Oh, Canada…

Canadian PM Stephen Harper has 42 minutes of face time with Barack Obama in Washington today. While Canadian institutions (notably healthcare) are being compared favorably with those of the US, quite rightly, here are some other things to remember:

1. On dozens of occasions since 1915 Canadian gunboats have been deployed to the Caribbean and Central America.
2. Canada has been the 5th or 6th-largest contributor to the U.S. war in Iraq.
3. Ottawa asked London for its Caribbean colonies after World War I.
4. Days after elected President Salvador Allende was overthrown, Canada’s ambassador to Chile called victims of dictator Augusto Pinochet’s repression the “riffraff of the Latin American Left.”
5. In a number of countries Canadian “aid” has been used to rewrite mining codes to the benefit of Canadian mining companies.
6. Canada had between 250 and 450 nuclear-armed fighter jets based in Europe in the 1960s.
7. Washington did not press Ottawa to break relations with post-revolution Cuba because it wanted Canada to spy on the island.
8. Throughout Pierre Trudeau’s time in office and before, Canadian companies were heavily invested in apartheid South Africa.
9. Canada helped depose Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, one of Africa’s first independence leaders, who was then killed.
10. Many commentators … consider Lester Pearson [PM 1963-8] a war criminal.

That’s from Yves Engler, “The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy” (Fernwood Books Ltd., Halifax).

Still, there’s something to be said for a country that was the real land of freedom for slaves in the 19th century and refuge for war resisters in the 20th (and in the 18th).

In 2004 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ran a television series to determine who is considered to be the greatest Canadian of all time. (The project was inspired by the BBC series Great Britons.) It included a series of documentaries, with 10 Canadian celebrities acting as advocates and presenting their cases for The Greatest Canadian.

The winner by vote was not a military leader or PM, but the man responsible for bringing Canada universal healthcare (i.e., the equivalent of Medicare for all, not Obamacare), Tommy Douglas. (A Scottish-born Baptist minister, Douglas was Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961, and as such head of the first socialist government in North America; from 1961 to 1971, he was the leader of the social democratic New Democratic Party.)

That’s unimaginable in the thoroughly propagandized US. –CGE

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“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.” –Noam Chomsky