Letters and Editorials 1155 Views Peter Tremblay

UN Security Council failure shows Justin Trudeau is no better than Stephen Harper on global issues

This week, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau failed to secure a seat for Canada on the United Nations Security Council because voters at the UN saw him for the hypocrite that he is.

United Nations voters are simply too sophisticated to be won over by the largely hollow words of the Canadian prime minister on issues that matter to these voters.

After victory over the Stephen Harper Conservatives, Trudeau proclaimed that "Canada is back." But the reality is that Canada's international leadership under Justin Trudeau has declined even more. Trudeau has become the “emperor with no clothes” in the eye of governments around the world.

Foreign policy experts say they suspect the “Canada is back” talk just didn’t square with the concrete resources that the Canadian government brought to the table.

“Trudeau may be the amicable poster child of multilateralism and diversity … but at the end of the day, that’s not enough,” said Bessma Momani, professor of international relations at the University of Waterloo and a fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

“Where’s the dollars? Where’s the troops? Where’s the presence that people expect?”

Let's start with international peacekeeping, which had been an integral part of Canada's leadership in supporting global peace and security.

Despite pledging in the 2015 campaign to recommit Canada to traditional peacekeeping, Trudeau only briefly deployed Canadian troops as part of a limited contribution to the United Nations mission in Mali.

The total number of Canadian peacekeepers deployed fell this year to its lowest number in 60 years.

“The Trudeau government, rhetorically, has been much more supportive of the United Nations, certainly hasn’t done the kind of criticism of it in the way that the Harper government did,” said David Perry, vice president and a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.“But if you look at the actual hard contributions — dollars spent, troops contributed — what’s remarkable to me is the degree of continuity. They were small numbers to begin with, but they went down even further.”

Canada's foreign aid has also slid to new lows under Justin Trudeau.

What about on critical issues of environmental protection?

While talking up environmental protection, Canada has become the worst per-capita polluter of greenhouse gases.

Justin Trudeau has not reversed the course of environmental destruction under Stephen Harper — both Ireland and Norway, which won Security Council seats, have cultivated a more "green economy."

Instead of seeking to support renewable energy like Norway in particular, Justin Trudeau elected to put billions of dollars in bailing out oil pipeline interests associated with the environment-destroying tar sands — interests which are turning large tracts of Alberta into a veritable moonscape.

For many countries around the world that are suffering from the ravages of climate change and environmental pollution, they saw no great prospective ally in Canada and Justin Trudeau winning a Security Council seat.

Justin Trudeau presented lots of promises but few deeds to show at home or abroad on environmental and other critical public policy issues.

What about anti-black male racism, overall race relations, and human rights?

Whereas at least Stephen Harper saw fit to appoint one black male senator, "blackface" Justin Trudeau seems to have sought to systematically deny the appointment of black males in any leadership role, whether as a Supreme Court judge, senator, or senior cabinet minister. 

Justin Trudeau has also failed to seize the moment of widespread concern about racial injustice resulting from the murder of George Floyd in the United States to champion any critical legislative reforms in Parliament to deal with the continued harassment, abuse, and murder of both black people and First Nations people at the hands of police forces here in Canada.

It appears that Justin Trudeau thinks sharing a knee during Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Ottawa was plenty enough action.

At least U.S. president Donald Trump has attempted to redress the problem of police abuses with some kind of Executive Order, which is more of an effort than Justin Trudeau has made, even though Justin Trudeau is supposed to be comparatively progressive.

Furthermore, Security Council voters can also see way Justin Trudeau continues to ignore the third-world conditions of many First Nations communities in Canada and the plight of First Nations communities that seek justice for raped and murdered indigenous women.

If Justin Trudeau cannot lift his own First Nations constituents out of third-world conditions, why should black and other disenfranchised nations expect Justin Trudeau to be their advocate for socioeconomic justice on the Security Council?

Norway secured 130 votes while Ireland got 128.

Canada received just 108 votes, even fewer than the 114 first-round ballot votes it received in 2010 when the former Conservative government ran for and failed to win the same seat.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had frequently billed the seat as an avenue for Canada to exert greater influence on the world stage at a time when international institutions like the UN are under significant scrutiny and international relations are anything but harmonious.


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