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6 Reasons Why Justin Trudeau Is No Prince Charming

Posted in Act Out!, Creative Commons, and Journalism

Kit O’Connell and Eleanor Goldfield co-wrote this segment of Act Out!

Oh Canada!

And oh Justin Trudeau, because not a day goes by without someone from the United States praising the Prime Minister, his traditional good looks, his support for refugees, his firm handshake when he encountered Donald Trump or hey, did we mention he’s good looking?

And yes, I know it’s tempting to think that the body double for Prince Eric in the Little Mermaid is just the nicest of guys — and admittedly, it’s easy to understand why people who compare Trudeau to our fatuous oversized orange shit stain find something appealing about a world leader who can regularly form sentences that are both grammatically correct and free from openly fascist symbolism. But don’t get it twisted, Justin Trudeau is no angel: in fact, he’s the darling of the Canadian fossil fuel industry — you know, the people responsible for the Keystone XL Pipeline and its numerous planned sequels — and an enthusiastic supporter of the military industrial complex too.

Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump meet at the White House. February 13, 2017. (Wikimedia Commons / White House, public domain)

For making neoliberalism look sexy again, I’m declaring Justin Trudeau this week’s Low Life Scum.

In the space of just a few months, the idea of seeking asylum in Canada from the U.S. has gone from a joke that liberals make around election time to a sad reality for dozens of refugees, who’ve been arrested while risking their lives crossing the snowy border between nations.

Yep, arrested. A lot of Americans might not realize that’s what’s happening when they see these photos, because the Mounties are helping the asylum seekers, rather than pointing fucking guns at them. But just because their immigration officers aren’t Rambo-d up doesn’t mean that these refugees are any closer to peace or safety.

In 2016, Canada accepted 38,000 refugees — placing it 20th per capita on a list of industrialized countries. Meanwhile, it turns out that nearly half of that number were sponsored by private citizens, not the government. Side note: Trudeau was not one of those private citizens, despite what photo ops might suggest.

Indeed, as Montreal-based journalist Martin Lukacs wrote earlier this year in a Guardian article, “Far from being a genuine haven for refugees, Canada under Trudeau has continued policies — dating back to the odious Conservative government of Stephen Harper or well before — that make life for refugees fleeing to this country exceedingly difficult and dangerous.”

Martin goes on to outline several of these policies: i.e. thousands of people — including children — getting stuffed into indefinite detention for “irregular arrival,” an arbitrary stamp that condemns refugees to prison for showing up unannounced. How dare they?! Or how about conditions at said detention centers that have garnered the attention and criticism of the UN; or the deportation and ripping apart of families – tallying more than 100,000 people in the last decade.

An activist holds a sign reading “Refugees Are Wecome Here” at an anti-Trump rally in Toronto, Canada. February 4, 2017. (Flickr / Can Pac Swire, CC NC license)

And that’s not to mention the US-Canada Safe Third Country Agreement which states that anyone who first lands in the US can not move on to Canada because the US is considered to be a safe country, a ludicrous label even under Obama — now made ever more absurd. And while Canadians have called on Trudeau to repeal this agreement, as of now, it still stands. And yet, this is the image we see of Trudeau.

As Martin puts it, “These policies are presided over by Trudeau with none of Trump’s venom, but the result is still exclusion, suffering and heartbreak. This is not the violence of overt hate. It is the violence of empty gestures.”

Beware the neoliberal wrapped in a mask of understanding and compassion.

Activists pour oil onto a female model draped in the Canadian flag on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill at an action against the Keystone XL Pipeline organized by Lush Cosmetics and Rainforest Action Network. September 8, 2010. (Flickr / Rainforest Action Network, CC NC flickr)

And while immigration is just one of the areas where Trudeau is falling short of dreamy do-gooder, it’s certainly not the only one. Despite the opposition of water protectors from Canada’s First Nations, Trudeau applauded Trump’s decision to restart the Keystone XL pipeline — remember, the southern, Obama-approved half is already pumping toxic tar sands through Texas.

“I’ve been on the record for many years supporting [Keystone XL] because it leads to economic growth and good jobs for Albertans,” Trudeau told reporters last month.

The polluted, ruined landscape of a tar sands mine in Fort McMurry, Alberta, Canada. February 11, 2012. (Flickr / kris krüg, CC NC ND license)

Now that is decidedly less attractive than Trudeau’s trusting face, isn’t it?

And the Keystone XL pipeline is just one of several pipeline projects Trudeau supports against the objection of indigenous people and other climate activists. Trudeau also approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, which would carry 890,000 barrels of tar sands per day, across numerous waterways and traditional First Nations lands, from Alberta to a port in British Columbia.

An activist standing in the road holds a sign that reads, “Kinder Morgan: Get Out of My Neighborhood” at a rally against the Kinder Morgan Pipeline in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. November 17, 2014. (Flickr / Mark Klotz, CC license)

OK alright, so you might be thinking thinking, maybe Canada isn’t moving fast enough to phase out fossil fuels, but what about social justice or health care? Surely, Canada remains a bastion of hope in North America. —- Except that, under Trudeau:

Justin Trudeau shakes hands at the Toronto Pride Parade, June 28, 2015. (Flickr / Alex Guibord, CC ND license)

That’s right, even though Trudeau made headlines for marching in the Toronto pride parade, he and Canada’s Liberal Party also falsely claimed that there was no way to cancel a massive arms deal with a dictatorial nation that executes queer people just for the “crime” of being alive. If this all stinks of hypocrisy from a country that claims to be a bastion of human rights and civility, you’re not wrong.

A collection of protest signs left on a building in Toronto’s Koreatown neighborhood after an anti-Trump protest, supporting refugees, women and Black Lives Matter. February 26, 2017. (Flickr / Viv Lynch, CC NC ND license)

I guess, in the end, it’s not so different from the U.S.: whenever neoliberals are in power, they’ll stand proudly on a flimsy platform of false promises and progressive ideas and even make the occasional, hard-fought concession to justice and human rights at home … but only so long as it doesn’t interfere with the bottom line of corporate donors, or the endless growth of our warring, Western capitalist empire overseas.

So, no matter how handsome and smart, when rulers like Justin Trudeau put the war machine and corporate profit over planet and people, they’ll always remain Low Life Scum.

6 Reasons Why Justin Trudeau Is No Prince Charming by Kit O’Connell and Eleanor Goldfield is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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