The Niagara Independent, December 22, 2023 – Canada has seemingly become a personification of its Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. It is insufferably egotistical with its virtual signaling and boastful bromides such as “The world needs more Canada.” Collectively, Canadians are blissfully naïve about global affairs and, at the same time, are accepting of the government’s inconsistent or nonsensical foreign policy statements, which has revealed how unserious the country is with its diplomatic missions and its place in the world.
This characterization has come at a tremendous cost to Canada’s reputation within the international community. To extend the analogy: through the past eight years, Canada has become as irrelevant as Justin Trudeau excitedly exposing his selection of socks.
By most accounts, during the post-world war era Canada emerged as a steady middle-power that was consummate in its soft diplomacy and adept at leveraging its alliances with the United States, the Commonwealth, and western European countries. It was a reliable and valued ally. Yet since 2015, with PM Trudeau and his ministers preening and parading themselves on the global stage, Canada’s international stature has diminished and the country’s standing with its allies has slipped.
The hapless antics of the Trudeau government through the fall 2023 months are indicative of just how soiled Canada’s reputation has become. There were the foreign missteps relating to Canada’s treatment of Afghani refugees, repeated refusals to negotiate LNG exports, and most recently the failure to support human rights in Hong Kong.
PM Trudeau captured international attention with his dogged resistance in calling an independent inquiry on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence in Canada’s elections, as well as a wider array of scandals involving China. Similarly, Trudeau placed a deep-freeze-chill on Canada-India relations when he publicly accused Indian PM Narendra Modi of foreign interference; Modi countered with a long-standing grievance that Canada harbours pro-Khalistan Sikh terrorists with ties to the Liberals and NDPs.
The most embarrassing moment for Canada (perhaps in the history of the country) came when an international audience witnessed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and PM Trudeau leading a standing ovation for a Nazi Waffen-SS Galicia Division officer who was being officially recognized in Canada’s Parliament. Zelensky’s address to Canadians was to be a powerful demonstration of western democracies’ solidarity with Ukraine and instead it became a shameful black eye for Zelensky and for Canada.
In the last three months, regrettably, Canada has been labelled China’s vassal state, willing hosts for Sikh terrorists, and an incompetent and/or untrustworthy ally. But all of this ridicule pales in comparison to the disrepute befallen on the nation with the Trudeau government’s response to the Hamas-Israeli war. PM Trudeau and his ministers have been called out for their inconsistencies in making statements regarding the horrors of the Hamas brutality, the unfolding war in Gaza, and the pro-Palestinian protestors’ unlawful acts in Canada. At question is Canadians’ moral mettle and whether the country’s leadership can hold a principled position during a time of crisis.
It has been a comedy of self-inflicted errors. From the outset, PM Trudeau, his ministers, and the country’s state-sponsored legacy media refused to name the Hamas a terrorist group, and accounts of the Hamas October 7th murders, beheadings, rapes, and kidnappings were being “contextualized” for Canadians. The PM was first reluctant to call out acts of antisemitism, while his government spokespersons constantly expressed concerns about Islamophobia. Only after weeks of pressure – a full two months after the atrocities were committed – did Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly issue a statement via a X post recognizing and condemning the Hamas rapes of Israeli women. And in the streets of cities from Vancouver to Montreal pro-Palestinian protestors have flagrantly broken the law with no repercussions – leaving Canadian Jews and Israeli supporters feeling unsafe in their own schools, businesses, synagogues, and homes.
The Trudeau government punctuated these disturbing responses to the Hamas-Israeli war by voting in favour of a United Nations (UN) motion against Israel and the United States, demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. It was a one-sided motion expressly without mention or condemnation of the Hamas and its October 7 attacks, and without any conditions relating to Hamas resistance movement or the return of Israeli hostages. Melanie Joly observed at the time of the vote that “We think that for too long the two state solution has been put on the back burner.”
Lead editorials in Canada voiced disbelief at the naivety of this position. Michael Higgins observed in the National Post, “You can’t trust a terrorist organization that has repeatedly broken ceasefires, that has committed countless war crimes, that has pledged to commit similar Oct. 7 attacks “again and again” and whose founding charter calls for the destruction of all Jews.” In another editorial, John Ivison baldly stated, “Canada is exposed as an undependable, unprincipled ally.”
Perhaps the most damning indictment of the country’s UN vote came from the Israeli ambassador to Canada Iddo Moed who alluded to the hollowness of Canada’s diplomacy, “It’s like a tree falling in the woods somewhere, nobody hears it.”
Moed’s stinging insult has since been trumped by the video message of thanks to Canada by Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas leader. (Is it not astounding to think Canada is being feted by this barbaric terrorist group?)
Just as the great western democracies did not include Canada in their initial joint statement of condemnation against Hamas, the international community does not look to Justin Trudeau and Canada for principled positions, and our allies are no longer looking at Canada for anything in particular. Canada has been effectively marginalized and, in some cases, left out of significant defence and economic alliances as a result of the Trudeau government’s foreign affairs record. Consider QUAD, AUKUS, NATO, the US-led discussions defending Ukraine, and the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
Verily, after eight years of Trudeau’s statesmanship the country has little to offer alliances responding to the world’s multipolar disorder. As the Russia-China-Iran axis aligns against the United States and western Europe, PM Trudeau informed our traditional allies that the country is no longer committed to meeting Canada’s promised defence spending while Joly advanced a novel foreign policy notion of “pragmatic diplomacy.”
In her October speech that was framed as a pivotal policy announcement (though largely ignored in Canada and around the world), the foreign affairs minister promised that Canada would build ties with a broader set of partners and would defend its sovereignty with enhanced military, intelligence and cybersecurity. But given the documented deterioration of Canada’s military, CSIS, RCMP, and diplomatic corps, Joly’s fanciful announcement amounts to little more than whistling past a graveyard.
Joly’s word-salad address to describe a new foreign affairs policy direction drew sharp criticism from policy analysts and pundits. Career diplomat and former ambassador to the US Derek Burney has voiced his frustration, “But where is the clarity on how foreign policy serves our national interest?…. Serious policy does not flow from slogans or vacuous rhetoric. By incessantly emphasizing style over substance Canada is no longer regarded as a serious global player.”
Andrew Coyne, in a recent Globe and Mail piece, warns that it has come to a point now where the government’s performance in foreign affairs is of existential concern: “Our refusal to bear our share of the costs of defending the democracies is increasingly causing us to be shut out of international councils. Our habit of treating defence and foreign policy as an extension of diaspora politics is creating dangerous divisions at home. The weakness of our intelligence and police services is putting Canadian lives at risk. Even our territorial integrity can no longer be taken for granted.”
Vincent Rigby, former national security adviser to Trudeau, also expresses concern for Canada’s weakened position within the international community, “Canada has been a bit of a bystander. It has taken measures, but not always in a systematically planned way… We are lacking a bit of strategic direction in a world that is being buffeted by change.”
And into this policy vacuum, PM Trudeau, ministers Joly and Chrystia Freeland, and other Liberals like Mark Carney and Steven Guilbeault have been pressing forward and steering Canada within the orbits of the United Nations and World Economic Forum. With the Trudeau government’s policies respecting immigration, green energy transition, climate change, digital currencies – and ceasefire motions, it is increasingly evident that Canadians’ interests are being eclipsed by an expanding global agenda and an international body politic.
Reflecting on the Liberals’ eight years, the laments and criticisms about the state of Canada’s foreign affairs are all for naught. As it appears, degrading the country’s international reputation and undermining its traditional alliances are on course for this government. In fact, Justin Trudeau knows exactly where he is navigating his post-national ship of state.