By Aidan Jonah [for the Canada Files]
People think that Canadian public discourse is mostly by Canadians, about Canadian priorities. But the amount of direct influence from abroad is staggering. Organizations that represent global neo-liberalism, from NATO to the NED, to those sponsored by Open Society Foundations, involve themselves in the creation of thought in Canada. Organizations with Canadian names, from universities to neutral-sounding “civil society” organizations, have been documented as recipients of foreign cash – what does this mean for their priorities, and how does it impact what they are telling us?
It’s possible to see at least three areas in which separate donors are intervening in Canadian civil society. First, Open Society Foundations is quietly funding three Canadian NGOs. And because there is a significant funding presence of wealthy American foundations here, we can observe a second NGO in Canada taking funding from the regime change organization known as the National Endowment for Democracy [NED]. All the while, there is a previously unknown NATO propaganda organization in Canada, which has existed since 1966. In these three examples alone, it is possible to see how the development of political thought in Canada receives ‘assistance’ from abroad.
Open Society Foundations & Transparency International: Friends from the beginning
Foundations funded by financier George Soros have an earned reputation of being used to push for regime change in socialist and independent countries. Soros is not the main figure in any sort of massive conspiracy, he is simply a subcontractor for U.S. efforts to “open” countries to its penetration. The main thrust behind his “Open Society” interventions is to keep societies open for business, in the U.S.-dominated international system. Although he has, in the past, focused mainly on socialist countries, the idea of “Open Society” applies to everyone.
From utilising his Quantum Fund to fund anti-communist groups and organizations beginning in 1984 in Hungary, and other Soviet Bloc countries until the collapse of the Soviet Union, Soros’ early funds were definitive contributors to the collapse of socialism in Europe. Soros also founded the short lived China Fund (from 1986 to 1989), endowing it with more than $1 million USD to start. China cracked down on the China Fund in 1989.
Since then, Soros has been an aggressive and vocal opponent of China, advocating fiercely for the liberalization of a socialist economic structure which has had, and continues to have, majority support from their population.
While the Cold War against the USSR ended with its fall, Open Society has continued to relentlessly push for “liberalization” of any countries which don’t subscribe to neo-liberalism, attempts to subtly coerce them into the international neo-liberal system.
Between 1989 to 1994, while the Soviet Union was in freefall Open Society Foundation would “establish a network of offices in Albania, the Baltic States, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Romania, and Slovakia.”
During these years, in 1993 specifically, Transparency International was founded. Requests to obtain TI annual reports between 1993 to 2002 were initially responded to, but no reports were ever sent to The Canada Files.
In 1998, Susan Cote-Freeman joined the Transparency International Secretariat.
For the years that TI’s annual reports are publicly available (between 2003 to 2012, no reports between 2013-2018, with a return in 2019 and 2020), CIDA would provide Transparency International with no less than $200k Euros and up to $1 million Euros a year. Financial reports indicate that CIDA supported Transparency International financially as early as 1999. The earliest publicly available TI financial report is in 1999, with the first annual report in 2003. In this report, Open Society Institute, Hungary, is listed as a donor in the $100k-249k Euros per year level.
Former Canadian Secretary of State Huguette Labelle, became TI chair in 2005, after joining the TI advisory board five years earlier in 2000. Her bio is one which is filled with Canadian government positions. Of particular note is that Labelle served as the president of CIDA from 1993 to 1999:
“Huguette Labelle has served for a period of nineteen years as Deputy Minister of different Canadian Government departments including Secretary of State, Transport Canada, the Public Service Commission and the Canadian International Development Agency.”
Since the early days of Transparency International, CIDA and Open Society have had a friendly relationship, owing to their common desire to spread neo-liberalism across the globe.
Transparency International Canada would not begin to publicly release annual reports until 2018, 22 years after its founding.
The odd case of Plan Africa Canada/IMPACT & Open Society Foundations
*Note: The time periods for each year is based from between April 1 of the current year to March 31 of the next year. Eg. The 2010 figures are based off PAC’s annual reports and are referring to fundraising numbers from April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011.*
In 2010, Susan Côté-Freeman, a longtime employee of the Transparency International Secretariat, joined the Board of Directors of Plan Africa Canada [PAC]. PAC was originally established in 1986 as a “Canadian civil society coalition tasked with distributing funding from the Canadian International Development Agency to address the root causes of conflict and to promote development in Africa.” PAC stopped distributing CIDA funds in the mid-1990s.
During 2009, PAC had received a combined $360,691 from CIDA and International Development Research Centre (Canada). In 2010, the year Côté-Freeman joined, PAC’s funding from Canadian government agencies had increased to $428,726. In 2011, PAC’s funding from these agencies was $407,828. In 2012, this funding increased to $608,437 as Côté-Freeman became Vice-President of the PAC board. In 2013, this funding increased to $745,348 as Côté-Freeman rose to become the President of the PAC board. As Canada’s aid budget sustained a 7.5 per cent cut worth $377 million CAD under the Harper government, Canadian agency funding crashed to $22,316 in 2014, and sat at a meager $3,212 in 2015. However, with the election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party to power in October 2015, the funding surged from almost nothing to $1,135,777 in 2016.
It was in 2016, that a branding and name change occurred, from Plan Africa Canada to IMPACT.
By 2017, IMPACT was receiving $2,650,438 from Canadian agencies.
In 2018, Côté-Freeman stepped down as the President of IMPACT’s board, but still served on the board, as IMPACT received $3,491,310 from Canadian agencies. In 2019, the year with the last available IMPACT annual report, their funding from Canadian agencies increased slightly to $3,497,753. Cote-Freeman left the board during July 2020.
Cote-Freeman, while serving on the IMPACT board for the entirety of the 2010s, would work for the Transparency International Secretariat from 1998 to 2016, according to her Linkedin.
In 2017, while Cote-Freeman was still serving as President of the IMPACT board, IMPACT would begin administering George Soros’ Open Society Foundations grants to Transparency International Canada. According to TI Canada’s 2019 annual report, “In 2018, TI Canada received a top up grant to the $25,600 received in 2017 from the Open Society Foundation. The top up totals $83,168.89 for one year.” TI Canada’s 2020 annual report states that, “In October 2019, TI Canada received a new two-year grant in the amount of $61,469 from Open Society Foundation. The grant was once again awarded jointly to TI Canada, Publish What You Pay Canada and Canadians for Tax Fairness. The full grant is administered by IMPACT, an Ottawa-based NGO and is valued at $181,500 USD ($237,594 CDN).”
The fact that IMPACT was administering the Open Society Foundations’ donations to TI Canada was not revealed by TI Canada until the 2020 report. IMPACT has still not publicly disclosed their role in administering funds. When reached for verification of TI Canada’s statements in their annual reports, IMPACT stated that they are “not an organization that generally administers funds on behalf of other Canadian NGOs.”
IMPACT denies administering further donations from foreign billionaire backed foundations, without notifying the general public. The Canada Files is unable to independently verify this claim. The more one digs, the more the lack of public transparency from NGO donors becomes apparent.
What other American foundations & semi-NGOs fund Canadian NGOs?
The Canada Files has found the second organization in Canada, after the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, which openly takes funding from CIA cut-out organization, the National Endowment for Democracy. This organization is Canadian NGO The Centre for Law and Democracy, whose Executive Director and founder, Toby Mendel, joined Transparency International Canada’s Board of Directors on June 22. Mendel is a former human rights policy analyst at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). CLD takes large donations from government departments and organizations including:
- Centre canadien d’Étude et de Coopération Internationale (CECI)
- Supported anti-Aristide pro-coup groups in 2004, with CIDA funding
- Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammernabeit (GIZ) GmbH
- European Union
- International Media Support – FOJO
- Global Affairs Canada
- National Endowment for Democracy
- Open Society Foundations
The CECI received more than $18 million from Global Affairs Canada in 2020 alone, while George Soros’ Open Society Foundation pops up in Canada again. Open Society has been a financial and organizational supporter of CLD since its founding in 2010. GIZ strikes The Canada Files as a semi-detached government backed NGO, similar to the USA’s NED and Canada’s former Rights & Democracy, based upon annual reports which indicate that a majority of revenue comes from the German government. International Media Support receives 91% of funding from the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian foreign ministries and embassies.
At present, the CLD has not published a single publicly available annual report in their 11 years of operation. When reached to ask if they planned to make any annual reports available, they responded as such:
“We have all of our work profiled on our website. As such, and given the time it takes to prepare annual reports, we have not bothered to do this yet. Do you feel that there is a specific need for an annual report?”
The Canada Files responded by pointing out how the organization has not been transparent with the amount of financial support it gets from each of the listed groups, and that CLD did not even list its’ donor organizations publicly until 2015, five years after it was founded. We requested that, in the interest of public transparency, CLD detail the exact financial donations received from various organizations each year. This follow-up email was not responded to.
The CLD’s work has a major focus on Myanmar and Nepal, with Nepal being a focus even before the rise of Nepali Maoists to power. In Myanmar, CLD has worked with The Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network from 2015 onwards to oppose the government’s restrictions on media outlets.
The Equality Fund is another organization which takes funding from wealthy American foundations. As explained by EF themselves, their founding was very reliant on the Canadian government’s financial support:
“The Equality Fund launched in 2019 with a $300 million CAD contribution from the Government of Canada, the largest single funding commitment for gender equality ever made by a government. As a new model for sustainable resourcing of feminist movements, it brings together gender-lens investing, government funding, and multi-sector philanthropy strategies to unlock and deliver new capital for feminist work globally.”
In March 2019, The Equality Fund began a 4.9 million CAD aid project funded by Global Affairs Canada, titled “Women’s Voice and Leadership – Caribbean Region”, which focuses on ensuring that “Twenty to thirty selected grantee organisations from eligible countries in the Caribbean region benefit from multi-year funding to support core programming, as well as responsive short-term funding for new ideas, innovations and emerging opportunities.” The project will last until December 29, 2023.
On March 31, 2021, The Equality Fund confirmed that it was the recipient of a joint $15 million CAD grant, from the Ford Foundation and the Canadian government.
A quote from Jess Tomlin, the co-CEO of the Equality Fund, indicates the neo-liberal nature of the fund and the corporate/government support provided:
“This is a major sign of momentum in feminist funding, and a major step forward for the Equality Fund’s vision of government, philanthropy, and the private sector breaking down barriers and working together to support feminist movements all around the world.”
Given Canada’s early and persistent support for the foundation, and its past weaponization of a “feminist agenda” to drive regime change in Haiti during the early 2000s, and the present weaponization of a “Feminist International Assistance Policy” to attempt to undermine socialist and multi-polar oriented governments, this support should be watched with clear suspicion.
Europe elbows their way into Canadian politics
Think tanks and NGOs receiving support from Europe also influence the production of political thought in Canada.
European-government organizations have created financial linkages to Canadian civil-society organizations. It has already been noted that the German semi-NGO GIZ, the Nordic backed NGO International Media Support, and also the European Union all financially support the Canadian NGO Centre for Law and Democracy. SUCO, a Montreal based “international cooperation organization” records the European Union as a partner, which entails financial support. The World University Service of Canada received more than $7 million CAD from UK-Aid in 2019-2020 alone. On UK-Aid’s home page, it acknowledges that they are “Funded by the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, UK Aid Direct supports small and medium sized civil society organisations to deliver the Global Goals.”
As seen with IMPACT, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy and the numerous European government adjacent NGOs, UK-Aid also pretends that they are providing no funding to Canadian NGOs operating within Canada and abroad.
But the European government-adjacent financial support doesn’t stop there.
Canadian imperialist think tank, the MacDonald Laurier Institute, due to a total lack of transparency around corporate and governmental donations, could be receiving up to 80.5% of its annual budget from the Latvian Ministry of Defence.
The curious case of the NATO Association of Canada
The next think tank that comes into focus is the NATO Association of Canada [NATO AC], created in 1966 as the Atlantic Council of Canada [ACC]. In testimony to the Senate, former NATO AC President between 2002-2017, Julie Lindhout, confirmed that the organization was originally set up by the Canadian government a few years after they joined NATO, and was funded originally by the Canadian government, but transitioned away from this model after a few years. The source of its funding until 2014, (for approximately 45+ years after it stopped taking primary funding from the Canadian government) is not publicly available, and was only found thanks to webarchive, rather than present-day public disclosure. It underwent a name change in 2015. The current president of the NATO AC is Robert C. J. Baines.
NATO AC is part of the Atlantic Treaty Alliance, which features the infamous Atlantic Council in the USA, which is funded by weapons contractors and wealthy foundations.
The US’ Atlantic Council receives hundreds of thousands per year in funding from the UAE, the Bahrainian monarchy, Open Society Foundations, the Swedish and UK governments, the Rockefeller Foundation and more.
The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab partnered with Facebook in 2017. In 2019, the Grayzone detailed this connection in depth:
“Its DFRLab was enlisted by Facebook to “identify, expose, and explain disinformation during elections around the world,” and subsequently received $1 million from Mark Zuckerberg’s social media empire to carry out its work.
Last October, with guidance from Nimmo and the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab, Facebook and Twitter deleted the accounts of hundreds of users, including many alternative media outlets maintained by American citizens.
Among those targeted in the coordinated purge were popular alternative news sites that scrutinized police brutality and militarism, along with the pages of professional journalists.”
NATO Association of Canada is nothing short of a NATO propaganda institution, claiming to “educate and engage Canadians about NATO” and NATO’s supposed goal of “peace, prosperity and security”. NATO AC prides itself on providing dozens of propaganda pieces on international affairs. It’s other main priority, and likely its most insidious one, is to propagandize Canadian youth into believing that NATO militarism and political interference within sovereign nations, is in fact a broader campaign for peace and justice.
NATO AC’s rise was one of the first examples of what may be a long-term pattern where the Canadian government births imperialist think tanks and institutions, and then allows foreign weapons contractors, elite business organizations to take over the reigns of control once they are on stable ground.
The ACC in the past, and NATO AC in the present, has been very focused on trying to reach youth and ensure that they were pro-NATO and pro-militarism.
The first publicly available webarchive of the Atlantic Council of Canada’s now-removed supporters page, was released in 2004. The ACC received financial support from five Government of Canada departments including Foreign Affairs Canada, NATO, NORAD, the Atlantic Treaty Organization, two Canadian universities, two Canadian banks, a weapons contractor and more.
In 2007, list of supporters showed that the ACC had gained three “publication partners”: NATO Publications –NATO Public Diplomacy Division, FrontLine Canada and Lynch Media. While Primelite Communications was no longer a “corporate and foundation member”, Toron Capital Markets Inc. would replace them. All 2004 financial supporters except for PC continued to support the ACC.
This means that the majority of ACC (now NATO AC) donations were coming from the Canadian government, NATO, Weapons contractors, and wealthy Canadian banks with profits to be made from juicing the wheels of the war machine, as of 2007.
The partners page, shown as it was during 2007, is truly remarkable. At the time, NATO AC partners and partnering institutions include seven European foreign ministries, a ministry of defence, and the Education directorate of the European Commission. International Institutions NATO AC partners with include three other Atlantic Councils, the overarching Atlantic Treaty Association, the International Crisis Group, seven NATO departments, the World Bank and more.
A pattern of keeping potentially embarrassing or exposing information on the NATO AC’s partnerships and donors was beginning to take hold by this point. The trend would continue on over the years, assisted by a complete lack of critical reporting on the organization.
By 2011, the Supporters page had changed to a Sponsors & Partners page, which revealed the NATO AC President Julie Lindhout was supposedly the NATO AC’s top benefactor, with a donation between $15k-25k.
The Atlantic Council Patrons, with donations between $10k-15k, consisted of:
- The Dominion: “Canada’s Trusted Insurance Company”
- The “Honourable Bill Graham”
Two notable weapons contractors who donated between $2.5k-5k were:
- Irving Shipbuilding Inc.
Meanwhile, weapons contractor Canadian Aviation Electronics and the Indonesian Consulate both donated between $1k-2.5k.
Except for Scotiabank, who seemingly stopped donating to NATO AC before 2016, all of the other referenced groups, companies and people were still listed as supporting NATO AC.
By 2016, the Canadian government institutions (Canadian Heritage, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of National Defence) and NATO were no longer described as financial supporters, but instead as “Government & Institutional Sponsors”. Whether this consisted of financial support, and if so, how much they gave, is not revealed on their page.
In 2017, NATO AC’s Corporate Members included:
- AHEPA Toronto
- General Dynamics Canada
- Macedonia 2025
- Momentum Aerospace Group Logistics
- Centre-Arch Inc.
- The Chaos Group of Canada
The list was updated in 2018.[i]
With four tiers of sponsorship, the 2018 and 2019 donations page list consisted of:
- Diamond Sponsorship ($50,000)
- Apparently none
- Platinum Sponsorship ($25,000)
- Gold Sponsorship ($10,000)
- TD Bank
- Power Corporation of Canada
- Temerty Family Foundation
- Silver Sponsorship ($5,000)
- SNC Lavalin
- Irving Shipbuilding Inc.
- The Churchill Society
- Bill Graham Centre
- Earnscliffe Strategy Group
- Kaneff Group of Companies
- Trinity College
- Enbridge Gas
By 2020, this list was removed, in favour of a nondescript bunching of foundations, think tanks, defence ministries, news outlets, weapons contractors and more, with the page still described as “Sponsors & Partners”. Whereas the US Atlantic Council is open in its taking of funds from foreign governments, weapons contractors and more, Canada’s Atlantic Council, the NATO Association of Canada, hides these important details in a confusing page.
When asked for clarification by email, the NATO Association of Canada blocked the email, instead of responding to the question.
A few particularly eye catching groups included in the sponsors & partners page are below:
- Latvian Ministry of Defence
- Latvia in NATO 15
- The Globe & Mail
- IN Magazine
- NOW Toronto
- General Dynamics Land Systems
- Lockheed Martin
- Royal Canadian Military Institute
- Canadian Forces College Foundation
- The Bitove Foundation
Meanwhile, NATO AC brags that they have “strong ties with the Government of Canada including Global Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence.”
NOW Toronto and the Globe and Mail promised to come back with clarification on their appearances in this page, but have yet to definitively do so. IN Magazine has not responded to our request for clarification.
NATO, along with the Europeans and Americans are playing a crucial role in driving Canadian political thought. While some elements of the Canadian left understand the influence which foreign foundations and semi-NGOs play in Canadian politics, very few hard examples have been provided to back up this inherent understanding. The paranoia being spread by Canada’s political elites, think tanks and national security friendly public figures about “Russian and Chinese infiltration” and “elite capture” appears as projection, designed to deflect from the overwhelming sources of foreign financing in Canada’s civic sphere. The funders only involve themselves in Canadian civil society because there is something to be gained from it. They are responsible for part of the intellectual bedrock that upholds Canadian militarism and interventionism.
- Lockheed Martin
- Adga Group
- General Dynamics Canada
- Macedonia 2025
- Momentum Logistics
- Centre-Arch Inc.
- The Chaos Group of Canada
Editor’s note: Do you think any other independent media outlet in Canada would be willing to publish this article?
The Canada Files has spent 20 months doing critical investigative reporting on Canada’s imperialist foreign policy. We’ve established a clear track record of exposing the truth Canada’s political establishment hides from you. There’s so much more we can do, but only with your financial support.
If you answered no to the question, please consider setting up a monthly or annual donation through Donorbox.
Aidan Jonah is the Editor-in-Chief of The Canada Files, a socialist, anti-imperialist news site founded in 2019. He has written about Canadian imperialism, federal politics, and left-wing resistance to colonialism across the world. He is a second-year Bachelor of Journalism student at Ryerson University, who was the Head of Communications and Community Engagement for Etobicoke North NDP Candidate Naiima Farah in the 2019 Federal Election.