Five things to watch for with President Joe Biden, Canada and the human rights agenda
Photo: Then-US Vice-President Joe Biden walks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, December 8, 2016.
While there are numerous policy implications to consider about the upcoming presidency of Joe Biden here are five brief points to consider:
1- Remain in Mexico: Biden has promised to end the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program, which in turn has reportedly created hope among some migrants. As a result of US President Trump’s policy, more than 66,000 people from Guatemala, Honduras and other countries are now in Mexico as their applications to migrate into the US are considered. While Trump further militarized the US/Mexico border, the American Friends Service Committee has highlighted: “Over the past four decades, policies under every presidential administration – regardless of political party – have systematically militarized southern border communities, criminalizing millions of immigrants and creating repressive conditions from California to Texas.”
2- Canada-US Safe Third County Agreement: On July 22, Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald ruled that the Safe Third Country infringes on the section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees “the right to life, liberty and security of the person.” The government appealed this ruling, which is likely to be heard in court in late February or early March. It has been speculated that the government could now argue in court that the facts on the ground have changed. The government had also approached the Trump Administration to “modernize” (widen) the Safe Third Country Agreement so that it applies to irregular border crossings as well as applications at official border checkpoints.
3- Keystone XL pipeline: Biden has vowed to scrap the 800,000 barrel per day pipeline that runs from Alberta to Nebraska. But Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says that protecting Keystone XL is a “top priority” for the Canadian government and that Canada will be “making our case” to President Biden. Indigenous communities on both sides of the border oppose this megaproject on their lands and territories.
4- Paris climate agreement: Climate change has a major impact on human rights. The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. When the US left the Paris climate agreement on November 4, Biden tweeted: “In exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.” This is a start, but not enough. The next United Nations climate summit – COP26 – which seeks to ramp up national commitments to reduce carbon emissions is scheduled to take place on November 1-12, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.
5- Peace process in Colombia: The US has sent $12 billion in aid to Colombia over the past quarter century. Then-Senator Biden helped create Plan Colombia in 2000 with 80% of its billion-dollar allocation that year going to military expenditures, including for helicopters for Colombia’s army and national police. Some in Colombia reportedly hope Biden’s win will mean support for the 2016 peace agreement that Trump was reluctant to support.
Other areas to consider include the estimated $934 billion US military budget, Canada and the US in NATO, human rights in Palestine, as well as the refusal of the US and Canada to sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Last November, activist Angela Davis, who backed Biden, stated: “I don’t see this election as being about choosing a candidate who will be able to lead us in the right direction. It will be about choosing a candidate who can be most effectively pressured into allowing more space for the evolving anti-racist movement.”
And this past weekend Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez highlighted that grassroots activism was crucial to Biden’s win and that the policies of the new administration must reflect the imperatives of those movements, including Black Lives Matter.
Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021.