A footnote on what Citizen X thought Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said about Russia on TV

Mar 13th, 2017 | By Citizen X | Category: In Brief

Many thanks to high financier and jazz guitarist Leyland Gordon for this photo of late-season shinny, in what most people nowadays would call downtown Toronto, March 2017. Though born and raised in Alberta Chrystia Freeland now represents the downtown Toronto riding of University–Rosedale in the Canadian House of Commons.

“Such usually thoughtful writers as Paula Simons of the Edmonton Journal, Colby Cosh of the National Post and Paul Wells of the Toronto Star” are apparently on her side.

So our Canadian Foreign Minister does not need help from the likes of me, in responding to the arguments skillfully advanced by David Climenhaga in “CHRYSTIA FREELAND SHOULD NOT BE PUNISHED FOR HER GRANDFATHER’S SINS, BUT FOR MISLEADING CANADIANS ABOUT THEM.”

We each have our own perceptions of these things, however, and I feel compelled to quickly jot down mine — in the endless struggle for individual freedom of thought across the global village.

The crux of Mr. Climenhaga’s case against the Hon. Ms. Freeland (“and her staff”) is in his third-last paragraph : “it is the fact she and her staff tried to pass off her grandfather’s history, which we now know to be true, as Russian disinformation that should concern us all, regardless of our views about Russia’s policies …”

Chrystia Freeland has coffee with Ukrainian journalist and politician Yegor Sobolev in 2014. A Canadian of Ukrainian descent, she does support an independent Ukraine. Just as most Canadians support an independent Canada, right next door to the United States! Another reason she is not admired by the Putin government in Russia.

I just want to record that I saw Chrystia Freeland on TV, discussing the habits of the present Russian government in such matters. And I took it as a confirmation of what Russian officials were saying about her maternal grandfather (that during the Second World War he was “chief editor of a pro-Nazi publication in occupied Poland, territory that was later part of Ukraine”) — of which she was all too aware.

Ms Freeland did make critical remarks about this Russian use of her family history. But from what she said on TV, it did not seem to me that she was accusing the Russians of lying about her grandfather. (If the smear was just plain wrong she would have denied it altogether.)

As I understood her, our hard-working foreign minister (who has also done a good job guiding Stephen Harper’s long-simmering Canada-EU free trade agreement through what may actually be its almost final phases) was criticizing the Russians for dragging up ad hominem arguments about an opponent’s ancestors — in their efforts to denigrate our kind of democratic government.

Swimwear-clad snowboarders party on the shores of Russia’s Lake Baikal in southern Siberia, in winter. PHOTO: BATO BUDAEV/I'M SIBERIAN.

(See, eg, this  Ottawa Citizen report : “‘American officials have publicly said, and even Angela Merkel has publicly said, that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilize Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada,’ Freeland told reporters after they raised questions about … her grandfather.”)

To me this kind of Russian government behaviour really is something that “should concern us all, regardless of our views about Russia’s policies.”

What does Chrystia Freeland’s maternal grandfather have to do with any foreign policy issue between Canada and Russia today — or with the capacity of his granddaughter to effectively advance 21st century Canadian interests in dealings with Russia?

(Especially when it is also apparently true, as one comment writer on David Climenhaga ‘s excellent ALBERTAPOLITICS.CA website has reported, that Ms. Freeland’s “mother once ran for the Bolsheviks, er, I mean the NDP, in Edmonton-Strathcona”????)

An automobile and a model at the First Motors of Russia retro cars exhibition dedicated to the 110th anniversary of His Imperial Majesty Nicholas II’s Personal Garage, March 2017. “Nicholas II had the largest car fleet among the European monarchs.”

And what kind of political debate is it that so quickly stoops to such dark and irrelevant depths, and tries to make you responsible or accountable for your grandparents’ political thoughts?

Not one I want anything to do with. I’m with the very knowledgeable art-historian-tour-guide from a recent visit to St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland (also Vladimir Putin’s home town).

Asked if President Putin was popular in Russia because he was a strong leader, she just said “Yes.” Asked if she supported him herself, she just said “No” and smiled.

As if to say there is still happily some individual freedom of political thought even in Russia today. (Which also appears increasingly addicted to European, North American, and Japanese automobiles.)

But that’s no thanks to President Putin. And Mr. Putin’s government’s main substantive objection to our current Canadian Foreign Minister does seem to be that she stands up for the values of what Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982 calls the “free and democratic society.”

On Lady Evelyn River, Temagami, Ontario. Photo by Greg Stott, World Wildlife Federation–Canada.

(Just as she stands up for an independent Canada, right next door to the United States!)

Those at least strike me as very good reasons for we the people of Canada to continue supporting Chrystia Freeland in her hard work — regardless of what her maternal grandfather may or may not have done, in another time and place.

Meanwhile, for some lively related discussion, see “#auspol live Greg Barns speaks with Randall White on the state of Canadian Politics & Justin Trudeau” — on “PolitiScope,” Denise Shrivell’s innovative and impressive new political website from down under in the Land of Oz.

(Which is also striking contemporary blows for individual freedom of thought and realistic in-depth democratic public policy debate, among various English-speaking peoples in the diverse and multicultural global village today.)

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