Canada is in denial of her true self. We have been co-opted by a globalized corporatocracy.
This chosen self-negation is exacting a heavy toll. We have arguably lost our democracy, and our much of our sovereignty, in addition to cultural pluralism, biodiversity, and economic self-determination.
The facilitator of this "corporate coup" is a toxic mental landscape.
Transnational corporations and their political lobbyists wilfully co-opt the language of human rights as a subterfuge for retrograde supranational agreements that deny democracy, as well as economic and cultural self-determination. We are daily bombarded with false terms such as "free trade" and "private sector" to the point where we internalize (subliminally?) incorrect meanings.
Ubiquitous "free trade" rhetoric infers freedom and prosperity even as it delivers the opposite. Protectionist agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) enable the outsourcing of labour to authoritarian regimes where human and labour rights are much lower. The movement of capital is protected and deregulated as jobs, public health, environmental, cultural, and human rights disappear.
Investor-state laws effectively subordinate a country's economic and political self-determination when international and domestic laws or regulations are perceived to be an impediment to corporate profits. Unelected supranational arbitrators make decisions and the public is often left paying the bill. Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with Council Of Canadians, explains in John Bonnar's article, "Toronto activists oppose Trans-Pacific Partnership and corporate globalization" : "Within all these trade deals there is an investor rights chapter that lets companies sue countries when they feel their profits have been harmed, ... giving corporations more rights than anyone else in this country and any other country." Trew cites Calgary's Lone Pine Resource's lawsuit against Canada as an example:
"(Lone Pine Resources) first disclosed last week that it intends to sue the Canadian government for at least $250-million under NAFTA's Chapter 11, which allows investors from the U.S. and Mexico to take government policies or actions that hurt their interests before a panel of arbitrators, (Globe and Mail, Nov. 22, 2012.)
In its notice of intent, Lone Pine charges that the government's move, 'without a penny of compensation,' violates NAFTA's provision that companies facing expropriation should be reimbursed. Lone Pine also charges that Quebec's move unfairly pre-empts the conclusion of the province's ongoing study on the safety of fracking.
The Quebec government's move to cancel a natural-gas exploration permit for deposits beneath the St. Lawrence River last year was "arbitrary, capricious and illegal," according to the U.S. energy company challenging the move under the North American free-trade agreement."
(Lone Pine Resources is incorporated in Delaware, U.S, a known tax haven, but has its headquarters in Calgary.)
The "private sector" rhetoric infers independence and freedom, yet it is highly socialized -- the 2008/09 bailouts would be a case in point -- by the public sector. Additionally, as public funds flow into the "private" sector, corporations return the favour by capturing legislatures and engineering self-serving laws and regulations -- or the absence thereof -- to entrench their monopolies and their anti-public behaviours. Bruce Livesy explains in "Tax Dodge: Gildan Activewear" how Canada's Gildan corporation avoids paying taxes: "By moving its factories overseas, Gildan managed to cut its Canadian tax rate down to nothing in the past four years, despite earning profits of $95 million in 2009, $196 million in 2010, $224 million in 2011 and $144 million last year."
Currently there is a host of anti-democratic corporate-power agreements being negotiated behind closed doors, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) with China , the CETA, as well as agreements with India, Japan, Honduras, and South Korea. Each of these (largely secret) deals promises to enrich and empower foreign investors to the detriment of local economies and public spheres. Outcomes, such as those resulting from the 20 year old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will likely include and exacerbate some of NAFTA's symptoms,
* increased inequality between rich and poor nations
* increased inequality within rich and poor nations
* an exodus of good-paying manufacturing jobs
* collapsing small farm incomes
Corporate globalization entrenches parasitical monopoly capitalism. In agriculture, for example, large agribusiness monopolies, often funded by international banking institutions, push out smallholders -- thereby reducing economic diversity -- so that they can grow monoculture cash crops for export. Consequently, people are displaced, and nation states lose their food sovereignty. Mexico now imports most of its food.
Globalized monopoly capitalism also reduces biodiversity. Ahmed Djoghlaf,
secretary-general of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, explains that if the continued accelerated trajectories towards biodiversity losses continue, we can expect "total disaster", and the disaster includes the economic realm. Djoghlaf explains that "in immediate danger", are the 300 million people who depend on forests for their livelihoods and the more than 1 billion who depend on sea fishing for their livelihoods.
Of equal importance is cultural diversity and the respect for international and national laws that enshrine rights of indigenous peoples throughout the world. Anthony James Hall, author of The American Empire And The Fourth World, argues that we need to recognize and affirm aboriginal and treaty rights throughout the world to build what George Manuel referred to as the Fourth World. Such a world would value unity in pluralism, and be a counterbalance to the totalitarianism of globalized neoliberal capitalism, sometimes referred to as the corporatocracy.
Hall poses the question, "Will we grapple with the substance of our inheritances from history or will we continue to retreat into the black hole of memory loss, the willed amnesia that facilitates the on-going neo-liberal revolution of the New World Order?"
Canada is currently grappling with this question as it continues to deny and negate aboriginal and treaty rights at home and abroad.
Activists of Fourth World pluralism from countries such as Honduras are pushing back, at great cost, against the international reach of Canada's neo-liberal agenda that denies and negates aboriginal and treaty rights. In this video, Alfredo Lopez of the Honduran Garifuna Collective describes the shackles that we are imposing on his community.
The oppression of the Garifuna is an outward expression of Canada's wilful amnesia that denies its own pluralism, and its unmitigated embrace of the monoculture of globalized neoliberal corporatism.
There are steps that can (and must) be taken to push back against these converging totalitarian trajectories. A paper entitled "Towards an Alternate Trade Mandate for the E.U -- an invitation to participate" offers a comprehensive list of ideas.
All steps should be considered. Listed below are two of the most salient ones :
1) ensure a transition to a low-carbon economy
2) stop pushing for the deregulation of financial services and the privatisation and deregulation of public goods like water, health and education, but improve the quality of and access to these goods, for example, through partnerships among public authorities.
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