Justin Trudeau approaches a podium at for a press conference held on the margins of the General Assembly’s annual general debate in 2017. Image: UN Photo/Kim Haughton/Flickr

Justin Trudeau regularly boasts about supporting the international rules-based order (IRBO). As is to be expected, reality can be quite different from what the prime minister tells us. Let us count some of the ways the Liberals have failed to support international accords that strengthen an IRBO: 

1.     According to the National Observer, Canada is refusing to support a draft resolution to advance a global agreement to curb plastic pollution. The treaty would compel countries to “better track plastic production, use, and disposal, alongside potentially requiring them to reduce their consumption of new plastics and developing better recycling and waste management systems.”

With nearly three million tonnes of plastic waste thrown away annually in Canada and about two hundred million tonnes polluting oceans around the world, plastic production and waste is an ever growing international problem. An agreement to curtail plastic pollution would be a sensible expansion of the IRBO yet the Trudeau government refuses to sign on. 

2.     The Liberals have refused to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits rich countries from exporting waste to poor countries. The amendment became binding in late 2019 after it was ratified by 97 countries. 

3.     Despite repeatedly promising to do so, the Liberals have failed to ratify the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). Ninety countries have signed OPCAT, which established a mechanism to inspect detention centres.  

4.     The Liberals have failed to sign the American Convention on Human Rights, which established the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  

5.     The Liberals have not signed the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. 

6.     The Trudeau government voted against holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. They then boycotted the meeting that negotiated the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which two-thirds of the world’s countries attended. Nearly 90 countries have signed the TPNW, which came into force in January. 

7.     The Liberals have largely ignored international efforts to restrict corporate abuses. The government has shown little interest in the OECD’s work to curtail “transfer pricing” and other forms of corporate tax avoidance.  

8.     Canada has been “largely absent,” notes Oxfam Canada’s Ian Thomson, from a UN Human Rights Council initiative to develop a legally binding treaty to hold companies accountable for human rights abuses. Launched in 2014, the Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises project has met annually and Canada was again absent during the sixth round of negotiations in October. 

9.     The Liberals have failed to ratify dozens of conventions of one of the oldest parts of the IRBO. They haven’t signed the International Labour Organization’s Domestic Workers Convention, which sets minimum conditions for domestic work and recognizes domestic workers’ rights to freedom of association. Nor have they ratified the ILO’s Violence and Harassment Convention or Indigenous rights convention No. 169, which is legally binding unlike the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

10.  Then there are climate accords, which are essential to an IRBO worth its salt. Unlike his predecessor, Trudeau hasn’t sabotaged international climate negotiations. But he has openly flouted his commitments under the December 2015 Paris Climate Accord. Canadian greenhouse gas emissions have grown since the Paris Agreement was signed, with this country doing worse than every other G7 nation. From 2016 to 2019 Canadian GHG emissions grew 3.3 per cent while U.S. emissions increased 0.6 per cent and the five other G7 countries’ emissions declined between 4.4 per cent and 10.8 per cent. 

On hundreds of occasions Justin Trudeau, Chrystia Freeland and other Liberal officials have claimed to support the “international rules-based order,” “international order based on rules,” “international system based on rules,” etc. Global Affairs website’s No. 1 priority is “revitalizing the rules-based international order.” 

It appears Liberal IRBO rhetoric is little more than branding, or what may be better defined as party propaganda. In reality, Canada has failed to support many critical elements of an international rules-based order during Trudeau’s six years in power. 

Yves Engler is the author of 12 books. His latest is Stand on Guard For Whom? — A People’s History of the Canadian Military. 

Image: UN Photo/Kim Haughton/Flickr

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Yves Engler

Yves Engler is the author of the recently released The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy and other books. The book is available at blackbook.foreignpolicy.ca.