Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category

Most Canadians imagine Canada to be a force for good on the world stage. Polite, reasonable, peace-loving and progressive. At least, that is how we like to imagine ourselves.

Winnipeg, July 20, 2019: Dr. Maria Páez Victor at the 14th Forum, World Association of Political Economy. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Sadly, it’s a myth. We helped oust the democratically elected Haitian government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. We helped turn Libya into a failed state. We helped invade Afghanistan and occupied part of it for over a decade. And these are just a few examples of Canada’s backwards foreign policy in this century.

And now, we’re meddling in Venezuela, where our government has joined with the United States to destabilize, undermine and crush the democratically elected, socialist government of Nicholas Maduro and the popular movement that supports it. Yves Engler has written several well researched articles on Canada’s attacks on Venezuela that I recommend you read. Yves’ articles are an effective antidote to the bullshit being passed of as news and analysis in our mainstream media, as is a recent speech by Dr. Maria Páez Victor.

Dr. Páez Victor is a Toronto-based, Venezuelan-born sociologist and activist on the board of the Canadian, Latin American and Caribbean Policy Centre. She speaks with authority and passion about what is at stake in the country of her birth. I recorded her presentation at the 14th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy, held at the University of Manitoba in July.

Returning to the title of this post, why should you care? Simply put, if you want Canada to be a force for good on the world stage, our government’s policies and actions must change. And if you allow our government to continue along its reactionary path without challenging it, you are complicit.

It’s election time in Canada. Ask your candidates where they stand on issues such as this. Make your support for them conditional on their support for a foreign policy that is peaceful, cooperative and supportive of international law. It’s not too much to ask.

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Aug. 6, 2019: Winnipeggers gather in the shadow of the Manitoba Legislative Building to commemorate the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945. Lanterns for Peace is a ceremony that is held annually in Winnipeg and hundreds of cities worldwide. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Picking fights with Russia and China, backing fascists in Ukraine, arming murderers in Saudi Arabia, undermining democracy in Latin America — the Trudeau junta has a lot to answer for in the foreign policy realm. Trudeau the younger is not any worse than his predecessors (Liberal and Conservative) in this regard, but he appears to have given up trying to conform to that image of Canada the peacemaker and honest broker on the world stage. (It is a reputation Canada does not deserve, as my friend Yves Engler has demonstrated in many books and articles on the topic. I highly recommend a visit to his website.)

While I fully support the Green Party of Canada in its campaign to make climate change the defining issue of this election, there is another existential threat to human existence that deserves equal attention and that is the threat of nuclear war. Yes, global warming has the capacity to bring our civilization to an end, but so does the nuclear winter that would devastate world food production in the aftermath of a nuclear war.

Most of the world’s nations recognize this and two years ago approved the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the July 7, 2017 meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

Canada’s position is shameful. According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), “Canada did not participate in the negotiation of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It voted against the UN General Assembly resolution in 2016 that established the mandate for nations to negotiate the treaty. It claims that US nuclear weapons are essential for its security.”

While 122 nations voted for the treaty, countries with nuclear weapons either abstained, voted against or declined to participate in the negotiation of the treaty, as did Canada’s fellow members of NATO.

So, if you share this concern, perhaps you can ask the candidates who want your vote if they would join with the saner members of the human race in adopting this treaty and work for world peace.

All of this is a longish introduction to a video I recorded this August 6th of the Winnipeg Lanterns for Peace Ceremony. We do this every year — gather somewhere close to water, construct floating lanterns that we launch as the sun goes down, and commemorate the first victims of the nuclear age — the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — who were either incinerated or permanently scarred by the atomic bombings of their cities on August 6 and 9, 1945. This commemoration never fails to move me.

2018 was not my most prolific year in terms of video output, but it provided, nonetheless, some interesting and useful insights into the struggle for peace and human rights in various parts of the world. Here is a rundown of the past 12 months and as we like to say in YouTubeLand, if you enjoy any of these, please click the “like” icon and subscribe.

Steve Ellner: What is really happening in Venezuela: The Winnipeg Venezuela Peace Committee held a public forum on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 entitled “What is really happening in Venezuela?” The forum featured Steve Ellner, professor of economics at the University of Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. Watch.

Yves Engler on Canada’s Left & its Foreign Policy Failures: Yves Engler discusses his latest book, “Left, Right — Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada.” The book details the failure of Canada’s Left parties, institutions and intellectuals to confront Canada’s support of empire and promotion of corporate interests abroad. Watch.

Niranjan Takle: Journalism under Hindutav Fascist India: Indian journalist Niranjan Takle recounts how the mainstream media in India ignored or refused to publish his report on the suspicious death of Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya. Watch.

Israel Palestine International Law Symposium: An impressive line-up of experts on human rights and international law gathered in Winnipeg for a weekend to explore various legal aspects of the Israel-Palestine situation. I recorded all of the sessions.

  • Introduction: Symposium coordinator David Kattenburg explains the origins and purpose of the symposium.
  • Human rights: Rhetoric vs Reality: Lawyer and journalist Dimitri Lascaris describes the failure of western governments to uphold the human rights of Palestinians.
  • Keynote Address: Michael Lynk, who is the United Nations Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, explains how international law has largely been ignored or broken by Israel over the past several decades of its occupation of the Palestinian Territory.
  • Israeli Rights and Obligations:  Michael Lynk and Dimitri Lascaris explore different aspects of Israeli’s legal rights and obligations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
  • One State or Two?: Professors Michael Lynk and Virginia Tilley speak to this issue.
  • Palestinian Rights & Obligations: In this clip, we hear from human rights advocates Suha Jarrar and Jonathan Kuttab.
  • Palestinian Rights to Resources: Suha Jarrar, a Palestinian human rights researcher and advocate, and currently the Environmental and Gender Policy Researcher at Al-Haq human rights organization in Ramallah, Palestine explains how Israeli companies illegally exploit resources in the Occupied Territories.
  • Is Israel an Apartheid State?: In this clip, Virginia Tilley argues that Israel meets the legal definition of an apartheid state.
  • Dueling Perspectives: In this clip, David Matas defends Israeli practices and policies with regard to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Michael Lynk argues that Matas’s arguments are not supported by international law.
  • Canada’s Rights and Obligations: Dimitri Lascaris explains how Canada has not lived up to its obligations under international law.
  • Concluding Remarks: In this final clip from the symposium, we hear from David Kattenburg, Mark Golden and Dean Peachey, key organizers of the event. The symposium was sponsored by (alphabetical order): Independent Jewish Voices Canada, Mennonite Church Manitoba Working Group on Palestine-Israel, Palestinian Canadian Congress, Peace Alliance Winnipeg, United Jewish People’s Order (Winnipeg) and the Winnipeg Centre Federal Green Party Association. Additional information, including Power Point presentations and other documents will be made available at the conference web site.

Winnipeg Lanterns for Peace 2018: Every August, Winnipeggers commemorate the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9) with a Lantern Ceremony in Memorial Park. We believe it is important to keep the memory of those horrible events alive so that current generations understand we must never allow nuclear weapons to be used again. Watch.

St. Boniface By-election 2018 – Elizabeth May and Françoise Therrien Vrignon: Françoise Therrien Vrignon was the Green Party of Manitoba candidate in the July 17th Manitoba by-election in St. Boniface. With her in this video is Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May. Their discussion took place at La Maison des artistes visuels. Watch.

Winnipeg Rally for Refuge: The Canadians Care Coalition in association with Amnesty International, Menno Simons Students Association and the Global College Students Association held a rally entitled “Rally for Refuge: Rescind the safe third country agreement.” The coalition demanded that the Canadian Government rescind the designation of ‘Safe Third Country’ that is applied to the United States because the US is demonstrably unsafe for refugees. The Safe Third Country Agreement denies refugee claimants access to the Canadian refugee determination system if they have come from the United States to the Canadian border. Watch.

Winnipeg Walk for Peace 2018: Winnipeggers held their 37th Annual Winnipeg Walk for Peace. Sponsors: Peace Alliance Winnipeg and the Winnipeg chapter of the Council of Canadians. Watch.

Michel Chossudovsky – The Globalization of War: The Regina Peace Council played host to Professor Michel Chossudovsky, who spoke on the growing dangers of world war and the need to revitalize the peace movement. Professor Chossudovsky is the founder and director of Global Research. Watch.

Al Nakba 70 in Winnipeg: Winnipeggers marked the 70th anniversary of the forcible expulsion of Palestinians from their land and expressed solidarity with the people of Gaza who are under Israeli siege. Watch.

Make Poverty History in Winnipeg: Make Poverty History Manitoba released a comprehensive report on the poverty that affects one in ten Winnipeggers and called on the city’s mayor, Brian Bowman, to take the lead in developing a poverty reduction strategy for the city. Watch.

MFL Day of Mourning 2018: Manitoba’s labour movement held its annual observance in memory of injured and killed workers. Hundreds attended the march from the Union Centre to Memorial Park and the future site of the Firefighters, Peace Officers and Workers Memorial. Watch.

7th Generation Walk for Mother Earth 2018: Winnipeggers marked 15 years of taking to the streets with grassroots land and water defenders.The 7th Generation Walk is alternative to Earth Day, recognizing the resistance and resilience of Indigenous community led campaigns for social and environmental justice. Watch.

Mobilize against the war: Just hours before the United States launched missile attacks on Damascus and Homs, peace activists rallied outside the building housing the US Consulate to speak out against the war and Trump’s declared plan to expand it. The picket was organized by the Manitoba Peace Council. Watch.

Democracy and Elections in Cuba: Two Cuban government representatives visited Winnipeg to discuss Cuba’s electoral system and other issues of interest. The forum was sponsored by the Manitoba-Cuba Solidarity Committee. Watch.

My Jerusalem – Responding to the U.S. Embassy Announcement: Panelists representing Judaism, Christianity and Islam, share their personal reflections on what Jerusalem means to them and the implications of the US announcement to move it’s embassy there. Watch.

Winnipeg Commemorates Quebec Mosque Massacre: Winnipeggers gathered at the Manitoba Legislature to honour the victims of the terrorist attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. Watch.

Winnipeg Kurdish Solidarity: In Winnipeg, the Kurdish community rallied at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in defense of Kurds under Turkish attack in Afrin, Syria. Watch.

North Korea and The United States at a Dangerous Nuclear Crossroads: Michel Chossudovsky is professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa and founder of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He spoke at the University of Manitoba on the history of the United States’ conflict with North Korea and the prospects for nuclear war. Watch. As well, he spoke at the University of Winnipeg. Watch.

Arnold August – Cuba-US Relations from Obama to Trump: On a national tour to promote his book “Cuba-US Relations: Obama and Beyond,” Arnold August spoke at McNally Robinson Books on developments in the two countries relations since the election of Donald Trump. Watch.

That’s it for 2018. Happy New Year, all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Ellner

Professor Steve Ellner. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Mainstream media and government sources in Canada and the United States have provided an extremely unbalanced picture of Venezuela, portraying it as a dictatorship when in fact the governing party has won re-election consistently over the past (almost) 20 years in contests deemed fair and democratic by international observers. Through crippling economic sanctions, financial support to anti-government forces, and public musings about the desirability of regime change, the US government has made it clear it wants to put a more reliable puppet in power in Venezuela. With its long history of overthrowing governments it cannot control, the US destabilization campaign is par for the course. As is usually the case, the Canadian government has been an enthusiastic partner.

Doing its part to address the one-sidedness of this situation, the Winnipeg Venezuela Peace Committee held a very well attended public forum on Oct. 19, 2018 entitled What is really happening in Venezuela? The forum featured Steve Ellner, professor of economics at the University of Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela and Carlos Ron, Venezuelas Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, responsible for North America, who participated via Skype.

Regrettably, the Skype connection was so poor that Ron’s presentation was largely incoherent. While I recorded the entire event, I have not included the Skype portion because of terrible audio quality.

On a more positive note, Professor Ellner provided a detailed, highly informative description of conditions in Venezuela and an accessible analysis of how the country arrived at the state it is in.

He is more than qualified to talk about this country. Ellner earned his Ph.D. in Latin American history at the University of New Mexico in 1980. Since 1977 he has taught economic history and political science at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela and for ten years taught in the graduate school of law and political science of the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He has been a visiting professor at numerous schools in the United States and Latin America.

As Professor Ellner underlined, more than once, the problems faced by the Venezuelan people are complex and challenging; the situation is complicated and difficult to understand without considering many factors.

Opposition to the Chavistas by the Venezuelan oligarchs and their foreign backers began as soon as Hugo Chavez was elected in 1999. By fomenting coup attempts, violence and economic instability, these forces have undermined Chavista attempts to alleviate widespread poverty and have magnified the suffering of the Venezuelan people.

Not everyone in the audience would agree with the last paragraph; some were very critical of the Maduro government. Nonetheless, the discussion was wide ranging, open to all perspectives, respectful and civil.

Here is my video report.

Slim Pickens on the set of Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.

Last year, the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to abolish nuclear weapons. On July 7, 2017, 122 member countries voted to approve the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Opponents of the treaty declined to participate in the vote. These included the nine countries that are known to possess nuclear arms and some of their allies. Sadly, Canada was one of the countries that refused to support the treaty.

Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove from Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove.

What gives? Have Canadians lost their minds. Have we become a nation of Dr. Strangeloves and “learned how to stop worrying and love The Bomb.”

No. Not in the least. The truth is, our government has let us down on this issue (and many others, but let’s not digress). Polling conducted by Environics in 2008 indicated that almost 90 percent of Canadians support the abolition of nuclear weapons. Research reported by Environics in 2018 shows that Canadian opposition to nuclear weapons remains high.

Not surprisingly, there is an international campaign to promote the treaty. You can track the progress and access many educational resources at the website of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

ICAN has drafted a Parliamentary Pledge, and encourages citizens of countries that have not yet approved and ratified the treaty to get their Members of Parliament to sign on. To date, only 13 Canadian MPs have signed: Daniel Blaikie, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, François Choquette, Don Davies, Linda Duncan, Cheryl Hardcastle, Carol Hughes, Gord Johns, Hélène Laverdière, Sheila Malcolmson, Irene Mathyssen, Elizabeth May and Thomas Mulcair. Clearly we have a lot of work to do.

As always, for every cause you can find an online petition. Clicktivism has become an automatic response. Here’s one on the Parliamentary petition web site that gleaned 1451 signatures. By itself,  this will have little impact. I think we need to have a concerted lobbying campaign that makes it clear to each MP that nuclear disarmament is an election issue.

We can’t afford to delay. There are too many “trouble spots” where a miscalculation by one or another of the major powers could lead to world war and a nuclear holocaust.

If not now, then when. If not you, then who?

If you are unsure of how to contact your MP, start here.

Winnipeg, Dec. 6, 2017 – Professor Johnny Márquez, speaking at Winnipeg’s historic Ukrainian Labour Temple on the political and economic situation in Venezuela. Photo: Paul S. Graham

When it comes to Venezuela, the mainstream media is awash with lies and distortions and the Canadian government is complicit (with the United States) in an attempt to force the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Nicolás Maduro. One can easily imagine Trump and Trudeau agreeing that it would be a crime to leave the largest proven oil reserves in the world (about 297 billion barrels) under the control of a socialist government pledged to use this wealth on behalf of some of the poorest people in the world.

In Winnipeg, a group called the Venezuela Peace Committee has organized a number of educational events to encourage citizens to learn about Venezuela and the struggles of working people for a socialist society. The VPC has a petition on the House of Commons E-Petition web site that calls on the government to cease its sanctions campaign. Here is the text:

E-1353
Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:

On September 22, 2017, the Government of Canada imposed new sanctions against Venezuela, Venezuelan officials, and other individuals under the Special Economic Measures Act in violation of the sovereignty of Venezuela;
Such sanctions impede dialogue and peace-building in Venezuela and in the region more generally;
These sanctions impede the normal operation of Venezuela’s duly constituted political processes including elections;
The Government of Canada has supported the U.S. government’s sanctions against Venezuela
The Government of Canada has met with, supported, and continues to echo the demands of Venezuela’s violent anti-government opposition;
The Government of Canada refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Venezuela’s democratically elected government and falsely refers to it as dictatorial; and
The government of Canada seeks to promote foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to immediately lift all sanctions against Venezuela, Venezuelan officials, and other individuals, retract all statements in support of US sanctions against Venezuela, immediately cease its support for the efforts of the US and other right wing governments in the Organization of American States (OAS) that violate the sovereignty and self-determination of another member-state and immediately cease all intervention against Venezuela.

The VPC is asking Canadians and friends of Canada to sign the petition. Just sign here.

The petition arose out of a resolution approved by the attendees of a conference held at the University of Manitoba to mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Julia Buxton, an internationally recognized expert on Venezuela. I recorded her talk.

Most recently, the VPC arranged for the visit of Professor Johnny Márquez to speak in Winnipeg. Professor Márquez is a Venezuelan lawyer, diplomat and scholar and president of the Latin American and Caribbean Center for Energy and Environment Studies. His first appearance was at the University of Manitoba on Dec. 5, 2017, where he discussed the history of Venezuela’s oil industry and its strategic importance. The following day he presented at Winnipeg’s historic Ukrainian Labour Temple on the current political situation in Venezuela. Both of these videos are linked below.

Seventy-two years ago this Sunday, a United States Air Force bomber dropped an atomic bomb, code-named “Little Boy,” on Hiroshima; an estimated 130,000 people perished. Three days later, on August 9, 1945, 70,000 citizens of Nagasaki were vaporized when the atomic bomb code-named “Fat Man” was unleashed. Over the years that followed, many thousands more were disabled or killed by a bewildering array of radiation burns, cancers and birth defects. The psychological impact on the survivors, their families and their communities was profound.

The dying days of World War Two seem impossibly far off. For those born after the postwar baby boom, we might as well be recalling the Peloponnesian War. However, for Boomers whose mental faculties are more or less intact, “The Bomb” is not ancient history. Those of us who grew up in the fifties and sixties have vivid memories of the Cold War and the arms race: the duck and cover drills at school, the Cuban Missile Crisis, strontium 90 raining down and contaminating our food, and so on. We had a healthy, rational fear of nuclear weapons and the actual experience of nuclear weapons being tested and used within living memory propelled a large and lively anti-nuke movement.

Today’s anti-nuclear movement is a shadow of its former self and that is perhaps one of the reasons why members of NATO (excluding Holland) felt they could refuse to participate in the development of the nuclear weapons ban treaty that was passed by the United Nations General Assembly on July 7, 2017. Perhaps that is why the United States feels confident that it can threaten to strike North Korea, even though this would likely precipitate a nuclear conflict.

We cannot afford to be complacent. Nine countries that we know of (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel) have nuclear arsenals and the slightest miscalculation by any of them could plunge the world into the darkness of a nuclear winter. 

What to do? We need to rebuild the movement. We need to start by talking to our families and our neighbours. We must educate, inform and remind. This will not be easy, but we need to cut through the clutter of contemporary life. We need to sweep away an array of political distractions and help focus attention on a truly existential threat. (It’s not that many or these issues aren’t important, it’s just that they will be totally irrelevant to the millions of dead that will result from a nuclear war.)

As I have done for many years, I will be participating in the Winnipeg’s Lanterns for Peace Ceremony. I hope you will join me.