Book Reviews


Yves Engler- The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Mr  Engler is a Montrealer of Jewish descent who gained some notoriety by being connected to a protest against the appearance of Benjamin Netanyahu at  Concordia University on September 9, 2002. The planned speech by Netanyahu was interrupted by demonstrators and resulted in the removal of Engler from his position as VP of the students union by a student tribunal on the grounds of “vexatious conduct.”

Engler views his task as that of disabusing Canadians of their conviction that we are a force for good in the world, that we play a positive role, that we are well liked around the planet. He lists a very large number of countries where our government, and sometimes our military, acted in the interests of either the British colonial power or the US Empire or Canadian banks and mining companies. There are eight chapters and each is followed by at least a hundred footnotes. He has a bibliography of about three hundred books as well.

Haiti became a target of the “policy to protect” doctrine of the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien. At a meeting Meech lake on January 31 and February 1, 2003 between France, the US and Canada it was decided that the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide “must go”. On February 29, 2004 our JTF2 troops secured the airport from which Aristide was deported to the Central African Republic by US Marines. In the 22 months following his overthrow there were 8,00 murders and 35,000 rapes with half of the killings committed by governmental or anti-Aristide forces. The Haitian police were particularly brutal and our soldiers and police trainers often supported them. We supplied tens of millions of dollars of aid to the installed government, paid the salary of the Justice Minister, built a police academy for $25 million and contracted training of the police to a private company for another $15 million. The police commanders all have a military background and with the Haitian National Police now under the control of the nation’s elites, democratic processes are going to be scarce, as subsequent fraudulent elections proved.

To the question as to why we helped to remove Aristide, Engler states that it was to “make good with Washington”. He quotes Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham: “Foreign  Affairs view was there is a limit to how much we can constantly say no to the political masters in Washington. All we had was Afghanistan to wave. On every other file we are offside. Eventually we came onside on Haiti, so we got another arrow in our quiver.” Engler also asserts that the doubling  of the Haitian minimum wage from the equivalent of one dollar to two was opposed by domestic and international capital which used Haiti’s low wages as a club to beat back wage increases in other Latin countries. A Canadian garment manufacturer was particularly pleased that his 8,000 workers were brought under control.    

As in Haiti so in the Dominican Republic where Lyndon Johnson landed 23,000 US Marines to prevent the freely elected President, Juan Bosch from taking power. Two years earlier Bosch had shown too much accommodation with leftists and was removed by the military. Lester Pearson  told Parliament that “the United States government has intervened in the Dominican Republic for the protection of its own citizens and those of other countries.” A Canadian warship was sent to Santo Domingo by Paul Hellyer “in case it was required.” Pearson expressed concern for the assets of Falconbridge Nickel and the Royal and Nova Scotia banks as well. After Bosch was removed and replaced by the US backed Joaquin Balaguer government, Dominican troops were used to remove

union organizers and supporters from the mine, to break up union meetings, to beat up some workers and arrest others. The President of Falconbridge openly expressed his gratitude to Balaguer. The anti –union activities continued in this, the largest foreign in vestment in the nation.

On Cuba Engler describes the large operations of our banks for decades preceding the Batista regime.  Diefenbaker backed the Bay of Pigs invasion and said that the events in Cuba were “manifestations of a dictatorship which is abhorrent to free men everywhere.” Our relations with Castro were maintained at the urging of the US because they felt that Canada would be well positioned to gather intelligence on the island. In the missile crisis of 1963 our supply of military information was especially useful. 

The chapter on Central and South America details similar Canadian behaviour in Mexico, Guyana, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Brazil, Chile, Columbia and Venezuela. This last nation is a continuing target of the US and for this reason Canada made no comment about the attempted coup in April, 2002 which was condemned by all Latin nations. We favour Columbia even though its human rights record is atrocious. In the recent military overthrow of the democratically elected president of Honduras (not mentioned in the book), the US did not challenge the military and we went along.

Canada’s peacekeeping reputation was formed in 1957 when Lester Pearson came to the aid of our allies, Britain, France and the US who were in dispute over the invasion of Egypt by the former two with the aid of Israel, an attack repudiated by Eisenhower who saw it as an opening for Soviet influence in the middle-east. Our government did not disagree with the obviously illegal invasion which was, at least partly, intended to reclaim the Suez Canal. Prime Minister Louis St Laurent said: “The Egyptian action introduced a threat to the trade on which the economic life of many countries depends.” The UN force allowed a face saving exit by Britain and France and patched up a dispute between NATO members but also prevented Nasser from carrying out nationalistic reforms. When, ten years later the UNEF was asked to leave, the UN secretary General agreed but Ottawa objected. Paul Martin, Secretary of State for External Affairs, argued that “in giving its consent to the establishment of the force the Egyptian government accepted a limitation of its sovereignty and that it is now the prerogative of the United Nations rather than the UAR(Egyptian) government to determine when the United Nations force has completed its task.”   A world-wide campaign, led by the US and Britain,  tried to overturn the UN decision to withdraw, this in spite of the fact that Egyptian agreement was necessary in the first instance for its entry.

In the current war with Iraq, although we did not, nominally, participate, our exchange military personnel were allowed to fight. It is also reported that JTF2 was active in Iraq and members of JTF2 also left to join private security contractors. Ambassador Paul Cellucci  said  “Ironically, the Canadians indirectly provide more support for us in Iraq  than most of those 46 countries that are fully supporting us. It’s  kind of an odd situation.”

Engler has an excellent review of the part played by Pearson, an avowed Zionist and  by Supreme Court Justice Ivan Rand in the UN decision to partition Palestine. He suspects the decision was, at least in part, urged by the desire to find a home, other than Canada, for the displace Jews of Europe. A second motive was to have a western outpost in the middle-east. The earlier notions of a federated State of Palestine with some semblance of democracy, was abandoned and the fate of almost a million displaced Palestinians was not a concern to Canada, which it is not to this day.

As with South America, he also describes our activities in Asia- China, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Korea, Philippines, India, Mongolia and Afghanistan.

Another chapter looks at the African countries where we were players- Congo, Nigeria, Ghana,  Tanzania, South Africa, Niger, Sudan, Algeria and Somalia. Using Preston’s book as a reference, he mentions the fact that in the late nineteenth century Britain offered one military commission annually to the Royal Military College;  Sergeant HC Freer  served with distinction in Britain’s quest to control Egypt. Other ex-cadets were helping out with railway construction, commanded an artillery division for General Smuts, and commanded Royal Engineers in West Africa. Another ex-cadet, William Stairs from Halifax, led a mission of 1,950 men to capture the Katanga mining region for the Belgian King Leopold II. Stairs was an extreme racist whose barbarity is self-exposed in a diary in which he noted: “this morning I cut off the heads of two [Wasangora] men [we shot last night] and placed them on poles one at each exit from the bush into the plantation.” He later wrote: “every male native capable of using the bow [and arrow] is shot, this of course we must do. All the children and women are taken as slaves by our men to do work in the camps.” Canadian Senator WJ MacDonald moved “a parliamentary resolution expressing satisfaction for Stair’s manly conduct.” Britain preferred that  Belgium and its king control the Congo rather than France which explains Stairs work with Leopold II. 

His section on Afghanistan reveals the extent of private sector business in this operation. The contracts are all cost plus three percent administration plus one percent profit plus an eligibility for an eight percent performance enhancement fee. The base at Kandahar is  a joint SNC-US based PAE ten year contract for $700 million. CIDA is spending very large amounts on other private companies doing a variety of civil construction tasks. This war has been an opportunity to spend huge un-tendered amounts for various types of hardware whose need was “urgent”,  from tanks to large lift helicopters and planes.

As a personal note, I asked Laurie Hawn, Peter MacKay’s Parliamentary secretary, why we were buying some particular helicopter for delivery in 2013 when we would no longer be in Afghanistan. He replied with some quite irrelevant quip.

Militarization is now a fact in Canada as it has been in the US since the Korean War. Manson’s article in the Toronto Star is now instructing  us to listen to what the elites tell us.  He writes in the form of  FAQ’s (a common trick to avoid embarrassing questions and to preset the agenda) but nowhere does he say what this piece of machinery designed in the 80’s to counter Soviet radar is going to be used for by us.  What future enemy will possess the sophisticated radar systems this plane can escape? Nor does he say what other machines have been evaluated. He claims that the F-18’s will have serious structural problems by 2017 yet this is a metal plane as is the still flying seventy year old DC-3, the fifty year old B-52 and the similar aged Russian Bear (with propeller engines and our number one worry). No mention that the JTF has an operating radius of 1,100 km and will need aerial refuelling, that its payload is small, that most of the cost is for features of no use to us, that the carbon fibre composite construction is easily degraded by sunlight. 

 His piece is a lecture from an elite possessing superior knowledge and experience and our duty is to accept the addition of another twenty billion to our debt without a whimper. It would be less galling to hear this from someone who has not lived off the taxpayer all his life. And I guess it is too much to expect from those who feel a sense of entitlement to reflect on the fact that it is rather unseemly to be so openly self-serving. 

Emil Bizon


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