Justin Trudeau's trouble with rose-tinted diplomacy - Macleans.ca

Justin Trudeau’s trouble with rose-tinted diplomacy

Trudeau’s sunny statement on Castro’s death was an egregious white-washing of the dictator’s record

FILE - In this 1958 file photo, Cuba's leader Fidel Castro, center, questions a man charged with banditry as Celia Sanchez looks on during a trial held in the guerrillas' base in the Cuban mountain range of Sierra Maestra. For a quarter century fellow revolutionary Celia Sanchez was Castro's confidante and closest aide before dying of cancer in 1980. President Raul Castro said on state television that his older brother died late Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. He was 90. (AP Photo/Andrew St. George, File)

In this 1958 file photo, Fidel Castro, centre, questions a man charged with banditry as Celia Sanchez looks on during a trial held in the guerrillas’ base in the Cuban mountain range of Sierra Maestra. (AP Photo/Andrew St. George, File)

Many Canadians, like the Trudeaus, have fond memories of their trips to Cuba. Balmy winds and a warm reception can colour your perception of a place. The spectacle of a U.S. neighbour so thoroughly walled off from Uncle Sam’s influence is undeniably novel.

But no amount of rum or Pablo Milanés can erase the crimes and abuses that have kept Cuba an anomaly for so long, and one hopes this is where most Canadians break with their Prime Minister. Social media was aflame on Saturday over Justin Trudeau’s tribute to Fidel Castro on the occasion of the Communist dictator’s death. And rightly so.

MORE: Justin Trudeau’s turn from cool to laughing stock

According to the statement from the PMO, Castro “was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation.”

Improvements there might have been, but this is an egregious white-washing of the man’s legacy. Castro did not serve his people; he served an ideology, and like so many tyrants, he equated the two without regard for the consequences. The task of putting that ideology into practice, and of preserving himself in power, was his excuse to repudiate the freedoms that we dupes in democracies hold dear: of conscience, expression, mobility and association.

These are ideals the Prime Minister is pleased to invoke when it suits him. Yet to read today’s statement, you’d think they’re worth sacrificing for better schools and universal health care. Or that they couldn’t have taken place under a different form of government.

Related: #Trudeaueulogies trends after controversial Castro statement

You’d certainly never imagine the horrors perpetrated in the name of Castro’s regime: arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, torture and the systematic persecution of homosexuals. Some continue to this day under Castro’s brother, Raúl. Yet in the Prime Minister’s statement, Fidel is nothing worse than “a controversial figure” whose “dedication and love for the Cuban people” is recognized by both his supporters and detractors.

“I know my father was very proud to call him a friend,” the Prime Minister’s statement goes on, “and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.

“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”

That’s a lot of admiration to offer on behalf of us all, and let’s be clear about one thing: to reject this golden-hued portrait is not to endorse Fulgencio Batista, or the CIA’s repeated attempts to bump off Castro, or the U.S. trade embargoes that first drove Cuba into the arms of the Soviets and later helped beggar its people. The elder Trudeau was right to engage with Havana. Canadians should take pride in their small part in improving Cubans’ standard of living through trade and tourism.

But Canada was not the only democratic country to do so, and engaging doesn’t necessitate overlooking what independent observers regard as extraordinary suppression of basic liberties—decade after decade, without renewal of political legitimacy.

What’s more, diplomacy does not require you to praise a leader when he dies. It demands nothing more than an expression of sympathy and—however nostalgic Trudeau may be feeling—that seems the right response. Fidel Castro was a dictator who trod on rights that we cherish and that Pierre Trudeau enshrined in our Constitution.


Justin Trudeau’s trouble with rose-tinted diplomacy

  1. This is hardly newsworthy.When King Abdullah died, Harper wrote a laudatory eulogy about the old tyrant but this was scarcely mentioned at the time and there was no explosion of hand wringing articles .

    This is actually he same sort of thing as the Fundraising flap-ministers appearing at fundraisers was routine in the Harper years though that didn’t seem to cause any heartburn to the press at the time, in fact it went completely unremarked..

    Poor old Marty Patriquin moans away every single time he is on Power and Politics about what might have been said if this or that occurred during the Harper years-well those things did occur and not a word was said, so hopefully Marty can let that one go though I doubt it.The view that the high dudgeon of the opposition to things they did themselves as a matter of course is hypocritical does not seem to have occurred to him.

    • At what point are we going to face it and say it is wrong for ANY Canadian Prime Minister to wax on about the wonderful qualities of a dictator and murderous despot in way of a eulogy? I don’t care who the PM happens to be.

    • Agreed.

      The media is just looking fo column fodder

      They didn’t attack Harp as much as they do Trudeau though

      • I know you read this magazine as you comment on many articles on many different topics. I do not understand you, when you say they Pick on Poor Trudeau.Remember the many article by Paul Wells? Remember the Election campaign? I do, and the slant was not towards the Conservatives. The PM made a fool of him self so why not just accept it.

    • I’m curious to know how many people that criticized Trudeau for his comments, if they spent a week or two of their lives, dipping their toes into the nice sandy beaches of Cuba, hope they don’t live in a glass house. I know the conservatives didn’t mind doing business with Castro when they were in power and didn’t mind taking credit for the Castro/Obama summit in Canada either. It’s one of the only few islands that has never been conquered by the US or Britain or any other European conquering nation for that fact, in recent history. Canada chose to talk to Cuba and not try to conquer it, that’s why Canadians can go to a beach in the Caribbean without having to worry about it being overrun by the US or Britain. Dictators are no different sometimes, than conquering colonist nations.

      • Germany has been doing business with Cuba and have been since Castro was in power, as a matter of fact, there are as many or more Germans who do business and vacation in Cuba than in Canada. Germany has a big influence in Cuba.

      • It’s one of the only few islands that has never been conquered by the US or Britain or any other European conquering nation for that fact, FUNNY! I seem to remember Teddy Roosevelt riding charging up some hill there in Cuba? Plus I seem to remember the European Monarchy of Spain kind of running the show there for quite along spell befor Teddy showed up in FULL Regalia on Horseback? Maybe one might want to hone up on History before merely spouting off mindless drivel on public message boards?

      • Never went to Cuba for that simple reason.He is an “FFF””ing murderer. He is a small version of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and other criminals of humanity. Any Canadian that went to Cuba for a holiday was paying Castro to finance his brutalities.

        • people go for one reason..it is cheap..because the slave labor often works for tips only..does not bother the tourists though.
          well, some go because of access to cheap, underage prostitutes

      • LOL check your history..it was overpowered, conquered by the conquistadores of Spain..why there are black people there, descendants of slaves

    • Little Potato has really done it this time. If you want to see our how “Dear Leader” is being mocked around the world, go to Twitter and type in the hashtag #trudeaueulogy.

      Some samples:

      “While a controversial figure, Pol Pot will be fondly remembered as the creator of Skull Jenga.”

      “Bin Laden, while a controversial figure, will always be remembered for his contribution to improving airport security worldwide.”

  2. Trudeau’s statement captured the significance of Fidel Castro’s passing perfectly. This is not the time for venting about the evils of communism, but rather to reach out with support and sympathy to the Cuban people.

    • It is not about Castro’s politics. It is about the number of people he arrested, tortured and murdered and the human rights violations over the 40 years he was dictator of Cuba. Imagine if you will, Putin dying and Justin giving a similarly eloquent speech about his sadness over the loss of Vlad and delivering his condolences on behalf of Canada to the people of Russia, especially the opposition parties and the journalists. It simply isn’t appropriate when so many suffered at the hands of Pierre Trudeau’s dear friend…even if Castro did improve health care and education. The ends don’t justify the means. Given that the Cuban were dancing in the streets, I don’t think they were looking for sympathy but rather understanding of what they endured under his rule.

      • I can only add that the cubans in cuba are saddened and would appreciate Canada’s comforting words. Those cubans dancing in the street are the ones in Florida . It ain’t easy being the leader of a country and choosing words to mark the occasion. I remember Rob Ford’s passing here in Toronto. Everybody took the high road out of respect for his family and followers. Even though 2/3 wanted him out of their lives they bit their tongues. So bottom line, I am not outraged at all.

        • One can send their condolences to the Cuban people without waxing on about the greatness of a leader who oppressed them, held no real elections, arrested those who professed to political views other than his own and died with a fortune said to be 900 million while his people lived in abject poverty and lived amongst crumbling buildings and had no progress since the 1960’s. Anyone who has visited Cuba knows that the Cuban weren’t allowed the same currency as tourists so tourists could’ even tip them in money to make their lives easier. Healthcare and education, great. Respect after death, fine but calling a person “controversial” when is believed to have killed 100K of his dissenters, is not okay. It is great you are not outraged. I am highly disappointed. I am with ex-pats that live in Florida. I read some of their stories of imprisonment and escape. I think a country’s leader has to look at the big picture. I think Andrew Coyne has his pulse on what is happening in this country and this government.

        • Yea Rob Ford never had dissidents executed or gays put into concentration camps though. I know, if you followed the left-wing media in Toronto you might be surprised to learn that. The Canadian left treats Ford, Harper and now that buffoon Trump as if they were murderous, oppressive dictators….but when an actual one dies, some of them praise the guy.

          • that video is from –little Havana–, Miami, Florida USA..NOT Havana Cuba

            people there would not dare such a display. at best they would be photographed and a dossier made on them by the MININT Secre Police..or much worse..beaten b thugs, jailed, tortured

    • Instead of always breathlessly rushing to his defense, Trudeau supporters should consider perhaps occasionally just admitting it when he makes an embarrassing mistake. To do so might provide a modicum of the credibility which is so quickly slipping away.

      • The compulsive outrage of Conservatives over anything Trudeau says or does is so blatantly political and self-serving as to be meaningless. There’s nothing credible here. It’s just the Conservative attack strategy – overwhelming negativity.

        • You are forgetting the journalists who are outraged as well. It would be easy to ignore the fact that in his quest as a great leader, Castro is believed to have killed 100K of his own people. Well….they were people who disagreed with him so maybe he didn’t consider them his own. Further, he was a dictator so he never allowed his people to vote for a replacement. He kept them poor and he made sure they had no access to the currency that visitors to the island were using. If one wanted to tip a Cuban, one didn’t with shampoo and toiletry items like deodarant. Meanwhile they lived fearful lives. They weren’t free to walk through certain parks. They needed passes to go to certain parts of their own island. They couldn’t get in their old car and take a drive for the day. They had no freedom and they had limited options in the food they ate. Much of it was inadequate. Do you realize that Vlad Putin has a 90 percent plus approval rating in Russia? Does it mean he is beloved or are his citizens to afraid to say otherwise?

        • “Nothing credible here”? Lol, it’s Trudeau’s words. You make it sound like some conservative fabricated the statement or took it out of context. So now liberal victim culture extends to whining when people take offense to something our haircut-in-chief says? Man, Justine’s fangirls are something else. People are free to have their opinions that this was a ridiculous statement to make at the death of a murderous despot who lead a totalitarian regime that imprisoned and executed people without trial, that didn’t allow freedom of movement or expression, that arrested people for being gay and threw them into concentration camps. Look at the statement that Obama made, it was pretty neutral, he wasn’t deep-throating Fidel like Justine here was. In other words, a classy statement from a well-respected statesman. I guess that would be too much to expect from the ski instructor we elected.

          • … and what happened to Obama, et al. during the election?

          • Watching this story develop – first from comments by Canadian Conservative leadership wannabes, then from their friends to the South, defeated Republican presidential aspirants, and then equally friendly journalists like Terry Glavin and Charlie Gillis, it’s all a tempest in a teapot being stirred by the usual suspects.

          • actually Canada imprisoned people for homosexual activity up until 1967

      • come on mate, he’s really handsome, that makes him a good leader, no matter what anyone says.

    • why not do that at any time..JT waxed lyrical about Fidel, not the people

  3. Clear measures of Castro’s greatness are the high rate of immigration into Cuba and the thriving LGBTQ2 community there. Nothing more needs to be said.

    • How very true.

  4. Justin Trudeau’s “sunny ways” philosophy of leadership and international diplomacy has just sustained a sudden, painful kick in the groin by the ignominious defeat of Obama/Clintonism. on Nov.8-9, 2016. This, in addition to the unexpected July BREXIT referendum result. (Notice how these momentous events are always “unexpected”). Unexpected by whom one might ask?
    I imagine Trudeau will be limping quite noticeably for the foreseeable future as he attempts to deliver Canada’s progressive globalist agenda to an increasingly skeptical world.
    And to add insult to injury, dear family friend and Communist dictator Fidel Castro decides to call it a day.
    Oh, the pain, Oh, the grieving.

  5. Trudeau is a glamorous photo-op but the veneer is wearing thin.

  6. You know what … I would really like free dental care, medical care and pharmacare too. I spent my working career in Canada making Canada a better place for Canadians. Now that I’m retired, I can barely afford to go to the dentist, get new glasses or get pharmaceuticals. The government pension is barely adequate for daily living expenses. Yet the refugees, and others, get all these benefits (and many more) at my expense absolutely free. So I’ll just have to spend my time on a medical waitlist (up to 20 weeks now) with rotting teeth, no medicine for my ailments in the dark ….

    • Yes, KRAMINATOR, it’s often difficult for formerly productive, self-sufficient Canadian retirees to make ends meet.
      But thanks to our Federal Government, all is not hopeless Kraminator.
      Recently -passed legislation allows you to obtain medically-assisted suicide and euthanasia.
      All you have to do is find two compliant doctors to endorse your wishes.
      Your problems will be solved and the Government will willingly pay the medical costs of the “procedure.”
      You may die with rotten teeth, vision impairment, and lack of therapeutic medications in general. But the “therapeutic” medication to end your miserable life will be readily available to you at the Government’s expense.
      Feeling better and not so hopeless, now?

  7. ..because it is 2016..