Pamela Palmater knows how badly First Nations have been treated historically and how small amendments squirrelled away in many huge omnibus bills by PM Stephen Harper have been cynically used by PM Justin Trudeau to divide and conquer – particularly in the current Wet’suwet’en pipeline issue.
1. Trans Pacific Partnership
First and foremost, the TPP likely needs to be killed dead. Wikileaks has been revealing details of the secret TPP from time to time since at least 2013. There are many very serious threats to the people of Canada and the other eleven countries who signed the deal this October. (See list below for just some threats). These threats are enabled by the extraordinary power given to foreign corporations (mostly in the U.S.) by the deal’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement Agreements (ISDS Agreements) to sue nations for expected future profits if their legislatures enact laws or operate public institutions that are deemed to affect their profits. Canada has first hand experience of these lawsuits since it has been involved with the U.S. and later Mexico in NAFTA. This legal, but immoral, right to sue has cost Canada and Mexico, but not the U.S., millions in lawsuits. The TPP is incredibly more pervasive and involves 12, not just 3 countries. More and more Canadian businesses and institutions, such as small farmers and the CBC are directly under attack from the TPP – a much larger group than under NAFTA, which at least had some provisions to protect our water and our farms. It is very likely that Canadians ourselves, and likely even most MP’s, will not see the details of this deal.
The argument that Canada is better in than out of this deal sounds powerful, but deceives us. This deal will provide very few Canadians with good, stable jobs that offer a package of benefits. NAFTA at least protected our auto industry but other U.S. firms no longer had to manufacture or do research here in order to sell in Canada. Shortly after the free trade deal with the U.S. in 1987 Caterpillar closed its plant in Brampton, Ontario and fired 90% of its workers. Ten per cent went to North Carolina with Caterpillar’s manufacturing. Bye bye. Trade deals that began in 1987 between Canada and the U.S. and expanded to include Mexico in 1994 have not preserved quality manufacturing jobs. Canada’s manufacturing as a per cent of GDP, and the good jobs with benefits that go with it, has fallen from 24% in the 1960’s to about 10% in 2015. As for Canada’s pathetic decline in research and development this article in the Tyee is worth reading. With the TPP the victims in the 12 TPP countries will be the general population. The winners will be those highly placed in the foreign corporations who conjured up this deal in secret. The poor in all twelve countries will become destitute, except for a small fraction of educated English speakers who will form a small lower-middle class.
In years past, Canadians and others aware of this grave corporate threat took to the tear-gassed streets and successfully defeated monster trade deals like the MAI. The ‘better in than out” choice is a false one. Rather, all 12 countries should present this deal accurately to their electors; then its defeat would be certain.
Some issues with the TPP:
Investor-State Dispute Settlements, as mentioned above, allow foreign corporations to sue countries and cities for billions of “lost future profits” if they enact legislation to protect health care, the environment, jobs, wages and democracy and these actions affect their “sacred” right to profits forever.
Temporary Foreign Workers: Foreign corporations that procure TFW’s probably will be able to sue for lost income if Canada cuts numbers of TFW’s permitted to work here. This is already being done in a case about McDonalds. And Canadian Seafarers are threatened and fighting back. TFW’s are themselves abused and are already being inappropriately used to prevent Canadians from making a just wage.
BGH: American milk and meats use Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), suspected of being associated with cancer. We probably will be exposed to this?
Food Safety: Canadian standards on food safety will likely be further weakened by the TPP.
Labeling: Will Canadian products still be identified in supermarkets? I doubt it.
Public services: Wikileaks revealed that TPP pushes for the elimination of publicly funded institutions like the CBC and Canada Post. These leaks are notably absent from discussions even on the threatened CBC!
Bank Deregulation: Will banking regulations be weakened?
Privacy: Canadian privacy, already blown away by C-51, will be further jeopardized by this agreement, which will force internet service providers to track our activity.
Job Losses: Canadian jobs will likely be lost in large numbers to workers from countries with lower wages, labour standards and non-existent unionization.
2. Bill C-51
Clayton Ruby, a distinguished lawyer and activist who has been practising law since 1969, believes Bill C-51 should be completely thrown out and rewritten. It is a catch-all list of vague but serious offenses that can be gratuitously applied to acts that are really quite innocent. It permits dirty tricks. It can turn an innocent article or speech, by abuse of its ill-defined powers, into an “act of terrorism.” Justin Trudeau cannot invent a system of oversight to guard against abuses possible with such a plethora of vague possibilities that have not been properly classified. This article gives some excellent examples of how irretrievably defective this bill is. It must be rewritten into something that can be easily and clearly reviewed by whomever are given the responsibility of oversight.
3. Truly Proportional Representation; Not PR-lite!
There are only two types of proportional representation currently used that are truly proportional: Party List Proportional Representation and Mixed Member Proportional Representation. Tom Mulcair has suggested one of them: Mixed Member Proportional Representation, used by Germany and New Zealand. Party List Proportional Representation is used by over eighty countries worldwide. See my post on PR here.Justin Trudeau should confer with his counterparts in parliament and pick one of the above systems. There are various minor ways in which different countries have modified the two choices. The Canadian people must be educated about the importance of replacing our FPTP system with whichever system will ultimately be selected. This is the job of parliament. The committee that looks into selecting PLPR or MMPR (MMP) should be composed mostly of members from the parties that proposed this reform: the NDP, the Liberals and Elizabeth May.
Note: Instant Runoff, also known as Alternative Vote is NOT proportional representation! It will betray the continually frustrated supporters of the Greens and the NDP- the very people that gave the Liberals a majority despite receiving less than 40% of the popular vote.
Since 68% of Canadian voters elected to vote for a party that included electoral reform in its platform, parliament has total authority to pass legislation to enact it.
There must not be a referendum on this! It is time Canada moved confidently to a truly proportional system. Parliamentarians on October 19th were given a strong mandate to do this for us.
No need to re-invent the wheel. Beware of attempts to dilute, adulterate or corrupt this very important reform of our electoral system.
By the way, if the TPP with its ISDS agreements is ratified, our improved electoral system will mean nothing, since foreign corporations will hold us to ransom and voting will be a farce, because our leaders will be no more than puppets. That’s why killing the TPP is numero uno – the sine qua non.
4. Other Stuff
There are many other important tasks for what will be a truly busy four years. Ferreting out and removing the bad bits squirreled away in Stephen Harper’s many, huge, undebatable omnibus bills will be an unenviable task. And the Liberals must act to prevent existing infrastructure of public institutions like the CBC from being sold:
- Harper reduced Canada’s protected lakes, rivers and waterways from 2.5 million to a mere 159 in Bill C-45.
- Dozens of laws in over 10 Huge Harper omnibus bills have decimated the powers and rights of our indigenous peoples. What I call “buckshot legislation.”
- CBC infrastructure must be preserved by immediately dismissing most of its current Board of directors, 80% of whom are Conservative Party contributors appointed by Harper. These party hacks plan to sell all CBC buildings!
5. Hopeful Congratulations to Justin Trudeau
All the above being said, I’ll admit I’m nervous about Mr. Trudeau’s recent cautious avoidance of the term Proportional Representation, his voting with Harper on C-51 and his unequivocal pro-trade stance. But he really seems to be setting out an ambitious agenda for the first half of his mandate. I have not been this hopeful for over a dozen years.
Congratulations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. You have already changed the world’s perception of Canada for the better. You have slain Cerberus in grand style. You hold the future of my grandchildren in your hands. You can be greater than your father.
Very few countries today can say that they are one nation.
So many parts of our world have been screwed up by colonists creating “imaginary” boundaries that make no ethnic, linguistic or historical sense. Africa’s horrors have much to do with that.
Canada’s First Nations have been shamefully hard done by – experiencing a long, drawn out “drip drip drip” of painstaking genocide masquerading as “civilizing” missionary work combined with fraudulent treaties and the outright takeover or pollution of unceded land. Countries that simply exterminated their First Nations or chased them into neighbouring lands stand out, but I am not sure which process is more cruel.
A Honduran child fleeing horrid local violence who ends up facing foreign persecution enroute northward to “safety” would not consider Central or North American borders imaginary.
Occasionally when one is traveling between culturally close countries with the same language the impression is received that the border is imaginary because the people seem the same and the neighbourhoods are similar. A naive visitor might make this mistake.
I remember a taxi ride in Caracas during the unrest in late 1966. Our small group – a few Canadians headed for a nightclub – was stopped. A policeman shoved a machine gun through the window and suggested, “Passaportes, por favór.” Glad we had ’em with us, like good foreigners.
In southern Ecuador in September, 1967 the group I was traveling with were forced to stay overnight in Huaquillas, a small border town, after entering from Peru. We strolled around the main square after eating supper and I took a photo of a statue dedicated to the Friendship of the People of Ecuador and Peru. Apparently there had been a “falling out” and a policeman took my camera, removing the film. Luckily I got the camera back.
These are minor things beside the very real problems people displaced (by those who disregard borders and land rights) and people-on-arbitrary-lists have, but they point out that borders (even arbitrary ones) exist and are something with which one should not trifle.
Canada has for a very long time allowed farmers to bring in temporary foreign workers to harvest crops. This is a program I support for two, and ONLY two, reasons:
a) Harvesting of crops is vitally important and it was/is hard to find Canadians willing to do the work.
b) The work is seasonal.
Neither of these two reasons applies to temporary workers being brought in to compete with Canadian bank tellers and people (many of them young students) looking to find work with McDonalds. And foreign companies, such as iGate in the case of Royal Bank’s temporary foreign workers, are making a profit by sourcing cheap labour. Many foreign corps have, sometimes successfully, often frivolously, sued Canada under NAFTA’s Chapter 11 already for laws, such as environmental protection laws, that affect their “sacred treaty right” to make money.
If only the treaties with our First Nations had been made under NAFTA. Hmmmm…
Anyway, here are my questions:
1. Please….PLEASE can someone help explain when unhealthy fast food became so vital to Canadians that it justifies harming our Canuck workers to make it even cheaper?
2. At what point can US corporations like iGate sue Canada for Lost Future Profits Until Kingdom Come if Canada legislates against foreign temps?
Once again I am frustrated and shamed of our spineless government and complacent population.
I am seriously waiting for an answer or two here, folks…
Update April 25:
OK, not hearing from anyone, I have found this article by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on the history of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. Trust a Canadian union to do the investigative reporting our media should have been doing to educate us on this widespread and ever-growing abuse and commodification of human beings, both Canadian (the ultimate losers) and non-Canadian “Temporary” Foreign Workers (the “often gratefully abused”). From a pilot program introduced by the Liberals in 2002 it was expanded repeatedly by the Harper Conservatives since 2006 to the point where, at the end of 2012, there were 340 000 TFW’s living in Canada.
Here is a 2011 article done at York University which described how, in the 2008 downturn, the so-called “temporary” program designed to fill jobs Canadians didn’t want actually grew and, in fact, had become permanent.
And below is a table from Stats Canada showing that TFW’s accounted for 29% of Canada’s Total Paid Employment increase from 2007 to 2011. Must be worse now… Thanks for this to economist Jim Stanford’s May, 2012 post in The Progressive Economics Forum. No wonder Harper wants to emasculate Stats Canada! I have sandwiched the table in between two quotes from Stanford’s brief article:
Even before the expansion of the program envisioned in the current omnibus “budget” bill, temporary foreign workers (who do not have the same rights as other Canadian workers, and whose presence here depends entirely on keeping their employers happy) already accounted for almost 30% of all net new paid jobs created in Canada between 2007 and 2011.
And another quote:
Hence, this initiative by Harper & Co. is aimed at relaxing a fundamental constraint on class relations in our whole labour market, and in that regard represents a very important (and dangerous) shift in the balance of power in our society.
David Suzuki’s insightful piece says that rail vs pipeline is the wrong question.
He focuses on real, simple, economic questions and asks rather, “Why?” or, at least, “Why Now.”
He includes links to support his point and allow the reader to read more if he/she wishes.
He stays away from the issue of dishonouring our promises made to our First Nations and the poisoning of their water, air, soil and people because, I assume, the arguments he makes stand strongly on their own.
Winning the political battle will not be easy without the involvement and courageous resistance of our First Nations, however, as FN lawyer, Pamela Palmater has argued strongly. I have summarized her position, and the full-blown attempt by Stephen Harper to wipe out their culture, here.
Left Rio de Janeiro Sunday, August 6, 1967 by bus for São Paulo at 8 AM, arriving 4 PM. Stayed overnight. It was my first experience of the custom of blaring one’s horn for the entire time one is tied up in traffic. Incomprehensible to me why someone would want to make a bad situation intolerable. The cacophony was even audible from my tenth floor hotel room with the windows closed.
São Paulo is where all the men from Manaus went to find work, leaving their women unattended. São Paulo had the air in 1967 of economic boom. 5.5 million people, crowded, cool, hectic with fine shops offering beautiful items for sale.
Before we can say “Mike Duffy” Harper will have us tied up in so many politically-paralyzing trade deals that we will become a true colony of the worldwide super-wealthy
Stephen Harper has squirrelled away, in several huge omnibus bills, many changes to First Nations’ governance designed to divide and conquer First Nations and thereby enable pipelines to be rammed across their unceded territories. Pamela Palmater in 2013 gave four talks identifying these small, scattered, insidious changes and major problems that existed long before Harper. My summary of her main points follows, along with links to all four talks…
Pamela Palmater, lawyer for 14 years, a professor at Ryerson University, Mi’kmaw citizen and member of Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick, speaking on the Harper legislative onslaught upon First Nations. Her talk has been divided into four parts and is posted on YouTube by Idle No More Alberta. Where I am quoting Ms. Palmater directly the text will be in quotation marks.
- Department of Indian Affairs: “Their policy objective for First Nations in this country has never changed. From the time they developed it in the 1800′s until now, on the books, the number one objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian left in Canada – and with that goes the treaties and reserve lands and everything else.” Continue reading “Using Buckshot Legislation To Decimate First Nations Rights”
I have been ignorant of so much about our native peoples for so long – like my whole life, for example. The author Wade Davis years ago made me appreciate the value of seeing Mother Earth from a worldwide indigenous perspective which recognizes the oneness of every single thing on this Planet, a point made superbly by Winona LaDuke in this wonderful talk.
The recent Idle No More movement highlights for me these points:
1. We continue to colonize our native peoples through, among other things, ruining their unceded lands and waters by making them hostile, barren and toxic via the unbridled extraction of minerals, oil and trees.
2. Our First Nations are experiencing huge rates of disease due to these activities. The pollution is also affecting us, though less obviously. Ninety-nine per cent of scientists and a large, growing number of lay people realize that continued economic growth that depends on pollution is unsustainable.
3. Many of us “white folk” are coming to realize that multinational corporations, many with foreign profit centres like Brazil, China and Holland, with absolutely no connection to the land, are being given the right to exploit it. While First Nations are the canary in the coal mine, we all are being quickly colonized, and, ultimately, impoverished and poisoned by the world economic system.
4. The Movement is a valuable, attention-grabbing focal point whose many contentious, non-unanimous issues, some of which are highlighted in Michael Enright’s CBC Sunday Edition interview with Cindy Blackstock, can be unified, I believe, by the unanimous chant that “Enough Is Enough.”
I see this phenomenon as a reason to hope again. For a glass-half-empty person, that is some accomplishment.