Ottawa and Empire

Ottawa and Empire

Canada and the Military Coup in Honduras

By Tyler Shipley


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In June 2009, the democratically elected president of Honduras was kidnapped and whisked out of the country while the military and business elite consolidated a coup d’etat. To the surprise of many, Canada implicitly supported the coup and assisted the coup leaders in consolidating their control over the country.

Since the coup, Canada has increased its presence in Honduras, even while the country has been plunged into a human rights catastrophe, highlighted by the assassination of prominent Indigenous activist Berta Cáceres in 2016. Drawing from the Honduran experience, Ottawa and Empire makes it clear that Canada has emerged as an imperial power in the 21st century.


Based upon meticulous fieldwork, including dozens of interviews with activists in resistance communities, this book is a compelling account of the nefarious effects of Canada’s foreign policy in Central America and elsewhere. Shipley shatters the illusion that the Canadian government is dedicated to keeping ‘peace.’ This book is a must-read for activists and academics interested in international relations, international development, and social movements, which provides an alternative account of the official story of intervention in Honduras.

– Susan Spronk, associate professor of international development and global studies, University of Ottawa

The overthrow of Honduras’s elected government in 2009 was a swift, brutal reminder of the limits of freedom that a small country is allowed. The murders of pro-democracy activists in the years since have ensured that low-key terror is a part of political life. Based on close engagement with the people struggling for their rights in Honduras, Tyler Shipley’s book tells the story of the coup and the regime that followed. He reveals the continuity between Canada’s role in the coup and its foreign policy from Haiti to Afghanistan. Tracing the profits flowing to Canadian corporations and describing the bizarre colonial fantasies of “Charter Cities,” Shipley’s book will dispel any illusions readers may hold on to about Canada’s benevolent role in the world.

– Justin Podur, author of Haiti’s New Dictatorship

Tyler Shipley’s important research shows that imperial power in the Americas is executed not just by Washington, but also by Ottawa. Canada, with its rapacious extractive industries, bears a good deal of responsibility for the nightmare currently unfolding in Honduras.

– Greg Grandin, professor of history, New York University, and author of The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World

Ottawa and Empire is a major contribution to the study of Canadian foreign policy and political economy. By combining rich historical materials with astute political theory and substantive empirical evidence, Shipley demonstrates convincingly that Canada’s role in Honduras has been exploitative and violent—a case study of imperialism in action.

– Jerome Klassen, MIT Center for International Studies, author of Joining Empire: The Political Economy of the New Canadian Foreign Policy

Shipley’s study is a thoroughly researched and cogently argued critique of Canadian policies in Central America. Ottawa and Empire is an important contribution to the growing body of scholarly research that exposes the bourgeois lie about Canada’s benign internationalism, and it is capped off with a stimulating discussion of the radical political implications of the country’s marauding imperialist agenda.

– Thom Workman, professor of political science, University of New Brunswick

Tyler Shipley’s well-researched and probing work focuses on Canadian involvement in the overthrow of the reformist liberal President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya. In doing so, Shipley has produced an illuminating case study of the new Canadian imperialism in Latin America and elsewhere.

– Henry Heller, professor of history, University of Manitoba and author of The Birth of Capitalism: A 21st Century Perspective

We have lived through a very long period of myth-making about Canada’s place in the world as peacekeeper and promoter of human rights and democracy. Ottawa and Empire is a punchy, compelling, and utterly myth-busting account of Canada’s role in ‘building democracy’ in Honduras. No one reading this book will ever jump on the ‘support the troops’ bandwagon again.

– Greg Albo, professor of political science, York University

Shipley gives a devastating critique of Canada’s support for the violent oppression that accompanies the process of making Honduras “right” for Canadian capital. Ottawa and Empire contributes to the critique of modern neoliberal globalization as an essentially neocolonial process that perpetuates and deepens the misery of much of the world for the profit of others.

– James Phillips, assistant professor of anthropology and international studies, Southern Oregon University

As the United States simultaneously expands its profit-motivated wars abroad and descends into neoliberal fascism at home, many look to Canada for an alternative model of humane, peaceable North American statehood. In this meticulously-researched exploration of Canada’s devastating and murderous role in suppressing Honduran democracy, Shipley brings his fellow Canadians and Canada’s liberal admirers to the south face to face with the reality that Canada never was what we wanted it to be. He convincingly shows Canada to be a full-fledged imperialist power in its own right—a power against which Indigenous Canadians and Hondurans alike have provided a forceful model of resistance.

– Adrienne Pine, author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras

Canada’s growing economic involvement in Honduras has had devastating implications for human rights, democracy, and the health and safety of the population. Shipley raises important questions about this new Canadian imperialism and provides a much needed examination of the rise of Canadian interests in Central America and elsewhere in the world.

– Lynn Holland, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, Colorado

For those seeking a class conscious and genuinely internationalist alternative to the reigning story about Canada in the world Ottawa and Empire is a must read

– The Bullet

Challenging an all-too-easy smugness and complacency, Shipley demands that we face up to Canada’s complicity in political coups and repression. This deeply-researched book is a must-read for everyone who cares about global justice and the future of democracy.

– David McNally, professor and author of Another World is Possible

In this readable and eye-popping book, Shipley gives us not only a crisp analysis of the 2009 Honduran coup and its aftermath, but a damning exposition of Canadian imperialism at its most raw and destructive—rooted in big economic interests and broad geopolitical aspirations.

– Dana Frank, professor of history, University of California, Santa Cruz

Remarkably well-researched, cogently argued, and engagingly written, Ottawa and Empire is obligatory reading for all interested in Canadian foreign policy, and not only in the shameful conduct of our government and corporations in Honduras. Shipley sets his analysis into historical perspective and provides us with a first-hand account of the ways in which Canada has buttressed the Washington-led reversal of progressive change in the proverbial ‘banana republic’

– Liisa L. North, professor emeritus, York University

The 2009 coup in Honduras in which the military overturned the elected government of President Manuel Zelaya has been followed by years of popular unrest and widespread human rights violations. Based on extensive interviews with a wide range of Hondurans, Shipley recounts the events leading up to and following the coup and the surprising support for the post-coup regime by the Canadian government. Shipley’s analysis presents an important critique of Canadian economic interests in Honduras and the implications for understanding Canada’s role in the hemisphere.

– Laura Macdonald, professor of political science and political economy, Carleton University


Introduction "Our Job is to Kill People"
Chapter 1 Imperial Legacies: Five Centuries of Foreign Domination in Honduras
Chapter 2 The President in his Pyjamas: The June 2009 Coup D’Etat
Chapter 3 The View from Ottawa: Seeing and Unseeing the Demise of Democracy
Chapter 4 A Fruitful Partnership: Canadian Investments in the Banana Republic
Chapter 5 Middle Power or Empire’s Ally?: Canada’s Place in the World Today
Conclusion Mythologies Old and New