Canada failing on Ukraine diplomacy, but there’s progress in Ottawa to end the occupation
UKRAINE UPDATE: CANADA MOVES IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
Against the backdrop of heightened Western warnings about the imminence of a Russian invasion of Ukraine (an almost daily occurrence since mid-January), and a modest increase in mainstream media and expert attention to the role of diplomacy in averting such a catastrophe, we turn to an article by an extremely seasoned international diplomat, Michael von der Schulenburg, entitled The Ukraine conflict: The cornerstone for a new pan-European peace order could be laid in Ukraine (wsimag.com, 31 January 2022).
A French-German peace initiative based on diplomacy rather than military threat, on bringing countries together rather than excluding them, and on recognizing mutual security interests, could lay the foundation for comprehensive European peace.
This article is important not only for its examination of the diplomatic way forward, but its straight talk on the utter catastrophe that a Russia–Ukraine conflict would be for all concerned:
In Ukraine nothing less than the future peace in Europe is at stake. To prevent this becoming a festering crisis that would paralyze European political and economic relations for years to come, this conflict needs a substantive solution. This can only be a comprehensive European peace settlement.
Schulenburg examines the deep internal Ukrainian divisions that rarely make it into media commentaries, writing:
Ukraine was, is and remains primarily a ‘borderland’ torn between a pro-Russian and a pro-Western part of the population….
If it came to a military conflict, it would not be clear where the loyalties of the individual Ukrainian population groups lay.
In other words, there is a genuine pro-Russian orientation among a significant segment of the Ukrainian population that is routinely reduced in Western media commentaries to “pro-Russian proxies”.
A military conflict could therefore quickly turn into an armed conflict between these pro-Western and pro-Russian militias and turn Ukraine into an inferno that could, because of the modern weaponry provided to them, be a lot worse than the civil war in Syria.
But there is a clear way forward:
Therefore, the initiative of French President Macron together with German Chancellor Scholz must be supported. Their approach to focus on intra-European peace talks with Russia and Ukraine is the only promising way to find a lasting solution.
Already existing French-German fora with Russia and Ukraine, such as the Normandy format or the Minsk peace plan, will have prepared the ground on which to build these negotiations.
And Schulenberg reminds us that working for a peaceful solution in the current context is not easy:
One must admire the courage of Macron and Scholz, as both are confronted with widespread and deep-seated anti-Russia hysteria in the mainstream media and, so far, they cannot rely on much support from most of their European counterparts.
In the view of Ceasefire.ca:
We urge everyone interested in averting war in Ukraine to read this article in full. For Canadians, the author’s discussion of the role of pro-Western militias with German Nazi origins and “frightening national socialist ideas” — hardly mentioned in Canadian media commentary — should be particularly troubling.
Schulenburg’s statement about the lack of support to date to French President Macron and German Chancellor Scholz from European colleagues for their diplomatic risk-taking for peace most certainly applies to their Canadian colleagues as well. Consider Canada’s latest step:
In light of the seriousness of the situation and following conversations with our Ukrainian partners, I’ve approved the provision of $7.8 million worth of lethal equipment and ammunition. This responds to Ukraine’s specific request and is in addition to the non-lethal equipment we’ve already provided.
These are the words of the Prime Minister of Canada at a news conference following his declaration of a National Public Order Emergency under the Emergencies Act. There is no reference in his Ukraine comments to diplomacy.
The press release issued by the Department of National Defence includes this quote from Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, which is also silent on negotiations to avert war:
Canada remains resolute in supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence. Canada will continue to work closely with the Ukrainian government and allies in the region to protect Ukraine’s security and economic resilience.
RI President Peggy Mason explains her disappointment on the 16 February edition of CBC As it Happens, saying in part:
What Ukraine really needs is a diplomatic way out. And what President Zelensky needs is a country as important to him as Canada … giving him support in the hard negotiating process that he has to go through because big compromises are going to be needed in order to get the implementation of the peace agreements.
And that’s where Canada can help, but we haven’t even given political support on it.
For the full interview, click on the arrow below. The Ukraine segment begins at the 39:30 minute mark.
For further analysis of the role that Canada can play and a wise message of “pragmatism” to the Ukrainian Canadian community, see this video interview by Global News with Canadian expert Andrew Rasiulis, by clicking on the arrow below.
We call again on the Government of Canada to offer political support and practical expertise to Ukraine in their efforts through the Normandy Format to achieve full implementation of the Minsk peace accords.
We turn now to another extremely important, under-reported aspect of this conflict — the war profiteers.
Who would benefit from Russia going to war with Ukraine?
This is the question asked by veteran UK peace and security analyst Paul Rogers in an article available here. He writes:
One of the less-discussed aspects of the current crisis in Eastern Europe is its huge [arms] sales potential.
The war-promoting hydras are not going to go away any time soon, and they play a far greater role in the Ukraine crisis than is being widely acknowledged.
Any understanding of the crisis simply must factor in that as well as everything else, it is a matter of business: the business of war.
OTTAWA OCCUPATION UPDATE: THE EMERGENCIES ACT
On 14 February 2022 the Government of Canada invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time since its enactment in 1988. The new act replaced the War Measures Act, legislation deployed in both the First and Second World Wars and, most controversially, during the 1970 October Crisis in Quebec.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in his address to the public on 14 February 2022, stated:
After discussing with Cabinet and caucus, after consultation with premiers from all provinces and territories, after speaking with opposition leaders, the federal government has invoked the Emergencies Act to supplement provincial and territorial capacity to address the blockades and occupations.
I want to be very clear: the scope of these measures will be time-limited [30 days], geographically targeted [mainly Ontario], as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.
The Emergencies Act will be used to strengthen and support law enforcement agencies at all levels across the country.
The Act defines a National Emergency as follows:
3 For the purposes of this Act, a national emergency is an urgent and critical situation of a temporary nature that
- (a) seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians and is of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it, or
- (b) seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada
and that cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.
Further, the Act empowers the Government of Canada (subject to Parliamentary approval within 7 days) to declare one of four types of national emergency (public welfare such as natural disasters; public order, international emergency or war emergency).
In this case, the Government of Canada has declared a Public Order Emergency, which, in turn, is defined in Part II, Section 16, as follows:
- public order emergency means an emergency that arises from threats to the security of Canada and that is so serious as to be a national emergency;
- threats to the security of Canada has the meaning assigned by section 2 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act
Readers of last week’s blog post will recall the definition of “threats to the security of Canada” as follows:
- (a) espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage,
- (b) foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person,
- (c) activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state, and
- (d) activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of, the constitutionally established system of government in Canada,
but does not include lawful advocacy, protest or dissent, unless carried on in conjunction with any of the activities referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d).
Further to the declaration of a Public Order Emergency, the Federal Government published the Order in Council that lays out the specifics of the emergency, in its view, and the nature of the temporary measures it has authorized. The full text can be obtained here.
New financial powers
In her statement on the invocation of the Emergencies Act, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland, outlined extensive new financial powers:
First: we are broadening the scope of Canada’s anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules so that they cover crowdfunding platforms and the payment service providers they use. These changes cover all forms of transactions, including digital assets such as cryptocurrencies. [emphasis added]
This means that not only banks and financial institutions, but all crowdfunding platforms and the payment service providers (e.g. PayPal) they use must register with FINTRAC, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada and report large and suspicious transactions to them.
Other extensions of existing powers in support of “following the money” that Minister Freeland announced include:
- an order to Canadian financial institutions to temporarily cease providing financial services where the institution suspects that an account is being used to further the illegal blockades and occupations; and
- a direction to Canadian financial institutions to review their relationships with anyone involved in the illegal blockades and report to the RCMP or CSIS.
The full text of the Minister’s remarks can be found here.
Do the circumstances justify a public order emergency?
Debate on the Emergencies Act is suspended because of the emergency in the parliamentary precinct – David Cochrane, live on CBC Newsworld, 18 February 2022
In the debate in Parliament on 17 February on the motion to confirm the declaration of the emergency, parliamentarians were clearly divided, with the Conservative Party of Canada and the Bloc Quebecois against the motion and the NDP signalling it will give the government the votes it needs for parliamentary approval, provided there is no evidence of government overreach in the application of these new powers.
The NDP is prepared at any time to use the mechanisms available to it; we are not giving the government a blank cheque and we will keep our eyes on the government to avoid any abuse or misuse.
But surely there is considerable irony in the fact that the debate -on whether the emergency declaration was justified — that was to have continued Friday (18 February) was instead suspended, with all party agreement, because of the perceived threat to the safety of MPs and staff, should police enforcement action begin on Friday, as was expected, and which is in fact now taking place.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also stands unequivocally opposed:
The federal government has not met the threshold necessary to invoke the Emergencies Act. This law creates a high and clear standard for good reason: the Act allows government to bypass ordinary democratic processes. This standard has not been met.
There has been so much jurisdictional buck-passing with regard to this protest, back and forth between the federal government, the Ontario provincial government, the city authorities in Ottawa that … the federal government has realized that it has to take the lead on this and assume responsibility for dealing with the protests.
Of particular note, Wark also offered the view that:
despite the extreme caution of the Prime Minister to date, there will at some point be a call for the military to aid the civil power, in the areas of tactics, heavy equipment, intelligence support and surveillance.
To date, including in respect of the police enforcement action now underway, there is no visible sign, at least, of such military support, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh stated in the debate on the Emergency Declaration that he had been “assured” by the Prime Minister that the military would not be involved.
On the issue of intelligence failures, canvassed in last week’s blog post, Wesley Wark states categorically:
One of the things that has been clear in the handling of this protest from the beginning is that there have been terrible intelligence failures about the nature of this protest.
He elaborates further on that view, as do several other experts, in a paywalled (alas) Hill Times article, entitled ‘Intelligence and governance’ failures at root of occupied downtown Ottawa, now a matter of national security, say experts (Mike Lapointe).
Is the Emergencies Act “fit for purpose”?
In an article published in Policy Options on 11 February 2022, Wesley Wark, while arguing forcefully that the federal government had to assume “lead responsibility” to bring the protests to an end, then concluded that, despite this urgent need, the threshold for invocation of the Emergencies Act by the federal government — the presence of a security threat within the meaning of the CSIS Act — was simply too high. He asks:
What’s wrong here? The government is sitting on unusable legislation that is not fit for this purpose and has never been modernized to meet the changing needs of societal protection…
His recommendation was therefore:
In place of an unusable Emergencies Act, what is needed is rapid passage by Parliament of amended legislation that would add to the definition of threats to the security of Canada a new category: the deliberate and reckless interference with listed critical infrastructure, to include offices of government and the courts, health services and border crossings.
After that should come enforcement action.
For the full article, see: Is it time for the Emergencies Act (policyoptions.irpp.org). And for an interesting look at the origins of this act, in reaction to the excessive powers of the War Measures Act, see: A Gift to Trudeau from Another Prime Minister (L. Ian MacDonald, policymagazine.ca, 14 February 2022):
Essentially the goal was to lower the temperature and to make sure that these powers could only be invoked under legislative and judicial review. – then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
We note again, however, that with the continuing deterioration of the Ottawa situation, by the time the Emergencies Act was invoked by the Government of Canada on 14 February, Wesley Wark had changed his view and now strongly supports it, for the reasons outlined above.
Declarations of emergency from the three levels of government gave us the necessary authorities to act. – Chief Steve Bell, Ottawa press conference
We further note that, around 4 pm on 18 February 2022, the acting Ottawa Police Chief, Steve Bell, stated that the “three levels of authority” provided by the declarations of emergency at the federal, provincial and municipal (City of Ottawa) levels were “necessary” to enable the enforcement process in which they are now engaged and which has led to a significant number of protester arrests, some charges laid and the dispersal of many other protesters.
Civil law suit wins court-ordered freeze on convoy protest accounts, cryptocurrency
For another angle on the issue of “following the money”, see the Toronto Star article available here that outlines the extraordinary legal victory by the group of Ottawa residents who launched a class action for damages against the protesters.
The court order:
- freezes the bank accounts and digital “wallets” of key convoy leaders
- requires the institutional holders of these assets to disclose them to the Court and
- requires the convoy leaders in question (who are now under arrest due to their blockade activities) to each provide an affidavit detailing whether and how these assets have been used in support of the Freedom Convoy protests.
Failure to comply will result in a contempt-of-court charge.
They [protest leaders] keep moving to bitcoin and other shadowy fundraising platforms to avoid the reach of authorities. – Paul Champ, Ottawa class action lawyer
Note that this action is entirely independent of the government’s financial powers under the Declaration of Emergency and was taken, as explained by Paul Champ, a lawyer acting in the civil law suit, because the government was moving too slowly.
Provincial declarations of emergency also need scrutiny
We have mainly been discussing the declaration of a federal emergency. But as the acting City of Ottawa police chief reminded us in his comments, it was preceded by a declaration of a province-wide state of emergency by Premier Ford of Ontario (and earlier still by a City of Ottawa declaration). For a sobering examination of potential overreach at the provincial level see: Protecting infrastructure from the ‘freedom convoy’ could forever silence legitimate dissent (Philip Boyle, theconversation.com, 15 February 2022).
Some preliminary conclusions
A few things now seem clear:
- As the Globe and Mail made clear in its 15 February 2022 editorial, whatever one’s view on the invocation of the Emergencies Act, the illegal Ottawa blockades must end, and we are finally seeing disciplined, decisive steps by the police in that direction, with the result of a dwindling number of protesters and trucks downtown, albeit possibly representing the hardcore.
- The federal government must take extraordinary care in the exercise of the far-reaching powers they now possess, not least in the financial realm, where the government already has significant powers under anti-terrorism legislation.
- When this public order emergency is over, a federal judicial commission of inquiry should be established “to look at all aspects of the protest” and to identify the best tools to address similar situations of “lawlessness” going forward.
- A key issue for examination will be whether the Emergencies Act (and provincial counterparts) are “fit for purpose” or need updating.
In the view of Ceasefire.ca:
We underscore with tremendous satisfaction that all of this legislation — federal and provincial — and all of the government actions pursuant thereto are subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and therefore to the review of the Courts.
In that regard, it is worth recalling Article One of the Charter, which has a message for everyone including those who decry public health measures as unwarranted intrusions on “their” freedoms:
Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms
1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
We call on the Government of Canada, in the exercise of its extraordinary powers under the Emergencies Act, to use the utmost restraint, proportionate and commensurate to the stated task, of ending the illegal blockades and related activities.
On the meaning and limits of peaceful protest and on the need for unity by our leaders in the midst of this emergency, see this passionate rumination from Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada (2000-2020): On my mind, as the Ottawa Occupation nears an end point… (alexneve.ca, 17 February 2022).
The broader context of these protests
For a trenchant article on the broader context in which these types of protests are taking place globally, see: There’s no solidarity in ‘sovereign citizen’ protests – only incoherent rage (George Monbiot, theguardian.com, 16 February 2022).
A postscript to readers: We very much look forward to being able in next week’s post to discuss a wider range of key foreign policy and international security issues!
Photo credit: JIMMYSUPERSTARZ (Ottawa “Freedom Convoy”)