A friend of oligarchs and right-wing Ukrainian nationalists: Chrystia Freeland and Canadian imperialism

Bruce Katz

On 13/09/2023

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This article first appeared in The Canada Files on August 2, 2020

Shortly after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Chrystia Freeland to the portfolio of Minister for Foreign Affairs, the U.S. State Department triumphantly crowed, by way of a now declassified memorandum, that Canada had adopted an ‘America first foreign policy’. The memo can be viewed on the U.S. State department web site with the subject line ‘Canada Adopts America First Foreign Policy.’ (1) The date of the memo is March 6, 2017.

Freeland’s entry into politics was managed by Bob Rae, now Canada’s ambassador to the U.N., another Rhodes Scholar (2)  like Freeland herself. Rae served as interim controller of the Liberal Party for several years during the Harper government’s governance and was ‘happy to abdicate his seat to Freeland ensuring her entry into Trudeau’s inner circle and thus becoming his official handler’. (3)

Observers have been puzzled as to why – subsequent to Trudeau’s humiliation at the UN Security Council election, based largely on his anti-Palestinian policies and government’s implication in a failed coup attempt against the Maduro government in Venezuela – he would choose an ardent right-wing Zionist like Bob Rae as ambassador to the UN. Simple, the choice was likely made for Trudeau by Freeland, the real power behind the throne.

Thus, in a succinct manner the U.S. state department memo stated the simple fact that Canadian foreign policy with Chrystia Freeland at its helm would be directed from Washington. At any rate, since the end of the Second World War, Canadian foreign policy has been in lockstep with U.S. foreign policy. That has been the real legacy of Liberal governments in Canada from Lester B. Pearson on. George Grant pointed to the inevitability of this in his Lament for a Nation: the defeat of Canadian nationalism. (4)  

Pierre Trudeau broke the mold to a relatively small degree by currying relations with Cuba, China and the Soviet Union to the dismay of Washington. But under Freeland’s tutelage,  Canadian foreign policy is aimed at the pursuit of imperialistic practices which include involvement in the planning and application of coups d’état as in the case of Venezuela. Ben Norton states the case clearly: “The memo offers the most concrete evidence to date that the United States sees Ottawa as an imperial subject and considers Canadian foreign policy as subordinate to its own.” (5)

The promotion of Freeland to the post of Foreign Minister became possible once Trudeau had divested Stephane Dion of his post as foreign minister and transferred him to a diplomatic post where he could not upset the apple cart by talking of Canada improving relations with Russia or of being an ‘honest broker’ in holding Israel to account on Middle East policy. But it was especially Dion’s penchant for improving relations with Russia that moved Freeland (along with elements of the pro-Israel lobby both inside and outside the Liberal Party of Canada) to support the removal of Stephane Dion.

Given Freeland’s background as a right-wing Ukrainian nationalist, a Russophobe, a friend of oligarchs (6) and a staunch anti-socialist, the triumphant note of the U.S. state department memo comes as no surprise. Once ensconced in power as Foreign Minister, Freeland set about targeting those countries on Washington’s list of places requiring ‘regime change,’ including Syria, Iran, Nicaragua, Venezuela – the latter, largely for the benefit of Canadian mining corporations (7) –  and Russia.

 One of Freeland’s favorite oligarchs, Elon Musk – the billionaire CEO of Tesla – has now admitted to involvement in the coup in Bolivia that toppled Evo Morales from power. Morales called it the ‘Lithium coup.’ Lithium is a critical component of batteries for electric vehicles. Bolivia has the largest known reserves of lithium in the world. With the typical arrogance of the Oligarch, Musk wrote, in response to an accusation on Twitter that the U.S government organized the coup in Bolivia so that Musk could steal Bolivia’s lithium: “We will coup whoever we want!  Deal with it.”  (8) Such is the moral basis upon which the oligarchs and their agent Freeland promote ‘democracy.’ Evo Morales has stated the case unequivocally: “Fascists and racists plotted the lithium coup in Bolivia.” (9) This is what is meant by the term, Deep State.

But Russia is Freeland’s first and foremost target.  Given the fact that Freeland is an ardent Ukrainian nationalist whose grandfather, Michael Chomiak was a Nazi propagandist and collaborator (10) who “edited a propaganda newspaper that was founded and overseen by Nazi Germany. Shockingly, the paper was founded after the Nazi regime stole the publication’s presses and offices from a Jewish publisher, whom it then killed in a death camp.

Freeland knew about her grandfather’s Nazi collaboration, but tried to hide this embarrassing fact by falsely branding it as “Russian disinformation.” The Canadian government even went so far as to expel a Russian diplomat who dared to publicize the truth about her Nazi lineage. (11) The truth of the matter is more in line with information pointing to the fact that Chomiak “moved from Ukraine to Nazi-occupied Poland to work for the Third Reich under the command of Governor-General Hans Frank, the man who organized the Holocaust in Poland.” (12)

Yasha Levine writes that, toward the end of the Second World War, Chomiak  published, “a pro-genocide special issue that was meant to remind Ukrainians about the Jewish threat, even if most Jews had already been genocided at that point. He did all this while using a printing press that had been seized from a Jewish newspaper and while living a short train ride away from Auschwitz and a half dozen other extermination slave camps — where Jews were being butchered night and day.” (13))

Freeland has directed Canadian foreign policy as an adjunct to her admiration for right-wing Ukrainian nationalism coupled with a fierce hatred of all things Russian. She has, in effect,  singlehandedly destroyed diplomatic relations with Russia while Justin Trudeau, lacking in political acumen, the front man for Canadian corporate and mining interests (14),  has looked on, content to be the ‘human face’ of neoliberal economics and its accompanying policy of ‘regime change’ wherever the neoliberal agenda deems it necessary. (See Bolivia above)

Moreover, it is Freeland’s endorsement of the Trump administration’s insistence on having Meng Wanzhou, CEO of Huawei, extradited from Canada to the U.S on charges of commercial involvement with Iran (although Canada has no such law governing its own actions) that has led to the current legal and political quagmire from which Justin Trudeau refuses to extricate his government.

That was nothing but a pretext for Washington to use as leverage against China in its quest to block the latter’s access to the North American and European markets for its 5G network technology. There appears to be ample evidence of collusion between CSIS and the FBI as regards the case of Meng Wanzhou. (15)

This was an unholy ‘deal’ agreed to by Freeland and Trudeau in exchange for continued access to the U.S. market through a revised free trade accord. Two Canadians find themselves in a Chinese prison as the result of a decision taken by Freeland which keeps the Trudeau government mired in a situation which should not have happened in the first place and has had a serious negative impact on Canada’s agricultural sector among others. (16)

Not surprisingly, given her own right-wing nationalist indoctrination and her unconditional support for Western imperialist policies, Freeland has revved up Canada’s support for Saudi Arabia and Israel’s extreme-right Netanyahu government. In this, she has been joined by Irwin Cotler, the erstwhile humanitarian who has been gunning for both Iran and Venezuela as enemies of Israel. Ergo, in the maelstrom of what passes for a reasoned approach to foreign policy, Canadian policy is pushed in the direction where two right-wing ideologues, namely Freeland and Cotler, want it to go.

What is more, the maelstrom is steered directly from the Prime Minister’s Office by way of Freeland and Cotler completely by-passing Canada’s Department of Global Affairs. A case in point is the manner in which the White Helmets – called by some ‘humanitarians’ but generally documented as an adjunct to the Islamic State forces (17) – were brought out of Syria by the working triumvirate of Netanyahu, Freeland and Cotler.  Cotler brokered the agreement directly with Netanyahu to get the White Helmets out of Syria. (18)

Cotler and Freeland work tirelessly in the promotion of the R2P doctrine, so valuable as a propaganda tool for the U.S and its NATO allies. This is the doctrine of the Right To Protect which means that the West’s  imperial powers “have a moral responsibility to use military force to protect the rights of people being repressed by their governments…” (19) which translates to the right to overthrow regimes not deemed friendly to the U.S and its allies and steal their energy resources.

This is the same Irwin Cotler who has called the occupied Palestinian territories « disputed » territories. This is the same Irwin Cotler whose wife of Israeli background, Ariela Cotler was for a time private secretary to the terrorist Menachem Begin (20) , responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in Deir Yassin, and later she was a spokesperson  for the Likud party. This is the same Irwin Cotler whose daughter is now a member of the Israeli Knesset of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party (21), dedicated to the illegal annexation of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

This is the same Irwin Cotler whom Alan Dershowitz – the American Zionist lawyer who, by way of a smear campaign, caused Norman Finkelstein to lose his professorial post at DePaul University –  who defended O.J. Simpson, Jeffrey Epstein (20) and recently Donald Trump on the issue of impeachment – called ‘Canada’s Alan Dershowitz’. No argument there. Also among the Great Humanitarian Cotler’s friends is Paul Kagame, ‘benevolent’ dictator of Rwanda. Both Cotler and Kagame attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington in 2017. (22)

 In 2006, Cotler refused to join Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his UN investigative mission to Gaza looking into Israel’s “wilful killing of civilians” in Beit Hanoun. Cotler refused because he claimed that “the mandate violated “the fundamental principles of due process” by ignoring Palestinian rocket attacks”.  (23) Like any good Likudnik, Cotler consistently attempts to draw a parallel to Israel’s systematic destruction of Palestinian lives and infrastructure in Gaza with the attempt at retribution on the part of Hamas. There is, however, no ‘balance’ between a machine gun and a sling-shot or between an F-16 and a Katusha rocket. Like Bob Rae, Cotler has always been Israel’s de facto Member of the Israeli Knesset for Canada.

Any wonder why Canadian foreign policy on the Middle East, Asia and Latin America is so skewered?  Lest we forget, some years back in an off-hand comment, Justin Trudeau referred to Irwin Cotler as his ‘mentor.’ Little wonder that the Trudeau government leans so far to the right. Trudeau’s trumpeting of his so-called progressive policies reminds me of a lyric from the song ‘Politician’ by Cream (one of my favorite groups from the Sixties):’ I support the Left, but I’m leaning to the right’.

Bruce Katz is a retired language teacher and a founding member and current co-president of Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) a Montreal-based pro-Palestinian solidarity organization founded in November of 2000.

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