History keeps happening. And with each new twist — each new reminder that the world has been knocked off balance since 2016 — Canada’s political leaders are forced to decide how this country should navigate a precarious new reality.
“There are moments in history,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday afternoon as her government announced new measures to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “when the great struggle between freedom and tyranny comes down to one fight in one place, which is waged for all of humanity.”
“The West and, indeed, countries around the world are united in standing up for Ukraine — not just for Ukraine, but for the principles of democracy and the rule of law that [have] led to tremendous prosperity and stability in our world over the past 75 years,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters moments later.
That feeling that this isn’t the moment for half-measures might help to explain why the world’s democracies have suddenly drawn such a hard line together in Ukraine’s defence.
On Parliament Hill, reactions to the crisis have been split between short and long-term viewpoints.
In the short-term, the Conservatives want the Russian ambassador expelled. The New Democrats want specific oligarchs targeted for sanctions. Both parties want visa requirements dropped for anyone wishing to come to Canada from Ukraine.
During question period on Monday, Conservatives also demanded a ban on imports of Russian oil. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson stood and reported that no crude oil from Russia had been imported into Canada in more than two years. An hour later, the Liberal government implemented a ban on Russian crude anyway.
The long-term viewpoints are fuzzier.
WATCH: MPs debate Canada’s approach to Ukraine crisis
The Conservatives want to talk about military procurement and a renewed emphasis on the Arctic. The Liberals are already committed to a significant increase in defence spending, but a renewed debate about Canada’s ability to defend itself seems inevitable.
Conservatives also are demanding new efforts to quickly develop and export Canada’s oil and gas with an aim of helping Europe reduce its dependence on Russia’s fossil fuels.
For some politicians, there is no problem that a pipeline can’t solve. But it could be years before Canada has the sort of export capacity such an approach would require.
It also would be short-sighted to focus on production without accounting for any resulting increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Whatever else is going on in the world, climate change is still happening and still threatening to get much worse. In the meantime, Europe could embark on a major push to retrofit its buildings and increase its supply of renewable energy.
WATCH: Canada closes off exports to Russia in response to invasion of Ukraine
Freeland — like the columnist and author she used to be — has for several years now been trying to draw the big picture around world events and has placed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent actions within that frame. On Monday, she said Putin had “attacked the values and the international rules-based order which are the foundations of all of the democracies of the world.”
Freeland’s fears for the “international rules-based order” — her preferred shorthand for the many agreements, alliances and multilateral organizations built after the Second World War to maintain the peace — go back to at least 2017, when she laid out a vision for Canadian foreign policy in a speech before the House.
“Canadians understand that, as a middle power living next to the world’s only superpower, Canada has a huge interest in an international order based on rules,” she said. “One in which might is not always right.”
Two sides of one big problem
In 2018, she told the New York Times that the world was faced with “two related megaproblems” — the erosion of democracy and the threats posed to the international order. Shortly after, she went to Washington, D.C. and put her concerns directly to an American audience in another speech.
“We need to summon Yeats’ oft-cited ‘passionate intensity‘ in the fight for liberal democracy and the international rules-based order that supports it,” she said.
At the time, the Liberal government was more than a year into its campaign to salvage as much as it could of the North American Free Trade Agreement and U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration had just claimed “national security” concerns to justify tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
Six months later, Chinese authorities arrested Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in a barely concealed attempt at hostage diplomacy.
Canadian officials convinced a number of allies to speak out against China’s actions, but it wasn’t until the United States agreed to let tech executive Meng Wanzhou return to China that Kovrig and Spavor were released.
The war in Ukraine is of a different order of magnitude. But the West’s response so far might be something like the “passionate intensity” Freeland was calling for in 2018. Perhaps Canadians and all those who fear a world in which “might makes right” can take some solace in the potential revitalization of the liberal international order.
But even if optimism persists against a backdrop of incredible tragedy in Ukraine, it still might extend only as far as the next American presidential election — the result of which could tip the global order again.
Three years ago, at a meeting of the Senate foreign affairs committee, Freeland was asked if she could identify the biggest threats to the international rules-based order. The biggest threat, she said, was “at home.”
“The greatest threat is if we lose faith in ourselves, and if we ourselves lose faith in liberal democracy and in the idea that liberal democracy works,” she said.
She proceeded to riff on her government’s economic policies and the importance of a strong middle class. But if there’s a connection between the strength of individual democracies and the strength of the international rules-based order, it might be said that the recently departed “freedom convoy” and the fight for Ukraine are at two ends of a very large debate.
That suggests this challenge won’t be solved by banning Russian oil, expelling an ambassador or scrambling to get natural gas to Europe. And it won’t go away even if Ukraine is saved.
'Canada is not immune,' leading Black voices say in response to Buffalo mass shooting – CBC.ca
Members of the Black community in Canada on Monday are warning this country is also vulnerable to hate crime as they react with shock and horror to Saturday’s bloodshed in Buffalo that left 10 Black people dead.
“Canada is not immune to it,” Velma Morgan, the chair of Operation Black Vote Canada, told CBC News Monday.
“We’ve seen what happened at different places of worship, we see what happens in London, Ont., we’re definitely not immune to it at all.”
Payton Gendron, 18, is accused of a racist rampage after he crossed the state to target people at the Tops Friendly Market in one of Buffalo’s predominantly Black neighbourhoods. He had talked about shooting up another store as well, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told CNN.
Authorities in Buffalo are working to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page manifesto posted online, which identifies the accused by name as the gunman. It cites the “great replacement theory,”‘ a racist ideology that has been linked to other mass shootings in the United States and around the world.
Referring to a Statistics Canada report, which says hate crimes against Black Canadians increased by 96 per cent over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Morgan says Canadians should “absolutely” be concerned when it comes to tolerance and diversity.
“We definitely have to be very conscious of [hate crimes against Black people] and we have to, I think, pre-empt it,” Morgan said.
“We need to start doing things to prevent that kind of behaviour here.”
‘It’s just horrifying’
Morgan says she was horrified when she heard of, and saw, the news of the Buffalo shooting.
“Just to think that on Saturday, people are doing their shopping, as we all do on a Saturday morning … And to think they were shot, killed simply because they were Black. It’s just horrifying,” she said.
“He didn’t just turn up at a store. He planned it. He planned to go to this place because he knew and probably had been there before. He knew that the majority of people there were Black. It was a Black community,” Morgan added.
“His alleged manifesto talks about Black people and our inferiority and all the things that he thinks are wrong with us. So, you know, it’s systemic racism, it’s a lack of education within the school system, educating people on people’s rights and people’s worth.”
Amanda Bartley, a human behaviour researcher and a board member with Family Service Toronto, says Black people experience fresh trauma whenever there’s an attack like the one in Buffalo.
“It’s super traumatizing to see your people gunned down and murdered, whether it’s at the hands of a civilian or even the police,” she said.
Bartley says Canadian leaders need to “call out white supremacy … and be much more proactive in addressing hate crimes and far right violence before it even occurs.”
“It feels like we’re constantly tiptoeing and we’re stopping short of saying that we have a white supremacist problem,” she said.
Birgit Umaigba, an ICU nurse in Toronto, took issue with a tweet by Catherine McKenna, Canada’s former minister of the environment and climate change, who said she was “feeling very fortunate to live in Canada — a diverse and tolerant country that values freedom while respecting human rights.”
Reading the news today, I’m feeling very fortunate to live in Canada – a diverse and tolerant country that values freedom while respecting human rights. We aren’t perfect and building our country is an ongoing project but I wouldn’t choose anywhere else. ❤️🇨🇦
“First of all, that was very distressing to read because it was so void of any empathy for the people that had just lost their lives,” Umaigba said.
“I’m not sure which Canada they are talking about, because for me and people who look like me, it is daily racism. Canada has this notion of always so tolerant and welcoming. We are diverse but it is so not true. It’s daily racism here, the institutions are steeped in so much racism.”
She too says Canadians “should be worried.”
“There’s so many examples: the London truck attack … A white supremacist ran into an entire Muslim family and killed them,” Umaigba said.
“The Quebec mosque shooting happened five years ago, so what are we talking about?” she said, referring to a shooting that claimed the lives of six people during prayers at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017.
“People are flying Confederate flags in their houses as we speak right now.”
Umaigba says the burden should not be on Black people alone to both suffer and combat racism.
“We need white people to step up. We are suffering because of that. Yes, there are good ones. I’m not saying that all white people are racist but we need the good ones, the allies, the co-conspirators, to step up and do the work,” she said.
“A lot of us are not OK. We carry this burden right now of the Buffalo shooting,” Umaigba added.
‘White folks have work to do too’
Amie Archibald-Varley lives in Binbrook, a community in southeastern Hamilton about 90 kilometres from Buffalo.
Like Umaigba, Archibald-Varley says “white folks have work to do too” and is encouraging white people to talk about the shooting with their colleagues, spouses and children.
“Hate is not something that is innate, it is learned, it is taught,” she said.
“We also need to talk about how we can educate about racism within our school systems. I think that’s hugely important,” she said.
Meanwhile, Archibald-Varley says incidents like the Buffalo shooting leave Black communities hurt and traumatized.
“I just want to go get groceries and not have to deal with this sh*t. This is crazy,” she said.
“This is not just a U.S. problem. This is a problem here in Canada as well … That could have been any one of us Black individuals.”
She says the entire community needs to band together against racism.
“We can’t keep having these same things happening without stronger laws, stronger policies, without having solidarity from other community members,” Archibald-Varley said.
‘We’re hurt, we’re broken’
Archibald-Varley, who is the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, says while she was raised to be a strong individual, the killings take a toll on members of the Black community.
“As a community we’re hurt, we’re broken, we’re scared, but we’re strong,” she said.
“We’ve seen the damage and the harm perpetuated to us through systemic racism for years, but we are still here and we’re still going to continue to fight for changes that call for accountability, to see better things, better health outcomes, better resources, better representation for Black folks and other racialized folks,” she added.
“We’re grieving together, but we’re strong together as well.”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
Team leader critical of RCMP mental health support after Nova Scotia mass shooting
HALIFAX — The RCMP’s treatment of their tactical team in the days following the April 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia was characterized as “absolutely disgusting” Monday during testimony before the public inquiry examining the killings.
Retired corporal Tim Mills, who headed the 13-member Emergency Response Team, told the inquiry that a lack of mental health support in the week after the rampage that claimed 22 lives is the main reason he left the force after a 29-year career.
“The RCMP as an organization wants to give this impression that they care about their members,” Mills testified. “The way that we were treated after this (Portapique) was disgusting, absolutely disgusting.”
Mills detailed his attempts to get more time for his eight part-time team members to “decompress” after the April 18-19, 2020, rampage instead of quickly returning to general duties at their detachments after the unit was stood down for three days.
He said it was agreed during a debriefing involving team members and three psychiatrists on April 24 that a request would be made for the part-timers to work at headquarters with the full-time team members for a period of two weeks.
“Their advice was to be around like-minded people, talk openly about it, stay busy,” Mills said.
But, he said the request appeared to go nowhere, and by April 29 he was told the part-time team members had to return to their home units.
“There are members off because of Portapique … that are still off today, that didn’t see what we saw. They forced our guys back to work a week and a half after.”
Mills said he pushed to find out who had made the decision, but it all became too much for him by November of 2020. “At that point I was like, ‘I’m done working for a broken organization,’” he said. Mills retired from the RCMP in July 2021.
Meanwhile, Mills and the team’s second-in-command the night of the shootings, Cpl. Trent Milton, gave testimony Monday related to an inquiry document detailing the team’s initial response to the shootings.
Mills said he was first notified of the ongoing situation around 10:45 p.m. on April 18, 2020. The first members of his team arrived outside Portapique just under two hours later.
Milton was the first one there and he said he decided to wait for Mills and the team’s tactical assault vehicle about 10 minutes behind.
“At that time, based on the information and facts that we had, it was what I’ll call a non-active threat, there was no active gunfire and the location of the perpetrator was unknown,” Milton testified, adding that other Mounties were already at the scene.
Soon after its arrival, the team was about to enter Portapique when it was sent to check out several suspicious sightings involving someone with a flashlight outside homes in the community of Five Houses, across a river and nearly three kilometres away.
But they did not have operational tracking and digital mapping devices in their vehicles, while technology that was on their phones and would have allowed team members to locate one another wasn’t working. As a result, they relied on verbal radio directions from commanders to navigate their way in the pitch dark.
At one point, the document notes that Mills had difficulty finding the location of the reported sightings using the instructions he was given over the radio, which also had too many members on it at the time.
He soon asked Staff Sgt. Brian Rehill, who was the risk manager at the RCMP’s Operational Communications Centre in Truro, N.S., to call his cellphone to sort things out.
“If you listen to the radio comms at all, total confusion on that geographical area,” Mills testified. “It was totally pitch black that night, poorly marked roads, rural area. So trying to figure out where to go that night … was frustrating and tough to do.”
Mills also voiced frustration over the team’s next assignment, which was to rescue Clinton Ellison, who had been hiding in a wooded area in Portapique following the killing of his brother Corrie Ellison by the gunman hours before. Mills told inquiry investigators that Ellison would have been found sooner had there been tracking technology or a helicopter overhead to detect a body heat signature.
He said the same may have applied to the gunman’s common-law spouse, Lisa Banfield, who spent the night hiding in the woods and was found by the tactical team the next morning after she sought refuge in the home of a Portapique resident.
The inquiry document confirms that RCMP knew for certain from talking to Banfield at around 6:45 a.m. that gunman Gabriel Wortman was heavily armed and on the loose in a fully marked RCMP cruiser complete with a light bar.
The tactical team was finally updated at 8:20 a.m. with further information that the marked car had a call sign on its side of 28-B11.
During its nearly nine hours in the Portapique area, the tactical team also came across several victims of the gunman and verified that they were dead. Those victims included Corrie Ellison, Lisa McCully and Greg and Jamie Blair.
The team was in the midst of conducting a house-to-house evacuation of the area with a Department of Natural Resources helicopter overhead when police received a 911 call around 9:35 a.m. about a shooting in Wentworth, along with a witness report of an RCMP vehicle leaving the scene.
Const. Trent Milton, another team member, told the commission: “We knew that … was obviously our individual. We had an active threat again, and we were pushed into the threat to try to stop it.” The chase ended shortly after 11:25 a.m. on April 19 when Emergency Response Team officer Const. Ben MacLeod and another Mountie shot Wortman at a gas station north of Halifax.
Mills told commission investigators that he was satisfied with his team’s performance when confronted with a unique situation. “Put it this way,” he said, “you would never dream up a scenario like this, you know, because there’s too much going on at once.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2022.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
Alberta premier visits U.S. capital to talk North American energy security
WASHINGTON — The Alberta government’s all-out effort to become America’s preferred provider of oil and gas will face a critical moment Tuesday as Premier Jason Kenney delivers his province’s sales pitch to some of the most prominent members of the U.S. Congress.
He’ll see some friendly faces, including Sen. Joe Manchin, the swing-vote West Virginia Democrat who has bonded with Kenney over the issue of North American energy security. Others might be less hospitable, like Vermont’s progressive standard-bearer Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Kenney is convinced he has common sense on his side.
“Alberta is by far the largest source of U.S. energy imports — 10 times more than Saudi Arabia, and five times more than all of OPEC combined. I doubt there’s 100 people in the United States who know that,” the premier said Tuesday in a meeting with Canadian journalists in D.C.
“It is deeply frustrating to us. We don’t even seem to show up on the radar screen when it comes to these discussions.”
That’s why the government has installed former Conservative MP James Rajotte at the Canadian Embassy as Alberta’s U.S. emissary. It is also opening new offices this summer in Denver, Chicago and Seattle and has a slick new US$6-million ad campaign based on the tag line “Look North.”
It’s also why the likes of Energy Minister Sonya Savage and Environment Minister Jason Nixon will be racking up frequent-flyer miles to convince a gridlocked Capitol Hill and seemingly indifferent White House of the energy security solution Kenney believes is staring them in the face.
“I think you can expect to see an Alberta delegation of ministers down here in Washington at least every other month,” he said.
“I was here two months ago, they’re going to be here one month from now — we’re going to be really picking up the tempo of our presence here.”
The hearing, to explore the “energy and minerals” partnership between Canada and the U.S., will also feature virtual testimony from Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, as well as Nathalie Camden, Quebec’s deputy minister of mines, and Electricity Canada president Francis Bradley.
Wilkinson said Monday he expects senators will hear a unified message about the vital role Canada can and should play in securing a reliable and sustainable supply of North American energy.
And it will be in that spirit he will remind the committee of the importance of Line 5, a key energy artery between Alberta and Michigan that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is actively trying to shut down out of fear of an ecological disaster in the Great Lakes.
“Part of what I will be saying to the committee on Line 5 is, ‘Let’s not actually take steps backwards,’” Wilkinson said in an interview.
“This is an important part of North American energy security. Yes, it’s important for Canada, but there are American states that also get products off this line. So let’s declare that we need to be moving forward.”
The rare spectacle of a premier at a Senate committee comes at the invitation of chairman Manchin, a household name in Washington these days as a critical — and notoriously unreliable — swing vote for Democrats and President Joe Biden in the evenly divided Senate.
Manchin, who has made no secret of his concerns about rampant inflation in the U.S. as well as soaring energy prices, paid a high-profile visit to Alberta last month, where his message seemed torn directly from Kenney’s United Conservative songbook.
Biden, Manchin said, made a grievous error when he cancelled the presidential permits for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion. It would have ultimately added 800,000 barrels a day of capacity to Alberta’s ability to export oilsands bitumen to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“The Keystone XL pipeline is something we should have never abandoned. Now we wish we hadn’t,” Manchin said during his visit.
Republicans, mindful of midterm elections this November that are widely expected to deliver a sharp comeuppance to Democrats in Congress and in several key statehouses, have also taken to blaming that decision for a dramatic spike in gas prices.
The truth is more complicated: inflationary pressure from a pandemic spending spree, lingering supply chain issues, a shortage of domestic oil and gas production, soaring demand and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have all played an outsized role.
Nor would Keystone XL have been completed and operational in time to make a difference, experts say. Even if it was, it would not likely have resulted in enough of a production increase to make much of a dent. Even the project’s original architect, Calgary-based TC Energy Corp., has written it off.
So why keep talking about it?
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” said Kenney, acknowledging in the same breath that the original expansion project is well and truly “dead.” The private sector, he said, will never put billions in capital on the line considering the political and regulatory climate surrounding pipelines.
But the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion between Edmonton and the B.C. coast faced the same uncertainty until the federal government “de-risked it” by buying it outright, Kenney said, predicting it would be fully operational in another 15 months, creating capacity for an additional 600,000 barrels a day.
“If the U.S. is serious about this energy problem, all I’m saying is, we’ve got the supply. We just need more infrastructure,” he said.
What’s more, Keystone XL taught the industry in general and TC Energy in particular some valuable lessons, Kenney added. That included the importance of using U.S. steel, engaging more closely with Indigenous stakeholders and taking more seriously the concerns of climate activists and protesters about the potential impact of greater oilsands production.
“All of those issues became irritants. I think we could learn from the mistakes of the last 10 years and figure out how to do this in a more intelligent way,” he said.
“But ultimately, if you want the energy, somebody’s got to build the infrastructure.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2022.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press
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