After boastfully declaring that he would enhance Canada’s place on the international scene, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed in his bid to secure a United Nations Security Council seat. Canada’s place in the world has been effectively eroded under his watch.
Foreign policy matters, so Trudeau is right in drawing attention to it in his mandate. Canada has had a record of being a good global citizen and offered the peaceful model of a tolerant cosmopolitan society with an independent hybrid legal system inside a bilingual framework.
This was an admirably attractive image to countries around the world and it opened avenues of influence to those mired in various forms of tyranny.
In addition, the lack of an imperious past gave Canada an advantage over countries like France and Britain, Russia or the United States.
But under the current Liberal government, Global Affairs Canada became a wing of the virtue-signalling mill, more interested in projecting progressiveness than in achieving policy ends. Ironically for an image-infatuated regime, there wasn’t much consideration of the consequences of incessantly projecting wokeness.
There have been consequences.
Take Canada’s relations with China, soured from the start by the prime minister’s wokeness. Aggravating relations for the sake of promoting human rights might be a worthy objective, but publicly shaming the proudly authoritarian culture of the Chinese Communist Party for not being progressive enough about the number of women in decision-making roles was ridiculously unwise.
The much-touted strength in diversity morphed into self-righteous Canadian cultural superiority. The blunders resulting from it are too long to recount here but consider the trip to India, the largest democracy and the second most populated country in the world.
The condescending cultural appropriation in the incessant dress-up earned Canada’s prime minister India’s scorn. The insulting arrival without calling on the Indian prime minister right away. Bringing to India an Indo-Canadian chef to cook Indian meals for the Canadian first family. Any of these deliberate actions would have caused sufficient damage to relations with India.
The image of the hip and virtuous leader that the media and voters in Central and Eastern Canada largely hold of our prime minister is not what leaders of other nations see. Many who have encountered Trudeau in international dealings have not been impressed. Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull described Trudeau in his memoirs as “flaky.”
Politics may be, as Kenneth Minogue once wrote, “a theatre of illusions.” It projects images and sounds to an audience and typically entertains them. But to those who work in the business of crafting their performances and producing similar entertainment, the illusions are less impressive. Flashy socks impressed the Davos crowd but had no effect on Turnbull, who expected skills, persuasive policies and ideas.
Absent persuasive skills, power and bribery could do. But Canada has extraordinarily little of the first and not a lot of the second. Influence for UN positions is pushed in pledges of contracts, donations and grants, which brings us back to credibility. Those who are experienced in politics know that integrity lies in the space between what one says and what one does.
Trudeau (much like former U.S. president Barack Obama, though significantly less articulate) is prolific at saying and not terribly good at doing.
The self-proclaimed feminist (someone who is supportive and respectful of women) has elbowed a female parliamentarian, and fired from cabinet and evicted from his party the only Indigenous female cabinet member for upholding the law and acting on her conscience.
After proclaiming Canada to be a model of multiculturalism and tolerance for minorities, Trudeau has donned blackface makeup more times than he could count, denigrating people of colour, declared Canada to be a genocidal state, tacitly supports the fantasy that Canada was founded as a racist state, and recently condemned national institutions and the federal police for being systemically racist.
That Trudeau received less votes than former prime minister Stephen Harper in pursuit of the same UN objective is a heavy humiliation, largely self-inflicted.
Almost single-handedly, Trudeau has torn down the image of Canada as a tolerant model.
Marco Navarro-Génie is a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and president of the Haultain Research Institute.