When Justin Trudeau stepped out of the plane in Manila for the APEC summit, one of his main agendas was to promote Canada’s increased engagement in international affairs. Unfortunately, the moment he stepped out onto the tarmac, Trudeau found himself facing Canada’s filthier parts again. And that statement is only half-metaphoric.
According to Vice News, 50 containers of Canadian household toxic-waste were shipped for disposal to the Philippines in 2013 – including used adult diapers. Allegedly, another 48 containers were also shipped to the same destination in 2014. The primary culprit so far has been a Canadian company, Chronic Inc., which denies these allegations.
Naturally, Filipinos are upset that their country has become a dumping ground for Canadian garbage. Additionally, shipping hazardous waste internationally is illegal according to the Basel Convention, unless under special circumstances. In light of this, various groups are already protesting this this at the summit, and a Change.org petition is organized to raise awareness.
This specific problem is not new to the Canadian government – or rather, the previous one that lost power this past October. The former Harper government acknowledged the issue in the past, but argued that the problem was out of government hands considering it originated from a private company. Despite how many Filipino environmentalists are hammering home this failure from the previous government, Trudeau has yet to directly address it. It is particularly puzzling – his party was elected on the platform of correcting Harper’s mistakes after all.
However, considering recent Liberal Party statements on Canada playing a bigger role in Asia as well as reiterating environmental promises, chances are this problem is already on his agenda. Unfortunately, the absence of a mention could mean its importance is downplayed to a minor “check-box” objective, or worse yet (but very unlikely), it may not even be on there at all.
Yet, as troubling as this will sound, it is understandable that this is not the Liberal government’s primary concern right now. With the attacks on Paris and Beirut last week, and mounting international pressure on Canada for its uncertain role against ISIS, some ancillary problems inevitably fall to the wayside temporarily.
Also, in terms of public awareness, environmental concerns tend to lack popularity in the average conversation. In this case, the hot APEC-related topic right now in Philippine social media is who’s more attractive: Trudeau? Or Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto?
There are also other things to consider from the Philippine standpoint. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has been oddly quiet on the situation too, for example. Environmental problems like this should be held with utmost importance for developing countries as well. This is even more so the case with the pollution problems in Philippine urban centres. Despite this being a clearly Canadian gaffe, everyone needs to pull their weight in handling waste and pollution.
Still, whether on his immediate agenda or not, it should be common-sense courtesy for Trudeau to mention it during the APEC summit. Nobody likes it when their own backyard is littered with someone else’s garbage. This is especially true when human waste is included in the mix. Therefore, the least Trudeau can do is acknowledge Canadian responsibility and promise to act accordingly. He not only owes that to the Filipinos directly affected by this, but also to those Canadians who voted for his party to address these issues.
Most important of all? That his government actually does act accordingly. No matter whose trash it is, it is still trash that needs to be picked up and disposed of properly.