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A plea for internationalism: why Canadian social movements must call out injustices both at home and overseas

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at last year's NATO summit. Image: Justin Trudeau/Facebook

When we struggle in Canada against racial injustice, for climate justice, the rights of migrants and social justice more generally -- but have no understanding of the "Ottawa Initiative on Haiti," "Core Group," "Lima Group," or even an IMF structural adjustment program -- we need to ask ourselves serious questions.

Why is it important for anti-racists, environmentalists, feminists and all self-respecting human rights defenders to care about Canada's policy in Haiti, Latin America and elsewhere? It is essential, because what we do or fail to do locally is linked to what we understand or fail to understand about our world. "Think globally, act locally," could be an internationalist motto for the 21st century, but has become an empty slogan for many. 

Unfortunately, when our only sources of information are the dominant Western media, it is difficult to understand or even take an interest in international affairs. This is why even many politicized people who struggle against environmental destruction, capitalism or patriarchy do so without making the connections between their cause and Canada's foreign policy.

The inability to build a convergence of struggles or to develop a resolutely internationalist solidarity is linked to media disinformation. The dominant Western media have provided us with fake news about NATO or U.S. wars of aggression, all of which were supported by the Canadian government. Whether it's the fake story of babies pulled from incubators in Kuwait, fake weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or fake African mercenaries in Libya, the Western media has helped give us a biased and distorted view of the world.

But the media are not the only ones throwing dust in our eyes. In an article on the corruption scandal of the WE NGO in which the Trudeau government is currently entangled, Yves Engler draws our attention to the fact that the real scandal lies in the tendency of such NGOs to direct young people towards ineffective political actions by instilling in them a narrow view of what it means to do good in the world.

The NGO-ization of political resistance, media manipulation and our own tendency as activists to remain content with what we know while failing to learn from our mistakes, are joint causes of our inefficacy.

Our political actions drift toward ineffectiveness when we participate massively in a demonstration against systemic racism in Montreal without at the same time denouncing Canada's participation in the 2004 coup d'état that reduced Haiti to a state of disguised tutelage, and the fact that Canada trained the repressive police who still shoot Black protesters in Haiti today.

The struggle we are engaged in for the liberation of all women is doomed to failure if we denounce sexual violence here without mentioning the sexual aggressions and exploitation of which tourists, aid workers and so-called "humanitarian" workers from Quebec and Canada are guilty in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and elsewhere.

Our greened streets and urban gardens are swords in the water when Canadian corporations, supported by a Global Affairs Canada, go to Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and seize agricultural land from which the peasants have been driven from in order to make way for sweatshops, tax-free zones and open pit mines.

It is urgent to strengthen our social movements by developing an internationalist political conscience. Whatever cause we struggle for today in Canada, we have a responsibility to be consistent in criticizing the abuses of power that Canada engages in through its foreign policy. It is in this perspective that Solidarité Québec-Haïti calls for special attention to what Canada is doing on Haitian soil. What is at stake here, no less than there, is popular sovereignty. 

Jennie-Laure Sully is a member of Solidarité Québec - Haïti. This article was originally published in French on Presse-Toi À Gauche!

Image: Justin Trudeau/Facebook​

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