On April 4, 2019, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) foreign ministers met in Washington, DC to celebrate its 70th anniversary. While both parties in Congress applauded NATO, peace and justice activists held a week of action in protest, disrupting meetings, shutting down an entrance to the State Department and taking the streets. Activists are trying to expose the truth about NATO as an institution founded to prevent the rise of left movements, protect capitalism and provide cover for illegal wars. We speak with Yves Engler, a Montreal-based author and activist, about the history of NATO and why it’s time to abolish it.
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Yves Engler is a former Vice President of the Concordia Student Union, Yves Engler is a Montréal-based activist and author. He has published ten books: Left, Right — Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada; A Propaganda System—How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation, Canada in Africa — 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation, The Ugly Canadian — Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy, Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping — The Truth May Hurt, Stop Signs — Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay (with Bianca Mugyenyi), The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy (Shortlisted for the Mavis Gallant Prize for Non Fiction in the Quebec Writers’ Federation Literary Awards), Playing Left Wing: From Rink Rat to Student Radical and (with Anthony Fenton) Canada in Haiti: Waging War on The Poor Majority and Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid. Yves was born in Vancouver, where he grew up playing hockey. He was a peewee teammate of NHL star Mike Ribeiro at Huron Hochelaga in Montréal before playing in the B.C. Junior League. After being suspended from Concordia University, he turned to research and writing, but he’s still a fan of the great Canadian sport. To contact Yves email Yvesengler(at)hotmail.com
Yves first became active in Canadian foreign policy issues in the early 2000s. Initially focused on anti-corporate globalization organizing, the year he was an elected vice president of the Concordia Student Union Benjamin Netanyahu was blocked from speaking at the university. The protests sparked a massive backlash against student activism on campus. Later in the school year the US invaded Iraq. In the lead-up to the war Yves helped mobilize students to attend a number of massive antiwar demonstrations and co-founded a small collective called Block the Empire, which organized an early morning blockade of the US consulate in Montréal. Later Block the Empire organized a number of events targeting arms manufacturers, including a tour of Montréal’s weapons industry.
While these efforts challenged Canadian foreign policy, it was only after Ottawa helped overthrow the democratically elected Haitian government in 2004 that Yves began to seriously question Canada’s peacekeeper self-image. As he learned about Canada’s contribution to violent, anti-democratic policies in Haiti Yves began to directly challenge this country’s foreign policy. Over the next three years he traveled to Haiti and helped organize dozens of marches, talks, actions, press conferences, etc. critical of Canada’s role in the country. Yves also co-authored Canada in Haiti: Waging War Against the Poor Majority and helped establish the Canada Haiti Action Network.
As the situation in Haiti stabilized Yves began reading everything he could find about Canadian foreign policy, which culminated in the Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy. This research began a process that later led to Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid, Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt, The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy, Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation, A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation and Left, Right — Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada.
While Yves regularly attend rallies and demonstrations in Montreal, since the release of the Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy in 2009 the bulk of his activism has focused on organizing and coordinating hundreds of speaking events concerning the subject of his books. Through these efforts Yves has worked with antiwar, mining justice, as well as Palestine, Africa, Haiti and Latin America solidarity groups across the country.