Why the genocide question about China is hard for the Trudeau government to answer

The Conservative motion about China’s treatment of its Uighur Muslims, which will come to a vote in the House of Commons on Monday evening, is not simply about whether the country is committing genocide. It’s also about whether the government of Canada — or perhaps any country outside the United States — can or should say so.

And it’s about Canadian politics — and a debate between the Liberals and Conservatives about the right approach to China.

Outside of China, there is widespread agreement that the Chinese regime has committed gross human rights violations against Uighur Muslims. A campaign of repression and allegations of abuse have been documented by media outlets like the New York Times and the BBC.

Last fall, Canada was among a group of 39 nations that outlined a series of “grave” concerns and called on China to allow for independent inspectors.

The House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights studied the situation and concluded in October that China’s actions constituted a genocide, as defined by the genocide convention that was adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister, also believes that China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims amounts to a genocide.

But so far only one country — the U.S. — has officially declared that China is committing genocide. Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom’s prime minister, pointedly declined to make the same declaration when he was asked a month ago.

Only U.S. has officially used term

On Friday, it was also reported by Foreign Policy magazine that the initial declaration of genocide by Donald Trump’s administration — which was made on Jan. 19, one day before Joe Biden was inaugurated — was issued despite the misgivings of State Department lawyers, who did not believe there was sufficient evidence to say China’s actions met the high bar necessary to declare that a genocide is occurring.

In January, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration determined that China had committed ‘genocide and crimes against humanity’ in its repression of Uighur Muslims in the country’s Xinjiang region. (Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)

That reporting doesn’t mean that China isn’t committing a genocide, but it does weaken somewhat the argument that Canada should follow the American lead in making that declaration at this moment.

Trudeau is not wrong when he says, as he did last week, that the international community needs to be careful about the use of the term “genocide.” Casual usage of the word could cheapen its significance. But a process for making that determination still seems mostly hypothetical — the Trudeau government has called for an independent investigation, but China is unlikely to ever agree to that.

The current debate in Canada can’t be disentangled from the months of back-and-forth between Conservatives and Liberals that preceded it. Particularly since Erin O’Toole became leader of the Conservative party, the Conservatives have taken a keen interest in China and jumped at any opportunity to portray Trudeau’s approach to China as weak or naive.

Since Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were imprisoned in China, the Trudeau government has acted carefully. It has not, for instance, ruled on whether Huawei, the Chinese technology company, can participate in Canada’s 5G networks.

At the same time, Trudeau has flatly dismissed suggestions that his government should drop extradition proceedings against Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei executive whose arrest in Vancouver, at the behest of the U.S., led China to arrest Kovrig and Spavor.

The problems with acting alone

The Conservatives under Erin O’Toole have demanded that Canada formally declare the oppression of Uighur Muslims in China a genocide, while the Trudeau government has approached the issue more carefully. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

When the Trudeau government has acted or spoken about China in the past year, it has tended to do so in concert with other countries. In January, for instance, Canada joined the U.S., Australia and the U.K. in condemning the arrest of democratic activists in Hong Kong. In response to China’s actions against Uighurs, the Trudeau government partnered with the U.K. to ban the importation of Chinese products made by forced labour.

Last week, the Trudeau government led a coalition of 58 countries to denounce state-sponsored arbitrary detention. Though the statement did not directly mention China, the implication was clear.

Acting as part of a group has its merits. On its own, Canada’s power to change China is limited and Canada’s allies might not appreciate this country getting ahead of them.

Acting alone also makes it easier to be singled out by China for retribution — and Canada ultimately stands to lose more in any one-on-one dispute with a much larger and more economically powerful country that buys Canadian goods and sells affordable products.

Hesitancy on genocide a difficult position

A declaration of genocide would also lead to questions about what this government is prepared to do to stop it.

Trudeau would no doubt like to move in concert on this issue as well — and he could be asked how much effort he has expended in pushing for such action. But an expansive multilateral effort seems unlikely to come together before the Conservative motion comes to a vote on Monday evening.

And that seems likely to result in a split among Liberals — with some Liberal backbenchers voting in favour of the motion, while the cabinet votes against or abstains.

Trudeau’s insistence on being precise in the government’s language might be unsatisfying. And perhaps it would be difficult for any prime minister to publicly discuss the realpolitik that likely lies beneath every matter of foreign affairs.

But Trudeau and his government are now in constant danger of seeming insufficiently “tough” in the face of China’s aggression. The Liberals might not be willing to act according to the Conservative Party’s timeline, but hesitancy in the face of a possible genocide is a difficult position to maintain, and could age very poorly.

Approaching China’s ‘belligerence’

Ultimately, the Conservative motion is also a reminder that the greater question about how to approach China is not going to go away anytime soon. The profound predicament posed by China was neatly framed by two questions asked during last week’s debate in the House.

The first question was posed by Green MP Elizabeth May, who asked Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong to “reflect” on concerns that “being more aggressive in our communications” could make it harder to gain the release of Kovrig and Spavor.

In response, Chong said his party was “very concerned” about Kovrig and Spavor, but he danced around the substance of May’s question. He didn’t say those fears were unfounded, nor did he say that the potential risk to Kovrig and Spavor’s welfare was worth taking.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong introduced the Conservatives’ opposition day motion. (Canadian Press)

But Chong said “we strongly believe that being passive in the face of these threats is clearly not the way to respond to China’s belligerence.”

A few minutes later, Chong rose to ask his own question of Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau: “Does the minister worry that equivocation in response to China’s belligerence and threats … sends a message to China that these threats and this belligerence works?”

Garneau seemed to acknowledge that this was, in fact, a very good question. “I very much appreciate the question from my colleague, which is complex and one that I assure him our government is seized with,” the minister said.

The longer China seems prepared to carry on undaunted, the stronger the case will be for a more aggressive approach  — from Canada and from every other country in the world.

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Trudeau first foreign leader to speak with Biden

Joe Biden’s White House has a lot in common cause with Canada, Justin Trudeau said Friday as he urged people to look past the new U.S. president’s decision to kill off the Keystone XL pipeline project.

The two countries have great partnership potential in the Biden era, particularly when it comes to a shared vision of tackling climate change while fuelling economic growth, the prime minister said.

“It’s not always going to be perfect alignment with the United States; that’s the case with any given president,” he told a news conference outside his Rideau Cottage residence.

“In a situation where we are much more aligned — on values, on focus, on the work that needs to be done to give opportunities for everyone while we build a better future — I’m very much looking forward to working with President Biden.”

The two leaders spoke for about 30 minutes late Friday — Biden’s first phone call with a foreign leader since taking office.

Trudeau expressed Canada’s “disappointment” with the Keystone decision, and Biden acknowledged the difficulties it has caused, said a federal official familiar with what was discussed.

“The Prime Minister underscored the important economic and energy security benefits of our bilateral energy relationship as well as his support for energy workers,” says the readout of their conversation released by the Office of the Prime Minister.

“The Prime Minister and President reiterated the urgent need for ambitious action on climate change, reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement, and agreed to work together on net-zero emissions, zero-emissions vehicles, cross-border clean electricity transmission, and the Arctic.”

By and large, the tone of the call was “overwhelmingly positive,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the call.

Trudeau also expressed concern about Biden’s Buy American plan to ensure U.S. workers and manufacturers are the primary beneficiaries of his economic recovery strategy.

The leaders agreed to continue to discuss Canada’s concerns about an issue that the two sides have been discussing for months, and will continue to talk about as the administration finds its feet, the source suggested.

Biden and Trudeau also agreed to meet next month, although it’s not clear given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic what form that meeting would take.

Earlier Friday, Trudeau said the federal government would be there to support oilpatch workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan who have been hurt by Biden’s decision.

But there’s little doubt the fight is far from over, particularly if Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has anything to say about it.

“The United States is setting a deeply disturbing precedent for any future projects and collaboration between our two nations,” Kenney wrote in a letter to Trudeau he released Friday on Twitter.

“The fact that it was a campaign promise makes it no less offensive. Our country has never surrendered our vital economic interests because a foreign government campaigned against them.”

Biden believes a brisk economic recovery doesn’t have to come at the expense of the environment, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama, who blocked the project in 2015, and as president he still does, Psaki said.

Kenney and other champions of the project, including Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., argue it has changed significantly since the Obama administration cancelled it five years ago.

As word emerged this week of the project’s imminent demise, Calgary-based owner TC Energy revealed plans to spend US$1.7 billion on a solar, wind and battery-powered operating system for the pipeline to ensure it achieves net-zero emissions by 2030.

Kenney wrote Wednesday’s decision came “without taking the time to discuss it with their longest-standing ally,” although Hillman insists she has been in near-constant discussions with the Biden team ever since May, when they promised to cancel the project.

He called the decision a violation of the investor-protection provisions of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and called on Trudeau to press the U.S. for compensation on behalf of TC Energy and the Alberta government.

“I strongly urge you to ensure that there are proportionate economic consequences in response to these unfair U.S. actions,” Kenney wrote.

“If the U.S. is unwilling to listen, then we must demonstrate that Canada will stand up for Canadian workers and the Canadian economy.”

Biden’s decision has critics among U.S. conservatives as well: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House minority leader, called it a job-killing “virtue signal” to climate crusaders.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz accused Biden of erasing 11,000 potential jobs in the U.S. “with the stroke of a pen … by presidential edict.” Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said the president was “pandering to fringe activists.”

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said the move does little besides kill jobs, “disappoint our strong ally, Canada, and reverse some of our progress toward energy security.”

And Idaho senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo both signed on to co-sponsor a Republican bill aimed at allowing construction on the project to continue, despite Biden’s decision to rescind the permit.

“The Keystone project is the linchpin of America’s energy independence and job creation strategy,” Risch said in a statement.

“Shutting it down leaves us dependent on the likes of OPEC and Russia to help power the country and undermines the pact we made with our northern ally, Canada, which remains supportive of the project.”

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Trudeau says he still has ‘a lot to do,’ and wants to serve for ‘number of more years’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, giving a rare insight into his future plans, said he wanted to serve Canadians for a number of years to come, and shied away from saying who he thought should succeed him.

Trudeau, speaking at the Reuters Next conference, also said he was opposed to the idea of obliging people to carry digital proof that they had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Trudeau’s ruling Liberals, now in their second term, only have a minority in the House of Commons, which means he relies on the opposition to govern and can be brought down at any time.

Trudeau, 49, has three school-age children. He first took over as prime minister in November 2015 and has at times appeared tired amid the relentless COVID-19 crisis. He admitted dealing with the pandemic had been hard, but made clear he had no plans to quit soon.

“I’ve still got a lot to do in terms of serving this country, so I’m looking forward to a number of more years of serving Canadians,” he said in an interview aired on Thursday.

The comments were the clearest signal he has given that his political ambitions are far from exhausted.

Trudeau came to power promising to focus on causes such as feminism and the environment. But he quickly found himself having to deal with issues such as how to handle U.S. President Donald Trump and then the pandemic.

He has come to rely heavily on Chrystia Freeland, a close ally, who now occupies the positions of both finance minister and deputy prime minister. Liberal insiders say this would give her an advantage in a future leadership race.

Asked whether Freeland might one day become Liberal leader, Trudeau replied: “My responsibility is to bring around me the best possible team I can to serve Canadians … I won’t speculate on what could happen years down the road.”

Vaccine passports

The Liberal government has spent more than $200 billion in direct aid to help people and businesses survive the pandemic. Trudeau reiterated Ottawa planned to spend another $100 billion over the next few years to kickstart an economic recovery.

But he made clear he opposed a vaccine passport for people who had received inoculations, an idea already being developed in Denmark, saying it was fraught with challenges.

“I think the indications that the vast majority of Canadians are looking to be vaccinated will get us to a good place without having to take more extreme measures that could have real divisive impacts on community and country,” he said.


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Trudeau to shuffle cabinet as Navdeep Bains leaves government

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning a cabinet shuffle involving a handful of ministers, CBC News has learned.

Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and industry, has decided not to run in the next election and is leaving cabinet, precipitating the move, said sources with knowledge of the shuffle who spoke to CBC News on condition of confidentiality.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne will replace Bains, and Transport Minister Marc Garneau will move to Foreign Affairs, the sources said. Omar Alghabra will be promoted to cabinet to take over Transport.

The sources said the shuffle will occur Tuesday around 9 a.m. ET and, due to COVID-19, is expected to be the first virtual cabinet shuffle.

The move comes just ahead of a virtual cabinet retreat scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

Trudeau last shuffled his cabinet in August after the departure of former finance minister Bill Morneau, who stepped down from his position amid the WE Charity controversy to run for a job as the next secretary general for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Morneau was being investigated by Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion after revealing that he had to repay WE Charity $41,366 in travel expenses covered for him by the organization. Dion dropped his investigation in October. 

Morneau was replaced by then-intergovernmental affairs minister Chrystia Freeland who handed her responsibilities for relations between the provinces to Dominic LeBlanc.


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Canada PM Trudeau says there could well be an election soon, doesn’t want one

FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference at Rideau Cottage, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada January 5, 2021. REUTERS/Blair Gable

January 8, 2021

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made clear for the first time on Friday there could well be an election this year, indicating his government is preparing for a vote he insists he does not want.

Trudeau’s Liberal Party only controls a minority of seats in the House of Commons, which means he needs the support of opposition parties to govern and can be brought down if they unite against him.

Trudeau, who says his priority is tackling the coronavirus epidemic, has previously sidestepped questions about an election, saying merely that one was theoretically possible.

“Obviously, we are in a minority government, and that could well happen,” he told Montreal’s CHOU 1450 AM radio station when asked about the chances of a vote in the coming months.

“Our priority as a government is going to be helping people get through this pandemic … it’s not in our interests to have an election,” he added. The last election was in October 2019.

Asked about the prime minister’s comments, a government official said Trudeau had made clear many times that he “doesn’t necessarily get to chose when an election is going to come. Canadians want to see their government there for them and that’s what we’re focused on”.

The official requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the situation.

A string of recent opinion polls suggests that the Liberals, while ahead of their Conservative rivals, would most likely fall short of winning a majority.

Liberal insiders told Reuters last month that a snap election was likely at some point in 2021 rather than at the scheduled end of Trudeau’s four-year term in 2023.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Nick Zieminski)

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Trudeau says Canadians ‘deeply disturbed’ by violence in Washington D.C.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that Canadians are “deeply disturbed and saddened” by the violent actions of Trump supporters in Washington D.C. and that democracy in the United States “must be upheld.”

“Violence will never succeed in overruling the will of the people. Democracy in the U.S. must be upheld — and it will be,” Trudeau said in a social media post this evening.

Earlier tonight, Trudeau told radio listeners tuning in to News 1130 in Vancouver that he was concerned by the violence erupting in Washington D.C. and was watching the “situation minute by minute as it unfolds.”

“I think the American democratic institutions are strong and hopefully everything will return to normal shortly. We’re going to continue to do what we need to do to make sure that Canadians are well served in our relationship with the United States, regardless of how things unfold.”

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne also reacted to the images from Washington by saying that “Canada is deeply shocked …”

“The peaceful transition of power is fundamental to democracy — it must continue and it will. We are following developments closely and our thoughts are with the American people,”  Champagne said on Twitter. 

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole also spoke out against the violence, condemning the actions of pro-Trump protesters as an assault on democracy.  

“The storming of the Capitol Building is an astonishing assault on freedom and democracy. I am deeply saddened to see chaos grip our greatest ally today,” he said in a social media post.

The protest staged by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump started off peacefully but soon saw violent clashes with police.

Trump urged his supporters to come to Washington to protest Congress’s formal approval of president-elect Joe Biden’s win in the general election — a process that was underway when the protests began.

Several Republican lawmakers have backed Trump’s calls, despite the absence of any evidence of fraud or wrongdoing in the election.

Both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives abruptly suspended proceedings as dozens of people breached security perimeters at the Capitol. Lawmakers inside the House chamber were told to put on gas masks as tear gas was fired in the rotunda.

Ford says violence ‘disgraceful’

Images emerged of security officials holding some protesters at gunpoint, barricading doors to the House chamber and guarding it from inside with pistols drawn.

Canada’s ambassador to the United States said all embassy staff in Washington D.C. are “safe and accounted for.” 

“We call for calm during this time. Canadians in DC should follow the advice of local authorities,” said Kirsten Hillman in a social media post.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh described the images coming out of Washington D.C. “frightening” and blamed Trump’s actions for the unrest. 

“The horror unfolding in Washington is frightening and it was incited by Donald Trump. He can end it now, but refuses to. Democracy must not be intimidated. The violence must end,” he said on Twitter.

B.C. NDP MP Alistair MacGregor even took to Twitter to urge U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence to use the 25th amendment to remove Trump from power. The amendment allows the vice-president and a majority of Congress to remove a sitting president if he is unable to do his job. 

Tweeting in French, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet said the situation was provoked by Trump’s actions and those who follow him.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul issued a statement saying the events in D.C. “underscore the importance of respect for the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power — principles upon which any healthy democracy depends.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford issuing a statement calling the situation in Washington “absolutely disgraceful.”

“The peaceful transfer of power is crucial to any democracy and I’m incredibly disappointed with what we are witnessing in the United States today,” Ford said. 

Quebec Premier François Legault tweeted in English that while he was watching the events in D.C. closely, he believes that the U.S. is a “great country” that “will rebound as it has always done in its history.”

Trump asks protesters to leave, repeats fraud claims

After repeated calls for Trump to make a public statement to tell his supporters to leave the Capitol, Trump posted a video statement to his Twitter account repeating his claims that the election had been stolen and asking his supporters to go home.

“I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side, but you have to go home now, we have to have peace,” Trump said in the video.

Trump’s video was removed from both Facebook and Twitter for breaching its policies. Facebook’s vice president of integrity, Guy Rose, said the video was removed “because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”

Twitter said Trump’s account has been locked for 12 hours and that if his offending tweets are not removed, the account will remain locked. 

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Trudeau promises more long-term health care funding for provinces — but not right away

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrapped up his 23rd meeting with Canada’s premiers today by promising to increase health care funding to the provinces — but not before the immediate pressure of the pandemic subsides.

“It’s going to be important that the federal government steps up and increases its share of the cost of health care with the Canada Health Transfer,” Trudeau said after the meeting. “We are going to do that and I look forward to conversations over the coming months about how we can increase it.

“Of course, our focus remains right now [on] getting through this pandemic. And as I said multiple times to the premiers, we will be there to support them with extra health care costs linked to this pandemic, whatever it takes, for as long as this pandemic lasts.”

While Trudeau’s promise to increase Canada Health Transfer payments to the provinces was good news for premiers, they said they were disappointed the prime minister chose not to discuss increasing that funding in the short term.

“Unfortunately, despite the premiers’ unanimous demand, Justin Trudeau refused to commit to substantially increase health transfers. He said that it was premature because of the COVID-19 situation to have this discussion,” said Quebec Premier François Legault. 

“We are all aware that the federal government has invested heavily in 2020 because of the pandemic. We acknowledge it. However, most of the expenditures are non-recurrent, which is the crux of the problem.”

Trudeau said eight out of every $10 in government supports for individuals and businesses during the pandemic have come from the federal government. 

Legault said that the cost of providing health care is increasing at five per cent a year because of an aging population, the rising cost of drugs and new medical technologies, while provincial revenues are increasing at a rate of only 3.2 per cent annually.

“We’re disappointed with the progress that was made at this meeting with the prime minister specific to the ask that all 13 premiers had agreed to and put before him,” said Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, “but we are also encouraged that there was an acknowledgement that the federal government does need to do more when it comes to funding health care, specifically through the Canada Health Transfer.”

All premiers need to be at table for CHT talks: McNeil

Moe said that while he recognizes the federal government has done a lot to help Canadians during the pandemic, the Canada Health Transfer needs a long term funding model that will ensure the provinces can continue to deliver quality care to Canadians. 

“Saskatchewan is thankful that the federal government has stepped into an area and done what they can to support workers, support jobs and support Canadians in many ways, not only in Saskatchewan but across the nation,” he said.

“That comes with a cost. A very large cost, as we’ve seen.”

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said that when it comes time to discuss increasing the federal government’s share of health care funding, he wants those talks to take place with all the premiers present.

“This should be a national conversation so that we can continue to get down to what we believe are the concerns of Canadians and do it in a way that’s holistic across the country,” he said. 

Ford demands CHT funding answer in budget

Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued a statement expressing dismay at the lack of progress toward an increase in the Canada Health Transfer.

“The issue of health care funding remains critically important to the premiers and to all Canadians. Today, we called for a clear answer from the federal government on this issue no later than the spring federal budget,” Ford said in the statement. 

B.C. Premier John Horgan said that while he was also hoping for more progress on the transfer, his government would “start working together on some of the fundamental problems in health care into the new year.”

“We had a productive briefing and conversation on the rollout of vaccines across the country and welcome the news that federal government will be covering the cost of the vaccines,” Horgan said in a statement. 

Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin discuss vaccine security.:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin spoke to reporters after the first ministers meeting on Thursday. 2:58

The virtual meeting also saw Trudeau promise to work with the provinces to deliver a national pharmacare program and to improve the funding and conditions in Canada’s long-term care homes. 

“I proposed moving forward with the provinces on sharing best practices, delivering new federal resources to ensure that our seniors are best protected, and I certainly hope to work with the premiers on that in the coming weeks,” Trudeau said. 

Trudeau said his government has committed to talking to the provinces about a national formula for cost-sharing a pharmacare program. 

“I look forward to working with premiers who are ready on a universal pharmacare program that can make a huge difference when Canadians are worried about pharmacare, about vaccines, about that side of health care,” he said.

Trudeau also confirmed that the federal government will pick up the full cost of providing the provinces with COVID-19 vaccines. 

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India accuses Trudeau of encouraging ‘extremist activities’ with his remarks on farmers’ protests

India has accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of inciting “extremist activities” and warns that his remarks about farmers’ protests could harm relations between the two countries.

In a statement issued by the office of India’s minister of external affairs today, the Indian government said the Canadian high commissioner was summoned and told that comments by Trudeau, some of his cabinet ministers and MPs raising concerns about New Delhi’s response to protesting Indian farmers “constitute an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs.”

“Such actions, if continued, would have a seriously damaging impact on ties between India and Canada,” the statement reads.

“These comments have encouraged gatherings of extremist activities in front of our High Commission and consulates in Canada that raise issues of safety and security. We expect the Canadian government to ensure the fullest security of Indian diplomatic personnel and its political leaders to refrain from pronouncements that legitimize extremist activism.”

Farmers are protesting new laws imposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who says the changes will allow farmers to set their own prices and sell their crops to private businesses. Until now, Indian farmers have sold their crops directly to the government at guaranteed prices.

Farmers clash with authorities

Farmers are worried the new law will leave them vulnerable to exploitation by corporations and could devastate them financially – especially during the global pandemic.

Indian authorities recently used water cannons, tear gas and batons to break up protests by activists who had set up blockades and were trying to enter Delhi. Some Canadian farmers have staged rallies and launched social media campaigns in solidarity with the Indian farmers.

Earlier this week, Trudeau called the Indian government’s response to the protests “concerning.”

“We believe in the importance of dialogue and that’s why we’ve reached out through multiple means directly to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns,” the PM said.

His words drew a swift rebuke from an Indian foreign ministry spokesperson, who called his comments “ill-informed.”

During a news conference Friday, Trudeau was asked if he fears his comments have damaged Canada’s relationship with India.

“Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protest anywhere around the world and we’re pleased to see moves toward de-escalation and dialogue,” he said.

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Russian Phone Pranksters Dupe Trudeau as ‘Greta Thunberg’

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has become the latest victim of a pair of notorious Russian pranksters who called him while posing as Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

In the phone call published on the Vovan and Lexus comic duo’s YouTube page this week, the fake Greta grills Trudeau about NATO, other world leaders and her fears of a “growing international crisis and anticipation of the third world war.”

When Trudeau praises Thunberg’s 2019 visit to Montreal, saying it “helped define” the results of Canada’s federal election that year, the fake Greta says: “But leave NATO. Drop your weapons. Pick flowers. Smile at nature.”

“I also dream of a world in which soldiers are not necessary, but we don’t live in that world yet, unfortunately,” Trudeau can be heard responding. 

The 10-minute conversation ends after the fake Greta asks if Trudeau can introduce her to Terrance and Phillip, a fictional Canadian comedy duo from “South Park” who speak with an exaggerated accent and sophomoric toilet humor.

“Wait, were they not in South Park?” Trudeau responds after initially promising to connect her with them through his team. “I believe they are South Park parodies of Canadians.” 

Trudeau’s office told Canada’s CTV broadcaster that the call dates back to January, when world leaders reached out to offer condolences over the deaths of Canadian citizens onboard a Ukrainian passenger plane shot down by Iran.

“The Prime Minister determined the call was fake and promptly ended it,” the office was quoted as saying Tuesday.

Vovan and Lexus, the moniker used by Vladimir Kuznetso and Alexei Stolyarov, are known in Russia for targeting Kremlin opponents with prank calls. In recent months, they have targeted foreign political and royal figures like French President Emmanuel Macron, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prince Harry.

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Green Party leader calls on Trudeau to curb COVID-19 confusion and appoint a national task force

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said today Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should immediately appoint a panel of expert scientists to help coordinate the national response to COVID-19 as the number of cases continues to rise.

Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill today, Paul said Canadians are not being well served by the confusing current patchwork of federal, provincial and municipal COVID-19 policies.

She said the country must have clear, coordinated messages, with officials speaking with “one voice.”

WATCH: Green Party Leader Annamie Paul calls for a national approach to the pandemic

Green Party leader Annamie Paul decries the mixed and confusing messages coming from different levels of government in Canada. 1:52

She cited the example of the recent byelection in Toronto-Centre, which Paul lost to Liberal Marci Ien. Paul pointed out that byelection voters were being told by federal Elections Canada officials that it was safe to vote even as municipal leaders were encouraging them to stay close to home.

Canada doesn’t need a “one size fits all” approach, Paul said, but the country should have something like Australia’s National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board. That board, according to its terms of reference, is responsible for “mobilizing a whole‑of-society and whole-of-economy effort, to take action against the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

Paul said the country could be divided into colour-coded zones — as Ontario and Quebec already have done for some regions — with national standards determining what those living in those zones can and cannot do during the pandemic.

The national task force would take the lead on drafting restrictions to ensure some level of uniformity across the country, she said, with the understanding that some regions are performing better than others with respect to case counts.

“The problem right now is we have very mixed and confusing messages at a time when people have said they are willing to do what is necessary to prioritize life. We do not have coordinated, unified messaging on the pandemic,” she said.

And while Canada is a federation, with a division of powers between various jurisdictions and levels of government, Paul said now is not the time for squabbling over who is responsible for what when so many people are getting sick.

“I say very clearly that we must accept that this is not a local health issue, this is not a provincial health issue. This is a national health emergency, it is a national pandemic,” Paul said.

“What’s happening right now doesn’t work — that’s clear. People are dying, we’re in the midst of a second wave and we’re not seeing any improvement.”

Paul said that even the U.S., which has been criticized by some for its pandemic response, is further ahead on coming up with a cohesive, national response.

She said president-elect Joe Biden formed a coronavirus advisory board dominated by scientists and doctors shortly after he secured the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

That task force is chaired by former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler and Yale University’s Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.

Biden has said the task force will take policy proposals and “convert [them] into an action blueprint.”

“That plan will be built on bedrock science … I’ll spare no effort, none, or any commitment, to turn around this pandemic.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada already has established a “health portfolio operations centre” that coordinates the federal response with international, provincial and territorial partners. Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer, is also in close contact with provincial and territorial chief medical officers of health to share information and coordinate response efforts.

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