Canada likes to trade on the “middle power” trope. Tucked away among the many, snuggled up with peer states just outside the focus given to global hegemons, the country goes about its business, friendly and mild. Nothing to see here.
But behind the facade is a past and present of neocolonial plundering. Canada is a mining powerhouse, off on extractive misadventures in the Global South. It’s also a notable contributor to the global arms trade, including a weapons deal that helps fuel the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen.
We look at Canada’s role in ripping up the world and selling it military weapons. We also look back a 20th century movement that might have put a stop to all this.
- First, (@9:01), Rachel Small is an anti-war activist and organizer with the Canadian Chapter of World BEYOND War. On January 25th, she joined others in a protest aimed at disrupting the shipment of light armoured vehicles (LAVs) — also known as, well, tanks — destined for the Middle East. She breaks down Canada’s arm sales to Saudi Arabia and discusses direct action efforts against the country’s arms traders.
- Then, (@21:05) Todd Gordon is assistant professor of Law and Society at Laurier University and co-author of Blood of Extraction: Canadian Imperialism in Latin America. He busts the myth of Canada as a weak, subordinate power held down by bigger foreign states and runs down the country’s history of exploitative extractive projects in the Global South, especially in Latin America.
- Finally (@39:17) Vincent Bevins is a journalist and author of the extraordinary book The Jakarta Method, detailing the US Cold War policy of backing brutally repressive military regimes. He reminds us that the imperialism and colonialism of this century and the last were not inevitable. The Third World Movement was premised on the idea that non-Western and non-Soviet states would chart their own path and take their place alongside the “first” and “second” world countries in a post-colonial world. Washington, however, had other ideas.
——————-FURTHER READING & LISTENING——————-
- Bevins, Vincent. The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade & the Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our World. Public Affairs, 2020.
- Gilmore, Scott. “Canada’s Racism Problem? It’s Even Worse Than America’s.” Maclean’s Magazine. Jan. 22, 2015.
- Global Affairs Canada. Exports of Military Goods: 2019. Government of Canada, 2020.
- Mining Watch. “Blog.”
- O, Keefe, Derrick. “Hamilton Activists Block Trucks Linked to Saudi Arms Shipments.” Ricochet, Jan. 25, 2021.
- Webber, Jeffrey R. and Todd Gordon. Blood of Extraction: Canadian Imperialism in Latin America. Fernwood Publishing, 2016.
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This episode received support by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research, which provided us a research grant to look at the concept of “public intellectualism.” Professor Allen Sens at the University of British Columbia is the lead academic advisor.
Darts and Letters is produced in Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples. It is also produced in Vancouver, BC, which is on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.