“It’s aggravating to put up with the amount of sanctimony and hypocrisy that’s around,” griped Globe and Mail columnist, longtime activist, and former This Magazine editor Rick Salutin, at the early May launch of Yves Engler’s book, The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, where Salutin was the keynote speaker.
Engler’s book sheds light on several of the skeletons harbored in the closet of Canada’s foreign relations record. While the book may be an alternative to the political posturing of our government–and much of the mainstream media’s slanted coverage–it may also be a difficult pill for wool-eyed idealists to swallow.
Canada is often seen as—to quote Salutin—the “backwaters of empire,” an innocent bystander to the bullying tactics of the nation’s southern neighbours. Engler points out that while nearly nine out of ten Canadians view this country as a benevolent force in the world, the truth isn’t always so kind. Engler’s book draws attention to some lesser known fragments of Canada’s diplomatic past and present: its undermining of the democratically elected Aristide government in Haiti; its role in overthrowing Salvador Allende and subsequent support of the Pinochet regime in Chile; piggybacking on Uncle Sam in the Middle East and even supporting South African Apartheid.
At his book’s launch, Engler spoke of the ideal Canada—one whose foreign policy initiatives would be centered upon being good neighbours as opposed to self-interest. While Engler insists that he is not an expert in foreign policy he points out that, as a journalist, “informing citizens about what their governments, corporations and other institutions are doing is a central task.” Engler writes: “The goal of this book is to reveal a side of international relations that our governments and corporations have kept hidden from the vast majority of us. This black book, unlike a secret list of girlfriends kept by a lothario, has a progressive purpose: To inspire Canadians to demand change.”