Yves Engler. THE UGLY CANADIAN: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. 2012. RED Publishing & Fernwood Publishing. Canada ISBN978-1-55266-530-5

Review by Theresa Wolfwood

“We should be clear that foreign military inventions kill and that the Conservatives’ climate change policy is devastating many of the world’s most vulnerable.”

Engler is rapidly becoming one of Canada’s major political researchers & analysts. This is his latest of six books on topics ranging from Haiti to Palestine. His last book was an analysis of Lester Pearson’s political career and legacy.

Engler Harper CoverHarper is what we have now, even if, as Engler reminds us, he only received 39% of our votes. Since taking office in 2006, Harper has set Canada’s foreign policy to please and profit a tiny group of large corporations and right-wing ideologues. No surprise to most of us as Engler documents our militaristic role in Haiti, Libya, Iran, and Lebanon making us on the world scene, “a warrior nation”. Creating a culture of war includes not only our government’s total disregard for human rights when it suits it, as in Libya and Haiti military intervention, but also includes generous support of arms industries with our tax money (and Canada Pension Plan investments) which sell not only to the USA, as ever, but also to other human rights abusers and countries at war, including Bahrain, Israel, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Many generous trade and investment deals accompany these sales along with tax money to help market our products.

Canada is also a global pariah because of Harper’s policy of climate change (no policy really, just business as usual) and his relentless support of the Tar Sands development and big oil companies. Engler documents in plain words his statement, “Harper’s actions as prime minster suggest he doesn’t care if human activity is warming the planet.” 

Engler examines in lengthy detail Harper’s love for Israel, ignoring the brutal  occupation of and war on Palestine; we are “Israel’s best friend.”  Unfortunately there has been little opposition from other major parties in Canada since 1948 to this enduring policy.

The author says Canada since 2006 “is offside from the world community on a host of issues.”  Losing his bid for a seat on the UN Security Council was a humiliation resulting from Harper’s “sabotaging international efforts to improve health and environmental standards…aggressive lobbying on behalf of tar sands producers…unflinching support of Israeli aggression…its tacit support for a military coup in Honduras and [Canada] angered the Venezuelan government by meddling in that country’s political affairs.”

Our support of mining companies abroad has caused massive environmental damage and social degradation leading to community conflict and violence. Community activists have been murdered at major Canadian mine sites across the world.

Engler urges us to be active in social movements that work for justice, peace, equality and a healthy planet; more than that he urges us to make the connections between issues so our social movements will work together to create stronger and more effective actions and results. Many progressive Canadians focus much needed effort on domestic issues – healthcare, education, poverty, unfair taxation to name a few; Engler makes a convincing case that all domestic issues are linked to our less scrutinized foreign policy; we have to make the connection and link our issues of concern and our actions.  In this book and his talks across Canada, he reminds us of the success of the Quebec student movements, calls on us to focus on defeating the most vulnerable Conservative candidates in the next election, to organize at every level and that, “Our goal should be to force open the narrow parameters of foreign policy debate…It’s time to turn… anger into action.”

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Filed under Book Reviews, Yves Engler