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U.S. Says Jump, NDP's Foreign Affairs Critic Says 'How High?'

Whoever takes charge of the party should think about whether Hélène Laverdière is the right person to keep Canadian foreign policy decision-makers accountable.

08/14/2017 18:27 EDT | Updated 08/14/2017 18:37 EDT
Matthew Usherwood/The Canadian Press
NDP MP Helene Laverdiere talks with media in Ottawa on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016.

Does the NDP consistently support a foreign policy that benefits ordinary people around the world? Or does the social democratic party often simply fall in line with whatever the American empire demands?

Hélène Laverdière certainly seems to support the U.S.-led geopolitical order. While the NDP foreign affairs critic has called for stronger arms control measures and regulations on Canada's international mining industry, she's aligned with the empire on issues ranging from Venezuela to Palestine, Ukraine to Syria.

Echoing Washington and Ottawa, Laverdière recently attacked the Venezuelan government. "On the heels of Sunday's illegitimate constituent assembly vote, it's more important than ever for Canada to work with our allies and through multilateral groups like the OAS [Organization of American States] to secure a lasting resolution to the crisis," she told CBC News.

But, the constituent assembly vote wasn't "illegitimate." Venezuela's current constitution empowers the president to call a constituent assembly to draft a new one. If the population endorses the revised constitution in a referendum, the president — and all other governmental bodies — are legally required to follow the new constitutional framework.

Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures as he speaks during a session of the National Constituent Assembly at Palacio Federal Legislativo in Caracas, Venezuela August 10, 2017.

Additionally, calling on Ottawa to "work with our allies" through the OAS may sound reasonable, but in practice it means backing Trudeau's efforts to weaken Venezuela through that body. Previously, Laverdière promoted that Washington-led policy. In a June 2016 press release bemoaning "the erosion of democracy" and the need for Ottawa to "defend democracy in Venezuela," Laverdière said "the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter regarding Venezuela, and Canada, as a member of the OAS, should support his efforts."

But the former Uruguayan foreign minister's actions as head of the OAS have been highly controversial. They even prompted Almagro's past boss, former Uruguayan president José Mujica, to condemn his bias against the Venezuelan government.

Laverdière has also cozied up to pro-Israel groups. Last year she spoke to the notorious anti-Palestinian lobby organization American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Months after AIPAC paid for her to speak at their conference in Washington, Laverdière visited Israel with Canada's governor general, even participating in a ceremony put on by the Jewish National Fund.

Whoever takes charge of the NDP in October should think about whether Laverdière is the right person to keep Canadian foreign policy decision-makers accountable.

The only Quebec MP to endorse Jagmeet Singh as next party leader, Laverdière has attended other events put on by groups aligned with Washington. She publicized and spoke to the weirdly themed "Demonstration for human and democratic rights in Venezuela, in solidarity with Ukraine and Syria."

Laverdière supports deploying troops to the Russian border and repeatedly called for more sanctions on that country. She said the plan to send military trainers to the Ukraine "sounds good in principle" and only called for a debate in Parliament about sending 450 Canadians to head up a 1,000-strong NATO force in Latvia.

Since 2014, Laverdière has repeatedly called for stronger sanctions on Russia. In 2014, Laverdièretold the Ottawa Citizen that "for sanctions to work, it's not about the number of people but it's about actually sanctioning the right people. They have to be comprehensive. And they have to target mainly the people who are very close to Putin. Our sanctions, the Canadian sanctions, still fail to do that."

In May Laverdière applauded a bill modelled after the U.S. Magnitsky Act that will further strain relations between Ottawa and Moscow by sanctioning Russian officials. "Several countries have adopted similar legislation and we are encouraged that the Liberals are finally taking this important step to support the global Magnitsky movement," she said.

In another region where the U.S. and Russia were in conflict, Laverdière aligned with the Washington-Riyadh position. In the midst of growing calls for the U.S. to impose a "no-fly zone" on Syria last year, the NDP's foreign critic recommended Canada nominate the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize. A letter Laverdière co-wrote to foreign minister Stéphane Dion noted: "Canada has a proud and long-standing commitment to human rights, humanitarianism and international peacekeeping. It is surely our place to recognize the selflessness, bravery, and fundamental commitment to human dignity of these brave women and men."

Also known as the Syrian Civil Defence, the White Helmets are credited with rescuing many people from bombed-out buildings. But they have also fostered opposition to the Bashar al-Assad regime. They have criticized the Syrian government and disseminated images of its violence, but have largely ignored those people targeted by the opposition and even were seen overseeing an execution.

The White Helmets are closely associated with the Syria Campaign, which was set up by Ayman Asfari, a British billionaire of Syrian descent actively opposed to Assad. The White Helmets also received at least US$23 million from USAID and Global Affairs Canada sponsored a five-city White Helmets tour of Canada in late 2016.

Early in the Syrian conflict, Laverdière condemned the Stephen Harper government for failing to take stronger action against Assad. She urged Harper to raise the Syrian conflict with China, recall Canada's ambassador to Syria and complained that energy giant Suncor was exempted from sanctions, calling on Canada to "put our money where our mouth is."

Prior to running in the 2011 federal election, Laverdière worked for Foreign Affairs. She held a number of Foreign Affairs positions over a decade, even winning the Foreign Minister's Award for her contribution to Canadian foreign policy.

Laverdière was chummy with Harper's foreign minister. John Baird said, "I'm getting to know Hélène Laverdière and I'm off to a good start with her" and when Baird retired, CBC News reported that she was "among the first to line up in the House on Tuesday to hug the departing minister."

On a number of issues the former Canadian diplomat has aligned with the U.S. empire. Whoever takes charge of the NDP in October should think about whether Laverdière is the right person to keep Canadian foreign policy decision-makers accountable.

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