Archive for the ‘Nibbling on The Empire’ Category

March 16, 2011: Huwaida Arraf spoke at a forum in Winnipeg, Canada entitled “From Direct Action to the Freedom Flotilla: the International Solidarity Movement and the Palestinian Freedom Struggle. Arraf is co-founder of the ISM and chairs the Free Gaza Movement. She was with the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31, 2010, when Israeli forces raided the vessels on the high seas, killed nine peace activists, wounded 50 and interned the crews along with 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid. She tells how she became involved in the Palestinian freedom struggle and talks about plans for the next Freedom Flotilla.

This next Flotilla will include a vessel from Canada. Canada Boat to Gaza is well on the way to raising the funds it needs to participate in this action. I’m sure they would appreciate your help.

The forum was one of several events that made up Israeli Apartheid Week in Winnipeg. IAW Winnipeg was sponsored by:
– Students Against Israeli Apartheid (at the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba)
Canada Palestine Support Network (Winnipeg)
Independent Jewish Voices (Winnipeg)
Peace Alliance Winnipeg

It’s Israeli Apartheid Week in Winnipeg, Canada and many other cities and towns around the world. In Winnipeg, Israeli Apartheid Week 2011 is taking place on the campuses of the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg.

This clip features a presentation by Howard S. Davidson, Associate Professor of Extended Education at the University of Manitoba and member of Independent Jewish Voices (Canada). He spoke at a workshop entitled “Israeli Apartheid 101” at the University of Winnipeg on March 14, 2011.

Professor Davidson demolishes the arguments of pro-Israel apologists who equate support for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism. Further, he demonstrates that the term “Israeli apartheid” is a legitimate part of the political discourse in Israel, even while those who use it in Canada and the United States are vilified by Israel’s North American supporters.

In Winnipeg, IAW 2011 is sponsored by:

  • Students Against Israeli Apartheid (U of W, U of M)
  • Canada Palestine Support Network (Winnipeg
  • Independent Jewish Voices (Winnipeg)- Peace Alliance Winnipeg

The schedule is available here.

Speaking at a forum, Jan. 23, 2011, sponsored by Peace Alliance Winnipeg and Project Peacemakers, author/activist Yves Engler explores Stephen Harper’s foreign policy and how it cost Canada its bid, in 2010, for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Video: WikiRebels

Posted: December 16, 2010 in Nibbling on The Empire

Sweden’s Sveriges Television has released a 57-minute documentary on the history of Wikileaks entitled WikiRebels. A must view for infomaniacs everywhere. The playlist for all 4 parts is here.

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.


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.


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.


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)

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.

It’s Martin Luther King Day in the United States. It’s a big deal in the land of toxic derivatives; even the stock markets are closed in his memory.

Once harassed and stalked by the the FBI, King’s memory is now regularly and hypocritically invoked by those who stand on his shoulders.

Were King alive he would have just celebrated his 81st birthday. Had he survived the assassin’s bullet he would still be followed by spooks and menaced by that which he famously described as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” — the U.S. government.

Speaking at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, King exposed the hypocrisy of the U.S. government and called on it to end the war in Vietnam. His words sent shock waves through the land because he articulated a truth that millions of Americans had not been allowed to hear.

He shared with them his outrage at the subversion of democracy, the murder of men, women and children, the destruction of cultures and livelihoods and cruel irony that black and white Americans were being sent to kill and die together by a country that segregated them at home.

Martin Luther King exposed the Big Lie of American imperialism that day in New York City; exactly one year later, in Memphis, Tennessee, he would pay for his truth-telling with his life.

In reading his speech today I’m struck by the parallels between Vietnam (and America’s other wars in Laos and Cambodia) and the current day “war on terrorism” in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and increasingly, in Yemen.

Read King’s speech for yourself; then re-read it and make a few substitutions:

  • “terrorists” for “communists”
  • “Al-Quaida” for “Viet Cong”
  • “Afghanistan” for “Vietnam”
  • “America” for “America”

Most of the actors have different names but the script is the same weary, blood-soaked, tear-stained tale.

The antidote remains the same, as well. King called upon his fellow Americans to oppose the war nonviolently, creatively and without letting up. But he acknowledged that anti-war protests were not enough. As King put it:

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

King maintained that America needed make radical changes.

We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Sounds like 2010, to me.

According to the RCMP:

“Crime against humanity”- means murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, persecution or any other inhumane act that is committed against any civilian population or any identifiable group of persons that constitutes a contravention of customary or conventional international law or is criminal according to the general principles of law.

As long as war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed, Canada will be vigilant to prevent those responsible from entering Canada and becoming or remaining citizens. We will be ready to commence criminal investigations and prosecute such persons found in Canada.

This is, of course, a complete crock. When George W. Bush visited Calgary last month, not only did the Mounties ignore their obligation to detain and charge him, but the government pulled out all the stops to protect this mass murderer.

While a Spanish court is preparing to prosecute Bush-era officials who developed the “legal” fig leaf for American forces to torture their captors, Calgary is preparing to welcome Condoleeza Rice in May.

Rice’s visit will attract at least as much outrage as Bush’s, and presumably as much police presence and state protection for a woman who, along with Bush et al, is culpable in the deaths of 1.3 million Iraqis, 60,000 Afghans, and countless other crimes against people around the world.

What are we to make of a government that would welcome these thugs into Canada while preventing the visit of British MP George Galloway who is demonstrably opposed to mass murder? OK, that is a rhetorical question.

Less rhetorically, what are we going to do about it?

Some good folks in Maple Ridge, BC, also known as the Coalition of the Willing, are confronting their local MP on this issue. In an open letter, the Coalition calls upon MP Randy Kamp (Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission) to resign and “sit as an independent (at least until your party reforms itself), so that you may begin representing the wishes of your constituents to Ottawa, and not Ottawa to us.” If Kamp does not meet their demand, the Coalition might run a candidate against him in the next election. Is Kamp worried? With a 51 percent majority in the last election and a 19 point lead over NDP candidate Mike Bocking, he doesn’t look too vulnerable. So, unless Mr. Kamp has a social conscience, I imagine he will ignore the Coalition of the Willing.

The Coalition says this issue is not one of Left versus Right, but Right versus Wrong. In Parliamentary terms, they may well be right. The NDP has been disconcertingly AWOL from this debate.

When Lawyers Against the War wrote to the RCMP, asking it to enforce Canada’s war crimes laws regarding George Bush, they sent copies to the leaders of the political parties. Jack Layton’s office replied:

On behalf of Mr. Layton, thank you for copying our office on the correspondence concerning former President George W. Bush`s March 17th visit to Canada. Please be advised that we will not be following-up on this matter.

Office of Jack Layton, MP (Toronto-Danforth)
Leader, Canada’s New Democrats

Michael Byers, who carried the NDP banner to third place in Vancouver Centre last year. says that he supports a criminal investigation of Bush’s crimes, but he does not support calls for a Canadian prosecution at this time. He says he prefers to give the Obama administration the “first opportunity” to prosecute Bush. Yeah, right.

That seems to be as good as it gets with the NDP, so perhaps the Coalition is onto something — this is a case of “Right versus Wrong” and on this issue our Parliamentary Left is demonstrably wrong.

In fairness to the NDP, it opposes the war in Afghanistan, supports the repatriation of Omar Khadr, and would allow war resisters to remain in Canada. What are we to conclude from its unwillingness to engage when it has the opportunity to seek the prosecution of “The Decider” who made all of these crimes happen? That Jack Layton is a closet war criminal? Unlikely. That Jack Layton is trying to appear realistic and hence “Prime Ministerial”? Getting warmer, I think.

Could it be that war crimes in the 21st century are so commonplace, so banal, so depressingly quotidian that the NDP sees no benefit to associating itself with this issue? Now, if Bush had been responsible for increasing text messaging cost in Canada, we might see some action from the NDP.

What are we to do, beside writing the usual letters of outrage to our MPs (find yours here)? Well, we can start with or continue with that strategy. We can hook up with the Coalition of the Willing and Lawyers Against the War. We can be active in our local peace and human rights organizations.

The most important thing we can do is to refuse to lose our sense of outrage that abuses of human rights are committed, aided and abetted by our government. We can refuse to accept the fact that war criminals are allowed to travel the world with impunity. We can commit to taking every opportunity to expose these crimes and their perpetrators for what they are.