In no other department have the Liberals veered farther from their expectations than in foreign policy. Trudeau went to great lengths to distance himself from his predecessor during the campaign. Among other things, he promised he would end the combat mission in Iraq. Upon being elected, he said he would restore Canada’s “compassionate and constructive voice in the world.” Many were led to believe that Harper’s divisive foreign policy had come to an end. But it is unlikely that this was ever Trudeau’s intention.
Last Tuesday, the Liberals shut down an NDP effort to review Canada’s role in the arms trade. On Wednesday, they invoked closure to ram through a bill moving Air Canada workers’ jobs offshore. On Thursday we learned they dropped a court case to require the Catholic Church to fulfill obligations to First Nations Canadians under the residential schools settlement.
In just three days, Canadians who’ve paid attention have seen the ultra-progressive, super-feminist, pro-worker and pro-reconciliation Justin Trudeau revealed – as a sham.
But many Canadians have been distracted. Trudeau amazed with quantum computers. He smouldered at a boxing photo op. And he wears wonderful coloured socks and GQ-style vested suits.
Magicians call it “misdirection” – a deception that focuses the audience’s attention on one hand to distract attention from the other. With one hand, Trudeau bedazzles. With the other, Liberals maintain the Conservative status quo.
They’ve kept the status quo on weaponized vehicles for the Saudis. Now our super-feminist, super-pacifist Prime Minister is selling arms to one of the most anti-woman, anti-democratic regimes in the world.
They maintain the status quo on Bill C-51, which takes away our Canadian freedoms. No amendments have been tabled. No public consultations hosted.
It’s the status quo on the Trans Pacific Partnership – which Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz calls the “worst trade deal ever.” The Liberals signed the deal and are downplaying it, working to lower the temperature and ratify it through without commotion.
The Liberals have kept the status quo on health care cuts. Harper unilaterally cut health transfers to the provinces. Trudeau’s budget actually cut health care transfers even more deeply.
The Liberals are maintaining the status quo on climate action. The deal signed Friday commits Canada to nothing more than Harper’s old climate change plan.
Fortunately, Albertans wisely elected a new Premier. Through work with First Nations, environment groups and business, Premier Notley adopted a climate change plan to save our country’s reputation. Trudeau rides Alberta’s coat-tails, nothing more.
It’s status quo on childcare. Trudeau (with self-described progressive Premier Wynne sniping from the sidelines) repeatedly attacked an NDP plan to create 100,000 new childcare spaces this year alone. What kind of feminist does that?
Again, it’s status quo on pharmacare. Questioned about it 10 days ago, Minister Philpott said the status quo is fine because “there are public drug plans… for people who can’t afford medication.” So, expect nothing.
It’s status quo on stock option tax deductions. Trudeau broke his promise to end Harper’s law that allows corporate executives to pay tax on only half their stock option income.
It’s more status quo tax cuts — the ones they told you would help the middle class. But the Parliamentary Budget Office and Finance Canada now say the biggest benefit from Trudeau’s tax cut goes to a person earning $200,000. If you earn $45,000 or less, you get nothing. And our social programs lose $4 billion a year.
The status quo isn’t working for jobs, climate, incomes or social services. It’s especially tough on working class Canadians from manufacturing towns, expensive big cities and resource economies – people struggling to make ends meet each month. Even middle class people feel the insecurity.
Canadians wanted a new deal. They aren’t going to get it.
What we are getting is a change in style. Harper’s brooding is gone – replaced by Trudeau’s sunny ways that misdirect us from what Liberals do in the shadows.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it is a “matter of principle” that Canada follows through with a $15 billion armaments deal with Saudi Arabia, a totalitarian state which funds international terrorism, stones women to death for the crime of being raped, and that leads the world in public beheadings. This decision has been sharply criticized by journalists, activists, and international organizations. In a public statement Amnesty International said that it has “good reason to fear that light armored vehicles supplied” to Saudi Arabia by Canada “are likely to be used in situations that would violate human rights” in both “neighboring countries” and for ‘suppressing demonstrations and unrest within Saudi Arabia.” Montreal students and a former Bloc Quebecois MP and law professor have filed a class action lawsuit to block the deal, citing that by selling weapons to countries with poor human rights records Canada is violating its own laws.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, in response to criticism about how these weapons will be used, replied that Canada has undertaken similar deals with Saudi Arabia, and that country “has not misused the equipment to violate human rights” according to the government’s “best, and regularly updated, information.” This is an outright lie.
In 2011 more than a hundred thousand protestors participated in an uprising against the undemocratic monarchy in Bahrain, calling for “political reforms, right of political participation, respect for human rights, stopping of systematic discrimination against Shias.” The regime responded by banning all demonstrations, caging villages in barbed wire, firing live ammunition at doctors that tried to help injured protestors in hospitals, torturing some protestors to death in police custody, and calling in the military of Saudi Arabia. 1, 000 Saudi troops crossed into Bahrain in armored vehicles not unlike those sold to Saudi Arabia by Canada throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The Canadian government has neither confirmed nor denied that Canadian armored vehicles were used to suppress pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain.
In Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have been at war with the country’s Houthi rebels, the U.N. has accused Saudi Arabia of war crimes. The Saudi-led coalition’s war against the poorest Arab country has caused the deaths of more than 8, 000, displaced millions, and destroyed nearly all of the country’s schools, hospitals, and historical heritage. Hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of starvation due to the violence and the Saudi-led coalition’s naval blockade in a bid to starve the country into submission. Based on photos of Saudi ground forces in Yemen, the armored vehicles being used by the Saudi military bore a striking resemblance to those manufactured in Canada, while a retired Canadian general, speaking anonymously to the Globe and Mail, identified the armored vehicles as having been manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems, the same company manufacturing the armaments in the latest $15 billion deal.
An arms deal with Saudi Arabia raises serious questions about the role of Canada in the international community. Critics of the deal have said that if Canada follows through with selling arms to Saudi Arabia “we can kiss Canada’s human rights credibility goodbye.” But such criticism presupposes that Canada has a credible human rights record. “Canada,” writes BJ Siekierski, “hasn’t suddenly been transformed from Boy Scout to arms merchant.” The history of Canada, both domestically and internationally, isn’t a history of a country dedicated to the defense of democracy and human rights, it is a history of an imperialist state built on the theft of Aboriginal land that faithfully serves as a junior partner to U.S. imperialism’s war of exploitation and subjugation of the world.
Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, was an ally of the most racist section of the elite of that time. In the House of Commons he was in favor of a system of legalized racism, claiming Europeans and Chinese were different species, introducing “biological racism as a defining characteristic of Canadianness.” While starving thousands of Aboriginal people to death by withholding food, MacDonald argued that the disenfranchisement of the Chinese people was imperative to protect the “the Aryan character of the future of British America.” Liberal Prime Minister Mackenzie King wrote in his diary that after meeting Adolf Hitler he believed Hitler “might come to be thought of as one of the saviors of the world.” Trudeau, like his father before him, is an avowed supporter of apartheid regimes. The late Pierre Trudeau, Justin Trudeau’s father, “sympathized with the [South African] apartheid regime not the black liberation movement or nascent Canadian solidarity groups,” while one of the first acts of the Justin Trudeau Liberals was to pass a Conservative motion to condemn all Canadians who exercise their democratic right to support the non-violent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement as a form of resistance to Israeli apartheid.
Let us not forget the ongoing genocide of Aboriginal people in Canada. For more than a century Aboriginal children were taken away, sometimes at gunpoint and in handcuffs, to be shipped off to residential schools, where they were to learn how to “assimilate” and become “civilized” through a system for forced labour and re-education. The “Residential Schools were predicated on the notion that Indigenous children were less human than other children, so they were worked like animals in the slave labour many schools mandated.” Thousands of children died from malnourishment, disease, physical and sexual abuse, with many buried in unmarked graves near the site of the schools. To this day Aboriginal people are more likely to be born into poverty, are less likely to graduate from high school, and have a shorter life expectancy than non-Aboriginal people.
Internationally Canadian foreign policy has been reflective of the country’s imperialist system of exploitation. Canada was among the 14 imperialist states that invaded the Soviet Union in 1918 in an effort to bolster the forces of the anti-Bolshevik White Army and stop the Russian working class from establishing socialist government. More recently the Canadian military has been involved in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Mali, Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. In Somalia, where Canadian troops were participating in the U.N. mission, Canadian ‘peacekeepers’ tortured and murdered a 16-year-old boy. In a sociopathic ritual that has repeatedly been documented wherever Western forces are active, these Canadian ‘peacekeepers’ photographed themselves with boy’s bloodied corpse like he was a trophy kill. In Libya, a country that prior to the NATO-led intervention had the highest standard of living in Africa, the Canadian military supported al-Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorists that ransacked the country’s wealth, brutally murdering the country’s former leader Muammar al-Gaddafi by sodomizing him with a bayonet.
Nine years before Canada’s invasion of the Soviet Union trains “loaded not only with supplies, rifles, and ammunition, but also with machine guns and light artillery pieces” were dispatched to Cape Breton in preparation for the military occupation of the island, where miners and steelworkers were striking for improved working conditions and higher wages. Such violence and disdain for the working class has been repeated throughout Canadian history. During the “Hungry Thirties,” striking miners in Estevan, Saskatchewan were murdered in cold blood by the RCMP, while the unemployed were rounded up and sent to labour in slave-like conditions in relief camps.
The deal to sell armaments to Saudi Arabia must be opposed on all moral and political grounds, but to be able to effectively oppose such a deal, the deal must be put into the historical context of Canada’s role as a junior partner of U.S.-led imperialism.
Here’s a Middle East multiple choice question for you (warning: one of these will get you condemned by the government of Justin Trudeau).
Would you rather that the Palestinian people 1) once again take up armed struggle in order to end Israeli occupation of their land or 2) pursue a non-violent strategy of Boycott, Divestiture and Sanctions (BDS) until such time as Israel recognizes the rights of the Palestinian people?
Advocating a return to the use of violence against Israel may or may not get you condemned by the prime minister. But it is definitely not OK to advocate for the non-violent BDS campaign. This was made clear by the government’s support of a Conservative resolution opposing the campaign “which promotes the demonization and de-legitimization of the State of Israel,” and called upon the government “to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”
This is a sickening violation of Canadians’ basic rights enshrined by Justin’s father 35 years ago. As the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair (who once described himself as an “ardent supporter of Israel”) said, the resolution “makes it a thought crime to express an opinion.” The NDP and the Bloc, joined by three Liberals, voted against the resolution.
Lockstep with the Israel lobby
That the Liberal government is so in alignment with Israel lobby groups raises a number of questions: Just who actually makes Canadian policy towards Israel? Did Trudeau think this through at all – such as, is this in Canada’s interests? But perhaps more to the point, is it even in Israel’s interests? Does the Trudeau government have some brilliant ideas about how to get Israel to the bargaining table? Or does it believe the current situation doesn’t need resolving? It smacks of political cowardice. It’s as if Stephen Harper still rules the day on this critical foreign policy issue. Indeed the resolution reflects Harper’s declaration that criticism of Israel’s government is the “new anti-Semitism.”
We are left to wonder whether the Trudeau government can imagine any action by Israel that would cause it to “condemn” its government rather than its critics. And to wonder whether it seeks to further polarize the region or help cooler heads prevail. Giving carte blanche to the actions of Israel’s increasingly extremist government simply reinforces its determination to never negotiate and to keep pushing the envelope, whether it’s building new settlements or slaughtering civilians in Gaza. Against that prospect, how many parliamentarians have even the slightest clue what the Palestinians are seeking through the BDS campaign? Do they know its origins?
As stated by movement leaders, Israel must:
End its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the Wall; Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
This latter demand is hotly rejected by Israel even though Jews from literally anywhere in the world have, through the 1950 Law of Return (to Israel and now the occupied territories) the same right.
The roots of BDS
The BDS campaign (which boycotts only goods made in the occupied territory) was inspired by the successful boycott and sanctions campaign that finally brought an end to South African apartheid – a campaign, incidentally, given a major boost by none other than then prime minister Brian Mulroney. The BDS campaign was launched in 2005 by 170 Palestinian civil society groups representing virtually every sector of Palestinian society “including all political parties, unions, refugee networks, NGOs, and organizations representing Palestinians living under occupation, in Israel, and in exile.” The decision was rooted firmly in a commitment to non-violence and in international law regarding the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.
Israel’s occupation is routinely compared to apartheid by Israelis – and not just critics of the government. Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s attorney general from 1993 to 1996, wrote:
We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories …. We developed two judicial systems: one – progressive, liberal in Israel. The other – cruel, injurious in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture.
Other senior Israeli political figures agreed. Shulamit Aloni, education minister under Yitzhak Rabin, and former prime minister Ehud Barak both made the comparison. Ehud Olmert, another former PM, declared: “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights…the State of Israel is finished.” With the two-state solution on life-support – and no pressure on Israel from the West to revive it – the situation so feared by Olmert is arguably already here.
In fact, the BDS campaign may be Israel’s best hope to avoid Ehud Olmert’s nightmare. Perhaps that is why Israel’s extremist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so determined to fight BDS. In a 2014 speech to the powerful pro-Israeli U.S. lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he referred to the BDS campaign 18 times, calling on American Zionists to “fight back” against BDS advocates.
Waning support for Israel
The BDS campaign might not worry Netanyahu so much if it weren’t for the fact that Israel now ranks near the bottom of the pile when it comes to world opinion. A BBC poll in 2013 interviewed more than 26,000 people in 25 countries and found only 21 per cent of participants had a positive view of Israel, while 52 per cent viewed the country unfavourably. Only Iran, Pakistan and North Korea fared worse. In just the last year, the percentage of Americans viewing Israel favourably dropped dramatically from 70 per cent to 59 per cent while positive attitudes towards Palestinians jumped from 17 per cent to 24 per cent.
Justin Trudeau and his government could not be more mistaken if they believe they are doing Israel a favour by supporting the repugnant Conservative thought crime resolution. Every time a Western government turns a blind eye to Israeli apartheid it reinforces that system by signalling to Netanyahu that he can do whatever he pleases.
By steadfastly denying the apartheid reality in Israel, successive Canadian governments in fact betray the long-term of interests of that country – not to mention, of course, those of millions of Palestinians.
The Communist Party of Canada condemns the February 22 vote in Parliament, in which the Liberals and Conservatives joined forces to pass a shameful motion denouncing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel’s apartheid policies. The motion also condemns anyone in Canada who supports or promotes BDS. The Communist Party reaffirms its longstanding and unwavering solidarity with the people of Palestine, its condemnation of Israeli apartheid, and its support for the BDS campaign in Canada and internationally.
The BDS campaign began in 2005, in response to a call from 171 Palestinian groups for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. A similar campaign emerged in the 1980s, as a way to isolate and pressure apartheid South Africa. Both campaigns cited violations of United Nations’ resolutions and international law as part of their legal and moral justification.
The objectives of the BDS campaign are straightforward, just and entirely based on international law:
• Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the separation Wall;
• Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
• Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
Just as Parliament’s motion condemns BDS activists, people who acted in solidarity with opponents of the racist South African regime were denounced as “terrorist supporters” by right-wing politicians. Parliament’s vote is a disgraceful attempt to silence the growing BDS movement through slander and political intimidation. It is an act of desperation that will fail, just the racist attempts to derail the struggle against South African apartheid failed.
The fact that most Liberal MPs supported this Tory motion proves that the Trudeau government cannot be judged on the basis of its progressive campaign promises. The working class and people of Canada must hold the Liberals to account as they “govern from the right.”
This includes international issues such as the expanding war in Iraq and Syria, the sale of weaponized vehicles to Saudi Arabia, and support for regimes in Ukraine and Israel which trample on human rights. It is encouraging that the NDP and Bloc Quebecois caucuses voted against the motion, on the basis that it violates the rights to free speech and expression. However, it is shameful that NDP MPs also attacked the BDS movement during the Commons debate, revealing yet again that party’s racist opposition to criticism of apartheid Israel.
The Communist Party rejects the right-wing charge that the BDS campaign is a form of antisemitism. Opposition to Israeli apartheid is focused firmly and solely on the policies of the Israeli government, not on the ethnicity or nationality of those who perpetrate those policies. The Communist Party condemns antisemitism, racism, national chauvinism and all forms of oppression. It is our ongoing commitments to ending oppression and achieving national equality that guide our solidarity with Palestine and our support for the BDS campaign.
The strongest response is to build the BDS campaign across Canada. We congratulate the students at McGill University who also voted on February 22, to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel’s apartheid policies. The February 22 vote was preceded by heavy criticism and opposition from peace, human rights, labour and progressive activists across the country. These groups organized several campaigns that included petitions, letter writing, online actions, and joint statements. In Quebec, a coalition including BDS Quebec, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, the FTQ (QFL) and CSN (CNTU) unions publicly called for the Liberal government to reject the Tory motion.
These and other acts of solidarity, in defiance of Parliament’s racist motion, are the basis for a more powerful BDS movement, capable of winning more victories in Canada and internationally.
Palestine will be free!
Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada
March 1, 2016
Canada is the most-sued country under the North American Free Trade Agreement and a majority of the disputes involve investors challenging environmental laws, according to a new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Over 70 per cent of claims since 2005 have been brought against Canada, and the number of challenges under NAFTA’s settlement clause is rising sharply.
A Huffington Post story by Sunny Freeman on the CCPA report says that the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism contained in NAFTA’s chapter 11 grants investors the right to sue foreign governments without first pursuing court action. The provision included in the 1994 treaty on the argument that U.S. and Canadian investors needed protection against corruption in Mexican courts. But the mechanism limits governments from enacting policies on public concerns such as the environment and labour or human rights, and negotiations are often carried out in secret.
The CCPA believes the federal government’s commitment to Chapter 11 and its willingness to settle and compensate claimants is encouraging this trend. There were 12 cases brought against Canada from 1995 to 2005, and another 23 in the last decade. This compares to 22 against Mexico and 20 percent against the U.S. since 1995.
Canada has lost or settled six claims paying a total of $170 million in damages, while Mexico has lost five cases and paid out $204 million. The U.S. has won 11 cases and has never lost a NAFTA investor-state case.
“Thanks to NAFTA chapter 11, Canada has now been sued more times through investor-state dispute settlement than any other developed country in the world,” said Scott Sinclair, who authored the study. He estimates that Canada has spent $65 million defending such claims over the past two decades.
About 63 per cent of the claims against Canada involved challenges to environmental protection or resource management programs that allegedly interfere with the profits of foreign investors. The government has lost some of these challenges and has been forced to overturn legislation protecting the environment.
In 1997, the Ethyl Corporation, a U.S. chemical company, used chapter 11 to challenge a Canadian ban on the import of MMT, a gasoline additive that is a suspected neurotoxin and which automakers have said interferes with cars’ diagnostic systems. The company won damages of $15 million and the government was forced to remove the policy.
A year later, U.S.-based S.D. Myers challenged Canada’s temporary ban on the export of toxic PCP waste, which was applied equally to all companies. Canada argued it was obliged to dispose of the waste within its own borders under another international treaty. However, the tribunal ruled the ban was discriminatory and violated NAFTA’s standards for fair treatment.
There are currently eight cases brought by U.S. companies against the Canadian government asking for a total of $6 billion in damages. Many of the current challenges involve domestic environmental protections such as the promotion of renewable energies, a moratorium on offshore wind projects on Lake Ontario and Nova Scotia’s decision to block a mega-quarry.
In one case, Lone Pine Resources Inc., is suing the Canadian government for $250 million over Quebec’s moratorium on natural gas fracking, which applies equally to foreign and domestic companies. Lone Pine argues it was not consulted before the ban nor compensated for its wasted investment or loss of potential revenue.
Sinclair argues that the threat of challenges under chapter 11 has a chilling effect on public interest regulation, which will only worsen unless political and legal action is taken.
“Buoyed by their past successes, foreign investors and their legal advisors are now turning to NAFTA chapter 11 with increasing frequency and assertiveness,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, compared to other parts of the world, there is surprisingly little political debate about the corrosive influence of ISDS on public policy and democracy in Canada.”
Canada is embarking on a new generation of treaties such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union, and the Trans Pacific Partnership, both of which contain investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems. While governments can be sued under ISDS, there is no similar recourse for states to hold foreign investors accountable for their actions.
Image Source: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/10/23/naftas-isds-why-canada-one-most-sued-countries-world
The Canadian Parliament is on course to “condemn any and all attempts” by Canadian groups to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
The motion to condemn BDS was put forward by the Conservatives, but on Thursday the Liberal majority government announced it would vote in favour. The NDP says the motion is an attack on freedom of expression and is opposing it.
BDS, which calls for an economic boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, has become a major issue on university campuses. Its proponents include the United Church of Canada and a Quebec labour union.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, who seconded the motion, described BDS as a movement that stifles academic freedom and opposes Israel’s right to exist.
“The BDS movement brings physical intimidation and a spirit of demonization into the Canadian discourse of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” she said.
“This is not Canadian, and thus I condemn it.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion accused the Conservatives of being divisive and reducing the debate to black-and-white terms.
But he revealed the Liberals will support the motion regardless, because they view the BDS movement as harmful and ineffective.
“The world will win nothing for boycotting Israel,” said Dion.
With both the Liberals and Conservatives onboard, the motion will easily pass when it goes to a vote either later today or next week.
The NDP lashed out at the other two parties for not supporting freedom of belief. They said the motion is designed to muzzle people who hold contrary opinions.
“What kind of world are we living in here in Canada where we’re starting to attack the fundamental right to disagree,” said NDP MP Hélène Laverdière.
Green Party MP Elizabeth May is also opposing the motion.
Image Source: http://canadatalksisraelpalestine.ca/2015/03/16/trudeau-joins-harper-blaney-in-condemning-bds/