“The Ugly Canadian”

Author and Activist to Present Latest Work On Canada’s Fearless Leader

  • Few of Harper’s critics are as unrelenting as Yves Engler. Photo by Antonis Samaras.

Stephen Harper has his critics, but few are as unrelenting as Yves Engler.

A left-wing activist and the author of six titles on Canadian politics, Engler will be presenting his seventh, The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy, at Concordia’s School of Community & Public Affairs Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Engler, the Concordia Student Union’s VP Communications in 2002, is unsparing in his criticism of the Prime Minister’s foreign policy record.

“If you look at Harper’s policy disinterestedly, from a humanistic perspective, it’s rotten to the core. It should be regarded as a crime against humanity,” said Engler in an interview with The Link.

Engler lists the government’s strong support for Canadian oil and mining companies abroad, its delayed reaction to the Arab Spring, and close ties to Israel as among many of the problems in Harper’s “militaristic and corporate-oriented foreign policy.”

The Harper government is out of touch with ordinary Canadians and acts mostly in the interests of large corporations, Engler contends.

“This country has become the lead cheerleader for Big Oil and their neoconservative agenda,” he wrote.

Bowing to pressure from the local oil industry, Engler argues, the federal government backed out of the Kyoto Accord and has tried to scuttle other countries’ efforts to reduce their dependence on ‘dirty oil’ extracted from Canadian tar sands.

Engler also criticizes Harper’s promotion of Canadian mining projects, including those of Barrick Gold.

“Pick almost any country in the Global South–from Papua, New Guinea to Ghana, Ecuador and the Philippines–and you will find a Canadian-run mine that has caused environmental devastation,” said Engler.

In his view, nothing could be further from the concerns of the Canadian public.

“Politics shouldn’t be about advancing the interests of rich people,” he added.

Engler argues that Harper’s foreign policy has disgraced Canada in the eyes of people around the world.

The cliché of the ostentatious, culturally insensitive “ugly American” (after the title of a 1958 novel) has slowly given way to the stereotype of the “ugly Canadian.”

Canadian diplomats have typically been regarded as more moderate and moralistic than the Americans. In the 1966, the former US secretary of state, Dean Acheson, sardonically described Canada as “the stern daughter of the voice of God.”

However, Engler says that, under Harper, Canada has veered to the right and become “more extreme” than the United States.

According to the author, the international community rebuked Canada for its foreign policy by turning down its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council in favour of Portugal in 2010.

Although he singles out Stephen Harper in his latest book, Engler has long been a critic of Canadian foreign policy.

In protest of what he described as Canadian complicity in the Haitian coup d’etat of 2004, Engler interrupted a press conference being given by then foreign minister, Pierre Pettigrew, and spilled a bottle of cranberry juice mixed with red dye on his hands, saying, “This symbolizes the Haitian blood on the hands of Pierre Pettigrew.”

Engler spent the next day and a half in jail and was eventually given a one-year restraining order against Pettigrew.

Not much is new with Engler’s criticism of foreign policy under Stephen Harper. Most of what he says in The Ugly Canadian has already been mentioned in the mainstream press, the source of most of his material.

But Harper’s ruling of Canada, Engler writes, is a continuation of a move in the wrong direction for the people of Canada.

Yves Engler presents: The Ugly Canadian / Oct. 9 / School of Community & Public Affairs (2149 MacKay St.) / 7:00 p.m.

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