Real internationalism requires a proper assessment of global power dynamics, capacity to see through stark media bias and willingness to hold one’s own government accountable. As such, it trips up liberals who fundamentally trust the media and worry about being isolated from power.
Recently Chrystia Freeland delivered a speech at the influential Brookings Institute in Washington DC where she laid out the case for “friend-shoring” and building a new alliance of democracies. In the question period Freeland responded to an attendee’s question about Ukraine drawing resources that may have otherwise gone to his West African country by telling him Africans needed a leader like Volodymyr Zelenskyy and a willingness to die for democracy. Condescending at best and racist at worst, Freeland’s response was widely criticized by leftists on Twitter.
But the lead columnist at the supposedly progressive National Observer, Max Fawcett, praised Freeland noting, “it’s onthe global stage where she truly shines. The latest example came in a speech she delivered at a Brookings Institution event in Washington, D.C., laying out her vision of the new world order that needs to unfold in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
In response Jeremy Appel mocked Fawcett as “Freeland’s number one sycophant in the Canadian media.” But Fawcett didn’t back down and instead went on the offensive. “Trudeau may trigger conservatives, but Chrystia Freeland absolutely owns the far-left,” he tweeted.
Fawcett’s suggestion that the far left’s criticism of Freeland is unhealthy is nonsense.
A year after becoming PM, Trudeau replaced foreign affairs minister Stéphane Dion, who represented a less pro-military and Washington faction of the Canadian elite, with Freeland. When Freeland became foreign minister, the US embassy in Ottawa sent a memo to the State Department in Washington entitled “Canada Adopts ‘America First’ Foreign Policy.”
In launching a foreign policy review five months into her position Freeland praised the US’ “outsized role” in world affairs since World War II. “Canada is grateful, and will always be grateful, to our neighbour for the outsized role it has played in the world,” she noted.
In the speech Freeland said Canada required “hard power” and a readiness to fight wars to maintain the North American-led “world order”. “To put it plainly: Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power,” explained the foreign minister. “Principled use of force, together with our allies and governed by international law, is part of our history and must be part of our future.”
Freeland has overseen a massive increase in Canadian military spending. She has also opposed arms control measures and nuclear disarmament. Freeland rejected a 2018 Senate human rights committee report that recommended additional controls on the transfer of arms by foreign customers to third parties and to give greater weight to human rights and international humanitarian law in the arms-export control system. In response Freeland wrote, “taking unilateral measures not aligned with the export controls of our allies and partners could severely limit the impact we can have in protecting international human rights and humanitarian law, while putting legitimate Canadian exporters at a significant competitive disadvantage.” Similarly, when Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström, a purported ally in her feminist foreign policy, hosted a high-level meeting in 2019 to reinvigorate nuclear disarmament commitments made by states party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Freeland failed to attend.
During a 2018 visit to Israel she announced that should Canada win a seat on the United Nations Security Council it would act as an “asset for Israel” on the Council. Freeland supported the ouster of Bolivia’s first indigenous president. Hours after the military command forced Evo Morales to resign on November 10, 2019, Freeland released a celebratory statement declaring, “Canada stands with Bolivia and the democratic will of its people.”
Ottawa provided significant support for the Organization of American States’ effort to discredit Bolivia’s 2019 vote, which fueled opposition protests and justified the coup. “Canada commends the invaluable work of the OAS audit mission in ensuring a fair and transparent process, which we supported financially and through our expertise”, noted Freeland at the time. But the OAS audit mission was designed to precipitate Morales ouster. A slew of studies demonstrated the partisan nature of the OAS audit mission and a year later Morales’ former finance minister, Luis Acre, won 55% of the vote for president and his MAS party took a large majority in the Congress.
In 2020 Venezuelan foreign affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza pointed out that the Trudeau government’s Venezuela policy took a sharply belligerent turn after Freeland replaced Dion in January 2017. Freeland helped establish the Lima Group and participated in a half dozen meetings of the anti-Venezuelan government coalition. The Globe and Mail reported, “Freeland spoke with Juan Guaidó to congratulate him on unifying opposition forces in Venezuela, two weeks before he declared himself interim president” in January 2019. On April 30 of that year Guaidó, convicted opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez and others sought to stoke a military uprising in Caracas. Freeland put out a video calling on Venezuelans to rise up.
Canada’s feminist foreign minister responded in a cynical manner to the media reporting on rape and sexual assaults by Canadian UN members in Haiti. With few exceptions, Canadian law protects members of UN missions from prosecution. In response to a CBC investigation detailing rapes and sexual misconduct by Canadian peacekeepers in Haiti Freeland told the public broadcaster it “is totally unacceptable for (officers) to harm the people who they are sent to protect. And it is important for us to be sure that we have a framework here in Canada that allows us to deal with any offences committed outside the country.” But after the media moved on no new legislation was announced.
In a similar vein, Freeland looked the other way when Saudi student Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi fled Canada in 2019 — presumably with help from the embassy — to avoid sexual assault charges in Cape Breton. While Freeland told reporters that Global Affairs was investigating the matter, Halifax Chronicle Herald journalist Aaron Beswick’s Access to Information request suggested they didn’t even bother contacting the Saudi embassy concerning the matter. While she got into a much-hyped spat with the monarchy over an innocuous tweet, Freeland mostly ignored Saudi Arabia’ violence in Yemen and echoed Riyadh’s justification for waging war. “There is a real risk of escalation if these kinds of attacks by Houthi rebels continue and if Iran keeps supplying weapons to the Houthis”, noted Freeland in 2018. In September 2019 Freeland said publicly, “Saudi Arabia is an important partner for Canada and we continue to work with Saudi Arabia on a number of different issues at a number of different levels.”
In early 2017 it came to light that Freeland’s Ukrainian grandfather, Michael Chomiak, was a Nazi propagandist during World War II. She deflected questions regarding the matter by saying Moscow was seeking to “destabilize” Canadian democracy. But, Chomiak did in fact edit a Ukrainian language newspaper that published speeches by Hitler and Goebbels, as well as the Nazi’s anti-Jewish/Soviet screeds. While obviously not responsible for her grandpa’s misdeeds, Freeland publicly praised him. Moreover, she deflected questions on the matter by stoking Russophobia.
Aping Hillary Clinton, cold warriors and other segments of the US establishment, Freeland pushed the idea of Russian electoral interference in Canada. In April 2019 Freeland said she was “very concerned that Russia is meddling” in Canada’s election and claimed there had “already been efforts by malign actors to disrupt our democracy.”
Alongside claims of electoral interference, Freeland claimed Russia was a strategic rival. Freeland further stoked tensions with Russia by pushing a Canadian military buildup in Eastern Europe. In 2017 Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan wrote, “we send a strong message of deterrence to Russia by continuing our military training in Ukraine, through our air policing in Romania, our frigate in the Black Sea, and our recently-announced Canadian-led NATO battlegroup in Latvia.”
The dominant media act like fawning sycophants, rather than serious journalists, when it comes to Freeland. Their portrayal of her is often downright embarrassing. The Walrus headlined a 2018 article “Chrystia Freeland Wants to Fix the Twenty-first Century” while a 2019 Hill Times story noted, “Freeland has been an ardent defender and champion of international liberalism and a rules-based international order.” The proof? Well, she said so.
A long Globe and Mail profile just before the 2019 election was maybe the most shameful. Written by the paper’s five senior international correspondents, the two-page spread headlined “For Chrystia Freeland, the political is personal” began: “There are two reactions you get when you ask around the globe about Chrystia Freeland and Canadian foreign policy under her leadership. She’s either one of the last, best hopes of the liberal world order — or she’s an out-of-touch idealist who is risking trade by starting diplomatic fights that Canada can’t hope to win.” Presumably, the Globe’s top-flight international investigative team failed to find anyone who believed Freeland promoted pro-US, corporate and militarist policies.