This week, ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Latvia, a NATO ally, to meet with the Latvian President and Prime Minister. The highlight of the trip was Trudeau’s visit to the Adazi base to meet with Canadian and NATO soldiers who are serving as part of the Canadian-led NATO battalion there.
The visit received significant attention from all regional language groups, especially as Prime Minister Trudeau used the occasion to announce that Canada will continue to lead the NATO battalion in Latvia for additional four years.
Several ethnic media sources across regional language groups have offered explanations as to the timing and motivation of the announcement. Toronto based radio program G 98.7 FM Mark & Jem in the Morning called it “an opening act on the eve of the NATO summit in Brussels”. Several outlets have pointed out that the likely calculation on Trudeau’s part was to remind the world of Canada’s contribution to the common NATO goals. US President Donald Trump Canada recently severely criticized Canada. It’s known that he and Prime Minister Trudeau have a tense relationship, due to Canada’s comparatively low level of defenc e spending. For instance, Fairchild TV British Columbia writes that the announcement “could help Trudeau counter criticism” from Donald Trump regarding defence spending targets.
Canadian mainstream media calls the announcement widely expected and tends to emphasize the mission’s positive and symbolic nature to NATO and to Canada’s larger role in world politics. (Globe and Mail, July 9). Yet, a broad analysis of Canada’s ethnic media shows that Trudeau’s positive messaging about protecting Eastern European countries from Russian aggression is not reaching ethnic media audiences, especially as the timing of the announcement suggests a more politically calculated motive.
Russian language site Torontovka.com offers a more culturally and geopolitically sensitive narrative. It reminds that the three small Baltic nations—Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania—“share borders and difficult relations with Russia” which have only escalated since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Instead of Trudeau’s political calculation, Torontovka chooses to focus on solidarity with the Baltic region, citing the Prime Minister saying that Canada remains “resolute in matters of our support for security in the Baltic region.”
In addition to his Latvia visit and the subsequent announcement, Trudeau has also chosen the first day of the NATO summit in Brussels to announce that Canada will take on leading a military mission to Iraq, sending as many as 250 Canadian military personnel. CHIN FM 100.7 Spanish cited Trudeau, as he referred to the Iraq mission, by saying: “This is something we deeply believe in”. However, this is an exception rather than the rule. Along with the continuance of the Latvia mission, the announcement was treated as a move to balance Donald Trump’s criticism of Canada’s defence spending and elicited a relatively mild reaction (Russian Week).
One can observe that Trudeau’s defence posturing regarding Latvia has not raised large concerns among domestic ethnic media audiences, who are still inclined to see these moves as attempts to turn the attention away from defence spending criticisms.