While the state arrests land defenders and the press, a new report highlights government apathy toward climate change

Josh Kaye

Josh is the main author of Northern Currents – A Leftist perspective on Canadian politics. Josh is an electrician of 10 years and has been interested in radical politics for even longer. Follow on Twitter at @ncjoshkaye.


An all-to-familiar juxtaposition has arisen with the recent arrests of Indigenous land defenders and journalists by the RCMP. On the one hand, we have politicians like Justin Trudeau and John Horgan insisting on the importance of climate change and that we must act now. On the other, these same politicians buy or approve new pipelines, grant fossil fuel subsidies, and arrest protestors.

Under the cover of catastrophic flooding that displaced thousands of people in British Columbia, the RCMP saw their opportunity and seized it. While most of us, including the media, were hyper-focused on these mass-flooding events (how could we not be?), the RCMP flew about 50 officers to a remote service road to arrest Wet’sewet’en land defenders.

The RCMP was heavily armed, equipped with machine guns, military equipment, K9 units, and even threatened to use a chainsaw to break in to a building to “extract unarmed Indigenous land defenders inside.” Defunding the Police has never looked so good as now.

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All of this for a pipeline that could have been re-routed. All of this while Wet’sewet’en hereditary chiefs were in the process of finding a diplomatic solution.

Lessons learned?

More recently, The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development have released a new report, Report 5 – Lessons Learned from Canada’s Record on Climate Change. The report was very critical of Canada’s (in)action on climate change, stating:

Canada’s record on climate change should be judged not only on the
targets and commitments that Canada has made over the years, but also
on its actions. Despite commitments from government after government
to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the past
3 decades, Canada has failed to translate these commitments into real
reductions in net emissions. Instead, Canada’s emissions have continued
to rise.

Repeated commitments, strategies, and action plans to reduce emissions in Canada have not yielded results. According to Canada’s 2021 National Inventory Report, Canada’s emissions were 730 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2019, while its target for 2020 was 607 megatonnes. Canada’s new target for 2030 equates to approximately 406 to 443 megatonnes. Despite progress in some areas, such as public electricity and heat generation, Canadian emissions have actually increased by more than 20% since 1990.

On our current track, Canada will come up short on the goals of the Paris Agreement, that is, keeping global warming below 1.5-2 degrees: “current global commitments fall far short of [the Paris Agreement], leading to projections of warming by 3 degrees Celsius by 2100.”

The report does acknowledge that Canada has made some progress in “decoupling emissions from population growth and its gross domestic product.” Canada’s emissions have slowed down relative to population and economic growth. At the same time, it finds policies such as Trudeau’s buying of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion as being “incoherent” with progress toward averting climate change.

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Luckily, it isn’t all doom and gloom. If anything, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown what strong, concerted government action can do for large-scale societal problems. If our governments were serious about dealing with climate change, they could invoke emergency measures to get things done, rather than insufficient market-based remedies like the carbon tax.

Market-based remedies miss the underlying issues of our economic system that have created the climate crisis. Our economic system relies on constant, never-ending growth and consumption, on a planet with finite resources. This inherent contradiction of capitalism is manifesting itself in the form of climate change.

Provincial problems

Another core issue related to climate change is the infiltration of economic interests into our democratic systems. Even our left-leaning, social-democratic parties (in name at least) are highly susceptible to this process.

For a clear example, take a look at the career of Mike Farnworth, BC’s Minister of Public Safety. Previous to his career in politics Farnworth worked for energy and resource extraction companies like CP Rail, Gulf Oil, and Mt. Isa Mining. Is it really that surprising that the BCNDP, and indeed it’s federal counterpart, has sided with large energy companies? Or that they have remained relatively silent about the crackdown on Wet’sewet’en protesters, Hereditary Chiefs, and journalists?

Is that not an obvious example of large corporations exerting influence into our democratic institutions? The RCMP are simply there to do the bidding of large corporations, in this case.

The Maple reports that “the B.C. Civil Liberties Association published a letter sent by Farnworth to the RCMP’s ‘E’ Division in January 2020 which authorized the temporary redeployment of police resources to ‘maintain law and order’ in the construction area of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.” According to the same report, David Milward, a law professor at the University of Victoria said that “even if such a directive was not issued, said Milward, it would still be appropriate for Farnworth to speak up publicly if he believed the police’s conduct was inappropriate or unlawful.”

This is emblematic of a larger shift within the NDP over the last 20 years. In an effort to recover from near-collapse at the polls in the 90’s, the NDP sought to meet voters where they were at and moderated their platform and image. This has culminated toward the present day, in which the party boasts many small business owners as elected MP’s and MLA’s.

Some of us, with more socialist sensibilities, would say this shift has gone way too far. It’s one thing to meet voters where they are at, but not at the expense of major issues of climate change and Indigenous reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a sham to our political leaders

Josh Kaye

Josh is the main author of Northern Currents – A Leftist perspective on Canadian politics. Josh is an electrician of 10 years and has been interested in radical politics for even longer. Follow on Twitter at @ncjoshkaye.

Given the recent events in which Wet’sewet’en land defenders were arrested by BC’s militarized RCMP, it is obvious now that what we call reconciliation is a sham, in the most literal sense of the word, when spoken of by our political elites.

Reconciliation has a double-meaning in Canada. To most of us, it refers to “establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country,” as defined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Photo: Gidimt’en Checkpoint Facebook

This implies a nation-to-nation relationship – between many nations in fact – in which each nation stands on equal footing. Indeed, many reconciliations are required to overcome the Canadian state’s colonial acts of aggression toward Indigenous communities.

Unfortunately, our political leaders have another deficient definition of reconciliation though. What they want to reconcile are the contradictory interests between Capital and Indigenous self-determination. Ultimately, our political leaders, embodied by the Canadian state, side with Capital.

RCMP arrest Wet’sewet’en land defenders

Under the cover of catastrophic flooding that displaced thousands of people in British Columbia, the RCMP saw their opportunity and seized it. While most of us, including the media, were hyper-focused on these mass-flooding events (how could we not be?), the RCMP flew about 50 officers to a remote service road to arrest Wet’sewet’en land defenders.

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At least 14 have been arrested by the RCMP so far.

The RCMP was heavily armed, equipped with machine guns, military equipment, K9 units, and even threatened to use a chainsaw to break in to a building to “extract unarmed Indigenous land defenders inside.”

All of this for a pipeline that could have been re-routed. All of this while Wet’sewet’en hereditary chiefs were in the process of finding a diplomatic solution:


Surely the cops could be put to better use, given that the province is under a state of emergency due to mass floods driven by climate change? Nope, the interests of capital always prevail, it seems. The RCMP are simply doing the bidding of Coastal Gaslink.

It’s almost a yearly ritual at this point. Land defenders make a stand and claim what is theirs, and soon enough RCMP swoops in to crush democratic expression. Maybe it’s possible that policing isn’t the solution to all of our problems?

To me, this sounds all much more like reconciliation from the barrel of a gun, for the benefit of oil and gas companies.

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Silence at the top

To bring the focus back to our political leaders, the most unsettling fact about these recent events is the sheer volume of complete silence from our political leaders. If one were following Justin Trudeau or Erin O’Toole in recent days, one wouldn’t even know this was going on. No statements or even acknowledgement of these developments. This isn’t surprising to those of us on the left.

Even worse, our social-democratic (in name at least) leaders have been nowhere to be found. Leader of the federal NDP, Jagmeet Singh, was very quick to comment on the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict – happening in another country – but has still remained silent on the issue. John Horgan, premier of BC and leader of the BCNDP, has also remained silent. These are arguably the two most relevant leaders with the ability to center attention to this issue in national media.

It’s worth noting the NDP has finally put out a statement, but it’s simply too little too late. If acted upon earlier, the reckless RCMP invasion could have been avoided altogether.

Other lesser known political leaders have made statements of solidarity with the land defenders such as Dimitri Lascaris, Leah Gazan, Niki Ashton, and members of the Communist Party of Canada.

Equality vs Autonomy

This double-meaning of the word reconciliation has been elucidated by others. In his essay Paved with Comfortable Intentions, published in the book Pathways of Reconciliation, David B. Macdonald has made the distinction between two conceptions of reconciliation: liberal equality and a more radical, transformative Indigenous autonomy, including over land.


His essay spells out how most Canadians (here I would include our political leaders) view reconciliation as an issue to be resolved under a liberal framework of equality under the law. In this view, everyone within the borders of Canada becomes a Canadian citizen, the Indian Act is abolished, and private property is instituted in reservations defined by the Indian Act. Indigenous authorities and Canadian governments “work together” under the same system and the colonial government retains its control.

This view is very convenient for our political and corporate elite; if Indigenous people become solely subjects of the Canadian state, they are therefore subject to its laws, without any special protections or right to self-determination. Thus, an injunction becomes valid, and the RCMP have the right under Canadian law to enforce the interests of Capital, even on unceded land.

This view contrasts with a more transformative view of reconciliation in which emphasizes political autonomy over liberal equality. Macdonald brilliantly explains:

Transformative reconciliation, by contrast, is about fundamentally problematizing the settler state as a colonial creation, a vector of cultural genocide, and one that continues inexorably to suppress Indigenous collective aspirations for self-determination and sovereignty. In this type of reconciliation, we will see the rollback of settler state control over Indigenous individuals and communities, commensurate with Indigenous lands, cultures, laws, languages, and governance traditions. […] We might understand Indigenous self-determination as the “right to political autonomy, the freedom to determine political status and to pursue economic, social, and cultural development.”

In this more radical, anti-colonial interpretation of reconciliation, injunctions and RCMP invasions into politically autonomous regions are invalidated, and Indigenous law would overcome colonial state law.

Understanding the distinction between these two competing concepts is crucial to grasp how our political leaders use words like “reconciliation” or “nation-to-nation relationships.” Marc Miller, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, recently went as far as asserting, “it’s time to give land back.” Does anyone think he has any intention of ceding land in any meaningful sense? Or is it the corporate-friendly framework of liberal equality under the law, which turns Indigenous communities existing on this land for millennia into Canadian state subjects?

Real nation-to-nation relationships require substantive political autonomy as a precondition for determining how the Canadian state interacts with Indigenous communities and individuals. This conception of reconciliation is largely omitted from mainstream news sources, political leaders, and corporate stakeholders. This is for good reason too: it threatens their esteemed positions within capitalist power structures, therefore undermining their ability to profit from environmental destruction and displacement of people.

Should Leftists and Progressives trust Pfizer and Big Pharma?

Josh Kaye

Josh is the main author of Northern Currents – A Leftist perspective on Canadian politics. Josh is an electrician of 10 years and has been interested in radical politics for even longer. Follow on Twitter at @ncjoshkaye.

Like most articles with a headline posed as a question, the answer is no. Pfizer and other Big Pharma companies are classic examples of everything that is wrong with our global, corporate, new world order. While this is true, we should make the distinction between these large corporations and the scientific community as a whole.


There has been no shortage of controversy over supposed “Leftists” such as Jimmy Dore promoting all sorts of explicit anti-vaccine and covid-denying propaganda. The result of this is a small portion of Leftists parroting these propagandistic talking points, making themselves appear no different than far-right PPC supporters.

These Leftists may as well join the conspiracy caucus of the federal Conservative party, whose supporters have an all-to-friendly relationship with conspiracists. While their intentions – skepticism of corporate and government power – may be honourable, they are simply displaying their lack of understanding of how science works.

Skepticism vs Denialism

On the one hand, corporations such as Pfizer do have a terrible track record of choosing corporate profit over human life. Pfizer has a history of illegal marketing of drugs such as gabapentin, valdecoxib, sirolimus, Geodon, and Lyrica. They have a history of suppressing internal whistleblowers. About 500 people died because of defective heart valves they produced.

During an outbreak of measles, cholera, and bacterial meningitis occurring in Nigeria, Pfizer was also accused of “using the outbreak to perform unapproved human testing, as well as allegedly under-dosing a control group being treated with traditional antibiotics in order to skew the results of the trial in favor of Trovan. Nigerian medical personnel, as well as at least one Pfizer physician, said the trial was conducted without regulatory approval.”

All this information is freely available for the public to see on Pfizer’s Wikipedia page. It is as damning as it sounds, people needlessly died or were injured due to corporate negligence and the pursuit of profit.

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On the other hand, it would be a mistake to conclude that because Pfizer committed horrible acts in the past, that they are currently doing the same with the Covid-19 vaccines. This is simply fallacious reasoning. Pfizer also has a plethora of more commonly used medications listed on its website such as Advil, Chapstick, and Robitussin that haven’t had any controversy surrounding their use.

A healthy mistrust of large corporations is always a good thing, but if taken too far, one will find themselves deviating into the realm of conspiracy very quickly. Our criticisms must be evidence-based.

More crucially, this left-anti-vaccine crowd misses the broader structure of quality control in the scientific community. We all understand (or should at this point) how peer-review works. Pfizer did the clinical trial for their vaccine which was then peer-reviewed by the journal.

Once published, the results are made available to the entire scientific community to scrutinize and analyze. This process of community scrutiny often leads to retractions of studies that prove to be incorrect or fraudulent. This same process has led to Ivermectin studies being retracted. Thus far, nobody has found any issues with the vaccine data.


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Real-world data has also confirmed the safety and efficacy of vaccines in every country they have been made available to the masses. Vaccine mandates are working and are the key to ending this pandemic.

More recently, covid-denialists have trotted out one BMJ article of a supposed whistleblower exposing “falsified data, unblinded patients, employed inadequately trained vaccinations, and [slow follow up] on adverse events reported in Pfizer’s pivotal phase III trial.” These claims have been shown to be lacking in evidence and important details, and are a fraction of the study.

So what do we as Leftists make of all this?

The Left has always had a strong tradition of emphasizing the importance of science and empirical understanding of the world. Remember that foundational socialists such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels considered their approach to economics as “scientific socialism.” Marx himself admired the scientific advances made possible by Capitalism:

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

Manifesto of the Communist Party

As Leftists, we should not dismiss the labour of the workers of these pharmaceutical companies. Years, even decades of research, testing, education, and development of these vaccines would not be possible without these essential workers. Of course, this is all in the context of an economy driven by profit and capital accumulation which is less than ideal. It’s not the science we want, it’s the science we get.

Under capitalism, large private corporations monopolize and privatize scientific inquiry. We should be pushing for the nationalization of big pharma and medical production – with democratic control. What we should not do is dismiss the global scientific consensus that Covid-19 is a serious problem, and that vaccines are essential in fixing this problem and saving lives. We should not align with conspiracists, conservatives, or fascists. This shouldn’t be a controversial opinion!

Wake up Sheeple! How covid conspiracists miss the biggest ‘conspiracy’ of all.

Josh Kaye

Josh is the main author of Northern Currents – A Leftist perspective on Canadian politics. Josh is an electrician of 10 years and has been interested in radical politics for even longer. Follow on Twitter at @ncjoshkaye.

It’s no secret that conspiracy theories have skyrocketed in popularity over the last 20 months. We all probably know more than a few people who have gone off the deep end promoting theories of a “New World Order” that is supposedly being imposed upon the otherwise oblivious herds of sheeple.

Global News recently reported that “two in five Canadians (40 percent) considered it “definitely” or “probably true” that “certain significant events have been the result of the activity of a small group that secretly manipulates world events.”

Photo: Markus Winkler

It’s as if covid-conspiracists think that none of us have ever heard of these conspiracies before, as if we all didn’t watch the same things on YouTube back in 2010. It’s all exactly the same. “Do your research!” and “Lookup Blackrock!” they exclaim at you, rather parrot-like, while your eyes roll to the back of your head.

This turn toward alternate, outlandish explanations of current events is simply an attempt to make sense of the Covid-19 pandemic, no doubt. It is infinitely easier to interpret what is going on when it is assumed that someone or some group of people are in control of the entire situation – even if they have nefarious intentions. It is much harder to accept that maybe, no one really is in control. The pandemic requires a collective effort to beat this virus. It is also true that many of these theories align with Conservativism all too neatly.

What strikes me the most about the claims made by this coalition of covid-conspiracists, including anti-vaccine adherents, is just how close some of them are to understanding what is really going on. Some of them are actually on the brink of grasping broader left-wing ideas of class dynamics in society.

Capitalism itself is not a conspiracy, obviously. But under our global capitalist system, there are two prominent classes of people: those that make a living from owning capital (for example land, money, or a business) and those that rent their time in the form of wage labour or a salary. 

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Conspiracy theorists rightly point out that certain corporations and people have too much wealth and power. They love to play connect the dots: this billionaire owns this company, and this company has ownership of these companies, who are jointly owned by these other billionaires over there. They love to make connections between certain individuals who will hold seats on the board of directors of multiple companies, or that companies will have an ownership stake in multiple other companies.

All these things are true, this is a feature of capitalism. What they miss though, is the collective class interest of these networks of powerful individuals. 


Conspiracists will attribute all major world events to a select handful of the wealthy elite. We all know the usual individuals incorporated into these theories: George Soros, the Rockefellers, Hillary Clinton and others, and they can turn anti-semitic really quickly. They miss the point that these individuals are a small – but still powerful – subset of the larger capital-owning class that share the same broad interests.

They see the connections but miss the bigger picture.

Photo: Claudio Schwarz

This capital-owning class consists of multiple stakeholders: companies, individuals, families, banks and even governments. All of these compete against each other and form coalitions when it proves to be mutually beneficial. What they do share in common is their class interest in neo-liberal policies of:

  • Lower minimum wages and minimal worker protections
  • Elimination of borders for corporations
  • Deregulation, privatization, lower corporate taxes
  • Hyper-exploitation of under-developed countries’ resources and people
  • Multinational free-trade agreements

Covid-conspiracists will often talk about this “New World Order” as being imposed on us while we are all distracted by Covid-19. Sorry, this is incorrect. The New World Order is already here; we have been living in it the whole time. 

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This already existing New World Order accelerated its brutal levels of inequality during the 1980s with so-called trickle-down economic policies. It was devised under Ronald Reagan in the USA, Margaret Thatcher in the UK, and Brian Mulroney here in Canada, with the help of the wealthy and powerful capital-owners of society. 

Is not the fact that we now have billionaires claiming that they will end world hunger with their own private fortunes enough evidence that we live in a New World Order? If our global capitalist system has such massive concentrations of wealth already, surely this meets the criteria?

To any serious Leftist reading this, this won’t come as a shock to you. I have simply described a simplified Marxist class analysis of capitalism, and a potential inroad for conveying these ideas. As stated earlier, Covid-conspiracists see the connections but miss the bigger picture of class society.

Chrétien comments show that being out of touch is a feature of the Liberal Party

Josh Kaye

Josh is the main author of Northern Currents – A Leftist perspective on Canadian politics. Josh is an electrician of 10 years and has been interested in radical politics for even longer. Follow on Twitter at @ncjoshkaye.

A recent Hill Times article had an illuminating claim in which Liberal Party MP’s are demanding “an explanation from the leadership and the party headquarters about why the party failed to win a majority for the second time in a row.”

The answer is becoming increasingly clear. The Liberal Party is out of touch with the needs of working-class and Indigenous people. More and more people are realizing this as time goes on.

Photo: CBC

Never mind the fact that Justin Trudeau called an election during a pandemic. Or that there are still no plans to implement universal pharmacare or dental care. Reconciliation is nowhere to be found. The Liberals are uninspiring, elitist, and stagnant. They are not a progressive party. The younger generation in Canada is becoming increasingly attuned to this stagnation, turning to other parties for inspiration.

This is not new, either. Given the recent comments of former Prime Minister and Minister of the (previously named) Indian Affairs, Jean Chrétien, this out-of-touchness seems to be Liberal Party standard operating procedure.

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Chrétien made a series of horrific claims – horrific in most part because of the fact that he held both the office of PM and the ministry devoted to administering Canada’s apartheid system of the Indian Act – the first about being unaware of abuse in Canada’s residential schools. This is despite the CBC reporting:

A cursory look at the historical record reveals that while Chrétien was minister, his department received at least four reports outlining allegations of abuse and mistreatment of children at St. Anne’s Indian Residential School, which operated in the Fort Albany First Nation, along Ontario’s James Bay coast.

This made the waves on social media. Chrétien then went on to compare his experience with a boarding school, to being in a residential school. Keep in mind that the entire point of the residential school system was the elimination of an entire race of people. Out of touch, much?

And it gets worse. The cherry on top of this debacle was his insistence that he had tried to improve the lives of Indigenous by adopting an Indigenous child himself. “I even adopted an Indigenous son, to lead by example,” he said. “This proves my investment in this issue.”

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Some on Twitter have likened this to the 60’s scoop, in which Indigenous children were removed from their communities and placed in the child welfare system, and then adopted into white families. This was described by the Truth and Reconciliation as being part of the harmful legacy of colonization. Indigenous activists such as Pam Palmater have been calling on the federal government to finally reform the child welfare system by putting child welfare in the hands of Indigenous communities themselves.

All this just goes to show that the Liberal Party has always been out of touch with many communities that reside within the borders of Canada. It’s time for some real, progressive change.

Will elections ever save us? No, but a strong Labour movement will.

Josh Kaye

Josh is the main author of Northern Currents – A Leftist perspective on Canadian politics. Josh is an electrician of 10 years and has been interested in radical politics for even longer. Follow on Twitter at @ncjoshkaye.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some real change in Canada’s political and economic systems. For decades Canadian elections have swung between two narrow, uninspiring choices: the Conservatives Party (the party of cuts to social welfare) and the Liberal Party (the party of apathy toward the working class).

Photo: Patrick Tomass

What Canadians truly need cannot be given to them from above: we need to get active and demand what we want from parliament. There are plenty of demands that could be made from the Canadian Left, that simply aren’t a part of our regular conversations. These will be discussed at the end of this article.

The recently held election was incredibly uninspiring to those of us who care about social justice and economic democracy. Even the general public seemed to be uninspired as the largest share of votes went not to a single party, but those who didn’t to show up to the polls at all – about 10 million people didn’t vote

There are definite reasons for this. Calling a snap election during a pandemic was not a good idea. Such a short timeframe for campaigning didn’t allow for much public debate. There was also little time to register and cast a ballot while fewer polling stations were made available by Elections Canada. This didn’t help either. All this while students were given the cold shoulder; Polling stations on campuses were not set up as they usually are, and some would argue that this constitutes voter suppression.

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Pandemic election… seriously?

When all was said and done, we were basically where we started with the election. Trudeau got to keep his minority government, with a few seats swapped here and there. 

The Conservative party seemed to bleed a sizable chunk of its more fringe, far-right base to the People’s Party of Canada, whose growth in this election is alarming to many. 

This brings us to the party that, as things stand today, is the most likely vehicle for change for the working class, historically speaking: The NDP. Full disclosure, it’s the party that I cast my ballot for. The NDP’s performance with Jagmeet Singh as leader was underwhelming, although we should be happy that we didn’t lose any ground, I guess.

One thing that can be said about the NDP is that it seems to be forever shut out of being in a position to actually make federal policy. Sure, there are times when it does cling to the balance of power as it did during the first year of Covid-19, and it may continue to do so in 2021, which could push the Liberals to the left. 

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The problem is that the Liberals have 159 seats out of the 338 in the House of Commons. There isn’t any reason why the Liberals will just vote with another party, even the Conservatives, to get their agenda passed through. 

This may come as a shock to many as the Liberals and Conservatives portray themselves to be polar opposites. This is simply not true, as they have “voted together more than 600 times in Parliament since 2004, blocking dozens of progressive bills” according to Breach Media. Clearly, there is an interest convergence here.

Indeed, Justin Trudeau may even prefer it this way. It’s a pretty good excuse for him not to pursue progressive, pro-worker legislation after all. If he can rely on conservative support to pass through Liberal Party legislation, it becomes much easier to accuse the NDP of proposing legislation that is “pie in the sky” or “unrealistic,” et cetera. Legislation like universal pharmacare, which has been a Liberal Party promise since 1997 if you can believe it.

So what’s missing here? If the revolving door between the Conservatives and Liberals won’t produce results for the working class, and the NDP can’t gain enough power to enact legislation, what do we need?

A strong, grassroots, Landback, Labour movement

The NDP, since its inception, has tended to gain a relatively small amount of seats in the House of Commons ranging between 15 and 30 seats. The one major exception to this is 2011 when Jack Layton managed to score 103 seats putting the NDP in the position of the official opposition. This was largely in part due to an implosion of the federal liberal party at the time.

Photo by Chris LeBoutillier on Pexels.com

Many have written about the need for the NDP to return to its grassroots support. The simple answer is that without a broad coalition between the NDP and grassroots Indigenous, labour, environmental, feminist, LGBTQ+, immigrant, disability, and other organizations, the NDP will forever be stuck in 3rd or 4th place in parliament.

Many young workers have been put in precarious working conditions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has shown capitalism to be wholly inadequate in dealing with public health crises, forcing many to work in potentially dangerous, non-essential environments. There is also evidence that younger people across Canada are more inclined to vote NDP over the Liberals and Conservatives. Reaching out to them will also be key for a future labour movement. 

Building a lasting movement of left-wing coalitions will take time, but it is our only shot for the Canadian Left to create meaningful, lasting change. 

What Kind of Change?

Many popular ideas that will improve the conditions of the working class are floating around the Canadian Left these days. These include a guaranteed livable basic income, job guarantees, proportional representation, etc. All of these are great, but here I would suggest a few lesser talked about ideas that a Labour movement could rally around.

First and foremost, a Labour coalition would have to work with First Nations on a truly nation-to-nation basis. It is all well and good to promote the nationalization of industries such as energy generation and distribution; what we must not do is then reproduce the same colonial horrors of the past that explicitly require both the loss of land and the life of Indigenous people.

The following points are 5 lesser talked about ideas that will help build the power of Labour in Canada, that the Left should push.

1. Land Back 

Due to the recent discoveries of graveyards on former residential school grounds – Oops, did I say school grounds? I meant to say genocidal re-education camps – the Canadian public has started to take notice of the Land Back movement. One powerful example of how this movement helps both the working-class and Indigenous people is the Senakw development of the Squamish Nation.

The Squamish nation won a long-fought legal battle (because colonial governments don’t actually like giving back the land they stole, apparently) in 2002 to regain a fraction of their land in the heart of what we call downtown Vancouver. In this dense urban area, the Squamish First Nation is building 6000 housing units, of which most are affordable rental units. These units will be available to all, not just the people of the Squamish First Nation.

2. Four day work week with no loss of pay

In other countries such as Germany, Denmark, and Norway, workers work significantly less than Canadian workers do. A four-day workweek may seem like a big step, but it is entirely possible and worth fighting for.

Isn’t this what working people in the current moment deserve? Decades of wage stagnation have occurred while the cost of living keeps increasing. This is despite productivity increases and is due to right-wing economic policies. It’s about time workers got some relief.

3. Wage earner funds

In Socialism: Past and Future, Michael Harrington talks about the policy of Swedish Socialists that could prove to be a pathway toward collective worker-ownership of the economy. Wage earner funds are explicitly reformist in nature although they could lead to some amount of democratization of the economy.

How wage earner funds work is a simple idea: company profits are taxed and put into funds controlled by democratic worker’s organizations. These organizations then use these funds to buy shares in companies in order to transition from private to collective ownership of companies. It’s a starting point toward socializing the means of production, at least.

4. Give workers control over Employment Insurance

Currently, employers are the ones in control over employment insurance benefits, which all workers pay into. This means that if a worker decides to quit a job voluntarily, they are not eligible to receive EI payments.

This was not always the case in Canada. In Canada, A working history, Jason Russell describes the slash to workers rights in employment insurance:

The Conservative government altered employee insurance rules, then called unemployment insurance (UI), so that workers could only receive benefits if they were terminated from their jobs, whereas it was previously possible to also collect benefits after resigning from a job. This change put employers firmly in charge of who received UI benefits, which meant people could only get away from a difficult working situation by immediately finding another job.

5. Co-determination and European-style Works Councils

The most popular example of this is in Germany. The main idea behind co-determination is to increase worker’s participation and control of a company by allowing workers to elect fellow workers into the board of directors of a corporation.  

Works councils work similarly: workers elect other fellow workers into a separate body that has the power to negotiate with the employer on the employees’ behalf. These works councils often work with trade unions to advocate for better working conditions.

Voting every few years isn’t enough

To the more radical elements of the Canadian Left, these would be considered reformist, rather than revolutionary ideas. This is true, as all of these could be incorporated into our present-day capitalist system. These are simply meant to be some practical policy ideas for the Left to use to build the power of the working class. These should also be pushed alongside other more common policies like proportional representation and UBI.

Giving Labour more power within the capitalist system should be seen as a win for the Left, especially after decades of neo-liberal decay. Historically, elections have conceded some working-class gains such as publicly funded health care, but they have failed to expand this into important public spheres such as pharma care and dental care for decades now. 

If we are to progress as a society, building worker’s power within a strong intersectional, labour, and Indigenous coalition would be a great starting point. Change only comes from the streets.

A battle of ideas surround Covid-19. Vaccine mandates offer hope for us all

First of all, I just want to say thanks.

Thanks to all of you who have been – or will be – fully vaccinated. Thanks to healthcare workers of all types who have worked relentlessly for the past year saving the lives of strangers. Thanks to the scientists and researchers in Canada and abroad for literally inventing a cure for a novel virus within months. At any other period in history, this would have been simply unthinkable.

Photo: @fusion_medical_animation

Winning the battle of ideas

The vast majority of those of us who live in Canada have gotten the jab twice now. As I write, we are at 74% of the eligible population is fully immunized. Nice.


This is a signal that the “war of ideas” surrounding Covid-19 is almost over, in Canada at least. The same cannot be said about our the USA, which is seemingly turning into a virus factory at this point. I’m just waiting for a Florida variant any day now.

This battle of ideas can be characterized by 2 opposing sides. With covid-denialists and anti-vaxxers on the one hand, and the rest of us who respect the institution and practice of science on the other, we have largely won the battle of ideas. Over 3/4 of the population have taken the pro-science side.

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This is not to paint vaccine-hesitant folks with the same brush as the aforementioned anti-science zealots. Slowly, as millions of more doses of vaccine are given around the world, the vaccine-hesitant are coming to understand the not only are the vaccines safe, but they work. Some need a little more persuading but vaccine hesitancy has become an almost untenable position at this point. They will get there

Across Canada, the under 40 age group is the next arena of battle in this war of ideas. 62% of those aged 30-39 are fully immunized. The number drops to 55% for 28-29. Sure they were the last in line, but we can’t forget many of them are no doubt influenced by people like Joe Rogan. 

You don’t know what you’re talking about, Joe

Rogan has an immense platform on Spotify with the biggest podcast on the audience. It’s a damn shame too because he uses his reach recklessly and he is embarrassingly wrong on many things. So much so that recently the scientist of a study that Rogan himself cited, had to come in and clear the air and explain to the world how Rogan had got it so wrong.

Recently I had a co-worker tell me that because he was so young, he simply didn’t need the vaccine because he was “low-risk” (as if he really knew the risk involved). He also said that the vaccine was pointless because it didn’t stop the transmission of the virus. 

Guess what my co-worker’s favourite podcast is? Yep, the Joe Rogan Experience. Both of these points were transmitted straight from Spotify to this guy’s brain. Millions of other brains too, I would guess. Talk about a super-spreading event (of misinformation).

As anyone could have reasonably guessed, these points are both flat out wrong. Yet they persist in the minds of many young people. Luckily, newer studies have been done to measure vaccine efficacy against the delta variant. Despite the barrage of media reports of breakthrough cases – which do happen – the vaccines still hold up.

On the issue of transmission, many cases (a positive PCR test) are prevented by the vaccines in the first place, thus preventing further transmission. This is simple vaccine efficacy. Also, the amount of virus present in your system (viral load) is much lower than if you are unvaccinated:

The vaccine made by Pfizer in New York City and BioNTech in Mainz, Germany, was 92% effective at keeping people from developing a high viral load — a high concentration of the virus in their test samples — 14 days after the second dose. But the vaccine’s effectiveness fell to 90%, 85% and 78% after 30, 60 and 90 days, respectively.

The vaccine developed by Oxford and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in Cambridge, UK, was 69% effective against a high viral load 14 days after the second dose, falling to 61% by 90 days.

The drop in effectiveness shouldn’t be cause for alarm, says Sarah Walker

Nature: COVID vaccines protect against Delta, but their effectiveness wanes

It’s not 100% perfect, but it’s very good all things considered. This is a huge step in protecting the elderly and immunocompromised who are much more likely to experience breakthrough cases.

Vaccine mandates

Canada is currently entering its fourth wave of Covid-19, this time with many of us fully vaccinated. So far, provinces have differed wildly on strategies of moving towards “back to normal.” 

The Albertan strategy has been the most reckless, seemly trying to open everything all at once. They even tried to end mandatory quarantine for covid-positive people if you can believe it. Unsurprisingly, they had to backtrack due to a higher case count than expected.

Funny enough, Erin O’Toole, current leader of the official opposition has recently backed the Albertan premier and his cronies in public health. There has been much condemnation of Jason Kenny’s Covid-19 leadership from various scientists and public health officials from across the political spectrum. Despite this, O’Toole characterized Kenny’s Covid-19 response as being handled “far better than the federal governments has.” Yikes.

British Columbia, on the other hand, has chosen a vaccine passport approach – one of the first in the country. Many non-essential services will simply not be available to the unvaccinated. This is most likely the province’s final push to get the last remaining few vaccinated and get stronger herd immunity.

It seems to have proven successful too. This final push to get as many people vaccinated as possible almost doubled the new registrations and bookings during the first 2 days since the announcement.

The vaccine passport has been the subject of debate during the course of the pandemic. I was skeptical of both the need for it and whether it was a legitimate curtailment of individual freedoms at first. But I do think it is legitimate, and many Canadians seem to agree.

Using the power of the state to prevent people from causing harm or significant risk causing harm to others isn’t a controversial opinion. This is what the government is doing: preventing harm.

Is this heavy-handed? Yes, but it is justified because it prevents people from harming others or putting them at significant risk. We are still in a pandemic after all. Is it tyranny? No. The real tyrants are the tiny minority who insist on their “right” to infect others or put others at risk.

There is also a collective component to the vaccine passport that will be anathema to any hardcore libertarian individualists. The simple fact is that the more people vaccinated, the better it is for everyone. This is due to a stronger herd immunity. 50% vaccinated is not great. 80% is much better. 90-100% vaccinated could eliminate this virus entirely, in the same way we eliminated measles. This is the best possible outcome and one we should strive for!

In other settings, it is simply a no-brainer. Here I would include places such as long-term care homes or hospitals. If you are an anti-vaxxer, why are in in a field so reliant on science and medicine in the first place?

Remember that the current vaccine passport system is an alternative to previous lockdowns or restrictions. It is the opposite of a lockdown – lockdowns shut down society, the vaccine passport is an attempt to reopen society and get back to normal. The tiny minority of anti-vaxxers are the ones keeping this pandemic going; it is time for them to get out of the way. I’ll be thinking about them while I’m at the bar, enjoying a drink.

Tearing down colonial statues is making history, not erasing it

With yet another discovery of 182 more unmarked graves on the grounds of a former residential school near Cranbrook, BC, the conversation around Canada’s colonial past exploded on social media and the general public. 

Photo: Getty Images

It is virtually impossible to scroll through any social media feed these days without coming across various posts showing solidarity with First Nations people – and that is a good thing. Even on my trip to the local grocery store on Canada Day, orange shirts were a common sight. Hopefully, everything that has been brought to light in the past few weeks will signal some type of meaningful shift toward reconciliation


Maybe the Canadian government will even lift a finger. Maybe Trudeau will stop fighting Indigenous kids in court. Maybe…

Monuments of a colonial past

The common saying is that when the USA sneezes, Canada catches a cold. The explosive growth of the Black Lives Matter movement has undoubtedly influenced Canadian politics over the past few years. Racial issues and Canada’s genocidal history have pretty much become dinner table conversations in many homes.

While confederate statues get bashed down in the south, Canada’s own architects of genocide and apartheid have also come to a crumbling demise. Statues of John A MacDonald and Egerton Ryerson have been defaced and torn down across Canada.

My opinion on this is very clear: this is a good thing.

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For most of us white Canadians, we have been walking past these statues without so much as a second thought. “John A MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister,” we would think to ourselves. For Indigenous people within Canadian borders, the story is radically different. 

Their ancestors were the target of explicit genocide; I would argue that this is still an ongoing genocide as evidenced by the MMWIG inquiry and foster care system. Currently, blood quantum laws restrict the right of Indigenous People to define themselves. Not to mention the Indian Act still mentions “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians” as the exclusive property of the Government.

Yes, property. This is an apartheid system. There is just no justification for these statues if Indigenous people don’t want them. And many, such as the Epekwitk Mi’kmaq Chiefs and leaders of the Esquimalt Nation don’t.

A Symbolic step forward

Still, even after this, the standard conservative reaction is that removing these statues from public spaces is erasing history. As if we were taking a Mr. Clean magic eraser and simply scrubbing the past. As if these protesters were burning books and libraries. I mean, how else would we know what happened in the past without these statues? 

It’s just a non-sensical, knee-jerk reaction, without any thought ever considered before they hit the share button.

It’s kind of funny too because in many other historical situations, both those on the left and the right view the toppling of various statues of oppressive regimes as making history, not erasing it. Despite cries of “erasing history,” this is what is happening: history is being made.

Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth Statues toppled

One of my first political memories was the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This was widely seen by the world as a symbolic victory over an extremely repressive regime.

The revolutionary Paris Communes in 1871 were a significant influence on Marxist thought. This loose coalition of trade unions, worker’s organizations, proto-political parties, and emigrant associations attempted to overthrow an emerging capitalist elite class and institute a form of worker’s democracy. During this revolutionary time, the Communards toppled the statue of Napoléon I as a symbol of democratic victory. 

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Surely, after the centuries-long history of genocide and apartheid of the Crown toward all Indigenous people in their way, removing a few statues is the very least we can do as a society. More than that – it’s a necessary step along the way towards reconciliation. 

In the place of these old, colonial statues, why not erect historically relevant Indigenous leaders?

What if we all get Covid-19? Why vaccines are the cure to contagion

Photo: Ivan Diaz

The Covid-19 pandemic has been in full swing for over a year now in Canada. Early on, many questions circulated among the population about the new virus and what we, as a society, should do to counteract its harmful effects. 

At this point, Covid-19 has become the most studied virus in history; entire armies of scientists and doctors have gone to extraordinary lengths to understand how the virus works how to prevent its spread. Over 74000 studies have been done over the past year in what can only be described as a global, collective counter-attack of scientific inquiry.

Many questions have been answered, too. We learned early on that masks have an important role to play in reducing spread. We know much more about the airborne transmission and mechanics of respiratory viruses. We’ve also learned much about how people react to such global threats, with many retreating from reality and turning to conspiratorial thinking.

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So what has happened here in Canada, One year in? As a resident of BC, I will focus mainly on how Covid-19 has affected us in this province. I do believe that there is enough similarity throughout Canada that these results can be generalized pretty well.

Transmitting terrible ideas

There is a relatively small (yet loud) class of people who would like to see us reach herd immunity through “natural infection.” That means without a vaccine and simply allowing the virus to circulate through the population freely. I’m looking at you, anti-vaxxers and supporters of the so-called Great Barrington Declaration.

These types of people tend to think that those aged under 60 are “low risk” and therefore shouldn’t worry too much about getting the virus. Typically they want to simply focus on protecting the elderly while allowing the rest of society to continue as normal. Details are lacking of how they would actually achieve this, unfortunately. The hundreds of long-term care outbreaks prove how difficult it is to only isolate one group of people who require many different services that require interacting with others in close proximity.

Either way, the data shows that this “young people are low risk” narrative is simply not the case. Sure they are much lower risk than the elderly, but there are far too many harmful effects for this to be plausible. A thought experiment can gives us imperfect, although still useful, information to assess whether or not this is true. We simply have to ask the following:

What would happen if we let all BC residents contract the virus?

In short: death, destruction, the apocalypse, and possibly the second coming of Christ. Okay, maybe not, but still. 

What does the data reveal?

BCCDC’s weekly situation report (week 11, table 4) breaks down, by age, how many hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths have happened in the province. The trends of these data points have been fairly consistent throughout the pandemic. We can extrapolate this data to the whole population – with caveats – to get a very rough idea of what is truly possible with this virus.

If we extrapolate this data to the whole population this what we get:

Data taken from BCCDC situation report: week 11, table 4. Figures were taken from the table and extrapolated as if the entire population had Covid-19. For each age group, cases would be equal to total population.

Before getting into the major caveat, we get a wrong, but rough estimate of 97224 total deaths in BC highlighted in red. This is an overestimation though, for one very obvious reason: there are many asymptomatic cases that aren’t caught through our contact tracing system.

During the first wave, it was estimated that there were about “8 times more infections than reported cases.” So while it was reported that BC had about 2500 cases by the end of May 2020, the true number was probably closer to 20,000. This was for the simple reason that our contact tracing system was simply not in place. It had not been ramped up to a level that could adequately trace every infection – it was a brand new pandemic after all.

This all changed very quickly though. By November 2020, Canadian Blood Services reported that BC had about a 1.5% infection rate thanks to antibody testing. This means that about 77,000 people BC had been infected, while the reported number at the time was about 33,000. So our contact tracing system has started to catch up, with about half of infections being caught.

So, looking at the table above, it’s obvious that our 97,000 potential deaths in BC are way off. This is why I added two more additional rows at the bottom of the graph: One for the scenario of the first wave in which we caught 1/8 of all infections and one for later on when we caught about 1/2 of all infections.

Remember, the exact numbers here are not what is important. What is important is getting a rough idea of what could happen if Covid-19 is left to circulate freely. 

A crucial point is that the first wave was much smaller than the second (and current third) wave. So the more realistic number is probably closer to about half of all infections recorded, not 1/8. This gives us a total of about 48000 potential deaths in BC, and a whopping 174,000 hospitaliztions. That’s pretty staggering.

Photo: Spencer Davis

Aren’t most of these deaths of the elderly?

In short, yes but there are far too many younger deaths and hospitalizations too. Two additional columns were added to the right of the graph to see how this would pan out in the scenario that we have only recorded about 1/2 of all infections. While deaths are fairly low from the 0-50 age group, from there they take off. 

The common claim from covid-deniers is that most of those that die from Covid-19 are already close to dying anyway. Here we can see that is simply not true. There could easily be 2000+ deaths in the 60 and below group

From age 60-70 there could easily be 5000 deaths and would be very tragic; these people can hardly be considered to be on their death bed.

Hospitalizations matter too

It gets worse with hospitalizations. In the 1/2 all cases recorded scenario, we are easily seeing 40,000 hospitalizations in the below 60 age group alone. Tell me, do you think that could overwhelm our hospitals? Sure, if you’re under 60 you might survive, but do you really want a respiratory illness severe enough to be hospitalized? Or worse, sent to an intensive care unit?

Once hospitals have been overwhelmed, as is already the case in some lower mainland hospitals exceeding capacity, the number of deaths will increase. Hospital workers will become more strained and will have to stop admitting new patients. Did you just get into a car wreck? Sorry, we’re full here, find somewhere else.

It is often claimed by covid-deniers that BC has thousands of unused beds. This is true, but the number of beds doesn’t matter. New, temporary beds can be built fairly easily but will do nothing if there is not enough staff to take care of an influx of thousands of new patients. 

A 2015 study found that Canada-wide, there are about 3100 hospital ICU beds capable of invasive ventilation. In BC that number is about 300-400, with many regions hours away from these resources. The threat of overwhelming our hospital system is very real.

A way out, back to normal life.

Again the point here must be made clear: the exact numbers of potential deaths and hospitalizations are not the point here. There are other people out there much smarter and more knowledgeable than I that can get much more accurate numbers. The point is simply to grasp the scale of what is possible with Covid-19. This data puts to shame any idea of “natural herd immunity” or that “only the elderly need to be cautious.”

One simple fact that anti-vaxxers and covid-deniers miss is that while some death rates may seem small, a small percentage of a big number is still a big number. The total death rate of Covid-19 seems to be around 0.5 percent, although this depends on many factors. But 0.5% of 5 million is still 25000 deaths.

This is not just relevant to those of us in BC. The numbers may be different as BC does have an older population than other provinces, but the problem – and solution – remains the same across Canada and the rest of the world too.

Luckily there is a way out of all of this. Take a vaccine as soon as you can. Take whichever is available to you. If you have any type of health issues in which the vaccine might cause harm to you, then consult a doctor.

Historically, vaccines have arguably been one of the biggest success stories of of the human race – and the story of Covid-19 will be no different. Vaccines have been responsible for saving the lives of millions of people around the world, as Infectious Disease doctor Lynora Saxinger points out:

Real-world data has shown very conclusively that vaccines are safe, and as more people get vaccinated transmission of the novel coronavirus from person to person is slowing down. All vaccines have been proven effective at their main goal: Preventing severe hospitalization and death.

Just get a damn vaccine.

The University of Toronto Mississauga is making students pay for services that are closed.

 Marty Nov

Marty is a first year environmental management student at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Aside from the environment, Marty is interested in how power is distributed amongst different social systems and true democracy.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of facilities at the ‘University of Toronto Mississauga’ have been closed. However, UTM students are still required to pay mandatory fees, called incidental fees, for these closed facilities as well as still having to pay for high course fees. Here is the breakdown of these incidental fees and the course fees for the University of Toronto Mississauga.

University of Toronto Mississauga


The first mandatory fee is the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’ which comprises a payment of 154.41$ for the first semester and 205.88$ for the second semester. The athletics fee includes a gym membership to the Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre (RAWC) which gives students access to the RAWC’s facilities such as a 25-meter pool, a sauna, a 200-meter indoor running track, outdoor tennis courts, a full-sized indoor basketball court, a weightlifting center, and a gym which includes state-of-the-art fitness equipment.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the RAWC was closed on the 13th of October 2020, a little over a month after the classes of the first semester started, which was the 9th of September 2020. Even though the RAWC was closed for the majority of the first semester and will most likely remain closed for the second semester, UTM students are still required to pay the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’ for both semesters. When the registrar was contacted regarding this issue, the response was that they will not be offering refunds for the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’.

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Although the UTM wouldn’t be offering refunds, the registrar did say that they have reduced this fee by 25% from last year and that the university is offering live-at-home fitness activities and an Instagram page with athletic challenges. By reducing the fee by 25%, seeing as how the RAWC was closed, this means that 25% of the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’ in a regular year would be going towards the RAWC and 75% would be going towards these online alternatives. The 25% discount does not reflect the reduction in value that UTM students now receive from the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’.

If you had a gym membership that had an optional discount of 25% but all you got were Instagram posts and live-at-home training, you probably would never take that discount. However, for UTM students, this discount is not only nonrepresentative of the new value of the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’, but is a forced payment and not an offer.

UPass Fee

The second mandatory fee that UTM students can not use is the ‘UTMSU Miss. U-Pass’. This fee gives students a U-Pass, a MiWay pass that allows UTM students to use the MiWay transit for the duration of the school year and is provided by the ‘University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union’ or ‘UTMSU’. The cost for this mandatory fee is 131.39$ for the first semester and 131.39$ for the second semester.

While the U-Pass is significantly cheaper than the 135$ monthly pass that MiWay provides (seeing as how a semester lasts 3 months), UTM stopped offering in-person classes in mid-October. Even when classes were being provided in-person, the majority of classes were online and since mid-October, all classes have been put online. If the reasoning for having a discounted bus pass was for students to have a cheap transport option to their in-person classes, then once classes were put online, there should have been a refund for the ‘UTMSU Miss. U-Pass’ fee. However, this did not happen.

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Seeing as how the ‘UTMSU’ is in charge of this fee and not the university, we contacted the UTMSU to ask why there wasn’t a refund for this now useless U-Pass. They responded by saying that they have been able to send U-Passes to students by mail, no longer requiring students to physically pick up their U-Pass at the UTM Campus and that they are working with the City of Mississauga on getting refunds which might occur in early March. Still, not only are UTM students forced to pay for an unfairly discounted athletics fee, but we are also paying for a university bus pass to a campus that is closed.

This fee is also exclusive to UTM students seeing as how St. George and Scarborough campuses do not have such a fee. It is also interesting how last year, the UPass had an opt-out option. However, for this year, the only year where every UTM student can’t use the UPass, the UPass is mandatory.

Student Services Fee

The third mandatory fee is called the “UTM Student Services” fee. This fee is 131.12$ for the first semester and 201.25$ for the second semester. This fee entails services that come from different UTM facilities such as the Centre for Student Engagement (CSE), Career Center, International Education Center (IEC), Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre (RAWC). Even though the “UTM Student Services” fee was reduced by 35%, the services that are currently provided from this fee still do not match the current value.

The CSE is a hub that has all the connections that students would need including connections to clubs, connections to different organizations at the school and connections to volunteer opportunities. This seems to be a very good initiative however because it is online, a lot of the opportunities that the CSE provides are more limited.

Toronto Students. Photo: Shubham Sharan

The IEC is a center that helps international students get used to the UTM campus and helps domestic students with the international exchange program. However, seeing as how there are very few international students currently on campus at the UTM and how the international exchange program has been cancelled for this year due to the pandemic, students should have the ability to opt-out of this portion of the “UTM Student Services” fee.

Finally, the “UTM Student Services” fee also pays for the RAWC. As previously mentioned, the RAWC building is currently closed and the only recreation services that are provided are live virtual fitness classes as well as Instagram posts. The “UTM Student Services” fee in a normal year seems to be very helpful for students but seeing as how the pandemic has limited the accessibility of the services provided by this fee, students should be able to opt-out and receive a refund for this currently useless fee.

E-transcript Fee

The fourth fee is not mandatory but is a ridiculous fee nevertheless. Before the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of UTM facilities, the ‘Transcript Center’ at the University of Toronto St. George campus would provide, upon demand, physical transcripts to students from all UofT campuses for a 15$ fee. With the closure of the ‘Transcript Centre’, they are no longer providing physical transcripts but are providing digital e-transcripts to students. Even though the transcript is now in a digital format, students still have to pay the 15$ fee as if it were a physical copy which is absurd.

Financial Issues for Students

By combining these three senseless yet mandatory fees from both semesters, they add up to almost 1000$. This is an absurdly high amount of money, especially when you take into account the fact that the course fees at the UTM have remained at 610$ per course, the same price as was in years prior. This is appalling seeing as how a study by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations showed that 62% of students and 76% of faculty members believe that online learning has been detrimental to the education quality provided at Ontario universities.

The main reason for this belief is that the loss of human connection has made learning and studying a lot more difficult. From personal experience, learning with a professor in front of you in real life and studying alongside other people your age really does make the retention of information a lot easier. Even though we have had a significant decrease in the quality of education, we are still having to pay the same amount as we would for higher quality education.

Employment Problems

An issue that compounds with these unreasonably wasteful mandatory fees and high course fees are that students are having a harder time finding a source of income. A study by Statistics Canada shows that youth between 15-25 have had an increase in unemployment of about 10%, which is significantly higher than all other age groups. With finances being a notable concern for university students, having unfairly high course fees and almost scam-like mandatory fees is quite unethical especially when it comes from one of the top 20 universities in the world.

Our Demands

We as students of the University of Toronto Mississauga have two demands; an ability for students to opt-out and receive refunds for the mandatory fees listed above, and for course fees to be reduced by 20%. We have tried all that we can as students to have our demands realized; we have spoken to the university administrative staff, we have written articles to the university newspaper, and we have gathered over 10,000 petition signatures across campuses regarding this issue. Unfortunately, our opinions are being actively dismissed seeing as how the university has not budged on its decision to change course fees and to allow refunds for these mandatory fees.

We have tried to force change from the inside but this has not been successful. With the university caring more about its reputation and money rather than its students, we are writing this article as a demand for help from external media and external voices to showcase this issue with the hope that the university now has an actual reason to listen to their students.

On the behalf of all UTM students,
Thank you very much