WHAT LIBERAL CANADA NEEDS IS MORE CASTRO, generic APPARENTLY
By Kelly McParland, case with permission of the author
Given a choice between saying something nice about his Dad’s Cuban pal, sildenafil and defending the values of democracy and human rights, Justin Trudeau picked the wrong one.
He went with “el Comandante” – the captain, the commander – one of the appellations accorded Cuba’s Fidel Castro during the 50+ years in which treated his country like a personal political project, impoverishing millions while pursuing a self-defeating confrontation with Washington.
“I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away,” noted the Prime Minister. “While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante’ ”.
The Liberal government’s handling of foreign affairs has been perplexing since the day it took power
There probably are Cubans who retain a deep and lasting affection for Castro, just as there are those who think Manuel Noriega and Anastasio Somoza were also swell guys, if a bit misunderstood. But it’s unlikely you’d find many of them among the tens of thousands of Cubans who risked their lives to flee the country in rickety little boats, heading for the shores of the U.S. where they could have all those things Castro wouldn’t permit: freedom, rights, prosperity, the ability to live without fear of being clapped in jail for offending “the maximum leader” or one of his legions of security police. In the months ending in September 2014 alone, 25,000 Cubans arrived in the U.S. without legal papers, seeking asylum from Pierre Trudeau’s great and good friend Fidel. Miami and its environs are filled with Cubans delighted to live outside Castro’s Cuba; many of them celebrated his demise and the hope it brings with it of a better, freer Cuba.
All of this somehow passed beneath the radar of the Prime Minister as he reflected on the passing of Cuba’s “legendary” leader and the great benefits he brought to the country he seized by armed force and refused ever to let slip from his grasp. He “made significant improvements to the education and healthcare” of Cuba, which is true enough but could be said of any number of western democratic leaders in the decades since Castro seized power, but who, unlike him, didn’t consider it earned them a job for life.
Considerable sport has been made of Trudeau’s tribute, but it should probably not come as a surprise that he would be so blundering in his judgment. The Liberal government’s handling of foreign affairs has been perplexing since the day it took power and put the notably mild-mannered Stephane Dion in charge of the file.
Dion has made it a priority to improve relations with all those foreign leaders who found it cumbersome doing business with Harper and his Conservatives, chief among them Russia, China and Iran, none of which enjoyed the warmth and affection of an understanding Ottawa while Harper was in charge. Dion, with Trudeau’s support, has set out to repair the damage. Moscow, lately seen launching a renewed air assault on the battered civilian population of Aleppo, has been notified that Canada is keen on warmer ties. Beijing, whose foreign minister used a visit to Ottawa to berate Canadian journalists for daring to ask him about human rights, has been treated to repeated signals that the Liberals are quite willing to ignore such things. Just recently the Prime Minister underlined that fact by attending a gathering of Chinese billionaires willing to pay for the chance to lobby him, one of whom – no doubt from kind-heartedness alone – kicked in $1 million for a statue of Trudeau’s father. Weeks earlier, another group of wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs toured the country in search of investments to add to their portfolio. Evidently, to Liberals, more China is just what Canada needs, even if Beijing is simultaneously threatening to destabilize Asia by seeking hegemony throughout the South China Sea.
It may bewilder Canadians that Trudeau shows such affection for strongmen, communists, theocrats and presidents-for-life. He comes by it honestly enough, having risen through a Liberal party that swallowed its own myth of Canada as peacemaker and honest broker. In a world where Vladimir Putin can seize Crimea, disrupt Ukraine, shell schools and hospitals in Syria and put nuclear-capable missiles on NATO’s doorstep in Kaliningrad, and still be confident of a firm handshake and understanding words from Stephane Dion, it makes perfect sense to treat Fidel Castro like the beloved patriarch of a grateful nation.
Who knows who may earn an admiring tribute from Trudeau next. Robert Mugabe will be 93 in February, and no one lasts forever….
KELLY McPARLAND BIOGAPHIC INFORMATION:
Kelly McParland was editor of, and a frequent blogger, on “Full Comment” — the National Post Newspaper online blog site — and author of “The Lives of Conn Smythe”, a biography of the founder and builder of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team