stage,” the letter read.

It added, “Since coming to power, the Justin Trudeau government has voted against more than 50 UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights, even though they have been backed by the overwhelming majority of member states.”

Among the signatories of the letter were renowned American intellectual, Noam Chomsky, famed rock star, Roger Waters and former Quebec National Assembly member, Amir Khadir.

The vote against Canada at the UN was understood to be a stance against Ottawa’s position on Israel and Palestine, despite Canada’s Ambassador to the UN, Marc-Andre Blanchard, going on the defensive in a desperate attempt to dissuade member states from voting against his country.

In a letter sent to all member states, Blanchard argued that an earlier document written by “a group of Canadians regarding Canada’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict  … contains significant inaccuracies and characterizes Canada’s longstanding policy positions”.

This succession of actions is unprecedented in recent years, where a country like Canada loses the respect and support of other UN member states largely due to its failure to respect the rights of the Palestinian people. To better understand the significance of this event, we spoke to Yves Engler, who played a direct role in championing the Palestinian cause and pushing for Canadian accountability at the United Nations.

Engler has also authored several books, among them “Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid” and “Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada”.

“It is important for people to realize that this anti-Palestinian position that Canada pursues today is not new. It is grounded in at least a century of Zionist policy in this country,” Engler said.

The UN Vote

Explaining the context of the June UN vote, Engler said that “the current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who is a liberal politician, expended a lot of energy into winning that seat; he undertook a huge campaign, called dozens of leaders around the world, lobbied very hard for that seat but, on the first round of voting, Canada was defeated resoundingly by Ireland and Norway.”

Engler added, “In my mind, there was no issue that contributed more to Canada’s loss in its bid for a Security Council seat than its anti-Palestinian record. And, more specifically, its voting against UN General Assembly resolutions that almost the entire world supports, isolated Canada with the US, Israel, Micronesia, and maybe one or two other countries.”

The Canadian setback at the UN should be directly attributed to grassroots activists and intellectuals like Engler.

“Activists’ groups — that I was part of — exposed records spanning the past two decades of the Canadian government voting consistently against the UN General Assembly resolutions. It voted against 166 UN General Assembly resolutions over the past twenty years. In comparison, Ireland and Norway did not vote against a single one of those UN General Assembly resolutions.”

The Media Lobby

“But how did Canada become pro-Israel?” we asked Engler.

“There is a very well-organized, pro-Israel lobby in Canada that is able to exert its influence over the media,” Engler said. “For instance, the pro-Israel group, ‘Honest Reporting Canada’, concentrates on criticizing every media source that expresses even a hint of solidarity with the Palestinian cause.”

However, compared with the dynamics of Israeli influence over Washington, Canada is quite different. Unlike the US, Engler continues, “Canada has much clearer restrictions on the funding of politicians, so there is nobody like Sheldon Adelson who gives a couple of hundred million dollars to Donald Trump which, then,  sway Trump to adopt even more extreme anti-Palestinian positions. This dynamic does not exist in Canada, but the dominant media has always been sympathetic to the Zionist movement.”

Encouragingly, pro-Palestinian sentiment in Canada has grown over the last twenty years or so, to become a large network, an organized movement in its own right, which has, according to Engler, to “some extent, countered the dominance of the Zionist narrative.”

Canadian media, however, is still unwilling to challenge Israel’s power in the country, leaving the stage open to “pro-Israel groups  … to attack pro-Palestinian activists.”  “There is an incredible amount of trepidation, even in the pro-Palestinian movement, of being labeled as anti-Jewish,” Engler said.

Grassroots Activism

Similar to the trend in other western countries, pro-Palestine groups in Canada are small, diverse and organized at grassroots levels. These groups “tend not to be particularly well-founded or institutionally strong, while the pro-Israel side is far better organized.”

Yet, despite the pro-Israeli influence in government and media, “polls show, repeatedly, that the public is increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than what appears in the dominant media or in the official protocol. A recent poll has revealed that Canadians are very sympathetic towards boycotting Israel for violating international law.”

A March 2017 poll indicated that 78% of all Canadians believe that “BDS is reasonable”. Engler sees much hope in these numbers, referring to them and to the vote at the UN as “small victories.”

The growing pro-Palestinian sentiment is now also seeping into politics. Following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent decision to annex nearly a third of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, 57 members of parliament strongly protested this decision, demanding action from their government should Tel Aviv proceed with its illegal measures.

The change is far more rewarding within labor unions in the country than in politics. “Forty years, ago… unions were aggressive in their support of Zionism; today, this is no longer the case, as many unions have passed resolutions supporting BDS campaigns.”

While Canada’s support for Israel is, to a certain extent, consistent with Canada’s own colonial past and present interventionist foreign policy, the Canadian people and the international community remain major obstacles, challenging the toxic affinity between Ottawa and Tel Aviv.

The hope is that the growing pro-Palestinian tide, predicated on respect for international law and human rights, will eventually prevail in order to sever the Canada-Israel rapport permanently, and allow Canada to earn its place as a global leader.

Canadian Left rejects Organization of American States

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Trudeau continues the Conservatives Pro-Corporate/Empire International Policies

The international community’s rejection of Canada’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council isn’t a surprise. In the below introduction to my recently published House of Mirrors: Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy I detail how Liberal foreign policy has largely mimicked Stephen Harper’s who lost a bid for the Security Council in 2010.

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Justin Trudeau presents himself as “progressive” on foreign affairs. The Liberals claim to have brought Canada “back” after the disastrous Stephen Harper government. But, this book will demonstrate the opposite.

While promising to “make a real and valuable contribution to a more peaceful and prosperous world”, Trudeau has largely continued the Conservatives pro-corporate/empire international policies. The Liberals have followed the previous government’s posture on a wide range of issues from Russia to Palestine, Venezuela to the military.

In 2017 the Liberals released a defence policy that called for 605 more special forces, which have carried out numerous violent covert missions abroad. During the 2015 election campaign defence minister Jason Kenney said if re-elected the Conservatives would add 665 members to the Canadian Armed Forces Special Operations Command. The government’s defence policy also included a plan to acquire armed drones, for which the Conservatives had expressed support. Additionally, the Liberals re-stated the previous government’s commitment to spend over one hundred billion dollars on new fighter jets and naval ships.

The Harper regime repeatedly attacked Venezuela’s elected government and the Liberals ramped up that campaign. The Trudeau government launched an unprecedented, multipronged, effort to overthrow Nicolás Maduro’s government. As part of this campaign, they aligned with the most reactionary political forces in the region, targeting Cuba and recognizing a Honduran president who stole an election he shouldn’t have participated in. Juan Orlando Hernández’ presidency was the outgrowth of a military coup the Conservatives tacitly endorsed in 2009.

In Haiti the Liberals propped up the chosen successor of neo-Duvalerist President Michel Martelly who Harper helped install. Despite a sustained popular uprising against Jovenel Moïse, the Liberals backed the repressive, corrupt and illegitimate president.

The Trudeau government continues to justify Israeli violence against Palestinians and supports Israel’s illegal occupation. Isolating Canada from world opinion, they voted against dozens of UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by most of the world.

Initiated by the Conservatives, the Liberals signed off on a $14 billion Light Armoured Vehicle sale to Saudi Arabia. The Liberals followed Harper’s path of cozying up to other repressive Middle East monarchies, which waged war in Yemen. They also contributed to extending the brutal war in Syria and broke their promise to restart diplomatic relations with Iran, which the Conservatives severed.

The Liberals renewed Canada’s military “training” mission in the Ukraine, which emboldened far-right militarists responsible for hundreds of deaths in the east of that country. In fact, Trudeau significantly bolstered Canada’s military presence on Russia’s doorstep. Simultaneously, the Trudeau government expanded Harper’s sanctions against Russia.

On China the Liberals were torn between corporate Canada and militarist/pro-US forces. They steadily moved away from the corporate sphere and towards the militarist/US Empire standpoint. (During their time in office the Conservatives moved in the opposite direction.) Ottawa seemed to fear that peace might break out on the Korean Peninsula.

Trudeau backed Africa’s most bloodstained politician Paul Kagame.

Unlike his predecessor, Trudeau didn’t sabotage international climate negotiations. But the Liberals flouted their climate commitments and subsidized infrastructure to expand heavy emitting fossil fuels.

Ignoring global inequities, the Liberals promoted the interests of corporations and wealth holders in various international forums. They backed corporate interests through trade accords, Export Development Canada and the Trade Commissioner Service. Their support for SNC Lavalin also reflected corporate influence over foreign policy.

In a stark betrayal of their progressive rhetoric, the Trudeau regime failed to follow through on their promise to rein in Canada’s controversial international mining sector. Instead they mimicked the Conservatives’ strategy of establishing a largely toothless ombudsperson while openly backing brutal mining companies.

To sell their pro-corporate/empire policies the Liberals embraced a series of progressive slogans. As they violated international law and spurned efforts to overcome pressing global issues, the Liberals crowed about the “international rules-based order”. Their “feminist foreign policy” rhetoric rested uneasily with their militarism, support for mining companies and ties to misogynistic monarchies.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric, the sober reality is that Trudeau has largely continued Harper’s foreign policy. The “Ugly Canadian” continued to march across the planet, but with a prettier face at the helm.

My 2012 book The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy detailed the first six and a half years of Harper’s rule. This book looks at the first four years of Trudeau’s reign. I will discuss the many ways Canadian foreign policy under Conservative and Liberal governments remained the same. Support for empire and a pro-corporate neoliberal economic order is the common theme that links the actions of conservative and self-described “progressive” prime ministers.

• Please sign this petition calling for a fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy.

Ottawa’s Close Ties with Far Right Colombia President undermines Human Rights Rhetoric Regarding Venezuela

A week ago a former Canadian soldier instigated a harebrained bid to kidnap or kill Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Launched from Colombia, the plot failed spectacularly with most of the men captured or killed.

Still, the leader of the invasion Jordan Goudreau, a veteran of the Canadian military and US special forces, has been remarkably forthright about the involvement of opposition figure Juan Guaidó. A leaked contract between Guaidó’s representative in Florida and Goudreau’s Silvercorp USA describes plans for a multi-month occupation force which, after ousting Maduro, would “convert to a National Asset Unit that will act under the direction of the [Guaidó] Administration to counter threats to government stability, terror threats and work closely” with other armed forces. Apparently, Goudreau was hoping for a big payday from Venezuela’s opposition. He also had his eyes on the $15 million bounty Washington put up in March for Maduro’s capture as well as tens of millions of dollars for other members of the government.

As the plot has unraveled, Ottawa has refused to directly criticize the invasion launched from Colombia. The military has also refused to release information regarding Goudreau’s time in the Canadian forces. What’s more, since the plot began Canada’s foreign affairs minister has reached out to regional opponents of Maduro and reasserted Ottawa’s backing for Guaidó. The PM also discussed Venezuela with his Colombian counterpart.

The Trudeau government’s reaction to recent events suggest the global pandemic has not deterred them from brazenly seeking to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In a bid to elicit “regime change”, over the past couple of years Ottawa has worked to isolate Caracas, imposed illegal sanctions, took that government to the International Criminal Court, financed an often-unsavoury opposition and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.

The day after the first phase of the invasion was foiled foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke to his Colombian, Peruvian and Brazilian counterparts concerning the “Venezuela crisis and the humanitarian needs of Venezuelans.” Four days later Champagne tweeted, “great call with Venezuela Interim President Juan Guaidó. Canada will always stand with the people of Venezuela in their desire to restore democracy and human rights in their country.”

On Monday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Colombian President Iván Duque Márque. According to the official release, they “discussed the crisis in Venezuela and its humanitarian impact in the region which is heightened by the pandemic. They underscored the need for continued close collaboration and a concerted international effort to address this challenging situation.” Over the past 18 months Trudeau has repeatedly discussed Venezuela with a Colombian president who has offered up his country to armed opponents of Maduro.

The Trudeau government has been chummy with Duque more generally. After he won a close election marred by fraud allegations then Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland “congratulated” Duque and said, “Canada and Colombia share a commitment to democracy and human rights.” In August 2018 Trudeau tweeted, “today, Colombia’s new President, Ivan Duque, took office and joins Swedish PM, Norway PM, Emmanuel Macron, Pedro Sánchez, and others with a gender-equal cabinet. Iván, I look forward to working with you and your entire team.” A month later he added, “thanks to President Ivan Duque for a great first meeting at UNGA this afternoon, focused on growing our economies, addressing the crisis in Venezuela, and strengthening the friendship between Canada & Colombia.”

But, Duque is from the extreme right — “le champion du retour de la droite dure en Colombie”, according to a Le Soleil headline. The Colombian president has undercut the peace accord the previous (right, but not far right) government signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to end Colombia’s 50-year civil war, which left some 220,000 dead. Duque’s policies have increased violence towards the ex-rebels and social activists. Seventy-seven former FARC members were killed in 2019. Even more human rights defenders were murdered. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights found that at least 107 Colombian, mostly Indigenous, rights defenders were killed in 2019.

Through the first part of this year the pace at which social leaders and demobilized FARC members have been killed has increased. According to the UN observer mission in Colombia, 24 demobilized guerrillas have already been assassinated and a recent Patriotic March report on the “The other pandemic lived in Colombia” details 95 social leaders, human rights defenders and former guerrillas killed in the first four months of 2020.

Trudeau’s dalliance with Duque is difficult to align with his stated concern for human rights in Venezuela.

The same can be said for Ottawa’s failure to condemn the recent invasion attempt. The Trudeau government should be questioned on whether it was involved or had foreknowledge of the recent plot to invade Venezuela.

Trudeau okays more arms sales to Saudi Arabia

As Canadians focus on the coronavirus pandemic the Trudeau government announced it was lifting its suspension of arms export permits to Saudi Arabia. It has also renegotiated the government’s $14 billion armoured vehicle deal with the belligerent, repressive, monarchy.

This is not surprising. The government set the stage for this decision when with its September review that found no evidence linking Canadian military exports to human rights violations committed by the Saudis. The Global Affairs review claimed there was no “credible” link between arms exports to the Saudis and human rights abuses even though the April 2016 memo to foreign minister Stéphane Dion originally approving the armoured vehicle export permits claimed they would assist Riyadh in “countering instability in Yemen.” The five year old Saudi led war against Yemen has left 100,000 dead. Throughout their time in office the Liberals have largely ignored Saudi violence in Yemen.

Despite a great deal of public attention devoted to a diplomatic spat after Riyadh withdrew its ambassador over an innocuous tweet from the Canadian Embassy in August 2018, the Liberals have sought to mend relations and continue business as usual. In December 2018 HMCS Regina assumed command of a 33-nation Combined Maritime Forces naval coalition patrolling the region from Saudi Arabia. Last September foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, “Saudi Arabia is an important partner for Canada and we continue to work with Saudi Arabia on a number of different issues at a number of different levels.” For its part, the Canadian Embassy’s website continues to claim, “the Saudi government plays an important role in promoting regional peace and stability.”

According to an access to information request by PhD researcher Anthony Fenton, Freeland phoned new Saudi foreign minister Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf in January 2019. In briefing notes for the (unannounced) discussion Freeland was encouraged to tell her counterpart (under the headline “points to register” regarding Yemen): “Appreciate the hard work and heavy lifting by the Saudis and encourage ongoing efforts in this regard.”

After Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s (MBS) thugs killed and dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, Trudeau treaded carefully regarding the murder. Ten days after the Canadian Press reported, “the prime minister said only that Canada has ‘serious issues’ with reports the Washington Post columnist was killed by Saudi Arabian operatives inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey.” Six weeks later the Liberals sanctioned 17 Saudi nationals over the issue but none of them were in positions of significant authority.

Foreign minister Freeland looked the other way when Saudi student Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi fled Canada last year — presumably with help from the embassy — to avoid sexual assault charges in Cape Breton. While Freeland told reporters that Global Affairs was investigating the matter, Halifax Chronicle Herald journalist Aaron Beswick’s Access to Information request suggested they didn’t even bother contacting the Saudi embassy concerning the matter.

In April 2019 the Saudis beheaded 37 mostly minority Shiites. Ottawa waited 48 hours — after many other countries criticized the mass execution — to release a “muted” statement. The Trudeau government stayed mum on the Saudi’s effort to derail pro-democracy demonstrations in Sudan and Algeria in 2018/19 as well as Riyadh’s funding for Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s bid to seize Tripoli by force.

While they implemented a freeze on new export permit approvals, shipments of Canadian weaponry continued. The year 2018 set a record for Canadian rifle and armoured vehicle sales to the Saudis. Over $17 million in rifles were exported to the kingdom in 2018 and a similar amount in 2019. Canada exported $2 billion worth of “tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles” to the Saudis in 2019. In February Canada exported $155.5 million worth of “Tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles” to Saudi Arabia.

The Global Affairs review that claimed there was no “credible” link between Canadian weapons exports to the Saudis and human rights abuses noted there were 48 arms export permit applications awaiting government approval.

As Fenton has documented in detail, armoured vehicles made by Canadian company Streit Group in the UAE have repeatedly been videoed in Yemen. Equipment from three other Canadian armoured vehicle makers — Terradyne, IAG Guardian and General Dynamics — was found with Saudi-backed forces in Yemen. Fenton has shown many examples of the Saudi-led coalition using Canadian-made rifles as well.

The Trudeau government arming the monarchy’s military while saying little about its brutal war in Yemen should be understood for what it was: War profiteering and enabling of massive human rights abuses.