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Last week, a CBC reporter asked Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly why taxpayers were paying to send them to Europe — along with the prime minister and minister of defence — when there are plenty of problems at home.

According to the journalist, many Canadians are wondering.

I don’t have the numbers to directly prove or disprove that claim, but as a Canadian recently installed in Paris, it is striking how differently this conflict is being perceived in Canada.

This question would not be asked of a European leader in this context — not even by the ultra-nationalist right or the pacifist left.

What numbers we do have show French President Emmanuel Macron running for re-election while the country rallies around him and the flag, and the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau treading water in Canadian opinion polling.

Yet, both have taken on leadership roles in the West’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Macron as the president of the Council of the European Union and one of the few leaders regularly in contact with Vladimir Putin, and Trudeau with his government seemingly leading on a number of the most severe financial sanctions imposed on Russia.

Is this stark difference in their respective domestic audiences’ responses because Macron is in the middle of an election campaign and Trudeau is not?

It’s unlikely. Rather, in Canada, we see the public rally around the flag when conflicts hit closer to home: most recently, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in 2014 when radicalized Canadians killed two soldiers on Canadian soil and one of them proceeded to storm Parliament.

However, Jean Chrétien benefited from no such bump in his government’s favour when Canada joined the UN-sanctioned invasion of Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks, nor did Brian Mulroney when Canadian Forces participated in the largely successful rebuke of Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War.

Opinion: It is striking how differently the Russian invasion of Ukraine is being perceived in Canada, writes Jean-Luc Marcil Ferland @jeanlucmf. #Ukraine #RussianInvasion #Kyiv

The simple difference is that war in Europe is perceived as much closer in time and space, while Canadians haven’t been confronted by war on their doorsteps in over 200 years.

Canada has enjoyed a uniquely privileged position since the U.S. has evolved from its greatest threat to its closest friend and ally.

This isn’t to eschew Canada’s proud and feisty military history: For my generation, stories abound of grandfathers who stormed the beaches or helped liberate Italy, and grandmothers working in munitions factories and tending to the wounded. For many, the Korean War, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and a number of peacekeeping missions breathed new life into this military tradition.

But in France, those stories are of grandparents who were killed by Nazis, who fought to defend the very streets they walk on, or less valiantly, made do with Nazi occupation.

Countless street names serve as historical reminders. Short bios are included to help jog the memory.

But perhaps, times they are a-changin’.

A lot was written after Donald Trump’s election about the need for Canada to diversify its trade relationships to alleviate its vulnerability to American protectionism. But what about his isolationist tendencies and admiration for autocratic strongmen, along with the party he appears to hold hostage?

As it stands, many consider Trump to be not only the ex- but also the next president of the United States.

He’s left no one guessing what he thinks of Trudeau: a “far-left lunatic destroying Canada.” Trump Jr chooses his preposterous comparisons on the far-right of the spectrum: “Mooselini,” he calls him. For the Fox News talking heads guiding public opinion on America’s right, he’s a “dictator.”

In contrast, Putin is “smart” and “savvy.”

With this inflammatory rhetoric, Trump and company play right into Putin’s hand, fertilizing the ground for Putin’s future foreign ambitions should he look to the Canadian Arctic.

What would Trump as president — or any of his stooges — do if the “smart and “savvy” Putin laid claim to these regions? Would they really come to the defence of Canada’s Mooselini? It shouldn’t be forgotten that Trump’s first impeachment was for attempting to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, currently doing his best version of Winston Churchill.

Defence experts, especially, have criticized Canada’s overreliance on its American neighbour and general sense of complacency for a long time.

But Trump’s election and his reinvention of the Republican Party have shaken the ground our defence strategy was built on.

It’s time for Canada to take responsibility for its own defence.

Canadians are marvelling at the courage and capability of Ukrainian forces, and too few are aware that Canada played a significant part in getting them ready for this moment.

But we must also wonder: Would we be able to do the same?

Now that’s a question begging for an answer.

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I haven't seen such fear mongering about the imminent threat of a Russia invasion of North America since the old Norman Jewison film 'The Russian's are coming', which lambasted the paranoia that was so prevalent in the USA in the 60's. From past experience, I think Canada has more to fear from the USA which had previously sent an icebreaker in 1985 through the Northwest Passage without requesting permission from the Canadian government. The U.S. government stated that it considered the Passage to be in international waters.

Regarding the author's call to arms and demands for Canada to spend more on its military - that's what this country needs - more spending on the military while spending on social programs takes a back seat. Given his lust for war, he should be proud then of the fact that Canada is one of the top international arms exporters, notably selling arms to that bastion of democracy, Saudi Arabia. The author should devote some of his commentary to the background issues that led up to Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine. Why did NATO push it's way right up to the Russian border in the last 30 years, after a gentlemen's agreement in which the US and Nato member countries promised not to move eastward beyond what was then East Germany at the fall of the Soviet Union? Why has Canada done little other than sit back and watch while the Ukraine government and it's neo fascist paramilitary groups killed roughly 14,000 men, women, and children in the Donbass region since the 2014 US backed coup in which the democratically elected government was violently overthrown and replaced by a government whose leader was hand-picked by the U.S. (listen to the U.S.'s Victoria Nuland's leaked conversation in which she discusses which candidate the US should install as president after the coup that they encouraged). There should be more depth in the reporting and commentary that the National Observer includes in it's publication.

I have only read such deeply revisionist history on Ukraine from the mouth of Vladimir Putin, and am amazed it would be pontificated here, especially without direct, linked references / citations.

NATO did not "push" the USSR back. Former USSR states collapsed along with the USSR itself, brought on by Gorbachev who was only leading where the unsustainable economic and political forces were heading anyway. States like East Germany, Poland, the Baltic states, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and so forth INVITED NATO to protect them from Russian expansionism while they democratized and willingly applied to join the EU. East Germany was reunited with the West under its own will.

Again, NATO didn’t push, it was invited by every member nation. And with the latest Russian aggression, it looks like Finland and Sweden will probably invite the organization to set up defence facilities in their countries too.

A quick Google search of Victoria Nuland uncovers the 'bioweapons facilities in Ukraine' that were recently debunked as a Russian false narrative that would provide cover for Russia itself to resort to using bio or chemical weapons as it continues to struggle with its stumbling but disastrous military invasion / war / genocide on Ukraine and its urban populations.

The modern struggle for Ukrainian democracy and membership in the EU started in 2013, but was initially defeated when the pro-Russian government ditched the idea of joining the EU and instead leaned toward closer ties with Russian against the majority of the people's will. Mass protests erupted. The interference by Russia in Donbas followed after the defeat of the pro-Russian president of Ukraine. The next democratically elected president was poisoned by Putin's agents (a common modus operandi), but he survived. The Orange Revolution followed -- all of it a majoritarian pro-democracy movement.

"...the Maidan Uprising was a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine, which began on 21 November 2013 with large protests in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kyiv. The protests were sparked by the [pro-Russian] Ukrainian government's sudden decision not to sign the European Union–Ukraine Association Agreement, instead choosing closer ties to Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union. Ukraine's parliament had overwhelmingly approved of concluding the Agreement with the EU,[81] while Russia had put pressure on Ukraine to reject it. The scope of the protests widened, with calls for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych and the Azarov Government. The protesters opposed what they saw as widespread government corruption, the influence of oligarchs, abuse of power, and violation of human rights in Ukraine. Transparency International named Yanukovych as the top example of corruption in the world. The violent dispersal of protesters on 30 November caused further anger. The Euromaidan led to the 2014 Revolution of Dignity."

Russians were historically a minority in Donbas until relatively recently. Even in the 1989 census they comprised less than half the population. Their demographic growth over the decades was the result of "Russification" efforts that caused mass prejudice and a die-off of ethnic Ukrainians, starting with the Holodomor where 3.5 million Ukrainians died in an artificial famine brought on by Stalin. Donbas has swung toward Russia mainly by separatist militia force or influence from Moscow. Even with a large Russian-speaking population, support for separatism and independence from Ukraine was low during the 1990s and 2000s.

"...the self-proclaimed republics held referendums on the status of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts on 11 May 2014. In the referendums, viewed as illegal by Ukraine and undemocratic by the international community, about 90% voted for the independence of the DPR and LPR. [...]

"The initial protests in Donbas were largely native expressions of discontent with the new Ukrainian government, and Russian involvement at this stage was limited to its voicing of support for the demonstrations. The emergence of the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk began as a small fringe group of the protesters, independent of Russian control. This unrest, however, only evolved into an armed conflict because of Russian military backing for what had been a marginal group as part of the Russo-Ukrainian War. The conflict was thus, in the words of historian Hiroaki Kuromiya, "secretly engineered and cleverly camouflaged by outsiders".There was limited support for separatism in Donbas before the outbreak of the war, and little evidence of support for an armed uprising. RUSSIAN CLAIMS THAT RUSSIAN SPEAKERS IN THE DONBAS WERE BEING PERSECUTED OR EVEN SUBJECTED TO "GENOCIDE" BY THE UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT, FORCING ITS HAND TO INTERVENE, WERE FALSE [references provided] [...].

"In the 1991 referendum on Ukrainian independence, 83.9% of voters in Donetsk Oblast and 83.6% in Luhansk Oblast supported independence from the Soviet Union. Turnout was 76.7% in Donetsk Oblast and 80.7% in Luhansk Oblast. In October 1991, a congress of South-Eastern deputies from all levels of government took place in Donetsk, where delegates demanded federalisation. [...]

"A 2018 survey by Sociological Group "Rating" of residents of the Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Donbas found that 82% of respondents believed there was no discrimination against Russian-speaking people in Ukraine. Only 11% saw some evidence of discrimination. The same survey also found that 71% of respondents did not support Russia's military intervention to "protect" the Russian-speaking population, with only 9% offering support for that action. Another survey by Rating, conducted in 2019, found that only 23% of those Ukrainians polled supported granting the Donbas autonomous status, whilst 34% supported a ceasefire and "freezing" the conflict, 23% supported military action to recover the occupied Donbas territories, and 6% supported separating these territories from Ukraine."

And today we have a full-scale invasion by Russia under a manufactured crisis about Russians persecuted in Donbas which, by every genuine survey, actually wanted independence from Russia, with majority support for a democratic, independent Ukraine. Putin's version is pure czarist / USSR empire fantasy.


On Canada, it was the US oil tanker Manhattan that sailed through the Northwest Passage, not a US icebreaker. The standing joke is that a Canadian icebreaker had to rescue it. What is not funny is that the NW Passage and the Siberian Arctic Ocean will potentially become more crowded as shipping takes advantage of an increasingly ice-free ocean under the effects of climate change. Some of those ships will be oil tankers -- which should be banned from that pristine environment.

What is also not funny is that Russian and Chinese (and presumably American) submarines possibly carrying nuclear missiles have been crawling under the ice all around the Arctic Ocean for decades, including in the Canadian Arctic islands. Just ask Sweden or Norway how they feel about Russian subs infiltrating deep into their fiords and urban harbours in the Baltic and North Atlantic. Edmonton is less than 1,600 km from the NW Passage, and Toronto less than 900 km from James Bay. It has often been said that Canada cannot at present adequately defend its Arctic territory. The evidence is obvious that this is very true.

There is a war on in Eastern Europe with Russia as the aggressor and chief bully. Putin has threatened to use nukes (which appears to have shocked his own top generals) if the war escalates to a direct conflict with NATO, an organization that Canada is a member of. No one trusts Putin now, and I wouldn't be surprised if he fabricates another "crisis" as an excuse to up the ante with NATO. That must be avoided as much as possible, though the Russian massacre of civilians in cities like Mariupol and Karkiv makes watching from the sidelines very difficult.

The thought of nukes leads to horrendous images ...

Hi Alex, you didn't mention Nuland's taped conversation in which she discussed who the U.S. would put into power in Ukraine - as it turned out, the new president was indeed picked and backed by the U.S.

With respect to Canadian spending, there is nothing untoward about defending our territory or partnering with other Western democracies to collectively defend each other from Russian, or perhaps one day, Chinese territorial and military aggression. Navy icebreakers in the Arctic year round as of today suddenly do not seem optional. It's not either / or between NATO commitments and healthcare. We can do both. One source of funding would be to divert at least half of the $3+B annual subsidy and tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry into healthcare and defence.

Hi Alex, whether it was an icebreaker or an oil tanker is a question of semantics - the U.S. sent a ship through the north west passage without asking permission of Canada's government. I agree that it will be disastrous to open the route up to oil tankers or other ships that might pollute the arctic waters.

You didn't address Canada's selling military equipment to the Saudi dictatorship, which has been carrying on a murderous war in Yemen for years now with the support of Canada and the U.S., but you won't hear much about that on the msm. That's just one authoritarian country that Canada sells military equipment to. In Ukraine, the Canadian military and a Canadian diplomat have had meetings with members of the fascist Azov battalion and promised them support - it receives much of the military arms sent from Canada. Are you going to start defending the rights of neo-nazi fascists now? How about the selective immigration policies where white skinned, blue eyed folk are given priority over folks with darker skins? Check out the msm reports discussing the tragedy of folks who look like us suffering the effects of a war. I wasn't defending Putin or his illegal invasion of the Ukraine, but was saying that the background to the crisis has to be looked at - your sources claim that Ukraine and NATO (why was it even continued after the break-up of the Soviet Union?) were completely blameless. Look online and you will find many experts and commentators on international relations who hold the opposite view (but it will be hard to find them if you're looking for them in the msm.)

On official support for Azov, citations please. Yes, I am aware they are in Ukraine, but they are very small compared to the make up of the overall Ukrainian military, a huge number of them ordinary citizen volunteers with democracy in their hearts and a desire to protect their Ukrainian cities. Some of them are women.

One can be forgiven to think that the Jewish president -- whose ancestors were murdered by the Nazis -- will still be glad to accept Azov's contribution to resisting the Russians who, in Ukrainian history books, are a far older, larger and more dangerous enemy than the Nazis were, though Hitler did horrendously impact Ukraine. Back then the Nazis were seen a liberators from the Russians. But certainly not today once WWII ended and could be properly assessed. You failed to note the Holodomor, and the fact Russians violently occupied Ukraine for generations both before and after WWII. Today, the survival instinct does tend to unite rivals and ideological opposites in a major crisis.

Your focus seems to be on relatively incidental issues like the small presence of Azov, as though they will hold power one day. That's very doubtful. Last time a fascist held the highest office there he was driven out by the democratic Orange Revolution and he fled to Putin's embrace. To imply that there will be a major role for neo-Nazis in Ukraine's future is to parrot Putin's false de-Nazification narrative as justification for his invasion.

With respect to the racism in the evacuation of Ukraine, I am reminded of the racism in the Ottawa trucker's blockade where our friends who live downtown were subjected to racist epithets for being people of colour, and mocked for wearing medical masks during a pandemic. Not to mention tortured with unbearable sound and an involuntary three-week lock down. Canada is as racist as Ukraine in several respects, and some racists toy with sedition here. This doesn’t make Canada an unworthy place to live because the anti-racist laws and rights provide a magnificent democratic counterpunch.

On military equipment for the Saudis, what does that have to do with Ukraine? I too am totally opposed to contracts like that, just as I am opposed to government support for fossil fuels. In one comment years back I suggested the government cancel the contract, pay out the penalties, but keep General Dynamics production of LAVs going until the full contract volume is reached, and give the units to the Canadian Army. They sure could have used them in BC during our flash floods in November. Ukraine and NATO partners could also use some.

On MSM vs alt media, proof and evidence are supposed to be supreme. Both have failed at that, but my estimation is that alt media is far, far more egregiously susceptible to myth, rhetoric, radical ideology, conspiracies, lack of genuine evidence and no peer review. The MSM is far more apt to publish references that can be checked.