Archive for the ‘Guest Contributors’ Category

An open letter to Canada’s Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, and Senators, from a broad and diverse coalition of 46 organizations representing millions of Canadians –

Support Canadian Food, Canadian Farmers, and the Canadian Wheat Board

Bill C-18, if passed, will destroy the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).  Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has repeatedly stated that he will not recognize the plebiscite recently conducted by the CWB, in which results were clearly in favour of keeping the CWB as the sole marketing agent for prairie wheat and barley intended for human consumption.

The CWB was created by an Act of Parliament, and is run by a 15-member Board of Directors, ten of whom are elected by farmers.  The Wheat Board provides fair, equitable, reliable, and cost-effective services to farm families.  It provides stability in uncertain times, and is a foundation of Canada’s grain sector.

Ending the single desk authority of the CWB would throw western agriculture into turmoil and would transfer wealth created by Canadian farmers to big, private, often foreign-owned grain companies—money now returned to farmers, who spend it in their communities.  The Minneapolis Grain Exchange has already changed its rules to allow for speculation in futures contracts for Canadian wheat and barley—a move which will increase price volatility for purchasers without providing any benefit to farmers.

Canada’s political system is built on representative democracy.  This means that the law, not merely the person in power, is to be respected and followed.  The CWB Act is a law made by Parliament, and it requires a farmer vote before any substantive changes are made to the single desk authority.  Our current government is ignoring this law—refusing to hold the required vote—and moving to eliminate the requirement for a vote.  This is deeply concerning, as it strikes at the heart of our Canadian democracy.

We the undersigned:

  • Recognize the billions of dollars of economic value that the CWB creates each year—for farmers, rural communities, short line railroads, and the whole of Canada—as a result of its superior marketing ability, capacity to defend Canadian interests in trade disputes, and commitment to return to farmers all net proceeds from sales.
  • Are proud of the strong international reputation for quality and reliability that Canadian wheat and barley have earned—a direct result of the CWB and its companion institutions, the Canadian Grain Commission and Canadian International Grains Institute.
  • Deplore the government’s disregard for the outcome of the recent plebiscite in which 62% of farmers voted in favour of keeping the single desk for wheat and 51% supported keeping the single desk for barley.

We therefore call upon the Prime Ministers, MPs, and Senators to immediately stop undermining the single desk authority of the CWB.  We further insist that Parliament must comply with the Canadian Wheat Board Act, Section 47.1, which requires a binding plebiscite (vote) of farmers before any substantive change to the CWB’s single desk authority is initiated.

Signed:

  • Agriculture Workers Alliance
  • Bathurst Street United Church, Toronto
  • Big Carrot Natural Food Market
  • Biofreedom
  • Brandon University Students’ Union
  • Briarpatch Magazine
  • Canadian Auto Workers (CAW)
  • Canadian Labour Congress
  • Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
  • Canadian Wheat Board Alliance
  • CCNB Action (Conservation Council of New Brunswick)
  • Centre for Social Justice
  • Coalition On The Niagara Escarpment
  • Council of Canadians
  • Council of Canadians – Moose Jaw, Sask. Chapter
  • Council of Canadians – Prince Albert, Sask. Chapter
  • Council of Canadians – Winnipeg, Man. Chapter
  • CWA/SCA (Communications Workers Union) Canada
  • Food Action Committee of the Ecology Action Centre
  • Food Secure Canada
  • Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board
  • GE Watch Comox Valley
  • GRAIN
  • Grain Services Union (GSU)
  • Greenpeace Canada
  • Growing Food Security in Alberta
  • Health Sciences Association of Alberta
  • Inter Pares
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 529
  • Lardeau Valley Seed Savers
  • Les AmiEs de la Terre de Québec
  • LIFT (Low Income Families Together)
  • National Farmers Union
  • National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
  • New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice
  • Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) – Windsor
  • Organic Food Council of Manitoba (OFCM)
  • Oxfam Canada
  • Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL)
  • Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN)
  • Society for a GE Free BC
  • The Ark Farm, B&B, Vegetables, & Native Plants
  • Union paysanne
  • United Church of Canada
  • United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)

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By Rev. Barb Janes, Crescent-Ft. Rouge United Church, Winnipeg

It takes a village . . .

Raza Family in 2006. Photo: CBC

Crescent Fort Rouge United Church is tickled to announce that the Raza family, who lived in sanctuary in the church from August 3, 2006 to February 29, 2008, has been granted Permanent Resident status in Canada. Our deep gratitude to legal counsel, Ken Zaifman (Zaifman Immigration Lawyers), Canadian Border Service Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Manitoba Department of Labor and Immigration for finding a solution that balanced the circumstances of the Raza family and the requirements of the Immigration Act.

It has been an amazing journey for both the congregation and this family of eight – our thank you list is a long one. The members of Crescent Fort Rouge United worked diligently and persistently, as did many community members. Neighbouring churches and congregations across Canada offered financial, spiritual and moral support. Volunteers of many religions and of no religion generously stepped up to support the Raza family. Terry Borys of the Louis Riel School Division and then Minister of Education, Citizenship and Youth, the Hon. Peter Bjornson ensured that the school-aged children could return to classes at St. George School. Our then Member of Parliament, Anita Neville, visited the family numerous times, and kept the matter before the public, as did our MLA, Jennifer Howard. Deborah Gray, a Winnipegger with a big heart, made a wonderful contribution to publicize the cause. During the time the Razas were in the church, we were honoured with visits from and even a prayer service with members of Winnipeg’s Muslim community. Local musicians generously gave of their talents for a fund-raising rally.

The family sought sanctuary to avoid deportation under fear of sectarian violence in Pakistan, and for 18 challenging months the church was their benevolent prison. Parents Hassan and Kausar and the four oldest children – Rubab, Mohsin, Zain and Farva – faced potential deportation if they left the church property. (The two youngest, Mahssam and Seema, are Candian citizens.) The church’s boardroom was given over to the family as their living quarters, the second-floor kitchen became Kausar’s domain, and the Upper Hall and Nursery became make-shift classroom spaces until the children were granted permission to return to St. George School. Volunteers served as teachers, grocery-shoppers, nurses, lobbyists, security guards, language teachers, media-liaisons, fun-raisers and fund-raisers. After the family achieved Temporary Resident status and Kausar was accepted into Manitoba’s Provincial Nominee Program (thanks to Albert El Tassi of Peerless Garments), the family secured housing and began the transition back into the community. Many volunteers have continued to be in contact with the Razas, some as family friends, others running a homework club for the children.

The day the Raza family made their frightened way to Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, the baby of the family, Seema, had her first birthday. Today, she is a chatty member of her kindergarten class in the public school system. Kausar and Hassan both have jobs. Life is returning to normal, both for the family and for the congregation.

It has been an amazing journey of faith, hope, and persistence, and we at Crescent Fort Rouge United again offer our thanks to the “village” that worked so hard and gave so generously.


Previous articles

Urgent: Action needed to help Raza Family remain in Canada
Update: Raza family to remain in Canada

By Canadian Boat to Gaza

As the Canadian federal election campaign enters week two, the government of Israel has launched a campaign to slander, disrupt, and possibly attack the upcoming Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, which will have many Canadians aboard the Canadian Boat to Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has now threatened to “act firmly” using “force” against the flotilla in May.

The Canadian Boat to Gaza is calling on all of the federal parties to denounce these threats against Canadians by Israel, which has demonstrated its willingness to use lethal force against civilians, similar to its fatal attack on last year’s freedom flotilla.

“Netanyahu’s vow to use force is tantamount to a death threat against the Canadian and international participants in the flotilla,” says Wendy Goldsmith of the Canadian Boat to Gaza. “The question is, if elected, what will candidates running in this election do to ensure the safety and security of those on board the Canadian Boat to Gaza, in light of Israeli threats of violence?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu has falsely claimed that the Flotilla is being organized by “radical Islamists” intent on smuggling weapons into Gaza by sea. With support from coast to coast, the Canadian Boat to Gaza has raised over 80% of its fundraising goal of $300,000, and enjoys the endorsement of organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

Retired federal politicians – including Warren Allmand and Raymond Gravel – support the initiative, and the Canadian Boat to Gaza is calling on politicians seeking election to do the same.

“In the absence of federal leadership, Canadians are preparing to stand up for Palestinian human rights and international law by breaking the illegal siege of Gaza. We’re inviting the federal party leaders to join us on the boat and to be part of the peaceful solution to this crisis,” says Ehab Lotayef of the Canadian Boat to Gaza. “Candidates seeking office in this election have a responsibility to make it clear that it would be unacceptable for Israel to attack the Canadian Boat to Gaza or any other vessel in the upcoming flotilla.”

Many notable Canadian and international figures have already endorsed the Canadian Boat to Gaza, including Denis Halliday, former UN Humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Amir Khadir, Quebec MLA, Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh, writers Judy Rebick and Linda McQuaig, Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, to name but a few. More than 100 civil society organizations – trade unions such as CSN in Quebec, Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups, campus and community organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations – have lent their support to the mission.

The international Freedom Flotilla II, coordinating the efforts of groups from all over the world (Canada, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Ireland, USA, UK, Greece, Turkey, France and others) is planning to sail to Gaza in the second half of May 2011. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to help him stop the Freedom Flotilla from arriving in Gaza in May. The Secretary General responded saying that Israel should end the blockade of Gaza.


See also: Video: Huwaida Arraf on the Free Gaza Movement and Freedom Flotilla

Contact your MP – here.

Mohamed Harkat and wife Sophie Lamarche at a press conference in Ottawa, Dec. 10, 2010. Photo: Sean Kilpatrick

By Sophie Lamarche

What was expected to be the end of a long nightmare and a great end to 2010 turned out to be a disaster. We can’t really put 2010 behind us because our battle continues. On Dec. 9th, 2010, the day before International Human Rights Day and the 8th-year anniversary of my husband Mohamed Harkat’s arrest under a security certificate, the Harkat family, his legal team, and his supporters across the country got a big punch in the guts.

It is one, Moe and I never expected. One, which many never expected! Our family, supporters, groups, unions and legal experts were all shocked at the recent ruling made by Justice Simon Noel from the Federal Court of Canada to uphold the security certificate against Moe.

The certificate was found ”reasonable” under the lowest standard of proof in a Canadian court. This decision was based on secret evidence neither Mohamed nor his public counsels could see or test for national security reasons. All that because CSIS believes, thinks, or assumes that Moe was involved or will be involved with terrorism in the past, present, or future. That position could cover any one of us at any time.

To this day, he still does not know the evidence against him. We have all been kept in the dark for eight years.

Mohamed Harkat was arrested and thrown in jail on Dec. 10th, 2002. He is the only inmate to ever be detained for 43 long months at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre without ever knowing why or without ever being charged. That day will be engraved in my mind for the rest of my life.

My mom says she’ll always remember the sound and fear in my voice when I called her on her cell phone after Moe was arrested. I was hysterical; terrorism was such a taboo subject after 9/11, and still is. Who on earth wants to be associated with the word terrorism or allegations related to terrorism?

What I was really after was for the truth to come out. I was never afraid of the truth. I had one look into Moe’s eyes on our first visit in jail, I knew then I had to fight. But between you and me, I knew even before looking into his eyes that he had nothing to do with those absurd allegations. Mohamed has always denied all the allegations.

For three-and-a-half years, I visited my husband in an icy cold or burning hot room behind a dirty thick glass window, with rotten food on the floor or big bugs on the walls, while talking through a broken recorded telephone, surrounded by guards who watched us from every angle for every minute of the visit. And let’s not forget the bad treatment and killer looks before even going in. We were only entitled to two visits per week for 20 minutes, and that’s only if we were lucky to get a ”good” guard who would bring him in on time and then start the phone.

We stared and mimed through glass many times without having a working phone. After waiting for hours to see him, he would be brought (the first year) with shackles around his ankles to his waist and to his wrists. His orange suit was so bright he could probably be seen from space. It seems like he was treated worse than the biggest criminal in this country.

They put him in solitary confinement for the first year, and only took him out for one or two showers per week if he was lucky. He did not have access to fresh air or outdoors for the first six months and was kept in isolation from all the other inmates, without anything to read or to do.

I did not sleep for years. I was always worried for his safety and waiting by the phone for his collect call that often never came. He was the one inmate everyone in prison knew and talked about, but that no one had seen. Everyone there saw him in the newspapers and on TV but he did not. He was kept away from the general population.

We got nothing! The men were basically “kidnapped” from their sections one day only to be transferred in total secrecy. An inmate from OCDC called me collect to say Moe had never returned to his section – this is how I found out about it. The fear was within me once more.

After three-and-a-half frustrating years in detention, Moe was finally released on bail — but the government appealed his bail, of course! I had him back but both he and I became full-time prisoners in our home for the following four years.

I was a jail guard to my own husband and pretty much cut from the outside world. Moe was released under the toughest bail conditions in Canadian history. He could never be left alone in the house or in our yard. We were together every minute of every day, unless another court-appointed surety could ”release” me of my duties for a few minutes or hours.

There were surveillance cameras in our home, our phone was tapped and every conversation was open for CSIS and CBSA to listen to, all our mail was intercepted. We only had three outings per week of four hours each, Moe to this day still wears a GPS electronic tag around his ankle at all times, my computer room is under lock and key, and no cell phones or similar communications devices are allowed in our home.

While out on pre-approved outings, we were followed by between two and six CBSA officers wearing bulletproof vests and carrying guns. Every location and person we were in contact with had to be pre-approved at least 48 hours in advance. This included our newborn nephew and my 80-year-old grandmother.

Many friends and outings were denied, including his own 40th birthday party and our wedding anniversary outing. I took Moe with me when I went to pre-approved pap tests, into changing rooms, and we were forced to use shared family washrooms in public buildings since he could never be left alone.

That was our life for almost four years until, suddenly, the government ordered almost all restrictions lifted in Sept. 2009. Apparently, Moe was no longer a threat. For four years, we were humiliated, degraded and dehumanized in every way possible. Needless to say, when the conditions changed, it was about time, because I was very close to exploding! Many conditions still remain, including the GPS tag and ban on use of a computer and cell phone, but life is different. That’s the price of freedom in Canada!

Life has been a real soap opera for us the past eight years. Many would not believe some of my many stories. Some could not care less. But I always ask them “if you were in my husband’s shoes and you were detained without charge or access to the evidence… would you accept the process???”

No honest Canadian has ever agreed to that. Why should refugees or immigrants be treated differently?

In Sept. 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously found the Security Certificate process unconstitutional. One for us, zero for CSIS! They had one year to draft a new law that ended up being just as bad the second time around.

The main difference was a cosmetic changed created by adding the position of special advocates who can see some secret evidence, but can never talk with public counsels unless permitted by the court or the accused.

Same old thing, nothing new. The new process is very frustrating and remains as secretive. When the second security certificate was re-issued to Moe in Feb. 2008, the cover letter was addressed to Hassan Almrei.

Mistake number one! Wrong guy? Wrong allegations? Imagine what goes on in the back. Imagine what kind of evidence is presented in secret?

For the record, we know the special advocates do not have access to all material, only what CSIS chooses to release. They also don’t have access for cross-examination of some human sources and informants, only their files. You call that fair? Not only did we lose the reasonableness in Dec. 2010, but also on legal arguments on the constitutionality and abuse of process. Both applications for stay of proceedings were denied. Zero for us, one for CSIS!!!

Before we end this article, let’s talk about the abuse of process done by the hands of CSIS.

They use evidence that comes or derives from torture, their main informant failed a lie detector test, and CSIS failed to tell the court, they listened to solicitor/clients calls for months until they were caught, they destroyed every piece of original material in our case (notes, tapes, intercepts, interviews… everything).

If it were a criminal case, it would not stand a chance.

They raided our home in May 2008, two week before our hearing, in order to find so-called evidence. They sent 16 CBSA officers, three sniffer dogs (normally used for locating currency, drugs and explosives), two OPP and two RCMP officers to guide the dogs. The search lasted over six hours and they took out over 20 boxes of material including my computer, which is in a locked basement and contained all my communications with public counsels.

They searched every inch of our house for evidence, when they already knew or approved everything we ever did (GPS, surveillance cameras, tapped phone, intercepted mail and followed during outings), our house was probably safer than Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s residence.

If that’s not abuse… what is??? If you are still doubtful, may I remind you that the evidence is kept secret for national security reasons and on numerous counts, CSIS was found guilty of deporting people to torture based on baseless evidence.

Will we learn from the past? What is my husband to do? If he does not testify, he will be considered to be the one hiding something. When he does testify, he is called a liar, a terrorist. It’s his word versus the secret evidence, secret files. Goliath versus the whale. His word against a machine, a secret informant, our own Canadian government and CSIS. It’s a loss, loss situation.

What happens next for us? The appeal process is just as unfair and biased as the hearing itself since the very same judge who found the certificate ”reasonable” has to certify a question to allow for an appeal to his decision.

We hope to appeal all the way back to the Supreme Court of Canada so that the whole process is found unconstitutional once again. How many more years of this nightmare? Our plans for the future (kids, work, and a home) have been put on hold again — for how long? An entire family is devastated.

In the meantime, Moe and I live with a huge cloud over our heads every day that reminds us of the possibility of deportation to face imprisonment, torture or death. Canada wants to return him, if they do, they will have his blood on their hands.

On January 21st, 2011 Moe was issued his deportation papers. The letter said he was inadmissible to stay in Canada because he was a threat to the safety of Canadians and for National security reasons. Proceedings are in place. Another big blow. Moe, who has been devastated since December, is having difficulty sleeping, eating and doing day-to-day things without having to worry constantly. He has been seeing a professional for years. He’s in the dark, just like the secret evidence. The battle ahead of us is long and painful. We are grateful to the many supporters who came out on a cold winter day to the building of CBSA to protest their anger and disapproval. Canadian Border Services Agency was so scared of a couple of ragging grannies and tons of media, that they had locked themselves up in their offices and closed all the blinds!

How long will this last, how long will my family be submitted to psychological torture, imprisonment. My country has failed me. I’m ashamed at how my husband and the other men are being treated by the Canadian government.

We continue to fight because of your support. You give us the strength and motivation to go on. We thank our supporters for their love, friendship, dedication and unconditional support.

If you believe in due process, please sign our new statement www.harkatstatement.com

Contact your MP and demand that these men get a fair and open trial so the evidence is made public for all Canadians to see and for the truth to finally come out. We are not afraid of the truth.

Pity and Fear will not get us anywhere. Don’t say silent in the face of injustice. One day it could be you.

Take a stand.

We CAN make a difference!

May justice prevail!


See also: Justice for Mohamed Harkat

by Yves Engler

In a stunning international rebuke Stephen Harper’s government lost its bid for a UN Security Council seat last week. The vote in New York was the world’s response to a Canadian foreign policy designed to please the most reactionary, shortsighted sectors of the Conservative Party’s base — evangelical Christian Zionists, extreme right-wing Jews, Islamophobes, the military-industrial-academic-complex, mining and oil executives and old cold-warriors.

Over the past four year Harper’s government has been offside with the world community on a whole host of issues. Canada was among a small number of countries that refused to recognize the human right to water or sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. On two occasions Ottawa blocked consensus at the Rotterdam Convention to place chrysotile asbestos, a known toxin, on its list of dangerous products and in November Finance Minister Jim Flaherty refused to even consider British PM Gordon Brown’s idea of a global tax on international financial transactions.

Close to the companies making huge profits on the Tar Sands, the Conservatives repeatedly sabotaged international climate negotiations. They angered many in the Commonwealth by blocking a resolution calling for a “binding commitment” on rich countries to reduce emissions and at a UN climate conference in Bangkok last year, many delegates from poorer countries left a negotiating session in protest after a Canadian suggestion to scrap the Kyoto Protocol as the basis of negotiations.

Israel’s best friend

The Conservatives extreme “Israel no matter what” position definitely hurt its chance on Tuesday. “It’s hard to find a country friendlier to Israel than Canada these days,” explained Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who emigrated from Moldova when he was 20 but still feels fit to call for the expulsion of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The Conservatives publicly endorsed Israel’s 2006 attack on Lebanon, voted against a host of UN resolutions supporting Palestinian rights and in February Ottawa delighted Israeli hawks by canceling $15 million in funding for the UN agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The money was transferred to Palestinian security reform.

For the past three years Canada has been heavily invested in training a Palestinian security force designed to oversee Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and “to ensure that the PA [Palestinian Authority] maintains control of the West Bank against Hamas,” as Canadian ambassador to Israel Jon Allen was quoted as saying by the Canadian Jewish News. According to deputy Foreign Affairs minister Peter Kent, Operation PROTEUS, Canada’s military training mission in the West Bank, is the country’s “second largest deployment after Afghanistan” and it receives “most of the money” from a five-year $300 million Canadian aid program to the Palestinians.

At the same time as Canadian “aid” strengthens the most compliant Palestinian political factions, the Conservatives have refused any criticism of Israel’s onslaught against the 1.5 million people living in Gaza. Canada was the only country at the UN Human Rights Council to vote against a January 2008 resolution that called for “urgent international action to put an immediate end to Israel’s siege of Gaza.”

Later in 2008 Israel unleashed a 22-day military assault on Gaza that left 1,400 Palestinians dead. In response many governments condemned the bombing and Venezuela broke off all diplomatic relations. Israel didn’t need to worry since Ottawa was prepared to help out. The Canadian embassy now represents Israel’s diplomatic interests in Caracas.

Threatening Iran

While Brazil and Turkey tried to dissipate hostility towards Iran, Harper used his pulpit as host of the G8 to pave the way for a possible U.S.-Israeli attack. A February 17 Toronto Star article was headlined: “Military action against Iran still on the table, Kent says.” The junior foreign minister explained that “it’s a matter of timing and it’s a matter of how long we can wait without taking more serious preemptive action.”

“Preemptive action” is a euphemism for a bombing campaign. Canadian naval vessels are already running provocative maneuvers off Iran’s coast and by stating that “an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada,” Kent is trying to create the impression that Iran may attack Israel. But it is Israel that possesses nuclear weapons and threatens to bomb Iran, not the other way around.

While Ottawa considers Iran’s nuclear energy program a major threat, Israel’s atomic bombs have not provoked similar condemnation. The Harper government abstained on a number of near unanimous votes asking Israel to place its nuclear weapons program under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) controls and in September Bloomberg cited Canada as one of three countries that opposed an IAEA probe of Israel’s nuclear facilities as part of an Arab led effort to create a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East.

Cold war throwback

Not content with taking on Iran, the military-minded Conservatives turned on Russia. Harper referred to Russia as “aggressive” and in a throwback to the Cold War, Defence Minister Peter MacKay added that Ottawa would respond to Russian flights in the Arctic by flying Canadian fighter jets near Russian airspace. Making sure that Moscow got the message, during a July 2007 visit to the Ukraine MacKay said Canada would help provide a “counterbalance” to Russia.

Haiti

Ottawa even prioritized the military over aid in the face of the incredible suffering caused by Haiti’s earthquake. Two thousand Canadian troops were deployed while several Heavy Urban Search Rescue Teams were readied but never sent. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon explained that the teams were not needed because “the government had opted to send Canadian Armed Forces instead.”

Overthrown in February 2004 by a joint U.S./France/Canada destabilization campaign, Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, has been barred from participating in elections. The Conservatives supported Fanmi Lavalas’ exclusion, congratulating Haiti’s puppet government for bringing “a period of stabilization” good for “investment and trade.” Ottawa backed up its words with deeds, adding tens of millions of dollars to a Haitian prison and police system that has been massively expanded and militarized since the 2004 coup.

Honduras

Ottawa gave its tacit support to the Honduran military’s removal of elected president Manuel Zelaya in June 2009. Mexico’s Notimex reported that Canada was the only country in the hemisphere that did not explicitly call for Zelaya’s return to power and Canadian officials repeatedly criticized Zelaya at the Organization of American States (OAS). The ousted government complained that Ottawa failed to suspend aid to Honduras, which is the largest recipient of Canadian assistance in Central America. Nor did Ottawa exclude the Honduran military from its Military Training Assistance Program.

The Harper government opposed Zelaya’s move to join the Hugo Chavez led Alba, the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our Americas, which is a response to North American capitalist domination of the region. Canada has actively supported the U.S.-led campaign against the government of Venezuela. In mid-2007 Harper toured South America “to show [the region] that Canada functions and that it can be a better model than Venezuela,” in the words of a high-level foreign affairs official. During the trip, Harper and his entourage made a number of comments critical of the Venezuelan government.

Colombia si. Venezuela no.

After meeting only members of the opposition during a trip to Venezuela in January, Peter Kent told the media that “democratic space within Venezuela has been shrinking and in this election year, Canada is very concerned about the rights of all Venezuelans to participate in the democratic process.”

Venezuela’s ambassador to the 34-country OAS, Roy Chaderton Matos, responded: “I am talking of a Canada governed by an ultra right that closed its Parliament for various months to (evade) an investigation over the violation of human rights — I am talking about torture and assassinations — by its soldiers in Afghanistan.”

Despite the move to the left among the majority of the region’s governments Harper moved closer to Latin America’s most right-wing state. Colombia’s terrible human rights record did not stop Harper from signing a free-trade agreement that even Washington couldn’t stomach.

The trade agreement as well as the Harper government’s shift of aid from Africa to Latin America was designed to support Canadian corporate interests and the region’s right-wing governments and movements. Barely discussed in the media, the main goal of the shift in aid was to stunt Latin America’s recent rejection of neoliberalism and U.S. dependence.

The Congo

One issue mentioned in a number of media reports about Canada’s loss last week had to do with the Congo. At the G8 in June the Conservatives pushed for an entire declaration to the final communiqué criticizing the Congo for attempting to gain a greater share of its vast mineral wealth. Months earlier Ottawa began to obstruct international efforts to reschedule the country’s foreign debt, which was mostly accrued during more than three decades of Joseph Mobuto’s dictatorship and the subsequent war.

Canadian officials “have a problem with what’s happened with a Canadian company,” Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende said referring to the government’s move to revoke a mining concession that Vancouver-based First Quantum acquired under dubious circumstances during the 1998-2003 war. “The Canadian government wants to use the Paris Club [of debtor nations] in order to resolve a particular problem”, explained Mende. “This is unacceptable.”

The mining industry increasingly represents Canada abroad. Canadian miners operate more than 3,000 projects outside this country and many of these mines have displaced communities, destroyed ecosystems and resulted in violence. This doesn’t bother the Harper government, which is close to the most retrograde sectors of the mining industry. Last year they rejected a proposal – agreed to by the Mining Association of Canada under pressure from civil society groups — to make diplomatic and financial support for resource companies operating overseas contingent upon socially responsible conduct. Despite countless horror stories suggesting the contrary, the Conservatives claim that voluntary standards are the best way to improve Canadian mining companies’ social responsibility.

Afghanistan

Finally, the Conservatives have knowingly supported torture in Afghanistan and embraced an increasingly violent counterinsurgency war. Apparently, Canadian Joint Task Force 2 commandos regularly take part in nighttime assassination raids, which are highly unpopular with the Afghan population.

Losing the Security Council seat will hopefully cost the Conservatives some votes and temper their more extreme international positions. But, for those of us working to radically transform Canadian foreign policy the consequences of the loss may be much greater. There has probably never been a bigger blow to the carefully crafted image of Canada as a popular international do-gooder, a mythology that blinds so many Canadians to our country’s real role in the world.

Yves Engler is the author of The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy and Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid. He’ll be touring in Mid November to speak on “Why Canada lost its bid for a Security Council seat.” Anyone interested in organizing a talk please e-mail: yvesengler (at) hotmail.com.


See also: Video: How Canada lost its bid for a UN Security Council Seat, a presentation by Yves Engler in Winnipeg on Jan. 23, 2011.