Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why I'm Throwing My Support to The Council of Canadians

When I first started this blog in April of this year, I had vague notions about how to save the Earth from environmental disaster. I believed that government regulation would be needed to keep private industry from polluting the earth and gobbling up its resources at the rate that it has so far. And I felt that people like me would have an important role to play in terms of raising awareness of the fact that we have to put pressure on our elected officials to impose sane restrictions on the market in order to protect the environment from the destructive forces of capitalist greed. I thought that skewing my lifestyle towards practices of energy and resource conservation, and practicing the Three R's, would reinforce my own personal commitment to gain greater influence over environmental problems. One avenue of influence, I suspected, would be this blog itself. But I never expected it to end there. Since April, I have been poking around, hoping to piece together some kind of potentially effective master plan. Finally, as of last week, I think I may be onto something!

Sometimes Politics Can't be Avoided

At the same time that I've been pondering and exploring the nature of my usefulness to the struggle, I've been uncovering, through internet-based research, current political barriers that trump all broad-based efforts to protect the Canadian environment. There are quite a few, and they are formidable. In July, I expressed great relief resulting from my husband's and my decision to remain residents of Canada rather than moving to the United States. I still feel that way, given how gutted and disfunctional the U.S. government has become. But I've come to realize, painfully, that Canada is going down the same path, led by capitalist greed and American political clout. The very same neo-conservative forces that are bringing average Americans to their knees and reeking havoc on their land are about to bring the Canadian people, our environment, and our natural resources down with them, if no one stops them.

New Environmental Protection Legislation Could be Trumped by Free Trade Every Time

The political inertia that opposes active environmental stewardship is a much bigger, badder problem in my mind now, having slowly but surely educated myself to this point. The difference is that the most pressing environmental problems of the day all have a very specific political barrier in common. As a Canadian, I cannot help but see the legacy of North American Free Trade (NAFTA), and advancement of the North American Security and Prosperity Plan (SPP), as the root of a host of evils that threaten Canada's environment and natural resources. Globalization is taking hold in North America by stealth, and if allowed to spread, it will eventually undermine our best efforts to protect public health and the environment.

A Watchdog Told Me

It was a recent mailing from the Council of Canadians that brought the SPP into my sights. The Council of Canadians, founded in 1985, is a non-profit organization, with members and chapters across the country. They work to "protect Canadian independence by promoting progressive policies on fair trade, clean water, energy security, public health care, and other issues of social and economic concern to Canadians." Fair trade has been one of the Council's raisons d'être since its inception, and underpins almost every threat posed by the Security and Prosperity Plan, which the government of Canada signed in 2005. The SPP takes off where NAFTA left-off, stripping governments in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico of their rights to self-regulate in virtually all matters that could be construed as limiting trade between the three countries, including protection of the environment and national fresh water supplies. The agenda of the SPP has been developed by CEOs of private corporations and an elite group of executive level politicians, pursued in secrecy. The objectives and strategies contained in the SPP have never been open to public scrutiny or debate in Parliament. And yet, Stephen Harper committed a minimum of $29 million in the 2008 federal budget to implementing recommendations of the SPP. The only verifiable details of the SPP that Canadians have access to have been leaked. See a document called the North American Future 2025 Project (pdf), drafted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) (only the preface is available on their public website), uncovered by the Council of Canadians.

Do You Know About This?

So far, their have been five "North American Leaders Summits" since 2005 dedicated to advancing the proposals of the SPP, which have been accompanied by the formation of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a neo-conservative think-tank established to develop and deploy the SPP agenda. Prime Minister Harper, American President George Bush, and Mexican President Felipe Calderón have attended each summit. The last one was held in New Orleans April 21-22 (so much for Earth Day!). The first summit on Canadian soil (the third in North America) took place in Ottawa on February 23, 2007. It was largely unpublicized by the media, but attracted protesters concerned about the secrecy surrounding the event. In August 2007, Harper hosted the fourth SPP summit, at the Chateau Montebello in Quebec, which drew a crowd of angry but peaceful Canadian protesters who met with heavy security around the hotel with provocateurs among the ranks of Quebec City police nearly starting a riot against the protesters. Understandably, but unfortunately, very few Canadians know what is going on behind closed doors. The Canadian government and media have been strangely silent in reporting on very the existence of the SPP.

Their Dirty Doings Could be Our Undoing

So? It's looking like we can kiss the Canadian environment good-bye -- along with public health care, high food and drug standards, our right to fresh drinking water, a national energy plan, and military autonomy -- if the rich, powerful, neo-conservative authors of the Security and Prosperity Partnership have their way. That's why I am now broadening my focus from environmental protection and ecological conservation to the political arena of what some are dubbing the "deep integration" of Canada with an American foreign policy that puts corporate profits before basic human rights. And I'm putting my money where my mouth is, by officially joining the Council of Canadians, and volunteering my attention and time in the service of their public education and advocacy campaigns around this pressing, far-reaching issue.

A Purposeful Hobby for Someone Like Me

This decision makes sense for me both logically and on a personal level. Being for a long time unable to find gainful employment here in this depressed economy, I have more time on my hands than most people. While my husband, fortunately, is finding ways to support us both financially through his own freelance enterprise (and I continue to look for a decent job), I am in a unique position to be able to commit a good chunk of time to understanding and supporting the Council of Canadians' social justice advocacy initiatives. I expect these to include public awareness- and letter-writing campaigns as well as peaceful public demonstrations and possibly fund-raising. I am prepared to help the Council because I understand that average Canadians don't have the time or feel the need to stay informed about all of the political issues that could negatively affect them (particularly when the greatest threats are shrouded in secrecy), while I do. I feel obliged to do what I can to make a difference in my own country, where I have (I hope) at least a modicum of political clout.

Upcoming Federal Election? A Happy Coincidence

After making a modest donation to renew my membership (sadly, the last time I had donated was 2005), I attended my first meeting of the Windsor Chapter of the CoC last Thursday. Six other members attended. They were friendly, forthcoming, and welcomed my offer of assistance. My plan is to drink their kool-aid (so to speak), having researched the Council's position on all issues, while keeping my eyes and ears open to other ways of promoting environmental stewardship. I hope to discover other promising avenues for environmental protection, in addition to fighting the SPP. For now, I find it helpful -- and hopeful -- especially now, right before a federal election, to be able to align myself with the agenda of a national organization which is itself aligned with many other organizations which I look to for leadership. These include:
Visit the CoC website for a complete list of Council of Canadians partners and alliances.

For more information on the Council of Canadians, go to the national website at Various local chapters of the CoC also have group pages on Facebook, highlighting local initiatives and events (for example "Council of Canadians----Windsor, Ontario Chapter").

For more information from various perspectives on the North American Free Trade Agreement, see:


steve said...

Very good! I am re-posting this on the Toronto Sovereignty Meetup Group list.
You don't need to be a member to read their archives. Just GOOGLE it and you're on!

margaret atkinson said...

Great work! :)