Canadian integrity flawed

Accompanied by a full orchestra, a theatre full of octogenarians booming along to “Oh Canada” is actually quite uplifting; despite reservations about the message contained within the anthem, I found myself rising to my feet at the opening to the KW Symphony’s Signature Series this past Friday.

I’m not disrespectful of Canada enough yet to remain seated, but I very easily found myself singing, “Our home on native land.”

While this is my home it is very definitely not my native land. I am half second-generation immigrant; the other half of my family has been in Canada for several generations where we have grown comfortable in our middle-class bubbles. We are grateful that in our country we can fulfill our basic needs and often our deepest wants as well.

We also are able to passively participate in our democratic process by voting in each election, yet no matter which party we bring in, they seem to wreak havoc abroad.

Two weeks ago at the G20 meetings in Pittsburgh, Prime Minister Stephen Harper bragged first about every country wanting to be Canada, then promptly stated that we had no history of colonialism.

First of all, the only reason I could see other countries wanting to be Canada is if they could do to us what we have done to them.

Canada might be thought of as a peacekeeper, but Yves Engler’s The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy states otherwise.

The book begins in the Caribbean, where Canada has had a negative impact on a number of countries, particularly Haiti. Since 2004, Canada has been supporting a coup that has lead to the murder of thousands of people, possibly just to make good with Washington.

Haiti’s previous government had raised minimum wage, and by overthrowing it Canada was once again able to employ cheap outsourced labour in sectors such as textiles and mining.        

Canadian mining companies are particularly destructive to communities and the environment across Central and South America. Yet Indigenous and activist groups that try to stop mining in countries such as Peru have little effect on large Canadian corporations.

The Black Book touches on numerous countries in each continent from Sudan to the Congo, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and many others you would not realize where Canada has, or has had, a detrimental presence.

As Engler says, “If there are no countervailing voices speaking up for poorly paid miners or peasants whose land is being destroyed, or a hundred other scenarios, Canadian foreign policy can be anti-democratic, colonial and environmentally destructive.”

Speaking of colonialism, Harper’s disregard for Canada’s current international affairs pales in comparison to his second more ludicrous claim that Canada does not have a history of colonization.

The country now known as Canada was not around when the English and French were conquering and subduing, but those groups were the original Canadian colonizers – just because we weren’t called Canada when the colonization was occurring doesn’t mean it’s not part of our history.

On our home and native land we have tried to control those who have been here since time immemorial, forcing First Nations communities into unwanted lifestyles and refusing to reconcile treaties.

Most Canadians know about conditions on reserves and other Aboriginal issues, but most of us don’t know the full extent of the problem or what to do about it.

For some reason, despite years of inaction, we trust that our government will some day make everything better in our own country, and ignore what is occurring around the globe.

By voting for a government that supports such actions, and most political parties do, we too are complicit in these global wrongdoings.

We could be those countervailing voices fighting for the rights of those in our own country and abroad, and we could do it from our suburbs and high-rises; it just requires being educated by reading or watching outside the mainstream media.

If enough people discover what is actually happening when Canadian forces and corporations go abroad, we can then begin to demand appropriate action and improve conditions throughout the world.

For now it is important to realize that while Canada is a nice place to live and occasionally contributes positive and appropriate foreign aid, the “sunshine and lollipops” only extend so far outside of our upper- and middle-class spheres.

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