The latest book of Naomi Klein, the influential Toronto-based journalist, author and activist, may live up to its ambitious title “This Changes Everything”. In it, Klein turns her thorough, eye-opening brand of investigative journalism to the topic of climate change. The book is a surprising achievement for a mainstream author. Her call for a new grassroots movement to rise up and defeat neo-liberalism and halt climate change has been publicized on television and in book stores across Canada and around the world.
Immediately after two Canadian Forces soldiers were killed in separate incidents on October 20 and 22, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the assailants ‘terrorists’. Leader of the Official Opposition New Democratic Party, Tom Mulcair, disagreed, citing a blend of factors, psychological and political.
Harper seized on the gun fight in a hallway of Parliament, in which a deranged man with a rifle fell in a hail of police bullets, to step up his assault on civil liberties. Mulcair and the labour-based NDP opposed Harper’s words, but should oppose his direction on principle, not just on semantic grounds.
Against a backdrop of widespread grief for the dead soldiers and their families, Harper and the business media stoked the fires of patriotism, which spilled over into Islamophobic acts across the country.
The assailants, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau, recent converts to Islam, were not linked to ISIS. What is not known is whether they lashed out for political or personal reasons. Thus, their actions can be seen as an indictment of Canada’s faltering mental health care system. Or they can be cited as ‘blow-back’ from western military intervention in the Middle East. Or both.
In any event, the context of the attack on the soldiers, and the Conservative government’s rhetoric in response to it, reveal another crack in the myth that Canada is a peace-keeping state.
In early October, Prime Minister Stephen Harper commited fighter jets, pilots and ground crew to join the U.S.-led bombing campaign in war-torn Iraq and Syria. That came on the heels of 13 years of Canadian military intervention in Afghanistan, and Ottawa’s involvement in NATO wars in the former Yugoslavia, in the Persian Gulf, Libya, and Somalia. This is not to mention Harper’s brash support for the Israeli apartheid state, and for its brutal summer 2014 onslaught against the people of Gaza.
Conservative foreign policy makes many enemies at home and abroad, but individual attacks against military personnel on Canadian soil play directly into the hands of the capitalist rulers, fanning the flames of pro-war sentiment, racism and jingoism. Stephen Harper and his collaborators, by their engagement in military interventions in the East, have certainly outraged peoples there, fanning the flames of their discontent with the West. Every bomb dropped by Canadian, American and allied fighter jets on Iraq and Syria brings fresh recruits to ISIS.
And the context of intervention goes back much further.
In this centennial year of World War 1 it is timely to recall Canada’s contribution to the sad legacy of big power nationalism and imperialism as it continues to plague the peoples of the Middle East. Canada joined WWI at Britain’s behest to fight for the class interests of the Triple Entente rulers against those of the Central Powers. Arms producers became obscenely rich, while millions of workers died in trenches, at sea, and by aerial bombardment.
That conflagration was sparked by an assasination in Sarajevo that detonated an already tense situation. For the Arab and Kurdish peoples then living in the countries now under attack, it meant the drawing of artificial borders along lines beneficial to the British and French colonial powers. The foreign rulers called that infamous arrangement the Sykes-Picot Agreement. It is no surprise that the current prime target of the Western rulers, the Islamic State, pledges to abolish the borders imposd by Sykes-Picot.
Prime Minister Harper, in the wake of the Ottawa shootings, made an emotive speech that was broadcast live. In it, he condemned any and all who attack Canadian soldiers as somehow attacking all “Canadians as a free and democratic people”, and he doubled down on his “national security” plans. But one is hard pressed to recall the Prime Minister making such a hardline speech regarding the hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women. He continues to refuse to launch an inquiry into that ongoing tragedy.
In the face of Conservative plans to legislate U.S. Patriot Act-style infringements on civil liberties, progressive and working class people should stand up to the government and its insidious plans. We should expose the big lies – the false claims that the Canadian state has a duty or right to interfere militarily in the Middle East, that the Canadian Forces are serving to protect all, rather than uphold the interests of corporate Canada, and that we should accept the expansion of the surveillance state for our own good.
Instead, the streets should be filled with demonstrators demanding: Canada out of NATO! Ottawa, Washington, London and allies, Out of the Middle East!
Evan Engering is running in the municipal election in Mississauga wards 3 and 5. Read the campaign platform here
ELECT EVAN ENGERING
SOCIALIST ACTION – SCHOOL TRUSTEE CANDIDATE –
Mississauga WARDS 3 & 4
I am a student, labour activist and have been a resident of Mississauga for 24 years. My family has a long history of learning at, and working for the Peel District School Board. I care deeply about our public school system. From the fight against Bill 160 in the Conservative Mike Harris years, to the most recent dispute with the McGuinty/Wynne Liberal government, I have walked the picket line with teachers, defending their right to decent wages and collective bargaining. As a student, I have taken part in demonstrations in Ontario and Quebec in favour of free, quality post-secondary education for everyone.
This municipal election is full of liberals, conservatives, and other candidates who have no plans to change the status quo, or to make Mississauga a better place in which to live. With land development firms making bigger campaign contributions than any other entity – while public services shrink — it’s clear who’s calling the shots and who’s getting left behind.
The school trustee races are particularly lacking in policy platforms. Most candidates seem content to run on vague slogans and platitudes, rather than advance clear ideas, let alone good ones. This is why it is time for a change. We need real working class candidates to stand up for our public services and to offer a bold direction, to fight for radical change, to ensure that everyone is guaranteed free and equal access to quality public services.
For free secular public education, with one school system in English, and one in French. No public funding for religious, separate or private schools.
End standardized testing. End streaming of students into dead-end courses.
No cutbacks. No school closures.
For free collective bargaining for all education workers. For decent pay, benefits and job security for teachers, substitute teachers, hall monitors, lunch room attendants and school office staff.
Elimination of property tax on primary residences.
For steeply progressive taxation of land developers, big corporations and banks, religious institutions and the rich.
A new needs-based funding formula to cover the real costs of public education.
Smaller class sizes in every grade; more teachers and support staff.
Give students a greater range of subjects and make improvements in culture, arts, music, sports and environmental studies.
Increasing funding for Adult Education and English as a Second Language (ESL) program’s.
Voting rights in civic elections for permanent residents.
It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. But in the dark days of late capitalism we have learned one more thing. From the tall tales about murdered “incubator babies” and alleged “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, we know that even before a war is declared, the truth comes under withering assault.As Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sends fighter jets and troops to NATO bases in Poland, this becomes evident. After over 80% of the people in Crimea voted to rejoin Russia, western media and politicians went on a propaganda rampage, posing any argument they could imagine to de-legitimize the referendum. While Putin’s actions were heavy-handed, Russia was not alone in recognizing the validity of the vote. Many countries in the global South did. But the Western media played its usual role in trumpeting the claims that the election was held at “gunpoint”, ignoring the fact that Russian soldiers were already legally stationed in the region, by treaty, as they had been for years.
The most brazen display of Western hypocrisy came courtesy of political leaders after the vote in Crimea. Prime Minister Harper flew to Ukraine in March for the purpose of expressing support for the new Ukrainian government and to shake his fist at Russia. Even after flying there and back, Canadian politicians and media were silent on the ultra-nationalist character of the new regime in Kiyiv.
Taking advantage of folks with a short memory, Harper did a double about-face. Late last year he visited Israel. Even writers at the right wing Sun newspapers and the National Post expressed their loathing to hear the tired old argument that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. Of course, the ongoing illegal and expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank were not mentioned. Fast forward to Harper’s recent visit to Ukraine. Suddenly his viewpoint is reversed: annexation of another country or region is instantly outrageous, whereas anti-Semitism (this time not from the dark crevices, but from the junior partner in the ruling coalition government in Kijiv) is ignored. If Harper were a man of democratic principles, such cognitive dissonance would make him dizzy!
The Ukrainian Jewish community was shamelessly used by US Secretary of State John Kerry. A distributed leaflet, purportedly from the “pro-Russian” group, the Donetsk People’s Republic, ordered all Jews in the area to surrender their money and register themselves. But the document was a fraud. Despite Kerry’s fast and furious condemnation of the document, nobody claimed authorship for this supposedly public edict.
Again, Kerry has no known history of speaking out against the actual proven racism of Svoboda or any other pro-Maidan fascists. He does, however, have a history of speaking out against a foreign adventure that was started and waged under a US president from the Democratic Party. Kerry served in the Vietnam war under US President Lyndon B Johnson and, upon his return to the US, joined the anti-war movement as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Now that he is in a position of influence and power, like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon, he has metamorphosed from anti-war activist to imperialist war hawk.Fortunately for Harper and Kerry, they can maintain these positions and contradict them freely, for it is clear as day that their actions are not motivated by principle or respect for international law at all, but by crude geo-political strivings for power and profit abroad. Unfortunately for Canada, the media’s rabid focus on Putin’s wrongdoings have blown the situation out of proportion. While condemnation of his oligarchical regime is justified, it is no reason to take our own government’s sabre-rattling rhetoric at face value.
Canadians who are outraged Russia’s actions, but were not so opposed to Canada’s presence in Afghanistan, or who don’t mind Ottawa’s role in NATO, should be mindful of the narrative they are being sold by politicians and media. Canada just happens to be on one side of the geo-political divide. Russia is on the other. Considering that this whole situation started with protests against the refusal of Yanukovich to accept a deal with the EU, and that the US (which is no objective party to any conflict in the world) has picked a side, there is no reason to believe this is anything other then an inter-imperialist conflict. We should be calling for NATO to pull back; and for the US to stop funding the ultra-nationalist, rightist regime in Kiyiv. Neither intervention from Russia or Western forces is needed, but for Ukraine to exercise its sovereignty through democratic elections – and to allow its regions more autonomy, outright independence, or if they wish, to choose merger with Russia.