It has been well documented the backlash Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has received in his overall glowing comments of former Cuban President Fidel Castro upon his passing in late November.
Given Castro’s laundry list of humans rights violations and estimates of executions under Castro’s 50-year rule being in the thousands, it makes one wonder, regardless of how close the family was to the dictator in the days of Pierre Trudeau, what exactly Justin’s speech writer was thinking when the words were said.
No doubt, Trudeau’s words were more than worthy of ridicule, but for the ridicule by his political opponents, one must make sure one does not get on too high of a horse in seeing the gaffe as political currency to win over Canadians.
Denouncing the evils of one dictator that is dead, while being so willing to do business with other dictators that are still very much with us, alive and kicking, currently committing just as many atrocities, can be seen as a tad hypocritical.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading oil exporter. It holds 25 per cent of the world’s known oil reserves, plays a key role in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and has considerable influence on the global economy.
Regarding trade, Saudi Arabia is currently Canada’s second largest export market in the region.
Saudi Arabia is also considered a theocratic absolute monarchy that carries out mass executions of dissidents, beheads drug dealers, systematically subjugates women and has supported extremist groups like al-Qaida and ISIS, yet current political leaders and opposition alike do not seem to be too quick to denounce this country on its human rights abuses given its huge presence on the world economy.
Google many articles on the countries with the worst human rights violations and Saudi Arabia will be mentioned in the same breath as the North Koreas, Chinas, Sudans and Libyas of the world for your Top 10 lists.
Speaking of China, it is currently Canada’s second largest trading partner.
Since 2003, China has emerged as Canada’s second largest trading partner, passing Britain and Japan.
China now accounts for approximately six percent of Canada’s total world trade (imports and exports combined).
Between 1998 and 2007, imports from China grew by almost 400 per cent.
But yet, rights related to property, sexuality, ethnic minorities, political freedom, religious freedom, freedom of association, freedom of the internet, freedom of movement, freedom of the press and freedom of speech are violated on a regular basis under China’s communist regime, all while facing documented incidences of wrongful executions, organ harvesting, torture and mistreatment of rural workers.
As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, China regularly votes to prevent scrutiny of serious human rights situations around the world. In 2014, China voted down resolutions spotlighting abuses in ally North Korea, Iran, Sri Lanka, Belarus, Ukraine, as well as Syria.
But, there was Trudeau hobnobbing with China’s business elite at a $1,500-a-plate fundraising event which was attended by Shenglin Xian, who at the time was awaiting approval from federal regulators for his bank to be approved in Canada — which was first approved by a Conservative finance minister under the Harper government.
At that same fundraiser, a donation of $1 million was made afterwards by political advisor Zhang Bin and his business partner to honour the memory and leadership of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, for which $200,000 went to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and $50,000 to fund a statue of the elder Trudeau.
Harper became Prime Minister in 2006 and implemented a more activist foreign policy, emphasizing ties with democracies, and expressing criticism of non-democratic regimes, such as the case of China. Harper stated his belief in Canadian values such as human rights should not be trumped by the “almighty dollar.”
But that stance seemed to soften in the global recession of 2008 and more became the norm of ‘business as usual’ ever since in dealings with China.
Criticism and action against a dictator in Castro is easy, given the man is now deceased and that nation’s overall economic impact on Canada comparative to Saudi Arabia and China is minuscule. Calling to action for the same thing against China and Saudi Arabia is hard, because there are real-life repercussions to such a stance.
North America has to take a long, hard look at itself in the hypocrisy that we all are part of.
Working conditions we would find appalling here are commonplace in China, yet it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ as long as we all get to enjoy cheaper items we find in our households in our consumerism.
Taking a strong and defiant diplomatic stance against such powerhouses would for sure have economic consequences and we must ask ourselves, are we willing to suffer those consequences to our economic bottom line with real action to champion human rights for countries other than ourselves?
Because if we are not, criticism over another politician’s words about one dictator while putting a blind eye to another is just that, words. Lip service and nothing more.
Actions speak much louder than words.