“Unity”: Biden’s message for America

The new administration’s pipeline stance not evidence of Trump’s lingering aggressive diplomatic strategy, says former U.S. diplomat

“The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded,” said Joseph R. Biden, Jr., the newly sworn-in 46th president of the United States in his inauguration speech on Jan. 20, while overlooking Capitol Hill.

Sitting adjacent to the president, Vice President Kamala Devi Harris made history as the first Black and South Asian American woman to hold the position, along with her husband Doug Emhoff, the Nation’s first Second Gentleman.

Two weeks earlier, riots engulfed the government building, with right-wing protestors seeking to disrupt Biden’s electoral ballot certification, in an attempted coup to keep former president Trump in power.

Trump’s inaugural speech in 2017 told Americans they were witnessing “the birth of a new millennium,” where, “a new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights and heal our divisions.”

After refusing to attend the new president’s inauguration, Trump departed Washington D.C. on Air Force One the same morning before official ceremonies began, leaving behind a nation unhealed.

In his inaugural speech, Biden acknowledged the violent insurrection at the Capitol that left five dead and dozens injured, the rise of civil unrest, political extremism, economic inequality, and a public health crisis that has killed over 400,000 Americans.

Instead of “America First,” Biden called for the nation’s commitment to progress and “that most elusive of things in a democracy: unity.” Reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech, Biden asked to not solely rely on the government, but to do their part in healing the country’s strife.

Just over 39 million people watched Biden’s inauguration across major television networks. For the international community watching on, Biden said, “America has been tested, and we have come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was one of the first world leaders to congratulate the Democratic party’s win, both during election week and after the inaugural ceremony. Over the past four years of the Trump administration, diplomatic tension rose between the two countries.

“Unprecedented, and a bit chaotic,” said Sarah Goldfeder, former U.S. diplomat and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, on the previous administration’s relations with Canada. The “America First” policy marked an aggressive international stance, where the former administration sought to undo unilaterally beneficial agreements, to give preferential treatment to U.S. interests.

The former U.S. ambassador to Canada during the Trump administration, Kelly Craft, came with a mission to implement this new vision, Goldfeder explained.

“When she came in, there was a very distinct kind of focus to what she was here to do — and it ended up being NAFTA.”

While not completely overriding other countries’ interest as Trump initially promised, the administration did manage to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the new United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) in March 2020, which included giving Americans an increase to 3.6 per cent from 3.25 per cent of the Canadian dairy market.

After a mere 22 months as ambassador, with a third of that time spent away from her post, Craft was moved to serve as Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations. During that time, there was no U.S. ambassador to Canada, causing a rift between the countries’ communications.

“That’s a big level of … connectivity, kind of a sub-political level that just wasn’t there,” said Goldfeder, on the lack of U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

With Biden promising to return to normal relations between countries, it came as a surprise to Canada when the new administration repealed the Keystone XL pipeline permit.

According to Goldfeder, this seemingly aggressive stance was not a continuation of Trump’s diplomatic practices, but a decision to return to former Democratic policies under the Obama administration.

“I think [what] Canada forgets [about] the Keystone presidential permit is that that decision was actually made initially, in 2015, to not grant the presidential permit by the Obama administration,” said Goldfeder.

Initially proposed in 2008, it took more than 10 years of conflicting political debate for the pipeline to come to end, with Obama’s vetoing of the project in 2015. In his decision, Obama acknowledged the pipeline would not contribute to the administration’s work towards sustainability and the fight against climate change.

Overall, Goldfeder has high hopes for the new administration.

“I think that what you’ll see with the Biden administration is a return to professionalism.”

Also in agreement is Graham G. Dodds, professor & associate chair in the department of Political Science at Concordia University, who feels that the new administration “will likely be a welcome change for Canada.”

The past four years hurt Canada’s close relationship with the U.S.; however, “common interests and shared values” is the bedrock of the two countries’ relationship, not who is leading the respective countries, said Dodds. But it doesn’t hurt to work with someone you see eye-to-eye with either.

“As someone well acquainted with facts, reason, and civility, Biden will likely be much easier for Canada and other allies to deal with than his erratic and caustic predecessor,” said Dodds.


Graphic by Lily Cowper


Concordia responds to the U.S. elections

University students mobilize in Montreal after Trump wins the U.S. elections

Since the results of the U.S. presidential election were announced, university groups, such as the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia (QPIRG Concordia) and Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), have hosted events in opposition of the win of president-elect Donald Trump.

“When I say fuck, you say Trump!,” shouted SSMU president Ben Ger to the crowd gathered outside of Redpath Museum on the McGill campus on Thursday, Nov. 18. “Fuck,” shouted Ger. “Trump!,” shouted the crowd of about 20 students in response. “Not my president!,” Ger yelled back.


Concordia community members from all sides of the political spectrum react to the winning of Trump in U.S. presidential elections. Graphic by Florence Yee.

“After the election, I noticed that some of my friends supported Donald Trump,” said Charles Keita, a participant at the event, a McGill student and Florida resident. He said while this is not an issue, as a person of colour, it is concerning to see some of the statements his friends have shared in support of Trump. However, he mentioned there is a need for dialogue between both political spectrums.

“As a society, we should keep in contact with those with differing opinions because it’s the only way we can make the conversation continue,” said Keita. “By communication, we can still make a difference and that’s why we shouldn’t be silent—not today, not tomorrow—because our voices are needed.”

On the morning of the U.S. election, QPIRG Concordia announced a public community meeting to be held the following day, said Jaggi Singh, the programming and working groups coordinator for QPIRG Concordia. “There were more than 100 people who showed up—all of whom were in some way critical of or opposed to the policies of Trump and what Trump represents.”

There are plenty of reasons why Trump’s win would anger people and create fear, said Singh. “Trump is someone who ran a campaign on demonizing and marginalizing migrants,” Singh said, adding that he openly proposed to ban an entire minority group and bragged about sexually assaulting women.

SSMU president Ben Ger photographed outside of Redpath Museum on McGill campus following the Trump mobilization event. Photo by Ana Hernandez.

Singh said there were many ideas put forth by community members to QPIRG Concordia, including monitoring hate crimes and using popular education to inform people about the policies being implemented, said Singh. Popular education is described as education aimed at empowering those who feel marginalized and encourage them through their learning to generate social change.

“Some people emphasized being able to [converse with] some people who might be empathetic to Trump’s ideas,” said Singh. “We, as Canadians in general, can’t live in this bubble. People just can’t be like, ‘Well I’m not that type of person so I’m just going to ignore them’—we need to engage people.”

Concordia journalism student Julian Krajewski, who is eligible for an American citizenship, said he feels QPIRG is not providing that opportunity to develop dialogue between the left and right, as he was banned from commenting on QPIRG Concordia’s first post-election “Resist Trump!” event on Facebook.

“I got banned from one of the events for just asking a question about my safety if I showed up in a MAGA hat,” said Krajewski, referring to his Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat.

“It sounds troll-y to them—I wasn’t trying to be troll-y. I was just asking what would happen if I showed up because, in their description of the event, it just says they are organizing to come together in resistance against the Trump movement.”

Student mobilize on McGill’s campus on Friday, Nov. 18. Photo by Ana Hernandez.

Singh responded to The Concordian about the instance, stating the “Resist Trump!” community meeting was for people who oppose Trump and his far-right, anti-immigrant, racist and misogynist policies. “Julian Krajewski clearly supports Trump and openly expresses far-right, anti-immigrant views, so it makes no sense for him to join the group except to troll it,” said Singh. “He is, of course, free to set up a “Support Trump” Facebook group for people who share his views, or to try to organize a public debate about Trump.” Singh said he does not recall Krajewski trying to join the group.

“I have serious concerns about the safety of my ideas and my ability to openly express them in the very institution of our society that is supposed to house and encourage such discussions,” said Krajewski. He said the QPIRG members he has interacted with have treated him with hostility and unjustified skepticism and belittling. “The attitude that anyone who doesn’t [agree] with left-wing politics on campus needs to be resisted or ignored or excluded is the very same attitude that they are accusing Trump supporters of,” he said.

“There are definitely very quiet Trump supporters on campus. I’m definitely the most vocal that I’ve ever seen,” said Krajewski.

Krajewski said the Trump movement has been labeled as racist due to the media. Trump himself has been identified as a racist, a white supremacist and a misogynist, which Krajewski said is because the media attempted to find anything to portray him negatively, and denied manipulating video and audio footage of him. “In all his rallies, he has said ‘I want to help Americans, if you pay your taxes—doesn’t matter what skin colour, what gender you are,’” said Krajewski.

“Trump is the pro-American guy and he’s the first pro-American politician to actually have a chance to be elected [in my lifetime],” said Krajewski. “It was the great American resurgence, the way I see it. We’re going to have to see how it plays out.”

Protesters bear signs in protest of Trump on McGill’s campus. Photo by Ana Hernandez.

Graham Dodds, an associate professor from Concordia’s political science department, offered his opinion on the U.S. election results, particularly on how Trump’s win will affect Canada-U.S. relations. He said, while it will not be like the “bromance” portrayed between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama, the US-Canadian relationship is more institutional than based on leaders and their political leanings. “Presidents and prime ministers come and go, but the strong Canada-U.S. relationship largely persists,” said Dodds. “Even though Trump might greatly strain the relationship, the relationship is strong enough that it will endure, hopefully.”

“Trump is going to be inaugurated on Jan. 20. He is not perceived as the actual president of a huge segment of the population, so there’ll be protests,” said Singh. “I think it’s fair to say Montreal [will] join into those protests.”

Singh said Prime Minister Trudeau extended an invitation for Trump to come to Canada. “It’s fair to expect Trump to be in Ottawa or the Ottawa area in the early months of 2017,” said Singh.

Singh announced yesterday QPIRG will be visiting Ottawa if Trump accepts Trudeau’s invitation. Though the details have not been finalized, as Trump has not yet responded to Trudeau, QPIRG plans to mobilize if a visit from the future president is scheduled.

QPIRG Concordia will be hosting the next “Resist Trump!” community meeting on Nov. 23 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at QPIRG Concordia, at 1500 de Maisonneuve. If there are too many attendees, they will meet in the CSU lounge on the seventh floor of the Hall building.

Exit mobile version