Back in 2016 when ISIS had not yet been beaten back to the much smaller foothold they have now, Trudeau and his Liberal Party rejected calls for labelling what ISIS was doing to Yazidis in particular a genocide.
His party even proudly voted against a motion in the House of Commons that sought to condemn the actions of ISIS.
“We do not feel that politicians should be weighing in on this first and foremost,” Trudeau said in June 2016.
“Determinations of genocide needs to be made in an objective, responsible way. That is exactly what we have formally requested the international authorities weigh in on.”
Except that determinations had already been made by the international authorities he said needed to weigh in.
The U.S. State Department, headed up by John Kerry and under then president Barack Obama, had already declared a genocide, as had a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives. Various NGOs working in the area had been warning of genocide.
None of that moved Trudeau, he would not budge.
ISIS was not engaged in genocide in Trudeau’s view despite mass killings, targeting people based on ethnicity and religion and using sexual slavery as a form of warfare.
Compare that to this past week when the PM unilaterally decided Canada was guilty of genocide against Indigenous women.
In fairness to Trudeau, he hesitated and didn’t use the term when he accepted the report last Monday. But as criticism from some quarters mounted, he changed his tune by Tuesday.
“We accept their findings, including that what happened amounts to genocide,” Trudeau said in Vancouver.
Interesting that there was no debate in the House of Commons, no vote, no international experts called as he said Canada must do against ISIS. He just accepted the findings of a report.
Trudeau’s move has been controversial and not just among conservative-minded critics, the Liberal-friendly Toronto Star ran as their lead editorial on Friday that whatever horrors the Canadian state is responsible for in regards to First Nations groups, genocide isn’t the right description.
“Perhaps we need a new word to describe the ongoing harms of the colonial legacy. “Genocide” isn’t it,” the Star said.
One of the immediate results of Trudeau, our highest elected official, using the word genocide was the launch of an international investigation.
The Organization of American States said they want to investigate Canada for genocide.
It will be difficult for the group to come to a different conclusion than the commission on Murdered Missing Indigenous Women and Girls did after the PM effectively pleaded guilty on behalf of the whole country.
I don’t know what the PM was thinking when he made that decision, when he uttered those words.
I understand from speaking to survivors of residential schools, listening to the families of women who disappeared on the Highway of Tears, that unspeakable tragedies have taken place.
We can all acknowledge that in the past especially much of this took place as a direct result of government policy.
But to say we have an ongoing genocide today is not fair to Canada, not fair to Canadians from coast to coast, and Justin Trudeau should have known better.
Rather than focus on words and symbols as he so often does, the PM should be looking to find solutions to problems that have lingered under his watch like boil water orders on reserves.