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Canada, dude, you used to be cool

Robbie Packman | 17.03.2012 14:35 | Tar Sands | Analysis | Ecology | Repression | World

Since thier election in 2006 the Canadian Conservative party, through lies, stealing and cheating, have turned their beautiful country into one of the worst human rights abusers in the world. It´s time for Canadians to say ENOUGH!

I have nothing but fond memories of living in Canada: a country of stunningly beautiful landscapes; happy, unassuming, and industrious inhabitants; and a firm adherence to coffee breaks at 16:20. Likewise, my encounters with Canadians around the world have always been positive, just always remember (as with the Scottish, Irish and Welsh) to ask if they are Canadian before assuming their accent means they are American (I still often find it hard to tell the difference!)It is however American (USA) travellers who pay the Canadians the highest of compliments by sewing Canadian flags to their backpacks so as to avoid having insults / rotten fruit / grenades (please select appropriate projectile) thrown at them by locals anxious to expel the gringo invader (see photo below) from their country.

However, attention Canadians, Americans and all those looking to throw shit at gringos, this is all due to change unless all cool Canadians take drastic action. Canada`s imagine as “the US` “cool northern neighbour” is under threat by a conservative political takeover and a growing tendency to disregard human rights and destroy the environment that is just not… cool.

The environment

After Saudi Arabia, Canada boasts the largest oil reserves in the world which would be bad enough if a big part of this was not locked up in the oil sands of Alberta. Extracting said oil consumes 5 times more energy than conventional methods and leaves vast swaths of pristine wilderness looking more like Tolkein`s Land of Mordor. It was probably such environmental inconveniences that prompted Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper to ridicule the Kyoto accord as “a money-sucking socialist scheme” and vow to battle to defeat it.

Consequently, Canadian delegations have consistently blocked the international community in coming to an agreement in order tackle climate change. Nationally, Canadian environmental spending has been savagely cut, and Canadian climate scientists are finding themselves gagged from talking to the press while the oil and gas lobby are given free rein to “muddy the waters” through the spread of misinformation.

Human rights

Instead of bringing “economic development and jobs” the Albertan oil sands projects have brought severe problems for local indigenous communities. Traditional hunting lands have been destroyed, rivers poisoned and cases of cancer have increased alarmingly. Furthermore, the Canadian government do not limit human rights abuses to their own backyard. From Guatemala to the Congo, Canadian mining companies have the worst human rights record in the world (involved in four times as many incidents as their Australian and British counterparts) which includes forced displacement, murder and even accusations of supporting genocide.

The Harper administration are not just turning a blind eye to the shameful conduct of Canadian multinationals abroad, they are actively aiding and abetting!

Bill C-300 would have required extractive companies operating in developing countries to comply with certain international human rights and environmental standards widely accepted by the industry as best practice, however it was defeated in Canadian Parliament in November of last year.
Despite widespread opposition from both Canadian and Colombian civil society, debate was shut down and a controversial free trade agreement between the two countries was voted in by both Liberal and Conservative MPs on June 14 2011. Little more than lip service is paid to the dire situation for human rights defenders in Colombia.
Canadian NGOs not in line with conservative ideology have experienced crippling cuts while aid spending is redirected toward programs that facilitate Canadian multinational entrance into foreign markets, whitewash their image and tie development aid to Canadian commercial interests. This means that while Canadian mining corporations are enjoying record profits, Canadian tax payers are paying for their publicity campaigns dressed up as development projects. Burris Devanney describes the process as such; “CIDA’s funding of Canadian NGOs to work in poor villages under the umbrella of Canadian mining companies is a 19th century throwback that will probably deliver more harm than good and turn poor villages into little neo-colonies or factory towns, with the NGOs serving as paternalistic, if not parasitic, social overseers.”

Oh, Canada!

Now, come on Canada, I can understand the need for many other countries to abuse human rights and destroy the environment. How else are the middle eastern oil states supposed the pay for their giant air-conditioned shopping malls with ski slopes in the middle of the desert? African countries are full of yummy resources that must be exported, the Chinese have to keep their workers in their sweatshops somehow, and the US must continue exporting fabulous free market democracy to an often ungrateful world.

Canadians, however, live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world with a half decent democratic system, workers rights, and no need to maintain any kind of international hegemony. Canada always ranks high in the UN`s human development index and consistently comes top or close in various other quality of life indexes.

Yes, tar sands and international mining may be profitable and pesky human rights and the environment do get in the way of this. But do you really believe more money will make you happier? The choice to live by ones values and morals is a luxury in a world in which scarcity is the norm. Those lucky enough to live in stability and prosperity have the responsibility to look beyond their own material well-being and build their societies on values, morals and principles.

Since their electoral victory in 2006, the Canadian Conservatives have consistently lied, cheated, stolen, broken the law, defrauded, defamed, and disregarded democracy in order to grab and hold onto power. This shameful charade can no longer be ignored nor tolerated. So Canadians, I urge you to put justice and liberty ahead of pure profit. If not, then investing in little American flags to sew onto your bags when travelling abroad will be necessary (and profitable!).

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Robbie Packman
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