Your CPP Is Funding War Crimes
How would you feel if someone told you that every one of your paycheques was being used to support war crimes and keep the companies accused of these atrocities rolling in lucrative business? And how would you feel if you lived off the avails of torture and bloodshed through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), upon your long-awaited retirement after paying into it? This appears to be our dirty little secret, that Canadians enjoy prosperity at the unethical demise of others.
In a recent interview with Harry Fear we touched on CPP investments and how they contribute to the Israel-Palestine conflict; through complicity in drone warfare, an illegal wall, the death of children and suppression of human rights.
While this was enough to make anyone angry, it wasn’t until I received mortified responses from baby boomers that I investigated further. The messages from this demographic were compelling and show that we’re ready to take action to restore our reputation and the shame of these transgressions will not be tolerated.
It’s claimed the amounts we contribute to CPP are not enough to cover the population’s living expenses and as a result, the plan turns to the stock market in an effort to generate a sustainable future. We’ve done well enough that organizations are pushing for expansion, to allow Canadian retirees a degree of pride that sustains them above the poverty line. With the amount of privatization, downloading and user fees they will surely need it; but the Harper government says we can’t afford to treat our own a little better.
It may indeed be a matter of priorities, but not as we are led to believe from a lack of funding. Instead it’s the difference between humanitarian care for Canadians, versus the pursuit of power in a vicious, military-industrial complex. At the end of the day CPP relief is not available to seniors because the government wants a greater share to invest in pet projects of warfare.
Our domestic (PDF) and foreign portfolios (PDF) are available on the CPP Investment Board website. Scanning through the foreign list we come across L-3 Communications Holdings, where we invested $10 million in solidarity with a company held responsible for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
Everyone remembers the horrifically iconic photographs that circulated media from the darkest corners of Iraq. What Canadians may not have realized is that our holding, L-3 Communications, was the first private contractor to settle with victims for $5.8 million to account for their role in the torture and inhumanity.
Reprieve is a UK charity focused on the human rights of prisoners. They cite L-3 Communications as not just a violator in the Abu Ghraib case, but also as a”key drone component manufacturer” for the American-made predator. This is the weaponized, remote control aircraft responsible for increasing attacks on civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.
According to international law it’s illegal to use armed drones in non-war zones, but no one from the company will acknowledge these concerns. In the meantime, as many as 885 innocents were killed, accounting for 176 children in Pakistan alone. That means every working person in Canada paid about $5 in CPP contributions to make it happen and we continue to perpetuate violence in this corner of the world.
But our unethical investments don’t end there. We support Elbit Systems Ltd., on the forefront of miniature drone cars that also kill by remote control. They can take action of their own accord, without the need for human intervention to shoot whatever these Guardium models deem a threat in their computerized judgement. Automatic killing machines pose a challenge to human rights and yet the Canada Pension Plan is behind pushing them to market.
Canadians hold another $16 million in CAE, as a partner to Elbit for the purpose of developing Integrated Soldier Systems. Most information has been removed from public view by the Department of National Defence since the project was approved for a tendering process by the Canadian government. Earlier research (PDF) indicates the creation of veritable robo-cops like what we’ve seen in the movies, complimented by eyepieces with pop-up TV screens to feed intel to the troops. This is the military meets Xbox and CPP facilitates this development too.
With the presence of hacktivist groups like Anonymous watching over the battlefield and increased warnings from CSIS regarding digital espionage as the biggest threat to our security, a new industry of war games is birthed against conventional wisdom that places profit front of mind with little regard for human beings.
In fact, Chinese-based servers are responsible for hacking into Canada’s defence research, treasury and finance departments in an unprecedented breach of our most classified information. Ironically, the Integrated Soldier System was housed in a compromised department and it may still come to pass that the government looks to Anonymous for protection at the rate we’re going.
By no means are these the only examples of our financial stake in conflict, but they do represent some of the most heinous crimes and self-inflicted danger that our savings are used to promote. With every paycheque we’re breaking human rights around the world. CPP has been manipulated to terrorize Palestinian children by the hundreds of thousands. Hundreds more are killed across the Middle East and a majority of countries where drones are hovering equipped with missiles. The ones that aren’t weaponized perform surveillance to challenge North American civil liberties and we’re so heavily invested in warfare that if peace occurred, our retirement fund would become bankrupt.
It’s important to understand that CPP is not a tax and therefore doesn’t qualify as government revenue (PDF) to do with as it pleases. Despite this, the investment board is a crown corporation that is directly responsible to the federal government and immediately after Prime Minister Stephen Harper was elected in 2006, they updated their policies to encourage aggressive tactics.
Dramatic changes followed quickly. In 2007, new legislation altered CPP practices through measures contained in Bill C-36. By April 2007, all CCP assets were transferred to control of the investment board (PDF, see pg. 18, New Investment Policy) and in 2012 they changed from passive management to active management techniques. Aggressive trading requires a team of involved experts and staff at the CPP ballooned from 70 to 811 in the same short period. They’ve opened offices in Hong Kong and London, took on riskier markets, decreased Canadian equities in favour of foreign projects, hedged currency and shifted public holdings to private interests. Our hard-working dollars used to find their place in safer government bonds, but the lion’s share was migrated to a war-centric market.
The investment board explains they’re unique from other retirement funds and they’re padded to take on the risk. They’re only expected to share 25 per cent of profits to provide for CPP benefits and the working class pays the rest. With $170 billion in assets now and 18 million people to cover, the plan can already sustain itself for another 75 years. (PDF, see pgs. 1-21, CCPIB Annual Report 2012).
Since Conservative rule and the CPP makeover, we’ve borne the brunt of losses great as 18.6 per cent. We must divest from the war machine and put our money where it doesn’t kill, if not for humanitarian grounds then because financially it doesn’t make sense. As international diplomats have said, “Canada is not the good guys anymore — we all have a bit of blood on our hands.”
Part II: Where Your CPP Money Really Goes
In part one of this two-part series, we examined the Canada Pension Plan’s (CPP) investment in drones, computerized soldiers, land occupation and an infamous prison scandal. Part two is dedicated to the many potential conflicts of interest — yours, mine, the executives’ and the PMO’s. Some might be moral. Some might be something more.
If you look at the CPP Investment Board of Directors, you will find that all but one executive was appointed since the determined change in strategy under the Harper government. These board members are skilled leaders from different industries, but no matter their background, most of them share something in common.
Ian Bourne is Chief Executive Officer of SNC-Lavalin. CPP invested $21 million in SNC-Lavalin in spite of the company being plagued by ties to the Gadhafi regime and fraud charges that are still winding through the courts.
Bourne is also the Director of Canadian Oil Sands Limited, which has a large stake in the Syncrude project — the project at the heart of a lawsuit involving Greenpeace and the death of wildlife. Syncrude was convicted and fined more than half a million dollars. Our CPP investments in this company total $80 million.
David Suzuki continues to educate about the misnomers of “ethical oil” and points to other companies in business with the Alberta oil sands. Exxon Mobil has a history of major oil spills. CPP gave them $553 million. Exxon funded a lobby against the Kyoto Protocol, and Canada eventually cancelled our commitment to the international community.
BP is responsible for the tragic Gulf Coast oil spill that may cost more than $7 billion in legal settlements to cover the damage. And if we look in our CPP foreign column, we’ll find $347 million invested in BP.
Nexen is another curious entry with $62 million in CPP investments. It’s unclear what will happen to this particular investment, since Harper made waves by allowing the company to be purchased by China. The deal was embroiled in controversy regarding national security. CSIS raised concerns about compromising Canadian intelligence, while the United States rebuked the purchaser’s energy partnership with Iran. Still, it went unreported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had to freeze assets to investigate cases of Nexen insider trading that resulted from our sell-off.
CPP also has $218 million invested in TransCanada Corp. They’re the ones fighting for the Keystone XL pipeline that was met with public backlash across the continent. We have another $201 million socked away in Enbridge, which has challenged Native land rights in preparation for the Northern Gateway pipeline.
Moving along in our Board of Directors, we arrive at Pierre Choquette was the CEO of Methanex. Douglas W. Mahaffy is the current director of Methanex. This company is the world’s largest producer of methanol for petrochemical use. It received $38 million from CPP. Choquette further served as a director at TELUS, which received $116 million from CPP. TELUS employs two former consultants linked to the E-Health scandal that rocked Ontario.
Heather Monroe-Blum sits on the Board of Directors for the Royal Bank of Canada. RBC received $707 million from CPP and is the Plan’s largest domestic holding. That’s putting a lot of our eggs in one basket, which seems unwise, especially when that one company has been implicated in the LIBOR scandal .
Karen Sheriff heads Bell Aliant as the CEO and president. CPP invested $21 million with that company. Joe Mark Zurel is listed as the Director of Major Drilling Group, which also received $12 million from CPP. Nancy Hopkins is the Director of Cameco Corporation. CPP invested $43 million there. Robert Brooks was the Vice Chair of Scotiabank. CPP invested $537 million in the company. Brooks also headed Dundee Wealth and CPP invested $20 million with Dundee’s parent company.
In addition to these revelations, the CPP is a substantial partner of Onex. The Onex Corporation purchased Raytheon’s air division in 2006. Raytheon is a defence contractor. It’s the world’s largest producer of guided missiles and nuclear warheads. These weapons are involved in conflicts from Iraq to Afghanistan, from Libya to Syria and everywhere the U.S. military sets foot. The acquisition of Raytheon’s flight technology created the Hawker Beechcraft company, putting Onex in the business of peddling combat planes to governments.
The managing director of Onex was Nigel Wright. He took leave from the position to become our Prime Minister’s chief of staff, exactly two months after CPP entered a multi-billion dollar partnership with his company. While the Conservatives called this “great news for Canada’s economic policy,” the NDP’s Charlie Angus cautioned Wright to “follow the rules” regarding conflict interest.
Wright was recently cleared in an ethics probe about the same issue with Barrick Gold (in which CPP holds a $330 million stake). The founding family of Barrick sat on the Onex board of directors and there were questions about personal lobbying that could have led to the PMO.
Despite the investigation’s positive outcome for Wright, MP Angus took issue with the commissioner’s process. When additional conflict issues were raised by OMERS, they were dismissed as mistakes in a hasty response from the Prime Minister on Wright’s behalf.
As we’ve seen, Harper’s chief of staff is also connected to Lockheed Martin (incidentally CPP holds $78 million in that company as well). Nigel Wright’s duties as director of Onex included oversight of Hawker Beechcraft, the partner to Lockheed Martin, which produced the fighter jets at the centre of F-35 debacle. This places the CPP in a bizarre love triangle with Onex and Lockheed, well beyond anything we purchased in stock.
Hawker Beechcraft’s Onex deals with Lockheed include supplying the US Air Force and Homeland Security with cannon equipped fighter jets. They produce a handful of warplanes with rocket capability and their accounts include the Canadian, American, Greek, Israeli, Iraqi, Moroccan and Mexican military. One of the shared executives (PDF) managed the Lockheed F-35 file before coming to head government relations at Onex’s Hawker Beechcraft.
So that introduces our business partner.
In July 2010, CPP and Onex purchased Tomkins PLC together, for $4.5 billion (£2.9 billion) with our retirement dollars. We are equally listed owners and our acquisition provides hydraulics to the oil, gas and mining industries. Tomkins was also the previous owner of Smith and Wesson guns before we bought them out.
In November 2012 CPP deepened its relationship with Onex to acquire Tomkins Air Distribution for an additional $1.1 billion (PDF); meaning when Nigel Wright leaves his position with the Prime Minister’s Office, he’ll presumably return to managing our CPP partnership from the private industry end.
With the 2012 expansion, Onex and the CPP came to own all subsidiaries under the parent heading. One of those spinoffs is Titus, a company that provides data security to the military in Canada, the U.S., Australia, Belgium and Denmark. Titus provides services to the whole of government, aerospace, police and financial industries.
The moral of the story is we’ve got to come clean about the unethical use of our retirement funds. There isn’t enough money to expand CPP because the surplus was earmarked to boost the military-industrial complex. When our hard-earned money isn’t being used to cause bloodshed, it’s going to companies affiliated with the CPP’s own CEOs and the Alberta oil sands.
Harry Fear Has a Message for Canadians
He graced our television sets with live reports from the most recent conflict between Palestine and Israel. Now that a ceasefire has been reached, British filmmaker and human rights advocate, Harry Fear, has embarked on a world talking tour to share his knowledge about the social, political and economic ramifications from a firsthand perspective.
He arrived in Toronto Monday, amid much ado from Canada Customs the moment he stepped off the plane. That curious greeting will leave a lasting impression; complete with grilling about his political perspective, examination of his website, a list of domestic associates and questions regarding which side he supported. It used to be that a British passport could get you into Canada, but now not so much. Now it depends on where you stand and if your freedom of speech is acceptable to the Harper government.
Thankfully Fear passed the interview and wasn’t turned away like British diplomats before him, due to peaceful and sympathetic views that include the Palestinian people (see MP George Galloway). Sometimes we’re luckier than we know to receive communication from the outside world and in this rare glimpse; Harry provides extensive interview to help us understand what our handlers already had the benefit of gleaning from his experience.
Fear’s lectures, Aggression in Gaza – A Talking Tour, are scheduled for numerous venues across the country. Tonight, he speaks at University of Toronto, followed by engagements at respective universities in Hamilton, London, Windsor and Calgary. Due to the overwhelming response, more dates and locations in various provinces are still being determined and you can keep an eye on the itinerary here.
(photo credit: SPHR McMaster University)
For those who can’t make it, he was kind enough to provide us with two hours of intimate answers to our deepest questions, unedited. Via Skype video recording, Harry Fear compels us to think harder about what we’ve been told. He points to concerns about our current leadership’s role in perpetuating the conflict by taking a hard stance that may not be conducive to a peaceful resolution. In fairness, Fear identifies a North American mindset that falls short of grasping the repercussions or why it is so important for us to sit up and take notice.
These topics do not shy away from what amounts to controversy in the western world. We do, however, stand alone in our foreign affairs policy toward the situation, as seen by the United Nations vote for Palestine’s observer status and our lonely opinion against them. One hundred and thirty eight countries gave their nod of approval and Canada was amongst the nine to object. We’re also in the minority to label Hamas a terrorist sect, but Harry does a thorough job of explaining international law and how our opinions translate on the streets of Gaza.
Not only was Fear present for the onslaught of bombing in Operation Pillar of Cloud (aka Pillar of Defence), he is also a scholar from Oxford in the discipline of political science. In our personal exchange he goes on to explain the reason for that name change, in that Pillar of Cloud is a religious reference to a children’s playground. It might not have been good optics in a public relations war, that sees them dying and sometimes burnt to the bone by white phosphorus.
From the bombing of kindergarten humanitarian schools on International Children’s Day to the demoralization of depending on foreign aid for food, Harry Fear is not too timid to express in real terms what their day to day reality is like. He is passionate about this suffering and urges us to understand the majority of civilians in Gaza are children. He says the violence and occupation punishes them as if they were responsible for the adults and world politics.
Fear also paints a picture of arbitrary detention, in a system where kids are imprisoned and even tortured for throwing stones. He describes some as having to defend themselves in a foreign court, in a foreign language, all alone. Moreover he amends the terminology of PTSD to say the children are coping with “continuing stress disorder”. This presents with symptoms of bed-wetting, separation anxiety and consistent shell shock that does not have a chance to heal.
The dialogue isn’t nearly confined to children though and broaches topics such as apartheid, “with a small ‘a'”. This involves road systems that Palestinians aren’t allowed to use in their own territory and colour-coded licence plates to alleviate racial profiling by identifying their vehicles for interrogation. In other strange measures, Palestinian males can be guilty of a crime for failing to announce their ethnicity to a prospective sexual partner.
Nearly every aspect of the Israel-Palestine conflict is touched upon in this account, underlining unemployment, education, Hamas and perceived terrorism, as well the dangers to Israeli citizens. But where the West has been led to believe the Jewish people strictly oppose Palestinians, he challenges us with information about their protests in support. Fear outlines the difference between a Zionist, an Israeli and those who practice Judaism, explaining many Jews decry the occupation and complain their religion was hijacked by politics. Contrary to North American beliefs, the truth of the situation is that Rabbis for Human Rights are some of the most active Israelis campaigning against the illegal settlements in search of peace for all (in English and the original in Hebrew).
Fear offers a balanced and honest assessment from both perspectives, right down to the pros and cons of Palestine obtaining observer status. He breaks down the structure of their government, so Canadians are able to understand the nature of each territory, the reasons for disjointed leadership from the West Bank to Gaza Strip and where they’ve been able to work together.
He discusses the different tactics of oppression in each of the areas. In Gaza it’s predominantly violence related and an open air prison, surrounded by the Israeli Defence Forces. In the West Bank it’s entirely occupied and they rely on humiliation, complete with constant control of Palestinian movement.
He brought this message to Canada and the U.S. to draw attention to superpowers that are aiding and abetting the occupation. One example through my research is the Canada Pension Plan. Our citizens are retiring based on our government’s investment in the very companies that supply arms and build the illegal wall (more here, including photographs).
Harry mentions the G4S company, that provides armed security for illegal settlers also contrary to international law. A number of significant entities have already divested to clear themselves of supporting that violation as well as the maltreatment of child prisoners. And yet here is G4S Canada, thriving without an ounce of recognition in the Canadian consciousness.
Our collective CPP investments (domestic companies list and foreign companies list — PDF) include Elbit; responsible for drone smart cars and the newest patrol of Palestinians with the ability to kill by remote control. Whether it’s on the ground or in the air, drones are being used to target citizens 365 days a year regardless of any ceasefire. Our retirement is doubly invested in CAE, which has partnered with Elbit to provide similar technology on Canadian soil.
The University of Alberta partnered with the government in Alma, Quebec, to develop and test Israeli drones for greater human impact and profit. This was accomplished through an Israeli economic mission to Canada last spring, unbeknownst to most Canadians. So not only is our retirement tied to keeping the conflict going, but we’re also developing the unmanned machines to kill Palestinians in our own backyard.
The Canada Pension Plan is heavily invested in construction of the illegal wall. That too was reprimanded by United Nations, but we’re paying for it through Elbit, CHR and Caterpillar. As Fear says, this places blood on all Canadian hands and we are morally compelled to guide our leaders in an ethical direction. For a running list of companies in the divestment campaign, please see Stop the Wall. (PDF)
Finally Fear addresses the Canadian government, asking the Harper Conservatives and federal Liberals to rethink their stance in support of Israeli violence without question. He notes the NDP may have represented our country better under Jack Layton and was surprised to learn even they haven’t condemned the occupation or spoken of divestment under new leadership.
In the video he encourages everyone to visit IfAmericansKnew.org to get a real handle on the numbers and to visually grasp the disparity between them. Fear describes the Israel-Palestine conflict as a case of David and Goliath and asks us to take one minute out of each day to learn more, write a letter or anything we can to make a difference. A solution must be found and 60 years of suffering hasn’t improved by us ignoring it. The rest of the world doesn’t perceive Canada as the good guys anymore and it’s high time we restore our reputation for the benefit of these many children.
Without further explanation, here is the answer to every burning question you’ve ever had about Palestinians and what Fear was able to see for himself. If you would like more information, please visit HarryFear.co.uk or GazaReport.com. You can also follow Fear on Twitter via @HarryFear.
Is This Politician Insulting War Vets?
Campaigns kicked into high gear for this second chance to win the public’s support and federal Liberal Grant Humes has managed to generate controversy amid the excitement. As his election sign was revealed on social media leading up to Remembrance Day, it generated negative responses from veteran families the candidate wasn’t expecting.
Facebook followers of the campaign page shared their criticisms ranging from “offensive” to “publicity stunt,” “classless” and “shameless as stealing a poppy box.” A concerned Afghanistan vet voiced disapproval and others indicated they would not vote for Humes as a result of this material.
Part of the problem was confusion about the sign itself. The candidate’s name does not appear and it seems to be an invitation to a patriotic website in support of veterans. Upon arrival at Durham4Vets.org, visitors are greeted by press clippings regarding veterans’ issues, followed by Grant Humes’ reasons for seeking office and a bit about his work history.
Clicking the petition displays a form to collect personal information, requests a $20 contribution toward the veterans awareness campaign and support for “sound National Policy” — although there is no petition.
In the same navigation bar clicking the “donate” option will cause a different box to appear; this time displaying the candidate’s Liberal Party of Canada donation page pertaining to the by-election.
To clarify, I contacted Humes and he put me in touch with campaign manager Quito Maggi to respond on his behalf. By telephone and follow up email exchange, Maggi explained the purpose of the site and how it relates to the by-election. I also learned animal cruelty is an issue dear to the candidate’s heart and a similar venture was set up to address those matters at StopTheCruelty.org. Both endeavours are authorized as part of the Grant Humes Liberal campaign, but some donations are separate for advocacy about the featured issue at each website. Manager Maggi elaborates,
“Any money raised through the Durham4Vets.org website goes right back into the public awareness campaign (and) yes the money raised from the animal cruelty campaign goes towards keeping that website active and paying for magnets that have been designed (a number have already been produced and distributed).”
When asked about support for these projects, the campaign cited intimidation from the Harper government as a reason veteran groups were afraid to speak up. As a result there were no official endorsements of Humes’ initiatives to report. Regarding the websites and their strategy to educate with continued monetary support; the candidate said he planned to establish veterans and animal advocacy prior to any knowledge of an election. Maggi affirms,
“The websites were registered before the writ was dropped (on October 21) and there was no way for us to know when the writ would be dropped.(Referencing veteran website advertising on election signs,)
“If we could keep the signs up after the election we would, but the sign bylaws are very strict.”
StopTheCruelty.org and Durham4Vets.org are collecting funds through Liberal party mechanisms in the meantime. Whether a by-election campaign or public awareness for cherished issues, this confusion could result in consequences for those who are unable to tell the difference. The timing of a federal election coinciding with the candidate’s project is reported to be incidental, but surely they should be kept apart for the public to perceive ethics in politics.
The last word is offered by Grant Humes who summarized,
“It’s important we respect our Veterans and give them the benefits they deserve. What the government is doing is wrong and I hope people will add their voice and call on the government to take action.”