Canada's So-Called Feminist Foreign Policy

– Jennie-Laure Sully –

Jennie-Laure Sully is a community organizer in Montreal and Solidarité Québec-Haïti activist.

This International Women's Day, the concern that comes to my mind is the importance of women's struggle for workers, for the working class in general. March 8 is linked to women workers. It is linked to women who were fighting to have their rights recognized as workers and as women.

There is a kind of drift at the moment. We hear about a feminism that is a kind of neo-liberal feminism. There is not necessarily a link made with working class women, with women in the most precarious situation in our society. There is a tendency to want to depoliticize feminism and even to remove its working-class roots.

Moreover, with all that is happening with the wars, we see that there is an effort to divert feminism while the link between feminism and anti-imperialism is important.

I note that feminists in the South, in Latin America or in Venezuela or in Haiti, put forward a feminism that is very anti-imperialist. For example, feminists in these countries are increasingly asserting their feminism outside of Western NGOs (non-governmental organizations). There are big NGOs that are connected to the United States or Canada, that are connected to development assistance, that come in and say "we're coming here to bring you feminism." These women don't need lessons in feminism from the United States or Canada.

We are seeing more and more a rejection of a certain feminism, like Justin Trudeau calling himself a feminist, which is a real joke to many feminists in the Caribbean and Latin America. Prime Minister Trudeau presents his foreign policy as feminist and often this is done through feminist NGOs that talk about a kind of "soft power."

Canada and other neo-liberal powers try to use NGOs to have more influence in the South. They come up with programs, where they tell feminist groups that they will give grants to their groups but the groups have to accept, for example in Haiti, GMO seeds (genetically modified organisms). They tell them that they have to accept the seed donations they send them, they have to do things a certain way. There is the imposition of a narrative, an ideology, but through subsidies supposedly in support of women. The United States does the same thing.

It may be tempting to take that money, but then they have an influence on the groups and it depoliticizes the groups. They also do this with students. They have tried it in Venezuela, in Cuba. They try to bribe the popular movements. They try to depoliticize the feminist movement and make it a neo-liberal feminism that is favourable to their foreign policy, to the North American western outlook that does not allow local feminism to develop with its own ways, its own traditions.

There are groups of land defenders who have a respect for the land in Latin America and the Caribbean, and there are ecology groups financed by big NGOs linked to big governments that go there to teach them how to do ecology! This is an attempt to impose cultural imperialism.

Feminism must be anti-imperialist and we must be careful as feminists that our struggles are not instrumentalized and hijacked by these neo-liberal powers which are also warmongering powers. Sometimes they justify war by saying that they want to protect women. In Afghanistan, they did it, and they are trying to do it all over the Middle East. It is supposedly for the good of women that they do this. There are all kinds of lies around this.

Workers must also remember that there is too a struggle against patriarchy. Those in power are generally men who try to control lives, including the lives of women, in order to have more control over the land and resources. We see this when we look at what is happening to Indigenous women with the projects of these big land grabbers in the far north and how it is accompanied by sexual violence. We see that their extractivist campaigns in the countries of the South are also accompanied by sexual violence. The struggle against these exploiters necessarily includes the struggle against patriarchy.

(Translated from the original French by Workers' Forum.)

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 3 - March 2023

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