A world of information comes through the Canadian news media every night, a lot of it related to how we approach our society and how that translates into our approach to other societies (domestic and foreign policy).
The first topic that came up was that of Maher Arar, and while I saw it first on Global TV, the Globe and Mail provides this information: " • Canadian officials were knowledgeable about the U.S. practice of "rendering" suspects to harsh interrogations third-countries.[sic] "I think the U.S. would like to get Arar to Jordan where they can have their way with him," one CSIS official wrote in an email on October 10, 2002 two days after Mr. Arar was quietly sent to that country, and on to Syria, for questioning."
As Canada is a signatory to the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions that means that some people in CSIS, the RCMP and the Harper cabinet are culpable of war crimes as "rendering" suspects and torture are both war crimes. The U.S. can get away with it as the most powerful country in the world and having legalized their own torture system; it looks like Canada tried to ride on their coat-tails on this one too. As for the "secrecy" aspect of it, most state secrets are there not to protect Canada, but to protect Canadian citizens from knowing what their government is up to, often not up to what the majority want (those ignorant and factious masses).
Another comment came up with PM Harper's current trip to the Arctic (he is taking a lot of trips lately, good for the media coverage) and as much as I am critical of Harper in general, if he actually does something about clarifying Canadian sovereignty I would support that. However he can take two tacks on that: first, the militaristic approach as outlined in Granatstein's Whose War Is It? , or a more diversified and civilized approach as per Michael Byers' Intent for a Nation I would not exclude the military, as that is one role that I could support them in, as aggressive war and rendition of prisoners of war as is occurring in Afghanistan touches the threshold of more war crimes (occupation, treatment of prisoners, no damage to civilian structures, no attacks on civilians). However a civilian representation - and don't forget the Inuit with this, it is their traditional territory - including scientific and ecological research would be important, especially before letting the corporations run-amuck and wreck and steal all its wealth.
Of course Arctic sovereignty is a question arising out of global climate change, or as confirmed by a recent colloque reported in Scientific American (August 2007), global warming, which leads to the topic of all the Canadian provincial premiers trying to line up a climate change initiative. All that is well and good, but it is only one narrow spectrum of the challenges facing our globe. In general terms, there are too many people demanding too much of the globe and it is the consumptive demand of the western countries and their seemingly endless greed for goods - assisted in a great part by the "propaganda" of advertising (means the same in Italian apparently) - that is creating that mess. In short, everybody needs to consume less, which obviously goes against the corporate will, but note also that when the economy is good, the corporations take the credit, when it goes sour, the government calls on the people to go buy something and support the small businesses in the community as they are the backbone of the economy. A tad contradictory that.
So saving energy and cleaning up the air is all very well and good and I highly support it, but it is only one aspect of our global imprint, where our culture is based on "the unabated search for material wealth...[having] pillaged and ravaged natural resources and animal life as if there were no tomorrow. (Glasbeek, Wealth by Stealth, Between the Lines, 2002).
Reflect upon the connections here: Canadian Arctic Sovereignty becoming an issue because of global warming and the opening up of the Northwest Passage to possible international travel and exploration and claims, and that global warming resulting from an economy based on consumption and greed, with the most sought after commodity right now being oil, the result of which is the ongoing Middle East war (now subsumed under the "war on terror"). All this of course is entangled with our economy (no-brainer here I hope) and another news item, the recent instability in the stock market.
Michael Campbell (brother of Gordon Campbell who also appeared on Global TV at the energy/climate change premiers' meeting) appeared on Global TV and opined that the market would generally remain strong but be prepared for some volatility based on uncertainty on the housing market. Okay, we all know (I hope) the housing market in the U.S. is having significant troubles with many consumers over-extended and extending their debt even further to cover other expenses. The American economy is now unfortunately based on consumer debt as a result of finance capitalism (money chasing after more money) rather than productive capitalism (money chasing after goods) with ultimately the Chinese holding the ace in this house of (credit) cards. The Chinese hold almost a trillion dollars in American debt in the form of Treasury bonds. Paul Craig Roberts (former Assistant of the Treasury in the Reagan administration - about as right wing as you can get) says, "If China ceased to buy US Treasuries, Bush's wars would end. The savings rate of US consumers is essentially zero, and several million are afflicted with mortgages that they cannot afford. With Bush's budget in deficit and with no room in the US consumer's budget for a tax increase, Bush's wars can only be financed by foreigners."
The results would be enormous. First, the value of the dollar and its purchasing power would tumble - Wal-Mart would not look so good anymore. Secondly, either tax increases or social service cuts, both of which affect the poor more than the rich - or both - would have to be put into effect to balance the budget. Or, the government could simply print more money and inflate its way out of debt, again leaving the dollar worthless in comparison to, oh, say, the euro. One good result could be - as indicated - the war in Iraq would have to end as their would be no more finances for it, essentially the Chinese players' main objective anyway, as that war is getting too close to home in a geopolitical and resource sense. With Canada tied so strongly into the U.S. economy, our finances would also take a considerable turn for the worse, unless the Chinese started buying all our resources using the euro.
The connection here of course is the U.S. desire for hegemonic control of Middle East resources, mainly oil and gas, in which Canada is involved as an imperial follower. That oil resource leads back to that consumptive society we have and the global warming and climate change and Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic and the complicit war crimes enacted because the U.S. is using the "war on terror" as an excuse to invade and control the prime oil wealth region of the world. Much more oil and gas could also be involved with the Arctic, but no worry there, I'm sure Canada will still give that away to American and other western corporations just as we did with the tar sands (funny how Britain, Norway, Venezuela, and Mexico - the latter even inside of NAFTA - have retained control of their own oil resources much to the betterment of their people.)
It is all one big picture and the pieces fit together comfortably in a macabre bizarre jig-saw puzzle sort of way. It is probably too much for most people to contemplate, but contemplate it we must because it will affect us all in the future, as it does now in the present, aware or unaware.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicles. His interest in this topic stems originally from an environmental perspective, which encompasses the militarization and economic subjugation of the global community and its commodification by corporate governance and by the American government.