Media AWOL as Trudeau continues Harper’s foreign policy in Eastern Europe

by Derrick O’Keefe, for Ricochet Media (July 11, 2016)

It’s actually not surprising that Justin Trudeau is enjoying such a long honeymoon with Canadians. The Conservatives, like any organization after the departure of an authoritarian and controlling leader, are rudderless. The NDP, although they regularly make effective critiques of the government on a number of issues in Parliament, face arguably an even bigger challenge than the Tories in reorienting and reimagining themselves.
When a politician is riding high in the polls, and the opposition is weak and rebuilding, the media’s role as a watchdog of the public interest is more important than ever. And right now the Canadian media is failing miserably. The Fourth Estate, facing an unprecedented upheaval itself, has with some notable exceptions abdicated its responsibilities with respect to the new federal government. The press isn’t supposed to ride along on the political honeymoon, especially one like this which shows so sign of ending.
Take the past few days, for example. Prime Minister Trudeau’s trip to the NATO summit in Warsaw came and went with barely any critical questions, despite the fact that just last week the government announced a new deployment of Canadian troops to the borders of Russia.
In fact, over the weekend Trudeau made significant foreign policy announcements on at least three fronts.

  • Details of the new troop deployment were announced alongside NATO partners at the meetings in Poland. Canadian forces, equipped with a frigate and fighter jets, will be stationed in Latvia.
  • The signing of a free trade agreement with Ukraine was announced upon Trudeau’s arrival in Kiev, completing the work that the Harper government began in 2009, and resumed in 2014 when a western-backed regime change ousted the government led by Vicktor Yanukovych.
  • And, finally, the re-upping of Canada’s commitment to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, which included a huge financial commitment.

On all three announcements Trudeau and his government are carrying the baton from Harper. Yet no in the Canadian media batted an eye.
The Canadian Press article on the NATO troop commitment did not include a dissenting opinion, unless you count a paraphrase of earlier comments by Germany’s foreign minister questioning the wisdom of building up military forces around Russia. (Anyway, it turns out Germany’s also deploying a large contingent of troops to Russia’s borders as part of NATO’s operation.) Russia, naturally, although it wasn’t mentioned in the CP piece, sharply condemned the actions of NATO as Cold War style sabre-rattling, and many analysts warned that the military build-up contributed to the danger of nuclear war.
The public interest demands more serious coverage and debate of this Canadian military build-up in Eastern Europe. The stakes are high, the dangers real. If the past couple of years in Ukraine, and the past 15 years in Afghanistan tell us anything, it’s that the existing corporate media is unlikely to provide anything close to the in-depth critical coverage we need.
It’s worth recovering Canada’s role in Afghanistan from the memory hole when we talk about foreign policy and the media’s responsibility to the public interest. Another example of quantum politics, perhaps: Canada’s role in the war in Afghanistan is both never-ending and nearly completely invisible in our media and public sphere. When was the last time [Canadians] saw a debate about that country, where so many Canadians died, on any major network?
Trudeau met with the president and chief executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and announced nearly half a billion dollars of new spending and an extension of the NATO mission. To give credit where it’s due, at least Glen McGregor of CTV news asked a critical question at Trudeau’s press conference in Warsaw, bluntly asking the prime minister “how much longer is Afghanistan going to continue to be a money pit?”
The long war in Afghanistan seems to have vanished from the Canadian media, despite the fact the Trudeau government recently walked back a pledge to investigate the issue of potential Canadian complicity in torture of detainees. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, celebrated uncritically by almost all media for his role as an intelligence officer in the counter-insurgency war in southern Afghanistan, blithely dismissed the need for a public inquiry on torture in Afghanistan.
This issue was once such a flash point in Canadian politics that it contributed to Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament. With Trudeau in power, it’s not even on the radar. Minister Sajjan making like Peter MacKay in shutting down questions about torture was quickly forgotten; instead, we were treated to extensive coverage of Sajjan giving a young child a tour of Parliament. Such the state of political journalism in 2016.


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Categories: latest, Media Criticism, NATO
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Jul 19, 2016 2:37 PM

Trudeau is a twit and a monster, if you can handle that juxtaposition. I have seen and heard all I want of the ‘man’. Being Canadian, I followed the leaders debates and blogged a couple of times about them. Anyone can be a soldier, cop, security guard… and prime minister, it seems. I guess that after GW Bush, we can add President. You won’t believe what an unpolished, empty, cringe-inducing speaker Trudeau is until you hear him. And the debates gave us a good look. And monster is not too harsh a word for someone who is indeed carrying on with Harper’s neoliberalism and neoconservatism, selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, sending troops to Ukraine and now to other parts of Europe bordering Russia, all while his sicko ministers take selfies with war criminals (Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell). My blog post titled “Beauty, in this case, is definitely only skin deep”… Read more »

Kathleen Lowrey
Kathleen Lowrey
Jul 18, 2016 5:58 PM

Yes, thank you. I keep waiting for any newspaper or the CBC to cover in any thoughtful way at all (other than mentioning, in a rather buried fashion, that it is happening) the very provocative deployment of troops to Latvia. The fawning coverage of Trudeau (who a year ago declared the Baltics “not a thing”, thinking he was avoiding a trick question in an intellectual manoeuvre worthy of GWBush) feels parodic — like an extended piece of sarcastic performance art about the decline of the fourth estate. The topsy-turvy coverage of the Ukraine I’ve gotten used to — the “Ukrainian lobby” is a real thing in Canada because of past waves of immigration. But the way Trudeau can smiley-face ghastly militarism elsewhere is astonishing.

Oldan Sceptical
Oldan Sceptical
Jul 18, 2016 5:16 PM

Probably this Liberal is afraid of what happened in Canada after Chretien refused troops for Iraq invasion: SARS in Toronto, Mad Cow in the West, massive forest fires in BC, all of which cost billions and the jobs of many. Then of course the media “discovered” Jean was up to no good regarding some bit of construction in his home territory. Unca Slam don’t dig it much when you say no to him.

Jul 18, 2016 12:09 PM

‘so many Canadians died’ in Afghanistan: 148 in total. ‘so many UK servicemen and -women died in Iraq’: 179 dead, Err, how many Iraqis died? Well, we don’t know exactly as it was rather a lot and records weren’t exactly kept accurately. But we do know that it is considerably north of 100,000….. How many Afghans dead since 2002? Well, we don’t exactly know how many for the same reasons as above. But we do know that it is considerably north of 50,000, with recorded deaths being 91,000, of which 26,000 were civilians. In addition, north of 250,000 are believed to have died indirectly due to the effects of war. Perhaps the first, fundamental requirement of the Fourth Estate, not just in Canada,, but in the UK, the USA and other ‘Western allies’, is to ask quite how we can be so racist as to consider deaths in the hundreds… Read more »

Jul 18, 2016 10:34 PM
Reply to  rtj1211

“Perhaps the first, fundamental requirement of the Fourth Estate, not just in Canada,, but in the UK, the USA and other ‘Western allies’, is to ask quite how we can be so racist as to consider deaths in the hundreds to be ‘so many’ when it is ‘our boys and girls’, but deaths in the hundreds of thousands to low millions to be ‘acceptable collateral damage’ when it is ‘Muslims’, ‘Arabs’, ‘Afghans’ or the like?”
There’s something truly horrifying, truly psychopathic, in our media’s callous blindness to that disproportion.

Jul 18, 2016 1:06 AM

of a free trade agreement with Ukraine

I had no idea Canada needed pork lard or aluminium table forks in such large quantities? If only they’d said earlier.
Meanwhile I’m sure that the Canadian funerals business – hearses, coffins, embalming services – will find many worthwhile outlets in Ukraine.

Jul 18, 2016 12:40 AM

Oh dear, Justin Trudeau’s middle name is turning out to be Bieber, as in “Leave it to Bieber”.

Richard Le Sarcophage
Richard Le Sarcophage
Jul 18, 2016 12:06 AM

Trudeau is another Obama. A creature of the Israel Lobby and definitely NOT what he pretended to be when running for office. Another Harper, but, like Obama, a ‘winning smile’ is enough to fool the morons. ‘Democracy without choices’.

Jul 17, 2016 11:24 PM

Reblogged this on TheFlippinTruth.

Kenneth Lindemere
Kenneth Lindemere
Jul 17, 2016 10:53 PM

This is why we called him Harper Lite.