The Blush Is Off Trudeau Rose – OpEd


In our last chapter on the reign of the Trudeau dynasty, we saw Trudeau jr at what may prove to be his high point, a coveted state visit to Washington, feted by Americans besotted with royalty, a warmed over 1970s Trudeaumania.

No substance, but lots of pretty selfies and photo ops of North America’s ‘bromance’.

Syrian scam I

But already worrying signs are surfacing. Even as Obama addressed Canada’s parliament last month, another prominent America, ‘gay international’ activist Scott Long, told Torontonians about his nightmare three years in Egypt, where dictator Sisi has launched a high profile campaign to arrest and torture gays. (The later Mubarak regime and the short-lived Muslim Brotherhood interlude did not persecute gays).

At the meeting, I met a Syrian fresh off the refugee ‘boat’. He explained (in perfect English) that he had arrived from Egypt, where he and his other gay Syrian friends were given priority in processing their applications for Canadian immigration.

I expressed surprise, as the original refugee policy was not to give visas to any single men, on the pretext that they might be terrorists. “Yes, that was the first batch. I’m part of the second batch,” Raad glowed. “My poor Egyptian friends were very jealous. It is impossible for them to get the precious Canadian visa, even though they are really being persecuted now. They live in terror.”

So while straight Syrian guys are spurned, their gay brothers are given the coveted top place on the lists of thousands of families, violating stated Canadian policy.

Syrian scam II

No need to bribe whomever to get to the top of the list, as rich Syrians have done. The going rate is $30,000 in Jordan, as one refugee sponsor in Toronto found out. Latif, himself an immigrant, patriotically jumped on Trudeau’s well-meant bandwagon and put up the $20,000 to sponsor a family. He rented a large home for them, and prepared a program to help them integrate.

Latif  was shocked when they refused to move into their new home, not wanting to abandon their clan at the homey hotel room provided by the Canadian government. They whined that they expected better,  that they were promised a swimming pool. Latif handed them back to the government, hurt by their ingratitude, suspecting they were bogus refugees, cutting his losses.

Assad – friend of gays

There is no question that gays nabbed by Daesh et al are bona fide claimants for refugee status. But the motley opposition in Syria  are our ‘friends’, and the legitimate President Bashar Assad is our ‘enemy’.

Don’t try to tell a Syrian gay that. Contrary to the western media image of a blood-thirsty dictatorship, “the Syrian Arab Republic has never persecuted anyone for motives concerning their private life,” writes Thierry Meyssan. The Lebanese daily L’Orient-Le Jour, financed by the European Union (i.e., anti-Assad), slammed the Lebanese government for persecuting gays, but admitted that “under the régime of Bashar Assad, the gay community was enjoying a peaceful existence.”

L’Orient-Le Jour was told by a gay Syrian refugee that his period of military service was “the most wonderful years of my life”, and that they had “parties in reception halls rented by gay couples to celebrate their union”. It was only when Daesh arrived that he was obliged to “hide his pink and yellow pants and practice walking in a more masculine way.”

There are 31,340 Syrians already approved. Harper was condemned for only promising 1,300 refugees, none gay. Maybe his niggardliness would have allowed more careful vetting of bogus claimants, and saved both us and Syrians from future (expensive) problems?

Maybe making peace with Assad, rather than trying to assassinate him, would allow Syrian gays to be protected by the legitimate Syrian government,  pick up where they left off in 2011, and these ‘refugees’ could stay at home, where they belong?

Let’s hope that these two troubling trends among the refugees are not indicative of a wider misuse of what was supposed to be an altruistic, if poorly thought-out, embrace of those suffering from the West’s obsession with destroying the only gay-tolerant Muslim regime.

Syria, coincidentally, is just about the last holdout against the West’s neoliberal nightmare systematically being inflicted on one and all, Muslim and non-Muslim. Along with Iran, Assad’s Syria iis the only country doing anything concrete to oppose Israel’s crimes. Is it perhaps for those reasons that the West had/has Assad in their target range?

Promises withering on the vine

But there are many other disturbing signs that Justin’s beanstalk is already suffering from rot. First to raise the alarm bells was the decision to go ahead with Harper’s swan song, the $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, selling weaponized armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, despite strong public opposition and the obvious discomfort of  his ‘messenger’, Foreign Minister Stephane Dion.

Dion was also forced to hold his nose on another indefensible, the Conservative motion targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign,  now in its eleventh year, and wildly popular among western students and people of all ages who have bothered to study the facts about Israel. Trudeau’s ‘brave’ move was actually denounced in parliament by Dion (this time not the messenger).

The only real effect  was to lose Trudeau his many student supporters, including his fellow Quebeckers, who are the strongest supporters of the Palestinian struggle in Canada. Just try to tell an idealistic student “No!” and see how far you get.

Then there’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Obama urged Trudeau to sign, even though 75% of Canadians oppose it.
Trudeau’s surprises

It was a bit of a surprise that the Palestinians should be treated no better than under Harper. Poor Russia is also unpleasantly surprised to be getting the Harper treatment. Justin loudly insulted Putin during the election campaign and has not changed since, despite macho Putin graciously turning the other cheek. Canada will send hundreds of troops to ‘protect’ Latvia from the nasty Russians.

From the start, Trudeau has surprised, even shocked, many old-fashioned Canadians. He appointed four Sikhs and a Muslim Afghan woman to his Cabinet. “I have more Sikhs in my Cabinet than [Indian PM] Modi,” he bragged. Not a very diplomatic comment, considering the delicacy of balancing an Indian Cabinet, where Sikhs conjure up the tragic assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Then there’s Trudeau’s brash promise in 2013 to a Kelowna BC crowd (“I’m actually not in favour of decriminalizing cannabis. I’m in favour of legalizing it.”). This shocked many, but made him an idol for youth, who made sure to come out to vote last October. A long overdue reform, one that dates from the 1972 Le Dain Report commissioned by Trudeau sr, buried in embarrassment.

But the Toronto police brought the policy crashing down, raiding half the 83 marijuana dispensaries in Toronto, confiscating legal supplies, declaring the hash brownies a “health hazard” (which you can be sure they proceeded to consume with relish). Vancouver closed 30 without the police raid fanfare. Nary a peep from Parliament Hill. Hundreds of Trudeau’s most devoted followers lost their investments. Cowardly bungling big time.

Trudeau in Toronto’s Gay Pride parade

Then there’s upcoming Bill C-16 that would “ensure that Canadians will be free to identify themselves and to express their gender as they wish while being protected against discrimination and hate,” according to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in May. Such a radical change to Canadian laws was not part of the Liberal election package, and was not debated. It ventures into controversial territory which is still not understood.

Storm clouds

Muslim Canadians are concerned about the potential of the Syrian refugee project turning sour. Says legitimate Muslim immigrant Munib, “I came here 30 years ago with $100, and worked hard. I made a life and didn’t ask for any special treatment. There was none anyway.

“I worry that many of these Syrians have come on false pretenses and will create ill-will towards millions of honest, hard working immigrants, who are the backbone of Canada. They will be fuel for those who are against Muslims. Look at Trump and how he manipulates the immigrant issue.”

Is Justin’s beanstalk a mirage? Will Canadians soon be nostalgic for penny-pinching, honestly bigoted Harper? At least we knew what to expect. Hey, is Trudeau just Harper lite? There are too many lurches and gaffes so far for Canadians to “feel free”, as Wilson-Raybould opines. Still on his agenda are electoral reform and the tar sands. Let’s hope for some backbone.

Eric Walberg

Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s. He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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