On Nov. 9, Yves Engler spoke to students and community members at VIU to promote his seventh book, The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.
Engler opened his talk by mentioning the World Statesman of the Year award Harper received in Sept., issued by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation. There was irony in Engler’s voice, and he said he and his colleagues also wanted to present Harper with the Richard Nixon Prize, for “steadfastly protecting the rich and powerful.”
Engler is also the author of The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, to which he did his research using documents from the House of Commons’ debates and internal government documents. The Ugly Canadian provides an update on this information, and Engler cites Canadian newspapers, corporate reports, and Embassy—a Canadian foreign policy journal.
During his talk, he critiqued the Prime Minister’s foreign policies, particularly Harper’s approach in the Middle East. As an example, Engler brought up the case where the registered Canadian charity, Friends of Israel, which supports Israeli settlements on the West Bank, can give Canadian donors a tax receipt. However, last year, the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and the Needy (IRFAN), a charity supporting orphans in Gaza, had its status revoked, making donations in support of Palestinians illegal. According to an article in The Star, the Canada Revenue Agency claims that IRFAN-Canada created promotional videos that “demonize Israel, characterize the Arab-Israeli conflict as a religious war, appeal for all Arab and Muslim nations to join in the struggle against Israel, and glorify martyrdom.”
Engler also spoke of Harper’s environmental policies, saying that Harper promotes an “aggressive opposition to lower carbon-fuel standards in the U.S. and Europe.” Engler said that Harper opposed lower carbon-fuel standards in the U.S. by suing California for trying to implement a regulation that would lower the fuel standard. According to an article in the New York Times, California judge Lawrence J. O’Neill said the ruling discriminates against out-of-state producers and tries to regulate events taking place outside of the state’s jurisdiction.
Engler said that the Harper government criticized The New York Times for running an editorial that criticized the Keystone XL pipeline—a pipeline similar in scope to the Northern Gateway Pipeline on the Canadian side of the border.
The reason for Harper’s condemnation, Engler said, is due to his association with Canada’s mining industry, which has roots in Alberta, but reaches out to many countries. According to Engler, Canada’s mining industry is valued at an estimated $210 billion. He says that the corporations involved are dependant on a “rapacious form of capitalism,” which leads to conflicts with communities in countries such as Chile, Tanzania, Mongolia, and Congo.
By the end of the talk, Engler noted that some of his past audiences have felt depressed by the government’s impact in foreign countries. Engler suggested that a cross-Canadian network be created that would allow people to know when a Conservative Member of Parliament would speak in their community, so that those who feel compelled to “ask tough questions, yell, or heckle” could do so. He said advertisements detailing the effects of foreign policy could be shown in communities where there is no strong support for the Conservative party.
According to Engler, people who have listened to him speak during his cross-Canada Tour have had similar concerns, including in Calgary, a traditionally Conservative area, or, as Engler put it, “the belly of the beast.”
Media may be the best way for Canadians to stay informed and make opinions, but Engler urges Canadians to read from a wide variety of sources. “If you’re going to read The Globe and Mail, make sure to read something like <www.Rabble.ca>.”
The Political Science department at VIU sponsored the event.