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The Independent: Domestic criticism of Trudeau after Canada's exclusion from new international defense pact

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing heavy criticism from his political opponents after Canada was excluded from a new international defense pact, days before the country votes in a federal election.

Last Wednesday, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States announced a new intelligence-sharing agreement aimed at countering Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the British newspaper The Independent.

Although Canada already shares intelligence with Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and New Zealand - an agreement known as the Five Eyes - it is not included in the new agreement, dubbed Aukus.

Ahead of Monday's federal election, leaders of both the Conservative and New Democrat parties quickly criticized Trudeau for excluding Canada, suggesting it reflects a broader failure by the Liberal government to engage key allies - and to take a firm stand against China.

"This is yet another example of Trudeau not being taken seriously by our friends and allies around the world," Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole told reporters on Thursday. "Canada has become more irrelevant under Trudeau."

The new Democratic leader, Jagmeet Singh, also criticized Canada's absence from the agreement, noting that Trudeau had become too distracted by the election campaign to fully engage with allies. He said that if Canada had become a member of the Aukus, it could have pressured China to free the two imprisoned Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.

"The agreement appears to be a potential way to add more pressure [on China]. But Canada has been absent," Singh said.

Canada's strained relationship with China - and the plight of two imprisoned Canadians - has been shown before during the election, when leaders squabbled during a recent debate.