Tag Archives: success

The Trans Pacific Partnership: A Threat to Canadian Taxes, Food Security, Democracy, and More

My name is Jonathan. I am 26 years old and living a typical Canadian life. I can honestly say that I spent the majority of my life wanting “the dream”: money, fame, and fortune. I believed that everyone had a chance to get that dream, especially living in a Country like Canada.

After I graduated from high school, I moved to the city. I learned about myself and experienced new people and cultures. I partied, shopped, and socialized, then went to work so that I could go out and spend more money and time with people. I was living the life but something seemed empty about it all. Everything in my life felt like it revolved around spending money.

We may talk about things like homelessness, world hunger, climate change, environmental pollution, wars, and diseases, but as a whole, my society isn’t worried about this. We are concerned about making and spending money, we feel obligated to go out and work those 40 hours every week so that we could have the means to pay for our consumer lifestyles.

What many people don’t realize is that the North American lifestyle wasn’t always this kind of rat race. In many cases, it used to be possible for a middle class family to support themselves on only one income. However, after the introduction of the NAFTA agreement many of those dependable unionized jobs moved to Mexico, where businesses could exploit workers without unions getting in the way. Since then, our economy has become much more dependent on debt. Not to mention that since the 2008 housing crisis in 2008 purchasing a home in many cities is now nearly impossible.

Currently, Canada is looking to introduce a bill that could have just as wide flung effects as the NAFTA agreement: The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

What is the TPP?

Right now our nation is at a crossroads. Recently, our government signed onto the The Trans Pacific Partnership. This agreement threatens many of our rights and freedoms. If it is ratified, we will be allowing corporations to make decisions for us, but with the priority of profit over the welfare of people.

This agreement is quite a bit like the North American Free Trade Agreement that Canada signed in 1994. NAFTA allowed a lot of wealth to be made, but by corporations, and not the people of the countries involved. The new Trans Pacific Partnership may have even worse consequences than NAFTA, as the video below highlights.

While the video explains the general problematic aspects of the TPP, I’ve addressed several aspects below that will directly affect us in Canada.

1. Canadian tax dollars are being spent paying lawsuits to Corporations

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Art courtesy of Jon Marks

Companies within NAFTA are allowed to sue countries whose policies affect their profits. Canada has already paid out around $160 million to companies for lost revenue. How much will Canadians have to pay in the future to satisfy the Companies suing for lost profits?

Policies that are meant to protect Canadians are being challenged just to boost profits. The health and job security of Canadians are not a corporate priority, and the TPP will only further threaten their safety. Canadian policies or decisions can be legal, fair and designed to effectively protect the environment or public health, yet they can still face corporate lawsuits demanding hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. A powerful tool of corporate rule is already undermining our democracy. Why would Canada want to willfully sign up for more of that? 

2. It threatens Canadian Food Security and Health Security

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Courtesy of Food Security News

We live in a globalized world. We have a constant supply of food, a wide variety of options, and goods are cheap. The often overlooked problem with this system is that our world is not a stable one, there are wars, famines, droughts, floods. The Climate is changing dramatically and fast.

We are almost completely dependent on imports for many food and goods that could instead be grown and produced in Canada. At the same time we are exporting our natural resources. If global trade were to stop, Canadians would be ill-prepared to deal with the food and goods shortages.

The TPP opens more markets to Canadians, which pushes down the prices of everything, leaving little motivation to have more expensive Canadian-made products and food. It could even threaten the few industries that are still protected here in Canada, like dairy and poultry. And any dairy farmer could tell you that the difference between our dairy standards and those in the United States are staggering.

The TPP also opens up opportunities for companies to challenge food labeling. Since labeling where food comes from, or how the produce was grown (i.e. GMO) could affect profits, companies could sue Canada for requiring labels.

Personally, I want my food to be labeled so I can know where my garlic is grown and whether my tuna was caught without killings thousands of dolphins. Consumers should have the right to know where and how food is produced. Cost shouldn’t be the only deciding factor.

3. It Threatens Canadian Socialism

Canadians think that we live in a socialist country. We have free health care, employment insurance, and we would like to think it’s a fairly even playing field when it comes to finding a rewarding career. We are told that we have opportunities to become successful, that there’s a piece of pie for everyone. We are told that our lives are best.

Unfortunately, reports and studies continually state that the world’s wealth continues to stay with the 1% of the population and the rest of us are getting poorer.

Canadian corporations have tax havens of up to $200 Billion, which keeps money out of Canada and costs regular Canadians more taxes. Canada should make laws preventing these loopholes and recoup the ‘stolen’ money.

Canada, with countless resources, should be a country of bounty. We shouldn’t have widespread homelessness and poverty shouldn’t be such a problem. People shouldn’t have to decide between supporting themselves and receiving a post-secondary education.

Canadians pride ourselves on universal healthcare, but many medical services and products aren’t actually included under that coverage. This could get even worse if the TPP is passed, since it includes excessive patent protections and other intellectual property rights that are guaranteed to make medication much more expensive in Canada. Call me a socialist, but I believe medicine should not be a profit-focused industry. I think pharmaceuticals should be heavily regulated by the governments, with the goal of bettering mankind, not just the stockholders. The health and wellbeing of humans should not just be seen as an opportunity for profit. Unfortunately, Global News has already reported on certain Pharmaceutical companies dramatically increasing drug prices.

Canadians need to decide what we want our future to be like.

We can allow the TPP to be signed and continue the corporate and banking invasion of our country, allowing rich corporations to benefit at the expense of the rest of the population.

Or we could stand up to the corporate world and demand that our country protect our rights and freedoms. We could see our governments take down economy-destroying banking systems and regulate corporations to once again benefit humans before profits. We could work towards health and food security, only selling or sharing surpluses with other countries. With less focus on profits, we might be able to solve many of the problems plaguing our world.

It is not too late to challenge the TPP. It may have been signed, but it is not yet ratified. The recent election was a political shakeup; it could allow Canada to rewrite our embarrassing trade, environment, and social policies.

So what will you do? Say nothing, and allow the TPP to pass? Or stand up and contact your MP to let them know that you care about Canada’s future. You can tell Ottawa that Corporations have no right to rule Canadians. We are a free country, we are a democracy, and we will not go down without a fight.

The time to decide is now. You have everything to lose.

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Courtesy of The Council of Canadians acting for Social Justice


JON Marks is a 26-years-young, flamboyant, micro-writer who works in the garden and irrigation industry. He is a hobbit at heart and loves a good cup of tea. He is often a quiet fellow, but some situations can cause him to voice his opinions. He has no problem dishing the T.

Can Casting Choices Promote Global Cultural Dominance? A Possible Explanation for Whitewashing in Cinema

This is a weird, random, and controversial thought, but….

I wonder if this consistent pattern of replacing Asian characters with White actors (even with more and more Asian actors getting more screen time [at least on TV] and all these articles highlighting whitewashing) is a subtle and unconscious battle of cultural and racial dominance? If it stems from a fear-based place of “if you put more Asians as leads in mainstream, worldwide entertainment, then it removes some of the cultural dominance of the status quo”.

I’m really not trying to bash White people, but you really can’t argue that White people overall have more privileges than any other race. And White men are the heads and execs at basically every major company in Europe and North America. And in entertainment, which has major worldwide influence, White people and predominately men are the execs, directors, writers, producers, and agents. Ironically, they welcome foreign money with open arms from Chinese to Middle Eastern investors.

Asians, population-wise, are more than 50% of the world; China and India have enormous populations with a lot of spending power. Asian countries have created very popular forms of entertainment with anime, manga, and video games. They frequently feature characters of Asian descent. Japan has always been a powerhouse country, but their status as an Axis power in World War II has set them up historically as a bad guy. Then their strength in electronics and cars in the 90’s set them up as the “competition” (i.e. not American and not us). And Chinese is ALWAYS the bad guy in the news. “We can’t have factories in China. The Chinese are gonna take over.” There’s a history of US vs THEM. Besides the military, the only industry of world dominance that White America has complete control over is the entertainment industry. American movies make so much internationally. Ironically, the US entertainment industry depends on the income from the foreign markets, but cater very little to their populations by representing them on screen. They know that the foreign populations will come see their movies no matter what, because they aren’t doing huge budget CGI movies where they are. Continue reading

“Sorry” Means Nothing Unless It Comes With Real Change: On Truth and Reconciliation in Canada and Beyond

Last semester, I took a course called “the Dark Side of Sorry”, which examined the Sorry Movement in Australia and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa and Canada. Since it was a literature course we spent part of the semester reading books that dealt with the effects of colonization in those three countries.

The novels we read explored the effects of apartheid in South Africa, the Stolen Generation in Australia, and residential schools in Canada on the lives of specific characters. In contrast, our critical readings examined the way each of those countries dealt with those events after they were nationally, and internationally, condemned. I want to touch on a few of the criticisms that were raised through our critical readings and discuss why those arguments are particularly relevant today.

South Africa

“Suffice it to say that none of these unconventional projects was intended to lead to any gross violation of human rights […] It can, however, be argued that they did create an atmosphere conducive to abuses.”

– from the apology that F.W. de Klerk, the last South African leader of the apartheid era, gave to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.While de Klerk apologized for apartheid before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he later “withdrew from the commission, saying he had no need to apply for amnesty as he hadn’t committed any crime.” In an interview in 2012, Klerk pointed out that he had not apologized for “the original concept of seeking to bring justice to all South Africans through the concept of nation states”. He also stated that, not all aspects of apartheid were “morally repugnant”.

After apartheid was finally overthrown South Africa attempted to bring healing to a divided nation through their Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This commission, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was meant to be an act of restorative justice, rather than retribution.

In many ways the TRC was a success. For example, it unearthed the truth about many missing persons, allowing families to finally discover what happened to their loved ones. However, there were also many criticisms against the South African TRC, some of which I’ve outlined below.

1) The TRC didn’t differentiate between violence committed by “an illegal state” and “the combatants of a just war”.

“… from the moment the Commission chose to define violation of human rights in terms of individual acts, it ceased – politically and historically – to be viable: ‘There is,’ write Kader and Louise Asmal and Ronald Suresh Roberts… ‘simply no proportionality between the two sides of the struggle, a fact that is lost on the commission’s decision to individualize it’s definition of a gross human rights abuse'” (171).

– from”Apathy and Accountability” by Jacqueline Rose

2) Racial wealth equality was never really on the table.

“Let one’s fantasy roam a little – what really would be preposterous or ethically inadmissible in imposing a general levy on South Africa’s white population? … such an offer could originate from the beneficiaries of Apartheid themselves, in a voluntary gesture of atonement – it need not be a project of the state. Is such a genesis – from within the indicted group itself – really beyond conception?”

– from “Reparations, Truth and Reconciliation” by Wole Soyinka

3) The TRC remained so focused on the horrific crimes that were being confessed during the hearings that it overlooked the general state of apathy that allowed apartheid to exist for so long. The crimes presented at the TRC trials stood out as “outrageous” acts, and they drew “the nation’s attention away from the more commonplace violations” (162).

“Spread accountability too wide by flattening out the differences between the state and its opponents, then oddly, symmetrically, it will also start to shrink, as the crimes of apartheid becomes more and more the acts of individuals, [and] less and less the machinery of the unjust, and illegal apartheid state” (168).

– from”Apathy and Accountability” by Jacqueline Rose

Australia

“We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.”

– from the official apology given by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in February 2008.

I knew the least about Australia’s history, out of the three countries we studied. From what I understand, race relations in Australia were fairly similar to here in Canada, where indigenous peoples were restricted from public areas, treated like scientific specimens, and removed from their families “for their own benefit”.

In May 1997, the Bringing Them Home investigation shocked the Australian settler community by publicizing these historical injustices. It also prompted the Sorry Movement and Sorry Day, which has been held on May 26th since 1998. Below are a few observations critics have made about settler Australians’ “Sorry” response.

1) The Sorry movement is entirely settler-centred.

“These revelations brought about a form of ‘bad conscience’ in the settler Australians… [and] present[ed] them with a vision of a nation improperly formed. They experience the unsettledness of losing their sense of innocent national selfhood. For settlers so afflicted, the postcolonial apology becomes a lifeline to the restitution of a legitimate sense of belonging” (243)

– from “Apology in Postcolonizing Australia” by Haydie Gooder and Jane M. Jacobs.

2) The Sorry movement backfired politically for indigenous Australians.

“The era of reconciliation has coincided with a post-native title backlash in which many sectors of Australian society, not least the powerful mining lobby, have responded negatively and often hysterically to the overturning of the doctrine terra nullis (land belonging to no one) and the common law recognition of native title… Federal Government policy, attentive to the electoral and economic implications of such a backlash, has responded by cutting funds to key indigenous organizations and eroding the gains secured through the Native Title Act and subsequent native title adjudications.”  (234)

– from “Apology in Postcolonizing Australia” by Haydie Gooder and Jane M. Jacobs.

Canada

“The treatment of children in Indian Residential Schools is a sad chapter in our history.”

– from the official apology given by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June 2008.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a Canadian who isn’t familiar with the trauma residential schools inflicted on Indigenous communities across the country, but for those of you who are not Canadian I’ve included a short video below that sums up some of that history.

In 2008, Canada instituted our own Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which allowed survivors of the residential school experience to speak out publicly. Unfortunately, there were several elements of the TRC that many indigenous spokespersons found problematic.

1) The term “reconciliation” misrepresents our history.

“Re-conciliation refers to the repair of a previously harmonious relationship. The word choice imposes a fiction that equanimity is the states quo between Aboriginal people and Canada.” (35)

– from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

2) The majority of the damage had been done by Christian organizations, yet the reconciliation movement rests upon Christian theology and terminology.

“Whether the choice of this world [reconciliation] … is an accidental inheritance, it is ironic, if not sinister, that survivors of religious residential schools … are asked to participate in a ritual that so closely resembles that which abused them” (35)

– from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

3) The Western understanding of apology allows us to move on, without necessarily doing anything to rectify our mistakes.

“Cree artist, poet and oral historian and theorist, Neal McLeod explains that there is no equivalent in the Cree language for the Western notion of an apology. The closest equivalent to ‘I am sorry’ is nimihta tân, which means ‘I regret something’.  McLeod explains that the word used in reference to the residential school experience is ê-kiskakwêyehk, which means ‘we wear it.’ This is a profound difference. It is visual and visceral rather than abstract. It describes a recognition and acceptance that cannot be washed or wished away.” (36)

 – from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

4) The government continues to protect perpetrators.

“While many truth commissions are granted judicial powers to subpoena witnesses and the ability to ‘name names’ of perpetrators, the Canadian TRC has neither of these powers.”

– from “Truth, Reconciliation and “Success” in the International Context” by Dr. Rosemary Nagy

5) Activists are worried that nothing will actually be done about the commissions recommendations.

The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission came to a close in June of this year, making many of the critiques we explored in this class particularly relevant. The TRC commission concluded that residential schools were an act of “cultural genocide” and put forward 94 recommendations for the Canadian government. Several weeks have passed and Canadians are now asking, is our government going to act on any of them?

In Conclusion

It’s hardly surprising that the one thing in common with the national apologies offered by political leaders in each of these countries is their attempt to distance themselves from the atrocities that took place. The Canadian and Australian prime ministers attempted to do so metaphorically, by referring to the events as a chapter which could be left in the past. In contrast, de Klerk’s non-apology seems to reflect a more blatant refusal to fully accept responsibility.

However, these apologies are certainly better than nothing at all. In fact, many indigenous peoples in South Africa, Australia and Canada have celebrated their country’s national apology as a hard-won victory. But shouldn’t we strive for something more than “better than nothing”? Especially when a a public apology eases settlers’ consciouses and allows us to overlook the systemic problems that led to these injustices in the first place?

“How can we overlook the fact that those admitting to guilt and professing regret continue to occupy, and to speak from, a position of dominance, so that to read abjection or loss of power in their situation would be to misread not merely power relations but the nature of the political apology itself?”

– from “Righting Wrongs and Rewriting History” by Rajeswaru Sunder Rajan