I immigrated to Canada in 1967, not quite fifty-one years ago. At the time I was young, naïve and did not know much. Well, I knew a little since I was caught up in 1960s America, then roiled with opposition to segregation and Jim Crow and to the US war of aggression in Southeast Asia. Americans did not call it that of course; for them it was the “Vietnam War”. I walked on the last day of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. We travelled in a train from Washington, DC to Montgomery and back, with the shades drawn, so crackers would not have good targets to shoot at. It was the year after Ku Klux Klansmen murdered Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner in Mississippi. It was dangerous to be black in America, and it still is. It was dangerous too for naïve young whites to stick their nose into business that did not concern them. But of course when you are young, you don’t see the danger, or think that it could come looking for you. Death was still a rather abstract thing. Then we “graduated”, so to speak, to opposition to “the Vietnam War”. That was more personal because you had to decide whether—and I put this politely—you were going to fight in a war in which you did not believe.
It was the year after Ku Klux Klansmen murdered Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner in Mississippi
I headed to Canada. At the time it was a pretty quiet place compared to the United States. Sure, there was Expo ’67, and there were demonstrations and campus sit-ins for this and against that. Many Canadians opposed the US war of aggression in Southeast Asia, and I remember there was an underground railway to help deserters and “resisters”, or “draft dodgers” (if you did not like them), get into Canada.
Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau
Anyway, I went to graduate school, adapted to being in Canada, assimilated, eventually swore allegiance to the Queen. The way I spoke English changed. I started to pronounce “out and about” and other words like an English Canadian from the Empire Loyalist parts of eastern Canada. “Eh” crept into the sing-song of my spoken English. I emphasise English because I also speak French, though a few of my students at the Université de Montréal object to my “Parisian” accent. I don’t mind..
A year after I got to Canada, Pierre Elliot Trudeau became Liberal prime minister. He was an interesting man and politician. Eccentric, intellectual, a man of his times, different in some ways from your average Canadian politician. People liked, or loved him, or didn’t. One thing he had which most North American politicians do not have, was a backbone. You could like it or not, but he had it. He stood up to Québec separatists in 1970, who hated him for it. “Well, just watch me”, he famously replied to journalists, when asked what he would do to deal with “the October crisis” in Québec.
Toward the United States, he had to take a softer line. What could a Canadian prime minister do in face of the Yankee Hegemon? Sleeping next to an elephant used to be the nice way to put it. Maybe we should have paid more attention to how Finland managed to remain independent next to its giant neighbour. Trudeau tried unsuccessfully to establish an independent Canadian energy policy but succeeded in keeping some distance from the United States on Vietnam. In fact, it was his government which effectively opened the doors to American deserters and resisters. Believe it or not, they were a good source of new immigrants, or so the Canadian government used to say.
During the 1960s, English Canadian intellectuals worried about Canada’s loss of independence vis-à-vis the United States. In 1965 Canadian philosopher George Grant wrote Lament for a Nation where he criticised the Liberals for caving in to Washington on defence policy. Previous Liberal governments developed a bad reputation for failing to control US investment and the takeover of Canadian industries and natural resources. If you don’t pay attention to these essentials, and diversify trade and investment, you will lose your political independence. This is what happened to Canada. You learn these things in university, if you have good professors, but it is hard to go up against entrenched, powerful economic interests, who don’t care a pin about Canadian independence.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
Pretty soon, the Conservatives became as negligent as the Liberals (I make an exception for Trudeau) in protecting Canadian independence. Under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Canada opted for free trade with the United States. If you didn’t care so much about independence, free trade would open markets, create jobs, so the argument went: it was the only way.
“Canada… Let’s not Trade it Away,” became the political slogan of the Council of Canadians, an organisation of English Canadian intellectuals, founded by the late Mel Hurtig. Québec “nationalists” were asleep at the wheel on this issue. Their idea was to embrace the United States to get clear of English Canada. That was a really bad idea; it was jumping from the frying pan into the fire. By that time, I had become more catholic than the pope, or more Canadian, say, than Sir John A., and I supported the campaign against free trade. We lost that fight.
Is there anything left now of Canadian independence? The Liberal Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, kept Canada out of the US-British war of aggression against Iraq in 2003. About that war, I call a spade, a spade. Chrétien maintained tolerable relations with the Russian Federation, though that was before the present wave of anti-Russian hysteria. Russian diplomats look back to the Chrétien period as the good ol’ days. They are long gone.
No thanks to the far right Conservatives led by Stephen Harper, a crude right-wing politician, and wannabe American, who dreamed of leading a Canadian-style “Reagan Revolution” in Canada. He was an American Trojan horse, uncritically following US foreign policy and damaging Canadian relations with the Russian Federation. For any Canadian with a sense of pride, myself included, it was painful to watch the conduct of the Harper government. His minister for external affairs, John Baird, reminded me of a clown, backing US policies, inter alia, in favour of Apartheid Israel and the fascist coup d’état in Kiev, and against Iran and the Russian Federation. The Russian ambassador in Ottawa could not get a meeting with top Canadian diplomats, let alone with the minister. “Check with Washington,” was Harper’s foreign policy.
Stéphane Dion, Canadian Minister for External Affairs was sacked in 2017
Then came a brief glimmer of hope… at least for me. Justin Trudeau, the son of Pierre Elliot, became prime minister in late 2015, defeating the by then widely hated Mr. Harper. The Liberals campaigned amongst other items on better relations with the Russian Federation. Stéphane Dion, a sensible intellectual, former leader of the Liberal party and former professor of political science at the Université de Montréal, became minister for external affairs. He indicated his intention to improve relations with Russia, but nothing came of it, and he was sacked in January 2017.
Chrystia Freeland, a Ukrainian-Canadian and former journalist with a long list of anti-Russian articles under her by-line, succeeded Dion. Freeland’s grandfather was a mid-level Nazi collaborator in German occupied Poland, whose life Freeland celebrates. Sins of the fathers, or grandfathers, should not of course be visited upon their descendants, unless they want to boast of them. Ms. Freeland’s Ukrainian “nationalism” leads her to turn a blind-eye to her grandfather’s Nazi collaboration, and to the fascist torchlight parades in putschist Kiev. I sarcastically referred to her as the Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs in Ottawa.
Freeland’s Russophobia makes her persona non grata in the Russian Federation. Trudeau appointed her to External Affairs, surely knowing of her background and her hatred of Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. One can only conclude that Trudeau decided to abandon his campaign promise to improve relations with Russia, and to revert to Harper’s foreign policy.
In October 2017 the Canadian Parliament, mimicking the United States, passed a so-called Magnitsky bill which allows the Canadian government to sanction Russian or other citizens for so-called “human rights violations”. Everyone knows or should know that the United States uses “human rights” or R2P (responsibility to protect) as a pretext for military intervention anywhere it chooses, against governments it does not like. What section of international law gives Washington that right? The Magnitsky narrative, used as a pretext for the original US law, is built upon bogus allegations disseminated by one William Browder, an apparently slippery businessman. He claimed that his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was the victim of Russian abuse in the cover-up of embezzlement and massive tax fraud of which Browder in fact, and Magnitsky, his accountant, appear to have been the perpetrators. Monsieur Dion opposed a Magnitsky-type bill because it would pointlessly provoke the Russian government. It demonstrates how anti-Russian hysteria has spread from the United States to Canada.
Trudeau fils is certainly not a chip off the old block
I voted for the Liberal candidate in my riding at the last election, but I am not going to vote in the next federal election. What’s the point? Vote for tweedle dee and get tweedle dum, or vice versa. Foolishly, I actually hoped Trudeau fils might be a chip off the old block. He is nothing of the sort. He likes to appear in gay parades and to tout identity politics to show how “progressive” he is, but it’s just showboating. Canada has voted against anti-Nazism resolutions in the UN, along with the United States and the Ukraine. What a trio. Trudeau fils backs US policy in the Ukraine and has Canadian military “advisors” there training “nationalist” militias for war against the Donbass resistance.
On January 16 Freeland and Rex Tillerson held a one-day conference of most of the participants of the last war against North Korea
Even more dangerous, the Trudeau government apes US policy on North Korea (DPRK), flirting with the idea of a maritime blockade, which would be an act of war, in a US-led war of aggression against a sovereign state with every right to defend itself. Canadians may have forgotten the Korean War, but people in the DPRK have not forgotten US atrocities accounting for the deaths of an estimated 20% of the civilian population. On 16 January in Vancouver Freeland and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a one-day conference of most of the participants of the last war against North Korea. The Russian Federation and China, which have borders on the DPRK, were not invited. Obviously, the United States, with Canadian complicity, is alluding to a new alliance of the old alliance partners to launch a new Korean war even as North and South Koreans were talking about reducing tensions. It is a tacit threat of war against the DPRK. The Canadian chief of staff says the Canadian navy is ready, if asked, for blockade duty. If who asks? The UN has not authorised the use of force against the DPRK. Nor will it, China and the Russian Federation would veto such a resolution in the UN Security Council. Is the Canadian navy prepared to commit acts of war against China or Russia by stopping their ships on the high seas? China has warned the United States not to launch a “pre-emptive” war against the DPRK. Did anyone in Ottawa read the Chinese statement? Washington affects not to notice the Chinese position, but Canada should notice before it is too late.
The Trudeau government will claim to have won US concessions to make it possible to “save” NAFTA, because Canada has no choice but to capitulate
Admittedly, young Mr. Trudeau is in a tight spot. The United States has forced Canada and Mexico into a renegotiation of the North American free trade agreement (NAFTA). 75% of Canadian trade goes to the United States, but not the other way around, so that Washington has the Canadian government by the throat. Freeland is the chief negotiator. She says upcoming negotiations “are going to be fun and I hope really useful and productive.” If you were Canadian, would you have confidence in Freeland? Already there are stories in the Mainstream Media about the possible negative effects of the US abrogation of NAFTA on the Canadian loonie (the dollar) and the perennially anaemic Toronto Stock Exchange. You can see where this is leading. The Trudeau government will claim to have won US concessions to make it possible to “save” NAFTA, because Canada has no choice but to capitulate. Trudeau went to Davos, Switzerland last week to meet various American notables to explain why it is in US interests to stay in NAFTA. Isn’t the American elite, the celebrated 1%, capable of understanding and defending its own interests? Next week Trudeau is going to tour the United States without seeing US President Donald Trump “in an effort to ‘further strengthen the deep bonds that unite Canada and the United States’.” That is a sure sign of weakness. Is it really in Canadian national interests to have “deeper bonds” with Hegemon?
I used to be fiercely proud of being Canadian. I have travelled to all the provinces from Victoria, British Columbia to St. John’s, Newfoundland. I have hiked in the Fraser River Country and watched from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains as a thunder storm moved across the prairies below me. I have marvelled at the clear waters of Lake Superior and smelled the salt air of the sea on the Canadian east coast. Now, however, I am not so proud, watching one Canadian government after another go to its knees before Hegemon. It does not matter what political party holds power, even the so-called “left” New Democratic Party pursues the same servile policies toward the United States. What options do critically minded Canadians now have?
The US Secretary of War, General “Mad Dog” Mattis, gave a recent speech where he said basically it’s our way or the highway. “To those who would threaten America's experiment in democracy: if you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day.” You have to wonder what dystopian, upside down world General Mattis lives in, and what “democracy” he is talking about when US electoral choices are between tweedle dee and tweedle dum who fund their campaigns with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. Abroad. the United States has supported and continues to support dictators in Latin America and absolutist kings and princes in the Middle East, fascists in the Ukraine, and Islamist terrorists of every stripe and description in the Middle East and Central Asia, not to mention Apartheid Israel. It has overthrown democratically elected governments in Syria, Iran, Guatemala, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Greece and Chile, to mention only a few examples, but the list is endless. The CIA was involved in the hunting down and murder of Congo leader Patrice Lumumba. It tried to overthrow the Cuban government and assassinate its late leader Fidel Castro, more than six hundred times by some estimates, and it is attempting to topple the popular Venezuelan leader, Nicolás Maduro. Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen are amongst other victims. Is the US government capable of dealing with other countries without brandishing a gun in their faces? Work with our diplomats or deal with our military, “Mad Dog” said in effect.
The US Secretary of War, General “Mad Dog” Mattis, gave a recent speech where he said basically it’s our way or the highway
So what does a Canadian do faced with the uninspiring conduct of the Harpers and the young Mr. Trudeau? I don’t know. There seems to be no satisfactory answer. One can only imagine with pleasure how Trudeau père, if he were still with us, might berate his son for craven, fatuous behaviour. Pierre Elliot is long gone, however, and we are on our own.