The ‘current thing’: Canada’s shallow foreign policy in Ukraine

ABOVE: A Yazidi mass grave in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq in 2015 (PHOTO: VOA, Public Domain)

The twentieth century has seen its share of genocides. The Armenian genocide, the Ukrainian genocide under Stalin (the Holodomor), the Holocaust, Rwanda and the Bosnian genocide are perhaps the most well-known, along with the killing fields of Cambodia. The twenty-first century saw the mass rape and murder of Iraqi Yazidis by ISIS, now also referred to as a genocide. It is a term that carries such heavy connotations that it forces action against those perpetrating it.

It is not surprising that Justin Trudeau says he considers Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a genocide. Every state outside of Russia’s sphere of influence is talking about Ukraine, and everyone is concerned; Trudeau doesn’t want to buck the trend—Canadians have seen this behaviour before. The prime minister might be correct, but his words bring into question the PM’s standards on using the term genocide.

Ukrainians have a compelling case given the myriad of mass graves discovered around the country and the zealous hatred of Ukrainian culture displayed at high levels of the Russian state. But why did Justin Trudeau defer to the UN on the question of genocide in Iraq in 2015 and 2016?

Between 2014 and 2017, Iraqi Christians were subjected to mass execution and sex slavery at the hands of ISIS terrorists in what was viewed as some of the most brutal savageries the world had seen since the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Not only Iraqi Christians were victims, but Kurds and regular Iraqis and Syrians also fell victim during events like the Camp Speicher massacre, when ISIS killed 1700 POWs and tossed their bodies into mass graves, evoking images of the Einsatzgruppen during the Second World War.

As the opposition leader, Justin Trudeau would have been informed of the beheadings, families on the run, and massacres of innocents; maybe he would have even seen the horrific photos. Yet, when asked about then Prime Minister Harper’s proposed plan to involve the Canadian military, his response was to make a penis joke(On October 4, 2014 Trudeau scorned the Harper government effort any air support as "just, you know, the Harper boys “trying to whip out [their] CF-18s and show how big they are.”) .

Then less than two years later, Justin Trudeau was prime minister. Instead of continuing the fight against ISIS, Trudeau prioritized pulling out. He ordered Canadian warplanes be withdrawn before the international coalition defeated ISIS. In Parliament, the Conservatives tried to pass a motion asking the government to recognize ISIS’s actions as genocide. Instead of supporting what should have been a unanimous motion, the Trudeau Liberals voted against it.

The prime minister stated that the UN Security Council should decide what is and isn’t genocide. Later, the PM was asked about Canadian citizens who were trying to return to Canada after joining and fighting for ISIS, a terrorist organization that had committed genocidal acts. His response was shocking. Rather than focusing on justice and punishment, Trudeau let ISIS fighters return to Canada, saying, “We are going to monitor them. We are also there to help them to let go of that terrorist ideology.In a CTV interview, Trudeau stated that these returning killers could be “an extraordinarily powerful voice.

The PM would not call ISIS’s crimes against humanity genocide. His government’s policy was to let the people responsible for raping young girls and cutting people’s heads off be naturally deradicalized with poetry and podcasts.

That Trudeau said and did these things is shocking but not surprising. At the time, the political left was obsessed with preventing Islamophobia and wrongly conflated condemning extremism with hating Muslims. Some Canadian newspapers, including The Toronto Star, started referring to ISIS as ‘Daesh’ because they did not want Canadians to associate Islam with radical Islamic terrorism, despite Daesh being just an Arabic term for the organization.

Justin Trudeau was ‘on trend’ during 2014-2017, and therefore his Liberal government took an incredibly soft line on genocidal butchers. PMO spokesman Dan Brein called the returning Daesh terrorists ‘travellers’ and said, “Returning foreign terrorist travellers and their families, specifically women and children, require the appropriate disengagement and reintegration support.”

Trudeau avoided speaking out or condemning the most extreme and violent terrorists in the world at the time because he didn’t want to step on the toes of the Canadian Muslim community. He acted like attacking the radicals was an attack on all Muslims. Morally, this was a mistake. It is on par with not condemning the KKK because they are Protestants. The reality is that 99.9% of Protestants don’t support the group’s Christian-based extremist beliefs, just as Canadian Muslims don’t support extremism. The prime minister played politics in refusing to recognize ISIS’s actions for what they were: genocide.

Eventually, a UN team did determine genocide took place in Syria, but Trudeau never changed his tune. Once again, Trudeau was playing politics. The security council won’t make any such determination on the Ukrainian genocide because Russia is a permanent member of the council with the power to veto, and Justin Trudeau knows this. So why is Justin Trudeau so quick to throw the word genocide out for Ukraine but not for ISIS?

It's simple, Justin Trudeau is the worst form of a ‘blogger politician.’ He adopts the current shallow moral outrage trend and says what people want to hear. He could have called ISIS’s crimes in Iraq a genocide, but he didn’t want to risk offending the broader Muslim community. However, because all nations condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is an easy way to show that he supports the ‘current thing.’

Then again this is the same PM who has the temerity to go and kneel at a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa despite a complete Covid lockdown and after being caught in photos as a 28 year old man dressed in blackface and dabbling in disgusting racist parodies himself. Earlier this year he had the nerve to lecture Canadians about rasicm during Black History month.  His hubris is breathtaking. In short Trudeau wouldn’t call ISIS genocidal because it didn’t match his game of politics, but because Ukraine does, he will call Russia out. It's not about principles or morality for him. It's about politics and situation ethics.

When Russia isn’t voted to be genocidal by the UN Security Council, will Russian generals be allowed to vacation in Canada or come here to  deradicalize after the carnage they have deployed against Ukraine? 

Suppose the prime minister is concerned about genocide. Then why have we only given Ukrainians obsolete weapons like Carl Gustav launchers designed in the 1940s—a technology so outdated that they will have minimal impact? If Ukraine is fighting a genocide, they need weapons of substance, not obsolete technology and ‘Stand With Ukraine’ placards. The Trudeau Liberal government foreign policy is very much like Trudeau himself.  Vacuous and a tragic comedy.