By Dimitri Lascaris and published on his website, July 12, 2023.
In Canada, pro-NATO shills and fake ‘disinformation experts’ have used threats of violence and outright fabrications to censor a national speaking tour on the pursuit of peace in Ukraine.
In April of this year, I travelled to Russia and Crimea to engage in citizen diplomacy. I undertook that journey on my own initiative and at my own expense. I did so because I’m convinced that the Ukraine war is an existentially dangerous conflict for all humanity, and that Western leaders have abdicated their duty to protect us from the ultimate catastrophe.
Upon my return to Canada, peace groups from across the country asked me to embark about a trans-Canada speaking tour to advocate for the peaceful resolution of the Ukraine war. I accepted their invitation. In so doing, I declined to be paid speaking fees and I assumed full responsibility for paying my own travel expenses.
After I accepted that invitation, all hell broke loose.
The campaign to de-platform the speaking tour
In early June, following consultation with members of the Canada-wide Peace and Justice Network, I agreed to speak in eleven Canadian cities commencing on June 19. Those cities are London, Hamilton, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Vancouver, Victoria, Montreal, Halifax, Fredericton and Ottawa. The last of these events took place in Toronto on July 8.
As a result of pressure and intimidation tacts targeting our venues, five of our venues cancelled our scheduled events in the days or hours leading up to the event. Those cancellations occurred in Toronto, Winnipeg, Montreal and Halifax.
I was scheduled to speak in Toronto on June 20 at the head office of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). OPSEU’s President, JP Hornick, cancelled our event approximately four hours prior to our scheduled start time. Unfortunately, this did not leave the local organizers with sufficient time to secure an alternate venue.
At the time of the cancellation, OPSEU officials advised us that, because of hostile communications received by OPSEU, Hornick had become concerned about the security of the participants and the facility.
Following Hornick’s last-minute cancellation, I issued the following statement:
Despite OPSEU’s 11th-hour cancellation, I met that evening with about twenty local peace activists. We gathered at a pub next to OPSEU’s offices.
At that impromptu gathering, we agreed that we would not give up, so days later, local organizers in Toronto secured a space at the Toronto Public Library on July 8. This was a bridge too far for Toronto City Councillor Brad Bradford, who finished in eighth place with 1.3% of the votes in Toronto’s recent mayoral election. Bradford tweeted that he was “appalled” that the library would “give a platform to an apologist for Russia’s war crimes”. In comments on Bradford’s tweet, over twenty-five persons criticized him for attempting to suppress free speech.
To its credit, the Toronto Public Library stood its ground and allowed the event to go forward. In the end, we had a vibrant discussion about the realities of this proxy war and the necessity of ending it by negotiation.
I was scheduled to speak in Winnipeg on June 21. In Winnipeg, not one but two venues cancelled on us in the twenty-four hours leading up to the event.
Prior to cancelling our event, the Filipino Seniors Group (FSG) in Winnipeg received messages that flatly misrepresented what I had said in prior speaking events. For example, one message sent to FSG by someone claiming to be a Canadian of Russian origin claimed that, in our first speaking event in London, Ontario on June 19, I had referred to Ukraine as “the so-called Ukraine”, “proceeded to deny Russia’s responsibility for any war crimes”, and “unjustly labelled all Ukrainians defending against aggression as Nazis”.
These are outright fabrications. I’ve never referred to Ukraine as “the so-called Ukraine” and I’ve never denied Russia’s responsibility for any war crimes.
On the contrary, I have stated repeatedly that I believe that both Russian and Ukrainian forces have committed war crimes, and that all those who have committed war crimes should be held accountable and prosecuted in accordance with due process of law.
Finally, I have never said that all Ukrainians defending against aggression are Neo-Nazis. Rather, I have argued, and continue to maintain, that Ukraine has a serious problem with Neo-Nazism, but that most Ukrainians are not Neo-Nazis.
Unfortunately, I first learned that these fabrications had been communicated to the FSG after it cancelled our event. The FSG gave me no opportunity to respond to those allegations before cancelling our event.
Despite the cancellations by FSG and a second Winnipeg venue (the Canadian Mennonite University), local organizers in Winnipeg managed to secure a third venue at the last moment. At that venue, we drew a large and engaged audience. No one disrupted my presentation or the Q&A which followed it.
I was scheduled to speak in Montreal on June 29.
For the Montreal event, we reserved a lounge owned and operated by a private business. I have known the managers of that venue for years and have always been on friendly terms with them. Out of consideration for the security of their business, we did not publicize the name or address of the venue. Rather, we communicated the venue’s name and address to attendees privately.
By the morning of June 29, the Montreal event was sold out. The organizers expected that we would have to turn people away at the door.
I have lived in Montreal for years and am personally acquainted with many local activists. On the day of the event, I examined the list of registrants and recognized most of the names on the list as activists with whom I had worked in the past.
Nonetheless, on the day when I was scheduled to speak, our opponents somehow managed to identify the venue. At that point, chaos ensued.
First, on the day of the event, an irate woman appeared at the venue and threatened that the business would be targeted that evening with a loud and hostile protest.
The owners and managers of the venue were then inundated with hostile electronic messages, the majority of which came from persons whose names appeared to be Ukrainian.
As acrimonious messages poured in, a CTV reporter called the managers of the venue and indicated that a camera crew would come to the venue that evening to videotape the persons who entered the facility for purposes of attending our event.
As all of this was going on, a raft of complainants besieged the business with low ratings on its Google profile. Here are some examples:
As can be seen from the above screenshots, many of the persons who gave rock-bottom Google ratings to the business on that day bore names that appeared to be Ukrainian, and indicated that their country of residence was Ukraine.
These Google shenanigans were the last straw for the owners of our venue in Montreal.
The manager of the business called me less than three hours before our start time and, while apologizing profusely for having to cancel the event, he explained to me that the business had built up an excellent reputation over many years, and that these online attacks constituted a significant reputational threat to the business.
The manager then tried to limit the damage from the low Google ratings by informing people online that the event had been cancelled.
At that point, our local organizers in Montreal decided to take our audience members to a nearby park in old Montreal. Nearly all of the persons who had registered for our event were redirected to and showed up at that park.
As we gathered in the park for my presentation, a group of angry protesters waving Ukrainian flags appeared. Several Montreal police officers placed themselves between us and the protesters.
The flag-waving protesters began by shouting “stop killing Ukrainians!” At that point, I explained to our audience that I too wanted the killing of Ukrainians to stop, and that that is why I had embarked on this tour. I then asked our audience to join me in chanting “stop killing Ukrainians!” A video of that moment can be watched here.
Throughout my presentation in the park, the pro-Ukrainian protesters chanted that I was a “fascist”, a “liar” and a “fraud”. The police allowed the protesters to get close enough to us that I had to shout in order to be heard by our audience. One audience member who is active in the Palestinian solidarity movement remarked that Montreal police tend to be much less accommodating toward pro-Palestinian protesters.
Initially, our organizers in Halifax reserved a space at St. Mary’s University for our June 30 event. The organizer who had reserved the space at St. Mary’s University was Larry Haiven, a Professor Emeritus of St. Mary’s University.
Within hours of Professor Haiven making the reservation, the University’s President, Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray, advised Professor Haiven that the President had personally decided to cancel the reservation. Professor Haiven attempted in vain to explain to the President that this was a matter of free speech, and that Canadian universities should strive to foster discussion and debate about difficult and controversial subjects.
Professor Haiven and his partner Judy Haiven, also a Professor Emeritus of St. Mary’s University, then secured an alternate venue.
Ultimately, the Halifax event was held without disruption at that second venue.
Following the Halifax event, Professor Haiven issued a statement about the decision of the St. Mary’s University President to cancel our event. In his statement, he explained why he was “ashamed” of the President’s decision to de-platform our event.
Who participated in the campaign to de-platform our tour?
Virtually every venue we reserved for this speaking tour came under intense pressure to cancel our event. The primary means by which our venues were subjected to pressure were emails containing false and inflammatory allegations about me and the speaking tour. Pressure tactics also included physical protests, threats of violence and negative reviews on Google.
Many of the hostile communications received by our venues contained warnings – some subtle and some not-so-subtle – that the venue would suffer a loss of business or be exposed to other adverse consequences if the event was allowed to go forward.
Although we have not seen many of the hostile communications that our venues received, we have seen enough of them to identify key persons involved in the campaign to de-platform our tour. What is striking is that most of those persons work in think-tanks and academic positions that are closely tied to the U.S. and Canadian militaries.
In a recent, must-see interview by Robert Scheer of former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, McGovern explained that we in the West have been systematically lied to about the causes of the Ukraine war and the state of the Ukrainian battlefield. In the course of ennumerating the litany of lies with which we’ve been bombarded, McGovern stated:
You know, I’ve got a new acronym and actually it’s in some dictionaries now. Eisenhower talked about the ‘military industrial complex’. Well it’s more complicated now. Now it’s not the ‘MIC’, but the ‘MICIMATT’: Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-MEDIA-Academia-Think-Tank complex. Why do I say ‘MEDIA’, as if in all caps? Because the media is the fulcrum, is the basis, you can’t make this MICIMATT work without the media. And who controls the media? The same corporations that control Raytheon, Lockheed and the rest of them.
Kolga is also the founder of MLI’s DisinfoWatch project. He claims to be a ‘disinformation expert’, and is treated as such by Canada’s mainstream media.
The website of Disinfowatch discloses no information regarding its donors or board members. It discloses, however, a list of “research partners”. They include the U.S. Department of State and the NATO StratCom Center Of Excellence (Riga).
Kolga is also a “senior fellow” at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute (CDAI), which describes itself as “an umbrella organization for 36 member associations who represent over 400,000 active and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces. We are a connector in the defence & security community in Canada that provides influence and visibility for member associations towards national engagement…” The CDAI website describes Kolga as “a leading Canadian expert on Russian and Central and Eastern European issues.”
The only postsecondary degree listed on Kolga’s LinkedIn profile is a Bachelor of Arts in political science, which he obtained from the University of Illinois in 1994. Based on his published profile, it does not appear that Kolga has any graduate degree, or that he has pursued any postsecondary studies focused specifically on disinformation or on Russia.
As I explained in a recent article on ‘disinformation studies’ in Canada, describing Kolga as a ‘disinformation expert’ is like calling an arsonist ‘the fireman’. Quite apart from his unrelenting pro-war advocacy, Kolga is notorious for his whitewashing of the Estonian far right.
During the past five weeks, Kolga has tweeted and retweeted over thirty derogatory tweets about me. In those tweets, he describes me (among other smears) as a “conspiracy theorist”, “far left”, a “fraud”, a “tankie” and “pro-authoritarian”. Kolga’s tweets and retweets also accuse me of the “whitewashing of Russian atrocities”, of “arguing for ‘peace’ that would result in genocide”, and of making “pro-Putin conspiracy rants” that propagate “anti-Ukrainian views that align with Russian extremist nationalists” and that “justify colonial repression”.
Kolga’s Twitter activity leaves no doubt that he pressured numerous of our venues (including Toronto, Winnipeg and Regina) to de-platform our tour, and that he encouraged his followers to do the same.
On May 11, 2023, Kolga gave testimony on Canada’s sanctions regime to the Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. In that five-minute statement (which starts at 11:57:00 of this video), Kolga described me as a “Canadian far-left pro-Kremlin extremist” and strongly insinuated that I had violated Canadian sanctions laws by travelling to Crimea. That is a bald-faced lie.
There are many differences between Marcus Kolga and me. One of them is that Kolga is a paid shill of the military industrial complex. I, on the other hand, have been paid nothing to write or speak about NATO’s depraved proxy war in Ukraine, or about the West’s relations with Russia.
When it comes to discerning the truth about this war, you are, of course, free to believe the pro-NATO shill who profits from advocating for war, or you can believe the anti-war activist who is paid nothing for his advocacy.
The choice is yours.
Kyle Matthews is the Executive Director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), a think-tank which describes itself as “Canada’s leading institute working at the intersection of human rights, conflict prevention and emerging technologies.”
According to MIGS’ Activity Report for 2020/2021, MIGS’ “partners” include Canada’s Department of National Defence, Global Affairs Canada, the U.S. Embassy to Canada, the Netherlands Embassy to Canada, DisinfoWatch (founded and run by Markus Kolga) and the National Endowment for Democracy, or NED.
The NED is funded by the U.S. Government and is a notorious CIA cutout. It reportedly spent over US$22 million on ‘democracy promotion’ in Ukraine following the U.S.-backed coup that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
Since the beginning of June, Matthews has gone hog-wild on tweet-smearing me. In that period, he has tweeted and retweeted about me more than fifty times, using such rhetorical flourishes as “clueless dimwit”, “deranged” and a “conspiracy theorist”. In one tweet, Matthews denied that I am a journalist, while in another, he wrote that “as lawyer [sic], Lascaris ain’t that bright.”
Matthews routinely misspells my first name, sometimes writing it as “Dmitri” and other times as “Dimitry”. He continued to misspell my name after I recently corrected him on Twitter.
Maybe it’s just me, but I would have thought that no Canadian university would appoint a petulant child to be the executive director of “Canada’s leading institute working at the intersection of human rights, conflict prevention and emerging technologies.”
During the past six weeks, Matthews has tweeted dozens and dozens of condemnations of the Russian and Chinese governments, but not a word about human rights violations by Western governments or their allies. Thus far, Matthews has tweeted no criticism of the widely condemned decision of the U.S. government to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, nor has he uttered a peep about Israel’s brutal assault on the Jenin refugee camp.
Matthews, it seems, has never recovered emotionally from my and Yves Engler’s disruption in June 2019 of an Irwin Cotler love-fest, hosted by the petulant child himself. As is well known by those who regard Palestinians as human beings, Cotler is an apologist for Israel’s apartheid regime. That’s why Yves and I thought it unseemly for Matthews to fawn all over Cotler on the campus of Concordia University. So traumatized was Matthews by our intervention that, years later, he constantly whines about our raining on his Cotler parade.
Matthews evidently believes that there’s an equivalency between our 2019 disruption of Cotler and the de-platforming of our speaking tour on the Ukraine war.
Matthews conveniently omits to mention that Yves and I never de-platformed Cotler. On the contrary, on that day in June 2019, the Cotler love-fest resumed after Yves and I completed our brief intervention. Cotler was given ample opportunity to express himself at Concordia University.
Moreover, the primary reason that I and activists like Yves Engler engage in such disruptions is that Canada’s mainstream media have all but banished left-wing, anti-imperialist criticism of Canadian foreign policy. If Canadians holding such views such were given reasonable opportunities to express those views in the mainstream media, there would be no need for us to resort to the disruption of the political elite. Cotler, by contrast, is routinely feted by Canada’s mainstream media. So too are other architects of Canada’s morally bankrupt and hypocritical foreign policy. Simply stated, Canada’s mainstream media discourse is grotesquely imbalanced in the elite’s favour. Activists’ interventions are a means whereby some measure of balance can be introduced into the public discourse.
Matthews’ tweets over the past six weeks leave no doubt that he participated in the campaign to de-platform our tour. He retweeted, for example, a Marcus Kolga tweet in which Kolga called on OPSEU to cancel our event in Toronto:
On Twitter, Matthews also joined with Kolga in pressuring the Regina Public Library to cancel our event:
Matthews also publicly accused the Toronto Public Library of “hosting” a “conspiracy theorist and Russian war crimes apologist”:
Dominic Cardy is a senior fellow of MIGS. He is also a member of the New Brunswick legislature.
In 2011, Cardy became leader of the New Brunswick NDP. He won by acclamation. While leader of the NB NDP, Cardy ran three times for election to the New Brunswick legislature. He lost each time, finishing third place on two occasions and second place on the third.
In 2015, Yvon Godin, an NDP member of Parliament for a New Brunswick federal riding, criticized Cardy’s leadership of the provincial NDP, stating:
The problem, I think, with the provincial party, with Dominic, was that I think he was too much to the right to even be in the centre, and I think people read into that. I think it did hurt the party. People were looking for the NDP, they were doing really well, and [voters] wanted change from the existing parties that we have now, who are serving the big corporations and forgetting about the people.”
On January 1, 2017, Cardy announced his resignation as leader of the NB NDP. He complained at the time that forces in the NDP, in collusion with the province’s largest public sector union, had waged “endless internal battles.”
Less than one month after his resignation, the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Party revealed it had appointed Cardy as its strategic issues director. At the time, Cardy said it was “not my intention” to run as a candidate for the Tories. The following year, after endorsing Maxime Bernier for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party, Cardy ran as a candidate for the New Brunswick Tories. He finally won a seat.
The Tories, however, would come to regret Cardy’s belated electoral success. In October 2022, after Cardy had been elevated by New Brunswick Premier Blair Higgs to the post of Education Minister, Cardy resigned from Higgs’ cabinet, citing flaws in Higgs’ leadership style. At the time, Higgs stated that Cardy resigned only after Higgs had told Cardy that he intended to shuffle Cardy out of cabinet. The day after Cardy’s resignation from cabinet, Higgs expelled Cardy from the Progressive Conservative caucus.
According to MIGS’ website, Cardy holds a B.A. in Political Science and, after working for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, joined the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) “in increasingly senior managerial roles.”
NDI is funded in part by the U.S. Government, including by the CIA cutout, the NED. Although the NDI claims to be “non-partisan” and “non-governmental”, the current Board of this U.S. government-funded organization is a veritable who’s who of Democratic Party heavyweights. The NDI Board is chaired by former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle and includes (among numerous other establishment Democrats) Michael McFaul, who served as Obama’s ambassador to Russia at the time of the 2014, U.S.-orchestrated coup.
Judging from Cardy’s Twitter feed, he just might be auditioning for a return to a “senior managerial role” at NDI.
Although Cardy is a member of a provincial legislature and has no responsibility whatsoever for Canadian foreign policy (which is a matter of federal jurisdiction), Cardy seems to be obsessed with Russia and China. His Twitter profile prominently features the Ukrainian, Canadian and Taiwanese flags and describes Cardy as an “honorary NAFO fellow”:
“NAFO” stands for “North Atlantic Fellas Organization”. Since its creation in early 2022, NAFO functions as an army of low-brow, relentlessly pro-NATO Twitter trolls. NAFO’s co-founder, Kamil Dyszewski, is a Polish video game reviewer who operates under the Twitter pseudonym “Kama Kamilia.” In a July 2022 interview, Dyszewski professed that he is fuelled by an “absolute hatred and vitriol I have towards the Russians.” As reported in October of last year by Alexander Rubinstein and Moss Robeson, Dyszewski “has also tweeted multiple antisemitic memes, including images which appeared to glorify Adolph Hilter and mock Jewish victims of the Holocaust.”
Despite these sordid facts, Cardy brags about his relationship to NAFO. On Twitter, he has pinned to his profile a tweet in which he thanks the “NAFO team” for making him an “honorary fella” of NAFO:
Cardy is extremely active on Twitter. From June 1 to July 9, 2023, he tweeted or retweeted 402 times, or 10.3 times per day, on average. Those 402 tweets and retweets do not include the gigantic dung-heap of hostile replies that Cardy posted to tweets issued by his ideological adversaries. On Twitter, Cardy routinely engages in endless mud-slinging with leftists and anti-imperialists. One wonders how Cardy finds any time to address the needs of his constituents – or whether he even tries to do so.
During the June 1 to July 9 period, Cardy tweeted or retweeted 215 posts about Russia. This constituted 53.5% of his tweets and retweets during that period. During that same period, he also tweeted or retweeted 58 times about China, which constituted 14.4% of his tweets and retweets during that period. Together, Cardy’s tweets and retweets about Russia and China constituted 67.9% of his total tweets and retweets for that period. Predictably, every one of those tweets reflected negatively on Russia or China (or both).
By contrast, from June 1 to July 9, Cardy tweeted or retweeted a mere 62 posts that explicitly related to New Brunswick. This constituted a lowly 15.4% of his total tweets and retweets during that period. In other words, Cardy tweeted and retweeted about Russia and China approximately three times more often than he tweeted or retweeted about New Brunswick.
Tellingly, from June 1 to July 9, Cardy did not post a single tweet or retweet that criticized the human rights abuses or international law violations of any Western government or Western ally. Cardy tweeted nothing, for example, about the U.S. military’s ongoing crimes against humanity at Guantanamo, the nearly $4 billion in annual military aid that the U.S. gifts to apartheid Israel, or Canada’s weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, which has committed war crimes in Yemen. Meanwhile, Cardy expressed support for the U.S. government’s widely condemned decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine.
What ought we to make of Cardy’s extensive Twitter activity? Well, for one thing, Cardy appears to think that New Brunswick’s taxpayers are compensating him to act as a mouthpiece for Washington’s neocon cabal. For another, Cardy evidently applies a far lower standard to Western governments than he applies to the West’s official enemies.
From June 1 to July 9, Cardy tweeted or retweeted derogatory comments about me more than 50 times. While acknowledging my ‘claim’ that I have received no compensation for my commentary about the Ukraine war, Cardy tweeted that I have “multiple links to those who profit from the Putin regime.” He has also written that I am “easily manipulated” by my “friends in Moscow” and am a “Kremlin shill“.
Cardy retweeted Matthews’ criticism of the Toronto Public library for allowing us to use its facilities.
Despite his unbridled hostility to advocates for a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine war, Cardy came to our event in Fredericton, accompanied by his spouse, Julie Smith.
According to New Brunswick’s Telegraph-Journal, when Cardy and Smith were married recently, they “used the special occasion to pay tribute to Ukraine, a country they visited together last fall.”
On July 2, when Cardy entered our venue in Fredericton, a local organizer of our event offered to shake Cardy’s hand. Cardy refused, declaring “I never shake hands with Kremlin scum”. Cardy also refused to shake my hand when I extended it to him minutes before my presentation in Fredericton began.
At our Fredericton event, Cardy live-tweeted various insults, using the hashtag “#LiveLascarisLies”. In one of the tweets that he posted while attending our event, he asserted that we had started the event “with the Soviet anthem”:
What in fact happened is that, as audience members entered the Fredericton venue and seated themselves, the local organizers played a collection of left-wing music, including “The Internationale”. As Wikipedia explains:
“The Internationale” is an international anthem that has been adopted as the anthem of various anarchist, communist, socialist, democratic socialist, and social democratic movements. It has been a standard of the socialist movement since the late nineteenth century… It is one of the most universally translated anthems in history.
Shortly prior to our event in New Brunswick, I challenged Cardy to debate me about the Ukraine war at the Fredericton event. Cardy accepted the challenge, but only on condition that we allow him to publicize the name and location of our venue in Fredericton. I was unwilling to accept that condition because, based on everything that had happened on our tour up to that point int time, I expected that our venue would be pressured into cancelling the event if its name and location were widely publicized.
I therefore proposed to Cardy an alternative: that we debate each other online at a later date. Initially, rather than accept my alternative proposal, Cardy falsely and repeatedly claimed on Twitter that I had backed out of my own debate challenge. Accordingly, during the Q&A at our event in Fredericton, I asked Cardy several times whether he would debate me online after the Fredericton event. At first, Cardy tried to sidestep my question, but he eventually agreed.
Since the Fredericton event, Cardy and I have concurred that our debate will occur, online, on October 3, 2023 at 7 pm. The question we’ve agreed to debate is: what is the best way to resolve the Ukraine war?
Jean-Christophe Boucher is an Associate Professor at the School of Public Policy and at the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary. He currently holds grants from Canada’s Department of National Defence to study “information operations”, and from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) “to understand civil-military relations in Canada”. The SSHRC is funded by Canada’s federal government.
Boucher is an “expert” of the Network for Strategic Analysis (NSA). The NSA was launched as part of the Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security programme of the Department of National Defence of Canada. Its primary mission is to “mobilize Canadian and global expertise on three strategic challenges for Canada”, including “the intensification of competition between great powers under the threshold of armed conflict and its pandomain implications”, and “capacity building, defense diplomacy and partnership development within regional, minilateral and international organizations.
In 2022, Boucher produced a “study” on Russian disinformation in Canada. Boucher’s “study” was a pile of bunk, which I debunked here. After I criticized his “study”, Boucher blocked me on Twitter:
From June 1 to July 9, 2023, Boucher tweeted or retweeted about me on eight occasions. He shared tweets by Kolga, Cardy and Matthews in which they made derogatory remarks about me. Boucher aided the campaign to de-platform our tour by sharing content designed to pressure our venues to cancel our events. For example:
In essence, Kolga, Cardy, Boucher and Matthews are Canada’s internet frat-boys of pro-war propaganda.
In the month of June, after the speaking tour was publicly announced, Krawchenko began attacking me on Twitter. From the time that we announced the tour in early June to the end of the month, Krawchenko posted over fifteen tweets and replies about me on her Twitter account. All of them were derogatory.
Krawchenko urged her followers to pressure OPSEU into cancelling our event. She repeatedly tagged OPSEU in her tweets and replies about me.
On Twitter, Krawchenko alleged that, while in Crimea, I had visited a Russian “filtration camp” at which Russian forces had committed war crimes.
While in Crimea, I wrote a lengthy article about this camp and published it on this website in April of this year.
The camp that I visited lies to the south of the Crimea-Kherson border, in Russian-controlled territory. It was small and consisted of several pitched tents. Workers at the camp gave me a tour of the facility. They invited me to inspect each tent, which I did. I saw no persons being detained at the camp and I saw no evidence of violence, coercion or other mistreatment.
I spoke with all camp workers who were present at the time of my visit. They assured me that they were volunteers from all over Russia and that they were not employed by the Russian military. As far as I could see, none of the workers carried weapons.
At the time that I visited the camp, there were only three refugees there (a family of two young adults and their ten-year old daughter), and the family was being fed by camp workers. After eating their meal, they roamed around the camp freely. With the help of my Russian-speaking guide and translator (whom I hired and compensated out of my own pocket), I spoke with the father of this family. He explained that he intended to take his family to Poland and that he had decided to transit to Poland through Crimea because he feared that, if he tried to enter Poland from Ukrainian-held territory, Ukrainian security services would apprehend him at the Poland-Ukraine border and force him into military service.
In reply to Krawchenko’s tweet about this alleged “filtration camp”, an account bearing the name of “Carl Gravel” asserted (in French) on Krawchenko’s Twitter account that there was a plan to assassinate me during my visit to Victoria, B.C.:
The English translation of Gravel’s reply to Krawchenko’s tweet is as follows:
Dimitri, who appears on the Kremlin propaganda channel Russia Today and spreads anti-Ukrainian hatred, will give a “lecture” in Victoria on 27 June. According to reliable sources, an assassination plot is being planned against him…
Gravel posted his reply to Krawchenko’s tweet on June 11. I first learned of Gravel’s assassination warning on June 27, when I arrived in Victoria, B.C. I was alerted to it by the organizers of the Victoria event.
As of the writing of this article, Gravel’s assassination warning continued to appear on Krawchenko’s Twitter account. As far as I know, Krawchenko made no effort to alert me or our local organizers to the alleged assassination plot.
I do not know who controls the Twitter account that posted the assassination warning on Krawchenko’s Twitter account. Of course, the person behind that Twitter account could be an individual whose real name isn’t “Carl Gravel”.
That being said, an individual bearing the name “Carl Gravel” has a profile on Facebook that features a Ukrainian flag.
The Carl Gravel Facebook profile states that Gravel studied at the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics and currently works at Maestria Solutions. A LinkedIn profile for Carl Gravel shows that, before working at Maestria Solutions, Gravel served in the Canadian military for twenty-seven years (from 1990 to 2017).
Thus, there is reason to believe that the person who posted the assassination warning on Krawchenko’s Twitter account may be a former, longstanding member of the Canadian military.
On June 20, 2023, Orest Zakydalsky, Senior Policy Advisor of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, sent an email to OPSEU’s President, J.P. Hornick. Zakydalsky urged Hornick to cancel our event because I have appeared on RT and because I had done “interviews” of “people like Scott Ritter — a convicted sex offender”.
I first learned of Zakydalsky’s letter to Hornick after Hornick cancelled our event. Hornick afforded me no opportunity to respond to Zakydalsky’s criticisms before Hornick decided to cancel.
For the record, I first appeared on RT in 2019, when I was in Venezuela to report for the U.S.-based Real News Network on efforts by Western governments to overthrow the government of Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro. At that time, RT wanted to interview me about what I had learned from speaking to ordinary Venezuelans in the streets of Caracas.
Since then, I have appeared on RT on several occasions to discuss a variety of subjects, including the truckers’ convoy in Ottawa, Canadian foreign policy, the Ukraine war and my trip to Russia in April. RT has never offered or paid to me a dime of compensation. Moreover, RT has never restricted my freedom to express my views on its programs.
Does RT disseminate pro-Russian propaganda? Of course it does, but propaganda is not unique to RT. Canadian, U.S. and other Western corporate media routinely disseminate government and corporate propaganda, yet no one has ever condemned me for the numerous interviews I have done on the CBC, CTV or Global News. Moreover, RT’s coverage of international affairs is generally more honest than Western media coverage of international affairs. On RT, it is permissible to utter truths that are taboo on Western mainstream media, such as: the capitalist system is fuelling wars; NATO is an aggressive military alliance that should be disbanded; U.S. military spending is out of control; and Western foreign policy with respect to non-Western countries is hypocritical, racist and exploitative.
Moreover, I reject the suggestion that, if you choose to give an interview to a media organization, then you necessarily agree with everything that that organization disseminates to the public. A media organization is simply a platform with an audience. If I accept an interview request from a media organization, I do so simply because I want to communicate my views to that organization’s audience. As long as I am permitted to express my honest views to that audience, there’s no good reason for me to reject the opportunity to reach that audience.
As for Scott Ritter, I have interviewed him once, for The Real News Network. I was not compensated for that interview, and neither was Ritter. The video of that interview, which concerned the Ukraine war, has over 2.5 million views. Ritter is a former U.S. Marine intelligence officer in the Soviet Union and Middle East. He was also a United Nations weapons inspector. His expertise in military matters is undeniable. Moreover, he famously opposed the invasion of Iraq on the basis that the Bush administration’s claims about WMD in Iraq were baseless. Had the U.S. Government heeded Ritter’s warnings about flawed ‘intelligence’ relating to WMD in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved.
The UCC’s successful campaign to pressure OPSEU into cancelling our event was not the first time the UCC has sought to de-platform critics of NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine. It also attempted to pressure the Toronto Public Library into cancelling a June 4, 2023 event titled “The war in Ukraine and how to stop it“.
The UCC’s smear campaign against me was aided and abetted by a prominent Ukrainian-Canadian lawyer, Peter Kryworuk. Kryworuk, who is based in London, Ontario, wrote multiple messages to our London venue in which he falsely accused me of “spewing lies, misinformation, hatred and Russian propaganda”, and of making arguments that “will not benefit world peace but will continue Russia’s genocide of Ukrainians”. He warned our London venue that there would be negative repercussions as a result of its refusal to cancel our event. According to Kryworuk, the venue’s decision is “one that many in our community will watch carefully”.
After I delivered my speech in London on June 19, Kryworuk wrote another irate message to the venue. In that message, he demanded that the venue publish on its website an apology for allowing our event to go forward and a condemnation of what I had said during the event. He warned that “choices have consequences” and that, failing such an immediate and full statement of condemnation and apology, the venue “will lose support from the community which it depends on.” According to Kryworuk, “word will spread” of our venue’s “role in allowing a platform for such extremist views”.
Kyrworuk, it appears, is a supporter and significant donor to the UCC:
Another Ukrainian-Canadian organization that pressured a venue to cancel our event is the Ukrainian Association of Fredericton. On July 4, its President sent an email to the Unitarian Fellowship of Fredericton (the venue for our July 2 event in New Brunswick) in which she falsely accused me of supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and of violating Canadian sanctions laws by visiting Crimea.
I have committed no violation of Canadian sanctions laws. I ended my trip to Russia on April 30 – over two months ago. No Canadian law enforcement agency has accused me of violating Canadian sanctions law or has even questioned me about my trip to Russia and Crimea. Furthermore, I have consistently stated that I consider Russia’s invasion to be a violation of the U.N. Charter. Indeed, I took that position in my very first article on the Ukraine war, which I published on this website two days after the invasion began. That article has remained on my website throughout that time, including during my trip to Russia.
Finally, an organization calling itself “Ensemble pour l’Ukraine / Together for Ukraine” wrote a long message to our Montreal venue in which it falsely accused me of violating Canadian sanctions law and of being “one of the top pro-Russian propagandists in Canada” and a “consistent supporter of the Russian invasion”.
The struggle for peace is a struggle for free speech
If this tour has taught us anything, it’s that, in times of war, the struggle for peace is also a struggle for freedom of expression.
A core premise of democracy is that a government chosen by an informed citizenry is the best form of governance. The surest way to ensure that the citizenry remains informed is by fostering vigorous and open debate.
The war in Ukraine has created an unprecedented danger of nuclear armageddon. It is happening against the backdrop of a climate crisis that is spinning out of control, and that cannot be managed responsibly without an unprecedented degree of international cooperation. The Ukraine war is not uniting the world. Rather, it is dividing it. In this perilous moment, deepening divisions are the last thing humanity needs.
The stakes could not be higher. The need for the citizenry to be informed could not be greater.
If our opponents truly believe that we are everything they claim us to be, then they should back up their claims with logic and evidence. The fact that they resort to silencing and smearing us proves only that they cannot win the debate that our fellow citizens so urgently need to hear.
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