Living outside Canada as an expat (expatriate) has taken on a new dimension with the explosion of social media and 24/7 access to the Internet; it has brought me to new levels of 'expatriotism'. Utilizing social media has become the new normal when it comes to lobbying and it has been quite effective. I want to be clear: I identify myself as a Canadian (I am also a citizen), it is the culture I grew up in and as much as I aim to shed the nationalistic trappings of citizenry and claim personal sovereignty where you grow up becomes part of who you are. I blogged on identity here . My children are Canadian (and French), Canada may well be in their future and so I feel a strong claim to want the best opportunities there for them in the country I grew up in...not the one being re-modeled by the current leadership.
I have always been a political pundit of a cafe/bar type, having lived much of my adult life 'off shore' involved with humanitarian emergencies I usually focus on international events and keep up with developments in Canada from afar and through friends. I have been drawn back to the state of affairs in Canada by the Arab Spring and emergence of engaged popular movements, and motivated to become more current since a Supreme court ruling this summer returns to those of us who have lived outside Canada more than 5 yrs the right to vote(!). Timing is right as the second term of administration the ego-centric leadership of Stephen Harper draws to a close. Harper and his ilk in Ottawa have managed through the various policies and bills passed to disenfranchise swathes of Canadians notably including veterans and indigenous peoples, perhaps even the majority, but they don't really matter to him, they aren't 'his majority', 'his' are only the 23.9% of registered voters who voted for him (40% of registered voters did not vote!). Against the 2011 Census that means 17% of all Canadians voted Harper Conservative in the last election...and thats how a becoming a majority in parliament works in Canada. Go figure.
Don't be shy to click on the highlighted links, I went to considerable lengths to source articles and found many originated from Canadian sites. Interestingly even the mainstream corporate media are in the sights of the Harper Government.
Those of us who see from far what is happening in Canada enjoy the advantage of a global perspective; living away from home we are exposed perhaps to a wider variety of points of view and can easier place developments in a the regional if not global context. For example there is little doubt that in the eyes of many Canada has slipped from being a country highly respected as a 'green country', for its fair stance on human rights issues, for its involvement in peace processes and as a bulwark against the illegal waging of war to being well. Ok, I'll say it...we have become lackeys to conservative (read Republican) USA denizens...sorry folks but that is how Canada is being viewed at least in Asia. Canada used to champion the underdog and waving the Canadian flag used to be the back-packer's symbol of neutrality, fairness and friendliness. No longer is this true...people from the USA still sew the Canadian flag on their back-packs but more because their own flag has made them into targets, beware I say, the Canadian flag is becoming much the same.
I was in Canada this summer and am aware that life is still very good there for most of my friends, manageable financially if you have good employment, with opportunities that abound for children's activities and a decent education system...if you don't mind your kids in classes of up to 30 (for which there is no sound reason). What is to complain about? From afar I see how the present government reforming Canada under the noses of good people by pushing bills through without time for adequate scrutiny, using the omnibus bill to make sweeping changes and engaging in distasteful tactics (or should that be disgraceful) as they proceed with what appears to be an increasingly corporate-oriented agenda in an essentially people-oriented milieu such as Canadians are. The pattern is being labelled 'anti-democratic' because many moves are simply against the polled population's interest or their desire. The list of omnibus bills you can find, just google 'omnibus bills passed by Harper government' and you'll see what I mean. Canadians are being hood-winked...which is a nice Canadian way of putting it mildly
Of late, making international news, Canada was pronounced dead last in the Centre for Global Development assessment of 27 developed countries on environmental protection and 55th out of 58 countries in terms of tackling fossil fuel emissions...due in part to an uptick in tar sands production in Alberta (the product of those notorious sands in the Athabasca region of northern Alberta is actually called bitumen, tar for short, it is definitely not oil until it is refined). This uptick that looks to becoming super-sized in the near future. So much for the image of Canada as a place of pristine wilderness and fresh clean waters which suggests a nation that cares for and stewards the environment....even perhaps as one that can take the moral high ground in leading the way forward on mitigating the effects of climate change by addressing the cause.
Teasing this out a bit further to focus on why Canada is being mocked as a global pariah, the fact is that our enormous north is melting with rising global warming temperatures and this affects the entire planet. Huge amounts of ozone depleting carbon are being released from the melting northern tundra which is nothing compared to their potential. It suggests that Canada should perhaps be taking the lead in reducing, rather than the lead in increasing fossil fuel emissions. What of the future? What of the children? I am aware that coal is by far the dirtiest of fossil fuel energy sources, but does that excuse us from the energy intensive extraction of tar from sand? Not to mention the dangers of transporting or pipelining the crud(e) that bitumen is, and which then needs to be refined in more energy intensive processes.
On a brighter note clean energy has apparently topped tar sands as a source of employment in Canada! What I suggest is to divest now in the oil and gas sector (quit while you are ahead) and invest in clean energy (get in early)....lets make that a viral movement and watch what happens, the only direction is up. While discussing global politics a young friend of mine said it well, 'Corporations are out, people need to see that and move on'. If we stopped subsidizing oil/gas companies , started taxing their dirty product (as opposed to clean), if we penalized them financially for their many infringements on existing environmental laws....perhaps we would have a ton of money to put into clean energy research and development creating more jobs, sustainable and clean ones! Wow, am I the only one to have thought of that? Its a mess folks, read this ...if the price of oil continues to drop and we remain on our current course... we are doomed, I kid you not.
Back on topic, in the background from far we hear of the internationally decried muzzling of the Canadian science community which takes on a nefarious odor (pardon the pun) in the context of the global environmental damage being done by fossil fuel emissions. This muting of voices that might be in opposition to government policy is frightening. Healthy democracies thrive on alternative perspectives and the freedom to express these...where has that gone in Canada. Much of the world and Canada do not realise that Harper is playing out his own religious beliefs on public policy; he is a devout member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, scares the bejesus outta me but read for yourself. Its a this topic of religion and politics is a controversial one, both are best left out of 'friendly' conversations so I leave it to them what knows to enlighten you, read this.
Evidence about government mishandling of the environment as they kow-tow to the corporate agenda is pretty well-founded, I ask you this: why else dismantle the Fisheries Act, Fresh Water Protection, the Environmental Assessment Act, now the Navigable Waters Act? This week the government announced an audit of charitable groups, absolutely NOT coincidentally those critical of the government. Seriously folks! Why? Did I read somewhere they are handing over National Parks to privateers?
In the international press the loud voices of discontent by notables like John Ralston Saul, Stephen Lewis and David Suzuki are heard loud and clear on issues mentioned above. I chose here to focus on the environment and global climate change, equally I could have selected another issue to highlight because from afar we hear also of the Harper-led assault on indigenous populations, on the excesses of government invasion of privacy, on the militarization of policing (especially in the wake of incidents in Ontario and Quebec), on the nose-thumbing at veterans, its getting to be a long list. I haven't talked about prorogation, patronage or the multiple Harper minions who have fallen foul of the justice system, neither the robocall scandal. And, oh, did I mention the Harper government supported the bombing of Gaza Bibi Netanyahu's government in its illegal occupation of Palestine,(this link is a long read but a worthy one...right to the end). The FB group Occupy Canada now has 323 reasons in their 'hashtag leavesteve2015' campaign!
Out here in the wilderness (currently Kathmandu) myself and the several Canucks I know who inhabit this remote Himalayan valley are dismayed at what continues to be revealed by the international media about the remodeling of Canada going on under the noses of earnest hard-working Canadians. We all have a stake in the future of a place like Canada which could be a bastion of good government that puts people and the environment first, instead we are getting further and further bogged down in a paradigm of economic growth for the sake of itself which has run its course. Currently the government is securing us to the sinking ship of corporate capitalism one that has no retrievable future. If you agree with the sentiment voiced here feel free to share widely, freedom of speech persists for now in Canada and anyway, and anyway nothing posted here is not in the public record. And as a post script...don't forget to vote, its the only way the change will come.