Looking Canadian racism in the face

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at Rideau Hall on Sept. 11, 2019. Photo by Andrew Meade

The real measure of racism in Canada is not how many times Justin Trudeau has appeared in blackface or brownface, but how long it has taken media and political institutions to even admit the existence of a problem.

There is no need to comb through Trudeau’s past to find evidence of racism; it’s all over his recent political record:

• voting for Stephen Harper’s Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act and draconian national security law, Bill C-51, both based on racist stereotypes about Muslims and Arabs;

• enacting National Security Act Bill C-59, enshrining expanded powers of surveillance and data collection for security agencies without adequate oversight;

• shoving projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline through unceded Indigenous lands without consent;

• sending in armed forces against Indigenous land protectors in unceded territories like the Unist’ot’en camp;

• repeatedly challenging Canadian Human Rights Commission decisions ordering the government to compensate for decades of discriminatory funding against Indigenous kids;

• refusing to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which turns away mostly black and brown asylum seekers on the myth the U.S. is “safe”;

• eviscerating refugees’ international legal right to seek asylum with amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that will deny many claimants a fair hearing;

• increasing deportation targets by 25 to 35 per cent, coinciding with the arrival of Haitian, Nigerian and other black asylum seekers at the border;

• continuing the cruel practice of indefinite immigration detention (even the U.S. imposes a time limit);

• entering into information-sharing and border-search agreements with the U.S., enabling the harassment of black, brown and Muslim travellers.

And yet, the same media outlets now in a frenzy over face-gate long refused to acknowledge the truth staring them in the face: racism pervades Canadian politics.

When 44 per cent of Canadians admitted to Angus Reid they “could not” vote for a prime minister who wears a turban, this was spun into congratulatory headlines announcing a “majority of Canadians would consider voting for a Sikh prime minister” — celebrating the racist glass for being only half full.

And when polls showed only 6.1 per cent of Canadians considered Jagmeet Singh the “most ethical party leader” — far behind Andrew Scheer and Trudeau, even in the wake of revelations about Scheer’s racist Yellow Vest fraternization and Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin corruption — no one bothered to ask why a brown man with a turban and no scandals was perceived as so much less “ethical” than two white men with major scandals. MORE


Systemic racism, Canada and Justin Trudeau
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh hits his stride early in the campaign

Tackling climate change means purging privilege from politics

Image: Global Climate Strike
Image: Global Climate Strike

Our national political arena often seems dominated by unproductive partisan potshots and misplaced accountability, with corporate interests prioritized over people’s.

Behind the noisy partisan sniping, a quiet majority — 70 to 75 per cent of Canadians — is largely disengaged from politics, according to McAllister Opinion Research. It’s not that people don’t care about climate change, affordability, equity and creating a healthier, more just and secure future for their children and grandchildren. Polls show they do — as do this month’s climate strikes and actions. They just don’t see politicians as relevant.

How can politicians earn back our trust and act on issues that matter?

With climate disruption, Simon Fraser University resource professor Mark Jaccard says we must distinguish between climate-sincere and climate-insincere politicians.

Three-quarters of Canadians say they’re worried about climate change. With floods, wildfires, heat waves and health threats like Lyme disease increasing, anxiety among Canadians is also rising.

Polls show that fairness matters to Canadians. We want to support action that takes that into account. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that climate change will disproportionately affect the poor and most vulnerable, who have contributed least to the problem.

Technical and policy solutions to climate change are known. All that’s lacking is political will — not only to implement solutions but to address the power imbalances in our political system that obstruct them.

One of the most glaring examples of the privileged few wielding disproportionate influence comes from the U.S. With funding from the Koch brothers and their allies, Americans for Prosperity has worked to hobble progressive groups and ensure the corporate agenda is prioritized. This, according to the Guardian, has curtailed Medicaid expansion to poor, uninsured adults, rolled back state efforts to address climate change, and given massive tax cuts to wealthy people and companies. Koch-related foundations have invested millions in Canadian think tanks and organizations that sow doubt about climate science and the most effective climate solutions.

In his upcoming book Regime of Obstruction: How Corporate Power Blocks Energy Democracy, University of Victoria professor William Carroll explains that fossil fuel corporations and their allies have a long reach into civil and political society that allows them to undertake organized, well-funded campaigns to block necessary climate action.

Our democratic systems need strengthening. Justice, equity and inclusion matter. Stifling these important values impedes our ability to act on societal challenges like climate disruption. Unequal privilege keeps the door open to those with influence who continue to manufacture distrust of climate science and meaningful solutions. MORE


The climate wars will be waged in middle-class living rooms

Image result for Maclean's cover climate change
(Patrick Pleul/dpa via AP)

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the greenest leader of all? In the latest battle to win middle-class Canadian hearts, the Liberals and Conservatives released duelling plans to promote household energy efficiency. The Tories would offer a 20-per-cent income tax credit on energy-saving home renovations that cost up to $20,000, while the Grits proposed a free energy audit and subsequent $40,000 interest-free loan to cover any renovations recommended as a result of the inspection.

The NDP, meanwhile, took aim at both parties for their hypocritical track records on climate change: party leader Jagmeet Singh stood next to colourful briefcases, ossified by spray paint and filled with funny money emblazoned with the headshots of his rivals. Cheap paper signs fired shots at Justin Trudeau’s pipeline purchase and Andrew Scheer’s cozy relationships to the oil and gas industry, but the overall effect made Singh and his cohorts look sillier than they probably intended.

We all know the real greenest leader of all. Green party leader Elizabeth May unveiled her party’s full costed platform. In addition to eliminating student debt and post-secondary tuition (hey, if you’re not gonna win the election, why not move the needle like Bernie Sanders did?), the blockbuster line item was the nearly $27-billion price tag on her first year of proposed pharmacare. “The big ticket item—pharmacare—turns out to be a cost,” she told reporters. “But it’s essential. We have to do it.” Both Trudeau and Singh have also released plans for national pharmacare , though the NDP offered a much lower cost of $10 billion a year, while the Liberals said it would cost $6 billion over the next four years.

Speaking of climate action… CBC News fact-checked Trudeau’s claim that Canada is “on track” to meet its 2030 climate target, and found the statement misleading. The sentence in question: “Canada is on track to reduce our emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.” In fact, according to figures from Environment and Climate Change Canada, we’re closer to 63 per cent of the way to meeting those goals. Trudeau’s boast appears to be rooted in the hope that future policies and technologies, including a new electric vehicle incentive and planned green energy projects that are set to kick in come 2022, will push us over the goal line. That may be true, but it’s impossible to factor those in right now, simply because they don’t yet exist. SOURCE

Giving up just half your hamburgers can really help the climate

The bad news: to make really deep emissions cuts, most of us should probably go vegan.

Beef cattle

It turns out you can drastically shrink your climate footprint without drastically changing your diet.

An analysis last month led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) found that there’s not a huge difference, in terms of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, between cutting out about half the red meat—specifically cattle, goats, and sheep—in the average American diet and going full vegetarian.

We see these diminishing returns because a standard vegetarian diet doesn’t replace all meat with vegetables. Instead, it relies heavily on dairy, eggs, and other animal-based products that require a lot of land and produce a lot of emissions, says Tim Searchinger, a senior fellow at WRI and lead author of the report. (Going vegan would produce much deeper cuts, but the report didn’t include that analysis.)

Declines in emissions and land use from reducing consumption of ruminant meat
Chart showing decline in agricultural land use and greenouse gas emissions with reduced meat intake

That’s good news if you want to switch up your diet for climate reasons but find it hard to cut out steaks and burgers altogether. In fact, you can significantly shrink your dietary footprint—which makes up about 15% of US household emissions—without eating less meat at all. Just replacing 43% of your red meat with pork and chicken would cut your dietary emissions by about 18%.  

The UN provided a stark reminder today of why thinking through these choices matters a lot. A special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Climate Change and Land,” concludes that the world needs to overhaul the way it produces food and manages land to rein in global warming and feed a growing population on an increasingly volatile planet.

It notes that agriculture, forestry, and other land use changes account for 23% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Dietary changes can quickly add up. A worldwide shift away from “emissions-intensive foods like beef” could cut anywhere from 0.7 billion to 8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases per year. At the top end of the range—which would basically be if everyone went vegan—that’s nearly a fifth of all fossil-fuel-related emissions. Such a dietary shift could also free up millions of square kilometers, the report says.

But merely cutting out most red meat can make a big difference, because it comes from ruminants—including cattle, sheep, and goats—that produce an outsize share of particularly powerful greenhouse gases.

The WRI paper stresses that ruminants are “by far the most resource-intensive food,” generating 20 times more greenhouse-gas emissions per gram of protein than pulses—which include chickpeas, lentils, and beans—and four to six times more than dairy. In the average US diet as of 2010, beef contributed 3% of calories, but accounted for 43% of the land use and nearly half the emissions from food production. That, to put it scientifically, is bonkers.

The varying emissions associated with different foods
A bar chart showing greenhouse gas emissions from production of different foods

One reason is the large amount of land needed to produce these animals’ food, whether they graze or eat specially grown crops. Chopping, burning, clearing, or draining forests, peat bogs, and other lands for this purpose releases vast amounts of carbon trapped in the trees, plants, and soil.

But the other big factor is that mammals with multi-chambered stomachs emit huge levels of methane in their burps and manure. That’s one of the most potent greenhouse gases, trapping around 84 times more heat than carbon dioxide during its first two decades in the atmosphere.

But while cutting out red meat is an obvious solution, it’s a tough one. Eating meat is tightly tied up in cultural traditions, social expectations, and perceptions of worth and wealth. As nations become richer, their meat consumption rises. Plus, it tastes really good!

So how can we begin to move the numbers?

WRI’s authors provide some suggestions, including drawing on lessons from marketing, celebrity endorsements, packaging, and product display to change the cultural norms around meat. The government can also employ some powerful sticks and carrots, including taxes, subsidies, and the power to make buying decisions for schools, federal offices, and the military, the report states. MORE

New EU Commission structure shows seriousness on climate action

Ursula von der Leyen, seen here as Germany’s defence minister on Feb. 13, 2019. Photo by NATO/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A week before the United Nations Climate Summit began, a new leader took the helm of the European Commission with the goal of promoting strong climate action.

“I want the European Green Deal to become Europe’s hallmark,” EU Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said on Sept. 10.

One of her first acts in office was to appoint her second-in-command with overseeing Europe’s goal of achieving climate neutrality by mid-century.

“At the heart of it is our commitment to becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent,” she said at the time.

Dutch social democrat Frans Timmermans was nominated Sept. 10 to present the “European Green Deal” over the first 100 days of the new EU Commission’s mandate, which begins Nov. 1, while also serving as climate-action commissioner.

Frans Timmermans


“We are one people, one race – the human race – living on one planet. Let’s be bold and let it be known that is in fact enlightened patriotism”

View image on Twitter

Officials have said that might be difficult, but some say the new role Timmermans is about to take may help facilitate this change.

Leyen has changed the structure of the EU Commission in constructive ways, former EU Commissioner László Andor told National Observer in a Sept. 21 interview at the United for Climate Justice conference organized by the Foundation of European Progressive Studies (FEPS) on the fringe of the United Nations General Assembly.

The new structure involves three executive vice-presidents, one of whom is Timmermans, who will be in charge of “everything about sustainability.”

Previously, these responsibilities were “scattered, and not necessarily well co-ordinated,” Andor said.

For example, before Timmermans’ appointment, the EU Commission had a climate-and-energy commissioner, which was a problem because “very often, energy wins and climate is subordinated,” Andor said.

“Now, the point is that climate policy is going to be concentrated at a very high level,” he added. “And this will be more effective than the previous arrangement. To start, I’m sure there will be continued pressure.”

Former EU Commissioner László Andors makes opening remarks at the United for Climate Justice conference in New York on Sept. 21, 2019. Photo Supplied

Bodies like the European Investment Bank have been able to cohesively shift the focus of investment into renewable energy and sustainable services in line with ambitious goals, while also developing partnerships with the private sector and other government. That is now what the EU Commission is trying to do under Leyen, Andor said, making the changes worth watching.

“If the European Union wants to remain relevant in the eyes of this part of the electorate, it has to be serious. And this is a method of credibility for international partnerships and actions at the global level,” said Andor, who is FEPS secretary general.

Andor believes Timmermans’ very focused role will allow the EU Commission to build international partnerships and dialogue with civil societies and other actors in the fields of social and climate innovation. MORE


Bill McKibben: To Confront the Climate Crisis, We Need Human Solidarity, Not Walls & Cages

Image result for bill mckibben amy goodman


Bill McKibben, the longtime journalist and co-founder of 350.org, talks about climate migration, the 2020 Democratic candidates, the Green New Deal and more. McKibben’s latest piece for The New Yorker is titled “Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns,” and his cover piece for Time magazine is headlined “Hello from the Year 2050. We Avoided the Worst of Climate Change — But Everything Is Different.”

BILL McKIBBEN: It was so much fun to get to back up Fridays for the Future and all the youth organizers here who were doing this, just to be able to watch how good they are at doing this and to really try and build a multigenerational climate movement, which is precisely what we need.

AMY GOODMAN: So, we are here, yes, right after the Climate Action Summit, though there are protests around climate that are happening all over in the next weeks, but also in a presidential primary season. Some eyes might glaze over. How is it possible that for more than a year now we’re going to go through this primary season with these candidates? But others might say, and I think you’re among them, who say, “No, no, no. This is an incredible opportunity.” Candidates are often senators or governors, politicians who are very insulated, in fact, in between times when they have to run. And now there’s this window where they have to respond to the public. And you are certainly using this moment. So I’d like to ask you, of the, what, 20 presidential Democratic presidential candidates that are still out there, the kind of work you’re doing, pressing these candidates to formulate their positions on the climate crisis.

BILL McKIBBEN: Sure. So, 350 Action, which is the (c)(4) political part of our operation, has been doing its best to turn them all into climate candidates. We set up the kind of original climate scoreboard for the various presidential candidates. And there have been young people out bird-dogging every event, every rope line, or making sure that these guys understand what the bottom line for the climate movement is.

And the bottom line is not having someone say, “I care about climate change. It represents an existential risk.” The bottom line is: Are you signing on to something that looks like the Green New Deal? Are you signing on because it’s within your power as president to do it to announce that there will be no mining and drilling on public lands? And are you saying we’re going to stop fracking around the country?

It’s been incredibly impressive to watch how far this field has moved. Look, four years ago, Bernie broke down this door, you know? He started talking in really serious terms about climate change. You’ll recall in the 2016 debates, in the primaries, at one point they asked, “What’s the most important issue facing the planet?” And Bernie just looked up and said, “Well, I mean, that’s obvious. It’s climate change.” That was something that no American politician really had enunciated before in quite that way.

As with many things, it’s spread across the field now, and so we’re getting remarkable commitments from everyone, pretty much everyone, down the line. Elizabeth Warren, the week before last, said she would stop fracking across America. That’s big deal. It’s all big deal. And it’s all because people are out there making this demand.

We’re not — I mean, assuming that a Democrat wins this time, an assumption on which my future mental health is entirely predicated, because I cannot — I don’t know about the planet, but I can’t take another four years of Trump, OK? Assuming a Democrat wins, we’re not really going to have an open primary next time, you know. There will be an incumbent and whatever. This is our chance in the political system for the next eight years to get these guys fully on the line and as committed as it’s possible to be.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you said making sure they sign on to the Green New Deal. Explain what that is?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, it’s not at this point a solid, fully fleshed-out piece of legislation, but everybody knows what it means now. It means a commitment to systemic change in order to cut in half the emissions that we’re producing over the course of the next decade. That requires things like a federal jobs guarantee, to allow anybody who wants to be part of this transition to do it. You know, it requires real commitments to environmental justice and climate justice in the most hard-hit communities. It requires a hell of a lot of work.

And so, the people who are saying, “Yeah, we’ll do it,” are, I think, signing up for that. At least they’re saying it in public, so we can hold them responsible once they’re in office. It’s worth remembering that politics doesn’t end on Election Day. In fact, that’s just the beginning. After that, it’s the job of — and you’ll recall, I mean, I worked hard for Barack Obama to get elected, and then we organized the largest demonstrations outside the White House during the whole Obama administration in order to make him live up to his words around things like the Keystone pipeline. MORE

Two-Thirds of All Assets in Canada’s Economy Are Now Owned By Under 1% of All Companies

Multinational corporations currently own 67% of all assets in Canada’s economy


Less than 1% of companies operating in Canada control over two-thirds of its assets,  new figures from Statistics Canada show.

On Monday, StatsCan released a study looking at aggregated data from the financial statements of all Canadian enterprises.

In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, only 0.8% of companies operating in Canada were multinational enterprises (meaning they have facilities or other assets in a country other than the home country).

Half were majority domestically-owned and half were majority foreign-owned.

Statistics Canada

Nevertheless, the report noted, this 0.8% of companies held 67% of all assets in the Canadian economy, in both the “financial and non-financial sectors.”

The biggest share of the Canadian-owned half of non-financial MNEs were in manufacturing (39.3%) and extraction (33.4%).

StatsCan notes MNEs dominated these sectors, along with finance, utilities and others, due to their capital-intensity and greater-returns to scale.

Statistics Canada

That is reflected by a big discrepancy in raw dollars — in extraction, the median value of assets held by MNEs was $14.4 million, versus $0.16 million for non-MNEs while in the utilities industry, the median value of assets held by MNEs was $17.34 million, versus $0.29 million.

As PressProgress reported previously, many experts and business groups have noted that most of the key sectors of Canada’s economy are oligopolies, dominated by a very small group of very large and powerful companies. SOURCE


Why Haudenosaunee won’t be voting in the federal election this October

17th century treaty asserts Iroquois Confederacy are sovereign people, on a parallel track to Canada

Kenneth Deer, the secretary for the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake and member of the Haudenosaunee external relations committee, holds a replica of a Two Row Wampum belt outside of the longhouse in Kahnawake, Que. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

While efforts were made during the last federal election to get Indigenous people across Canada to “rock the vote,” few Haudenosaunee went out to the polls.

According to data from Elections Canada, 1,851 people voted in the 2015 federal election across all of seven Haudenosaunee communities in Canada. That number represents about 6.6 per cent of eligible voters living on-reserve in those communities.

This October will be no different, said Kenneth Deer, the secretary for the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake and member of the Haudenosaunee external relations committee.

The reasoning, he said, is political, historical and fundamental to Haudenosaunee identity.

The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, Confederacy includes the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Tuscarora nations. Seven communities, mostly Mohawk, are located in southern Quebec and Ontario.

“We as Mohawks and Haudenosaunee, we don’t believe that we are Canadian or American citizens. We believe that we are sovereign people from before contact,” said De

He said voting would be a violation of treaty relations established with the Two Row Wampum belt.

What is the Two Row Wampum?

The Two Row Wampum belt signifies the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s relationship to European colonizers and their descendants. It emphasizes a mutual engagement to co-exist in peace without interference in the affairs of the other. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

Wampum belts, made of beads from quahog clam shells strung together, are used to symbolize Haudenosaunee laws, traditions and moments in history. According to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Kaswentha, or Two Row Wampum, dates back to the early 17th century to represent an agreement of peace and mutual respect between the Mohawk nation and the Dutch, the first Europeans they came into contact with.

The agreement was recorded with a belt made of white beads with two parallel rows of purple beads. The white beads represent a river, while the purple rows represent two vessels travelling the river: a ship for the Dutch and a canoe for the Haudenosaunee, each carrying their own laws, traditions, customs and languages.

“The two vessels would go side by side down the river of life and would not interfere with each other,” said Deer.

A replica Two Row Wampum belt made in the 1990s for the the Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Centre in Kahnawake, Que. (Jessica Deer/CBC) 

The Two Row Wampum is viewed as a living treaty, and Haudenosaunee continue to use it as a guide for relationships between themselves and other nations to co-exist in peace without interference in the affairs of the other.

“This is worldview for us or how we relate with all governments, whether it’s the Dutch or the British or the French, the Americans or Canada,” said Deer.

“It’s not up to us here in a canoe to decide who steers that ship with sails. By voting in Canadian elections, we are violating the Two Row relationship that we have with governments.” MORE

Conservatives more likely to view immigrants as ‘costly to society’

Canada 150 celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 1, 2017. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Conservatives and those with a dim economic outlook are more likely to view immigrants as “costly to society” than other Canadians, new research suggests.

Accurate information about the benefits of bringing in new residents, however, can change minds, according to the latest report from the Digital Democracy Project, a joint initiative by the Public Policy Forum and the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University.

While Canadians show “modest” levels of nativism overall, “Liberal and NDP partisans score far lower than Conservatives in their expressed nativist sentiment,” researchers found.

“Nativism — feelings of support for native-born citizens over immigrants — is more common among conservatives, but also among those who feel the economy or their personal finances are getting worse.”

The researchers measured “nativism” by asking a series of questions they said were designed to tap into perceptions of “whether immigrants are costly to society.”

They found Canadians broadly overestimate the number of migrants and refugees entering the country, with almost a quarter of those polled believing that refugee intake is higher than it really is.

“Nativism — feelings of support for native-born citizens over immigrants — is more common among conservatives, but also among those who feel the economy or their personal finances are getting worse,” says a new @ppforumca @MaxBellSchool report

Twenty-nine per cent of those surveyed said too many immigrants were from visible minorities. The authors noted they interpreted this number cautiously given a tendency for respondents to “provide answers that are socially acceptable but not a reflection of their true sentiment.”

The People’s Party of Canada — the leader of which, Maxime Bernier, has campaigned on allowing “fewer immigrants” into Canada — was not included in the examination of nativism. The report said the sample size was too small.

In asking respondents a series of questions about policy, researchers also found that Canadians were more often “uninformed” rather than “misinformed.”

Providing respondents with details of the economic benefits of immigration made people, particularly conservatives, more aware, and more supportive, they said. MORE