With a deeply unpopular predecessor, a storied last name, and a youthful countenance, the Liberal Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has the kind of profile that most any politician would kill for, a year into office. And his record of accomplishments so far, including legalizing marijuana, marching as the first sitting PM in a Pride parade, and commiting to resettling 50,000 refugees this year, have only burnished his reputation as a progressive.
But all that glitters is not gold. The self-proclaimed feminist leader may have brought together disaffected conservatives and center-left progressives, but here are five reasons why he’s not as progressive as the rhetoric makes him out to be.
1. As the 23rd White Ruler of Colonial Canada, He’s Falling Short on His Promises to Indigenous People
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly | Photo: The Government of Canada
So hungry for change were Canada's Indigenous people that after 10 years of the conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that 2015 saw a surge in the number of native people who went to the polls for the first time. But despite Trudeau’s persistent talk of nation-to-nation relationships, his government is maintaining the Bantustan model of self-government, isolation and confinement of Aboriginal title through what are known as modern treaties.
This 21-year-old federal “self-government” policy allows all provinces in the country a veto in any negotiations with Indigenous people on issues that affect provincial jurisdiction or laws.There is also no real power sharing within the self-government negotiation process, allowing Canada to keep for itself “all of the real powers of sovereignty and nationhood necessary for sustaining an economy, trade and diplomatic relations with other nations in the world.”
Recently, a number of Indigenous people’ representatives traveled to Geneva to articulate their grievances to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
And while the Liberals have followed through on their promise to officially launch the inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women last week, many Indigenous women say the inquiry falls short, as it won’t look into complicit institutions such as the police force and child services.
2. His Stance on the Environment Is Less Progressive Than Obama's
When United States President Barack Obama decided against construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, that would run through both the United States and Canada, Trudeau sounded a bit like a Texas oilman in expressing his disappointment.
His administration has toughened environmental standards for new pipeline projects, and he has pledged US$300 million a year for research into clean energy technology at the Paris climate conference last year. But with Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project scrapped, Trudeau has shifted his administration's emphasis to another, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, and has even gone so far as to blast the ultra-conservative Harper for not doing enough to push the US$6.8 billion project through.
Activists against the Site C dam | Photo: Twitter / @rabbleca
Most recently he has approved the construction of the Site C dam, a proposed dam and hydroelectric generation station on the Peace River in the province of British Columbia that would flood about 5,550 hectares of agricultural land. It would also submerge 78 Indigenous heritage sites, including burial grounds and places of cultural and spiritual significance.
3. His Foreign Policy Is a Continuation of Harper’s on Many Fronts
Coming under fire from many activists and human rights groups for his recent US$11-billion arms deal to the despotic Saudi Arabian government, Trudeau justified it by saying it was a “done deal” and that he could not do anything about canceling it because it would involve large financial penalties and a loss in jobs.However, released documents by the justice department in response to a lawsuit seeking to block the deal, showed that foreign minister Stéphane Dion signed crucial export permits as late as April 2016.
“The government lied to Canadians about who signed what when in the Saudi arms deal, and that is a very serious matter,” the head of the country’s centre-left New Democratic Party, NDP, Thomas Mulcair said.
Responding to the new revelations, Dion said that similar weapons systems sold to Saudi Arabia since 1993 had been used responsibly.
“The best and updated information indicates that Saudi Arabia has not misused the equipment to violate human rights,” he told reporters. “Nor has the equipment been used in a manner contrary to the strategic interests of Canada and its allies.”
However such arguments contradict findings by many aid organizations and human rights groups monitoring conflicts. The United Nations has accused the Saudi coalition in Yemen of war crimes, crimes against humanity and targeting of civilians.
And while the prime minister came out last year to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against apartheid Israel, saying it “has no place on Canadian campuses,” he has even come out to support a Conservative party motion to condemn the movement.
It’s yet another instance of Trudeau aligning himself with the Tories to suppress the civil liberties of advocacy groups.
During the 2014 attacks by Israel on Gaza’s civilians, the Liberal Party, of which Trudeau was leader of, came out to declare, “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people … Hamas is a terrorist organization and must cease its rocket attacks immediately.”
4. He’s Not Nearly the Feminist He Claims to Be
And while Trudeau says he supports for pay equity, his government has so far overlooked “the most glaring case of pay equity left in the federal public sector”—that of unionized postal workers with Canada Post, who are overwhelmingly women workers.
"We have a prime minister that has been advocating for pay equity, but yet the most glaring case of pay equity left in the federal public sector—here of the rural and suburban mail carriers of Canada Post—remains completely unresolved,'' Mike Palecek, the union’s national president said in the Huffington Post.
Hundreds of these workers and their supporters marched to Trudeau's Montreal office Saturday, hoping to push forward negotiations with Canada Post, especially surrounding wages and pensions.
Palecek told The Huffington Post that the majority-women suburban carriers end up making 28 per cent less than their predominantly male urban counterparts.
5. The Liberal’s Record on Civil Liberties Isn’t Great—and Trudeau Is Likely to Continue That
The hot-topic electoral issue during last year’s elections was arguably a Harper administration proposal, Bill-C51, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015, which expanded surveillance powers and eroded judicial oversight. The draconian measure also allows Canada's spy agency, CSIS, and other intelligence agencies to share Canadians' personal information more widely and suppress dissent under the guise of combating threats to national security.
Trudeau's Liberal Party endorsed the bill, and none of their proposed amendments have come to fruition, despite a growing cry from activists that Canada's Patriot Act be scrapped.