June 1, 2016 • No. 17 | PDF Previous Issues
Government Announces Themes for 150th Anniversary of Confederation in 2017
On May 25, Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly announced the government’s themes for the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 under the slogan “Time for Youth and Active Living!”
The announcement came during what was described as “an outdoor canoeing activity” at Kiwanis Memorial Park in Saskatoon. Four themes were announced for the official celebrations to take place next year: “diversity and inclusion, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, youth and the environment.” Joly said that the upcoming anniversary “gives the Government of Canada an opportunity to engage and inspire Canadians in their communities” and is “a time to come together to celebrate our shared values, our achievements, our majestic environment and our place in the world.”
The Harper government used the upcoming 150th anniversary of Confederation as an opportunity to assault the historical consciousness of Canadians and promote a chauvinist image of Canada “Strong, Proud, and Free.” The Liberals promote their own chauvinist notions of Canada while spreading their divide and rule policies in the name of strength in diversity. With their decision on how Canadians should mark the anniversary they want to make sure no serious discussion takes place on the problems of today.
A government backgrounder issued May 25 elaborates on the themes for the anniversary:
“Diversity and inclusion — We want to continue building a welcoming Canada where there is a place for everyone, a Canada where everyone can reach his or her full potential.
“Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples — We want to support the vital work of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples as outlined in the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Reconciliation is a journey for all Canadians as we move forward into Canada’s next 150 years.
“Youth — We want to continue to engage young people and give them the means to contribute to our society, because they are the ones who will shape tomorrow’s Canada.
“Environment — We want to be the custodians of our environment, because it is a source of our country’s wealth and pride. We want to bring Canadians closer to nature in order to strengthen their environmental awareness.”
Confederation refers to the act of uniting four separate colonies of the British Empire including the Quebec nation into a Dominion of Canada. Confederation is marked on July 1 as the date the Act went into effect. Canada. The conditions and terms of the union were spelled out in the British North America Act, 1867 which received royal assent by the Queen on March 29, 1867. One of the purposes of Confederation was to create a bulwark against U.S. continentalism, a key part of the raison d’etat of Canadian colonial state.
The Constitution of Canada consists of the British North America Act, 1867, the various Acts bringing other provinces into the federation, and the Constitution Act, 1982 which added the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 35 of of the Constitution, and transferred formal control over amendments to the Constitution from Britain to Canada. This process was legally referred to as A Consolidation of the Constitution Acts 1867 to 1982.
The British North America Act remains the foundation of the Constitution and political system of Canada to this day. This constitution has never been modernized despite the 1982 amendments which claim to protect rights and freedoms, but place what are called reasonable limits on these rights which provide ample opportunities for governments to shirk their responsibility and violate rights with impunity.
It is under this Constitution that the working class and people of Canada are marginalized, disempowered and disenfranchised from control over political and economic affairs; it is the Constitution under which the Indigenous nations and Quebec nation are denied their national rights; it is the Constitution under which all sections of the people such as women, national minorities and others do not have their specific rights guaranteed and realized but instead turned into empty policy objectives. To suggest that the rights of Indigenous peoples can be guaranteed by the Constitution which has permitted all the crimes of the state to be committed against them then and now is the height of deception.
This is what the Liberal government does not want Canadians to discuss and draw warranted conclusions from. In other words, the government suggests that there can be a “Canada where everyone can reach his or her full potential,” where there can be genuine reconciliation and where the youth or any of the people can “shape tomorrow’s Canada” without a modern constitution which comes from the people themselves. It is therefore presenting an ahistorical rendering to ward off such conclusions and block the people’s movement for empowerment.
Renewal Update thinks that the Liberal government must not be allowed to pave the way for more crimes against the people with its dismissal of the serious problems of our time. Now is the time for Canadians to begin their preparations for the 150th anniversary of Confederation by putting on the agenda the need for profound constitutional and political renewal. The Marxist-Leninist Party puts itself at the disposal of the working class and people in this important work and is beginning a vigorous program to involve Canadians in discussion on the constitution and political process in the lead up to 2017.
1. The Liberals’ vapid rendering of how the issue of Confederation poses itself today was compounded by the “Pan-Canadian Signature project” also announced by Joly. The project is called “ParticipACTION: the Ultimate List of 150 Canadian Physical Activities.” It involves $5.4 million in government funding for the non-profit organization ParticipACTION for a “Play List project.” The project will “challenge all Canadians to try out 150 unique physical activities that define us as Canadian.” A survey will be held in October 2016 asking Canadians to help choose the 150 physical activities to be included on the list, and the project will launch in January 2017.
The “Play List” involves “premier partners” from private monopolies who also took part in the event with Minister Joly such as Marianne Harrison, President and CEO of Manulife Canada, and Gary Maavara, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Corus Entertainment. Chevrolet Canada is also a “premier partner.”
Minister Joly previously announced that local events for the anniversary will be organized by a private group called Community Foundations of Canada through its project called the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th. The government awarded this organization $10 million to approve and disburse funds for official celebrations. For more information, see Renewal Update, March 21, 2016.
Nation-Building Versus Empire-Building
Demonstration in Burnaby against Kinder Morgan pipeline, May 15, 2016.
The National Energy Board (NEB) announced on May 19 that the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline from Sherwood Park, Alberta to Vancouver is “in Canada’s best interest,” and the Board approves the project subject to 157 conditions. The NEB recommendation now goes to the federal cabinet for a decision, which is expected by the end of 2016.
The expansion would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, which was built in 1953 and now carries 300,000 barrels a day of crude oil, and refined and semi-refined products. With the expansion, the line would also transport diluted bitumen from the oil sands to tankers in Vancouver Harbour for export.
The Canadian Press headline states, “Despite regulator approval, more hurdles await Trans-Mountain Pipeline: Observers.” In this way the monopoly media suggest the U.S.-controlled Kinder Morgan is facing unreasonable obstacles from Canadians. With this assault on consciousness, CP turns truth on its head making Canadians and First Nations obstacles to economic development, which is equated with the private interests of a U.S. monopoly and its promoters in the fraudulent NEB hearings and counterfeit Trudeau government “consultations.”
The NEB is tasked with deciding if the Trans-Mountain expansion is in the public interest. Yet it has not presented a serious opinion, much less criteria on which a rigorous review could be based to determine what is in the public interest. Instead it puts forward trite definitions that could mean anything.
By way of defining the public interest, the NEB states: “The public interest is inclusive of all Canadians and refers to a balance of economic, environmental and social considerations that changes as society’s values and preferences evolve over time.” It further states: “The Board must ask itself: to what extent is Canada better off, or worse off, overall, by choosing a course of action? By considering all the evidence in context of the circumstances, the Board is able to make decisions in the public interest.”
Under neo-liberal globalization, “society’s values” are declared to be based on making the global monopolies that operate in Canada competitive internationally. In the energy sector, the global monopolies have total control over production and distribution in Canada’s oil and natural gas industry. Their decisions are based on empire-building and the narrow private interests of those who own and control the companies. Their decisions are not based on nation-building, on Canada’s broad public interest in building a stable diverse national economy that serves the well-being and security of Canadians and over which the people can exercise control.
Neo-liberal globalization seeks to capture the popular and legal will and line it up behind empire-building and its constant expansion and contention internationally as the only alternative. It opposes assessing the public interest because that would mean carefully analyzing the project in a context of nation-building and seeking a pro-social alternative. Considering the public interest and public right would mean surrendering control to the people and curtailing the activities of the monopolies. This is something the ruling imperialist elite refuse to do.
Kinder Morgan, governments, the NEB and mass media expect and encourage everyone, especially the working class to support expansion of the pipeline as the only option to build the economy and provide jobs. The typical method to have their way is to block serious discussion and assessment before it begins. This is done by channeling the discussion and reports into “for” and “against” camps, and forcing people to line up with one or the other. The development proposals of the monopolies become the issue under debate and not how to build a modern self-reliant interrelated economy that meets the needs of the people and is under their control.
Does the pipeline assist in nation-building? Does it enhance the building of a stable diverse economy in Alberta and BC, which utilizes the enormous social wealth oil workers produce as the seed for diverse refining, manufacturing, public services and social programs? Does it strengthen the control of the people over those issues, especially the economy, which affect their lives directly and powerfully? Does it bring the Indigenous Nations into a greater and developing nation-to-nation relationship with Canada? These are not “hurdles” as CP so contemptuously puts it. These are the stuff of nation-building and only those who oppose the public interest and are prostrate before monopoly right could possibly find them objectionable and an obstacle.
(Photos: Renewal Update, T. Coste, M. Hudema)
Whether the National Energy Board (NEB) does not approve the Keystone and Northern Gateway pipelines or approves the expansion of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline, experience has shown that the NEB review does not provide Canadians or Indigenous peoples with a real say and does nothing to change the situation where the monopolies control the decision-making and act in their own narrow private interests. The review process is in contempt of the public duty to bow to the control and wishes of Canadians and to consult First Nations and obtain their approval to developments on their territory.
The review process is also in contempt of the right of the workers, who produce the social wealth, and the broader population to a say whether a project contributes to strengthening the domestic economy, nation-building and society. The review process provides no space to consider alternatives to the export of raw resources and find a new direction for the economy, including the expansion of upgrading, refining, a petrochemical industry, renewable energy, manufacturing and flourishing of social programs, services and infrastructure through public enterprise.
Who Decides and the Issue of Social Licence
Far from addressing the issue of “Who Decides” and the demand to put the approval process on a scientific basis, Justin Trudeau has declared that the issue is to “restore public confidence.” In other words, the review process is a matter of better PR. Trudeau said during question period in Parliament that the Harper government could not get pipelines built “because Canadians lost faith in their capacity to look out for the big picture, and to build a strong economy while protecting the environment.”
As part of the plan to win a “social license” to build pipelines, the federal government announced that pipeline approval will also require an assessment of upstream greenhouse gases emitted during the mining of oil before it enters the pipeline. The government has also established a three-member panel to conduct a review and report to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr by November. The panel has no power to override the NEB’s decision, nor is it intended to satisfy the constitutional requirement to consult and accommodate First Nations, as the Natural Resources Ministry will carry out separate consultations with First Nations.
What is the purpose of the panel according to the government? In announcing the panel, Minister Carr stated, “They are to review the situation, to add further consultation — particularly with indigenous communities — to see what the NEB might have missed.
“The panel members reflect the experience, perspective and understanding of local issues and relationships needed to advise the Government as we advance the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project to a final decision in December. I encourage communities, Indigenous groups and citizens to engage the panel and let their views on the project be known so the Government can make decisions that reflect the interests and needs of Canadians.”
These are weasel words indeed. All the fine words about nation-to-nation relations have disappeared. Even the recognition of the Indigenous nations has been replaced with a reference to “Indigenous groups” who are invited to make their views known. Who exactly do the Liberals think is going to accept such a grievous insult?
A Genuine Consultation Process Begins with the Participation of Everyone in Setting the Agenda
Consultation with First Nations begins with the recognition of the rights of the Indigenous nations and Indigenous sovereignty over their lands. For First Nations to exercise their right to their own economic base and control over development of their territory, they require at the very least a process of consultation in good faith consistent with this right.
The Right to a Say
Genuine consultation with Canadians begins with recognition of the right of the people to a say over how their natural resources are to be extracted and developed, and the right of the workers who actually produce the wealth to a say. Rights in a society of class privilege are always in conflict and such is the case with the basic right of the people to a say. Public right is in conflict with monopoly right. For public right to flourish, monopoly right must be curtailed and deprived of its right to run roughshod over the people, society and nation-building.
Putting the hearings on a scientific basis would mean serious consideration of a new pro-social direction for the economy and for nation-building as an alternative to empire-building and its economy based on the extraction and sell-off of natural resources, the “rip and ship, boom and bust” economy of the resource monopolies.
The issue confronting the people is not whether they are for or against pipelines. The issue is how we as a people build a stable diverse modern economy that serves our basic needs, strengthens our society, protects Mother Earth, and can engage with the rest of the world in ways that benefit all humanity.
1. The three members of the panel are Ms. Kim Baird, Mr. Tony Penikett and Dr. Annette Trimbee. Their biographies can be found here.