According to reports by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), there are roughly 600 known cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, many of them unsolved. Loretta Saunders, an Inuit woman from Labrador whose family reported her missing on 13 February 2014, is one of the latest. The RCMP discovered her body along a New Brunswick highway on 26 February. That Saunders was in the middle of finishing her PhD in Halifax— on Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women—makes her death particularly harrowing, yet each of these women’s deaths is reprehensible.
CPT attended the ninth Annual Strawberry Ceremony honoring missing and murdered Indigenous women on 14 February, when over 200 people gathered at the downtown Toronto police headquarters for a rally and march. Many individuals in the crowd held up signs bearing names, dates, and occasionally photos. Several dozen people carried black silhouette-style signs cut in the shape of women’s profiles, with names in white lettering on one side, and dates—usually preceded with the word “murdered”—on the other.
Each of these sign bearers had lost someone to violence: a sister, a daughter, a grandmother. More than that, though, this ceremony was in honor of Indigenous women. Those marching were survivors of their individual griefs and losses, and the collective oppression and violence of a system set entirely against them.
Author and activist Arundhati Roy has said, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” In CPT, we often talk about “amplifying voices,” and when I give presentations I make sure to emphasize what this means: I am not seeking to speak for anyone. I am seeking to hold up a figurative microphone to those who are already speaking. It’s a thing I’m still figuring out, time after time. But Roy’s words are a guide.
During the ceremony on 14 February, the women who spoke described how long it took them to “find their voices,” to share the stories of women in their lives who’d been taken by violence. One mother who raised her grandson from his infancy, said it took her over two decades from when her daughter was killed to when she could start speaking about it. It struck me that every single person there holding a sign or a banner was a person who could speak. The voiceless ones were the women whose names and dates were on those signs. Their daughters, and mothers, and sisters, and brothers and fathers and sons (because there were many men there too)—these relatives were all speaking for them.
The question is, are we listening? When several NDP Senators introduced the need for an inquiry to Parliament about missing and murdered Indigenous women in late February, Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch responded by turning the call into a partisan argument, and stated that, “Our government has taken action. I encourage the opposition to join us in that action.”
Such statements, at their root, only demonstrate a desire to dismiss and delegitimize Indigenous women’s voices. If the Harper administration was earnest in its professed concern for Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, it would not turn calls for a national inquiry into partisan finger-pointing, but initiate real, measurable action to end this tragedy now.
The Canadian government has granted a new identity and passport to an agent of the Israeli spying service Mossad who had been involved in an assassination plot in 2010.
The Mossad agent, whose identity was not revealed, received the new identity and passport after his participation in the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in 2010, Canadian news agency QMI quoted Arian Azarbar, a businessman, as saying.
“The girl who was in charge of that file at Passport Canada… told me about it,” Azarbar said.
Al-Mabhouh was killed in his hotel room by a team of ten assassins carrying European passports.
“The Canadian government has said we had nothing to do with this, but it is a lie,” Azarbar added.
Azarbar has also provided the QMI agency with the name of the Israeli spy and the location of his residence in Canada. The agency, however, has declined to disclose the information, saying it would “endanger the safety and security” of the Mossad agent.
Alexis Pavelich, the spokesman for Canada’s Immigration Ministry, has refused to talk about the passport issue.
Back in 1997, Jordan arrested two Mossad agents carrying fake Canadian passports following a life attempt on Hamas leader Khaled Mashal.
Canada is closely allied to the Israeli regime.
Canada was one of the few countries that opposed the successful Palestinian bid in November 2012 to upgrade its status at the United Nations from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state.”
In October 2011, Canada also opposed the Palestinian effort to win membership within the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Mass surveillance of electronic communications is a vast, new, government intrusion on the privacy of innocent people worldwide. It is a violation of International human rights law. Without checks and balances, its use will continue to spread from country to country, corrupting democracies and empowering dictators.
That’s why, today, on February 11th, around the world, from Argentina to Uganda, from Colombia to the Philippines, the people of the Internet have united to fight back.
The Day We Fight Back’s main global action is to sign and promote the 13 Principles, a set of fundamental rules that, in clear language, tells lawmakers and governments how to apply existing human rights law to these new forms of surveillance. With the support of thousands of Net users, we’ll use your voice to demand that all governments comply with their obligation to protect privacy against unchecked surveillance.
But there’s more to today’s global action than the Principles. Hundreds of digital rights and privacy groups, thousands of individual Net users, in dozens of countries, have come together to protest surveillance by governments at home and abroad. Here’s just a sampling of the campaigns and events happening today:
In Argentina, the Asociación por los Derechos Civiles and Vía Libre Foundation is suing the Argentinian Congressional surveillance oversight commission for withholding basic information on surveillance practices in the country.
In Australia, a coalition of groups under the banner Citizens Not Suspects, is joining to demand a government investigation of the practices of the notorious “Five Eyes” countries — the nations, including Australia, which share intelligence with the NSA.
In Brazil, where the upcoming Marco Civil bill promises to encode human rights into the country’s Internet law, citizens are renewing their demands to include strong privacy protections.
In Canada, more than 45 major organizations, and tens of thousands of Canadians are calling their elected representatives to stop illegal spying by Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), Canada’s spying agency.
Colombians have launched “Internet sin Chuzadas”, a campaign calling for the end of unchecked surveillance at home and abroad.
France’s La Quadrature Du Net have started an NSA Observer program to inform people of the NSA’s global surveillance. The Philippines’ Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA) is organizing a day of mass action against the country’s draconian Cybercrime Prevention Act.
In Serbia, SHARE Foundation, one of the earliest supporters of the 13 Principles, is renewing their campaign against surveillance locally and internationally.
In Uganda, Unwanted Witness will be urging their local telephone companies to stop sharing private data with politicians.
And in the United Kingdom, a huge coalition of Britain’s privacy groups is launching DontSpyOnUs.org.uk, to pressure the UK’s GCHQ to stop its global mass surveillance apparatus.
In the US? Call Congress today.
Dial 202-552-0505 or click here to enter your phone number and have our call tool connect you
Calling Congress takes just five minutes and is the most effective action you can take right now to let your elected officials know that mass surveillance must end.
Here’s what you should say:
I’d like Senator/Representative __ to support and co-sponsor H.R. 3361/S. 1599, the USA Freedom Act. I would also like you to oppose S. 1631, the so-called FISA Improvements Act. Moreover, I’d like you to work to prevent the NSA from undermining encryption standards and to protect the privacy rights of non-Americans.
Where ever you live, can join them: you can visit Necessary And Proportionate, the home of the 13 Principles, and add your name to our action, and find out what is happening in your own country. Write your own posts of opposition, and spread the word through the hashtag #stopspying .
The employment minister of Canada, a strong supporter of Israel, has waded into the spat over Oxfam breaking with US actress Scarlett Johansson for endorsing an Israeli soft drink firm that operates in the occupied West Bank.
Minister Jason Kenney, who is also minister of multiculturalism in Canada, extended an ironic thank you to Oxfam for bringing the Israeli firm SodaStream to his attention.
Last week Johansson made headlines when she quit her role as Oxfam ambassador after the NGO said her promotion of SodaStream was “incompatible” with her role at the international aid agency.
SodaStream, which manufactures machines for making carbonated drinks at home, has 25 factories around the world, including one that operates in a settlement east of Jerusalem.
“Bought a nice SodaStream unit at the HudsonsBayCo. Thanks to Oxfam for the tip,” the minister said in a tweet.
The minister’s message also featured a photo of a SodaStream beverage machine with its brand name clearly visible.
It also bore the letters “BDSfail” in reference to the campaign calling for “boycott, divestment, sanctions” of Israeli products and goods.
Oxfam calls for a boycott of any Israeli firm operating in settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law.
Canada is a strong backer of Israel, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Israel late last month.
The Canadian government’s intelligence agency has spied on thousands of travelers through the wireless Internet service at a major airport, according to new revelations.
The top-secret document retrieved by US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) tracked the wireless devices of passengers by using information gleaned from free Internet service at an unnamed major Canadian airport.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that the data was collected from passengers’ smart-phones and laptops over a two-week period and that the devices were tracked for a week or longer afterwards.
CBS said the technology was to be shared with the so-called “Five Eyes” spy partnership, namely the US, Canada, Britain, New Zealand and Australia.
“Classified document in question is a technical presentation between specialists exploring mathematical models built on everyday scenarios to identify and locate foreign terrorist threats,” CSEC spokesperson claimed.
Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian, however, said she was “blown away” by the revelations. She also likened the country’s spy agency to those of a “totalitarian state, not a free and open society.”
Ronald Deibert, the director of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies, also said the CSEC’s secret operation was almost certainly illegal.
“I can’t see any circumstance in which this would not be unlawful, under current Canadian law, under our Charter, under CSEC’s mandates,” he told CBC News.
It was also recently revealed that Canada has set up cover spying posts around the world and spied on trading partners at the request of the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Reports published in Canadian media and based on the leaks have shown that Canada allowed the NSA to conduct surveillance operations on its soil during the 2010 summits of G8 and G20.
Other reports have shown that the Canadian intelligence agency spied on communications at Brazil’s Mining and Energy Ministry, as it has mining interests in the South American country.
“Imperialism after all is an act of geographical violence” Edward Said
Is it just me, or do you also see a thread of colonial superiority and racism binding US, Australia, Canada to Israel?
Think about it. All are ex-British colonies and like Israel, have a shameful history of genocide committed against their respective Indigenous Peoples and all continue to treat their First Peoples as third class citizens.
I can’t speak for the US and Canada, but, apart from realpolitik and arms trade, an underlying colonial arrogance goes a long way to explain why my ‘civilised’ ‘democratic’ Australian government is complicit in granting Israel impunity to daily perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity against generations of Palestinian families.
The tragic past and near narratives of the suffering of unspeakable colonial atrocities against Indigenous Palestinians and Indigenous Australians bear close resemblance and are written in blood and great injustice.
Just as Israel’s Independence Day and the Palestinian Nakba Day (in remembrance of deportation and dispossession) have a bloody symbiosis, Australia Day or Invasion Day, on the 26th January, is celebrated or mourned according to the victors or the vanquished.
Both Israeli and British colonists took the ‘terra nullius’ doctrine – empty land’ approach to justify their brutal occupations and wholesale land theft of Palestine and Australia. Israel boasts it made the desert bloom though for centuries Palestine traded in olives, oil, quinces, pinenuts, figs, carob, cotton, dates, indigo, artichokes, citrus fruit, almonds, mint sumach and much more. In Australia the Aborigines maintained their food supply with a sophisticated management of the land with fire.
The island, named Australia by British invaders and colonists, was home to almost a million peoples of, at least, 200 nations that traced their ancestry back 60 millennia along spiritual songlines of the land to the Dreaming – to Creation.
The imperial genocidal wars and massacres (guns vs spears) such as those at Hawksbury, Nepean Richmond Hill, Risdon Cove, Appin, Bathurst, Port Phillip, Swan River (Battle of Pinjarra), Gravesend, Vinegar Hill, Myall Creek, Kinroy, Rufus R, Long lagoon, Dawson River, Kalkadoon, Cape Grim, The Black war, McKinley River, West Kimberely resisted by Aboriginal warriors like Pemulwuy, Winradyne, Multuggerah, Yagan, Jandamarra as well as starvation and western diseases decimated the dispossessed Aboriginal population to about 70,000 by 1920.
By then violent genocide was replaced by the more covert cultural genocide, or the genocide of indigeneity, through the government policy of assimilation intended to eradicate indigenous identity by cruelly and systematically destroying connections to family, the tribe and ancestral lands.
Australia’s First Peoples were marginalised onto reservations and missions, restricted entry into white towns, exploited as unpaid slave labour, their indigenous languages and sacred rituals forbidden, and mixed blood children (The Stolen Generations) were forcibly kidnapped from their parents for resocialisation – ie to be made ‘white’.
Assimilation is where Australia, USA and Canada differ with Israel. The assimilation of Palestinians for Israel is an anathema. The Zionist goal is a pure Jewish state, rid of all Palestinians from the river to the sea. The whole of historic Palestine, home to the Chosen People is a goal pursued with, ironically, an ideological fervour akin to Hitler’s Herrenrasse and Germanisation aspirations. Ergo, Israel perpetrates a slow motion brutal genocide and a relentless push of Palestinians over the exile cliff.
Until the 1967 Referendum, Aborigines were government property: “The right to choose a marriage partner, to be legally responsible for one’s own children, to move about the state and to socialise with non-Aboriginal Australians, were just some of the rights which Aboriginal people did not have.”
Sound familiar? Israel’s apartheid policies similarly impact on Palestinians. Israel has passed racist laws that impose severe movement restrictions dividing families, preventing family reunification and obstructing the marriage of couples who come from different zones. At least a third of Gazans have relatives in Israel and the West Bank. The personal pain of such enforced separations which deny Palestinians the shared and cherished moments we enjoy freely is immeasurable…grandparents have never seen their grandchildren who may live 5 kilometres away… adult children are denied the right to be with a dying parent…births…weddings…funerals ..are overshadowed by painful absences.
The Native Title Act, 1993, finally acknowledged that some Indigenous Australians ‘have rights and interests to their land that come from their traditional laws and customs.’ But, as mining boomed on resource rich indigenous lands, corporate colonialism reared its greedy head undermining this landmark act with the Northern Territory Intervention.
It was initiated by the Howard government in 2007 and maintained by successive governments including that of Kevin Rudd who made the historic apology to the Stolen Generations even though indigenous communities were suffering the humiliation of quarantined welfare payments and struggled to survive in third world conditions.
The Intervention was imposed “on the pretext that paedophile gangs were operating in Indigenous settlements. Troops were sent in; townships were compulsorily acquired and native title legislation ignored. Yet no prosecution for child abuse resulted, and studies concluded that there was no evidence of any systematic child abuse.” Marcus Waters, Review: Pilger’s Utopia shows us Aboriginal Australia in 2014
As the Prawer Plan was debated in the Israeli Knesset, the sound of the Australian government salivating with envy must have been deafening while imagining the power to evict, from their ancestral lands, 40,000 pesky Bedouins hindering Israel’s land expansion or the power to simply bulldoze Palestinian villages to build settlements for Zionist colonists.
Notorious for her death stare, Julie ‘Medusa’ Bishop, the Australian Foreign Minister, on January 15, speaking for her government, with colonial panache dismissed Israeli settlements as war crimes with this vacuous statement,
“I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal.”
Not a good look coming from the FM of a nation privileged to have a seat on the UN Security Council, when even the gardener at Parliament House has heard of the Geneva Conventions.
Like its mate, the rogue state of Israel, Australia doesn’t give a toss for honouring its obligations under international law.
It tossed aside its obligations to the Refugee Conventions with its inhumane offshore asylum seeker policy, forcing asylum seeker boats back to Indonesia, refusal to compensate people who have been held for prolonged periods in mandatory detention, ‘breached its international anti-race discrimination obligations by continuing for almost three years it’s intervention policies with indigenous communities of the Northern Territory.’ the high instance of Aboriginal deaths in custody, the breaching of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the matter of Guantanamo inmate, David Hicks, the unresolved allegations that Australian intelligence officers were complicit in the torture of Mamdouh Habib when he was held in Pakistan Egypt and Guantanamo Bay, the Queensland bikie laws that fail to meet international fair trial standards.
Then there is the present case in the International Court of Justice against Australia spying on Timor Leste during the oil and gas treaty negotiations in an alleged attempt to rip off the poorest nation in Asia.
Colonial terrorism, disguised as civilised democracy, is not only perpetrated by the hollow men and women in authority. They are the monsters for whom you and I vote and without us they are powerless.Until our moral conscience, intelligence and compassion determines how we vote, we too are their accomplices.
- Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.
Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSE) has admitted that it “incidentally” spied on Canadians, making it the first time the agency deviates from its standard statement that it does not “target” the electronic communications of Canadian citizens.
The country’s foreign intelligence agency said in a statement published on its website that “it is possible that we may incidentally intercept Canadian communications or information.”
A spokesman for the agency said the statement was an initial response to the media attention following the disclosures by American whistleblower Edward Snowden.
According to the CSE, additional information about how it operates is to be posted in coming months “to share more information about our organization in as transparent a manner as possible while still respecting our security obligations.”
However, experts say the effort by the CSE is mostly government mantra and it does not address issues raised by Snowden leaks.
Wesley Wark, a security intelligence expert at the University of Ottawa, said the statement does not discuss the disclosures about collections of metadata or about the use of CSE’s foreign intelligence partners, including the United States, for information exchanges about targets, including Canadians of national security concern.
The leaked documents published in recent months have revealed among others that Canada has set up cover spying posts around the world and spied on trading partners at the request of the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Reports published in Canadian media and based on the leaks have shown that Canada allowed the NSA to conduct surveillance operations on its soil during the 2010 summits of G8 and G20.
Other reports have shown that the Canadian intelligence agency spied on communications at Brazil’s Mining and Energy Ministry, as it has mining interests in the South American country.
Zionist Jews have, predictably, taken umbrage to the vote of American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities. David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, contends that the vote casts a “long shadow” on the American Studies Association.1
A Stupid Question
“After all,” Harris writes, “how else to explain the fact that no other country in the world — not Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan or any other serial human rights violator — has been the object of such a boycott by the group?”
Anyone aware of the occupation and oppression wreaked by the Jewish state against Palestinians must assume that Harris is either ignorant or lying. Harris ostensibly cannot fathom why Israel would be targeted.
How to explain? Unlike in Israel,
1. Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, and Sudan are not engaged in the occupation and annexation of the territory of another people.2
2. Minorities in Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, and Sudan do not suffer under an official state-sanctioned system of apartheid.3
3. Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Syria are not waging war upon neighbor states. Sudan, a recently severed country, still has border hostilities with South Sudan.
4. Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Syria do not practice genocide.4 Given the complex situation that existed in the Darfur region of Sudan, I’ll exclude Sudan again from the conversation.
It is important to emphasize that Harris, in his letter, does not deny that Israel is guilty of the crimes that has made it a target of the boycott. Instead he argues tu quoque. In other words, others do it too, so why pick only on Israel? This is a morally vacuous defense. Whether or not Sudan, for example, engages in the same morally reprehensible behaviors as Israel does not lessen Israel’s own crimes. People of conscience have a duty to speak out against violations of human rights wherever they may be occurring.
Nonetheless, a moral tenet would posit that one’s own state would, first and foremost, be held to an equal or higher standard of conduct when criticizing other states. Since Canada and the United States are, like Israel, founded on the genocide and dispossession of Indigenous people, any criticism directed at Israel while silent on the crimes in one’s own backyard would ring of hypocrisy. To the extent that the American Studies Association does not address a similar level of immorality in its own country would be of concern.
In attempting to defend Israel, one lie that Harris trots out is the trope of Israel being “the one truly democratic state [sic] in the Middle East …” It is a lie, but even if it were true, why should being a democracy exculpate war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace?
Shlomo Sand wrote a section, “’Jewish and Democratic’ – an Oxymoron?” in his book, The Invention of the Jewish People. Sand concluded:
The essentialist outlook that depends on the definitions of Jew and non-Jew, and the definition of the state by way of this outlook, together with the stubborn public refusal to allow Israel to be a republic of all Israeli citizens, constitute a deep-rooted barrier to any kind of democracy. (307)
Sand sees Israel as “a Jewish ethnocracy … a state whose main purpose is to serve not a civil-egalitarian demos but a biological-religious ethnos that is wholly fictitious historically, but dynamic, exclusive and discriminatory in its political manifestation.” (307)
Harris also pleaded that Israel “is engaged in an intensive and complex peace process with the Palestinians…”
This is an appeal to the ignorance or moral incompetence of members of the general public.
Who with an iota of critical-thinking ability would fall for the canard of a peaceful intent on Israel’s behalf while it continues building Jew-only “settlements” in the Occupied Territories? After all, Jews would have to be stupid (and they aren’t) to invest money and labor to build “settlements” only to knowingly have to abandon them to a so-called peace process.
Harris asks, “If Israel is so anathema to the majority of the association’s members, then presumably they will extend the boycott beyond Israeli universities to everything Israeli.” Harris twists the situation. The notion of a Jewish state that discriminates openly against non-Jews is anathema. Any state that discriminates against groups within the state is engaged in behavior that is anathema. However, leaving aside anarchist arguments, it is not the state, per se, that is anathema, but the actions of the state.
Consequently, when Harris chides the American Studies Association social justice orientation as “regrettable behavior,” he should be encouraged to look in the mirror and confront, what can only most euphemistically be called, Israel’s own regrettable behavior.
Harris is correct in that there are other nation-states that are deserving of the opprobrium that a boycott evokes. Canada is surely deserving for its crimes against its Original Peoples. Canada also deserves criticism for its staunch support of Zionism. There are plenty of states whose citizens need to confront the crimes of their state. This does not absolve Israel of its crimes or the censure conferred by a boycott; it merely means that there are other states deserving of censure.
- David Harris, “Parsing an Academic Boycott of Israel,” Letters to the New York Times, 17 December 2013.
- Some may point to the Kurdish areas in Iran, but these areas are internationally recognized as part of Iran.
- In Sudan, Black-Arab violence has been reported, but there are not, e.g., Arab-only roads in Sudan.
- Or as many euphemistically put it: ethnic cleansing. For an elaboration see Kim Petersen, “Bleaching the Atrocities of Genocide,” Dissident Voice, 7 June 2007.
Kim Petersen can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Separate tirades against highly esteemed international law authority Richard Falk were launched one day apart from each other in Washington and Ottawa over remarks Falk made last week to RT.
A week ago RT’s program “The Truthseeker” aired a segment on the recent findings of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal—a segment that also included comments from Falk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Palestine, as well as footage of flooding of Gaza’s streets.
The tribunal found Israel guilty of genocide against the Palestinians, and in his remarks to RT Falk stated, “When you target a group, an ethnic group, and inflict this kind of punishment upon them you are in effect nurturning a kind of criminal intention that is genocidal.”
Hardly a controversial statement. However, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird called the comments “appalling” and said they “underscore once more the complete and total absurdity of his (Falk’s) service as a UN Special Rapporteur.” Baird also demanded the UN Human Rights Council “remove Falk from his position immediately.”
Not to be outdone, US State Dept. mouthpiece Jen Psaki lambasted Falk’s remarks as “despicable and deeply offensive” and called upon Falk to step down from his UN post—once again substantiating Washngton’s reputation as “Israeli occupied territory.”
Coming up in a few days the world will mark the fifth anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, a frenzy of military high-tech bloodshed that left 1400 Gazans dead, approximately a third of whom were children. In that 22-day assault, Israel bombed homes, schools, and hospitals, fired upon ambulances, and unleashed white phosphorous munitions that melted human skin and burned people alive. And then after the assault was over, the Jewish state continued its blockade of Gaza, making it difficult to outright impossible for people to get building supplies to rebuild their destroyed homes. Shortages of food and medicine were also reported, and in one notorious case the Israelis even blocked a shipment of pasta.
To say that Israel “targets” an “ethnic group” is undeniably true. To say that it is “nurturning a kind of criminal intention that is genocidal” is, if anything, an understatement. But Falk has a history of speaking truthfully that is rare in a public official—and of course this is what Israel and its puppets in the US and Canada really find so objectionable about him.
The interview below with Falk covers a lot of ground—from the UN’s helplessness to confront Israel to the upcoming bleak Christmas faced by Gazans. Falk is interviewed by Stuart Littlewood, author of Radio Free Palestine and whose articles appear frequently on a number of websites. (H/T Uprooted Palestinians)
Creeping annexation, ethnic cleansing and ‘the politics of fragmentation’ inflicted by criminals who strut the world stage and thumb their noses at international law
By Stuart Littlewood
As the international conspiracy to rob Palestinians of their freedom and homeland is exposed a little more each day, observers and activists still puzzle over the duplicity of the United Nations in the decades-long illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Territories, not to mention the true intent of Palestinian leaders. So when Richard Falk, professor of international law at Princeton and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Occupied Palestine, visited Norwich recently, I took the opportunity to put some questions to him.
SL – Can we start with the so-called peace process, please? Does the resignation of the Palestinian negotiation team, and the reasons given, effectively end the already discredited ‘peace talks’? Should the Palestinians walk away or carry on playing a pointless game for another 6 months?
Richard Falk – It is difficult to know how to assess the current suspension of peace talks. The Palestinian Authority seems always ready to bend to pressure, although with some outer limits. In this respect, the future of this phase of ‘peace talks’ will be determined not in Ramallah, but in Washington and Tel Aviv. It should be evident 20 years after Oslo that the peace talks serve Israel’s interest in ‘creeping annexation’ of the West Bank and ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, while diminishing Palestinian prospects, and even harming the Palestinian image by disinformation that blames the Palestinian side for the breakdown of the process when and however it occurs. It would be a welcome sign of PA independence if they come forth and denounce this peace process for what it is.
The sad reality is that this is almost certain not to happen, and more likely than not the period of negotiations will be extended beyond the nine months set aside, on the entirely false claim that the parties are on the verge of resolving all their differences, and with a little patience, the prospects for a deal are quite bright.
SL – The negotiators said they were resigning because of the ‘unprecedented escalation’ of settlement building and because the Israeli government wasn’t serious about a two-state solution and had failed to fulfill commitments given before the present talks were resumed. I now read that Erekat has already been back to Washington for more talks with Tzipi Livni (Israel’s lead negotiator), Kerry and US envoy Indyk. Far from denouncing the process they are once again endorsing it, which makes your point.
In any case, how acceptable is it for a weak, demoralised and captive people like the Palestinians to be forced to the negotiation table with their brutal occupier under the auspices of a US administration seen by many people as too dishonest to play the part of peace broker?
Richard Falk – Even if the United States was acting in good faith, for which there is no evidence, its dual role as Israel’s unconditional ally and as intermediary would subvert the credibility of a negotiating process. In fact, the US Government signals its partisanship by White House appointments of individuals overtly associated with the AIPAC lobbying group as Special Envoys to oversee the negotiations such as Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk. It is hard to imagine the fury in the West that would exist if the conditions were reversed, and the UN proposed a one-sided ‘peace process’ biased in favour of the Palestinians. The unsatisfactory nature of the current framework of negotiations is further flawed by weighting the process in favour of Israel, which enjoys a position of hard power dominance.
SL – There can be no peace without justice, so is it right for final status ‘negotiations’ to be held before competing claims are tested in the courts and the many outstanding rulings under international law and UN resolutions are implemented? In any case, shouldn’t a neutral UN peace commission be supervising the final settlement of this long struggle, rather than the US or the Quartet?
Richard Falk – Yes, if the priority were to attain a just and sustainable peace, a framework would be developed that had two characteristics: neutral as between the two sides and sensitive to the relevance of rights under international law. Such sensitivity would favour the Palestinians as their main grievances are all reinforced by an objective interpretation of international law, including in relation to settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, borders, water.
SL – How much legitimacy does President Abbas enjoy, having overstayed his term of office?
Richard Falk – This question of political legitimacy of President Abbas turns on the subjective mood of the Palestinian people. Because the PA is a political entity so vulnerable to pressures and manipulation, the status of its presiding leader seems to be widely seen as a secondary matter of limited significance. When President Abbas has articulated the case for Palestinian statehood during the last three years at the United Nations he gained considerable personal respect among most governments and for many Palestinians. He seems a leader caught between the realities of his compromised position and the occasional opportunities to express the national ambitions and support the rights of the Palestinian people. The division with Hamas, and the failure to find a formula to restore Palestinian unity in relation to the West is a further source of weakness for PA claims to represent the Palestinian people as a whole. The failure to hold scheduled elections highlights the insufficiency of PA and Palestinian leadership.
SL – Do you believe a two-state solution is still feasible?
Richard Falk – No. I think Oslo has been dead for some years, primarily due to Israeli policies designed to encroach upon the remnant of Palestinian territorial and symbolic rights, especially by the continuously expanding settlement archipelago, the unlawful separation wall built on occupied territory, and the demographic manipulations in East Jerusalem. The pretence that Oslo plus the Roadmap point the only way to peace serves American and Israeli purposes in quieting growing complaints about the persistence of the conflict. It represents a diplomatic attempt to deflect criticism, and to divert attention from Palestinian grievances and a growing global solidarity movement.
SL – The 1947 UN Partition was unworkable as well as immoral. Shouldn’t the whole territory (of historic Palestine) be returned to the melting pot and shared out more sensibly? Shouldn’t Jerusalem and Bethlehem become an international city, or ‘corpus separatum’, as the UN originally intended?
Richard Falk – For me the fundamental flaw with the partition proposals contained in GA Resolution 181 was the failure to consult the people resident in Palestine at the time. A secondary flaw was the unfairness of awarding 55% of the territory to the Jewish presence as represented by the Zionist movement which in 1947 accounted for only one-third of the population owning around 6% of the land . This idea of determining the future of Palestine by outsiders, even if well intentioned, which seems not to have ever been the case, is incompatible with the historical trend toward resolving the future of peoples by way of the dynamics of self-determination. In Palestine’s case, at least from the issuance of the Balfour Declaration onward, this effort to control the future of Palestine has been justly condemned as the last major example of ‘settler colonialism.’ It is a particularly acute example as the settlers have no mother country to which to return, and take a poker player’s high risk posture of ‘all in.’
SL – Turning to the role of the International Criminal Court, this is an organ of the UN. So why doesn’t the ICC initiate its own prosecution of Israeli crimes based on UN reports and the mountain of evidence available to it, especially in view of Palestine’s upgraded status?
Richard Falk – There is no authoritative explanation of ICC passivity in face of the Israeli criminal violation of fundamental Palestinian rights. As a matter of speculation it is plausible to assume an absence of political will on the part of the prosecutor’s office to initiate an investigation that would be deeply opposed by Israel and the United States. The ICC has been recently criticized for its Western bias, and its failure for instance to consider whether the United Kingdom and the United States violated the Rome Statute’s enumeration of international crimes by initiating and conducting the Iraq War. The African Union has complained about the seeming focus on the criminality of African leaders, and the bypassing of grievances directed at Western behaviour.
SL – We hear you and others calling for intervention to prevent humanitarian catastrophes, e.g. the Gaza water crisis. Who exactly are you calling on? What is the chain of responsibility for intervening.
Richard Falk – There has been evolving within the UN and in international society more generally a sense that there is a ‘responsibility to protect’ peoples subject to severe threats of humanitarian catastrophes or natural disasters. Such sentiments are part of a process I have described as ‘moral globalization.’
In fact, R2P diplomacy has been discredited by being used as a geopolitical instrument, most dramatically as the normative foundation for the UN endorsement of the NATO 2011 military intervention in Libya. With respect to Libya the justification was protection against a feared massacre of civilians in the city of Benghazi, but the actual military operation from its outset seemed designed to achieve regime change in Tripoli. When it comes to Gaza where the present crisis has passed into a zone of desperation, the UN and world community are silent as if stone deaf to this deepening human crisis of survival.
SL – We have just seen the UN intervening to bring fuel into Gaza as it teetered on the brink of a full-blown public health crisis. There are many such emergencies thanks to Israel’s continuing blockade. Why doesn’t the UN take over the supply of fuel full-time? And indeed the supply of medicines, drugs, medical equipment and spares?
Richard Falk – The tragic situation in Gaza cannot be understood without taking account of the political context, above all the split between Fatah and Hamas, and the Israeli posture toward Gaza after its ‘disengagement’ in 2005 and the imposition of a punitive blockade in mid-2007 after Hamas took over the governance of Gaza. The UN has no capability to override geopolitical priorities, and so long as it is useful for Israel and Washington to treat Hamas as ‘a terrorist organization’ the UN will be limited in its role to being a provider of a subsistence existence for the Gazan people, long victims of unlawful Israel policies of ‘collective punishment’ unconditional prohibited by Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention.
After the Egyptian coup of July 3rd of this year, the subsistence regime evolved in Gaza is itself in jeopardy. The tunnel network has been substantially destroyed by Egyptian military action and the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt has been mainly closed, isolating the people, and creating emergency conditions due to fuel shortages that have made electricity only available in very limited amounts.
The results are horrifying: sewage in the streets, insufficient power to run machines needed to keep the terminally ill alive, fuel shortages that virtually preclude economic activity, and closed borders that seal the fate of 1.6 million Gazans. Long before this dramatic further deterioration of life circumstances, observers were calling Gaza the largest open air prison in the world.
“The wrongful appropriation by Israel of Palestine’s water, land, and energy resources has been a massive crime against the Palestinian people…”
SL – What is the UN doing to protect Palestine’ s precious aquifers and offshore gas field from being plundered by the Israelis?
Richard Falk – Again, the UN has no independent capability, or ever will, to challenge Israel or to protect Palestinian rights. It is a case of geopolitical manipulation and Palestinian victimization. The wrongful appropriation by Israel of Palestine’s water, land, and energy resources has been a massive crime against the Palestinian people that has been continuous with the occupation that commenced in 1967.
SL – Why is the requirement, often repeated, to allow Palestinians free and unfettered movement in and out of Gaza not implemented? Gaza and the West Bank are supposed to be a contiguous territory but, for example, Palestinian students in Gaza are prevented from attending their excellent universities in the West Bank. And why are Gazan fishermen still restricted to a mere fraction of their territorial waters, despite agreements to the contrary, and regularly fired on? Why is Israel not prosecuted for acts of piracy in international waters against humanitarian traffic to Gaza?
Richard Falk – As earlier, the hard power realities of Israeli military dominance, as politically reinforced by American geopolitical muscle, overrides all of these Palestinian claims of right. In this respect, such injustice and suffering can only be challenged by Palestinian resistance and international solidarity. The specific abuses can and should be delimited to raise public awareness and contribute to the mobilization of support for the Palestinian struggle, but it is pointless to expect the UN to do more than its capabilities allow. The whole structure of the Organization, combined with the method of funding, gives geopolitical pressures great leverage in relation to specific situations. The veto power given to the permanent members of the Security Council is a major expression of this weakness that was built into the constitutional structure of the UN from the moment of its establishment.
SL – People reading what you say here will be alarmed that US geopolitical power and Israeli military might can so easily override international and humanitarian law. After Nuremburg our legal institutions were strong enough to bring Nazi era criminals to book, but present-day war criminals walk free and thumb their noses. What hope is there for mankind and our brave new world if this is allowed to continue?
Richard Falk – The Nuremberg experience was based on ‘victors’ justice,’ holding the defeated leaders after World War II criminally accountable, while exempting the crimes of the victors from accountability. There was a promise made at Nuremberg that in the future the rules by which the Germans were judged would be applicable to all who committed state crimes in the future. This Nuremberg Promise has not been kept. The political and military leaders of the main states enjoy impunity while the leaders of defeated countries (e.g. Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic) or sub-Saharan African countries are prosecuted by international tribunals. Double standards prevail, and it is questionable whether an international criminal law that punishes the weak and exempts the strong is to be treated as legitimate even if those accused receive a fair trial and are convicted and punished only if they were guilty of grave misconduct.
The bottom line is that we live in a world in which the primacy of hard power prevails in the relationship among states. Geopolitical leverage enables Israel to defy the most basic principles of international law, and yet their leaders are not held accountable. There are only two paths available that challenge this result. National courts can be empowered by what is called ‘universal jurisdiction’ to investigate, indict, prosecute, convict, and punish anyone accused of state crime that can be personally delivered to the relevant court. In 1998 the Chilean dictator was detained in London after the Spanish Government requested that Pinochet be extradited. After lengthy litigation is was found that Pinochet could be extradited for torture committed during part of his reign, but in the end he was sent back to Chile because of health reasons, and never faced trial in Spain. Yet such a possibility exists in relation to Israeli political and military leaders, and seems to have discouraged their travel to countries whose criminal law contains the authority to invoke universal jurisdiction.
The other possibility is by convening a peoples tribunal of the sort constituted in the past by the Bertrand Russell Foundation in Brussels and the Lelio Basso Foundation in Rome. The Russell Foundation sponsored four sessions devoted to various allegations of criminality attributed to the government of Israel. It produced convincing documentation of the charges, and issued judgements that called for civil society initiatives. Such a tribunal, although acting on evidence and in accord with the relevant provisions of international criminal law, possesses no formal authority and lacks implementing capabilities. Its role is limited to documenting the case against a government, and providing symbolic support to those who contend that there have been violations of international criminal law. Such outcomes may influence public opinion, and help change the balance of political forces by undermining the legitimacy of an established order of oppression as exists with respect to Israel’s relationship to the Palestinian people and the denial of their collective right of self-determination.
SL – What are the chances as you see them for achieving unity between Fatah and Hamas, and how should the Palestinians play their cards in future?
Richard Falk – There is a near unanimous belief among Palestinians and their supporters that unity is needed to move the struggle forward. Such unity existed throughout the early decades of the Palestinian National Movement, despite many ideological differences relating to tactics and goals, but within a shared resolve to achieve national liberation. The unifying image provided by Yasser Arafat’s uncontested leadership was also important.
Israel has pursued a policy I describe as ‘the politics of fragmentation’ designed to undermine Palestinian unity, and it has been alarmingly successful. Oslo contributed to this end by dividing up the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C, by splitting the administration of Gaza off from the rest of Palestine. The emergence of Hamas highlighted Palestinian fragmentation, a result welcomed by Israel even as it was condemned. Fatah appears to have been inhibited in reaching some kind of functional unity with Hamas by pressures to refrain from such moves mounted in Israel and the United States. So long as Hamas is treated as a terrorist organization, even in the face of its turn from armed struggle and entry into the political process back in 2006, there will be strong opposition to moves toward unity, which were attempted in the Morsi period of leadership in Egypt, and seemed on the verge of success.
SL – Finally, Richard, your robust defence of Palestinian rights has ruffled many feathers and led to demands from ‘the usual suspects’ for your dismissal. Should the people you speak up for be concerned about this?
Richard Falk – The attacks on me, and others who have tried to bear witness to the directives of international law and political justice, are part of a deliberate campaign by Israel, and its cadres in civil society, to deflect attention from the substantive grievances of the Palestinian people. It is what I have described as ‘the politics of deflection,’ go after the messenger so as to deflect attention from the message. The media has been largely compliant as have Israel’s powerful governmental friends, including the United Kingdom, US, and Canadian governments. Of course, many NGOs and elements of the public push back against such tactics. In my case the defamatory efforts of UN Watch, in particular, have been unpleasant, but have not altered my effort to do the job of witnessing to the best of my ability and in accordance with the canons of truth telling.
SL – Thank you for being so generous with your time and sharing your assessment of the situation. But before you go, what sort of Christmas can the children of Gaza look forward to?
Richard Falk – We can only imagine the horror of Christmas this year in Gaza for young and old alike: from life amid raw sewage to freezing cold, scarcities, desolation, and a sense that the world is elsewhere, indifferent to such acute suffering, such sustained injustice, such blind hate.
And yet also knowing many Gazans makes me believe that even in such dire circumstances there remains space for some laughter, and much love, and that such a spirit of resistance lives on among the children of this place haunted by the evils of our world. If present these days in Gaza it would likely make me feel a mystifying blend of sadness and inspiration.
At the very least those of us living in comfort should not turn our gaze away from the children of Gaza this Christmas: we should demand empathy from our leaders and be as personally attentive as possible, whether by commentary, prayer, donations, a compassionate scream! We should not allow these days of celebration and renewal to pass this year without moments of reflection on selfish joys and cheerful carols, as contrasting with the miserable destiny bestowed upon the innocent and abused children of Gaza
Let us look the children of Gaza in the eye if we can. And if we can’t, as I could not, seize the moment to reflect on what it means to be (in)human during this holiday season.
Canada’s intelligence agency deliberately kept the country’s Federal Court “in the dark” to bypass the law in order to outsource its spying on Canadian citizens abroad to foreign security agencies, a federal judge said.
Federal Court Judge, Richard Mosley, has slammed the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for knowingly misleading him on numerous occasions.
Since 2009, Mosley has issued a large number of warrants to the CSIS, authorizing interception of electronic communications of unidentified Canadians abroad, who were investigated as threats to domestic security.
The spy agency assured the judge that the surveillance was to be carried out from inside Canada and controlled by and the Communication Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC), the country’s foreign signals intelligence service.
But, after the warrants were obtained, Canada’s foreign partners from the Five Eyes intelligence-gathering alliance (US, UK, Australia and New Zealand) were asked to perform the interceptions.
Canada’s Federal Court wasn’t notified of the foreign involvement and never approved it, Mosley wrote in a redacted version of a classified court decision which was made public on Friday.
“It is clear that the exercise of the court’s warrant issuing has been used as protective cover for activities that it has not authorized,” the document stressed. “The failure to disclose that information was the result of a deliberate decision to keep the court in the dark about the scope and extent of the foreign collection efforts that would flow from the court’s issuance of a warrant.”
Under Canada’s current legislation, the Federal Court has no authority to issue warrants that involve surveillance of Canadians by foreign intelligence agencies, he added.
The actions of CSIS and CSEC put the Canadian citizens abroad at risk as they “may be detained or otherwise harmed as a result of the use of the intercepted communications by the foreign agencies,” Mosley wrote.
“Given the unfortunate history of information sharing with foreign agencies over the past decade and the reviews conducted by several royal commissions, there can be no question that the Canadian agencies are aware of those hazards,” the document said. “It appears to me that they are using the warrants as authorization to assume those risks.”
Mosley demanded explanations from the security agencies after an annual report by CSEC commissioner, Robert Decary, this August.
The judge became suspicious after Decary suggested that CSIS should provide the Federal Court with “certain additional evidence about the nature and extent” of the help, it received from his agency.
The results of the Federal Court’s inquiry into the matter were made public on Friday.
By misleading him, the CSIS and CSEC have been in “breach of the duty of candor,” which resulted in misstatements on the public record about the scope of the authority granted to the service,” Mosley wrote.
Mosley, who used to be a former assistant deputy minister in the Justice Department, was intimately involved in the creation of the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act, which the CSIS and CSEC violated.
Open letter to John Baird, Canadian Foreign Minister
Your latest call for the removal of Richard Falk, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories, smacks of hypocrisy and racism; it also exposes your (and your government’s) blind support for Israeli war crimes and Apartheid.
While your government officially claims that “Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip)”, you are nonetheless supporting not only settlement building but also settlement products that are not exempt under the “Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA)”. You, your Prime Minister and your government also support unconditionally the discriminatory policies of the “Jewish National Fund” (JNF), which is financing illegal Israeli settlements and the infamous Canada Park that is built on the rubble of three Palestinian towns in the occupied West Bank. By doing so, you are violating the Fourth Geneva Conventions to which Canada is a signatory.
Your comments not only “undermine the fundamental values of the United Nations”, they also deny the terrible suffering and the slow genocide of the Palestinian people since the Zionist ethnic cleansing started in 1947/48. Recently, your spokesperson Rick Roth dismissed the new mini-genocide, the “Prawer Plan” which the Israeli government is planning for the Bedouin Israelis, as an “internal Israeli matter”.
You called for Prof. Falk to be fired “for his numerous outrageous and anti-Semitic statements”. However, it is your statement that is outrageous and libellous considering that he is a Jewish international law scholar that fought all his life for the truth, justice, equality and peace (contrary to what your government stands for). Once again it is you Mr. Baird that is promoting anti-Semitism by claiming that everything Israel does falls on the shoulders of all Jews. We asked you previously, clearly to no avail: “Mr. Baird: Don’t Equate Zionism with Judaism”.
Stop taking your marching orders from Tel Aviv and start, if you care for your dignity and humanity, listening to the vast majority of Canadians who yearn for peace and justice.
- UN rapporteur accuses Israel of “genocidal intentions” (altahrir.wordpress.com)
It’s enough to make one who knows even a little history gag.
The death of Nelson Mandela has led to an outpouring of vapid commentary about Canada’s supposed role in defeating South African Apartheid. “Canada helped lead international fight against Apartheid”, noted a Toronto Star headline while a National Post piece declared, “Canada’s stance against apartheid helped bring freedom to South Africa.”
Notwithstanding this self-congratulatory revisionism, Canada mostly supported apartheid in South Africa. First, by providing it with a model. South Africa patterned its policy towards Blacks after Canadian policy towards First Nations. Ambiguous Champion explains, “South African officials regularly came to Canada to examine reserves set aside for First Nations, following colleagues who had studied residential schools in earlier parts of the century.”
Canada also supported South African apartheid through a duplicitous policy of publicly opposing the country’s racist system yet continuing to do business as usual with this former British Dominion. It’s true that in 1961 John Diefenbaker’s Conservative government called for South Africa to be expelled from the British Commonwealth. But this position was not a moral rebuke of apartheid. “Nothing has been more constant in Diefenbaker’s approach than his search for a tolerable way of averting South Africa’s withdrawal,” commented an External Affairs official at the 1961 Commonwealth meeting where South Africa left the organization. Diefenbaker pushed for South Africa’s exclusion in an attempt to save the Commonwealth. The former British colonies — notably in South Asia and Africa — threatened to leave the Commonwealth if South Africa stayed. This would have been the death of the British Empire’s Commonwealth. Diefenbaker’s lack of principled opposition to apartheid helps explain his refusal to cancel the 1932 Canada-South Africa trade agreement.
Sentenced to life in prison in 1964, Mandela joined 1,500 black political activists languishing in South African jails. In June 1964 NDP leader Tommy Douglas told the House of Commons: “Nelson Mandela and seven of his associates have been found guilty of contravening the apartheid laws … [I] ask the Prime Minister if he will make vigorous representation to the government of South Africa urging that they exercise clemency in this case”? Lester Pearson responded that the “eight defendants … have been found guilty on charges of sabotage and conspiracy … While the matter is still sub judice [before the courts] it would, I believe, be improper for the government to make any public statement on the verdict or on the possible sentences.” This author found no follow up comment by Pearson regarding Mandela.
Widely viewed as a progressive internationalist, Pierre Trudeau’s government (1968-1984) sympathized with the apartheid regime not the black liberation movement or nascent Canadian solidarity groups. Throughout Trudeau’s time in office, Canadian companies were heavily invested in South Africa, enjoying the benefits of cheap black labour. In October 1982 the Trudeau government delivered 4.91 percent of the votes that enabled Western powers to gain a slim 51.9 percent majority in support of South Africa’s application for a billion-dollar IMF credit. Sixty-eight IMF members opposed the loan as did 121 countries in a nonbinding vote at the U.N. General Assembly. Five IMF executive directors said South Africa did not meet the standards of conditionality imposed on other borrowers. The Canadian minister of finance justified support for the IMF loan claiming that “the IMF must be careful … not to be accused of meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign states.” A few months later, Ottawa opposed IMF funding for Vietnam because of its occupation of Cambodia (largely to stop the Khmer Rouge’s killing).
Officially, the Trudeau government supported the international arms embargo against South Africa. But his government mostly failed to enforce it. As late as 1978 Canadian-government financed weapons continued to make their way to South Africa. Canadair (at the time a Crown company) sold the apartheid regime amphibious water bombers, which according to the manufacturer, were useful “particularly in internal troop-lift operations.” (The official buyer was the South African forestry department.) In the early 1970s the Montréal Gazette discovered that the RCMP trained South African police in “some sort of liaison or intelligence gathering” instruction.
Supporters of apartheid would say anything to slow opposition to this cruel system. At a 1977 Commonwealth meeting, Trudeau dodged press questions on post-Soweto South Africa suggesting that Idi Amin’s brutal regime in Uganda should be discussed along with southern Africa. For its part, the Globe and Mail argued in 1982 that “disinvestment would be unwittingly an ally of apartheid” since foreign investment brought progressive ideas.
After decades of protest by Canadian unions, churches, students and others, Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government finally implemented economic sanctions on South Africa in 1986. The Conservatives only moved after numerous other countries had already done so. “The record clearly shows”, notes Ambiguous Champion, “that the Canadian government followed rather than led the sanctions campaign.” Unlike Canada, countries such as Norway, Denmark New Zealand, Brazil and Argentina also cut off diplomatic ties to South Africa. Even U.S. sanctions, due to an activist Congress, were tougher than those implemented by Ottawa.
From October 1986 to September 1993, the period in which economic sanctions were in effect, Canada’s two-way trade with South Africa totaled $1.6 billion — 44 percent of the comparable period before sanctions (1979-1985). Canadian imports from South Africa averaged $122 million a year during the sanctions period.
Canada did business with the apartheid regime and opposed the liberation movements. Ottawa’s relationship with the African National Congress (ANC) was initially one of hostility and then ambivalence.
Canada failed to recognize the ANC until July 1984 and then worked to moderate their direction. In an August 1987 letter to the Toronto Star, Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Clark explained the government’s thinking: “Canada has been able to develop a relationship of trust with the … African National Congress that it is hoped has helped to strengthen the hand of black moderates.”
With apartheid’s end on the horizon, Ottawa wanted to guarantee that an ANC government would follow pro-capitalist policy, contrary to the wishes of many of its supporters. The man in charge of External Affairs’ South African Taskforce said that Ottawa wanted an early IMF planning mission to the country to ensure that the post-apartheid government would “get things right” from the start. One author noted: “The Canadian state has entered fully in the drive to open South Africa to global forces and to promote the interests of the private sector.”
Ottawa’s policy towards apartheid South Africa was controversial among Canadians. There was an active solidarity movement that opposed Canadian support for the racist regime and to the extent that Canadian politicians played a role in challenging South African apartheid it was largely due to their efforts.