Yeah, world, you know us - Canada. We may be in the midst of a metamorphosis but we'll make sure you recognize us. We are Stephen Harper's Canada - and now that he has a majority government and carte blanche to write his script without consultation, his ultra conservative monotone will be heard loud and clear around the world. If you rank among the vulnerable you already know the power of the Canadian word.
O.K. may be we were forgotten in 2009. Our Prime Minister was absent from his expected post on the far right of the heads of state on April 2. Yes, world leaders subsequently had a good laugh at our expense but they are not laughing now. That was the day Stephen Harper didn't show up for the ceremonial photo of G20 presidents and prime ministers. Maybe that was foreboding, he didn't stand with them then and since then has served notice that the Big Cheese stands very conspicuously and alone on the distant right.
Remember that Kyoto Accord? Then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien signed on in 2002 but with Harper in charge in 2007, our signature meant nothing. His own Conservative Clean Air Act, of January 2010 alerted the world that Canada wouldn't even attempt to meet Kyoto's greenhouse gas targets. We made the front pages worldwide. Never mind global health, human or otherwise. Recognize us as reneging - a backtracker whose " word is not our bond".
There is a saying- "Have the courage of your convictions". If by conviction one means "sentencing" rather than "principles", we stand on our record.
Our government is overseeing the removal of asbestos as a danger from the Canadian Parliament Buildings built in 1927. The initial cost estimates are $863 million Canadian. According to studies asbestos, or chrysotile as Harper prefers to call it, accounts for 100,000 related deaths worldwide annually. Health experts warn deaths from asbestos will decimate Asia - slow hacking deaths by asbestosis, mesothelioma or other lung cancers that can take 30 to 50 years.
In 2006 Health Canada called for it to be added to the list of dangerous materials. The World Health Organization and our own Canadian Medical Association Journal have warned that the export of asbestos is medically and morally indefensible.
World leaders agreed this year to add asbestos to the U.N. Rotterdam Convention, a treaty on hazardous substances. But the consensus had to be unanimous and there were dissenters. Stalwarts of integrity and democracy Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam stood against the move. Determined to display our two faces to the world the same government anxiously removing the carcinogen from Canada's Parliament Buildings, aligned our credible voice with this trio. You see, we have a whack of the stuff in mines in Quebec. With an election in May 2011 and votes and millions in profit on the line, health issues be damned. Harper sided with Quebec's Jeffrey Mines defending asbestos as a money maker. Canada has shipped 750,000 tonnes of the lethal substance primarily to India for unsuspecting workers to wade through wearing no protective gear. They inhale fibres finer than a human hair, as they drift like death in warehouse air. While our three amigos eventually relented and signed on to the convention, we, the Cheese, stand disgustingly alone. Our blatant disregard for the lives of Indians earned Canada a credibility "boost" by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. Over two million viewers witnessed the indifferent insanity of our decision. This kind of international moxy inspired humiliating headlines stamped across Canada's forehead for the world to read. The Rotterdam Convention wouldn't preclude exporting chrysotile, it would simply require Canada to warn buyers of the dangers of asbestos in causing cancer and other illness. No matter.
Entrenching ourselves in the unpopular and incomprehensible on the wrong side of right seems comfortable as we display our selective morality. We levied another backhand on the defenceless in 2011. This time we smacked Africa. Of course the insult is all the more distinguished if it is wrapped in hypocrisy.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced at the G8 meeting in June/2011 that Canada would champion maternal and child health in developing countries.
Canada insures that 100,000 Canadian women per year can secure abortions in sterile medical settings. The medical procedure is covered for Canadian women under the country's public health insurance plan. In Canada, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth is one in 5,600. In Niger, it’s one in 16.
Every major health agency describes botched abortions in sub-Saharan Africa as one of the major threats to life on the list of maternal dangers. Oppressive poverty renders contraception inaccessible and internal turmoil spurs vicious rapes and the impregnation of thousands of young girls and women. The World Health Organization estimates that nineteen out of twenty abortions performed there are done in unsafe conditions. Women desperate to terminate pregnancies resort to drinking turpentine or bleach, impaling themselves crudely, or jumping off rooftops to jar the fetus loose. Babies born out of the horrors of brutality are often murdered or deserted because mothers can't bear the sight of them.
In yet another confounding gesture Stephen Harper slapped a provision on how Canada's contributions to the G8 pot could or could not be spent. He insisted our funding be separated from any monies that would facilitate safe abortions. Instead we'd focus on providing clean drinking water and vaccination programs - brilliant. He says the funding of abortions for African women is too divisive. The division that seems all too obvious is the gulf that keeps African women from benefitting from a procedure that Canadian women secure paid for by government dollars.
Call us renegade, call us a hypocrite or backpedaller, call us defiant. We're grabbing headlines. You know what they say about any press being good press. With four years to stomp our new Conservative heel print on the world, Harper's Canada will have no qualms distinguishing itself from our past right-minded image and the reasoned vision of other heads of state. As for the international press ..... go ahead call us or call us out!