rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Memeing away foreign policy alternatives: weekly news roundup

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

The vast majority of this week's rabble roundup revolves around the Trudeau government's failure to deliver on many of its progressive promises -- and the hollowness of those promises in the first place. 

Nowhere is the impact of the Trudeau government's hypocrisy and empty rhetoric more obvious, more quantifiable, than in our diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the Canadian government's relationship with the Kingdom is such a perfect distillation of the Liberals' modus operandi that it's been elevated to the level of a meme.

You know the cliche. The meme's caption is something like: "Using complex calculations, Justin Trudeau explains how he can be a feminist and a pacifist while selling $15 billion in weapons to a dictatorship that beheads LGBTQ people and oppresses women." But the memes and online fun don't stop there. This month, after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Global Affairs Canada issued tweets criticizing Saudi Arabia's imprisonment of Samar Badawi, a human rights activist and blogger Raif Badawi's sister, the Kingdom kicked out the Canadian ambassador, accused Canada of meddling in internal affairs, and withdrew their own ambassador. Then, a verified Saudi account tweeted a meme involving an Air Canada plane flying into the CN Tower, and a bevy of trolls edited the country's Wikipedia page to express concern for Canada's genocide and support for Quebec independence. Cue the lols.

On the face of it, trolling and humour that exposes Trudeau's support for state violence and more generally, the Liberals' thinning progressive veneer at home and abroad, is strategic. But there's something insidious about these memes and the increasingly mainstream narrative about the Trudeau government's doublespeak. Elevating anything to the level of obvious truth runs the risk of obfuscating policy alternatives and downplaying the level of energy that goes into devising and implementing these alternatives. It's easy to critique, but critiques without solutions create vacuums where anything goes. Just because folks recognize the status quo isn't working, doesn't mean they're clear on what will. 

Online consensus around Trudeau's broken promises isn't all bad, it's an important first step. But viral content and online entertainment tend not to focus on the sheer amount of energy required of a participatory democracy, one where civil society plays an active role in crafting policy and holding power to account. (Of course, our democracy isn't participatory, nor is it proportional, but that's a story for another day.) We all know that Justin Trudeau's claims to human rights and feminism are more of a PR exercise than a policy commitment. 

But do we agree on the alternatives? All it takes is a quick survey of various op-ed sections in Canada's mainstream media to recognize that while critiquing Trudeau is in vogue, rarely are all his critics -- even the self-proclaimed progressive ones -- on the same page.

And what's more, we know that Trudeau's government is actually invested in suppressing alternatives and calls to collective action. Just read Ole Hendrickson on why Trudeau's government is appealing the recent Ontario Superior Court decision allowing charities to engage in political activity.  

When it comes to wading into stories like the Saudi Arabia one, we don't cut corners at rabble. We see a world where principles of human rights extend into policy design and implementation, where alignment between intent and impact matters. 

Read our staff's suggestions for ways to build on the opportunity afforded by Canada's unfolding diplomatic schism with Saudi Arabia. Read Yves Engler on the history of Canada's involvement in the global arms trade and the war in Yemen. And read the rest of this newsletter for more reasons and suggestions on why challenging Trudeau requires more than just memes. 

In other rabble news

What do we teach while the world is burning? How should education adapt to the realities of climate change? What responsibility do educators bear when it comes to challenging consumer culture? How can educators subvert the commodification of education itself? Perhaps the answer has something to do with fostering curiosity, imagination, and alternatives. Read Lizanne Foster's back-to-school meditations on climate change, and read David Suzuki on why climate apocalypse isn't inevitable -- but how mainstream media wants you to think it is. 

Over 1.7 million Canadians live in inadequate or unaffordable housing, and nearly a quarter million Canadians will experience homelessness this year. But simply declaring that housing is a human right isn't enough to make Canada's housing crisis disappear. Justin Trudeau has promised to unveil a national housing strategy this fall, but if the Liberals defer to a market-based, private sector system that relies on a patchwork of charities as a backup for the most vulnerable, his strategy will fall short. Read Duncan Cameron on why the human right to housing requires a robust social safety net, and read Nima Maleki for sociological context on the erosion of such social safety nets.

Sophia Reuss is rabble.ca's Assistant Editor. 

Image: Fred/Flickr

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.