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The Conservatives’ treatment of veterans is hypocritical November 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: Support Our Troops (by screwing them after they have killed, been shot at in a place they have not business being,  and come home)!

“Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, ‘I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.’”

As the doctor said to my father when he announced my gender to him on the day of my birth in 1941: “CANNON FODDER.”

Gerald Caplan

If the politics of contempt is the hallmark of Stephen Harper’s governing style – for Parliament, for accountability, for critics, for science, for journalists – nothing is more shameful than its contempt for Canada’s veterans. It’s not merely that vets have won the right to so much better. It’s also the flat-out hypocrisy, the unbridgeable chasm between the Harper government’s rapturous rhetoric and its actual policies.

Besides the usual Remembrance Day platitudes, there was the PM at the recent Conservative Convention in Calgary shamelessly boasting that only his party cared about Canada’s “brave men and women in uniform.” Yet precisely one week earlier, Corporal David Hawkins from London, Ont., injured in the field and suffering from post-traumatic stress, was booted out of the military before he was eligible to collect an indexed pension – one of many wounded vets who are being treated so callously.

The ugly truth is that Mr. Hawkins is only one example of the many “brave men and women in uniform” who have been betrayed by the Harper government. And refusing veterans their rightful pensions is only one example of the many heartless ways it has actually treated so many of them.

Indeed, just in the weeks around Remembrance Day 2013, the media has been replete with examples of this absolutely inexplicable phenomenon. In the typical words of Corporal Shane Jones, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan, “We go overseas, we fight for our country, we do what we’re asked and when we come home it’s like we have to start another war all over again just to get the help we need.” That was three days after Mr. Harper’s Calgary speech and exactly one week before November 11.

And on Remembrance Day itself, in B.C., retired Air Force captain Claude Latulippe was among other vets who chose to turn their backs on their Conservative MP at the local cenotaph, “just like the Conservatives are turning their backs on veterans.” This attitude hardly surprises Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent, appointed by the Harper government, who angrily points out that the Harper government’s New Veterans Charter will relegate hundreds of the most severely disabled vets to poverty in their old age.

But lest we forget, Remembrance Day 2013 was no aberration on this front. Remembrance Day 2010, for example, was marked by a farewell J’Accuse! from Patrick Stogran, a 30-year vet and Canada’s first Veterans Ombudsman, also appointed by Stephen Harper but pointedly not reappointed.

“What I am here to do,” Mr. Stogran said, “is to expose to Canadians what I perceive as a system that for a long time has denied veterans not just what they deserve, but what they earned with their blood and sacrifice.”

“It is beyond my comprehension,” he later added, “how the system could knowingly deny so many of our veterans the services and benefits that the people and the Government of Canada recognized a long, long time ago as being their obligation to provide.”

Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, “I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.”

Mr. Stogran’s cri de coeur did not come as a surprise to veterans. Over the 2010 Remembrance Day weekend they hit the streets in an unprecedented series of nation-wide demonstrations to publicize their long list of grievances against a government that has made a fetish of its devotion to Canada’s veterans.

Remembrance Day 2012 once again saw a series of public protests by vets against their own government. As reported by Canadian Press, disabled veterans and military widows assembled on Parliament Hill “to paint a stark picture of bureaucratic indifference and red tape that flies in the face of reassurances from the government, which says the care of military families is a top priority….Few of the government’s touted programs meant to help combat veterans find civilian jobs actually help the disabled.”

What does it take for the Harper government to be shamed into action? This Remembrance Day, 2013, many media finally gave the vets’ grievances significant coverage. Besides several news stories, The Globe, for example, published an editorial, two pieces by its own columnists and an editorial cartoon all harshly critical of the government.

There are some indications that the government is finally paying attention, though Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino insists, in quintessential Harperland style, that “a majority of Canada’s veterans receive the support and care they need.” At about the same time, 3,000 to 4,000 citizens took to the streets of Sydney, N.S., (population: 31,597) to support local veterans in protesting the government’s decision to close nine Veterans Affairs Department district offices across the country, including theirs.

Some Opposition MPs have been pressing the vets’ case for some time; Peter Stoffer has been an especially tireless advocate. But surely the Opposition must go further and make this just cause an absolute priority. Shaming Stephen Harper is not an easy task, as years of protest by vets have sadly proved. But surely his betrayal of Canada’s veterans cannot be allowed to continue.

Neoliberalism No More: Making Common Cause to Defeat the Harper Agenda January 28, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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Roger’s note: there is an old Canadian political saying that goes like this: the NDP are Liberals in a hurry.  The truth is that Conservatives are Liberals in a hurry (as Republicans are Democrats in a hurry).  In a hurry to what?  In a hurry to protect and expand the rule of capital over living human beings.  It is not just the Harper agenda but rather the agenda of Capital that we are talking about.  Replacing Harper’s Conservatives with either Liberals or watered down NDP will not stop but only slow down the agenda.  The Idle no More Movement and the passionate radicalism of large elements within the First Nations peoples are important and hopeful signs.  Such movement should not be diluted by believing that electoral politics is a solution to the destruction of our human rights and of the very planet we inhabit.
Published on Monday, January 28, 2013 by Rabble.ca

by Archana Rampure

Stephen Harper has an agenda and it is all about turning Canada into a resource-extraction economy. He would like to make sure that nothing and no one stands in the way of exploiting the oil and the gas, the minerals and the water.

When Aboriginal people stand up for their rights and demand that they be consulted before natural resources are ripped out of the earth, the racist rhetoric begins to fly. When environmentalists suggest that this is a short-sighted, unsustainable and one-time-only plan, they are called radicals and terrorists. NGOs that network with the Global South peoples whose resources we exploit find themselves replaced by mining companies.

The list goes on: trade unions are demonized as big labour and compared to big corporations as though there is any real comparison between the power and influence wielded by corporations and that of the union movement. Aboriginal communities are abandoned by a Federal government which accuses their leaders of financial mismanagement.

These are the smoke-screens being put up to obscure a neo-liberal agenda that will brook no opposition. What I remember from my first anti-free trade protest more than a decade ago still rings true: deregulation, privatization and globalization is still the name of the game.

To me, much of this comes down to the sharp new focus on bilateral trade agreements that this Federal government has made its trademark. Free trade agreements and foreign investment promotion and protection agreements seem to be the Harper Conservatives answer to every problem we are facing. Their relentless drive to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU is emblematic of their mistaken policies: at a time when Canada`s industrial heartland is struggling with the loss of unionized manufacturing jobs, we are deep in the final stages of negotiating an agreement that might open up other sectors of our economy to transnational competition.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a“next generation”free trade agreement that Canada and the EU have been negotiating since 2009. Make no mistake about this — it might not be called a free trade agreement but it will be Canada’s most expansive free trade initiative since NAFTA. It will impact the ability of our elected governments to regulate and it will have a huge impact on how municipal and provincial governments use procurement for local economic development or for environmental sustainability. As far as we can tell from the leaked documents that have been made public so far, the provisions that it will include on investor-state dispute resolution will once again allow foreign corporations to bypass our legal system and appeal to secretive tribunals. The EU’s demands around intellectual property translate into billions of extra dollars for brand-name pharmaceuticals.

And the Canada-EU CETA is only one among the stack of free trade deals that the Harper government has tied itself to: there are now on-going negotiations on free trade between Canada and India, Japan, Korea, Morocco, the Ukraine, the Dominican Republic and a number of other countries. There are also multi-lateral trade agreement negotiations that we are participating in such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Investment promotion and protection agreements are another key feature of this government’s foreign policy initiatives: in 2011 and 2012 alone, FIPAs have been negotiated between Canada and the Czech Republic, Romania, Latvia, the Slovak Republic, Benin, Kuwait, Senegal, Tanzania, China – the now infamous one! – and Mali.

At a time when Canada is supporting a resource war in Mali, and when we “partnering” with multinational mining corporations as part of our international “development” work, it hardly surprising that this government is so enthusiastically supporting Canadian “investment” and “investors” in places such as sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe.

This foreign policy — where the ultimate goal is to extract resources — is a mirror reflection of Harper’s economic roadmap for Canada. What the Global North exported to the Global South has now come home to us all: if we do not form Common Cause to stop this government, our home on native land will continue to experience the consequences of a single-minded drive for resource extraction combined with an attack on universal public services. It is more than time for us to come together, to act now, for ourselves and for those with whom we have Common Cause — aboriginal peoples, immigrants and migrants, environmentalists, trade unionists, students, seniors, the poor and the marginalized, activists — anyone who still believes that there is an alternative to the neo-liberal model of life. We cannot wait till 2015. We have to act together now.

Today, I will be standing up against Harper and his neo-liberal vision for us all as part of a joint day of action called by Idle No More and Common Causes. I hope it will be the first of many actions that Common Causes is part of, that it sparks the kind of committed, continuous action that will help us build a better Canada, and a better world.

© 2013 Archana Rampure

Archana Rampure works as a researcher for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Idle No More: Indigenous Uprising Sweeps North America January 10, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Democracy, Environment, First Nations.
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Roger’s note: the Conservatives of Stephen Harper (a friend refers to them as the suposi-Tories) formed a majority government with barely 40% of the popular vote and now act with mean-spirited Social Darwinistic impunity (with attacks on social programs, aboriginal rights and environmental protection, etc.).  They call themselves Conservatives but in reality the old Progressive Conservative Party has been hijacked by the quasi-fascistic Reform Party (Canada’s Tea Party).  They cannot be stopped through parliamentary means, the struggle is in the streets.
Published on Thursday, January 10, 2013 by YES! Magazine

Idle No More has organized the largest mass mobilizations of indigenous people in recent history. What sparked it off and what’s coming next?

  by  Kristin Moe
idlenomorevancouver1-bycaelieframpton-555

It took weeks of protests, flash mobs, letters, rallies, and thousands of righteous tweets, but Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally caved. He agreed to a meeting with the woman who had been petitioning him for twenty-four days, subsisting on fish broth, camped in a tepee in the frozen midwinter, the hunger striker and Chief of the Attawapiskat Theresa Spence.

The mobilization around Chief Spence’s hunger strike has already grown to encompass broader ideas of colonialism and our relationship to the land.

No, this is not normal parliamentary process. The hunger strike was a final, desperate attempt to get the attention of a government whose relationship with indigenous people has been ambivalent at best and genocidal at worst, and force it to address their rising concerns. The meeting, set for this Friday, January 11, is unlikely to result in any major changes to Canada’s aboriginal policy. Yet the mobilization around Chief Spence’s hunger strike has already grown to encompass broader ideas of colonialism and our collective relationship to the land. The movement has coalesced under one name, one resolution: Idle No More.

Closed-door negotiations spark a movement

The Idle No More movement arose as a response to what organizers call the most recent assault on indigenous rights in Canada: Bill C-45, which passed on December 14. Bill C-45 makes changes to the Indian Act, removes environmental protections, and further erodes the treaties with native peoples through which Canada was created.

Indigenous leaders accuse the Harper administration of “ramming through” legislation without debate or consultation.

On December 4, when representatives of First Nations came to the House of Commons to share their concerns about the proposed bill, they were blocked from entering . A week later, after being repeatedly denied a meeting with Harper, Chief Spence began her hunger strike. Since then, the movement has grown to encompass a hundred years’ worth of grievances against the Canadian government, which is required by Section 35 of the Constitution Act to consult with native people before enacting laws that affect them. Indigenous leaders accuse the Harper administration of “ramming through” legislation without debate or consultation.

Even worse is the bill’s “weakening of environmental assessment and the removal of lakes and rivers from protection,” says Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, which is directly downstream from toxic tar sands mining. She knows firsthand the importance of protecting waterways from industrial pollutants. “Indigenous people’s rights,” she says, “are intrinsically linked to the environment.” She adds that the removal of such protections paves the way for resource extraction, bringing Canada closer to its self-stated goal of becoming a global energy superpower. This isn’t just a native thing, Deranger says; this is something that affects everyone.

And so begins the largest indigenous mass mobilization in recent history. Native people and their allies from all over North America have gathered to peacefully voice their support for indigenous rights: they’ve organized rallies, teach-ins, and highway and train blockades, as well as “flash mob” round dances at shopping malls.

With Twitter and Facebook as the major organizing tools, #idlenomore has emerged as the dominant meme in the indigenous rights movement. In addition to events across Canada, a U.S. media blitz tour has inspired solidarity actions all over North America, as well as in Europe, New Zealand, and the Middle East. Mainstream media and the Harper government are taking notice.

Anger at environmental destruction in Canada boils over

But why now? The answer, says Deranger, is that people are ready. Idle No More arose at a moment of growing awareness of environmental justice issues, frustration with lack of governmental consultation, and widespread opposition to resource extraction on indigenous land—like the tar sands in Deranger’s home province of Alberta and the diamond mines in Chief Spence’s Ontario. It comes after years of grassroots organizing around indigenous rights—which are, in the end, basic human rights.

Visit almost any reserve in Canada, and you’re likely to see third world social indicators in a first world country: high incarceration rates, inadequate housing and sanitation, reduced life expectancy—due in part to abnormally frequent suicides—lack of employment and education opportunities, and substance abuse. This, after more than a century of colonization by a government that refuses to acknowledge its identity as a colonial power. Meanwhile, native youth are the fastest-growing segment of Canada’s population, according to . Is it any surprise that they’re taking on repressive legislation and using social media to organize?

For Canadians—and potentially all North Americans—this is a moment of reckoning. Just as Chief Spence’s hunger strike forced the issue with Harper, Idle No More forces us all to confront the ugliness of our collective colonial history, and to recognize that colonization continues today.

It holds up a mirror to our society, questioning the historical narrative we’re all taught to believe. It asks: On what values was our country founded? And, because identity is created out of that narrative: Who are we, really? And who do we want to be?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

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Kristin Moe

Kristin Moe is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and activist who is enrolled this fall at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine.

Canada-China FIPPA agreement may be unconstitutional, treaty law expert says October 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act(FIPPA), Canada’s biggest foreign trade treaty since NAFTA, will come into effect at the end of October and bind both the federal and provincial governments of Canada to its clauses for the next 31 years until 2043. International investment law expert and Canadian citizen Gus Van Harten says provinces have a strong case for challenging the treaty on constitutional grounds.

Beth Hong
Posted: Oct 17th, 2012
Vancouver Observer

 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with Wen Jiabao, Premier of the People’s Republic of China, in the Great Hall of The People in Beijing, China. PMO photo by Jason Ransom.

With two weeks remaining before the controversial Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA) is ratified, international investment law and treaty expert Gus Van Harten says BC has the option of delaying the treaty’s ratification through the courts.

“The province can call for an injunction in the BC Superior Court, requesting the courts to order the federal government not to ratify the treaty until the constitutional issues are resolved,” Van Harten told The Vancouver Observer.

The other option, Van Harten added, was an upswelling of public opinion against the treaty that will pressure elected officials in Parliament as well as provincial legislatures.

According to international law, a foreign investment protection agreement (FIPA) treaty binds the state regardless of changes in federal or provincial governments.

“It’s a done deal between the two countries—by signing a treaty, the Harper government can bind future governments and bind the Canadian electorate for 31 years,” Van Harten said.

Van Harten—who has a PhD in international law from the London School of Economics, and teaches law at Osgoode Law School—is one of five internationally recognized experts in Canada on international investment and treaty law and how they work on a practical basis. He said that he is an outlier for speaking out, based on his experience.

“The difference between me and many others is that a lot of academics work in the system as lawyers or arbitrators or experts, and they’re much more cautious about saying things that are critical of the system,” he said.

He noted that FIPPA is a good news for lawyers, who stand to profit off potentially multi-million dollar lawsuits.

“The lawyers who work in this field will like that—their business is to sue,” he said. “It’s not good for Canadian taxpayers.”

Any province with Chinese investors in natural assets over the next 31 years has right to challenge constitutionality of FIPPA

BC isn’t the only province that has a strong case in courts against the federal government over FIPPA because they face potentially serious fiscal risk if Chinese companies invest in major assets.
“It could be Ontario down the road, it could be the ring of fire—which is a strip of mineral rich land in Northern Ontario. In the north, there could be development of mines in northern Canada,” Van Harten said. “Same with Saskatchewan, with the mineral right there.”
“In Alberta, the Alberta economy is going to have a significant portion of Chinese ownership in its resource sector, and if Alberta was concerned for a long time about not having control over its resources vis-à-vis the federal government, how does it feel not having control over its resources vis-à-vis Chinese investors?”

The only provincial governments that shouldn’t be concerned about FIPPA are the ones which won’t expect to be getting any significant Chinese ownership of assets, Van Harten said.

“I don’t think any responsible government can assume that that’s going to be the case. In fact, they should be assuming the opposite and asking the questions now before the 31-year commitments are finalized on October 31 In fact, they should be assuming the opposite and asking the questions now before the 31 years kicks into effect on October 31.”

Van Harten’s concerns “speculative”: BC Environment Minister Terry Lake

Van Harten also sent letters to premiers of all across Canada, including BC Premier Christy Clark. He did this to help the provinces understand the scope of the fiscal risks this treaty will have on them and taxpayers.

Clark’s Press Secretary Michael Morton confirmed that Clark’s correspondence branch received the letter. Clark did not respond to questions from The Vancouver Observer about her reaction to any of the concerns it raised.

BC Minister of Environment Terry Lake responded to Van Harten’s letter to the Premier and concerns about FIPPA in a written statement, calling the letter “speculative”:

“We are intervenors in the hearing and examining  issues that are critical to our five conditions that must be met on all pipeline projects in BC. At the same time we are working with our federal counterparts on [Northern Gateway Proposal] related issues where BC’s interests are at stake.”

“As this is ongoing work and international treaties are the purview of the federal government I am not going to comment on speculative comments by Mr. Van Harten.”

No response from feds about concerns over FIPPA

FIPPA is the biggest foreign trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). FIPPA is an agreement with provisions to protect Chinese investors in Canada, and vice-versa. However, it also contains many clauses that have alarmed Van Harten and opposition MPs such as Green Party MP Elizabeth May. May requested an emergency debate on the treaty at the beginning of October to the House Speaker. Her request was denied.

Van Harten wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of International Trade Ed Fast last week outlining his concerns as a legal expert and Canadian citizen, but has yet to get any confirmation on whether his letter has been recieved.

A spokesperson for Minister Fast responded to questions from The Vancouver Observer  about Van Harten’s letter and concerns with the following written statement:

“With regards to investor-state dispute settlement, it is Canada’s long-standing policy to permit public access to such proceedings. Canada’s FIPA with China is no different. As we do with all other investor-to-state disputes, this FIPA allows Canada to make all documents submitted to an arbitral tribunal available to the public (subject to the redaction of confidential information).

It is also important to note that under this treaty, both Canada and China have the right to regulate in the public interest. Chinese investors in Canada must obey the laws and regulations of Canada just as any Canadian investor must.

We’ve been clear that Canada wants to continue to expand its relationship with China, but we want to see it expand in a way that produces clear benefits for both sides. By ensuring greater protection against discriminatory and arbitrary practices, and enhancing predictability of a market’s policy framework, this FIPA will allow Canadians to invest in China with greater confidence.”

Harper government rushing FIPPA, not allowing enough debate

However, Van Harten disagrees on with the Minister on various points.

“Why it is being concluded now in a form that is not advantageous to Canada is perhaps because the Harper government wants to pass it quickly while it has a majority in Parliament, and has been prepared to give away things that it would not have given away presumably as a minority government because it would not have been able to pass it through Parliament”

He added that the bulk of the responsibility for FIPPA lies at the majority Conservative government.

“To be honest, the provinces didn’t start this. It’s the federal government which has taken this reckless step,” he said.

NDP MP Don Davies proposed a motion in the Standing Committee on International Trade to debate, study, and recommend amendments to FIPPA on October 2.

After the majority Conservative committee voted for a confidential, in-camera meeting, the motion was removed from the Committee’s agenda.

International Trade committee member and Liberal MP Wayne Easter decried the killing of the motion, saying it was hindering Parliament from doing due diligence.

“We should be doing what Parliament is supposed to do and hold a consultation so that we know just exactly what is happening under the investment agreement, and so that we can look at the implications,” Easter said.

Two weeks won’t be enough time to fully debate and study the implications for all provinces, hence Van Harten’s recommendation for provinces to request a delay, and then the courts for an injunction based on constitutional grounds.

“I just want to emphasize to you the actor who is to blame at the moment is the federal government,” he said.

“The provinces would be to blame if they sat on their hands despite the implications of this treaty.”

Canada Turns Hard Right, to Israel’s Benefit May 8, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Democracy, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: as the article below points out in contradiction to its title, Canada itself did not turn right; rather, 40% of those who voted, and 24% of those eligible to vote, cast their ballot for the ultra-right Harper Conservatives.  60% of those who voted cast their ballots for one of the four other parties (NDP, Liberal, Bloc Quebec, or Green).  Such is the nature of Canadian “democracy” that the corporate dominated war-mongering, worker hating Tories have a carte blanche do destroy what is left of the social safety net, allow for the continued deterioration of the environment, and support war-mongering dictatorial governments around the world.  It is a (literally) dying SHAME.

The letter that follows the article, from Council of Canadians Chairperson, Maude Barlow, outlines the damage the Tories are set to wreak with their new won “majority” government.

 
Saturday 7 May 2011
by: Jim Miles, The Palestine Chronicle

On May 02, 2011, Canadian electors voted in a majority government for the former minority government of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party. The Conservatives won 167 out of 308 possible seats, although statistically, because of Canada’s “first past the post” system of electing representatives, they did not receive a majority of the “popular” vote. With a voter turnout of 61 per cent, and the popular vote of 40 per cent for the Conservatives, only 24 per cent of Canadians elected the new government.

The main issue turned out to be “stability” – not economic stability, not world stability, not peaceful stability, but stability in that Canadians did not want to have to another election for as long as the mandate lasted, which in Canada is four years.

The opposition for the first time ever is the New Democratic Party, a left wing party that made huge gains in the province of Quebec and smaller gains in other areas. And for the first time ever, the Green party leader, Elizabeth May, was elected in her riding, a singular counterpoint to what will become the Conservative government’s ignoring issues concerning the environment.

Policies

There are significant differences in domestic policy that do not have an impact on the rest of the world. The main thrust is similar to the U.S. policies of less government, more privatization of health care and education (mainly under provincial control, but funded in part by the federal government.)

Canada’s foreign policy will be affected, as the Conservatives will now turn hard to the right and follow if not increase the rhetoric and actions used by the U.S. in its foreign policy. Canada has generally followed the U.S. lead with some minor diversionary arguments to help Canadians feel that they are an independent country. However, most of Canada’s economy is tied to the U.S. economy, and most of its foreign policy reflects that of the U.S.

Environment

Canada advertises itself as a green country, the great outdoors to come and explore, with vast regions of wilderness and adventure. On environmental issues the government is distinctly on the side of the large corporations, meaning there may be some lip service paid to the environment, but the real thrust will be towards resource extraction for other countries and corporations profit and benefit. The Harper Conservatives have argued that they are “aligning” our policies with those of the U.S., essentially meaning that any current environmental laws will tend to be ignored, removed, or watered down.

The Alberta tar sands are the biggest most obvious issue. Requiring huge amounts of water and other energy (natural gas) in order to extract the oil residues, the tar sands have become the oil corporations best ‘safe’ reserves. After the lengthy sand scrubbing process, much of the tar sands by-products are then transported to the U.S. after being reconstituted into a form of crude. Under the NAFTA agreement (free trade between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada) the U.S. government has first rights to the oil before Canada gets any remaining share under circumstances of oil shortages. Mexico at least was smart enough to protect its oil resources.

Foreign Policy Militarization

Foreign policy for Canada, as witnessed by the tar sands and NAFTA, is very much in line with U.S. foreign policy. In the first part of the Twentieth Century, Canada followed Great Britain’s global imperial lead, following on their imperial history of creating Canada to protect its own interests at the expense of the French, the nascent U.S. empire, and of course the indigenous population of Canada. As the U.S. became Canada’s lead trading partner and the global imperial leader, Canada followed, often projecting an image of the peaceable kingdom, but more frequently acting in full support of U.S. initiatives. (see Yves Engler, The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Fernwood/RED Publishing, 2009)

Currently Canada’s military supports U.S. actions in the Indian Ocean, Afghanistan, Haiti, more recently in Libya, and in Palestine/Israel. The Harper government is intent on purchasing sixty five of the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter plane. Canada has no need of this plane unless it intends to support U.S. actions overseas, as there is nobody in the world capable of attacking Canada in a manner requiring Canada’s use of the F-35. Its main beneficiary, apart from the support given to U.S. foreign policy actions, is to the corporate businesses that make the fighter. Many Canadian companies are complicit with U.S. companies in the manufacture of armaments and technological items used for warfare. These companies will benefit financially from the government largesse in purchasing these weapons.

The price is huge, especially when considered against the squabbling about the mere hundreds of millions of dollars accounted for health care and education. The original sticker price of $75 million per plane is indicated to really be much greater, as “Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer…estimated in March that the sticker price for the radar-evading plane would be more like $148 million apiece.” To maintain the planes, a “new Pentagon report suggests Canada could pay up to $24 billion over 30 years to maintain 65 planes.” (CBC.ca, April 26, 2011). The total cost – and these costs as witnessed by U.S. experience always tend to increase even more significantly than projected – of $33 billion is a wonder when the government is calling for fiscal restraint.

What it really amounts to is the slow militarization of the Canadian economy in line with the U.S. economy, as that is where the major manufacturing profits are made in this era of market financialization. It also suits Harper’s agenda of creating “courageous warriors” for projecting Canada’s power on the international scene.

Palestine/Israel

That power is fully aligned with U.S. power and initiatives. Canada has always supported Israel in its fight against the Palestinians, even more so at times than the U.S. government. Canada was the first, before the U.S., to denounce the democratic election of Hamas in Palestinian elections in 2006. Canadian ignorance refuses to recognize that by drawing the ‘extremists’ into power, there is a necessity to moderate and accommodate policies in order to both retain power and to provide services for the citizens. This has been well evidenced by situations in Ireland, and South Africa as the best examples, but also is show with the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon, who have never attacked another country.

The Canadian government creates the same fear of terrorism as the U.S. The Palestinians are considered intruders into their own land, while the Israeli’s are granted their supposed god-given right to inhabit the land regardless of who resided there most recently and over a long historical period. Canada supports the Israeli line of “we are the victims” while the Palestinians are the ‘perpetrators’ of all the violence.

The world can expect, now that the government has a majority, more policies that support both U.S. and Israeli initiatives around the world, economically and militarily – recognizing that the two are well entwined. They may not be broadcast as such, but worded in more carefully phrased rhetoric or rhetoric disguised in a similar manner as the U.S. freedom and democracy agendas are phrased in the U.S.

Generally, the trend for Canadian foreign policy will be a strengthening of its supposedly independent hard line approach to ‘terror’ in support of U.S. policies. Canada is not strictly a sycophantic follower of the U.S. as it inherited a great deal of its underlying ethos from the British imperial system. Canadians pretend to be much more worldly and compassionate, but with the Conservatives receiving only 24 per cent of the actual voting populations support, what is really reflected is a comfortable complacency with the status quo combined with an underlying willful ignorance of some of the main global problems of today.

- Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.

LETTER FROM MAUDE BARLOW, COUNCIL OF CANADIANS CHAIRPERSON


Friends,

The 2011 federal election was historic in many ways and most of us are still trying to process the outcome. It is crucial that we pause to reflect on its meaning and think carefully about the next steps we must take.

While it is true that the remarkable surge in support for the NDP means a more dependable progressive voice in the House of Commons than we have had for years, it is equally true that the most socially and economically right-wing government perhaps in Canadian history has just won a substantial majority in the House and – along with their control of the Senate – is now free to implement its agenda even if every member of every other party votes against it.

The Harper Conservatives are now free to:

- cut corporate taxes and transfer payments;

- go after public services, public sector workers and public pensions;

- allow the growth of private health services to undermine Medicare in the lead-up to the expiry of the Canada Health Accord in 2014;

- vigorously promote more unregulated free trade agreements like the Canada–European Union CETA, that will drastically curtail the democratic rights of local governments to promote local economic development, local resource sovereignty, or local food production;

- kill the Canadian Wheat Board;

- fast track the security perimeter deal with the United States that will violate the civil liberties of Canadians and give away crucial pieces of our sovereignty;

- kill the long-gun registry;

- continue to decimate environmental regulations, under fund source water protection, promote dirty energy projects such as the tar sands, gas fracking and Arctic oil and gas drilling, while ignoring the rights of nature;

- and spend our money on military equipment and prisons we don’t need and don’t want.

This means we at the Council of Canadians and civil society in general have our work cut out for us as never before.

However, there are important signs of hope. The Harper Conservatives do not have the support of the majority of Canadians. Almost 40% of eligible Canadian voters did not cast a ballot in the election and of those who did, fully 60% voted for parties other than the Conservatives. This means that over two-thirds of Canadians who were eligible to vote did not cast a vote for the Harper agenda.

As well, the presence of an opposition with a clear progressive agenda on trade, social and environmental justice and public services will create the opportunity for unparalleled (until now) collaboration between Members of Parliament and progressive civil society. While we have had good working relationships with some Liberal MPs on some issues, how frustrating it was to see the Liberals side with the Conservatives on signing trade deals with corrupt and criminal regimes in Peru and Colombia. Further, the election of the first Green Party member, Elizabeth May, will open the door for an environmental debate and dialogue too long missing from the House of Commons.

And, as Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew reminds us, we have fought battles against both majority and minority governments before and won. Unfair deals such as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the Security and Prosperity Partnership were defeated by popular protest. Unfair trade deals are fought and won outside Parliament, in the court of public opinion, he points out. It was also public pressure that stopped Canadian troops from being sent to Iraq. Similarly, no matter how much Stephen Harper dislikes public health care (and is on record in his preference for private health services), he can go only so far in his dismantling of Medicare, so deeply loved and fiercely protected is this most important of Canadian social programs. And let Harper try to open the doors for commercial export of our water and see how far he gets!

In other words, this country and its values still belongs to the people. As our director of development, Jamian Logue, says, “Neither our democratic responsibilities nor our democratic opportunities ended on May 2. Democracy is a 24/7 pursuit. We have the right and responsibility to act beyond the ballot box.”

What is needed now is a coming together of progressive forces in civil society and the labour movement as never before in our country’s history. Social and trade justice groups, First Nations people, labour unions, women, environmentalists, faith-based organizations, the cultural community, farmers, public health care coalitions, front line public sector workers, and many others must come together to protect and promote the values that the majority of Canadians hold dear. And we must work with, and demand the active representation of, the opposition forces in the House of Commons. In particular, the NDP must oppose the Harper agenda with the full weight of its new power and the Liberals must redeem themselves by working alongside the NDP in defending the interests of the people of Canada.

As the old union saying goes, “Don’t mourn – organize!”. The Harper majority is unfortunately really due to our “first past the post” system. (An American friend writes that he and his colleagues are having trouble understanding how Stephen Harper is Prime Minister with way less than half the votes in Canada. This reminds us of the urgency to promote proportional representation.)

But support for the Harper agenda is paper-thin, as most Canadians do not share the values of this agenda. This then is our task: to work hard over the next four years to protect the laws, rights and services that generations of Canadians have fought for from being dismantled; fight the corporate-friendly, anti-environmental, security obsessed agenda that will come at us; and prepare the way for the kind of government in four years that does in fact, express the will of the people – one with an agenda of justice and respect, of care for the earth, of the more equitable sharing of our incredible bounty.

This will be hard work and will take a great deal of courage and commitment. But really, what more important thing do we have to do?

Maude Barlow

Chairperson

The Council of Canadians

Conservatives fail openness exam April 14, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Democracy.
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http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/794743–conservatives-fail-openness-exam

The federal Conservatives came to office four years ago promising a more accountable and open government than was delivered by the previous Liberal administration. They have failed abysmally on both counts.

The Conservatives have made a mockery of accountability by proroguing Parliament when it suits them and by filibustering parliamentary committees when they try to probe government wrongdoing.

As for openness, the Conservatives are proving to be even stingier than the Liberals when it comes to meeting requests for information.

In a special report released Tuesday, federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault said delays in the release of government information have increased markedly since 2002, when the Liberals were in power. As a result, said Legault, Canadians’ right to obtain documents from their government “is at risk of being totally obliterated because delays threaten to render the entire access regime irrelevant in our current information economy.”

Applicants who pay a $5 application fee to make a formal request under the Access to Information Act are supposed to receive an answer within 30 days, but departments and agencies may ask for extensions. As a result, many responses take several months.

And one of the worst performances last year was turned in by the Privy Council Office, the central nervous system of the government, which reports directly to the Prime Minister. Legault gave the office a grade of D for taking an average of more than five months to comply with an information request.

Legault cited various reasons for the delays, including “multiple layers of review and approval” within agencies and lengthy consultations with other departments before records are released.

But the opposition Liberals see more than bureaucratic red tape at work here. “We are seriously concerned about political interference by the government in stifling damaging information,” said Liberal critic Marlene Jennings.

The government’s response to all this was decidedly low-key on Tuesday. Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, minister responsible for administration of the law, told the Commons the government hopes to “improve our process.”

The problem is that there are no real consequences for missing access request deadlines. Imposing legislated timelines on departments would “make a big difference,” Legault said. “The fact that there’s no real time limit is a huge issue.”

The Conservatives promised during the 2006 election campaign to bring in wide-ranging reforms to the access-to-information law. They have not kept that promise. But it is never too late.

Canada’s Project Hero Highlights the Unsung April 8, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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(Roger’s note: we live in a world of cowards and bullies.  We send heavily armed troops with modern equipment to terrorize third world civilians.  From the safety of helicopters and jet airplanes and with the anonimity of unmanned missiles, we send down fierydeath on innocent peoples.  And how do we generate support for such holocaustal violence?  We do so by the cowardly method of rallying behind the “troops,” the men and women we send to do the dirty work.  I apologize for the use of the plural pronoun; it is nothing more than a rhetorical device.  It is not WE the people who are responsible, but the politicians, the cowardly corporate media, the war mongers and war profiteers.  If there were justice they would all be on trial for war crimes.)
 
Published on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 by CommonDreams.orgby Jasmin Ramsey

There has been a recent stir of controversy in Canadian media over a public letter signed by 15 Professors from the University of Regina opposing their university’s participation in a scholarship program reserved exclusively for the offspring of soldiers that died in war.  46 other colleges and universities from all over Canada are currently participating in the program.  The professors’ stance make U of R the only university so far to express public criticism of the program, and the professors have accordingly come under hot fire from government representatives, Canadian veterans, and other individuals for opposing their university’s support of the program.  They have yet to back down.

The signatories believe that:

… support for “Project Hero” represents a dangerous cultural turn.  It associates “heroism” with the act of military intervention.  It erases the space for critical discussion of military policy and practices.  In signing on to “Project Hero”, the university is implicated in the disturbing construction of the war in Afghanistan by Western military- and state-elites as the “good war” of our epoch.  We insist that our university not be connected with the increasing militarization of Canadian society and politics.

The professors also encourage public debate on their position and call for:

A public forum on the war in Afghanistan and Canadian imperialism more generally to be held this semester before exams begin.

Professor Garson Hunter, a former soldier, argues that the scholarship program (cofounded by former Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier who encouraged increased military funding upon leaving his position in 2005) uses the memory of fallen soldiers to “aggrandize military endeavours in Afghanistan” and “If they really want to help then they should provide help for soldiers affected by post-traumatic stress disorder.”

In an impassioned letter defending his position after being barraged with hostile emails (some including violent threats) Professor John F. Conway writes:

Project Hero is part of the ongoing propaganda offensive from the militaristic, pro-war cabal led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the former chief of defence, retired general Rick Hillier. From the beginning, this propaganda offensive sought to silence criticism of the war by equating it with a failure to support our troops. Efforts to turn this into a heroic battle will fail. Many Canadians are ashamed of Canada’s role in this dirty, savage war which pits the random techno-barbarism of advanced warfare against a poorly armed insurgency. For this the blame lies with the government and our spineless Parliament, not our troops carrying out their orders.

Conway adds:

We did not win our democracy, thanks to the military. The military was among the dominant forces from which Canadians had to wrest democracy. All too often the price exacted was paid in Canadian blood on Canadian soil.

Democracy is in danger when war is glorified, when the military has a big say in determining government policy, when dissent is met by threats and attacks, when history is rewritten, the role of the military in civil society is elevated, and we are called upon to worship thankfully at its feet.

Even though Canada has a small military and is not nearly as immersed in the culture of war worship as the US, the current Conservative government has implemented significant funding increases to the Canadian Forces with direct attempts to promote it to the population through the education system and the media.  During the Bush Administration Harper made obvious moves to enhance relations with the US, increased military support for the US’s war on Afghanistan being one of them.  While it was the Liberal Party of Canada that took the Canadian Forces into Afghanistan in 2001 (they also made the important decision not to participate in the war on Iraq), Canada’s military role (as opposed to its involvement in what is often characterized as humanitarian work) was most strengthened with initiatives brought forth by the Conservatives when Harper became Prime Minister in 2006.  Since 2001 polls have indicated that a majority of Canadians have supported Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan (there have been some fluctuations) while favouring “nation-building” over military operations.  Canadians have also remained committed to withdrawing sooner rather than later.  No doubt aware of Canadians’ professed desire to leave Afghanistan, the Conservatives recently reiterated that they will end military operations in Afghanistan in 2011, even despite calls made by the US for Canada to stay.

Canadians have shown decreased involvement in the political process (the 2008 elections resulted in the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history) but as shown by the professors at U of R, dissent is alive and kicking in Canada.  Even from a Prairie province where the Conservatives have historically enjoyed widespread support, people are speaking out against the increasing militarization of Canadian society, something which many view as harmful to Canadian culture as a whole.  For members of the Canadian academic community to take such a stance in a province dominated by pro-militarism and amidst a political atmosphere of general support for Canada’s military operations in Afghanistan is no small matter.  Indeed, these professors have proven that their concern for the youth they are employed to educate goes beyond their desire to advance their career goals or a need to remain silent to avoid criticism.  They have been criticized for dishonoring their country with the position they have taken, but many Canadians would agree that they are in fact attempting to preserve the most honorable merits of Canadian culture.  In the words of the social critic and feminist activist Barbara Ehrenreich:

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

To express solidarity please send letters of support for the Regina 15, and against Project Hero and Canadian imperialism, to University of Regina President Vianne Timmons, Vianne.Timmons@uregina.ca and Vice-President Academic, Gary Boire, Gary.Boire@uregina.ca.  Please copy jeffery.webber@uregina.ca.

Jasmin Ramsey is a writer, journalist and coeditor of www.pulsemedia.org.

Restraint for Everything but Sports February 23, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Economic Crisis, Sports.
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Published on Tuesday, February 23, 2010 by The Toronto Starby Linda McQuaig

No cost has been spared in mounting a giant spectacle of spandex-clad athletes performing dazzling feats in massive public venues.

Certainly, nobody seems to be letting the $6 billion price tag for Vancouver’s Olympic extravaganza get in the way.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against sports. I appreciate the nuances of a fine skeleton performance as much as the next person.

My point is simply to question why goals other than mounting gala sports events are routinely dismissed on the grounds that we can’t afford them.

Of course, sports extravaganzas often have side benefits. We’re told that with the 2015 Pan Am Games coming here, Toronto may finally get its public transit system upgraded.

How’s that? Are the Pan Am countries – an assortment of mostly poverty-stricken Latin American nations – going to chip in to improve Toronto’s subway system?

No. We’re going to pay. So why don’t we just decide to do it without the Games, given the need and the looming climate change disaster?

The conventional explanation is that the public won’t pay otherwise. But is the public the real obstacle here?

We’ve been exhorted to believe in the magic of sports, in the transformative power of the Olympic torch – that no dream is too big to dream, that guts and willpower will bring us glory.

But next week, when Ottawa brings down its budget, all that big-thinking and sky-high believing is to be shelved. We’ll be advised to think small, think restraint, focus on the impossibility of things. Deficits will own the podium.

That’s not because the public only cares about sports. It’s because the corporate world only supports public investments when it comes to sports and war, from which it makes money. But it wants to hold the line on public investment in health care, education, child care, social supports, etc.

So it’s tried to convince us these things aren’t affordable, or that we don’t want to pay for them – as we did in the past.

From the end of World War II, federal spending was almost always above 15 per cent of GDP, until the massive Liberal spending cuts of the mid-1990s brought it way down to about 12 per cent, notes economist Armine Yalnizyan.

Those cuts – made to reduce deficits caused by recession and overly tight monetary policy – became permanent, even after balanced budgets were quickly restored in the late 1990s.

Despite a decade of huge federal surpluses since then, the Liberals and the Conservatives failed to restore spending levels that prevailed during the prosperous early postwar decades, cutting taxes in response to corporate pressure instead.

The Harper government has made clear that once the stimulus package expires, federal spending will return to the historically low levels of the past decade.

But this is disastrous policy. Given the severity of the ongoing recession, what is needed now is massive public investment to put the country back to work and rebuild our crumbling social and physical infrastructure.

For millions of young people, holding a job is a dream just as surely as competing before the hometown crowd.

But we’re supposed to believe that, beyond sports, we can’t afford to meet our needs, no matter how pressing.

Perhaps we could finally get some serious action on climate change if it were a curling bonspiel – rather than simply a crisis that threatens life as we know it on this planet.

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2010

Linda McQuaig’s column appears in The Star every other week.

Siddiqui: Harper acting like an elected dictator December 20, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canadan Coalition.
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When Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien were in power, conservative commentators used to complain that both tended to be dictatorial, courtesy of our parliamentary system that made the prime minister too powerful, more so in some respects than the president of the United States.

Where are those pundits when we really need them? Stephen Harper is centralizing power in the PMO on an unprecedented scale; defying Parliament (by refusing to comply with a Commons vote demanding the files on Afghan prisoner abuse); derailing public inquiries (by a parliamentary committee and the Military Police Complaints Commission); muzzling/firing civil servants; demonizing critics; and dragging the military into the line of partisan political fire.

“When you add up all that this government has done, it’s truly scary,” says Gar Pardy, former head of the foreign ministry’s consular services. He’s the one who organized the petition that defended diplomat Richard Colvin from Tory mudslinging, and which has been signed by 133 retired ambassadors.

The extent of Harper’s misuse of power becomes clearer when you realize that the Conservatives are replicating some of the worst practices of the Republicans under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney:

Consolidating executive power; eviscerating the legislative branch; operating under extreme secrecy (by keeping an iron grip on information, through endless court challenges and censoring/redacting documents); riding the coattails of the military and questioning the patriotism of political opponents; and forcing out public servants who refused to fall in line.

Count the heads that have rolled in Ottawa:

Peter Tinsley, chair of the military police commission, who initiated the Afghan prison abuse probe – refused a second term.

Paul Kennedy, chair of the Complaints Commission for the RCMP, who criticized the use of Tasers – refused a second term.

Linda Keen, nuclear watchdog, who insisted on safety at Chalk River – fired.

Kevin Page, parliamentary budget watchdog, who rattled the Tories with several revelations – rendered ineffective with a cut of $1 million from his $2.8 million budget.

Marc Mayrand, chief electoral officer, who probed Tory election spending – publicly attacked.

Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who dared criticize both the U.S. and Israel – refused support for a second term and publicly rebuked.

Jean-Guy Fleury, chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board, who opposed the Tory politicization of appointments to the tribunal – frustrated into quitting.

Similarly, groups that won’t toe the Tory line are being penalized.

The Canadian Arab Federation lost funding after its chair attacked Ottawa’s pro-Israeli policies. Now the same fate has befallen KAIROS, a Christian aid group, for “taking a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign” against Israel, boasts Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, the designated Tory bulldog in charge of attacking real or perceived enemies.

Ottawa is rife with rumour of another scandal in the making: Harper asking Governor General Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament, yet again, this time during the Winter Olympics (ending Feb. 28) and perhaps also the Paralympics (ending March 21).

She should flat-out refuse and not repeat her mistake from a year ago, when she got rolled by him. At that fateful meeting, she should not have let Kevin Lynch, clerk of the Privy Council, into the room. Get-togethers between the governor general and the prime minister are privileged.

She also should not have shuttled between Harper and a team of constitutional advisers she had assembled. Instead, she should have taken his request under advisement and sent him off, and summoned Stéphane Dion and perhaps also Jack Layton to brief her on their coalition agreement.

That way, she would’ve had more choices:

Advise the Prime Minister to seek a vote of confidence. Or, if he felt he didn’t have it, to ask if someone else on his front benches might. Failing both, turn to the opposition to demonstrate that they could muster the confidence of the House, as claimed.

Jean failed in her duties by deciding the fate of the government behind closed doors, rather than in an open democratic process by the elected representatives of the people.

A governor general is not obliged to take the prime minister’s advice, only that which she deems appropriate to our parliamentary system. What Jean saw as appropriate last year wasn’t. Each passing day proves it.

Haroon Siddiqui writes Thursdays and Sundays. hsiddiqui@thestar.ca

Alberta’s Tar Sands Make Canada a Climate Criminal December 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment.
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Published on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 by The Guardian/UK

Canada’s image lies in tatters. It is now to climate what Japan is to whaling

by George Monbiot

When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world’s peacekeeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbour, decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country’s government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee’s tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I’ve broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.

So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.

Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.

In 2006 the new Canadian government announced it was abandoning its targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto protocol. No other country that had ratified the treaty has done this. Canada was meant to have cut emissions by 6% between 1990 and 2012. Instead they have already risen by 26%.

It is now clear that Canada will refuse to be sanctioned for abandoning its legal obligations. The Kyoto protocol can be enforced only through goodwill: countries must agree to accept punitive future obligations if they miss their current targets. But the future cut Canada has volunteered is smaller than that of any other rich nation. Never mind special measures; it won’t accept even an equal share. The Canadian government is testing the international process to destruction and finding that it breaks all too easily. By demonstrating that climate sanctions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, it threatens to render any treaty struck at Copenhagen void.

After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007, it singlehandedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations. After the climate talks in Poland in December 2008, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country that had done most to disrupt the talks. The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world’s 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th.

In June this year the media obtained Canadian briefing documents which showed the government was scheming to divide the Europeans. During the meeting in Bangkok in October, almost the entire developing world bloc walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking, as they were so revolted by his bullying. Last week the Commonwealth heads of government battled for hours (and eventually won) against Canada’s obstructions. A concerted campaign has now begun to expel Canada from the Commonwealth.

In Copenhagen next week, this country will do everything in its power to wreck the talks. The rest of the world must do everything in its power to stop it. But such is the fragile nature of climate agreements that one rich nation – especially a member of the G8, the Commonwealth and the Kyoto group of industrialised countries – could scupper the treaty. Canada now threatens the wellbeing of the world.

Why? There’s a simple answer: Canada is developing the world’s second largest reserve of oil. Did I say oil? It’s actually a filthy mixture of bitumen, sand, heavy metals and toxic organic chemicals. The tar sands, most of which occur in Alberta, are being extracted by the biggest opencast mining operation on earth. An area the size of England, comprising pristine forests and marshes, will be be dug up – unless the Canadians can stop this madness. Already it looks like a scene from the end of the world: the strip-miners are creating a churned black hell on an unimaginable scale.

To extract oil from this mess, it needs to be heated and washed. Three barrels of water are used to process one barrel of oil. The contaminated water is held in vast tailings ponds, some so toxic that the tar companies employ people to scoop dead birds off the surface. Most are unlined. They leak organic poisons, arsenic and mercury into the rivers. The First Nations people living downstream have developed a range of exotic cancers and auto-immune diseases.

Refining tar sands requires two to three times as much energy as refining crude oil. The companies exploiting them burn enough natural gas to heat six million homes. Alberta’s tar sands operation is the world’s biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions. By 2020, if the current growth continues, it will produce more greenhouse gases than Ireland or Denmark. Already, thanks in part to the tar mining, Canadians have almost the highest per capita emissions on earth, and the stripping of Alberta has scarcely begun.

Canada hasn’t acted alone. The biggest leaseholder in the tar sands is Shell, a company that has spent millions persuading the public that it respects the environment. The other great greenwasher, BP, initially decided to stay out of tar. Now it has invested in plants built to process it. The British bank RBS, 70% of which belongs to you and me (the government’s share will soon rise to 84%), has lent or underwritten £8bn for mining the tar sands.

The purpose of Canada’s assault on the international talks is to protect this industry. This is not a poor nation. It does not depend for its economic survival on exploiting this resource. But the tar barons of Alberta have been able to hold the whole country to ransom. They have captured Canada’s politics and are turning this lovely country into a cruel and thuggish place.

Canada is a cultured, peaceful nation, which every so often allows a band of Neanderthals to trample over it. Timber firms were licensed to log the old-growth forest in Clayaquot Sound; fishing companies were permitted to destroy the Grand Banks: in both cases these get-rich-quick schemes impoverished Canada and its reputation. But this is much worse, as it affects the whole world. The government’s scheming at the climate talks is doing for its national image what whaling has done for Japan.

I will not pretend that this country is the only obstacle to an agreement at Copenhagen. But it is the major one. It feels odd to be writing this. The immediate threat to the global effort to sustain a peaceful and stable world comes not from Saudi Arabia or Iran or China. It comes from Canada. How could that be true?

© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited

George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com

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