US President Joe Biden will be in Ottawa on March 23-24, but human rights, peace and the environment will not top the agenda
Photo: Then Vice-President Joe Biden meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, December 2016. Photo by Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press.
US President Joe Biden will be in Ottawa on March 23 and 24.
CTV News reports that the border, mining, military spending, Haiti and NORAD will be on the agenda for this visit.
“Border concerns” over migrant rights
CTV notes: “The United States and Canada are under pressure to address the sharp increase in the level of irregular migration on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has commented: “The only way to effectively shut down, not just Roxham Road, but the entire border to these irregular crossings is to re-negotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement.”
That appears to mean expanding the agreement.
But we recall that Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald ruled in July 2020 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”.
Significantly, the Transnational Institute also reported in October 2021 that Canada spent an average of $1.9 billion a year (over the years 2013-18) on the militarization of its borders while only contributing $149 million a year over the same period on climate financing to mitigate the impacts of climate change that drive forced migration.
Similarly, it found that the US spent $19.6 billion a year on the militarization of its borders and just $1.1 billion on climate financing.
“Critical minerals” over Indigenous rights
CTV also reports: “Another likely topic is the transition to clean energy and critical minerals. These are essential components in green technologies from solar panels to electric vehicle batteries and a potential growing source of middle-class jobs.”
The Financial Times has also reported: “Fighter jets such as the F-35, a Lockheed Martin aircraft, rely heavily on rare earths for critical components such as electrical power systems and magnets. A Congressional Research Service report said that each F-35 required 417kg [920 pounds] of rare-earth materials.”
The Ring of Fire area in northern Ontario with cobalt, lithium, manganese, nickel, graphite and copper deposits is likely to be a focus for this mining.
But Chief Wayne Moonias of the Neskantaga First Nation says: “There is going to be opposition, if this continues the way it is and the Ford government or any future government doesn’t recognize the rights of our people, it’s going to be a strong stance.”
“Defence priorities” over not profiting from war
CTV adds: “Internationally, the war in Ukraine will likely also take top billing during these meetings.”
It explains: “Canadian troops have trained thousands of Ukrainian solders, and it has also committed more than one billion dollars in military aid including eight Leopard 2 Tanks. …Ottawa is also planning to double its presence in Latvia. Defence Minister Anita Anand recently announced the planned purchase of portable-anti-tank missiles, anti-drone technology, and air defence systems for its NATO mission in the country.”
What won’t likely be on the agenda is the soaring profits of transnational corporations benefitting from these weapons exports.
The Hill recently reported that US weapons sales to other countries increased from $34.8 billion in sales in 2021 to $51.9 billion, “largely due to Russia’s war on Ukraine.”
That’s a 49 per cent increase in sales.
Benjamin Freeman, a research fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, has told CBC Radio’s Day 6: “This industry is a war industry. Their business is war. [The war in Ukraine is] a profit opportunity for them. …[It is] adding an accelerant on top of a raging bonfire [of arms sales] already. It’s really been a windfall for these firms. Their stock prices have soared because of it.”
Meanwhile, US General Mark Milley suggested in November 2022 that around 100,000 Russian soldiers and 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured and that around 40,000 civilians had died during the war in Ukraine.
“The ongoing crisis in Haiti” over the voices of Haitians
CTV notes: “The ongoing crisis in Haiti is also likely to come up during the talks. There are reports the Biden administration officials are pressuring Ottawa for a decision on leading a multinational force to assist the country with its battle against gang control.”
Haitian-Canadian activist Jean Saint-Vil has stated: “Get out. Haitians have been telling Canada, the United States, Europe to get out. The imperialists are pretending to be putting to put out fires, we are telling them that we know you are the arsonists.”
“Modernizing NORAD” over ending displacement
And CTV adds: “Closer to home, both leaders are expected to discuss modernizing NORAD.”
The Canadian government’s stated rationale for spending an estimated $76.8 billion on F-35s is: “A modern fighter jet fleet is essential for defending Canada and Canadian sovereignty and contribute to our NORAD and NATO commitments.”
These fighter jets will be deployed at CFB Cold Lake (on Dene territory in northern Alberta), 5 Wing Goose Bay (on Innu territory in Labrador) as well as other bases.
Little consideration has been given to the Dene and Innu displaced from their lands by these military bases and the modernization of NORAD to come.
Not on the agenda – the criminalization of Indigenous water protectors
Line 3 tar sands pipeline
In November 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau approved the 760,000 barrel per day Line 3 tar sands pipeline from Alberta to Wisconsin.
Tara Houska of the Giniw Collective has highlighted: “Rubber-bullet welts spread purple down my arms and back, courtesy of Minnesota police, who have reportedly billed nearly $2 million in security-related costs to a fund set up by Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge.”
She has also noted: “Enbridge is dumping millions of dollars to incentivize and encourage police officers to repress, suppress and surveil, harass Indigenous people and our allies that are helping us try to stop this pipeline from happening in our treaty territory.”
More than 800 water protectors were arrested since construction of the pipeline began in Minnesota in December 2020
Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline
Meanwhile, the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline continues to be built on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia without consent.
In December 2019, a TC Energy media release stated: “TC Energy Corporation … announced today that it has entered into an agreement to sell a 65 per cent equity interest in the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project … to KKR and Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) on behalf of certain AIMCo clients.”
The following year, The Narwhal reported: “KKR is an American private equity firm and one of the largest in the world with assets of US$207 billion. Its Coastal GasLink purchase was made in partnership with South Korea’s state-run National Pension Service — the third-largest pension in the world with over US$600 billion in assets.”
More than 74 people, including land defenders, allies and journalists, have been arrested resisting this pipeline that could produce 125 million metric tons of CO2 pollution annually over the next 25-50 years.
We will be following news of President Biden’s visit to Canada this coming March 23-24 with these concerns in mind.