Canada NP View: Canada is soft on China and the U.S. knows it
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In the way the story’s usually told, relations between Canada and China are said to be at the lowest point in decades, or at an all-time low, or chillier than ever. But any close examination of the relationship will show that what these expressions more precisely describe is an ongoing, abject humiliation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government by China’s capricious and sadistic supreme ruler, Xi Jinping. It’s been a very public It’s been a very public humiliation, too.
Canada was never a global superpower and, frankly, didn’t need to be. Where other nations had military might and economic weight to throw around, we had international goodwill, a reputation for doing the right thing, and an enviable relationship with the United States. Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that relationship has now been squandered at the cost of our international credibility.
That unique friendship, shaped by shared values, history, geography and deep economic ties had elevated us beyond our means on the international stage and allowed us to exert influence and enjoy privileges we never would’ve had on our own. It allowed us to get by with an underfunded military and spotty intelligence infrastructure because we could always depend on our neighbours to the south.
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A major part of this was our inclusion in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, composed of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The U.S.-led group formed during the Cold War as a way to monitor the Soviet Union and share classified intelligence among trusted democratic partners. Over 70 years, the Five Eyes cooperated to combat international threats and terrorist groups, going far beyond even the high level of trust between NATO members. This was the most exclusive of exclusive clubs.
But now there’s an even more exclusive club: the Three Eyes, formally known as AUKUS. The newly announced strategic defence partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States not only excludes Canada, but reportedly came as a total shock to our leaders. To add insult to injury, U.S. President Joe Biden, the man who’s supposed to be our closest ally, sat down and told Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison “the United States has no closer or more reliable ally than Australia.”
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The Trudeau Liberals have allowed Canada’s foreign policy to sit on the back burner for far too long as they pontificate about trendier social justice topics. Our prime minister failed to maintain, let alone grow, our single most important allyship, even with a like-minded counterpart in the Oval Office.
The exceedingly good news that Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig have been released from Chinese detention after more than 1,000 days does offer a counterpoint to Canada’s waning influence. Indeed, David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador designate to Canada told the American senate foreign relations committee on Wednesday, that “in the case of the two Michaels and arbitrary detention (Canada) has been very outspoken and the United States has been very supportive.”
However, the Liberals have had no comprehensive policy toward China as it becomes an increasingly aggressive and problematic international power. “I think we are all waiting,” Cohen added, referring to Canada. “I think that as an ambassador, if I’m confirmed, it’s an appropriate role to be engaged in discussions to make sure that Canada’s policies reflect its words, in terms of the treatment of China.”
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Because that’s what all this has always been about: China. The Three Eyes pact aims to confront the nation’s growing military and political influence in the Indo-Pacific Region. And, unfortunately, when it comes to China, Trudeau’s Canada simply can’t be trusted.
It’s clear the U.S., U.K., and Australia consider China a major threat and seek to curb its influence. Meanwhile, it was only a few years ago that Trudeau, when asked what nation he admires most, responded, “There’s a level of admiration I actually have for China. Their basic dictatorship is actually allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime.”
While Trudeau has the good sense to no longer speak quite so fondly of a country that held two Canadian hostages, his government remains alone among the Five Eyes in issuing no formal ban of Huawei’s 5G technology, which our allies fear could be used for spying. Trudeau’s cabinet also abstained from a February vote to declare China’s acts against Uighurs genocide.
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Earlier this year, two Chinese scientists were fired from a high-level Winnipeg virus lab for possible national security breaches. That’s essentially all the public, and even Parliament, knows about the matter, because Trudeau’s government asked courts to block the release of documents related to the incident. The feds quietly dropped the request in mid-August, but it’s still unclear if or when unredacted documents will be made available to MPs.
Now, there’s concern over whether China interfered in our most recent federal election with the Conservative vote plunging disproportionality in Canada’s most Chinese electoral ridings.
Meanwhile, a country like Australia has become more vocal against China and hailed as a global example of how to resist Beijing. They’ve paid the price in tariffs on everything from wine to coal, but refuse to blink in the face of intimidation.
Trudeau seeks to downplay the Three Eyes announcement as little more than a way for the U.S. to sell nuclear submarines to Australia. While that’s certainly a key part of the deal, it doesn’t explain the inclusion of the U.K. or the alliance’s specific focus on China. The U.S. doesn’t create intelligence alliances with Saudi Arabia everytime it sells them military equipment. This is clearly more than an arms deal; it’s the start of an organized democratic opposition to the world’s biggest threat to democracy.
It’s not just the Three Eyes, either. This week another group of four major democracies, dubbed The Quad, holds their first in-person meeting in the White House. It includes the U.S., Australia, India, and Japan. The Quad is expected to announce several agreements related to China, which Canada will once again be left out of.
No one expects Canada to suddenly become a military force or even a leading intelligence hub. The most our Five Eyes allies have asked of us over the years is to at least put in a good-faith, halfway respectable effort. How long are we going to keep being left behind by our allies?
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