B’nai B’rith Smear Campaign Protest (Aug 29, Toronto)

My name is Elizabeth Byce.  I am the federal treasurer of the NDP Socialist Caucus.  For thirty years I was an active member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.  At the national convention of the CUPW in 1998 I was the delegate who moved the motion to have CUPW endorse the global campaign in solidarity with the people of Palestine and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Zionist apartheid state.  That motion was adopted almost unanimously by the 700 delegates present.  It was an act of internationalism.  It was an act of working class solidarity against racism, occupation and murder.  The BDS campaign is global.  It is much stronger than it was 20 years ago, and it is growing fast on every continent.  That is why Israel and its Zionist apologists are desperate to portray BDS as anti-Semitic.  That claim is a lie which cannot conceal the crimes of Zionism.  Nor can it divert us from our duty of solidarity with the victims of occupation, the Palestinian people.

Recently, B’nai B’rith Canada launched a smear campaign against the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. As a result, CUPW has become the latest victim in a long list of smear campaigns launched by B’nai Brith Canada to silence human rights defenders who expose Israeli violations of international law.  But as you can see, we shall not be silenced, and we shall not be moved.  We will win the NDP and more unions to a principled stand against Israeli apartheid.  “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

My name is Barry Weisleder and I am pleased to speak on behalf of Socialist Action in solidarity with the CUPW and against deplorable smear tactics.  History is full of ironies.  The so-called Jewish Defense League, which is shouting threats at us today and that calls CUPW and Palestinians terrorists, is itself banned in Israel and the USA as a terrorist organization.  I want to mention one more irony.

B’nai B’rith was founded in New York‘s Lower East Side in 1843, by 12 German Jewish immigrants. It was a working class movement that organized Jews of the local community to confront what Isaac Rosenbourg, one of the founders, called “the deplorable condition of Jews in this, our newly adopted country”. It performed the traditional functions of Jewish societies in Europe: “Visiting and attending the sick” and “protecting and assisting the widow and the orphan.”  B’nai B’rith, which means “sons of the covenant”, established a Lodge in Toronto in 1875.  But with the discovery of oil in the Middle East, and with the backing of the Zionist project by British and French imperialism, and later by American imperialism, B’nai B’rith became a cheerleader for the Occupation of Palestine and for ethnic cleansing.  Bourgeois Jewish organizations continue this regression into mouthpieces for an Apartheid state.  In 2011 the Canadian Jewish Congress dissolved into the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs.  In an ugly irony of history, the Jewish establishment and imperialism have turned the Palestinians into the Jews of the Middle East.  As Leon Trotsky explained in the 1930s, Zionism creates a death trap for the Jews, fostering anti-Semitism worldwide.  Increasingly, the Zionists are out of touch with their own supposed base.  A fast-growing minority of Jews are non-Zionist, or anti-Zionist.  This new political reality is the cause of desperation in the ranks of the reactionaries, so they lash out against great organizations, like the CUPW, which had the courage to be among the first supporters of the global boycott campaign.  The labels ‘terrorism’ and racism apply to Israel, not to CUPW.  A new feature of the constitution of Israel proves this again.

The “Jewish Nation-State Law”, adopted by the Knesset just weeks ago, declares Israel to be the “nation-state of the Jewish people”.  It enshrines Hebrew as the only official language.  It permits the creation and protection of “Jewish only communities’, and it directs the Supreme Court to refer to “Jewish tradition’ in rendering some decisions.  Non-Jews are officially relegated to second class status.  Apartheid practices are entrenched in Israel’s Basic Law, which since 1951 is the constitution of the Zionist state.  If any further proof of the racist character of the colonial settler state was required, this is it.

Socialists are here, not only to defend CUPW, but to support BDS, to demand the Right of Return of all refugees, to end the siege of Gaza, to tear down the Apartheid wall, and to advance the only solution to the present crisis, a Democratic and Secular Palestine.  “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

The reprehensible link between Peter Munk, U of T, and Canadian foreign policy

by Pitasanna Shanmugathas*

On March 28, the death of Peter Munk, a U of T alum, produced a wave of remembrance and praise from mainstream media and the university alike.

Randall Hansen, U of T professor and interim director of the Munk School of Global Affairs, praised Munk as “a proud Canadian” and a “patriot in the best sense of the word.” U of T President Meric Gertler referred to Munk — the founder of the world’s largest gold mining company, Barrick Gold — as “one Canada’s most daring and successful entrepreneurs.”

However, all this praise largely overlooked the human rights abuses, environmental crimes, and corporate tax evasion committed by Barrick Gold. This is almost certainly due to Peter Munk’s enormous financial contributions to the University of Toronto.

Munk’s money and its influence

The Munk Centre for International Studies was established at the University of Toronto in 2000 with an initial $6.4 million donation from Peter Munk. This included a stipulation that the Centre would receive advice from Barrick’s international advisory board. The advisory board included then-US President George Bush and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

In 2010, University of Toronto announced the opening of its new School of Global Affairs, partly the result of a $35 million donation from Peter Munk and his wife, Melanie. The donation came with an agreement between U of T and Munk, stipulating that Munk would have the power to shape priorities, in place of faculty and students, and even to potentially shape academic work at the university.

The agreement increased fear among U of T students that Munk’s affiliation with the university could push the university to pursue a right-wing agenda and even curtail academic freedom. It is a fear that persists to this day.

One right-wing policy pursued by the Munk School is its support of the Harper government’s conflict with Iran, which the Munk School has continued to support under Justin Trudeau.

In 2012, after the Canadian government cut diplomatic ties and designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, the Department of Foreign Affairs gave $250,000 in public money to the Munk School’s initiative, Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran, an initiative designed to incite opposition to the Iranian regime.

In 2015, the Department of Foreign Affairs gave the Munk School’s Digital Public Square $9 million dollars to expand the anti-Iran initiative.

With respect to stifling academic freedom, in 2013, Munk School Director Janice Stein, along with former Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, were accused by a coalition of Iranian-Canadian community groups of stifling academic debate by attempting to sideline critics of Harper’s policy on Iran.

On July 1, 2018, the Munk School of Global Affairs and the School of Public Policy merged to become the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. The union of these two institutions is indicative of the degree to which the financial-academic nexus engineered by Munk has been successful.

As a result, Canada’s most influential global studies program, the brainchild of the mining magnate who had a personal investment in a particular foreign policy, will work even more actively to advocate policies shaped in Munk’s hard-right image.

Munk’s effect on Canadian policy

It is incumbent upon students at U of T to oppose the university’s ongoing endorsement and praise of Munk, whose mining company has committed horrendous human rights and environmental abuses in practically every continent. Furthermore, students must insist that the Canadian government stop supporting Canadian mining companies that commit such abuses.

Munk had a vested interest in preventing any actions by the Canadian government which would result in the withdrawal of diplomatic and financial support for Canadian mining companies.

As Executive Director of the Munk Centre in 2007, Marketa Evans helped spawn the Devonshire Initiative, which Canadian foreign policy critic and author Yves Engler asserts worked to undermine a government civil society roundtable that called for “withholding government financial and political support to resource [mining] companies found responsible for major abuses abroad.”

After immense pressure, the Mining Association of Canada agreed to 27 recommendations urging the government to monitor and address both human rights concerns and the environmental effects of Canadian companies operating in other countries. However, Munk opposed the position of the Mining Association of Canada and successfully lobbied the Conservatives to reject the recommendations.

In 2010, when a bill in Parliament that called for withholding some diplomatic and financial support to abusive mining companies was narrowly defeated, Munk wrote a letter published in the Toronto Star to support the MPs who voted against it and sided with the mining industry.

During the 2015 election, the Liberals claimed that they had “long been fighting for transparency, accountability and sustainability in the mining sector,” yet they have thus far failed to do so. Instead, individuals like the Liberals’ Canadian High Commissioner for Tanzania, Ian Myles, have praised Barrick as being committed to standards of fairness and corporate social responsibility.

Sakura Saunders, co-editor of the anti-Munk website ProtestBarrick.net, asserted that Peter Munk’s Barrick Gold is “leveraging the reputation of the university to avoid government regulation on mining abuses.”

Munk in Africa

Presently, the biggest example of Canadian exploitation on the continent of Africa is in the mining sector, according to the book “Canada in Africa” by Yves Engler. Canadian mining companies are active in 43 different African countries — displacing farmers and communities, employing forced labor, devastating ecosystems and carrying out human rights violations, all while Canadian mining companies like Barrick Gold bribe officials and evade paying taxes.

Barrick Gold’s North Mara mine in Tanzania has displaced thousands of artisanal miners, peasant farmers and their families since their operations began in 2001. In early 2016, a government report discovered that since 2006, Barrick Gold security and police had killed 65 people and injured 270 at North Mara. In addition, Tanzanian human rights groups estimate that there have been more than 300 mine-related deaths.

In addition, despite having a record of being Tanzania’s top gold producer, Barrick has consistently declared losses in order to pay minimal corporate tax. Due to the fact that Barrick Gold has many subsidiaries, including ones in infamous tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and Barbados, this poses a challenge to Tanzanian tax collectors to calculate what taxes were owed.

In 2016, a Tanzanian tribunal ruled that Barrick failed to pay any corporate taxes to the Tanzanian government between 2010 to 2013, while giving over $400 million dollars to its US shareholders. Yet Munk, who founded this company, is a man the University of Toronto praises as “generous.”

The Canadian government played a direct role in overthrowing democratically elected leaders in foreign countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Haiti, and in the post-coup environments, Canadian mining companies ended up benefiting. In the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1961, Canada helped United Nations military forces overthrow the first democratically elected leader, Patrice Lumumba.

Since the coup, companies like Barrick Gold have looted mineral resources.  In a 2002 report, Barrick Gold was found to have signed mining agreements with militias fighting in eastern Congo, who were known to have murdered hundreds of civilians. Of 29 mining multinationals that a 2001 UN report accuses of stealing resources from the Congo, eight are based in Canada.

Munk in Papua New Guinea and Chile

Munk’s egregious record is not limited to Africa. In Papua New Guinea, Barrick Gold owns nearly half of the Porgera gold mine. Hundreds of women have been sexually assaulted by Barrick Gold employees near the mine. To this matter, in 2011, Peter Munk responded in a The Globe and Mail interview that “gang rape is a cultural habit” in Papua New Guinea.

In addition, Barrick police and security guards have killed innocent villagers, wounded hundreds; the working conditions in the mines have resulted in thousands of the low wage miners enduring serious injuries. The mine caused significant ecological destruction with 40,000 tonnes of waste dumped into the area’s main river every day.

When the Canadian government continued to support Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile through his worst atrocities, Munk had strong praise for Pinochet. In response to allegations of Pinochet’s human rights abuses, Munk responded that Pinochet’s jailing of an enormous number of people was justified due to the wealth Pinochet produced — even though the wealth went to wealthy elites, including Munk, who benefited from Pinochet’s corporate tax exemptions.

Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama Mine in Chile was among the world’s most controversial mining projects — with Barrick’s exploration activities having depleted glaciers, resulting in a shortage of water, dispossessing Indigenous people, and polluting rivers. Despite protests from Chileans, Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007 visited Barrick Gold’s office in Chile and said that “Barrick follows Canadian standards of corporate social responsibility.” Harper was greeted with signs from anti-mining activists, reading “Harper go home” and “Canada: What’s HARPERing here?”

The need for reform

The University of Toronto must stop associating itself with Munk who exhibited, in his career as a mining magnate, blatant disregard for human rights and sustainability, and whose mining company evaded paying taxes to various foreign governments after looting their natural resources.

As far as reforms are concerned, Engler believes that the natural resources of exploited countries should be under the control of local communities and governments. Foreign corporations should not be extracting those resources.

Canada should not be undercutting the independent policies of foreign nations by tying its aid money to countries pursuing economic reforms enabling Canadian mining companies to take control.

In the immediate term, the Canadian government must make a commitment, preferably in the form of robust legislation, that it will not provide support to any Canadian mining company found in violation of human rights abroad.

By writing letters and petitioning key individuals within the University of Toronto, students can put pressure on the university to disassociate itself from Munk and the Munk Foundation in order to halt the university’s academic institutions from continuing to support human rights violations and neocolonialism.

* Pitasanna Shanmugathas graduated in June 2018 as a Political Science and Criminology student at the University of Toronto.

Book Review: Seven Fallen Feathers, Racism, Death and Hard Times in a Northern City

Seven Fallen Feathers, Racism, Death and Hard Times in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga. (312 pages, Anansi Press, 2018) — a book review by Judy Koch.

This is an historical novel about indigenous youth and the education system that they endured in Canada between the nineteenth and the twenty-first century. It shows how residential schools and post-residential schools affected them — the background of those institutions, and how many children died in them. It tells the story of the Nishwabee Aski Nation of Thunder Bay and northern Ontario.

The book begins with a quote from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. “Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practises that allow the … to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, Spiritual practises are forbidden and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed, and most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next. In its dealings with aboriginal people Canada did all these things”.

The treatment of Indigenous people in Canada was seen by the architects of apartheid in South Africa as a guide.

Thunder Bay, where the children went to high school, is a city of two solitudes. Port Arthur is white. Fort William is Indigenous. Port Arthur is on the north shore and has many two-story brick houses with a beautiful view of Lake Superior.

Fort William is staunchly working class with small bungalows or two-story homes, many in dire need of repairs. Most have pickup trucks in front. The Kaministiqua River meanders through both parts of Thunder Bay. There are many industries in Fort William, including two generating stations owned by Ontario Power. There is the Resolute Forest Products mill. Logging trucks keep coming and going. There is also a Bombardier Assembly plant which makes streetcars. In 2009 the City Hall opened. Many buses come here. In 2014 the Courthouse opened. It is almost one city block and six stories high. It has signs in English, French and Objibwe. There are also many tall grain elevators.

Aboriginal people live on the outskirts of the town. Their houses often lack proper heating and plumbing.

In 1870 the Sisters off St. Joseph opened a Catholic Orphanage. Many aboriginal girls were admitted and the place soon accepted boys since the place got money for each child admitted. It became the St. Joseph Indian Residential School or the Fort William Indian Residential School. In 1907 it moved to a new location.

There were seventeen residential schools in Ontario. Aboriginal students were expected to come to these schools according to the Indian Act of 1867, passed under the government of Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald.  The RCMP and truant officers brought native children to these schools. The buildings were in terrible condition. Many were overcrowded and often filthy. Plumbing was often faulty. The washrooms, the water in the washbowls, the floors were filthy. There were cockroaches, offensive odours, and no money for repairs.

Children were poorly clothed and lacked adequate nutrition. At the Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School in Round Lake, near Kenora, the children ate vegetables three times a week, fruit two times a week, candy three times a week and had lard at all meals. In another school there were experiments done on supplements, without the consent of the children or their parents. They were not given proper medical care when they got sick. Thousands died. Many children were sexually abused, both by teachers and older children. Thousands ran away.

After the residential schools were closed down the replacement schools were often substandard. They lacked science labs, gymnasiums and libraries. Many Indigenous children came from the reserves where there the houses were substandard and so was the food and clothing. They often have to boil water. The houses often lack electricity. Many natives have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and dental problems. They don’t have hospitals, fire departments or functional schools. Schools on the reserves end at grade eight.  When students went away to complete their education they never had seen stop lights or buses and were thus unprepared for life in big cities. Many became alcoholics. 

The book tells the story of seven of these children: Jethro Anderson, Curran Strong, Paul Panachese, Robyn Harper, Reggie Bushy, Kyle Morisseau and Jordan Wabase. All of them had similar, tragic endings. 

One of these youths, Jordan Wabase, went missing February 7, 2011.  He did not show up for supper that night or phone to say that he would be late. He did not show up for hockey practices. He also did not call his girlfriend. He was last seen by friends at 9:30 p.m. on the city bus. He got off to go to his boarding house. He had been drinking. The last image of Jordan was on Thunder Bay transit video footage at 10:00 p.m. 

Jordan’s boarding house parents called the police on Feb. 8 to report him missing. On February 11 an article about Jordan appeared in the Chronicle Journal. 

The Thunder Bay Emergency Task Unit did a ground search for him that day. They did not issue an amber alert, which they normally do for missing aboriginal youth. The next day they made missing person’s posters. 

On February 13 a community search team went looking for him. They found a baseball cap and footsteps in the river snow. The Nishnawbe Indigenous Police force was contacted. The Ontario Provincial Police divers combed the river for two days but found nothing. The Cat Lake search team found his right running shoe. In May, Jordan’s body was found by the Thunder Bay police. A friend of Jordan’s, Ariana Rollin was told that a man, Steven Cole, had a fight with Jordan and pushed him into the river. He denied this when he was interviewed by the police. The file on Jordan’s death assembled by the Thunder Bay Police was marked ‘accidental”.

The police did not take the deaths of these seven youths seriously. The coroner’s reports were destroyed soon after they were done, denying closure to relatives.  However, the local aboriginal circle has a yearly memorial walk to remember residential schools and how it affected the children. Every September 30 Indigenous people from across Canada gather at the Fort William City Hall and walk to the residential school. It is important never to forget what happened there.  A national holiday, soon to be declared by Ottawa, in consultation with the Assembly of First Nations, will honour survivors and their families.

Sir John A. Macdonald: 5 Frightening Facts About Canada’s First Prime Minister

The mayor and city council in Victoria, British Columbia voted to remove a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from the entrance to their City Hall. Indigenous people and anti-racists celebrated. Conservatives, however, are upset, labeling the move “erasing history.”  But what is history?  Is it only by and for the ruling elite?  The rise of Idle No More, Black Lives Matter, and a growing working class self-awareness, are forcing recognition of the ugly past, and demanding the inclusion of facts that promote a freer future, shorn of illusions in the Canadian state.

Macdonald was not shy about his support for the pro-slavery side in the American Civil War.

On the 200th birthday of Sir John A. Macdonald, January 11, 2015, CBC personality Shelagh Rogers shared her thoughts online:

“In the spirit of educational awareness in ways not taught in school, here are some buried frightening facts about the first PM, #SirJAM.

1. During the American Civil War (1861 to 1865), Montreal served as refuge to Confederates — southern Americans who wanted to keep slavery and secede from the United States union. The Southern slavers found a friend in John A. Macdonald.

From historian Stanley Ryerson, author of “Unequal Union”, we learn of the political sympathies towards the southern Confederacy of John A. Macdonald. Macdonald was the hired advocate for an organization of vigilantes committed to “peace” through support for the South. One of these Copperhead conspirators, a man named Headley […], set fire to a dozen large hotels in November of 1864, hoping to create panic in the North and divert military efforts. In his memoirs, Headley writes:

‘At the suggestion of Col. Thompson (the chief Confederate Commissioner) it was deemed advisable that we retain Hon. John Macdonald as counsel in the event of a requisition, as he is friendly to our cause and was regarded as a very eminent lawyer. One evening…we rode in a sleigh to the residence of Mr. Macdonald in the suburbs of Toronto. He greeted us cordially and we discussed our case fully until a late hour. The arrangement was made and a retainer fee was paid the following day. But it happened that the time never arrived when his services were required.’ (Ryerson, 1983: 334-35).

Macdonald was not shy about his wish for the pro-slavery side to win the Civil War. When speaking at a banquet, Macdonald made a point of lauding “the gallant defence that is being made by the Southern Republic” (Ryerson, 1983: 335).

For John A. Macdonald, Canada was to be the country that restored a pure Aryan race to its past glory.

2. John A. Macdonald may have named Canada a “confederation” in deference to the Southern Confederates with whom he sympathized. According to research by Professor A. Bakan of Queen’s University:

Stanley Ryerson notes that even the unusual designation of the new Canadian state as a ‘Confederation’ may be suggestive of sympathy with the southern states in the US Civil War. The term itself, he maintains, is a misnomer. The ‘confederacy’ refers a union of states which delegate authority to a central government of limited sovereignty; while a federal government indicates a state that is fully sovereign, and the constituent bodies have limited authority. Ryerson cites W.P.M. Kennedy’s The Constitution of Canada, where it is suggested that in the debates in 1865 leading to Canada’s confederation, the terms “federation” and “confederation” were deliberately used without clear definition. The aim of the advocates was to confuse and camouflage the contentious issue, and in so doing, ensure consent.” (Ryerson, 1983: 443).

Regarding the invention of “confederation” as a term applied to the Canadian federal dominion state, Ryerson muses: “[W]as it derived from a politician’s instinct to steal something from the Opposition or from the well-known Tory sympathy with the Southern Confederacy?” (1983: 371).

The founding party of the Canadian state was a strong ally of the most racist section of the global elite of the day. (Mayers, 2003).

3. John A. Macdonald was a Sinophobe, according to Timothy J. Stanley’s research.

In 1885, PM Macdonald told the House of Commons that, if the Chinese were not excluded from Canada, “the Aryan character of the future of British America should be destroyed.” This was the precise moment in the histories of Canada and the British dominions when Macdonald personally introduced race as a defining legal principle of the state.

Macdonald justified taking the vote away from anyone “of Mongolian or Chinese race” in the Electoral Franchise Act — he called it “my greatest achievement.”

4. John A. Macdonald was way more racist than his contemporaries.

For John A. Macdonald, Canada was to be the country that restored a pure Aryan race to its past glory. Lest it be thought that Macdonald was merely expressing the prejudices of the age, it should be noted that his were among the most extreme views of his era. According to Timothy J. Stanley’s research, he was the only politician in the parliamentary debates to refer to Canada as “Aryan” and to justify legalized racism on the basis not of alleged cultural practices but on the grounds that “Chinese” and “Aryans” were separate species.

5. John A. Macdonald’s policies of forced starvation helped clear First Nations from the prairies in order to build the railway, according to James Daschuk of University of Regina. An excerpt from his book, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation and the Loss of Aboriginal Life:

For years, government officials withheld food from aboriginal people until they moved to their appointed reserves, forcing them to trade freedom for rations. Once on reserves, food placed in ration houses was withheld for so long that much of it rotted while the people it was intended to feed fell into a decades-long cycle of malnutrition, suppressed immunity and sickness from tuberculosis and other diseases. Thousands died.”

Not mentioned above is the Pacific Railway Scandal of 1872. Macdonald and 150 members of his Conservative government were famously bribed by Sir Hugh Allen, head of the railway syndicate.  Unstated is Macdonald’s role in the hanging of Louis Riel, the Metis rebel leader.  Or how Macdonald first gained public office by buying votes with liquor.  Or that he frequently neglected his duties due to his chronic alcoholism.  Sir John A. was an architect of the genocidal Residential School system that stole thousands of Indigenous children from their families, leading many to appalling physical and sexual abuse, malnutrition and death.  The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario is asking that Macdonald’s name be removed from schools. 

Does this racist, corrupt drunkard deserve to be honoured as a ‘founding father’, or should he be exposed for his genocidal policies, exposed for his unwavering service to the corporate elite?  No, do not destroy the statues of John A. They belong in museums, adorned by plaques that tell the whole sordid story of the founding of the Canadian colonial settler state.

 

–BW

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