Reaching out to immigrants and refugees #1

Stephen LaFrenie

One of the questions I have begun to ask myself is how can we reach out to refugees and immigrants when it is our own foreign policies and economic policies that have created the conditions from which they are fleeing. Liberal and Conservative governments have acted over the last 35 years as if Canada has been a solution and not a cause.
Look at three essential elements to building a nation such as public funding of infrastructure, education, and agriculture. These elements cannot be left to the private sector alone. Corporations do not build nations. So it is no surprise that the IMF, WTO, and the World Bank, supported by Canada, specifically discourage and actively interfere with all three of these elements in developing nations while Canadians guard it tenaciously within our own borders. We pay lip service to education by funding 'education initiatives' but will never assist a developing nation to fund a comprehensive, national public education system. In Jamaica in 1972 the government of Michael Manley realized the need for strong education and developed an expanded and comprehensive public education system. This made him a pariah in the eyes of the U.S. and international community.
Does food need to be included in ‘free trade’? I would argue that it doesn’t. A nation must be able to feed itself and we have systematically destroyed the capabilities of developing nations to do this. Western nations have instead made them dependent on importing food and regularly use them as ‘dumping’ grounds for our agricultural products. Rice, bananas and milk are just two of many examples of domestic industries that have been destroyed in Jamaica and Haiti due to this policy. From an article on People’s Weekly World web site.

“There is little international solidarity on issues of direct relevance to Caribbean SIDS, (Small Island Developing States), such as the World Trade Organization ruling that ended preferential treatment for Caribbean bananas in the European market. U.S. corporate banana interests (particularly the strong U.S. Chiquita lobby) forced the European Union to end this preference and pitted Caribbean growers against their counterparts in Central America, where U.S. transnational corporations have market control. The banana industry feeds most families in the Caribbean islands of Dominica, St. Vincent and St. Lucia. Among the world’s developing nations, SIDS have special disadvantages. Like others, they are being hampered by capitalist globalization but they are also constrained by their limited size and population. Many SIDS find their quests for self-determination in trade or environmental protection thwarted as their interests come into conflict with those of developed countries.”
Former European colonizers owed it to their former colonies to help them develop independence rather than merely recognize it. The fallacy of ‘free’ trade has systematically dismantled any notion of this concept. The moral question surrounding the concept of ‘free’ trade is what constitutes ‘free’ trade. At present the practice of human rights is held separate from trade. Tariffs and duties are considered unfair but a country’s use of military means to kill union organizers and activists, and force people to work in dehumanizing environments such as ‘free zones’ is not considered in the equation. Corporations are not required to consider these elements in their practices so any Corporation that respects human and labour rights is also unable to truly compete globally. Canada needs to stand up for and fight for fair trade based on the recognition of human and labour rights as an essential element in trade. Canada must develop the political will to recognize and lead the right of any nation to impose either trade sanctions or tariffs against any product, corporation, nation that does not practice human rights and an internationally recognized labour standard and make this a part of WTO standards. If necessary develop a parallel trade system with developing nations on its own based on fair trade. In Canada we are moving towards an agricultural disaster. Climate change will dramatically alter what food we grow and where. Family farms are vanishing and more and more of our food is being grown and supplied by corporate farms. We have to move toward a global society that doesn’t view food as a ‘free market’ commodity. Each nation must be able to sustain its own agriculture and food supply free from the dominance and control of multi-national corporations that have no moral or sovereign guidance.
Infrastructure works the same way. Countries need to subsidize the infrastructure in order to grow. Corporations do not build societies or nations. All countries need to be able to freely establish alternatives to fossil fuels. Caribbean nations especially can build independent electrical and power infrastructures through solar and wind technologies. Again we have used developing nations as dumping grounds for old technologies. We don’t recognize innovation and instead insist on systems that are failing in our own country. Canada should not only aggressively develop wind and solar but export these technologies to developing nations. To be a leader in development by not imposing our systems and ways of thinking on developing nations but instead give them the technology and freedom to develop it as they see fit. In our work in Haiti, in Cite Soleil, we see very dangerous pirating of electricity from an already poor and overworked grid system. Homes, schools, small businesses can all develop independently. Solar technology is there but it is unnecessarily expensive and only trickles through the nations thinking and our thinking as well. Canada has to have the political will to aggressively pursue alternative development as opposed to simply subsidizing existing Canadian businesses. Foreign aid largely goes to domestic businesses and corrupt practices in the developing country and rarely makes a significant impact on the ground. We would not have to raise our foreign aid budget significantly if we would only rethink and reallocate where we focus it.
How does all of this relate to my original statement in reference to refugees and immigrants? My personal experiences over the last ten years have been largely in Jamaica and Haiti. Both are beautiful countries yet Haiti lies devastated by foreign interference and greed caused by the concepts of ‘free’ trade and globalization. When I was last in Jamaica in 2002 there was a poll taken which revealed that an alarming number of Jamaicans would leave if they had the chance. Meanwhile we flock to Jamaica as a tropical paradise. We need to ask ourselves why so many of us want to go there and so many of them want to leave. If the Caribbean nations (as one example) had the ability to feed themselves and develop independently they could provide a quality of life that would easily rival our own. All we have to do is have the moral courage and political will to stop contributing to their destruction and dependence. Then Canada could hold its head up on the international stage. New Canadians would come not in desperation but desire. This would change many things.

This blog reflects my personal opinion.
It is not official Green Party Policy.