By Arnold August
During a daily press briefing in Ottawa this Monday, prime minister Justin Trudeau continued parasitizing on calamitous issues to increase the tempo of his bid for election to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seat next June 17. How else can one explain that he took the unusual step to comment, in his various first sentences, on the situation in the US? In a supposedly self-effacing comment, he stated that “anti-Black racism also exists in Canada.” How convenient for the statesman. Trudeau did not utter a word about the extreme violation of human rights in the U.S. nor show support for the just cause of protesting there, at least in the manner that the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) point out:
“Over 50 years ago, American Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King said… A riot is the language of the unheard … This quote explains and underscores what we are seeing in the media in response to the police killing of a Black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis … Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. A recent US study found that about one in 1,000 black men and boys in the US can expect to die at the hands of police. That is, they are 2.5 times more likely than white men and boys to die during an encounter with a member of the police force.”
Trudeau, perhaps also animated by his UNSC elections campaign, did not utter a word about the violent century-old colonialist racism against First Nations in Canada. Did Trudeau have a memory lapse about First Nations in Canada? No, the answer perhaps lies in the fact that in 2014 the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya on the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada consisted of a devastating criticism of the situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada. And Canada has not been applying the 2007 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. If Trudeau had mentioned this, he would have opened a can of worms, as the situation is notoriously known to much of the public. Thus, this would be bad press for a UNSC seat.
When a reporter asked him in that same press briefing for his view specifically on Trump’s incendiary comments against the protesters, Trudeau said, “I am not going to speak on behalf of other countries.”
This is not true, and to utter blatant falsehoods is certainly not becoming of a country seeking a seat at the UNSC. Trudeau has indeed commented on many occasions regarding countries whose governments he does not like, such as Nicaragua, Bolivia (before the racist Trump–Trudeau coup), Palestine, China, Russia, Iran and many others. In fact, on the hot issue of Venezuela, Trudeau literally “speaks on behalf of other countries,” that is, Venezuela. Through the mouth of the Trump-appointed so-called president-in-waiting Juan Guaidó, Trudeau like Trump “speaks on behalf of Venezuela.”
While very aggressive in meddling in the affairs of counties whose governments do not appeal to Trudeau, he does not have a word to say about violation of human rights against the countries he does like, such as Colombia, Brazil, Honduras, Israel, Saudi Arabia and, last but indeed not least, the US itself. Not a word was uttered in the June 1 press briefing about violation of human rights in the US.
This hypocritical contradiction, becoming so glaring, actually made it into the Canadian mainstream media. On June 2, the day following what the whole world witnessed on television, namely Trump ordering his troops to attack protesters in front of the White House so that he can have a photo op with a bible at the nearby official White House church, the daily press briefing took place. However, and this is unusual, the question and answer period was converted even by mainstream media into a relatively aggressive interrogation of Trudeau for his foreign policy double standard. Several, and not just one, journalists’ questions implored Trudeau to comment on Trump’s actions and words, not only the previous day’s police attacks and church photo op, but since the beginning of the crisis. Trudeau again refused to answer the question, let alone address Trump’s words and deeds against protesters. A journalist (seemingly frustrated) made another attempt as the Q and A drew to an end, and thus addressed Trudeau in the following way:
“You’ve been reluctant to comment on the words and actions of US president Donald Trump. But we do have Donald trump now carrying out military action against protesters. We saw people there gassed yesterday to make place for a photo op. But if you do not want to comment on that, what message do you think that you are sending?”
Trudeau stood silent for 20 seconds, on live TV, a very unusual act that has international repercussions.
He finally answered with the same evasive “we have all witnessed with horror and consternation what is going on, but now is the time to pull together…” International western media showed the video clip with the journalist’s question followed by the long delay and finally the response. There will surely be ongoing debate on his long moment of silence, Trudeau may or may not try to spin it. However, the bottom line is that he got, wittingly or not, international attention and he refused to criticize Trump, bringing shame on millions of Canada, sacrificed on the alter of pleasing Trump in exchange for USSC support.
On the same day of his moment of silence on Trump, Trudeau’s Foreign Minister Jean-François Champagne issued a statement via Twitter confirming Canada’s support for the violent pro-U.S. opposition in Venezuela against the elected Maduro government.
On that June 2, Trudeau passed the litmus test as a faithful ally of Trump and the U.S. and is expecting full U.S. support for the UNSC seat.
However, Trudeau’s theatrics (as some parliamentarism called it) did not go down at all right in the Canadian parliament. First to stand up against Trudeau’s non-response was the opposition social-democratic party NDP member of parliament Niki Ashton.
However, we are not yet done with Trudeau’s June 2 presser. It was not Trudeau’s day. Right on the heels of his pledge to work against racism in Canada (his opening UNSC pitch), a reporter’s question confronted him on a report that was released close to three years ago demanding that Canada apologize and offer reparations for slavery of Blacks in Canada. He was asked why nothing has been done. The response was band standing for the international audience, the usual…“we are working on it.” After all, the Trudeau government has spent so much time and funds in trying to recruit African and Caribbean countries to vote for Canada. He had to say something.
Nevertheless, let us be fair and ask: is it exaggerated to assert that Trudeau uses even the most tragic situations to boost his presence on the international scene as a trampoline for his UNSC seat? For those in doubt, in addition to the June 1 and 2 press conferences, let us take note of the May 28, 2020 virtual UN-sponsored meeting on COVID-19 that Trudeau held with the Prime Minister of Jamaica and the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. As the Canadian state television CBC reports, “The conference is taking place as Canada competes with Norway and Ireland for one of two non-permanent seats opening on the UN Security Council next month. Canada is running on a platform of helping to rebuild the post-pandemic world.” The CBC headline, emphasizing help for poor countries, reads, “Trudeau, allies call for global unity at UN summit on pandemic recovery.”
However, what is Trudeau’s actual track record on COVID-19 in “poor countries”? The quiescence of cynicism took place in the first week of May 2020. The US-led attempted invasion of Venezuela from Colombia on May 3, in collaboration with Juan Guaidó, to carry out a coup against president Maduro failed. It was a fiasco. How did the Trudeau government show its solidarity with the Trump-led mercenaries? His foreign minister issued two tweets, on May 3 and May 5. On both occasions, he allegedly based himself on Canada’s “concern” about COVID-19 in Latin America. It was a cynical pretext. The tweets show that the bottom line was support for the US-led regime change strategy. COVID-19 was just a pretext.
Nonetheless, in the apparent haste to cover up regime change solidarity with Trump and Guaidó, conveniently camouflaged with “COVID-19 concern,” Trudeau overlooked this fact: the Latin American countries to which he refers (all American and Canadian allies) – either directly or indirectly – such as Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Chile have the worst COVID-19 prevention records in Latin America. On the other hand, the country in the region with by far the most successful results in containing the pandemic is Venezuela. This country was, of course, not mentioned in the Trudeau government’s May love-in statements with the US-led coup plotters. Trudeau’s morbid UNSC pursuit is fully exposed because it is this successful Venezuela example that the Trump–Trudeau alliance wants to overthrow, which, had it occurred, would have thrust the Venezuelan people into the same hell as the US-Canadian Latin American allies.
Nonetheless, let us continue to give Trudeau some benefit of the doubt. After all, the charge against him is serious: sadistically using COVID-19 for personal political careerism. During the June 1 press briefing, in the context of racism, one reporter did ask him about the racism against the First Nations in Canada and the report of the Canadian National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). This inquiry was commissioned by the Trudeau government itself. However, it did not turn out as planned. The news reporter was perhaps making reference to the serious Commission findings leading to accusations of genocide against successive Canadian governments including the Justin Trudeau mandate. Trudeau, waxing eloquently for the international audience and potential UNSC votes, did not answer the question except to say that his government is very concerned about the plight of the First Nations. This statement and similar ones, not to mention innumerable photo ops showing Trudeau in Indigenous clothing, consist of a sin quad non sardonic approach to get a seat on the UNSC.
Moreover, to emblazon his “concern for First Nations,” Trudeau claimed they are working on the MMIWG report. False. Despite the fact that everything indicated that the First Nations are disproportionately prone to be infected by the pandemic because of historical social and economic conditions, his government announced on May 26, 2020 that the work on the Commission was postponed because of the pandemic. However, the former MMIWG chief commissioner Marion Buller said in response to Trudeau’s postponement that governments had ample time to get the work done by the promised date. “‘Using COVID-19 as an excuse for delaying a national action plan – to me – is really like saying, well, the dog ate my homework,’” Buller said. “‘So much could’ve been done, should’ve been done up to and including February and March.”
Let us conclude by going back to square one. On June 1, Trudeau made his “dramatic” statement on anti-Black racism and then on June 2, we heard his lame response to Canada’s history of slavery. In addition, one may ask; a UNSC seat for a country that is responsible, along with the US and France, for a coup d’état and the continued oppression and violence against the people of Haiti. For those who are still not convinced that we should say NO to Canada, Yves Engler’s title of his most recent article merits reflection: “For Trudeau Black (Haitian) lives do not matter”
Is it any wonder that the description of Canada as “colonialism at home, imperialism abroad” is increasingly popular? Trudeau: If the shoe fits, wear it.
The movement against Canada’s bid for a UNSC seat is gaining traction. We have made much headway despite the national and international pressure of the Trudeau government and its apologists. Now that the bid is in the public limelight, we have far more leeway to expand the discussion in Canada and thus perhaps take a step in the direction to change Canada’s foreign policy. However, we must increase our tempo. No one can remain indifferent. As Howard Zinn famously asserted, “you can’t be neutral on a moving train.”