Louise Frechette, Canada's Deputy Defence Minister during the Gustafsen Lake siege and the Somalia cover-up, will be appointed as Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations next week, UN sources said yesterday. Given that Frechette was second in command of a department deeply implicated in two of Canada's most alarming human rights scandals in recent years, her appointment to the number 2 position at the UN is troubling. The 51 year old former ambassador to Uruguay, Argentina and the UN "will have a lot of power," said Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Her appointment will likely be confirmed Monday or Tuesday.
Canada's Deputy Defence Minister since mid 1995, Frechette is in part accountable for the Gustafsen Lake siege during the summer of that year. At Gustafsen, Canada deployed the largest joint military and police operation in the nation's history to silence a small group of indigenous Shuswap Sundancers and their supporters. The aboriginal traditionalists had taken a stand on sacred, unceded, traditional territory in central British Columbia to demand impartial, third-party adjudication of the land question. For 30 days they were cut off from communication, food, drinking water and medical supplies. "Operation Wallaby," as the Canadian Forces (CF) involvement in the siege was called, saw combat described by one participating CF officer as "the largest land battle by Canadian Forces since the Korean War." The Department of National Defence provided nine Bison Armoured Personnel Carriers for the hostilities - approximately one for every two people inside the Sundance camp. In direct violation of the operation's "Rules of Engagement" developed by General John De Chastelain, then Chief of Defence Staff, one of these 14 ton vehicles was used offensively to ram a camp pick-up truck after the latter had driven over a remotely detonated land mine, and army C7 automatic rifles and ammunition were handed to police to shoot at the aboriginals. Over 77,000 rounds were fired at the Shuswap, many of them hollow-point bullets prohibited by the Geneva Convention.
Frechette also falls under a cloud of suspicion for the cover-up of the torture and murder of 16 year old Shidane Arone by Canadian Peacekeepers in Somalia. The Chretien government ordered a public inquiry into this racist atrocity, committed under the previous administration, but then cut it short in 1997, "just as we were beginning to question the highest levels of leadership of the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence as to the allegations of cover-up," said the inquiry commissioners. Their report described "not just a few rotten apples but a system rotten to the core... we encountered a wall of silence, evidently a strategy of calculated deception."
A similar wall of silence has surrounded Gustafsen Lake. Canadian authorities have resisted all calls for an inquiry into the military's involvement in the crisis - said to have been ordered by Chretien himself, after a request made by British Columbia's NDP Attorney-General/Human Rights Minister Ujjal Dosanjh.
The Department of National Defence's participation in these serious abuses during Frechette's term as Deputy Minister does not inspire confidence in this latest choice for UN Deputy Secretary General. Frechette's appointment is believed to have come as a result of the influence of Canadian businessman and Trilateral Commissioner Maurice Strong. Strong has been acting as "executive co-ordinator of UN reform" to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Frechette, who handled the preparations for the 1995 G-7 Halifax Summit, was described in today's Globe & Mail (P. A10), as "no-nonsense, very pragmatic."
The selection of Frechette for the UN number 2 position further erodes faith that the UN multi-lateral system can effectively address issues of indigenous rights, especially concerning violations by member states such as Canada. Recent initiatives such as the deliberations of the UN Working Group on the Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva continue to be sabotaged by settler-states and many indigenous participants have already dropped out in protest. Canada's increasing influence at the UN does not bode well for indigenous people seeking international remedies there, not only those who suffer under Canadian colonialism.
More information on the Somalia cover-up: