In 1975, Indonesian forces overran East Timor, which had just declared independence from Portugal. The occupation lasted twenty-four years. Challenge the Strong Wind recounts the evolution of Canadian government policy toward East Timor during that period. Canada initially followed key allies in endorsing Indonesian rule, but Canadian civil society groups promoted an alternative foreign policy that focused on self-determination and human rights. Ottawa eventually yielded to pressure from these NGOs and pushed like-minded countries to join it in supporting Timorese self-determination. David Webster draws on untapped government and non-government archival sources, demonstrating that a clear-eyed view of international history must include both state and non-state perspectives.
David Webster is a professor of history and global studies at Bishop’s University. He is author of Fire and the Full Moon: Canada and Indonesia in a Decolonizing World and editor of Flowers in the Wall: Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Melanesia. He worked with the East Timor Alert Network of Canada from 1987 to 1997, and is a member of the international advisory council of Centro Nacional Chega, the Timorese centre for truth and reconciliation.