The Ugly Canadian
Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy
For the first time in 60 years, Canada embarrassingly lost its 2010 bid for a seat at the United Nations Security Council. We lost because African, Arab and Muslim countries voted against us.
Our country was also denied participation in the newly formed Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, an economic and political bloc of more than 30 countries of Central and South America.
At the annual international climate change conferences, delegates have repeatedly voted to give Canada the Fossil Fool award because of our obstruction of the negotiations.
These are some of the many examples that Montreal author Yves Engler cites in his new book, The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.
Engler explains that it is the “Harper-led Conservative government’s militaristic and corporate-oriented foreign policy” that has led to Canada’s worsening international reputation since 2006.
The Ugly Canadian is an important update and expansion of Engler’s earlier work, The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy (Fernwood Publishing, 2009).
Using documents retrieved through access to information laws, embassy cables from WikiLeaks, scholarly articles and media sources, he pieces together a more complete and current picture of Canada’s foreign policy.
His thorough research reveals the pernicious political and economic motives behind the federal government’s actions around the world.
For example, in 2009, Canada delayed the debt forgiveness of Congo, one of the poorest countries on the African continent, to force it to give concessions to Canadian mining companies, such as Vancouver-based First Quantum Minerals.
On behalf of Barrick Gold and Bear Creek Mining, the federal government lobbied for the reform of mining laws in Chile and Peru to be more favourable to Canadian mining interests.
However, Engler explains how Canadian mining operations continuously displace communities, destroy ecosystems and provoke violence.
In 2009, indigenous people were killed protesting Canadian mine sites in Mexico and El Salvador. Yet, a year later, the federal government refused to pass the Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas Corporations in Developing Countries.
Last year, protesters in England presented Canada’s natural resource minister with an award for “greenwash propagandist of the year” after the minister gave a lecture promoting the Alberta oilsands at the London School of Economics.
Europeans are rightfully angry that Canadian officials have been lobbying to weaken their environmental regulations like the European Union Fuel Quality Directive.
With irony, Engler describes the double standards of Canada’s rebuke of Iran for its alleged nuclear program and our acceptance of Israel’s known nuclear arsenal. Our pro-Israeli stance led Canada to shamefully vote against allowing Palestine to become a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization last year. Over 100 countries voted to permit Palestine in UNESCO; Canada was one of only 14 to reject its membership.
The author further exposes the duplicity in our international policy. He explains how Canada’s claim to champion democracy internationally is made disingenuous by our support for the right-wing coups in Haiti, Honduras and Paraguay that overthrew populist leaders, and our arming of authoritarian regimes in Jordan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia against mass uprisings.
Engler is especially critical of Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan and our bombing of Libya that led to the death of innocent civilians and destruction of critical infrastructure. “We should be clear that foreign military interventions kill and that the Conservatives’ climate policy is devastating many of the world’s most vulnerable,” Engler writes.
The Ugly Canadian is an eye-opening account of how our country is no longer a respected middle power that truly values democracy, the environment and peace abroad.
To clean up our image and change course on our foreign policy, Engler believes that Canadians need to unite and take action. Engler proposes a countrywide campaign to “stop Harper’s crimes against humanity” and urges Canadians to get involved in local anti-war, green and solidarity organizations.
He concludes: “We absolutely need to shake Canadians from their complacency.”
Tamara Lorincz is a member of the Halifax Peace Coalition and the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace.
BOOK LAUNCH AND SIGNING: Thursday, 7-8:30 p.m., Burke Building Theatre B, Saint Mary’s University, 5932 Inglis St., Halifax; Friday, noon-1:30 p.m., Room 104, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, 6061 University Ave., Halifax; Friday, 7-8:30 p.m., Fables Club, 259 Main St., Tatamagouche.
For more information, visit www.cjmpe.org.
–The Chronicle Herald, Nov. 11, 2012
–by Tamara Lorincz