Commentary by: Jagdeesh Mann in Vancouver, BC
It’s likely Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saw events playing out differently than how they actually turned out for his recent state visit to India.
Like most Canadians, he probably thought February an ideal time to fly someplace warm. He would take the family to India, enjoy a weeklong vacation, get some great photo ops at sites like the Taj Mahal and the Golden Temple, and then meet India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a day of official state business to wrap up his trip.
Though he would never admit it, Trudeau probably also hoped to out-Instagram his new arch rival, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who was getting married in Mexico this past weekend.
And, last but not least, by taking his four Sikh cabinet ministers along for the trip, Trudeau would score points with his Sikh electoral base back in Canada.
While Canada’s PM did get in his photo-ops, he and his team was put on the defensive throughout the visit by accusations of his government being in league with "Khalistanis"—shorthand for "Khalistani terrorists". These charges came from multiple fronts.
Indian reporters dogged Trudeau with questions about harbouring "Sikh separatists", another term for "Khalistanis", at every opportunity, while leading media outlets like the Times of India, Hindustan Times, NDTV and others pushed the Khalistan narrative relentlessly.
Indian news magazines like Outlook published polemical essays about how “a new real threat of Khalistani terror” has emerged due to support from Sikh temples patronized by unwitting "liberal white politicians", like Justin Trudeau.
Meanwhile, members of the Indian government provided a lesson in how to put the "host" into hostility by repeating the provocative allegations against their guests. Captain Amarinder Singh, the chief minister of Punjab, where most Sikhs hail from, did his central government’s bidding when he stated, “There seems to be evidence that there are Khalistani sympathizers in Trudeau’s cabinet,” alluding to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, whom Singh has called a Khalistani in the past.
Sajjan has never made a statement in support of a separate Sikh state. If anything, he has spoken against it.
And then, into this charged environment, enter ex-Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal, who makes an appearance at an event with the Trudeaus in Mumbai. A Canadian security official, reported to be Daniel Jean, told Canadian media outlets that it is possible that the presence of Atwal at the function with the Trudeaus was not an accident and had been engineered by elements within the India’s intelligence services.
Even if this turns out not to be the case, the fact that Atwal, an actual ex-Khalistani who tried to kill an Indian government official in Canada in 1986, was granted a visa to enter India at the same time as the Trudeau visit arouses suspicion. Canadian security officials like Jean are in the right to consider all possibilities about Atwal’s incidental presence at an event hosted by the Canadian High Commission in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, back in Canada, mainstream outlets could have benefited from a dose of Jean’s skepticism. Instead Canadian reporters on the most parroted the opinions of Indian media through analysis pieces that stated there has been "a revival of Khalistani terror in recent years". Despite the scraps of evidence the Indian government has presented to push this claim, it highly spurious at best.
A quick refresher here: Khalistan is the name of a currently nonexistent Sikh homeland. It is based on the state of Punjab, a territory slightly larger than Vancouver Island, separating from India. For sake of analogy think of the Basque region declaring independence from Spain, the Kurdish north opting out of Iraq, or Quebec leaving Canada.
Over 30 years ago in the early '80s, this idea of a Sikh homeland erupted overnight out of dormancy into a full-blown political cause when the Indian government made the pivotal error of turning their tanks on the Golden Temple, or the Sikh Vatican. Thousands of people would die in the Punjab from the ensuing violence over the next decade, including over 15,000+ in the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984, murdered by mobs who were provided weapons and transport via Indian government officials. Nobody has even been charged for that mass killing.
And here—the most important wrinkle to this story—it has been over 20 years since a terror attack has been credibly linked to the Khalistan movement. In the late '90s, at the same time the IRA signed its peace agreement in Northern Ireland, the Khalistan militancy faded away. Funds dried up, and the fighters who took up its cause retired back into normal lives.
Even the last of the hardcore holdouts like Lakhbir Singh Rode, the head of the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), one of the two key groups at the centre of the Khalistan militancy, now keeps a day job running a meat business in Lahore, Pakistan.
Khalistan died. Khalistanis died. But the Khalistan narrative won’t die. And that is because it won’t be allowed to rest in peace because politicians in India, and ironically, even here in Canada, won’t let it.
The "threat" of Khalistan has more value alive than dead.
And so the storyline of Khalistan terror continues to develop, even if the movement is gone. The theatrics are necessary to showcase it as a viable threat.
Scottish national Jagtar Johal, 31, is one person who seems to be ensnared in this net. The Sikh activist who ran a website called NeverForget1984 was in India for his wedding last November when he was taken by Indian police. Johal is being detained, without charge, for allegedly having a role in a series of political assassinations in Punjab over the last two years.
Sikhs around the world have rallied around the #FreeJaggi hashtag to liberate Johal on what appear to be a politically motivated detention.
Over 100 Sikh temples around the world reacted to the #FreeJaggi controversy by recently barring Indian diplomats from their premises. The response from Indian politicians was predictable—the temple officials, from all 100+ organisations, are Khalistanis.
And now Justin Trudeau leaves India having been compelled into signing a Framework for Cooperation on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism between Canada and India. Canada and India had an intelligence-sharing arrangement before, during the height of the violence in Punjab in the '80s and '90s. That arrangement, however, was ended after the Khalistan movement died out. It is now on the path to coming back into place, renewing a fear that India’s corrupt police and paramilitary will be able to shake down the Indian relatives of Canadian Sikhs whose names appear in intelligence reports shared by Canada.
So what is driving this Russian-style disinformation campaign by India against its own former citizens and their descendants? It is not a terror attack the Indian government appears to be most fearful of. Rather, it is the disproportionate political influence of Canada’s Sikh community on Canada, a G7 country, that has New Delhi in fits.
As unified as India seems, it is an unwieldy coalition of 1.3-billion people with multiple ethnic groups, languages, and religions. The Indian government holds a reasonable fear that external influence could stir trouble again in the Punjab, especially in a country where the ruling BJP, a right-wing pro-Hindu party, itself governs through cold-blooded divide and rule machinations—the BJP frequently turns a blind eye to the violence of its own militant wing, the RSS, when it targets minority groups like Sikhs, Christians, and Muslims.
Currently, four of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers are Sikhs. There is also the possibility the next prime minister, or at least the next kingmaker, could be Jagmeet Singh, also a Sikh and someone with a social justice agenda. With an overall population of close to a million people in Canada, the Sikh community will only continue to grow in political influence for the years to come.
What the Indian government fails to recognize—or refuses to—is that politicians like Jagmeet Singh and others from a new generation of Sikhs are motivated not by separatism but by social justice causes. When they seek to redress past wrongs from incidents like anti-Sikh mass killings of Delhi in 1984, they are looking for reconciliation to heal past wounds, not for further division.
But this nuance is lost on the Indian government and so it indiscriminately responds to any criticism by undermining opponents with labels like "Khalistanis". Or it resorts to an old tactic of withholding travel visas. While ex-terrorist Jaspal Atwal can obtain an Indian visa—on multiple occasions it should be noted—NDP leader Jagmeet Singh cannot.
Singh was denied a visa in 2013, as was Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal in 2011. Both men brought forward motions in the Ontario provincial legislature and in the House of Commons respectively to have the Delhi mass killings classified as a genocidal act.
The motion was eventually carried last year by the Ontario government. The Indian government responded by calling it "misguided".
Ironically, however, hammering down on opponents with the Khalistani cudgel is not beneath the use of Canadian politicians either. In a Sikh community that is as politically active as it is diverse, some groups have also repeatedly resorted to labelling their opponents as "Khalistanis", regardless of how the reckless use of this language can indelibly stain an entire community.
In Trudeau’s Liberal government, it is no secret the World Sikh Organisation, a group that once advocated for the Khalistan state, has the ear of the PM, keeping at bay other voices from the community. The backroom fighting to get into such a position has caused simmering resentment among other Liberal members from the South Asian community. One of these flashpoints for this bitterness was in riding of Vancouver South in 2014 when Trudeau "parachuted" in star candidate Harjit Sajjan and closed the open nomination process.
There was justifiable frustration among the ousted Sikh faction that was likely to win that nomination. But their response was also predictably toxic.
"The Liberal Party, especially Justin, is in bed with extremist and fundamental groups. That's why I decided to leave the Liberal Party," said Kashmir Dhaliwal, ex-president of the powerful Khalsa Diwan Society which operates the Ross Street Temple in South Vancouver.
Ujjal Dosanjh, the former NDP premier of British Columbia and federal Liberal health minister, himself repeated this "Khalistani" critique to describe the Sikh insiders within the Trudeau government. In a radio interview this past week on CBC’s As it Happens, he bluntly stated that Trudeau’s government was infiltrated by Sikh separatists.
None of Trudeau’s Sikh cabinet ministers has spoken out in support of a separate Sikh state—if anything they have spoken against it. Dosanjh, meanwhile, has found himself on the outside without a role in the current Trudeau government.
"Khalistan 2.0" is a term that has been dubbed by Indian media to denote the future resurgence of the Sikh separatist movement led by "radicalized" Sikhs from countries like Canada. But in actuality, Khalistan 2.0 is already here.
It is a cheap, troll-friendly, media smear campaign—perfectly suited for the social media environment—wielded by the Indian government to discredit diasporic Sikhs, whether they criticize the Indian government’s human rights record or seek redress for legitimate grievances from the state-organized mass killings of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984.
And because this faux Khalistan narrative is so effective, it doesn’t even need an actual real terror incident to find its way on to frontpages of Canadian or international news outlets. It just needs a politician—Indian or Canadian—willing to do anything to advance their personal agendas. Unfortunately, those are a dime a dozen.
Jagdeesh Mann is a media professional and journalist based in Vancouver. Mann is also a member of the NCM Collective and regular contributor for New Canadian Media. This piece was republished under arrangement with the South Asian Post.
Commentary by: Ted Alcuitas in Vancouver, BC
President Rodrigo Duterte must have been following what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father said when asked if he would raise the issue of human rights with the dictator Ferdinand Marcos more than 30 years ago.
“Nobody likes to be told by an outsider how to run his own government,” said the elder Trudeau.
Duterte gets ‘insulted’ by Trudeau’s criticism of the ‘drug war’.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at Justin Trudeau for criticizing his (Duterte’s) war on drugs … a campaign which has seen more than 12,000 people killed, according to Human Rights Watch — 2,555 of them by the Philippine National Police.
“It is a personal and official insult…. It angers me when you are a foreigner, you do not know what exactly is happening in this country,” fumed Duterte. “You don’t even investigate.”
While Trudeau has been criticized for his photo-ops while in the Philippines for the ASEAN Summit, he deserves credit for standing up to the Philippine strongman, known worldwide for his ascerbic tongue and foul language.
Beyond his posturing with the iconic Philippine fast-food chain Jollibee and riding the new jeepney, Trudeau was the only Western leader to raise the issue of human rights including that of Rohingya with Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi.
In contrast, U.S. President Donald Trump had a bromance with Duterte, saying they had a “great relationship” and even laughing approvingly when Duterte called the media “spies”.
Trudeau was not risking much direct economic damage by confronting Duterte.
Canadian exports to the Philippines totaled $626 million in 2016, while imports totaled $1.35 billion.
But the PM’s motivation may not have been completely free of political calculation. Currently the Philippines ranks as the top source country for new immigrants, with 41,785 new permanent residents in 2016 alone.
In a press conference after his meeting with Duterte, Trudeau was also praised by Philippine media for among others, his “unabashed” mention of Canada’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) as ‘feminist’, pledging his continued support for women’s reproductive rights.
He admitted that Canada is not perfect and that it has it’s own human rights problems especially with regard to its indigenous people.
On the issue of the rotting Canadian garbage, Trudeau is seeing a final solution now that the barrier posed by Canadian law has been overcome. It is now only a question of who pays for the return to the trash given that it was a private business venture in the first place.
While he was generally rated favourably by local media, the question remains if having a good heart alone is enough in politics.
Republished under arrangement with the Philippine Canadian News.
Commentary by: Phil Gurski in Ottawa
Well, the inevitable has happened. We all knew it was coming. Canada’s most famous ‘child soldier’, Omar Khadr, is about to receive an apology and a compensation package from the Canadian government – i.e. the Canadian tax payer – ” for abuses he suffered while detained in the U.S. military prison for captured and suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”
Cue the outrage.
There is so much to say on this case, far more than is reasonable to expect in a blog post, but I will try to distil what I think is important. Firstly and by far most importantly, Omar Khadr was captured on a battlefield while fighting, and trying very hard to kill, Allied forces in Afghanistan while in the employ of a recognised terrorist group. Full stop. He was fighting with a terrorist group that wants nothing more to re-impose its hateful, intolerant, pre-Medieval aberration of Islam on fellow Afghans and kill a lot of people in the process. Ergo, he was a terrorist.
We can argue forever whether Mr. Khadr was a willing member of the Taliban or coerced into joining by his deceased father’s warped sense of Islam. He may very well have had no choice, having been raised in a family sympathetic to Al Qaeda – by the way, Al Qaeda is another recognised terrorist group. But to call him a child soldier is an insult to all the real child soldiers who are ripped from the bosom of their families (and in many cases forced to kill or witness the slaughter of their parents and siblings) in conflicts around the world. No, Omar Khadr was not a child soldier: he was a (perhaps unwilling?) member of at least one group that the Canadian government has listed as a terrorist organisation.
Secondly, did Canada or Canadians send Mr. Khadr to Guantanamo? No, we did not, the Americans did. If anyone is to pay compensation, and I am not saying that such is warranted, it is Uncle Sam not taxpayers from Moose Jaw. We did not run Guantanamo, we did not subject Mr. Khadr to whatever treatment he suffered. We owe him nothing to ‘make up’ for what happened to him.
Thirdly, did Canadian officials (read: CSIS) act improperly when they were invited to question Mr. Khadr in Guantanamo? No, they did not. They were doing the very job we ask them to do, investigate terrorist threats to this country and keep us safe. Mr.Khadr was the son of a man well known to our spies for his terrorist links. He may have been privy to information about others he met in Afghanistan who could have posed a threat to all of us back here in Canada. CSIS would have been remiss, and professionally negligent in my view, if they had not run down every possible intelligence lead and elected not to talk to Mr. Khadr, even if it meant going to Cuba.
I have written it before and I will repeat it here. I do not know if Mr. Khadr is a reformed man. I do not know if he regrets what he did, the ideology he subscribed to, or the associations he made. Only he knows that. I do wish him well on his continued journey to ‘normalcy’ but Canada did not make Mr. Khadr a terrorist. He did that himself, with the help of his family. That, in the end, is something we must not forget.
The payment of compensation to Canadians who claim to have suffered ill treatment at the hands of other nations at our behest has become a mini-industry. We are doling out millions to people for reasons that are not always clear, at least not to me. This has to stop. We cannot continue to offer knee-jerked apologies to everyone who ‘palled around’ with terrorists or engaged in terrorist activity and then suffered as a result. And we should not offer money to those who were mistreated by other nations: those responsible for the ill-treatment should pay.
I am not a slippery slope argument fan but I do fear that if we don’t nip this trend in the bud we will see many more cases along these lines. What is next: someone sues CSIS because of a routine interview after which they felt ‘stressed’? Do we want CSIS to do its job or not?
I repeat, this merry-go round of apologies and money has to stop.
Phil Gurski spent more than 30 years in the Canadian intelligence community. His latest book "The Lesser Jihads" is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Commentary by Binoy Kampmark in Melbourne, Australia
It was a moment of delightful reflection. The indecently smug politicians of a distant island continent, wealthy, cruel in refugee policy and lazy in development, stunned by encountering a short fused U.S. President who had little time for a “dumb” deal.
That deal, prematurely hatched during the last stages of the Obama administration with the Turnbull government, would see 1,250 refugees on Australia’s questionable offshore centres on Manus Island and Nauru, settled in the United States.
(As Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau heads to Washington for his first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and the province of Manitoba deals with a large number of refugees streaming across the border, Turnbull's experience could prove useful. As ipolitics.ca has reported, the visit comes on the heels of reports of diplomatically bruising phone calls between Trump and both Turnbull and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, in which he apparently broke diplomatic protocol and slammed both for an Australian-US refugee-swapping deal and Mexico’s handling of “tough hombres.”)
Australia’s fanatical insistence on not processing refugees and asylum seekers arriving by sea lanes has produced a flawed and unsustainable gulag system in the Pacific, along with deals of mind scratching eccentricity.
Poorer countries such as Cambodia and Nauru are deemed appropriate processing centres and places of re-settlement, despite local hostilities and incompatibilities. Wealthier countries such as New Zealand tend to be ignored as optional points since resettlement there, should it happen, would be embolden new arrivals. The one exception – the United States – was largely premised on both its distance from Australia and daftness of mind amongst Canberra’s policy fraternity.
In its desperation to find customers in the global supermarket of refugee shopping, Washington offered a tentative hand to feed the Australian habit. That hand was rapidly withdrawn on Donald Trump’s signing of the Executive Order banning travel from seven mainly Muslim states. Many of these nationals feature in the 1,250 total, with Iranians making up the largest cohort. (It was a deal that Turnbull, incidentally, refused to condemn: Australia, he realises, knows what bans and bars to immigrants and refuges look like.)
According to the Washington Post, Trump explained in exasperated fashion to Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull by phone that the agreement was “the worst deal ever” and made it clear he was “going to get killed” politically if it was implemented. In his pointed assertion, Turnbull was effectively attempting to export the “next Boston bombers” to the United States. Australia, usually painfully supine before the wishes of the United States, had surprised Trump with “the worst call by far.”
Caught by the icy fury of the Trump blast, the conversation between the two leaders was cut short: what was slated for an hour became a 25 minute heckle and boast. The size of Trump’s electoral college win was reputedly mentioned, while the number of refugees was inflated.
Did The Donald hang up on the stunned Turnbull? The meek response followed: “I’m not going to comment on the conversation.” The official record from Washington made the school boy encounter dully deceptive: “Both leaders emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the US-Australia relationship that is critical for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.”
Taking to his preferred medium of announcement and expression, he tweeted in disbelief that he could be bound by a previous undertaking: “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”
Turnbull preferred an Alice in Wonderland approach to Trump’s tongue lashing, beating a hasty retreat down the rabbit hole in confused hope. Citing what seemed to be a distinctly different, mutated conversation, a brow beaten Turnbull preferred to refer to the president’s official spokesman who confirmed that “the president … would continue with, honour the agreement we entered into with the Obama administration, with respect to refugee settlement.”
This parallel diplomacy approach was also adopted before the National Press Club: “The Trump administration has committed to progress with the arrangements to honour the deal… that was entered into with the Obama administration, and that was the assurance the president gave me when we spoke on the weekend.”
To be fair to the confused Turnbull, the Trump administration is proving to be quite a tease. Volcanic contradictions are fizzling out of the White House on a daily basis, the toddler, as he has been accused of being, ever erratic with his tempers. Trump pours cold water on the deal; the White House spokesman Sean Spicer, probably informed by a different set of whispers, comes up with another statement that Washington would, in fact, follow through:
“The deal specifically deals with 1,250 people,” explained Spicer to the White House press corps, “they’re mostly in Papua New Guinea, being held… there will be extreme vetting applied to all of them as part and parcel of the deal that was made.”
Even if this near aborted deal were to revive in spectacular confusion, it would only apply to refugees who “express an interest” in being settled in the US, and who satisfied an “extreme vetting” regime. Numbers matter less than process, or, in the words of secretary of the immigration department Mike Pezzullo from November, this was “a process-driven arrangement rather than a numerical arrangement.” What price humanity.
This entire incident is being taken as a litmus test of Trump’s relations with his allies. Will the man boy behave or berate? Towards Mexico and Australia, his approach is one of irritable businessman rather than sober statesman.
Nor should the other side be neglected in this farcical cut of entertainment. Canberra could have embraced the other option, one unacceptable for the Turnbull government: abide by the Refugee Convention and duly settle the refugees in Australia. Can the cant; observe international law. Trump’s fumes of indignation would be avoided and Canberra would be doing something near unprecedented: implementing an approach of independence and obligation.
Commentary by Jonathan Manthorpe in Vancouver
How does Donald Trump’s mind work? The Beijing government hasn’t a clue; neither does the rest of the world. Maybe the president-elect’s thinking is a mystery even to himself.
Sensibly, Chinese Communist Party leaders have opted not to interpret Trump’s telephone conversation on Friday with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen as a deliberate act jettisoning nearly 40 years of careful obfuscation that has kept the peace between Washington and Beijing.
Instead, the men behind the high red wall of the Zhongnanhai leaders’ compound in Beijing decided to say that the phone call was a “petty trick” by Tsai. “For Trump,” said a state-controlled newspaper, “it exposed nothing but his transition team’s inexperience in dealing with foreign affairs.”
So Beijing has decided that for the moment there should be no crisis. Trump, though, seems reluctant to go along with that idea and appears, in fact, to be setting up the Beijing regime as a whipping boy. On Sunday evening he used his preferred method of communication with the world — Twitter — to say:
“Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into … their country (the U.S. doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don’t think so!”
This suggests that, unlike the other promises he has already abandoned, Trump might charge ahead with his campaign vow to stick massive duties on Chinese imports.
That could pose a threat to the survival in power of the Chinese Communist Party — whose Mandate of Heaven is now expressed in the growth of China’s gross domestic product. And that is a far more pressing question for Beijing than the fate of Taiwan
But the Taiwan question cannot be ignored. The Communist Party claims the island and its 23 million people are “a renegade province” that must be gathered into the bosom of Mother China — by force if necessary. Three generations of Chinese have been indoctrinated at school with this mantra, even though it has little historic, legal or political merit. But there is a long history of authoritarian states being mauled to death by the hyper-nationalism they have fostered in order to stay in power.
So there are reasons to applaud the phone call between Trump and Tsai. It is shining a bright light on the iniquities visited upon the people of Taiwan, a vibrant democracy with one of the world’s most successful and sophisticated economies, by the sleazy deal between Washington and Beijing.
The breach of protocol established in 1979 would be far more welcome if someone more trustworthy than Trump were about to become the U.S. president. It’s hard to believe that Trump will see through what he started on Friday, that the ridiculous “one China policy” will be ditched, and that Taiwan will be able to take its proper position as an internationally recognized independent nation.
As with so many U.S. diplomatic follies of the last half century, the blame for this one can be laid at the feet of Henry Kissinger.
Like Trump, Kissinger’s capacity for self-promotion has successfully masked his lack of more useful talents. In 1971, Kissinger was President Richard Nixon’s national security advisor when he went to Beijing to negotiate with Premier Zhou En-lai the establishment of diplomatic relations.
At the time, Washington still recognized as the legitimate government of China the old Kuomintang regime of Chiang Kai-shek, which had fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists.
Premier Zhou played Kissinger like a violin. Despite Nixon’s insistence that Taiwan’s independence must be guaranteed, Kissinger told Zhou that he could foresee the island becoming part of China. He also agreed to “acknowledge” China’s claim to Taiwan. This wording — which the Chinese usually translate as “accept” — has remained part of the problem.
(In contrast, when then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was negotiating Canada’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Beijing, he insisted that Ottawa would only “note” the Communist Party’s claim to Taiwan. Most other countries have followed the Canadian model.)
The establishment of Washington-Beijing diplomatic relations meant that the fiction that the Chiang regime in Taiwan was the true government of China could not continue. In 1979, during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the U.S. ended formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan — though, like most other countries (including Canada), it keeps an unofficial embassy in Taipei and continues to have a military and intelligence relationship with the government.
With this ambiguous diplomatic and legal relationship has gone what is known as the “one China policy,” which Beijing has insisted other governments, especially Washington and Taipei, accept as a condition of economic relations.
In essence this policy says that everyone accepts that there is only “one China.” What constitutes China is left undefined. Beijing, of course, says China includes Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party is its sovereign authority.
In Taiwan, around 90 per cent of the island’s people want to keep their independence. If pushed, they will say there is indeed only one China — but Taiwan is not part of it.
The same goes in Washington. So for nearly 40 years, peace has been maintained across the Taiwan Strait and relations between Beijing and Washington have continued without serious conflict because everyone has agreed to accept there is “one China” without asking what that means.
U.S. administrations have added a couple of other ambiguities to this “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” approach. There is domestic legislation — the 1979 Taiwan Affairs Act — which requires Washington to help defend Taiwan if it is attacked. It is left up to each Washington administration, however, to decide how enthusiastically it rushes to Taiwan’s defence. As U.S.-China economic interdependence has grown, it has become less and less likely that any Washington administration would go to the wall for 23 million Taiwanese, even if they are part of the democracy circle.
And in a sop to Beijing, successive U.S. presidents have kept well away from any formal or even informal association with their Taiwanese counterparts.
That’s why Trump’s phone conversation with Tsai stands out.
It’s not entirely clear that it has dawned on Trump yet that, on January 20, he will become the U.S. president. He is still acting like someone who just won a game show and is revelling in the attention showered on him by groupies.
Whether the phone call means anything more than that will be seen after January 20.
Republished under arrangement with ipolitics.ca
Commentary by Alireza Ahmadian in Vancouver
More than a year of since assuming office, the Liberal government has sadly still not fulfilled its campaign pledge to restore diplomatic relations with Iran. It is moving in the right direction, but the pace is slow.
Prime Minister Justine Trudeau said in June 2015 that he wanted to normalize relations with Iran. In September, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly to address status of relations between the two countries and discussed consular services.
On Monday , ipolitics.ca reported that Liberal Member of Parliament for Richmond Hill, Majid Jowhari, hosted a few Iranian parliamentarians in his office. They talked about issues such as trade, people-to-people ties and human rights.
Conservative Iran policy
The Harper Conservatives broke diplomatic relations with Iran in September 2012.
Countries rarely break diplomatic relations with one another even if they are at war. The common sense approach is that it is much better to engage in dialogue about differences than to stop talking.
Diplomacy is not about pandering to interests groups, self-righteous statements, ideology, and political posturing. Diplomacy, in its non-coercive approach, is the art of having difficult conversations especially with countries that are different from us.
That was not the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)’s approach to diplomatic relations with Iran. The same culture still persists in the CPC.
In his reaction to Jowhari’s meeting with Iranian parliamentarians, Peter Kent, Conservative MP for Thornhill, said that “good many Persian Canadians are disappointed to hear that such a meeting took place”, and that he would have declined to meet with the Iranians.
Story of two e-petitions
It is commendable to see that Kent cares about what the Iranian Canadians think about Canada’s relations with Iran. He is definitely aware that there are currently two open e-petitions on the website of the Parliament of Canada representing two views about relations with Iran.
The first one, sponsored by Jowhari, calls on the Government of Canada to restore diplomatic relations with Iran “as matter of utmost importance” and has received 9,144 signatures. The second one sponsored by Kent has got 596 signatures.
These represent two different approaches to diplomacy.
Kent and his party should expand the circle of the Iranian Canadians they engage with to at least understand other perspectives.
There have been different waves of emigration from Iran to Canada after the 1979 revolution. Iranians have left Iran for a variety of reasons. Their understanding of the Islamic Republic and its nature, and their experiences with different governments in Iran are not the same. Consequently, they advocate for different policies because they look at the same picture but see different aspects.
The Conservative Party seems to rely only on one narrative about Iran while ignoring others that can be useful and help Canada to better promote its national interests.
One of the most revealing illustrations of my concern about this tunnel vision is a meeting that then Prime Minister Stephen Harper had with a few members of the Iranian Canadian community, in Sept. 2012 (Full disclosure: I worked with four of the invitees on human rights issues and one more is a dear friend of mine).
People to people
The Conservatives should have asked the respected guests about the last time they had visited Iran and their current links to Iran, beyond sentimental attachments, language and opinions about what a better future could look like for Iran. Some have not been to Iran in decades.
It is noteworthy that Conservative MPs who won the support of the Iranian diaspora in areas such as the North Shore and Tri-Cities ridings in metro Vancouver, and Richmond Hill and Willowdale in greater Toronto – where there are sizable Iranian immigrant communities – failed in the last federal election.
Liberal candidates won all these ridings and their Iran policy undoubtedly played a pivotal role in their success.
Canada has achieved nothing by cutting diplomatic ties with Iran. As Canada works to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran, people-to-people exchanges such as the meeting at Jowhari’s office are useful to enhance mutual understanding.
Alireza Ahmadian is a Vancouver-based writer and researcher. He holds a Master's degree of arts in international affairs and diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has appeared on BBC World News and BBC Persian to discuss world affairs and has published on online forums such as New Canadian Media, BBC, and foreign policy blogs. He is also a policy advisor to the Iranian Canadian Congress.
News Analysis by NCM Newsroom
Days after being sworn in as prime minister on November 4 last year, Justin Trudeau listed priority tasks for his ministers.
Like that of his colleagues, the list for John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, drew much from the Liberal party’s election promises.
While resettling Syrian refugees was the number one priority, McCallum was told that his overarching goal was “to reopen Canada’s doors to welcome those who want to contribute to its success.”
The wording was clever. While it tried to highlight the previous Conservative government’s reluctance to open Canada’s door to refugees, it retained the essence of what the country’s need for immigrants has always been: It’s the economy, stupid.
And, McCallum has stuck to the time-tested script. Tabling this year’s report on immigration targets in parliament, he said the government is boosting the base number of immigrants to be admitted next year to 300,000. The previous annual targets from 2011 to 2015 was 260,000, but it swelled to 300,000 this year on account of the Syrian arrivals. The last time this base figure was reached was way back in 1913.
Attempting to give this annual setting of targets a more long-term view, the minister told reporters that it “lays the foundation for future growth." What was unsaid is that last year’s election rhetoric for letting in more refugees was a one-off political gesture meant to to induce a feel-good across the country and reinforce the "Canada is back" mantra.
Although the 2017 intake targets includes 40,000 refugees and protected persons, it is down from nearly 56,000 this year. Also slightly down is the number of people who would be let in on humanitarian or compassionate grounds: 3,500 against this year’s 3,600.
And when it comes to government-assisted refugees, the numbers are far lower. The number for 2017 is 7,500, down from nearly 20,000 admitted so far this year, and still fewer than the nearly 10,000 admitted in 2015.
Like the previous government, the targets focus on boosting entries for those in the "economic" class. It has been increased to 172,500 from 160,600. In the family class, the number of sponsored spouses, partners, children, parents and grandparents will climb to 84,000 from 80,000.
Signalling left, turning right
While people in the settlement sector would bemoan the cuts to refugee intake given the continuing crises around the world, others would call it pragmatism. Those less charitable to the Liberals would say they are back at their game of signalling left, turning right.
The Liberals know that Canadians will not continue to be supportive of refugee resettlement. Reports about the government being caught off guard by the large number of children each Syrian family had in tow would cast doubts about the whole manner of bringing them in, starting from the vetting process.
Keeping both public perceptions and capacity constraints in mind, the government has astutely kept in abeyance its own economic growth council’s recommendation to raise annual immigration levels to 450,000 over the next five years.
However, it is doubling down on bringing in economic immigrants. Early on, Ottawa indicated that it would be more positively inclined towards international students becoming permanent residents, with McCallum terming them as “the perfect immigrants.”
The Express Entry immigration selection system, the key change to the economic immigration stream made by the previous government, is now being seen as a tool to also promote family reunification. The idea is to give candidates with family members already in Canada additional points.
The unsettling thing about the emphasis on immigration levels is the indifferent attitude towards the very feature that makes our system unique: one of the shortest paths to citizenship, that over 80 per cent of immigrants eagerly choose to take. At least until recently.
The number of citizenship applicants has plummeted for the second year in a row after the more than a doubling in the application fee from $300 to $630. For a while it was $200, after being at $100 for a long time.
Evidently, citizenship applications are down. Only 36,000 citizenship applications were received from January to June this year, a little more than one-third of the number for the same period last year, according to data obtained for policy analysis by Andrew Griffith, a retired immigration department director-general. In 2015, a total of 130,000 applications were submitted compared to an average of 200,000 in the previous years.
While $630 itself is a hefty sum, the actual cost incurred could be much more if one includes the fee (around $200) for a language proficiency test that many applicants would need to take, and further for the Canadian passport (minimum $120). And, in the case of persons from source countries like India that do not allow for dual citizenship, the expenses add up. The fee to process the giving up of Indian citizenship and obtaining a new visa would take the costs to well over $1,500.
Imagine a family of four needing to spend $6,000 when struggling economically to put roots in a new country. No one is suggesting that citizenship should come cheap, but forcing those on the cusp of becoming citizens to bear the whole cost of the process is rather unfair. Especially when the government is ready to waive or subsidize fees for refugees. How much more do new Canadians need to do to become citizens of a country they cheerily chose?
More importantly, isn't ultimate citizenship the whole point of welcoming new immigrants in the first place?
Whereas the Liberals were critical of all the changes to immigration rules made by the Harper government, they were coy about reviewing the citizenship fee during the election campaign. Now that they hold the reins and are reviewing Bill C6 to amend the Citizenship Act, there is still no mention of any adjustment to the fee.
While tax-paying permanent residents are already an underclass unable to vote even in local elections, this disenfranchisement is now set to grow and become a permanent feature of our polity. It calls into question our own understanding of democracy and surely not something we should be proud of.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all NCM columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of New Canadian Media.
Commentary by Howard Anglin
There are some ideas so daft that it takes a very smart person to think of them. Or, in the case of a new proposal to triple Canada’s population to 100 million by the end of the century, it takes an entire committee of smart people.
The authors of this particular idea are the fourteen members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, who issued their first report last week. To most Canadians, the idea is so preposterous as not to bear analyzing. Crumple it up and start again. But, as these are supposed to be serious thinkers — selected, according to a government press release, “because they are recognized, forward-thinking individuals in their respective fields” — it’s worth taking their proposal at face value.
Dominic Barton, the global managing partner of management consulting giant McKinsey & Co and the committee’s chief advocate of “a Canada of 100 million,” worries that without significant population growth, Canada’s international “relevance” will suffer. This is an odd thing to say, and an even odder thing to care about. How many Canadians, waking in the dark this morning, bundling their children into winter jackets and out the door to school, give two pucks for Canada’s “relevance”?
The disconnect between Mr. Barton, who lives in London, and the concerns of most Canadians was described in a recent column by Peggy Noonan as “something we are seeing all over, the top detaching itself from the bottom, feeling little loyalty to it or affiliation with it.”
“In Manhattan,” she says, “I see the children of the global business elite marry each other and settle in London or New York or Mumbai.” Having lived in London, New York, Washington DC and Ottawa (though not Mumbai), I’ve seen this phenomenon up close. Mr. Barton and his transnationalist peers think of Canada in terms of personal convenience and corporate expediency; to most Canadians, it means their home and community.
According to the Canadian Press, Mr. Barton believes “the world would benefit from a larger version of Canada’s stable, diversified democracy and economy” — but in the same breath he admits that 100 million “is a big number” that “would obviously change the country considerably.”
He fails to explain why we should believe Canada would remain the peaceful, pluralist society we currently enjoy after we added 65 million new people. Or why we would risk our remarkable and (looking around the world) extremely rare security and prosperity for … for what? “Relevance?”
There is no reason to think a Canada of 100 million would be a better place to live and good reasons to think it wouldn’t. Of the twenty countries with the highest per capita GDP, only the United States has more than 100 million people. Most have fewer than 10 million.
The bias against size carries across other national virtues. Happiness? Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland. Income equality? Sweden, Hungary, Norway. Reputation? Sweden, Canada, Switzerland. See a pattern?
The Trudeau government’s own immigration policy belies the Advisory Council’s assumption that more immigration will result in net economic benefits. Under the previous government, economic immigration as a percentage of overall immigration approached 67 per cent; under the new government, it has fallen to 53 per cent. In other words, there is a lot that can be done by better selecting immigrants within existing levels before we consider increasing intake.
It’s true we are a large country, with plenty of open space, but recent immigration has not filled that emptiness and future immigration is likely to follow the established paths to our cities and suburbs. Even at current, historically high immigration levels, Canada’s population is projected to grow by more than 20 million in the next 35 years. Are you ready for a Toronto of 20 million and a Vancouver of 10 million?
None of this will affect the members of Trudeau’s Advisory Council. For them, immigration is something that happens elsewhere. The acres of tract housing sprawling into farmland and greenbelts around our major cities are glimpsed by these people only in the minutes before takeoff and landing. Hopping between leafy downtown enclaves and luxury hotels, they won’t feel the strain on our roads, hospitals and schools, or the deterioration of our built and natural environments.
Industry Minister Navdeep Bains has already cautioned that he is hearing pushback from Canadians. This isn’t surprising. The government’s own polling shows only 8 per cent of Canadians think immigration should increase, while three times as many believe it is already too high. And that was before the Trudeau government increased annual levels to 300,000 already this year.
A government ignores clear public opinion at its peril — and at the nation’s. Significantly increasing immigration levels in defiance of the clear preference of Canadians, including recent immigrants, invites a sharp public backlash of the kind we’ve seen in the United States, the U.K. and Europe. Those who decry Trumpism should be the most vocal opponents of this proposal.
Unlike management consultants, citizens ask questions that are beyond the Advisory Council’s remit. Questions like: What will it mean to be Canadian after we’ve added 65 million new people? What holds our society together when immigration is so rapid that integration becomes impossible?
However smart the Advisory Council members may be, it’s average Canadians who are displaying common sense. They know that size is not a meaningful measure of national success. And they have seen from experience that when immigration is accelerated too quickly, multiculturalism becomes a centrifugal force — no longer holding successive waves of immigrants in a stable tension but driving us apart.
Howard Anglin was the chief of staff to Canada’s minister of Citizenship and Immigration from 2011 to 2013.
By arrangement with ipolitics.ca
Commentary by Bhupinder Liddar
Did the seismic shift in Canada's political landscape, a year ago, following the election on October 19, 2015, also trigger a shift in Canada’s diplomacy, defence and development agenda? To a large extent, yes, and for the most part for the better.
The first strong signal of change in policy came immediately after the election when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared Canada’s intention to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas 2015. The former Conservative government of Stephen Harper had been dragging its feet on this issue and most of Western Europe was devising ways to block their entry.
Canada re-surfaced at the United Nations – the world family of 193 nations. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s disdain, disrespect and disapproval of anything to do with the UN was well-known, resulting in Canada’s isolation at the UN, including losing its bid for a seat at the Security Council, the ultimate decision-making body on world affairs. While Harper rebuffed the UN, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraced the world body, and addressed the General Assembly in September declaring, “Canada is back” on the international scene.
Good money after bad
In re-emerging at the UN, Canada also pledged financial assistance to various UN agencies that was withdrawn by the previous Conservative government. One must, however, caution against throwing good money after bad, in the case of UN agencies, as they are rife with inefficiency. The previous Conservative government was adamant in demanding accountability before approving funding for any UN requests for financial assistance.
A country the size and strength of Canada can leverage its influence effectively and efficiently through multilateral organizations. Hence, Canada seems to be enhancing its role in various international and regional organizations, including, the G-20, NATO, and the African Union, among other forums. While pursuing the Canadian agenda through multilateralism remains an essential part of Canadian diplomatic strategy, bilateral relations are also playing an important part, as with Prime Minister’s state visit to China in September and various foreign heads of government knocking on Ottawa’s door.
Pursuit of free trade agreements goes on with the same vigour as under the Conservatives. The Canada-India Free Trade agreement seems to have died with the defeat of the Harper Conservative government. Much too much energy was wasted on this agreement, which at the end was designed to appease Canadian voters of Indian origin, most of whom were not too impressed or thrilled with the blatant and transparent vote-getting antics.
Canada’s relations with the United States of America are foremost on Canada’s diplomatic agenda. Trudeau has restored much needed personal diplomacy with U.S. President Barack Obama, who addressed the Canadian Parliament in June. And, Trudeau was the first Canadian Prime Minister to be hosted at a White House State Dinner, in March, in almost two decades.
Within a year of coming to power, the Liberal government has kept its commitment to climate change agenda, by signing the Paris Agreement on controlling carbon emissions.
Canada has resumed an active role in defence matters, too, with a promise to participate in UN peacekeeping operations. The problem is that while Prime Minister Trudeau committed to providing 600 Canadian Armed Forces troops, we have not found a place to deploy them. The government seems to have put the cart before the horse.
Showcase our pluralism
Consistent with the previous government, Canada is actively monitoring Russian jockeying in the Baltics and Ukraine. It has pledged to contribute more troops, as part of NATO’s efforts to protect and ensure sovereignty of the Baltic states.
Whereas the Harper government was hostile to an international development agenda and inflicted serious financial cutbacks to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Liberal government has resumed Canada’s role in providing humanitarian and development assistance, be it immediate help in the aftermath of the recent hurricane in the Caribbean or funding women’s education and literacy programs to furthering gender equality, under the aegis of UN agencies.
As for the future, the volume of consular matters will continue to increase and become more challenging, both because of changing demographics and dealing with countries that have different value and legal systems.
Instead of indulging in cost-cutting exercises, Canada needs place more diplomats in foreign missions. We should end the practice of replacing Canadian diplomats with locally-engaged staff.
One hopes that the year-old Trudeau government will continue to make Canada’s presence felt on the international scene, as it has in the past year, and showcase the Canadian experiment in building a pluralistic and multicultural society.
Bhupinder S. Liddar, is a former Canadian diplomat and publisher/editor of “Diplomat & International Canada” magazine. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.liddar.ca
Commentary by Bhupinder Liddar
Canada will re-emerge on the world scene, after a decade of absence, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, next week on Tuesday.
While Canada’s former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper shunned the 193-member world body, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to give all he and his delegation can, at the United Nations on September 19 and 20. Canada is looking to “making meaningful contributions to solving important global challenges, such as climate change, international peace and security, and refugees and migration,” according to Prime Minister Trudeau.
“The Government of Canada is committed to redefining its place in the world and promoting core Canadian values like diversity and inclusion, gender equality, and respect for peace worldwide,” according to the statement announcing the Prime Minister’s visit to New York. It adds, Trudeau will advocate for greater global leadership to address refugee and migrant crises, reiterate Canada’s intention to once again play a major role in peacekeeping and conflict prevention efforts, and encourage countries to follow through on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
This is exactly what Canada is all about and known for on world stage. This is the kind of engagement, on the international level, that befits Canada. These are Canadian values that Canada can project through engagement with the international community at the United Nations.
Canada is a founding member of the United Nations, playing a key role in drafting the UN Charter. The intent of setting up the organization by some 50 countries, following the disastrous Second World War, was to establish a regular forum for world leaders to meet and consult on various issues and to help resolve issues before they escalate into full-fledged conflicts or humanitarian disasters.
Foreign leaders, from presidents to prime ministers to foreign ministers meet, often on an informal basis, at the UN General Assembly session every Fall, in New York.
Canada has made tremendous contributions, disproportionate to its size, over the decades, to world peace through its efforts at the United Nations, be it through contributions to peacekeeping operations, development assistance, or just playing the role of an honest broker.
Canada was instrumental in resolving the Suez Canal crisis in 1950s, under the leadership of Foreign Affairs Minister and later Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts and in helping establish peacekeeping operations.
A Canadian, John Humphreys, played a key role in helping draft UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a milestone in the history of human and civil rights. Canada also played a significant role in helping draft the International Law of the Seas Treaty, establish the International Criminal Court, and getting agreement on banning landmines, under the leadership of former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, among many other achievements.
Insulting the UN
Unfortunately, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper shunned and despised the UN. On two occasions, in 2012 and 2013, Harper, while in New York at the same time as the UN General Assembly session, refused the invitation to address it – the most insulting gesture by any leader to the world body.
Harper instead sent, then Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, in his place.
Harper disgraced Canada and its legacy on the international stage. Many thought it hurt Canada’s international reputation.
The international community took note of this slight. Because, when it came time to elect five non-permanent members to the prestigious Security Council of the UN, Canada was defeated for the first time in its attempt to seek a seat, in 2010.
Fortunately, the damage is being repaired and Canada is ready to resume its traditional responsible and active role on world stage. Prime Minister Trudeau announced in March that Canada will seek to win back a seat on Security Council for the 2021-22 term.
He added, “It’s time for Canada to step up once again ...We are determined to revitalize Canada’s role in peace-keeping ...We are determined to help the UN make even greater strides in support of its goals for all humanity”.
Canadians ought to be proud that their country is be back on the international stage, playing an active and much-needed role in making a better world, for all humanity.
Bhupinder S. Liddar is a former Canadian diplomat and founding editor/publisher of “Diplomat & International Canada” magazine. Contact: email@example.com or visit www.liddar.ca
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit