We must vigilantly stand on guard within our own borders for human rights and fundamental freedoms which are our proud heritage. The experiences of many. . .make it clear that we cannot take for granted the continuance and maintenance of those rights and freedoms.
—John G. Diefenbaker, 1960
THERE WAS A TIME, early in my life, when everything I knew about Canada emanated from the people I met in a small town on the banks of the Trent River in Ontario. Every summer I made the annual trek to the same humble cottage outside Peterborough to be with my Canadian friends. We fished, soaked up the wilderness which lined the river, threw baseballs, played horse shoes and read comic books until we were forced to separate at bedtime, only to begin the cycle all over again upon sunrise the next morning.
Even though I was not yet in my teens, my parents recognized their son’s cultural curiosity and my appetite for news and current events. They both encouraged me “as a visitor to Canada” to absorb as much I could about Canadian life. I remember my Dad underscoring that it was a sign of respect to the nation and its people, and more directly to our hosts whom he befriended until the time of his death in 2008. Part of that ritual entailed listening to the CBC on radio and watching “Canada’s Walter Cronkite,” anchorman Lloyd Robertson, but we also spent time contrasting and comparing the Parliamentary system of government with the U.S. Congress.
In a way, my recent documentary A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY was drawn directly from the experiences of my youth. The film returned me to the age of John Diefenbaker and John Turner — to an age of integrity and activism. . .and to a time when I thought that Canada, not the U.S., was the greatest nation on Earth.
But all of that is in danger now, as steady streams of unconstitutional legislation like Bill C-51, C-6, C-17 (the “anti-terror bill), and the latest affront to Canadians, Bill C-36, keep getting sent to Ottawa. Even though these bills violate basic civil liberties and clearly flaunt language that could make Canadians subject to the dictates of foreign authorities, few seem to have noticed, let alone sound the alarm bells for their neighbors.
A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY has been described as a “patriotic and sentimental” film. I believe that’s true, and I hope my brothers and sisters in Canada seek it out (it’s online for free here ), and take a long and sober look at where the nation is headed. For, if the trends I outline in the film continue, our beloved Canada will not only lose its identity, but its sovereignty — and could become virtually undistinguishable from the United States.
What is the catalyst for this Orwellian legislation? The answer is ‘Free Trade,’ the very thing John Turner tried to warn his countrymen and women about 25 years ago. Turner knew that there would be a terrible price to pay if former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was able to pass what Turner called “the sale of Canada act.”
Like so many visionaries, he was scoffed at. But decades later, with 20/20 hindsight, we see he was right. Free Trade deals have punished Canada — and pulled the nation into a whirlpool filled with multinational sharks. Canada has suffered, and stands at a tipping point with dangerous legislation like Bill C-36.
But it doesn’t have to be. Canadians can stand and be counted. . .and just say no.
PROPONENTS OF MODERN FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS have long opined that global trade and commerce would transform the social, economic, and political landscape of world. This “new global commerce,” they argued, would be the vehicle of unprecedented economic growth for the poor, and prosperity for the rest of us. When the new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was presented to the world in 1994, media “insiders” hailed it with glowing reviews, calling it a “breakthrough trade agreement” that would finally liberate global capital and third-world economies.
The modern multinational mantra for a new era of free trade agreements began when the GATT treaty was signed and the World Trade Organization (WTO) was born to replace it. In the years that followed, NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) continued the cavalcade of free trade agreements between Canada, Mexico, South America, the United States, and now, the European Union. The latter is particularly troubling, as the EU continues to cede authority to international bureaucracies like the World Health Organization, the WTO, and another mysterious international body called Codex Alimentarius.
Is this Canada’s future?
The cycle of ‘free trade’ agreements has increased exponentially: the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement mimics many others like it, and the proposed CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the EU, awaits Parliamentary approval in Canada.
Rather than heralding a new day for the poor, as promised, chaos has increased in Mexico and South America, where millions have been protesting the effects of the treaties since their inception. The biggest beneficiaries of NAFTA were multinational corporations who, after shutting down small farms and businesses that were the lifeline to their communities, have used the trade agreements to create new monopolies on everything from water to food to energy. The Council of Canadians, led by Maude Barlow, has been a vocal opponent of CETA and many free trade deals, wisely pointing to the massive unemployment they have caused, particularly in the manufacturing workforce.
In Canada, NAFTA has decimated the textile industries in Ontario and blindsided non-corporate agriculture as well. The National Farmers Union concluded in 2002 that free trade agreements, “may increase trade, but much more importantly, they dramatically alter the relative size and market power of the players in the agri-food production chain. Free trade helps Cargill and Monsanto, not farmers.”
Each trade agreement signed by members of the World Trade Organization ties each nation closer to the WTO and it’s bureaucratic backroom decision-making process. It’s problematic for many reasons. As the WTO becomes judge and jury, it usurps more power to regulate healthcare, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, and indeed, what is “allowable” in foods and chemicals of all kinds. Since the sunshine of public scrutiny is not allowed in this elite club, Canada and the U.S. face unfathomable hardships if these trends continue unchequed.
With each ‘Free Trade’ agreement Canada signs, it loses more sovereignty to another international trade body, which have become bureaucratic sledgehammers for Big Food and Big Pharma to further exert their will over the masses. One group, called Codex Alimentarius (Latin for ‘Food Code’), now threatens to control the food and medicine supply worldwide, backed by the enforcement power of the WTO. When Codex was spawned back in 1963 as a creation of two arteries of the United Nations — The Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization — nearly everyone endorsed their two major goals: to provide nutritious foods for developing nations — and to shape guidelines for dangerous industrial chemicals in the food supply. Within the past decade, however, Codex Alimentarius has altered its’ mission dramatically to include a wide swath of products including dietary supplements, pesticides and genetically modified organisms.
How does this affect Canada, you might ask? Simply put, language in Bill C-36, like its predecessors Bills C-51 and C-6, allows for bypassing something called Canada’s Statutory Instrument’s Act. The Statutory Instrument’s Act was instituted to protect citizens from runaway bureaucratic agencies (like Health Canada, who wrote the language of these Bills). The Act was put in place so that if Health Canada introduced unlawful regulations and policies, Parliament could scrutinize them and revoke them if necessary.
In the new Bill C-36, Health Canada has proposed that the powers provided to Parliament should be forfeited so that Canada can “honor its international agreements and commitments.” If Bill C-36 and similar Bills are adopted, foreign entities, multinational corporate interests, Codex, WTO and WHO would be free to write self-serving laws that affect Canadians — and they could do so by bypassing Parliament completely.
Perhaps this is what they mean by ‘Free Trade’ — ‘free’ of oversight by elected officials.
As I say in A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY, “the bold mention of C-51, C-6, or C-36 circumventing public debate and surrendering sovereignty to an international body should send shivers up the spines of Canadians.”
According to Canadian Trade lawyer Steven Shrybman, “The best evidence of what lies in store for governments is provided by claims now proceeding under the NAFTA dispute regime,” which featured a dispute by Centurion Health, a US health service provider, for $160 million because it claims that Canadian governments prevented it from establishing a chain of private health clinics. Next came Dow AgroSciences, who sued for millions because Quebec is banning the use of their herbicide 2, 4 D. The notorious defoliant and herbicide Agent Orange, used widely in Vietnam, contained 2, 4D, which is highly toxic to the liver, has caused male reproductive problems, and more. Yet the Quebec government stands before an international tribunal “accused” of the awful crime of trying to protect its citizens from Dow’s madness.
Because Canada signed NAFTA, however, Dow, Centurion and hundreds of other multinational corporations can demand compensation through the WTO dispute resolution process because of what they term “unfair trade practices.”
This is one of the “big lies” of what has been termed as “Free Trade.” As we now know, there is nothing “free” about it, save for the handouts being given to Big Food, Big Pharma, and the rest of the petrochemical industries.
Canada is at a tipping point. Unless we use our democratic mechanism to oppose what agencies like Health Canada are doing, legislation like Bill C-36 and its twin, the infamous Bill C-51 (waiting in the wings to be relaunched) will go far beyond being just a nuisance. This is not hyperbole—this is fact.
For those who rely upon natural products like dietary supplements, Health Canada has hired PR hacks to infiltrate social media like Twitter and Facebook to push the notion that Bill C-36 does NOT apply to Natural Health Products, or Drugs, or Cosmetics. They are, as usual, only telling part of the story. Health Canada continues to intentionally delay the approval of safe herbs, amino acids, and mineral/vitamin formulations for no legitimate reason whatsoever, thereby restricting the legitimate use of these supplements by Canadians.
As I have described, the language in the Bill itself—like Bill C-6 and Bill C-51 before it— is so dangerous that it literally threatens Canadian life as we know it. If Dr. Eldon Dahl can be raided over B-vitamins, if Truehope Nutritional Support and health food stores and pharmacies can be raided before these bills are passed, what does the future hold for Canada after this unconstitutional legislation makes it through Parliament? If inventories can be seized on mere “suspicion” of illegal activities, if citizens are allowed to be terrorized in guns-drawn raids over some of the safest products on the planet, what will Health Canada do with the increased powers they would be afforded through Bill C-36?
Make no mistake: we have already seen the future, dressed in the guise of Free Trade Agreements and multinational corporate control…and it’s not a pretty sight.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”
I choose to believe that Canada can still become the world leader I envisioned in my youth, but as my film points out, the nation’s entangling alliances have seriously endangered that boyhood vision. This silent coup could happen in a matter of years — not decades — if Canadians refuse to act. Bill C-36 — and all other unconstitutional legislative efforts must be defeated.
It’s a question of sovereignty.
Kevin P. Miller is an international award-winning Writer/Director. His latest film is called A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY. This is his first column for Agora News, a Canadian monthly magazine, which can be found at http://www.AgoraNews.org. His other blog can be found at http://www.KevinMiller.com