Shining Light On Scurrilous Stories: Who Is Really Undermining Canadian Democracy?

Shining Light On Scurrilous Stories: Who Is Really Undermining Canadian Democracy?

Canada is a very pleasant country, if you don’t mind being cold for long periods, and in The Economist’s 2017 Democracy Index is described approvingly as ranking sixth of the 167 countries examined. It “scores highly in the electoral process and the functioning of government categories, and also for civil liberties. Freedom of expression and religious and cultural tolerance are championed...” 

Regrettably, there has been recent movement towards disapproval of freedom of expression, largely because of a campaign against Russia, which seems strange, because Russia poses no threat whatever to Canada.  Certainly there is a Canadian battle group deployed in Latvia in accordance with the Pentagon-NATO policy of ‘Enhanced Forward Presence’ which involves stationing warships, combat aircraft and troops to confront Russia as close as possible to its borders, but this is just one of the public relations fandangos aimed at justifying NATO’s continuing existence.

On May 2 Reuters reported the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s findings that “while global military spending rose one percent to $1,739 billion last year, Russia’s fell 20 percent in real terms to $66.3 billion.”  Reuters also noted that “President Vladimir Putin has also called for higher living standards and higher spending on social infrastructure, such as healthcare and education,” which is hardly the leitmotif of a someone intent on military expansion and domination.

But Canada’s anti-Russia crusade is perversely individual rather than objectively logical, which brings us to the country’s foreign minister Ms Chrystia Freeland, who appears to have a personal axe to grind in regard to Russia and Eastern Europe.

It is intriguing that Canada’s Prime Minister, Mr Justin Trudeau, has chosen to vilify Russia on the grounds of allegedly supporting the media in revealing that Ms Freeland’s grandfather, a Ukrainian, worked for Nazi occupation forces in Eastern Europe during the Second World War. In 1941-44 Mr Mykhailo Chomiak, the Ukrainian relative in question, was editor of the newspaper Krakivski Visti in Poland, and it is recorded that at least one editorial referred to the country being “infected by Jews.” The journal Foreign Policy recorded in 2015 that this sentiment was enthusiastically endorsed by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) which “engaged in the mass ethnic cleansing of Ukrainian Jews, starting with a pogrom in Lviv that killed 5,000 Jews in the summer of 1941.”

It is regrettable that in 2015 the Ukrainian Parliament, the Rada, passed a law stating that “The state acknowledges that the fighters for Ukraine’s independence played an important role in reinstating the country’s statehood declared on August 24, 1991. In compliance with the law, the government will provide social guarantees and bestow honours on OUN-UPA fighters.”  As pointed out in the New York Times in April last year “The OUN and its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, are now being glorified as freedom fighters. What is not mentioned is the OUN’s xenophobic, anti-Semitic ideology, which described Jews as a ‘predominantly hostile body within our national organism,’ or that the OUN-UPA militia collaborated in the Holocaust and also massacred between 70,000 and 100,000 Polish civilians in order to create an ethnically pure Ukraine.” 

It is all shown to have been very nasty, when you look back;  but Prime Minister Trudeau tends to look forward, with only an occasional backward glance.

When the British spy and former Russian national Sergei Skripal was poisoned in as yet unclear circumstances in England a month ago, the US and much of the West seized on Britain’s totally unproven allegation that Russia was responsible, and expelled many of Moscow’s diplomats from their capitals, which achieved nothing other than an increase in the level of anti-Russia confrontation adopted by the US-UK and their followers. 

But Canada’s stance in the affair was intriguing, because, as reported by CBC News, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has linked the recent expulsion of four Russian diplomats to last year's alleged smear campaign directed against Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.”

It is apparent that the Canadian government’s reflex embrace of the West’s expulsion pantomime was aimed not so much “in solidarity with the United Kingdom,” as announced by Minister Freeland, as to punish Russian diplomats for allegedly facilitating media revelations about her Ukrainian grandfather’s unsavoury past.  In her official statement she referred to expelling four “intelligence officers or individuals who have used their diplomatic status to undermine Canada's security or interfere in our democracy,” but in spite of many media questions, “Both Treasury Board President Scott Brison and Defence [Minister] Harjit Sajjan were vague last week when asked to describe the acts that led to the diplomats' expulsion.”

At a media conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on April 4, Mr Trudeau announced that “We all can remember efforts by Russian propagandists to discredit our Minister of Foreign Affairs in various ways through social media and by sharing scurrilous stories about her . . . Russia should not be getting involved in Canadian public opinion.”

The “scurrilous stories” concern reports such as in Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, that “Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland knew for more than two decades that her maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the chief editor of a Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland that vilified Jews during the Second World War.”

In her autobiography Ms Freeland avers that “My maternal grandparents fled western Ukraine after Hitler and Stalin signed their non-aggression pact in 1939. They never dared to go back, but they stayed in close touch with their brothers and sisters and their families, who remained behind.”  She wrote that her grandfather was “a lawyer and journalist before the Second World War, but [he and his wife] knew the Soviets would invade western Ukraine [and] fled.”

The Bible’s Ezekiel 18:19-20 states that “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father . . .  The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself,” which is eminently sensible — but when a prominent son (or granddaughter) in a most sensitive government post denies vehemently that a forebear was complicit in repression of Jews in a country occupied by Nazis during the Second World War, and then undeniable evidence is revealed to the contrary, there is justification for further examination by the media.

On World Press Freedom Day in 2017 Prime Minister Trudeau stated that journalists “shine light on stories that would otherwise not be told, and give Canadians the facts they need to engage in public debate and shape events around them. A free and open press is crucial to an informed and engaged citizenry, which is at the heart of a healthy democracy . . .”  Yet he displayed deep disapproval when there was media reportage that his foreign minister’s grandfather supported Nazi repression of Jews in occupied Europe, which is undoubtedly a story that but for attentive journalists “would not otherwise be told.” 

In March 2017, Paul Grod, president of the Canadian Ukrainian Congress, declared that “It is the continued Russian modus operandi that they have. Fake news, disinformation and targeting different individuals. It is just so outlandish when you hear some of these allegations — whether they are directed at minister Freeland or others.”

Now, let us reflect on how the West, and especially the Western media would react to a story claiming that the grandfather of Ms Freeman’s opposite number in Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, had been a Nazi collaborator who supported the murder of Jews.

Like Ms Freeland, Mr Lavrov is a highly intelligent person from a mixed origin family. His mother was born in Georgia and his father was Armenian. He had a conventional upbringing, excelling academically, and Western media have not reported that there was anything dodgy, seamy or sleazy in his past, which means that Western intelligence agencies have failed to find anything they could pass on to their associates in such fraternal outlets as the Washington Post, the UK’s Daily Telegraph and the New York Times. So far as the West is concerned he is annoyingly Clean.  

But if there was a revelation that a forebear of Mr Lavrov had collaborated with Nazi occupation forces, nobody could imagine for a moment that the Western media would not have gone berserk with artificial indignation about how dreadful it is to have had a grandparent (or whatever) who supported the Nazis in their pogroms. They would have excoriated the Russian government, and especially President Putin, for placing a person with such dreadful antecedents in a position in which he could influence or even direct foreign policy.   

On the other hand, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland does indeed have a very nasty anti-Semitic forebear and has tried to deny the fact of his involvement in supporting a fascist regime during its occupation of her homeland. This is hardly fake news or false history, and her stance gives rise to doubt as to whether Ms Freeland is a proper person to represent her country. Her claims, backed by the prime minister, that the expelled Russian diplomats were “intelligence officers or individuals who have used their diplomatic status to undermine Canada's security or interfere in our democracy,” are demonstrably misleading, because the real reason for the expulsion of the diplomats, and for the surge in anti-Russian propaganda in Canada, is that Minister Chrystia Freeland tried unsuccessfully to conceal the fact that her Ukrainian grandfather was a Nazi collaborator and attempted to deflect the media’s shining light from this unsavoury fact by blaming Russia for undermining Canada’s democracy.      

It is loyal of the prime minister to support her, but he should remember his approval of journalists who “shine light on stories that would otherwise not be told.”  The influence of Ukrainian zealots on Canada’s foreign policy is disturbing, and Canada would benefit from examination of this by its admirably “free and open press.”

Tags: Reuters  Freeland  Trudeau