What are Canadian warships doing in the ultra-sensitive South China Sea?
News of Canadian patrol ships traveling through the South China Sea and being buzzed by Chinese warplanes a few weeks ago—pushing the world another chilling step closer to a World War III-level confrontation—has brought to light the unpublicized issue of Canadian government participation in something called Operation NEON.
What is Operation NEON? An international military initiative to enforce painful sanctions on North Korea (aka the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK) in the futile and unrealistic attempt to make it give up its nuclear arsenal.
However, most Canadians are unaware of this dangerously provocative mission being undertaken by their government—a mission that has gone completely unquestioned for years by media and opposition political parties.
Why unquestioned? Because of the powerful influence of Canada’s main anti-DPRK lobby group, HanVoice. And the key funder of HanVoice since 2010 is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), or what has become known as the “nice face” of the CIA. This is the first publicly available instance of a Canadian group taking NED money, as of now.
The NED does publicly what the CIA used to do covertly
The NED is an arm of the U.S. government founded by Ronald Reagan in 1983. It specializes in regime change and smearing “enemy nations” such as China.
In 1986, NED President Carl Gershman told The New York Times, “It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the C.I.A. We saw that in the 60s, and that’s why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that’s why the endowment [NED] was created.”
In 1991, NED founding member Allen Weinstein told The Washington Post, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
The NED’s legacy of regime change is extensive. It funded the Nicaraguan opposition during the late-1980s which destabilized the revolutionary Sandinista government, leading to the presidential election win in 1990 of right-wing opposition leader Violeta Chamorro; and provided significant funding to the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, which funded and materially supported Solidarity, the anti-communist trade union which succeeded in toppling Poland’s Communist Party-led government in 1989.
The NED helped swing the 1996 Russian election in favor of Boris Yeltsin, defeating the Communist Party candidate, and financed the “Velvet Revolution” in Serbia in 2000, causing the fall of the government led by Slobodan Milošević. It further a) financed a failed coup attempt in Venezuela during 2002; and b) provided funding to opposition leaders in Georgia whose 2003 “color revolution” forced elected President Eduard Shevardnadze to step down.
Between 2003 and 2014, the NED provided millions of dollars to pro-U.S. and pro-EU civil society groups in Ukraine. This culminated in the “Maidan coup” of February 2014 which overthrew elected President Victor Yanukovych and his government.
The coup’s aftermath has seen neo-Nazi paramilitary battalions integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard and into the country’s armed forces.
The NED provided $70 million to opposition forces in Bolivia between 2013 to 2018, seeking the overthrow of the socialist government led by President Evo Morales. After Morales won the 2019 presidential election in the first round, NED-funded opposition media and legal groups propagated false allegations of election fraud. The allegations led to violent protests that overthrew Morales’s newly re-elected government.
In 2019 and 2020, the NED pumped millions of dollars into China’s Special Autonomous Region of Hong Kong to support pro-U.S. opposition protests. In 2020, the NED funded an attempted color revolution in Belarus which sputtered out spectacularly.
All this is just a slice of the NED’s long history of enabling regime change in countries fallen into disfavor in Washington.
NED-funded anti-DPRK lobby group influences Canadian policy
Operation NEON is an international operation not approved by the UN Security Council to enforce UN sanctions on the DPRK. These sanctions have been imposed as part of a 70-year campaign by the U.S. and NATO countries to destroy an independent socialist country that has long aligned with communist China and resisted U.S. imperial designs in Southeast Asia.
Canada’s North Korean policy today has been driven by the NED-funded HanVoice, whose purpose is to legitimate Canada’s aggression toward the DPRK.
Officially, HanVoice provides real “community support” via “grassroots efforts” to cultivate “relationships with Canadians who are in a position to change government policy towards North Korea, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, Members of Parliament, Senators, as well as officials from various other Government departments and agencies at the Federal, Provincial, and municipal level.”
HanVoice is slightly different than other NED-funded groups in Canada. It was formally supported by the then-governing federal Conservative Party at its 2007 launch. A policy goal announced in 2013, which envisioned a government program to welcome “refugees” to Canada from the DPRK via private sponsors, was backed by the ruling Conservative government in 2014.
Canada’s government has an interest in its population having disdain for the DPRK. This flows from its role as a capitalist government which continues to perpetrate atrocities against Indigenous nations at home, engages in imperialism abroad and demonizes socialist countries such as the DPRK.
Despite decades of brutal Western sanctions which have nearly crippled the DPRK’s economy, the country has survived and in some ways even flourished. Meanwhile, China and Russia now are openly resisting efforts to further sanction the DPRK. This is a change from both countries’ previous policy of opposing some, but not all, sanctions on the DPRK.
In a recent article I wrote for The Canada Files, I explained that, after the end of World War II, the governance of the Korean territory jointly controlled by the USSR was fully handed over to popular forces led by the Communist Party under leader Kim Il-sung. I wrote:
“Meanwhile, the U.S. controlled region of Korea (‘South Korea’) saw a U.S. puppet government installed and enforced by U.S. troops, Japanese army troops who’d been stationed in occupied Korea, and U.S.-trained South Korean military troops, many of whom had served in the occupying Japanese army during its long occupation of Korea (beginning in 1910). South Korea then had businessman Syngman Rhee imposed as leader through fraudulent elections in 1948. Massacres totalling hundreds of thousands and brutal repression of the entire citizenry in ‘South Korea’ were ever-present in the following two years, and would continue until 1954.
In 1950, the U.N. occupation forces entered Pyongyang. 26,000 troops from Canada were part of the Western led invasion of the DPRK in an attempt to kill off socialism in Korea, and then destroy the socialist revolution in China if they succeeded in crushing the DPRK. In the end, this Western invasion failed in its aim to take control of Korea, with the nation split into two parts at the 38th parallel. Active military conflict ended in 1953, but the U.S. occupation force has never left ‘South Korea,’ while the last Canadian troops left Korea in 1957. The goal of the West was simple: to crush the DPRK and then China. This goal has never changed.”
From 2013 to 2017, HanVoice ran “HanVoice Pioneers Project,” a six-month training program. Three months were spent providing selected candidates with “special training” while they do advocacy work with HanVoice.
The other three months are spent doing a parliamentary internship with Senator Yonah Martin, HanVoice’s “Parliamentarian partner” in Ottawa. There is a blank period between 2017 and 2021, during which it was unclear if the project was running, but it is back in 2022.
This program was initially stunted by the Liberal Party election win in October 2015.
While the Canadian government was supportive of HanVoice during its early years, HanVoice was more reliant on support from the NED to boost its reputation within Canada and enable imperialist operations against the DPRK.
HanVoice’s first big event was almost entirely funded by the NED. In August 2010, it gave HanVoice US$160,000 to host the “10th International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees.”
Then-NED Chairman Carl Gershman spoke on the conference’s third day, while Canadian Senator Yonah Martin and Canadian MPs attended the conference’s policy roundtable on its final day. This event helped HanVoice boost its reputation in the global anti-DPRK network that is mostly funded by the U.S.
Two months after the conference was held, HanVoice claimed that in the DPRK:
“Hundreds of thousands remain in prison camps that remain a macabre combination of the gulags of the former Soviet Union and Auschwitz. Torture is rampant; executions still public. Political and economic freedoms are non-existent as the secret police keep watch over all. We cannot sit back and do nothing and ask ourselves in the future why we stood idle.”
In 2015, HanVoice teamed up with the North Korea Strategy Center, whose partners include the NED and Radio Free Asia, to launch “Project E,” a campaign to “educate, enlighten, empower and spark an epiphany” within DPRK citizens by “exposing” them to “objective information” contained in USB keys. In essence, this campaign spread anti-socialist propaganda on the dime of the National Endowment for Democracy.
HanVoice took another NED grant in 2017, for US$38,000, to run the “Multimedia Museum for “North Korean Human Rights.” The NED claimed the museum would be a “politically neutral platform” where young defectors would explore and engage in human rights work.
In 2020, HanVoice took a US$160,000 grant from the NED, whose purpose was described as being to “strengthen and sustain international action to advance human rights and encourage reform in North Korea.” They hope the project will promote “democratic ideals” (i.e., support for Western “democracy”) in the DPRK.
HanVoice had a big win in November 2021, achieving a policy change it has been seeking since 2013, namely, that Canada’s government will henceforth allow Canadians to privately sponsor “refugees” from the DPRK. The Associated Press quoted HanVoice’s executive director, Sean Chung, as stating that this “pilot program created in partnership with Canada’s government aims to bring five North Korean refugee families from Thailand to Canada within the next two years.”
HanVoice now runs a “lab” that “trains students to support human rights projects abroad.” It has not indicated where the funding for this comes from. As this author explained in his original article in The Canada Files, HanVoice “functions along with groups such as Students for a Free Tibet Canada to push the younger generations into supporting imperialism and Western aggression by bastardizing the concept of human rights.”
North Korea and the Chinese Uyghur
This author first learned about the NED’s insidious influence in Canada when doing research on China’s Uyghur Muslim population.
At the time, Canada’s parliament was on the verge of voting to declare that China was committing a “genocide” against the Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.
As Canada became more supportive of the U.S. military build-up against China, the Canadian parliament’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights began to study the “Human Rights Situation” in Xinjiang. The first sitting occurred on October 16, 2018, where the committee immediately sought the testimony of Adrian Zenz, a data-manipulating Senior Fellow in China Studies at the “Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.”
He has been driving the Xinjiang genocide narrative. Canadian MPs would set up an unofficial “Parliamentary Uyghur Friendship Group,” launched on February 28, 2020, part-way through the subcommittee’s term.
The inflection point came during April 2020, when the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project was founded by Mehmet Tohti with exclusive funding from the National Endowment for Democracy. As noted in this author’s February 2022 piece on URAP:
“In 2004, Tohti was a co-founder of the NED-funded World Uyghur Congress. He was a “Special Representative” of the WUC to the European Parliament between 2010 to 2012, and even served as Vice President of the World Uyghur Congress for two separate terms. Later in 2021, he even was elected to serve as the Director of the Legal Committee for fellow NED-funded organization, World Uyghur Congress.”
A few months after launching, URAP proceeded to express their pleasure and promised to work closely with the Uyghur friendship group. The unofficial PUFG’s working program was publicly revealed on URAP’s website in November 2020. URAP executive director Mehmet Tohti did not reply to my questions on the nature of URAP’s cooperation with the friendship group, nor my question about whether URAP was involved in setting up the unofficial PUFG. However, URAP had a press release on February 14, 2021, praising the creation of the official Parliamentary Uyghur Friendship Group, two days after the PUFG’s first meeting which Tohti would participate in on behalf of URAP, in which they stated:
“URAP continues to work in close solidarity with UFG, not only for concrete actions in Canadian Parliament, at the same time to reach out international parliamentarians, including those in Organizations of Islamic Corporation for creation of stronger impact on the Uyghur atrocities.”
Tohti would testify to Canada’s parliament on URAP’s behalf during July 2020, while URAP coordinated testimonies from Uyghur dissidents to be sent to parliamentarians on the subcommittee. Another NED-funded group’s representative would testify during the same sitting: Elise Anderson of the Uyghur Human Rights Project. UHRP received $1,284,000 in grants from the National Endowment for Democracy from 2016 to 2019 alone.
The World Uyghur Congress-connected “East Turkestan Government in Exile” and U.S. State Department-funded “Australian Strategic Policy Institute” were among the groups which submitted briefs to the subcommittee for their final sitting on October 20, 2020.
The subcommittee’s final report, released a day after its final sitting, accused China of committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. On February 22, 2021, Canada’s parliament unanimously voted in favor of a non-binding motion from the Conservative Party, condemning China for supposedly committing genocide in Xinjiang.
After the motion failed to pass the Canadian Senate in June 2021, URAP first had a hysterical meltdown in the form of a press release and then focused on legal efforts to target China.
This began when they became a third party in a failed CRSDN lawsuit against Canada’s border services agency where it asked a Canadian court to ban all goods from Xinjiang which they claimed are made from “forced labor.”
In February 2022, URAP had Larochelle Avocats send an application for judicial review, filed with Canada’s federal court, seeking to force the Canadian government to declare treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China, as a “genocide.” Now having two full-time employees, thanks to the NED, URAP remains a force to be reckoned with.
From the NDI to the New Democratic Party: The Cardy and Farnworth Stories
While the anti-China front in Canadian politics is mainly led by federal politicians, one local politician in New Brunswick has also been throwing his weight around for years.
Dominic Cardy, ex-New Brunswick leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), a social-democratic political party founded in 1961, has been a virulent anti-China voice for years.
At first glance, it may seem to make little sense for a provincial politician to antagonize China. But Cardy has an unusual background—he worked for NED subsidiary National Democratic Institute (NDI), between 2001 and 2008.
Cardy is not the only NDP type to be involved with the NDI. From 2001 to 2004, Mike Farnworth, then an NDP member of the British Columbia legislature and, since 2017, the solicitor general of the province, worked at the NDI to run “democratic governance programs” in the Balkans and even in Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003 was completed.
Farnworth returned to provincial politics to stay in 2005, while Cardy’s most interesting work for the NDI was his time in Nepal between 2005 and 2008.
WikiLeaks documents reveal that Cardy relentlessly worked to first protect the Nepali monarchy from a popular alliance led by communists. That failed when a popular revolution in 2006 overthrew the monarchy. Cardy then tried to delay the subsequent election for as long as possible. It was pushed all the way forward to 2008.
After the NDI could not push the election forward any further, Cardy then focused on training any political parties who would oppose the Maoists and work to suppress Maoist support in the hillsides. Cardy disparaged the 2008 election result but had to admit defeat in August of that year as the Maoists won control of Nepal’s national assembly.
Coincidentally, a directly NED-funded organization in Canada, the Centre for Law and Democracy, was also focused on Nepal during those years, though it had been active there a few years before the Maoists came to power.
Cardy returned to Canada after the Maoists’ election victory and became the director of the New Brunswick NDP’s election campaign in 2010. He was chosen in 2011 as leader of the party and led it toward a centrist political program until he stepped down in 2017. He then joined the Conservative Party in New Brunswick and was elected to the provincial assembly in September 2018.
In November of that year, he was appointed Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development. He would lead the demonization of Confucius Institutes in New Brunswick and the rest of Canada which were dedicated to promoting Chinese language learning, including in public schools. He soon succeeded in severely limiting the operations of the Confucius Institute in New Brunswick. The Institute there was closed altogether in 2022.
Confucius Institutes have been targeted by Canadian government institutions and shut down in three other Canadian provinces—Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario.
In June 2021, Cardy confirmed to the “Special Committee on Canada-China Relations” of the federal Parliament that the separatist government of China’s Taiwan province would offer a Taiwanese educational institution to replace Confucius Institute programming in New Brunswick.
He urged the parliamentarians to look into the Taiwanese program, a hint that they should seek to remove all Confucius Institutes from Canada in favor of Taiwan-directed educational institutes. Such a move in New Brunswick could be a gross violation of the “one-China” principle, as Cardy has referred to Taiwan province representatives as “representatives from the Republic of China, Taiwan.”
Enemies of China rarely go unfunded
While the U.S. and Canada have only started to promote Taiwanese separatism against China in the last few years, the Western backing of Tibetan dissidents has been open and direct since 1959. Such Tibetan dissidents want to see theocratic feudalism return to the Tibet region of China, with the region becoming an independent nation under the rule of theocratic leader Dalai Lama.
The Tibet dissident movement is in fact so long-standing that there is a Tibetan dissident youth group backed by the NED which has chapters around the world, including in Canada—Students for a Free Tibet [SFT].
While the flagship SFT chapter has received consistent NED support since its founding in 1994, the situation of SFT’s Canadian chapter is less clear. The organization has chosen to register as a corporation, so no annual reports, financial reports or financial statements of any sort are available.
This makes the official sources of income impossible to determine. Registered charities have much more extensive disclosure requirements. At minimum, SFT Canada is an NED-adjacent organization, whose funding is not publicly disclosed.
The political career of Bhutila Karpoche, an NDP member and Ontario legislator, came to be thanks to Students for a Free Tibet Canada. She became involved with SFT Canada in 2005 at the earliest, becoming president of the SFT chapter at the University of British Columbia for the 2006-07 school year.
As noted in my 2021 article in The Canada Files, “Karpoche joined the Students for a Free Tibet Canada board in 2008, and served as the Deputy Director of SFT Canada that same year. Karpoche was also an executive member of the Tibetan Joint Action Committee (JAC) by 2008.”
A year later, Karpoche would get a job with past NDP member of Ontario’s provincial legislature (MPP) Cheri DiNovo directly due to her work with SFT Canada. A Toronto Star article stated that:
“DiNovo had wanted to add a Tibetan speaker to her staff to better liaise with Parkdale’s large Tibetan population, so she asked organizers with Students For a Free Tibet if they knew anyone who might be interested. Karpoche arrived and quickly became indispensable, DiNovo said.”
During her time working for DiNovo, Karpoche volunteered with multiple Tibetan organizations, including the NED-funded International Tibet Network’s steering committee. In 2017, Karpoche received support from NDP elites and Tibet dissident groups when she successfully won the NDP candidacy for the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park in the 2018 provincial election.
Karpoche won that election and has sat as an NDP MPP ever since. Her newly found political power would be put to use for the Tibet dissident cause. Multiple young Tibetan dissidents (from Students for a Free Tibet Canada) have been employed in Karpoche’s constituency offices for varying periods of time since her election victory in 2018.
Karpoche has served as the chair of the Ontario Parliamentary Friends of Tibet since entering office. She initiated the Ontario Parliamentary Friends of Tibet Summer Internship Program in summer 2019. This is a paid summer internship which is meant to help Tibetan youth gain familiarity with governance in Ontario, yet another paid opportunity for dissident youth to climb the political ladder. Its operations began in 2019 and have continued into 2022.
Karpoche continues to demonize China. In September 2020, she participated in marking the 60th anniversary of “Tibetan Democracy Day.” In December 2021, she even falsely claimed that “genocide” is occurring in Tibet, alleging without proof the existence of “colonial boarding schools” in the Chinese province.
In March 2022, Karpoche venerated the CIA-backed uprising in Tibet which occurred in 1959, seeking to return Tibet to feudalism and separation from China. In May 2022, Karpoche met with a high-ranking official of the NED-funded “Central Tibetan Administration.”
Canadian imperialism: terrible on its own, made even worse by NED interference
Canadian imperialism is incredibly damaging to the world.
The Canadian government has viciously pressured developing nations—even threatening to cut aid to them—if they do not ensure favorable investment conditions for Canadian companies.
These invariably come at the cost of environmental damage, social dislocation and impoverishment of local populations.
NED interference worsens Canada’s already predatory foreign policy and leads the Canadian state to be openly antagonistic toward China and the DPRK.
It even harms the direct economic interests of Canadian capitalists, who benefit by having good economic and political relations with China.
The dissidents, whether Uyghur or Tibetan, have been useful tools in manipulating Canadian public opinion to turn against China.
Ex-NDI employee Dominic Cardy leads the anti-China charge on the provincial level, leading the way in targeting Confucius Institutes. Bolstered by NED funding, HanVoice works to sustain Canadian opposition to the DPRK while providing the appearance of organic grassroots support for Canadian aggression against the DPRK.
The recent incident between Canadian patrol planes and Chinese warplanes in the South China Sea and the complete lack of questioning about why Canada was involved in Operation NEON serve to draw attention to the success HanVoice has had in demonizing the DPRK.
Canadian security agencies are certainly aware of this U.S. government interference in Canadian affairs, but ignore it in favor of complaining about non-existent “Russian and Chinese influence.”
It is important to remember that the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, the NED’s main asset interfering in Canadian politics, only started to receive funding in 2020.
The NED’s politics are the politics of the U.S. government. Those politics are of a rampant oligarchy, violent imperialism abroad, and continuing atrocities at home against Indigenous nations (a shared feature with Canada).
The U.S., thanks to a political elite controlled by the bourgeoisie, is captive to a Christian, fundamentalist supreme court that has crippled abortion rights for women. Mass shootings and rampant gun violence, notably at the hands of police agencies, and much more are all symptoms of a deteriorating capitalist society whose violence inflicted abroad is being brought home in the capitalist elites’ bid to maintain control at all costs.
This is the U.S. society to which the Canadian government has subordinated itself, dragging the rest of the country along for the ride.
Other recent examples of this subordination include Canada’s failed attempt to railroad Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou into the U.S. prison system and the Canadian parliament’s unanimous adoption in February 2022 of the totally false claim that China is committing “genocide” against its Uyghur Muslim population.
The “genocide” claim was rejected by Canada’s Senate, unelected as it may be, back in June 2021. As political and social rights deteriorate or disappear altogether in the U.S., the Canadian government is closely partnered, threatening to drag Canada into the gutter with them.
The NED will ramp up its regime-change efforts even further in the next few years, as U.S. unipolar hegemony deteriorates rapidly. It is foolish to think Canada can have an increasing number of NED-funded groups in the country while being shielded from a U.S.-directed regime-change attempt should a future Canadian government find the courage to break from knee-jerk alliance with the U.S. and engage rationally with China and other socialist or developing countries around the world.
There are alternatives to a grim future under imperialist dominance, as growing numbers of people and organizations in the imperial core itself are recognizing. Meanwhile, socialist nations such as China, the DPRK, Cuba, Bolivia and others show that there is a better future possible.
Nations such as Russia and Iran have themselves fought hard alongside socialist countries in an anti-imperialist manner against U.S.-led imperialism, preventing the U.S. from having complete unipolar hegemony. Socialist nations show the possibility of a politics where resource extraction’s financial windfall comes to the people, where inflation is firmly constrained by socialist economic planning, and where the working class controls the state apparatus and the means of production.
Of particular importance is that decolonization—the return of lands to the Indigenous peoples and nations and robust affirmative action programs for those living in urban areas—must occur for colonialism to be truly defeated.
Those seeking to end Canadian colonialism and imperialism should join with progressives in the U.S. to stamp out the influence of the NED and similar organizations.
David K. Shipler, “Missionaries for Democracy: U.S. Aid for Global Pluralism,” The New York Times, June 1, 1986. ↑
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About the Author
He has written about Canadian imperialism, federal politics, and left-wing resistance to colonialism across the world.
Aidan is a fourth-year Bachelor of Journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University, who was the Head of Communications and Community Engagement for Etobicoke North (Ontario, Canada) New Democratic Party (NDP) Candidate Naiima Farah in the 2019 Federal Election.