Engler, Yves. The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy. 2009. Fernwood Publishing & RED Publishing. Canada.

“I believe Earth is our home and we are its stewards. While citizens of Canada, we are also neighbours to everyone who shares this planet. We must be good neighbours. That should be the underlying premise of Canada´s foreign policy. This book is aimed at people who share this basic political viewpoint and who also believe that democracy requires citizens to keep themselves informed about what their country is doing. Canadians have a right and a responsibility to know, debate and ultimately shape what is being done in our name around the world.”

When I read William Blum´s Rogue State: A guide to the world´s only superpower, I wondered when someone would write a similar comprehensive exposure of Canada´s foreign policy. Fortunately for us, Engler has done it in an excellent and thorough documentation of Canada´s appalling record in foreign policy.

As Blum says in his comments on Engler´s work, it shows, “how peaceful benevolent, altruistic Canada has, on numerous occasions, served as an integral part of Western imperialism, particularly the American version, helping keep the Third World down and in its place.”

Engler has written and spoken extensively on Canada´s nasty participation in the overthrow of democracy and the invasion of Haiti; he goes into depth on our inglorious action there. Poverty stricken and weak Haiti may have been a dangerous example of democracy and resistance to neoliberalism that had to be crushed.´The attitude seems to have been, “if we can´t force our way in Haiti, where can we?”´

That is in stark contrast to our constant support of Colombia, one of the world´s worst human rights abuser. Only citizen pressure has so far delayed the ratification of the Free Trade Agreement with this military outpost of the USA. This also contrasts with our persistent and murky opposition to the government of Venezuela which exerts an enormous influence for social change and self–determination in Latin America.

Globally our policy are formed by our unquestioning support of USA imperialism, but also Engler reveals that Canadian mining companies have far more influence on policy than Canadian citizens. Region by region, country by country, we have such a terrible record that travelling Canadians should be ashamed to wear the maple leaf on their backpacks. There are many actions and events we should know about and be thoroughly disgusted by in this book – from our current military action in Afghanistan to our hero, William Stairs, mutilating citizens in the Congo – and to many other places most of have no idea what has been done in our name.

The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy: Book Review

This Honduran enjoys a swim in hot springs before the coup; now Hondurans are controlled by the military and afraid to travel. Photo © 2009, Theresa Wolfwood.

The latest chapter of our shameful policies is unfolding as I write this review. Canada is doing nothing about the recent military coup in Honduras – where we just happen to have mining and sweatshop investments – and military interests. A faint condemnation of this overthrow of democracy has been followed by blaming the victim – the ousted president – who tried to implement social programs and controls on mining.

It really is imperative for Canadians to be able shatter the myths and platitudes of our ´good guy´ reputation. It is time to know and to understand our position in the world. Only then can we as Engler writes in his final chapter, Why our foreign policy is what it is and how to change it, have the clarity to form and implement progressive and just policies.
He has many specific suggestions for a better foreign policy, all based on the golden rule to do unto others as you would have do unto you. Simple, profound, and rarely heeded.

In closing Engler says, “I believe that realism can only be based on a firm foundation of principle…. If… your principles are to “empower others” and “we wish for others that we wish for ourselves” than realism can work to make the world a better place.”

Filed under Book Reviews, Yves Engler