Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Death Squads Versus Democracy" -- Prof. Michael Keefer


[Discussing the call by a right-wing Canadian pundit for Assange's assassination and the mild response this call elicited.]


How many of us know about Canada’s central role in the overthrow of Haiti’s duly elected democratic government in February 2004, or about the role of Canada’s military in facilitating—or at the very least doing nothing to prevent—the campaigns of political terror, massacre and rape that followed the coup? Or about the fact that Canada exercised effective control over a post-coup prison system in Haiti that even the Organization of American States condemned as horrifying? (The Deputy Minister of Justice who ran that system was both appointed and paid by the Canadian International Development Agency.) Or about the role of the RCMP in providing training and tutelage for a reconstituted Haitian National Police that engaged in documented death-squad activities against civilians between 2004 and at least 2006, and is suspected of involvement in such crimes as the “disappearance” of human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine in August 2007? (Should we not feel some degree of responsibility for these crimes? Might it be in any way significant that Lovinsky was “disappeared” just three weeks after having annoyed Canadian authorities in Haiti by trying to organize a demonstration against Stephen Harper’s brief visit to the island in July?)[1]

The Wikileaks cables apparently include more than 1,800 documents emanating from Ottawa (whether from American diplomats posted there or from Canadian authorities communicating with the US is unclear). Their contents may be entirely confined to banal and routine matters. Or they may perhaps provide further substantiation of the fact that crimes of state terror of the kind Tom Flanagan thought it appropriate to recommend on CBC Television—far from being mere rhetoric, let alone a “joke”—touch Canadians more closely than most of us have been able to recognize.

Should the Wikileaks cables turn out to contain material of this kind, we might expect to hear angry denunciations of Julian Assange from Liberal as well as from Conservative quarters—for Canada’s participation in the Haitian coup of 2004 was decided and acted upon by the governments of Jean Chr├ętien and Paul Martin, whose policies the Harper Conservatives have in this respect merely continued.

One may hope that in such a case, Canadian public opinion would respond with a firm defence of our democratic right to know about and to control the doings of our elected representatives and public servants—and to ensure that their actions remain in conformity with domestic and international law.

As for the present, I note with interest that Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson has filed a complaint against Tom Flanagan with the Vancouver police and the RCMP (see Charlie Smith, “Police complaint filed after Tom Flanagan calls for assassination of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, Straight.com [4 December 2010]. I’m happy to endorse a comment posted by ‘Delmazio’ in response to this news:

We need more people like Mr. Julian Assange who are willing to speak truth to power, and encourage the free flow of information which directly affects public policy decisions. If we value freedom of information, transparency, openness, and democracy, we ought to praise not to condemn such efforts.[2]

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