Canadian liberal Prime-Minister Justin Trudeau surprised many with his ruthless suppression of the truckers protest in Ottawa last winter. But anyone who was surprised just hasn’t been paying attention.
[This article continues CAM’s series on Canada and its ties to the U.S. empire.—Editors]
Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (2015-present) gained notoriety last year for activating the Emergencies Act for the very first time in Canadian history, which suspended the civil rights of the protesters and gave federal law enforcement the right to seize their bank accounts without a court order.
Trudeau’s conduct vis-à-vis the truckers unfortunately was not out of character for a man who has been called “Canada’s Barack Obama”—meaning a vapid neoliberal politician who promotes a hollow identity politics that masks a fealty to corporate interests and support for imperial interventions across the globe.
While claiming to be advancing a “feminist foreign policy,” Trudeau supported misogynistic dictatorships in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia to whom the Liberal government sold $14 billion in light armored vehicles.
In his first five years in office, Trudeau raised Canada’s military budget by $62 billion—with a pledge to increase military spending by 70% over a decade.
The 2022 budget provided an additional $8 billion in defense spending, and Trudeau has announced plans to spend $40 billion over the next two decades on upgrading the North American Aerospace Defence (NORAD) bilateral command with the U.S., which is seen as critical for waging war with Russia and China.
The modernization plans will facilitate Canada’s participation in the U.S. ballistic missile defense shield, which in spite of its name is aimed at making a nuclear war waged by U.S. imperialism “winnable.”
Trudeau is particularly subservient to Canadian mining interests, which operate about 4,000 mineral projects abroad that routinely destroy farmland, harm endangered species, contaminate drinking water, undermine Indigenous self-determination and spur violence and killings in the nearby communities.
Trudeau’s government subsidizes these mining companies, blocked prosecution of a particularly corrupt one [SNC-Lavalin], and waited years to establish an ombudsperson who lacked any power to compel testimony from mining executives.
House of Mirrors
Trudeau’s sorry foreign policy record is laid bare in Yves Engler’s book, House of Mirrors: Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2020).
Engler is known as the Noam Chomsky of Canada. He points out that Trudeau’s government released a defense policy that called for 605 more special forces, and established a plan for Canada’s acquisition of armed drones and for spending more than $100 billion on new fighter jets and ships.
Trudeau’s government meanwhile launched a multi-pronged effort to overthrow Nicolås Maduro’s socialist government in Venezuela, aligning with the most reactionary political forces in South America, targeting Cuba and recognizing Honduras’s narco-dictator Juan Orlando Hernández, who stole elections and is now facing a long prison sentence in the U.S.
Trudeau claimed that Canadian foreign policy was designed to uphold an international rules-based order; however, his administration violated international law by intervening in Syria without UN Security Council or Canadian legislative approval.
The unilateral sanctions that Canada adopted against Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua and other countries—which had terrible human consequences—violated international law too since they were never legitimized by the World Trade Organization (WTO) or UN Security Council.
Canada’s open interference in Venezuela’s political affairs to recognize an obscure opposition politician, Juan Guaidó, was also illegal—as the UN Charter and Organization of American States (OAS) prohibit interfering in the internal affairs of another state.
Trudeau’s government additionally refused to join 122 countries in outlawing nuclear weapons and refused to ratify the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment—which would establish regular visits by monitors in places where human rights abuses are known to take place.
Canada under Trudeau’s leadership has further failed to sign a) the American Convention on Human Rights; b) the Basel Ban amendment, which tries to prohibit rich countries from exporting waste to poor countries; and c) the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which seeks to standardize governance in oil, gas and mining resources.
Chrystia Freeland—Canada’s Hillary
If Trudeau is Canada’s Obama, then Chrystia Freeland is the country’s Hillary Clinton—a female hawk in a high position who is the power behind the throne.
A Harvard graduate and former journalist with the Financial Times, Freeland’s family was tied to the right-wing Ukrainian lobby—her grandfather Michael Chomiak wrote propaganda during World War II for the Nazis.
Freeland was promoted to the position of foreign minister in 2017 in large part because of “her strong U.S. contacts,” according to a declassified document.
In a major foreign policy address in 2017, Freeland said that Canada “required hard power” and a “readiness to fight wars to maintain the North American-led world order.” In the same speech, she praised the U.S.’s “outsized role in world affairs since World War II,” emphasizing that Canada was “grateful, to our neighbor for the outsized role it has played in the world.”
Freeland pushed for a particularly hard-line policy against Russia, accusing Russia baselessly â la Clinton of “meddling” in Canada’s 2019 election.
Calling “Russian military adventurism and expansion clear strategic threats to the liberal democratic world, including Canada,” Freeland rejected calls by Donald Trump to let Russia return to the G-7. She also pushed for sustaining sanctions, and for the expansion of Canada’s military presence on Russia’s doorstep, with the number of Canadian troops in Eastern Europe doubling in 2017.
Canada at the time began sending Canadian naval frigates into the Black Sea and increased its participation in NATO military exercises in countries bordering Russia. It has since sanctioned over 1,400 Russians as part of an economic war on Russia and regime change operation waged by NATO countries led by the U.S.
Super-Hawk on Ukraine
Canada’s role in the 2014 U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine, which triggered the political crisis leading to the current war, was underscored by the fact that opposition protesters backing the coup were camped in the Canadian embassy.
In 2017, Trudeau expanded the mandate of Canada’s military training mission and donated tens of millions of dollars in equipment to the Ukrainian military, which committed massive human rights violations in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces whose people were demanding greater autonomy.
Canada also funded and equipped Ukraine’s National Police, which was infiltrated by neo-Nazis, and trained members of the Azov Battalion.
Since full-blown war with Russia began in February 2022, Trudeau’s government has secretly dispatched Canadian Special Forces and provided $626 million in military aid to Ukraine, including anti-tank weapons, precision-guided excalibur shells, and drone cameras.
The aid has been justified on the grounds that Ukraine was seemingly “at the forefront of the struggle between democracy and authoritarianism,” as Freeland put it, and that “modern Ukraine is the country where the struggle is ongoing and the future of the rules-based international order and genuine democracy in the world will be determined.”
However, Ukraine was far from a model democracy; the Zelensky government banned eleven opposition parties and ran a Phoenix style assassination program while Ukraine was ranked the most corrupt nation in Europe.
Much of the Canadian equipment going to Ukraine has been funneled through a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) hub in Prestwick, Scotland, an airport that was once a transfer point for victims of CIA “extraordinary rendition.”
Trudeau recently vowed that Canada would assist Ukraine in “liberating” all its territories, including Crimea, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
His Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly also provocatively declared Canada’s support for Ukraine joining NATO—when the moment Ukraine joined NATO, it would invariably invoke NATO’s Article 5 under which all member states are obliged to defend any NATO member under attack.
Double Standards on Human Rights—South America
Trudeau’s and Freeland’s double standards on human rights were apparent in South America, where they followed the U.S. lead in characterizing Venezuela’s elected socialist leader, Nicolás Maduro, as a “brutal dictator” while embracing Michel Temer of Brazil who did not have any pretense of electoral legitimacy, Honduras’s narco-dictator, Juan Orlando Hernández, and right-wing oppositionist forces in Venezuela which carried out acts of terrorism.
Colombian President Iván Duque, a right winger who undercut Colombia’s peace accord, was another Trudeau favorite along with Jovenal Moïse, Haiti’s repressive ruler from 2017 to 2021 whom Trudeau’s government supported with police aid—as a reward perhaps for offering Canadian companies lucrative mining concessions.
In Nicaragua, Canada applied sanctions and backed a 2018 coup against Daniel Ortega, a leader of the Sandinista Revolution whose government had improved the people’s quality of life.
In 2019, Trudeau backed another coup in Bolivia against Evo Morales—a socialist who had stood up to foreign mining interests on behalf of Bolivia’s Indigenous population.
Trudeau and Freeland preferred Jeanine Áñez, a right-wing Christian fundamentalist who ordered the massacre of Morales’s supporters and was sentenced in June to ten years in prison after being convicted of terrorism and sedition.
Fealty to Israel
According to Engler, the Trudeau Liberals possess the most anti-Palestinian voting record of any recent Canadian government.
In an August 2018 Canadian Jewish News article, Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather boasted about the Trudeau government’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN, writing: “We have voted against 87% of the resolutions singling out Israel for condemnation at the General Assembly versus 61% for the Harper government [Trudeau’s conservative predecessor], 19% for the Martin and Mulroney governments and 3% for the Chrétien governments. We have also supported 0% of these resolutions, compared to 23% support under Harper, 52% under Mulroney, 71% under Martin and 79% under Chrétien.”
When Trudeau’s government did provide some aid to the Palestinians, it supported the pro-Israeli Palestinian security apparatus that was designed to protect the corrupt Palestinian Authority (PA) from popular resistance to its compliance with Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.
Trudeau’s policies were not too surprising in considering that the chief fundraiser for Canada’s Liberal Party since 2013 was Stephen Bronfman, billionaire scion of an ardent Zionist family which had long connections to U.S. and Israeli intelligence.
Yet More Human Rights Double Standards
The Trudeau-led Liberals criticized Iran for human rights abuses, though they were silent about worse abuses in Saudi Arabia, which received large shipments of Canadian weaponry.
Trudeau’s government supported other repressive Gulf monarchies, including Kuwait and the UAE, which played a lead role, with the Saudis, in the genocidal assault on Yemen. It also sold weapons to Egypt and was silent about the massive human rights crimes committed by its dictator, Fatah al-Sisi.
Canada commanded NATO operations and sent Special Forces into Iraq that participated in an assault on Mosul, which was turned into rubble.
According to Engler, Canada’s Liberals have to date ploughed hundreds of millions of dollars—if not more than a billion—into Iraq, while also supporting U.S. missile strikes in Syria and jihadi-led opposition groups as part of U.S.-led regime-change operations there.
Needlessly Antagonizing China and North Korea
Canada’s Liberal-led government has gone along with the U.S. in provoking China, regularly deploying warships through waters that Beijing claimed in the South China Sea, Strait of Taiwan and East China Sea.
Trudeau’s government has also sought to bolster the U.S. campaign to isolate North Korea. Chrystia Freeland has claimed that “the dictatorship in North Korea…poses a clear strategic threat to the liberal democratic world, including Canada.” Freeland in turn endorsed Royal Canadian Navy surveillance missions and sanctions on North Korea that have caused severe hardship for the local population.
Buddies with Africa’s Most Ruthless Dictator
Trudeau’s favorite leader in Africa is Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame (1995-present), a cold-hearted killer who invaded and plundered the Congo twice, and triggered the 1994 Rwandan genocide by shooting down the airplane of then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.
Kagame’s regime was so vile that his armed forces established open-air crematoria to dispose of the bodies of the legions of Hutu whom they killed.
Unperturbed, Trudeau was photographed with Kagame on at least four occasions at international summits in 2018 and 2019 where he affirmed the “importance of strong and growing bilateral relations” between Canada and Rwanda.
The reason for this strong bilateral relationship was geopolitical and economic: Kagame was a proxy of the U.S. which opened up Rwanda’s economy—and Congo’s—to foreign mining interests.
Justin Trudeau may or may not be a nice guy.
When he became Prime Minister, he may or may not have set out to support dictators and regime change operations, or to ramp up military spending when Canadians were increasingly suffering from cutbacks in social services and heavy inequality.
Whatever his intentions when he started, the imperatives of power have led Trudeau into the moral abyss.
As Engler emphasizes, many of Trudeau’s policies have been driven by corporate interests which finance the Liberal Party.
Trudeau, for example, opposes a Socialist government in Venezuela that had tried to reign in gold extraction by Canadian mining corporations and threatened the interests of Scotia Bank, one of Canada’s biggest banks, which has many Canadian mining clients.
The Canadian military has meanwhile become increasingly integrated with the U.S. military, which has pressured Canada into spending more on its military.
Powerful lobbies in Canada like the right-wing Ukrainian lobby that Freeland is connected with, and the Israeli lobby, are further key determinants of Canadian foreign policy—like in the U.S.
For all the structural forces driving Canadian policy, Trudeau must shoulder a significant share of the blame for the gross injustices Canada has perpetrated around the world while he has been Prime Minister.
If he were a true leader, Trudeau would work to educate the public about the nefarious forces that warp government policy, and use his bully pulpit to stand up for what is right—which he is unwilling to do.
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About the Author
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine.
He is the author of five books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019), The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018), and Warmonger. How Clinton’s Malign Foreign Policy Launched the U.S. Trajectory From Bush II to Biden (Clarity Press, 2023).
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.