One of the most dishonourable people I’ve met through the Occupy movement (right up there with Dave Vasey, Sakura Saunders and Maggie Helwig) was an American who lives in Toronto named Doug Johnson Hatlem. If you were reading this site back in March you’ll remember him as the ‘street preacher’ who made-up a story that he had a 11-12 page (he had a hard time deciding) document about all of the reasons that I should be considered to be a sexist, racist misogynist enemy of the people . He never released this document- even when Min Reyes asked to have a look (they were working together on a project) he promptly denied. It turns out there never was one.
Hatlem is rabidly anti-police to the point of believing that the existence of a police force is an act of violence in itself. He’s also a Mennonite- people who (officially) preach non-violence. Unfortunately, he had no reservations being violent with his attempt to smear me with false allegations of racism and sexism. I always figured Hatlem was part of some religious extremist cult. I’ve also always wondered what connections there were between people like Hatlem, Saunders, Vasey & Helwig that would lead them to engage in group bullying as they did…
Today I can expose another part of the puzzle- a religious extremist group called the Christian Peacemaker Teams. Most people I’ve talked to weren’t able to recognize the CPT by their name, but they were able to remember the political action they’re most famous for. Remember back during the Iraq war when some crazy Americans and Canadians who offered themselves up as human shields for Saddam Hussain? Those crazy people were the CPT.
In a nutshell, he CPT are Christian shit-disturbers. It’s questionable whether they’re anarchists- but, they most certainly aren’t shy of the anarchists. They’ve partnered and allied with a litany of pro-violence organizations including the Ruckus Society, Earth First!, AW@L, Rainforest Action Network, Anti-Racist Action (who I’ll be writing about in-depth soon), OCAP, and the Anarchist Black Cross. They’re also connected with one of the most racist and pro-violence organizations in Canada– No One Is Illegal.
The CPT have worked with the Anarchists from all the way back to 1998 when they joined them in an action at the School of The Americas. Peter Gelderloos was there (the author of How Non-Violence Protects The State), as were plenty of thugs dressed in black with masks over their faces. It was an essential moment in the Black Bloc ‘movement’.
When put into context with my first conversation with Hatlem all of this starts to make sense. We were talking about violence in activism under the concept of ‘diversity of tactics’ (anything goes.) He got quite upset with my rejection of allowing the use of violence. At one point he yelled-out “we sorted this issue out a long time ago!” When I asked him who ‘we’ is, he refused to explain.
Obviously, for Hattem, it’s acceptable to allow the use of violence in the pursuit of a non-violent world. Considering his, and the behaviour of bullies like Vasey, Saunders and Helwig- it appears that the CPT are tolerant of people who practice social violence in the name of the revolution too. The CPT’s behaviour is often not what one would describe as being ‘Christian’ nor ‘peacemaking’ at times- quite the opposite.
Take their adventure during the Iraq war. Members of the CPT made the decision they would independently fly to Iraq and offer their services to Saddam Hussain’s government as human shields. Their purpose was to cripple the fighting ability of the US military- what they accomplished was something entirely different.
Some of their members ended-up getting kidnapped by guerilla Iraqi soldiers. So, instead of being tactical barriers to US rockets, they ended-up putting the lives of soldiers at-risk with a dangerous rescue mission. The soldiers bravely located and rescued the kidnapped CPT members. When the CPT wrote a letter thanking the people who supported them during their captivity, they neglected to mention the soldiers (soldiers are, after all, baby killers and all). Finally, after some public pressure, they adjusted their letter to recognize the people who saved them.
How much money did that rescue cost? What if one (or more) of those soldiers died during the rescue? It appears that the CPT’s tactics can be rather selfish and self-promoting.
The CPT are also very interested in the Israel/Palestine conflict. Their members regularly travel to Israel and Palestine. Some of their activities have been peaceful- but, equally, there have been incidents where it appears they may be baiting Israeli soldiers. The CPT have received criticism for having a blind allegiance for the Palestinian side over Israel- even in situations here Palestinians have initiated violence. One would imagine a true peacemaker would denounce acts of violence on both sides.
The CPT have been deeply involved with political issues of indigenous people in Canada, the US and South America. In my research, it’s almost inevitable that wherever there’s a high-profile indigenous protest that the CPT or some other Mennonite organization is somehow involved. Here’s a video that explains the CPT’s views on the CPT’s Aboriginal Justice Project- it’s quite radical, and worth having a look at this link.
There are many interesting things to see in the video. First, notice how they tried to mix images of Palestinians facing Israeli soldiers and how the Canadian government oppresses first nations people. You’ll also notice a familiar figure in the video- Sakura Saunders.
The Mennonites and the CPT have a big interest in ‘mining justice’. Canadian mining companies, including Barrick Gold operate near Mennonite communities in Canada and South America. In fact, the Mennonite Central Committee specifically mentions Peter Munk of Barrick Gold on their mining justice web page.
Sakura, and the Mennonites get two targets at once with Barrick Gold. First, of course, they object to current practices in the mining industry. But, perhaps more important to them is the opportunity to attack Israeli interests. Peter Munk, the chairman of Barrick, is also on the board of directors of the Jewish National Fund. Curiously, if you attend a Toronto Jewish National Fund meeting in Toronto, you’re likely to be met with the same protesters as at one of Barrick Gold’s annual general meetings.
Saunder’s religious beliefs are unknown- but, this isn’t the first time she has worked closely with Mennonites. She previously worked with Prometheus Radio- a group that conducts community radio ‘barn-raising’ projects, helping build low-power radio stations in only a matter of days. Prometheus’ office was in a Mennonite Church (that was shared with another church). The Mennonites have built many radio stations like this in South America- often for broadcasting religious & political propaganda to their own communities.
The CPT’s efforts towards mining are only a single part of their involvement in Indigenous affairs. After reading the CPT’s and the Mennonite’s position on first nations, it’s obvious they have a lot of guilt over their (limited) involvement in the horrors of the Indian Residential Schools. Seemingly as a result, wherever there’s an indigenous conflict in Canada, one is likely to find members of the CPT.
Their video concentrates on the conflict with the Grassy Narrows first nation- who are famous for running Canada’s longest running blockade. The CPT were there, as was the eco-terrorism supporting Earth First! (which became the Rainforest Action Network, and currently appears is being rebranded as Rising Tide). Much of the protest occurred in Kenora, Ontario- curiously (or not) this is the city where Dave Vasey ran for MP under the Green Party. Vasey is also active with the Rainforest Action Network.
The Mennonites, and the CPT have also been criticised for their relations with the Iranian government. And, perhaps coincidentally, they’ve also been involved with the Sto:Lo fishing rights fiasco being orchestrated by University of Lethbridge professor Anthony James Hall. The Iranian state-run PressTV broadcasted professor Hall’s outrageous story about the Canadian government trying to kill-off the country’s indigenous population by killing the country’s salmon. Like the Mennonites, PressTV (and Iran) have put a lot of effort into backing radical indigenous organizations.
The CPT have also been involved with the CAW and CUPE 3903 with the mess at the Six Nations reserve- all have connections to the infamous Mohawk Workers. The CPT were also on the scene at the Sarnia rail blockade where Vasey, Saunders and a few anarchists helped block a CN Rail line. They published an interview with Saunders during the blockade on their website. Sarnia was one of the most controversial actions during Idle No More- many people were upset with the bad press it brought to the movement.
This leads us to an important question- are the CPT a religious or a political organization? If you look at their policy statements, the CPT very decidedly lean towards the left. Then there’s their partisan leaning on the Israel/Palestine issue- they aren’t denouncing violence on both sides equally. And, if you watch their video, it probably perked your ears when you heard them criticising ‘McGuinty’s policies’. It’s also interesting to know their headquarters are in Toronto’s (Marxist) Steelworker’s Hall.
Why is it important whether they are political or not? Well, if you look on the CPT’s webpage, you’ll see that they ask for all of their donations to be sent directly to “Mennonite Church Canada” through the CanadaHelps.org website:
People who donate to the Mennonite church will be given a tax receipt. The website that takes the money records the fact the donation is for the Christian Peacemaker Teams. According to what’s written on their website- that money will go to the CPT. Does this remind you of anything familiar?
If you’ve been following the controversy with funding at TIDES Canada it will. Until they were exposed by Vivian Krause, TIDES ran a similar ‘money laundering’ scheme. TIDES was accused of taking money from donors, giving them tax receipts, and then handing the money over to organizations who didn’t qualify as non-profits. Once the scandal was exposed, TIDES made a number of changes to the way they operate.
The Canadian Revenue Agency warned the Mennonite church about their political activities back in November when they reminded them that it’s not acceptable for a charitable organization to engage in political activities. I am, by far, not an expert on Canadian tax laws, but it appears to me that the church’s funding of the CPT may be crossing the same line.
We should also question the CPT’s close connections with people and organizations that espouse the use of violence. They pronounce themselves as crusaders for the cause of non-violence- yet, they’ve partnered with some of the most violence promoting organizations in the country. Sakura Saunder’s husband, for example, promoted that people ‘smash shit up’ during the violence of the G20. The gap between who the CPT and the Mennonite Church say they are, and who they support, needs to be explained…