PM Trudeau, many best wishes from the Middle East
Trudeau’s recent win bears much resemblance to Barack Obama’s rise to power back in 2008
Though it has only been a few days into his tenure, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to be on an impressive track of restoring Canada’s image as the fair, liberal, caring and proudly-diverse nation it was once perceived as, particularly among many in the Middle East.
Indeed, contrary to the extreme right, anti-immigration and dare I say quite racist (this aggregated article explains why) views and policies of his predecessor Stephen Harper, Trudeau is already being applauded for having formed Canada’s ‘first-gender balanced’ cabinet and ‘most-diverse’ government in the history of his nation.
Consisting of 15 women (and 15 men plus the PM) who include aboriginals and Canada’s first-ever Muslim minister (an honor which went to Afghan-born Maryam Monsef who is now Minister of Democratic Institutions), PM Trudeau was spot-on when he claimed that he formed a government that actually looks like Canada in 2015!
The newly elected PM has also created more positive reactions when he announced that he is fast-tracking the process for Canada to take in 25,0000 refugees before the New Year (that is a lot more than what some Arab countries took in in the past four years put together).
Now, while the issue of refugees is imminent and of paramount significance to the Middle East and the world at large - particularly as hundreds of thousands of homeless and hopeless people continue to flee war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq; where the likes of Bashar al-Assad, ISIS and Iranian-backed militias continue to destroy homes and kill innocent men, women and children – it is of vital importance to note that it is not only refugees who are seeking to migrate to Canada.
Indeed, prior to the nine “hawkish” years under Harper, many highly-skilled, well-educated and internationally-minded Arabs favored Canada as a destination of choice since it had an extremely positive reputation of being fair, tolerant, kind and welcoming to those willing to contribute, work hard and/or invest.
Under Harper, many highly-skilled migrants complained that even if they made it through the various filters, it was still incredibly difficult for them to be able to enter or fairly compete in the Canadian job market.
Of course, this is not a call to open the gates and allow anyone in; nor will any rational person ever argue against the argument that security must come first and that there should be a zero-tolerance policy towards extremists and those who preach hatred or commit crimes.
However, this is not a reason to push most Arabs and Muslims in your country to feel that they are being painted with the same brush. It is also not a reason for any government to throw itself fully and embarrassingly into Israel’s lap, nor to upset major Gulf allies renowned for being moderate states, reasonable players and long-term friends of Canada; all of which Harper managed to achieve during his nine-year tenure.
Lessons from Obama
For many observers in the Middle East, Trudeau’s recent win bears much resemblance to Barack Obama’s rise to power back in 2008, and as such, there are definitely a few points worth noting.
The one thing we really don’t wish to see is for Mr. Trudeau to repeat President Obama’s fatal mistakes of over-promising and under-deliveringFaisal J. Abbas
Indeed, just as Mr. Obama’s back-story, his personal achievements and charm helped restore belief in the ‘American Dream’ and in U.S. Foreign Policy after what was considered a disastrous era under President George W. Bush; PM Trudeau – with his political heritage, progressive thinking and the nation’s support - has a major opportunity to rebuild Canada’s global reputation and long-term role of being a peace broker and a fair player.
However, the one thing we really don’t wish to see is for Mr. Trudeau to repeat President Obama’s fatal mistakes of over-promising and under-delivering.
Following his highly-acclaimed Cairo Speech of 2009, Arab expectations went through the roof. However, only a few years later, the current administration’s hesitant foreign policy is being held responsible for Syria atrocities, for the spread of militant groups and for what could arguably be one of the worst periods in the relationship with many long-term Gulf allies.
As such, Mr. Trudeau will be well-advised to wait, observe carefully and consult with his country’s many friends in the region; particularly that most Arab states will definitely be more willing to work with a Canadian government that actually looks like the Canada… “Because it is 2015!”
Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English, he is a renowned blogger and an award-winning journalist. Faisal covered the Middle East extensively working for Future Television of Lebanon and both Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat pan-Arab dailies. He blogs for The Huffington Post since 2008, and is a recipient of many media awards and a member of the British Society of Authors, National Union of Journalists, the John Adams Society as well as an associate member of the Cambridge Union Society. He can be reached on @FaisalJAbbas on Twitter.