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Features

Canada's growing role in partnership alongside US imperialism

Military intervention and mining interests guide current foreign policy

Abayomi Azikiwe

2013-04-24, Issue 627

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/87108

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Canada seems to be a quiet and unknown imperialist state. However, it has also invaded and occupied Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and Haiti alongside pursuing significant mining interests in a number of African countries.

Canada is the largest trading partner with the United States. The country over the last few years under both Liberal and Conservative governments has engaged in military adventures with the Pentagon. Canadian troops joined the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in late 2001 and later reinforced its presence in the Central Asian state in 2002. It is estimated that up to 3,500 troops were in Afghanistan during the mid-2000s.

By 2012, the Canadian presence in Afghanistan was less than 1,000 troops although at the NATO Summit in Chicago, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that he would continue this engagement in order to assist in the training of imperialist-allied Afghan troops.

CANADIAN IMPERIALIST ROLE IN LIBYA

In addition to the intervention in Afghanistan as part of the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the Harper government participated in the Washington-NATO bombing and overthrow of the North African state of Libya during 2011. In fact the commander of the war against Libya was Royal Canadian Air Force Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard.

The war in Libya waged by air, which provided logistical support for the rebels who invaded cities and towns in a reign of terror, resulted in the deaths of 50,000-100,000 people and the forced displacement of 2 million. This genocidal war in Libya grew to the point of involving the imperialist states and puppet client-regimes of the U.S., Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, Britain, Qatar and Canada. At the conclusion of the ‘no-fly zones’ some nineteen states were involved in the military operation.

On October 20, 2011, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, leader of the Libyan governmental system of Jamahiriya, was traveling in a convoy out of the city Sirte where he was bombed and later captured and brutally tortured and murdered. Just one day prior to the assassination of Gaddafi, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had visited the capital of Tripoli and said that Gaddafi should be captured or killed.

CANADIAN IMPERIALIST ROLE IN SOMALIA AND HAITI

Other military operations involving Canada were the US-led military interventions in Somalia in 1992-93 and in Haiti during 2004. In Somalia, the Canadian troops were cited for gross human rights violations against civilians.

In Haiti, the Canadian government intervened along with France and the US in February 2004. The government of the elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown and the leader who was very popular among the people suffered a kidnapping and forced exile to the Central African Republic. Later Aristide was granted political asylum in the Republic of South Africa.

CANADIAN MINING INTERESTS IN AFRICA

There is of course an economic reason behind the escalating Canadian military involvement in Africa and other geo-political regions. Canadian firms have been mining strategic minerals and drilling oil in numerous states across the African continent.

In a recent article published in Think Africa Press by Travis Lupick it quotes Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada, who said that ‘We certainly are one of the biggest players in Africa in several respects. It’s a largely undeveloped, unexplored continent, which makes it interesting… a new frontier. Our industry is often one of the first to go where no-one has gone before.’ (April 18)

Documents published by Natural Resources Canada reveal that as of 2011, 155 Canadian corporations had operations on the African continent. The total assets of these firms were estimated at $30.8 billion.

These companies had the highest concentration of operations in the East African region where some $12.7 billion was invested. In West Africa the total investment is listed as $9.9 billion.

In addition to these listings, the Canadian mining firms have interests of $4.9 billion in Southern Africa, $3.4 billion in Central Africa and $36.7 million in North Africa. The most significant mining interests from Canada were involved in projects in Zambia, Mauritania, South Africa, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Tanzania, Mali, Senegal and Eritrea.

Even though these investments are important, Natural Resources Canada indicated that they only constitute 21.5 percent of all foreign mining interests controlled by the country. There are larger interests in Latin America with projects on-going in Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala and Honduras.

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Harper has been under fierce criticism in recent years due to Canada’s involvement in projects which have proved detrimental to the people of the Latin America region. There have been protests over working conditions for miners and environmental damage done by Canadian-based firms in Colombia, Peru, Honduras and Guatemala.

CANADIAN OIL INTERESTS IN THE HORN OF AFRICA

Africa Oil Corporation is a Canadian-based petroleum firm with assets in Kenya, Ethiopia and Puntland, a northern breakaway region in Somalia. The Horn Petroleum Corporation is based in Puntland and is engaged in exploration and drilling in this contentious geo-political area.

Somalia has been occupied by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), which is largely financed and politically supported by the United States. AMISOM troops, some 17,500, have been stationed in the country in order to prevent the Al-Shabaab Islamic movement from taking control of the state.

In the last year the Federal Government of Somalia has been championed for its purported stability after over two decades of factionalism and civil war inside the country. Nonetheless, the government would have a very difficult time remaining in power if it were not for the AMISOM forces and the support the military units receive from the US, Britain, France, Canada and Israel.

The US maintains drone stations inside Somalia where the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has carried out strikes against alleged Islamic fighters. The Al-Shabaab resistance movement, which is demanding the withdrawal of all AMISOM and western forces from the country, has borne the brunt of these drone attacks along with civilians who are not involved in the conflict directly.

Also the CIA has a major operations centre in Somalia. The imperialist governments led by the US want to maintain control of Somalia in order to exploit its natural resources and its strategic geo-political position in the Horn of Africa and proximity to the Gulf of Aden, an important shipping route adjacent to the Arabian Peninsula.

Warships from the US and the European Union (EU) have been occupying the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean near Somalia since 2008 under the guise of combating piracy. The European Union Naval Force (EU-NAVFOR) carries out the maritime occupation under the banner of Operation Atalanta.

Canada is also involved in the Gulf of Aden alongside the other NATO countries as part of a combined task force aimed at protecting western interests in the region.

*Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor of Pan-African News Wire

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