Trudeau’s foreign policy feminist-washes corporate Canada

The Liberals’ “progressive” foreign policy claims are essentially all lies.

A recent Globe and Mail investigation confirms the toothless nature of Justin Trudeau’s promised corporate ombudsperson. According to Hollow Core, the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) has yet to complete a single investigation of a company accused of abuses abroad. This despite the Globe finding Canadian firms responsible for “more than 50 instances in 30 countries in the past five years … of alleged human-rights abuses.”

Prior to their 2015 election the Liberals promised to establish an independent ombudsperson to curtail international mining abuses. But Justin Trudeau’s government waited nearly four years to announce CORE and two more years passed before it started taking cases. More importantly, the government failed to provide CORE with sufficient power to properly investigate companies’ abuses. And even if it does, the ombudsperson has little power to restrict public support for firms found responsible for egregious violations. The best it can do is act like an advisor to the trade minister.

As part of the Mining Association of Canada’s bid to thwart serious regulation, the ombudsperson’s mandate was broadened beyond the extractive sector. While this may have some superficial appeal, the demand for an ombudsperson was part of challenging a predatory government-assisted mining industry.

The Globe reveals how an ombudsperson promoted to curtail an epidemic of Canadian mining abuses in the Global South has morphed into a tool to assist Washington in its bid to contain China’s rise. Reportedly, 13 of 15 cases brought to CORE have to do with forced labour in the Xinjiang region of China. (In the current climate the trade minister will likely accept any recommendation the ombudsman delivers regarding Xinjiang.)

Alongside its refusal to create a rigorous corporate ombudsperson, the government has failed to adhere to the guidelines it established on protecting environmental and human rights defenders facing repression associated with Canadian-run firms. In an example of the government officials flaunting their commitments in Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders, the Trudeau government failed to advocate for the release of MiningWatch Canada employee Jen Moore when she was detained by Peruvian police in 2017 for supporting communities harmed by Hudbay. Similarly, the Canadian ambassador in Ecuador refused to support the president of the Shuar Arutam People, Josefina Tunki, after he allegedly received death threats from the vice president for Operations of Canadian company Solaris Resources in 2021. In the press release announcing their recent submission to the United Nations Periodic Review of Canada’s human rights record MiningWatch and the Justice & Corporate Accountability Project highlighted these cases. Their spokesperson noted, “We have found that Canadian embassies continue to provide significant support for Canadian mining companies despite being aware of serious and credible allegations of human and environmental rights violations.”

Disregarding their promise to rein in Canadian mining abuses abroad undercuts the Liberals’ “feminist foreign policy”. Sexual assault often plagues communities near Canadian-run mines and as the primary caregivers, women are disproportionately burdened by the ecological destruction caused by mining. At the same time, most mining jobs go to men.

Another misrepresentation of the Liberals’ feminist foreign policy rhetoric was exposed recently. Last week the Auditor General reported, “Global Affairs Canada was unable to demonstrate how Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy contributed to improving gender equality in low-income and middle-income countries.”

Prior to the auditor general’s report it was obvious that Liberal “feminist foreign policy” rhetoric was largely marketing designed to convince “progressives to support a foreign policy overwhelmingly driven by the US Empire and Canadian corporations.”

In some instances, the government simply labels initiatives designed to promote Canada’s global mining behemoth “feminist assistance”. Under the banner “Advancing a feminist approach to natural resources”, Global Affairs’ site lists “West Africa Governance and Economic Sustainability in Extractive Areas”, “Building Responsible Mineral Supply Chains for Development in Africa”, “Supporting the Ministry of Mines to Strengthen Governance and Management of the Mining Sector Ethiopia”, “Building Extractive Sector Governance (Colombia)”, “Gender Equality in Artisanal Mining (Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe), “Equitable Prosperity through Private Sector Development in Kenya”, “Strengthening Small Business Value Chains (Tanzania)”, “Improving Environmental Management of Mining and Energy Activities in Peru”, “Sustainable Development of Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (Indonesia)”, “Enhancing Resource Management Through Institutional Transformation in Mongolia”. More than $150 million in Canadian “aid” funds have been devoted to these projects.

Rather than a “feminist approach to natural resources”, these programs are designed to enhance the image of Canadian mining companies and enable them to exploit natural resources in poor countries to benefit capitalists in wealthier parts of the world.

From establishing a mining ombudsperson to protecting human rights defenders to their “feminist foreign policy”, the Liberals progressive rhetoric is a sham. The Trudeau government simply upholds wealth and power.

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