Thursday, December 01, 2005

Well, Tom, that wasn't quite my plan. . .

In response to my recent Chronicles column about New Democratic Party hopeful Randall Garrison (see the web log entry for November 28, below), Thomas Baker of Vancouver wrote this letter, which was published in the Georgia Straight today:

"Thank you to Terry Glavin for highlighting the fact that almost two years after the Canadian government played a leading role in orchestrating the coup d’état against the democratically elected government of Haiti, the NDP, who have been keeping these Liberal coup plotters in power, have no “official stance” on the ongoing Canada/U.S./UN occupation of Haiti [“Unusual NDPer backs international missions”, Chronicles, Nov. 24–Dec. 1]. Incredibly, the so-called party of the working class in Canada can’t decide if it was right to…give military support to the overthrow of a government overwhelmingly supported by the Haitian working class. Who would have thought that the NDP would make the U.S. Democrats, who have several members of Congress advocating for the people of Haiti, look good?"

Not to be ungrateful, but I'm not going to take credit for something I didn't do, much less for something I certainly didn't intend to do.

Meanwhile, the original column sparked a firestorm of debate - much of it infused with the same strained analysis as the above, in Mr. Baker's letter - on the fabulously successful discussion forum known as "babble," specifically here.

After reviewing the content of that debate, I'm happy to know that Mr. Garrison is not alone among New Democrats in his view that the "left" in Canada needs to start thinking for itself in order to develop an independent, progressive policy on military and foreign affairs.

In the "babble" back-and-forth, someone helpfully reprinted a letter from Alexa McDonough, which sets out what I take to be the NDP's position on Haiti. McDonough is the former leader of the NDP, and its current foreign affairs critic. Among other things - such as the sensible proposition that the federal government should conduct a thorough re-evaluation of the effectiveness of the UN mission in Haiti, and Canada's role in it -McDonagh makes these points:

"Canada has professional expertise in police training and electoral infrastructure. When exercised effectively, our presence can help to create the conditions for the provision of basic needs, sustainable development, a legitimate justice system and fair elections. Haiti is currently headed for elections that are flawed. Canada can make a contribution to ensuring that a different path is followed, if there is genuine political will to do so.

". . . The NDP recognizes that it would be exceedingly difficult to advocate for genuine democratic change, in Haiti or elsewhere, by absenting ourselves from international efforts in Haiti. Canada is uniquely positioned to press for this work to be carried out in true solidarity with the Haitian people, resulting in a just and sustainable future.

"The solution, therefore, cannot be to do nothing, but rather to do better, and for the right reasons."

That's Garrison's position, too. Good for him, and good for McDonough, and if their position puts the NDP closer to Canada's Liberal Party on these questions than to, say, the George Galloway crowd, or to the "U.S. Democrats" Mr. Baker mentions, then all the better.


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