It was only last week that Canada’s relations with India, the world’s largest democracy, went downhill fast. The drama became a big international story and when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the United Nations in New York last week, the India affair was pretty much all he was asked about.
Trudeau publicly accused the Indian government of participating in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil—a Sikh independence activist born in India who has been accused of terrorism, a charge he had denied. Trudeau produced no meaningful evidence and India was not happy, creating a chill in relations that included the stopping of all visas for Canadian citizens.
It’s not a good situation, to put it mildly. We can kid ourselves that everyone loves Canada, but the truth is that’s not the case these days and we need to maintain good relations with as many countries as we can. That goes doubly so for a country like India, which is strategically aligned with Canada on many fronts.
The world has since learned that Trudeau’s reckless statements aimed at India was only the opening act for a very low point for Canada. Days later, the House of Commons hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during one of his international tours to rally support for the country during its ongoing war with Russia. While Zelenskyy was standing in the House, the Speaker singled out a guest in attendance: 98 year-old Yaroslav Hunka, who was described as a Ukrainian who had fought the Russians in World War II.
The crowd erupted in applause to honour the old man who most of them had probably never heard of before. Soon after though, it emerged that what fighting the Russians meant in this case was that Hunka volunteered to join a Ukrainian-led Nazi unit. A blog post from 2010 indicates he felt no remorse.
The Trudeau government instantly went into spin mode, claiming they had nothing to do with the invitation. They blamed House Speaker Anthony Rota for inviting the man and not properly vetting his background. After a couple of days of trying to avoid the inevitable, Rota finally resigned on Sept. 26.
The damage was already done at that point, though. The world knows now that the Canadian Parliament gave a standing ovation to a surviving Nazi soldier. The humiliation is hard to live down, regardless of how the scene came to pass.
The challenge for Trudeau is that while his government is desperate to not wear any of the blame for this and turn it all into an embarrassing accident on the part of Rota and Rota alone, people aren’t buying it.
The idea that the Prime Minister’s Office would have nothing to do with vetting the guest list for a foreign leader’s visit to Parliament doesn’t seem believable, according to many people who have worked in senior political offices.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilieivre is demanding more details. “We need to have hearings now into how this was allowed to happen—how it is that the prime minister would have allowed President Zelenskyy to be in a room full of three or four hundred unvetted people,” Poilievre said during a press conference.
It’s a question that the Liberals are desperate to dodge answering. Liberal House Leader Karina Gould has been attempting to deflect by casting blame on the Conservatives for supposedly politicizing the issue. That won’t work, because Poilievre’s question isn’t a partisan one. People genuinely want to know more about how this international embarrassment came to be.
These blunders are different from previous Trudeau government scandals that went international. The blackface scandal, for example, was about Trudeau’s personal problems. These ones are about how our government manages delicate issues related to foreign affairs. They don’t just make us look bad. They make other countries doubt our abilities and attention to detail.
Both the India affair and the Hunka honouring also make it appear that we don’t have a handle on who is actually in our country from a security perspective. A Polish government minister has now indicated that he wants his country to extradite Hunka, sending the signal that Canada has basically been harbouring a criminal for decades. The same goes for concerns around the most violent Khalistan separatists, which is the crux of the India dispute.
Taken together, this low point for Canada is substantial and real. These aren’t gaffes that get erased with the passing of the 24 hour news cycle.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.