New Canadian Media

Commentary by Phil Gurski in Ottawa

Have you been following the tortuous twists and turns surrounding the brutal torture, killing and apparent dismemberment of Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2? Can you make sense of all the claims and counterclaims? Do you know who ‘did’ the deed? If you answer yes to all these questions, please step to the head of the class.

Here is what we do know. Mr. Khashoggi visited the consulate to get some paperwork done for his upcoming marriage to Hatice Cengiz, who waited for her beloved outside. He never exited. The Saudis claimed, in chronological order that he a) left the consulate (somehow avoiding his fiancee), b) they do not know where he is, c) he was killed following a fight at the consulate, d) ‘rogue elements’ were behind the killing and e) no one senior back in Riyadh knew about or ordered the assassination. Well, it turns out that a), b), probably c), d) and now e) are all falsehoods.

The Washington Post reported that the CIA on Friday had concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month, contradicting the Saudi government’s claims that he was not involved in the killing, according to people familiar with the matter. This is important as intelligence agencies do not normally issue such statements publicly, as this can expose sources and/or methods and that is a no-no in the intelligence world. We can debate for ever why they did this – are there ‘rogue elements’ in the CIA? – but in the end it is significant and is one more confirmation of what many have been saying for weeks anyway, i.e. that the orders to kill Mr. Khashoggi came from the very top. For its part, the European Union has asked the Saudis to ‘shed clarity’ on what happened.

So that’s that then, right? Case closed. Not so fast.  The Saudis shockingly (not) have denied the CIA assessment and President Trump has equally shockingly (not)said he has not made his mind up yet, since he was personally told by his Saudi cronies that MBS was not involved, preferring to wait a few days for his administration to issue a ‘full report’.  Saudi-friendly media have also written that the US has yet to reach a ‘final conclusion’.

What to make of all this? Well, for one the continued Saudi denials and obfuscations can safely be ignored. The Kingdom has tied itself into so many knots through its repeated lies that no sane person would give what it says now any credence. Starburst is the most popular Online Slot in the Online CAsino World ever. Play Starburst to enjoy these amazing rewards. With the fast gameplay presented in both mobile and desktop devices, this slot is an amazing game that one should definitely try out. Saudi Arabia may still be seen as an important international player thanks to oil, but on this issue it must be seen as an unreliable partner.

Now on to Trump. That he has not embraced the CIA report is of course a surprise to no one. He openly mocked the FBI reporting on Russian collusion in the 2016 elections and that too is not unexpected. This most unpresidential of presidents cannot get past his own interests and ego and does not accept any criticism over anything he does. He has invested a lot in Saudi Arabia – and especially MBS – having made the Kingdom his first foreign visit after becoming president (can anyone forget that truly bizarre photo of him and the Saudi King putting their hands on that metal globe??) and cannot seem to let go or admit any error of any kind. That his son-in-law Jared Kushner is also beholden to the Saudis is not helping as The Donald seems to have made an amateur his front man on Middle East issues.

Whether or not Saudi Arabia, and more importantly MBS, are ever truly taken to task over the death of Mr. Khashoggi remains to be seen. The Kingdom is, after all, a very influential player and has been playing the US in particular for decades. For the rest of us who are not smitten with the desert princes there are very real and very crucial questions on whether Saudi Arabia should be seen as an ally on any number of fronts (‘war on terror’, what to do about Iran, etc.). The truth is that the Saudis are not, and never have been, a reliable friend and we need to see beyond the purely surface ‘reforms’ that MBS has graciously introduced (allowing women to drive, cracking down on some clerics etc.).

No, the Saudis are not the friend of the West or of anyone else for that matter. They hew to their own agenda and interests. In addition, their hateful version of Islam is the key to understanding much of modern Islamist extremism, even if they too have been hit with attacks (poetic justice?).

It is time to call the Saudis what they are: pick your own phrase as long as it does not imply they are on our side.

Phil Gurski is Director, Security and Intelligence at TheSecDev Group. He served for over 30 years as a strategic intelligence analyst specialising in radicalization, and homegrown Islamist extremism with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Communications Security Establishment(CSE), Public Safety Canada and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). He is a member of New Canadian Media.

Published in Commentary
Sunday, 20 November 2016 14:37

How Not to Win The "War on Terror"

Commentary by Phil Gurski

Soon to be former US President Barack Obama once famously said with respect to foreign policy "don't do stupid shit (or" stuff" depending on your sensitivity to salty language)".  That maxim could just have easily been applied to domestic policy.  And it is something that incoming president Donald Trump might want to pay attention to.
 
Alas, the early signs are not hopeful.
 
As Mr. Trump begins to form the team that will support his administration, we are learning that some of the candidates put forward hold views that are unhelpful at best and disastrous at worst, so far as our struggle with international Islamist terrorism is concerned.
 
To wit:
 
1 . The man nominated as National Security Adviser, retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn (by the way he had been fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency by President Obama), has stated, among other things, that "Islam is a cancer" and "fear of Islam is rational" and believes that Sharia (Islamic) law is spreading throughout the US.
 
2 . The designated attorney-general, Republican senator Jeff Sessions, has supported Mr. Trump's call for a ban on immigration and stated that there is a "toxic ideology" at the core of Islam.
 
3 . The probable director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, has called for listing the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, thus feeding the conspiracy theory that the group has tried to infiltrate the US government.
 
It is hard to believe that men with these views are in fact being considered for senior security positions.  Should they be nominated, and pass Congressional muster, they will indeed make the US less safe, not more, let alone less open and democratic.
 
The views that these men hold serve to bolster the narratives that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State spout ad nauseum: the West hates Islam, the West is at war with Islam, Muslims cannot live freely in the West and hence should perform hijrah (migration) to a Muslim-majority nation. The citations noted above easily fit into this narrative.
 
These types of opinions not only lead to (and in fact have already led to) hate speech and hate crimes, but they place tremendous pressures on the US' relationship with Islamic nations and Muslims on several levels. It is not inconceivable that some Muslim countries will be less keen to cooperate with the US on security issues if they see a US government that is inherently Islamophobic. 
 
More policies like Guantanamo and torture tactics will create more room for violent radicalisation and extremism.  US Muslims will not only be subject to more suspicion and aggression but will be turned off working with authorities to address the small numbers of violent extremists in the US and less likely to report these threats, thus fulfilling a myth with which they have been already labelled.  Disgust with racist policies at the highest levels will lead to fewer brave souls willing to help the FBI, either as contacts or as sources.  And, in this climate of fear and division, you can kiss CVE good-bye.
 
The very real threat of Islamist terrorism around the world requires a bold response and collaboration at national and international levels. Working together, however, is not fostered by prejudice and conspiracy theory. These kinds of views undermine everything we have been trying to achieve over the past decade and half (not that all has been perfect in that time, but I think we were getting better).
 

Phil Gurski worked for more than  three decades in Canadian intelligence, including 15 at Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and is the author of the Threat from Within and the forthcoming Western Foreign Fighters (Rowan and Littlefield). He blogs at http://www.borealisthreatandrisk.com/blog/
Published in Commentary
Saturday, 22 October 2016 10:26

One Year In, Big Shift in Foreign Policy

Commentary by Bhupinder Liddar

Did the seismic shift in Canada's political landscape, a year ago, following the election on October 19, 2015, also trigger a shift in Canada’s diplomacy, defence and development agenda? To a large extent, yes, and for the most part for the better.

The first strong signal of change in policy came immediately after the election when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared Canada’s intention to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas 2015. The former Conservative government of Stephen Harper had been dragging its feet on this issue and most of Western Europe was devising ways to block their entry.

Canada re-surfaced at the United Nations – the world family of 193 nations. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s disdain, disrespect and disapproval of anything to do with the UN was well-known, resulting in Canada’s isolation at the UN, including losing its bid for a seat at the Security Council, the ultimate decision-making body on world affairs. While Harper rebuffed the UN, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraced the world body, and addressed the General Assembly in September declaring, “Canada is back” on the international scene.

Good money after bad

In re-emerging at the UN, Canada also pledged financial assistance to various UN agencies that was withdrawn by the previous Conservative government. One must, however, caution against throwing good money after bad, in the case of UN agencies, as they are rife with inefficiency. The previous Conservative government was adamant in demanding accountability before approving funding for any UN requests for financial assistance.

A country the size and strength of Canada can leverage its influence effectively and efficiently through multilateral organizations. Hence, Canada seems to be enhancing its role in various international and regional organizations, including, the G-20, NATO, and the African Union, among other forums. While pursuing the Canadian agenda through multilateralism remains an essential part of Canadian diplomatic strategy, bilateral relations are also playing an important part, as with Prime Minister’s state visit to China in September and various foreign heads of government knocking on Ottawa’s door.

Pursuit of free trade agreements goes on with the same vigour as under the Conservatives. The Canada-India Free Trade agreement seems to have died with the defeat of the Harper Conservative government. Much too much energy was wasted on this agreement, which at the end was designed to appease Canadian voters of Indian origin, most of whom were not too impressed or thrilled with the blatant and transparent vote-getting antics.

Canada’s relations with the United States of America are foremost on Canada’s diplomatic agenda. Trudeau has restored much needed personal diplomacy with U.S. President Barack Obama, who addressed the Canadian Parliament in June. And, Trudeau was the first Canadian Prime Minister to be hosted at a White House State Dinner, in March, in almost two decades.

Within a year of coming to power, the Liberal government has kept its commitment to climate change agenda, by signing the Paris Agreement on controlling carbon emissions.

Canada has resumed an active role in defence matters, too, with a promise to participate in UN peacekeeping operations. The problem is that while Prime Minister Trudeau committed to providing 600 Canadian Armed Forces troops, we have not found a place to deploy them. The government seems to have put the cart before the horse. 

Showcase our pluralism

Consistent with the previous government, Canada is actively monitoring Russian jockeying in the Baltics and Ukraine. It has pledged to contribute more troops, as part of NATO’s efforts to protect and ensure sovereignty of the Baltic states.

Whereas the Harper government was hostile to an international development agenda and inflicted serious financial cutbacks to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Liberal government has resumed Canada’s role in providing humanitarian and development assistance, be it immediate help in the aftermath of the recent hurricane in the Caribbean or funding women’s education and literacy programs to furthering gender equality, under the aegis of UN agencies.

As for the future, the volume of consular matters will continue to increase and become more challenging, both because of changing demographics and dealing with countries that have different value and legal systems.

Instead of indulging in cost-cutting exercises, Canada needs place more diplomats in foreign missions. We should end the practice of replacing Canadian diplomats with locally-engaged staff.

One hopes that the year-old Trudeau government will continue to make Canada’s presence felt on the international scene, as it has in the past year, and showcase the Canadian experiment in building a pluralistic and multicultural society.

Bhupinder S. Liddar, is a former Canadian diplomat and publisher/editor of “Diplomat & International Canada” magazine. He can be contacted at bsliddar@hotmail.com or visit www.liddar.ca

Published in Commentary

by Susan Korah in Ottawa

Canada’s foreign policy is caught in a precarious balancing act between the “sunny ways” of election promises and the realpolitik of weapons sales to countries with dubious human rights records.

In his new book, Two Freedoms: Canada’s Global Future, former Senator Hugh Segal suggests a solution that he says is focused, principled, and based on two foundational principles – freedom from fear and freedom from want.

Segal’s expertise in foreign policy was acquired through more than 30 years of involvement in foreign and security policy. This included chairing the Senate Foreign Affairs and Special Anti-Terrorism committees and the Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies, as well as a serving term as President of the Institute for Research and Public Policy (IRPP), a non-partisan think tank and research institution.

Introducing his book at a launch hosted by the IRPP in partnership with the Ottawa International Writers’ Festival, he explained that while he has the highest regard for some of Canada’s hardworking diplomats and other foreign service personnel, he is concerned that foreign policy is a mess of shifting priorities swinging from right to left, according to the ideology of the government that happens to be in power.

His aim, he said, is to give some clarity and direction to foreign policy, which in his opinion, should not be dependent on party politics.

The launch took the form of a conversation between Segal and Jennifer Ditchburn, Editor-in-Chief of Policy Options, the magazine affiliated with IRPP.

“Living in a state of economic and social despair can produce huge and even cataclysmic consequences . . ."

More foreign aid

Elaborating on freedom from want, Segal said it is in Canada’s interest to see that families, communities and nations around the world live in reasonable prosperity, buoyed by a sense of hope for the future.

“Living in a state of economic and social despair can produce huge and even cataclysmic consequences, not only for those living in despair, but for their neighbouring communities and countries,” he pointed out, adding that the total absence of hope leads to violent behaviour based on a “nothing-to-lose” attitude.

“Putting those two freedoms – freedom from want and from fear – at the centre of our foreign policy would make it more coherent and the world would understand better what we stand for as Canadians,” Segal said.

He added that if extreme poverty is the root cause of violence, we have to ask ourselves what we can do to diminish this cause.

“I think that both in terms of foreign aid and international development and in terms of doing our fair share militarily, we are not doing enough,” he said. “In the [Prime Minister] Lester Pearson era we contributed 0.7 per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP) to foreign aid, but in recent years our numbers have been much lower.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently pledged to boost funding to the global fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, but said Ottawa will not meet the goal to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid anytime soon.

“We have a big hat, but no cattle,” a reference to cowboys whose boastful talk is not matched by action . . . 

Increase military capacity

Another key point that Segal makes in his book and highlighted at the event, is that Canada needs to reinforce its values-based foreign policy with an appropriate military capacity.

“We have a great military, but we need more of them,” he said. “Canada should probably have Armed Forces of 150,000, of which 100,000 are regular forces and 50,000 are reserves rather than our present number which is in the 50,000 to 60,000 range.”

He said Canada also needs a 60-ship fighting navy, rather than one that has 20 or 30 ships, that can be deployed on humanitarian and diplomatic missions “to send a clear message about Canadian values.”

Giving some examples of how such military strength could help Canadians and those abroad, Segal said, “We need to make sure the Chinese respect the territorial integrity of Taiwan and other people.”

“Our failure to engage with [Bashar al-] Assad three or four years ago is why we have such a horrendous situation now,” he added, referring to the ongoing civil war in Syria.

Using a Western Canadian expression, he said: “We have a big hat, but no cattle,” a reference to cowboys whose boastful talk is not matched by action or even the capacity for action.

“There has to be more cohesion between our foreign policy and defence policy.”

Decline since Chrétien era 

“There has to be more cohesion between our foreign policy and defence policy,” he emphasized.

Segal’s central thesis is strongly reminiscent of a 2003 publication While Canada Slept: How We Lost Our Place in the World by Ottawa writer Andrew Cohen. Both authors lament the decline of Canada’s foreign policy and its military, especially since the glory days of Prime Minister Pearson.

Both consider that it took a turn for the worse under the leadership of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. Segal points out that in that era, by sending delegations of Canadian business people and politicians around the world to increase trade, it became necessary to tread carefully so that no potential trading partner would be offended.

Both Segal and Cohen call for a values-based approach.

“The notion that this book might contribute to that debate in some constructive way would be my fondest hope,” said Segal.


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Books

by Eva Salinas in Toronto

Mexico’s former Ambassador to Canada, Francisco Suárez Dávila, says Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto will likely refuse to attend Justin Trudeau’s proposed North American Leaders' Summit this summer unless the visa requirement on Mexico is revoked — a promise Trudeau and members of his cabinet have reiterated several times since forming government.

“I find it very difficult to concede that President Peña will come to Canada if he has to subject himself to the visa requirement,” Suárez said in an interview from Mexico City, where he retired following the end of his Canadian post in December. “It's a pity because we really could be in the beginning of a golden age of a really grand relationship.”

Trudeau indicated North American relations were a top priority on the campaign trail last year, when he first promised to revoke the visa if elected. He has repeatedly underscored the importance of regional cooperation, most recently in Washington earlier this month, where he emphasized working together on environmental policy and invited U.S. President Barack Obama to a North American Leaders' Summit in Canada this summer. 

Read Full Article

 

Published in International
Thursday, 17 December 2015 09:04

Our Huge Cultural Blindspot

Commentary by Hadani Ditmars in Vancouver, British Columbia

Donald Trump is the bogeyman. I get it. He’s also the Grinch, Darth Vader and Hitler.

In fact, he was once on an episode of the Simpsons as an imagined future president in a dystopian America.

But in a world of bogeymen, he may just be the most televisual and carnivalesque, not to mention social media friendly.  I wonder what Hitler would have done with all the social and other media currently at demagogues' disposal? Somehow, I think, he wouldn't have been as slick and televisual as Trump — likely more awkward and sweaty like U.S. President Richard Nixon was.

Trump is the id of the American people; the comments section come to life.  He says things openly that other politicians think but dare not speak. He epitomizes the American tradition of waves of immigrants arriving only to demonize the next wave.

In the same way that ISIS (Islamic State) is a very modern horror (as opposed to a recreation of historical Islam), Trump is also the perfect conflation of American obsessions with wealth, race and "security"— and a simplistic worldview. His is a fascism writ large for the Internet age where opinions are formed by memes, sound bites and hysteria rather than historical precedent and analysis. And, he finds fertile ground in America’s growing underclass of the disaffected, uneducated and underemployed, for whom the American dream will never be a reality.

[H]e finds fertile ground in America’s growing underclass of the disaffected, uneducated and underemployed, for whom the American dream will never be a reality.

Banning Muslims

And yet, mainstream Republicans are quick to distance themselves from him. A Rasmussen Reports survey says that 66 per cent of Republicans favour Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from America.  And his ideas about walling off Mexico and racially profiling Muslims, are mere knock offs of American ally Israel’s own policies. Hearing the likes of Dick Cheney and Benjamin Netanyahu call Trump a racist were rather unconvincing exercises in the kettle calling the pot black. Perhaps they are afraid Trump — or one of his outrageous outbursts — will give away the game.

While Trump may be somewhat confused about the actual way the internet functions, his Republican colleagues seem to have a limited grasp of the concept of international law and what constitutes a war crime.  Besides, Trump’s recent suggestion about shutting down ISIS by blocking its internet access would be right at home in many Middle Eastern police states (and U.S. allies) who have tried — with limited success — to stop various groups from disseminating information via social media.

And Trump is certainly not the first politician to favour showmanship over substance (he is, after all, channeling the ghost of Ronald Regan with his populist, Hollywood ways).

Our Canadian blindspot

And even though we Canadians love to point a collective finger at our neighbours to the South as being the exclusive purveyors of racism, the fact that we have a “mosaic” while they have a “melting pot” is no excuse for a huge cultural blindspot. We just express it “differently’, like say, via forced sterilization of native women in Saskatchewan, or ongoing incarceration of refugee claimants.

There are many different ways of “banning” people from entering a country. Canada has a proud history of doing just that — from anti-Asian exclusion laws, to turning away boatloads of Sikh migrants, Jewish refugees in WW2 or more recently criminalization of Tamil “terrorists.”

Were past Conservative Minister’s like Jason Kenney and John Baird really that different than Trump?

[T]he fact that we have a “mosaic” while they [America] have a “melting pot” is no excuse for a huge cultural blindspot.

While their rhetoric may have differed, their intention was the same. They manifested their Islamophobic policies that mirrored the most right-wing of Israeli policies in a variety of ways.

The previous government’s unprecedented support for Israel began as soon as Prime Minister Stephen Harper was elected but swelled when the government cut funding to KAIROS — a well regarded NGO deemed too “pro-Palestinian” —in 2009, and reached a peak in 2012 when, alone among G8 leaders, Harper refused to embrace Obama’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan based on pre-1967 borders.

Canada’s vote against a Palestinian bid for statehood later that year (contrary to the wishes of a majority of Canadians, according to polls) further damaged its status at the UN and its international reputation.

Indeed many Canadians are still shocked and embarrassed by Canada’s loss of the UN Security council seat in 2010, which was widely attributed to its pro-Israel Middle East policy — and was often held up by the Harper government as a badge of honour.

Refugee policy

Harper’s policies on refugees were criticized by everyone from Amnesty International, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, and No One is Illegal. Just because we have a new photogenic Prime Minister who is bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees does not mean that endemic issues with Canada’s refugee and immigration system will magically disappear, along with all the racist trolls who grace the comments sections of our national dailies.

This Christmas, let’s look beyond the pantomime villains we love to boo and hiss at and unmask the ones hiding behind masks of “respectability.” And let us remember that every pantomime fool reveals uncomfortable truths, even if they arrive via outright lies and outrageous statements.

In a way Trump’s opera buffo shines light onto some rather darker stories we’d rather not dwell on — ones we ignore at our peril. In our zeal to demonize him, let’s not forget that what he reveals — the de facto complicity of more “mainstream” politicos and the deep racism inherent in North American history — may be more important than what he says.


Hadani Ditmars is the author of Dancing in the No-Fly Zone: a Woman's Journey Through Iraq, was a past editor at New Internationalist, and has been reporting from Africa and the Middle East for two decades.Hadani is also a musician who believes that world music can be a powerful vehicle for peace.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto

Canada needs to know it limits before its next intervention abroad, be it military or humanitarian. And be humble about it.

This is the message foreign policy experts apparently want to convey to prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau after he told a rally in Ottawa, “On behalf of 35 million Canadians – we’re back [after having lost our] compassionate and constructive voice in the world over the past 10 years.”

The experts gathered at the Munk School of Global Affairs on Monday for the launch of Elusive Pursuits: Lessons from Canada’s Interventions Abroad, a Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) book under its Canada Among Nations series.

“Canadian foreign policy will certainly undergo a shift, as Mr. Trudeau has already indicated regarding our role in the fight against ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria),” said Fen Osler Hampson, director of the global security and politics program at CIGI, who co-edited the book.

“From global summitry and international coalitions to humanitarian crises, Canada has much to offer on the world stage,” Hampson continued. “Elusive Pursuits offers a unique lens on where Canada’s military presence and foreign aid has been and where it might be heading.”

Making a difference abroad

To be clear, Canadian Forces never stopped deploying, but rather the focus went from United Nations missions to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) efforts, he said.

“But as Canada has always not just been among nations, as the series title suggests, but in them, our politicians may as well be humble about what we can strategically do.”

“No world leader gets up wondering what Canada is doing today.”

As a middle power, our options will always be limited, said Hampson.

“We are strategy consumers, not producers. The big decisions about military operations are generally made by the United States, our main ally.”

Canada’s tendency is to intervene under the auspices of international institutions as it cannot operate by itself anywhere and can only send a fragment of what is needed to complete any operation. 

“This is not to say that Canada cannot make a difference in many difficult places in the world, but intervention is hard, it is complicated, and it requires more patience than we usually have.  Choosing not to intervene also has consequences,” Hampson explained.

“Today’s wars do not burn themselves out. We need the stamina to stay the course and cannot just get bored and exit.”

Selecting instruments of intervention

Emphasizing Canada’s strategic limitations, Hugh Segal, Master of Massey College and former senator, who wrote the foreword for the book, said, “No world leader gets up wondering what Canada is doing today.”

“Every choice we make, military or humanitarian, has a collateral implication.”

Segal said while the option of looking away is a serious abdication of our role among nations, it is important to carefully select the instrument we choose to intervene with.

“It need not always be deployment of troops,” he stated. “We may let regional players do the job while we help with money. But if we don’t have the right instrument in our tool box, then we shouldn’t intervene.”

However, there is no single magical instrument, cautioned Aisha Ahmad, a panelist at the discussion who wrote a chapter in the book on Canada and Somalia titled “Learning from the Legacy of Failed Intervention”.

“Every choice we make, military or humanitarian, has a collateral implication,” said Ahmad. “Interventions are never neutral.”

Good intentions need to be carefully examined for their practical impact, she added. Feeding people is a great aim, but it could alter existing power relations, as food aid becomes a commodity in the war economy as it did when Canada intervened in Somalia.

Being realistic about our role

Jane Boulden, who wrote a chapter in the book on Syria and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), said the genocide in Rwanda brought the R2P concept to the forefront.

"There is always the need for assistance instead of interference.”

But there has been resistance when it is seen as being used for regime change like in the case of Libya and currently Syria, continued Boulden.

Given the interest of the new government in peacekeeping operations, it makes sense to look at past Canadian efforts without the misplaced nostalgia, said Stephen Toope, director of Munk School of Global Affairs.

“I think we have to be realistic about the kind of role we can play. There is always the need for assistance instead of interference.”

In a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen McGill University professor William Watson effectively summed up the need for humility, which anchored the whole panel discussion:

“We apparently never tire of telling the world it needs more Canada,” he wrote. “I find it all cringe-worthy. The best test of that is to ask yourself how the boast you are making about Canada would sound if an American said it about his country. ‘The world needs more USA!’ ‘Yeah, right, buddy.’”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in International
Saturday, 24 October 2015 14:32

Canada on Top ... Again

by Firas Al-Atraqchi in Cairo, Egypt

In 2003, I ran into a number of Canadians travelling through the Middle East, but two minutes into the conversation I discovered they were really Americans pretending to be from Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto.

The U.S. had just invaded and occupied Iraq, but Canada's then Prime Minister Jean Chretien had taken a strong stand against the hugely unpopular war.
 
The Americans I met had the maple leaf flag on their backpacks because Canada had a generally positive image in the world. Our foreign policy had for more than 60 years been based on global security and peacekeeping, funding international institutions that aided humanitarian relief around the world (yes, even in Gaza and the West Bank) — Canada was a source of good in the world.
 
The Liberals, despite their many flaws, had maintained that image. More than 12 years later, we see that Chretien and the Liberals were spot on about the Iraq War. They didn't want to sign on to a project that would ultimately break the Middle East, not fix it.
 
Proud Canadian
So, it was with absolute delight that I watched Justin Trudeau take centre stage last week as the Liberals mopped up the elections and pushed the Tories out of power.
 
I didn't vote, but my friends did. Most of them voted Liberal. One, in particular, came to Canada 10 years ago, fleeing war and conflict. 

"I'm proud to be Canadian," he said on his Facebook page and Twitter. Proud to be Canadian before the results were even clear.
 
The world needs a Canada that is a voice of reason in the world, not a Canada that rushes to join the misadventure that is the U.S.-led coalition to take on Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq.
 
We fix messes and bring relief to oppressed peoples. Washington's approach to Syria and Iraq has unravelled, prompting Russia to step in allegedly to force a political settlement. The Middle East quicksand quagmire has just gotten only messier.
 
We fix messes and bring relief to oppressed peoples.
 
Military + political track
Yes, ISIL is a force of evil and needs to be destroyed. But the military strategy needs to run in tandem with a political one, and the Conservatives never offered one. 
 
The reason the Middle East is in a perpetual state of instability and conflict is because Washington's regime change in Iraq was not only wrong, but short-sighted — there was never a concrete and inclusive plan for the day after.
 
Not surprisingly, on social media, many around the world congratulated Canada for Trudeau's win.
 
And among casual conversations with friends, I couldn't but help beam with pride as many told me Canada would now be back on track — a multicultural gem in a world that needs tolerance and inclusivity.
 
[M]any told me Canada would now be back on track — a multicultural gem in a world that needs tolerance and inclusivity.
 
I expect Canada to lead from the front now, rather than follow from behind, and create its own foreign policy geared toward global peace and security and firm action regarding climate change.
 
But there is a drawback to Trudeau's win. As one foreign analyst told me, Canadian men are now steaming red with jealousy.

"He's a very handsome fellow," she said of Trudeau.
 
Red? Yes, as red as the flag and the colours of the Liberal party.
Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Canadian journalist of Arab descent who has covered the Middle East since 1992. A former senior editor with Al Jazeera's English-language website, currently he teaches journalism at the American University of Cairo as an associate professor. He is a member of NCM's editorial advisory board. 
Published in Commentary
Thursday, 01 October 2015 10:57

Foreign Policy Debate Ignores Diaspora Nation

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto

Rightly or wrongly, foreign policy is not high on the list of issues that Canadians would like to know about during a federal election campaign. 

That said, this week’s Munk Debate, while holding a mirror to Canada’s role in the world, tended to reflect Canadian values and how we choose to see ourselves on the global stage.

While Canadian voters’ perceived lack of interest in foreign affairs can be questioned, there need be no such ambivalence when it comes to immigrant voters. With ties to countries of birth or origin still strong, they are likely keen to know policy directions the next government in Ottawa plans to take in their spheres of interest.

Currently, one in five – or 6.8 million – Canadians are foreign-born. This is the highest share of any G7 country and the Harper government has encouraged social, cultural and economic ties between new Canadians and their birth countries as part of its trade agenda.

The government has said that if re-elected, it will establish a new “Maple Leaf” designation to recognize new Canadians who work to build cultural, economic and social links between Canada and their birth country. The Minister of Foreign Affairs would be among those making the decision to award five to seven designations per year.

Scant mention of China and India

This enthusiasm for trade with countries that have big diaspora populations in Canada did not come through during the debate.

China and India, two of the world’s largest economies that also happen to be two of the largest immigrant source countries, were hardly mentioned during the bilingual debate.

To be precise, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau mentioned both once.

[W]hile China may soon pass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy, Canada might have already missed its opportunity for greater trade with the Asian giant.

Trudeau said the Harper government did not seem to understand how important it is to be engaged in global trade particularly with the growing economies of Asia.

“That’s why we applauded the Canada-Europe agreement. But Mr. Harper is yet to deliver on [many other agreements],” Trudeau said. “He is nowhere with China, even though Australia has just signed [an agreement with China]. We made a beginning with India after the rapprochement Mr. Harper tried to do recently with the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi).”

Despite being called a “diaspora nation” because of the diverse nature of immigration to Canada, it seems the country is still not ready to diversify trade and cut its umbilical cord to the United States.

Our share of Asia’s trade has fallen by half over the past decade. And while China may soon pass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy, Canada might have already missed its opportunity for greater trade with the Asian giant.

Missed opportunity

The voters too have missed an opportunity to know from the party leaders their foreign trade policy.

As Daniel Muzyka, CEO, and Glen Hodgson, senior vice-president and chief economist, of the Conference Board of Canada, said in a recent article, if Canadians and Canadian firms are to succeed in the global marketplace, there are several questions they should ask.

Questions include what the leaders would do to build and mobilize interest in our global opportunities, what practical alternative would they support if they did not favour free trade, and what they would do differently to capture a fair share of trade with China.

[T]he repeated reference to our glorious UN peacekeeping past would have come as a surprise for many new Canadians whose countries of birth now carry much of that burden.

While the reluctance to diversify our trade due to the advantage of having the world’s largest economy south of our border was obvious during the debate, there was another theme that wasn’t.

Call it a collective denial or a national consensus to perpetuate a myth, the repeated reference to our glorious UN peacekeeping past would have come as a surprise for many new Canadians whose countries of birth now carry much of that burden.

Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Rwanda, Nepal, Senegal, Ghana, China and Nigeria are currently the top 10 contributors. Canada ranks 62 out of 126 countries with 88 personnel.

Cold War soldiers

It is true that Canada was often the single biggest contributor to peacekeeping missions between 1956 and 1992, sending about 80,000 soldiers by the time the Blue Berets won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.

But, after these relatively benign observer missions, and two taxing tour of duties in Somalia and the Balkans in the 1990s, Canada seemed to lose its appetite for peacekeeping.

By design or not, the issue of Israel and Palestine was ignored amid the predictable sound and fury on the havoc caused by the Islamic State.

It is also important to understand that what motivated Canada all those years ago was the Cold War. It was to primarily defend western interests and our own strategic ones. Far from being peacekeepers, we were dedicated Cold War soldiers fighting the Soviets.

Fast-forward to the Munk Debate and it seemed the Cold War still looms over us.

Trudeau was asked how he would handle Russia’s Vladimir Putin. It elicited a nervous titter from the audience and a banal answer.

This obviously was not about foreign policy, but about paying lip service to the large Ukrainian diaspora in the same way as Trudeau said Harper had turned Canada’s support for Israel into a “domestic political football.”

By design or not, the issue of Israel and Palestine was ignored amid the predictable sound and fury on the havoc caused by the Islamic State. Several other topics of deep interest to Canadian voters, new and old, were overlooked.

But as the pundits have unanimously ruled that this debate was the best so far, so be it. The freeze is still on and we like to keep our myths alive.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Politics

by Anita Singh (@tjsgroupca) in Toronto

Following Indian Prime Minister Modi’s successful tour of Canada, President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines is due to visit this week.

Modi’s trip was a landmark visit – four decades since the last visit to Canada of a sitting Indian Prime Minister. With a deal on nuclear trade, renewal of bilateral trade relations and promises made on counter-terrorism, this trip can be hailed a massive domestic and international success for Stephen Harper. 

Harper could only hope for the same type of success with President Aquino.

Yet, with visits from these two leaders – who represent countries with high levels of immigration to Canada – an important counter-narrative has also emerged. 

With Prime Minister Modi’s visit, speculation has been rife about the ­“Modi-effect” on Conservative electoral chances in Indo-Canadian populated regions in the country, arguably some of the most heavily contested ridings in Canada.

For example, Tim Harper at the Toronto Star has suggested that the “real payoff for Harper might come when Indo-Canadian voters go to the polls in October.” 

Others have wondered if Harper’s overtures may also have an electoral motive with the large diaspora groups settled in Canada from these two countries.

With Prime Minister Modi’s visit, speculation has been rife about the ­“Modi-effect” on Conservative electoral chances in Indo-Canadian populated regions in the country, arguably some of the most heavily contested ridings in Canada.   

Modi’s trip to Canada certainly was diaspora-focused.

Speaking in Toronto, he commanded a 10,000-strong audience of largely Indo-Canadians keen to get a glimpse of India’s new “Rockstar” PM. This event marked the halfway point in a four-day Canadian tour, which included a whirlwind of photo ops at Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall and the Air India Memorial in Toronto.

This was followed by visits to Vancouver and a trip to a Hindu temple and Sikh gurudwara in Surrey, BC – one of the most densely Indo-Canadian populated cities in the country. 

Yet, we should be wary of making tall claims about electoral gains. If Conservatives see electoral gains in these ridings, it won’t be because of Modi or Aquino necessarily. 

More Required to Sway Votes

As shown by Prime Minister Modi’s trip, these visits do not do enough to differentiate Stephen Harper’s foreign policy from other candidates to be an election issue, particularly the Liberals' Justin Trudeau. 

Trudeau’s sit down with Modi also articulated the importance of India for his party, suggesting Canada-India relations would not be damaged by a Liberal victory this fall. 

Similar to Harper’s army of ministers traveling to India in droves, Trudeau’s Liberal party has also made its presence known in India. There is precedent for this – it was, after all, Liberal Prime Ministers Chretien and Martin that led Team Canada delegations to India in the late 1990s.

On the other hand, Tom Mulcair didn’t seem to think Modi’s visit would change his electoral fortunes. He did not take an opportunity to meet with Modi, citing scheduling challenges.

Harper seems to assume that immigrant voters are not particularly complex. He appears to believe that a few photo ops and press conferences with foreign leaders will sway ethnic Canadians to the Conservative party.

Meeting with Modi might not be electorally important to Mulcair – two large Indo-Canadian communities in Canada, Brampton East and Surrey North, are already held by NDP MPs, despite the party’s limited stance on Canada-India relations.

Further, Harper seems to assume that immigrant voters are not particularly complex. He appears to believe that a few photo ops and press conferences with foreign leaders will sway ethnic Canadians to the Conservative party. 

However, like all other voters in the country, immigrant communities have complex reasons for how they vote – there is no electoral proof that ridings with large ethnic populations will elect one party over another on the basis of foreign policy. 

MPs from all parties are elected in ridings in Brampton, Mississauga, Scarborough, Abbotsford, Surrey and Richmond – all highly diverse communities across Canada.

Immigrant Vote is Complex Terrain

My research rejects this developing narrative. It has found that Canada’s immigrant communities are driven by all of the same factors as other voters, including quality of social services, investments, health care, education and economic benefits such as tax relief.  

They may vote Conservative because of their social values, NDP for their environmental policies, or Liberal because of their social policies, but explanations should not be isolated to one set of beliefs.

[T]hese communities are composed of second- and third-generation immigrants, women, linguistic and religious minorities, none of whom necessarily vote for or identify with homeland politics. 
 

In a review of electoral outcomes, my research found that votes are often split between parties in largely ethnic ridings, regardless if opposing candidates are from the same or different immigrant groups. This research is supported by significant scholarship in Canadian Foreign Policy that has acknowledged that foreign policy has little salience in electoral politics. 

Similarly, this narrative does not account for differences and complexities within immigrant communities. It ignores the idea that these communities are composed of second- and third-generation immigrants, women, linguistic and religious minorities, none of whom necessarily vote for or identify with homeland politics. 

Prominent India-watchers in Canada, such as Kasi Rao have noted that the “Indo-Canadian community has made strides in all parties in Canada, federally and provincially and I think the community has now deepened in Canada.” 

Given the religious, ethnic and nationalist divisions within the Indian diaspora, it cannot be assumed that they vote as a unified entity. 

With President Aquino’s visit upon us, expect numerous photo opportunities, important speeches and a number of well-timed handshakes. But if Prime Minister Harper believes that this will have a positive effect on the upcoming election, he may have another thing coming.


Anita Singh is a founding partner of Tahlan, Jorden & Singh Consulting Group and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. Her research examines the role of diaspora groups and their influence on foreign policy, particularly the Indo-Canadian community and Canada-India relations.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary
Page 1 of 2

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

Zo2 Framework Settings

Select one of sample color schemes

Google Font

Menu Font
Body Font
Heading Font

Body

Background Color
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Top Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Header Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Mainmenu Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Slider Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Scroller Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Mainframe Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Scroller Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Breadcrumb Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Menu Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image
Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image