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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
For some on the left concerned about the climate crisis, the term “Anthropocene” has been a useful go-to term for describing the state of affairs that has led us to the ecological disaster we’re currently facing. I would implore leftists using the term to discard it, for it merely serves to paper over the real core source of the climate crisis: capitalism.
The term “Anthropocene” refers to an unofficial geological epoch, named in order to signal that we currently live in a time where human activity is having a massive impact on the Earth’s ecologies and geologies. The most prominent of these impacts is anthropogenic climate change, and its use has begun to become popularized through its use in documentary films such as Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (2018), which documented various areas on Earth where human activity — mostly industrial — is having massive geological effects.
Etymologically, Anthropocene is built from the term Anthropo — Greek for “human” — and cene — from the Greek kainos, meaning new or recent. The term lends itself for specific problematic use in our environmental narratives — ones that take place in late capitalist societies and are thus characterized by their emphasis on individual responsibility — that assume equal responsibility of all human beings for the devastating ecological effects of the Earth. It’s presumed that we, as a species, have made this devastating impact together; in some extreme examples, this can lead to thinking that presumes that humans are a virus and that with the elimination of humanity, the Earth can return to an ecologically “pure” state.
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Like the assumed universal human subject of liberal democratic states — presupposing equal treatment under the law while eliding the structural realities that prevent such things from happening — the dangerous lie of the Anthropocene omits the political and structural history of anthropogenic climate change, which, as many on the left know, has been and continues to be propagated primarily by capitalist industry.
Capitalism’s ecocidal logic
The inherent ecological destructiveness of capitalism can be demonstrated through how it alienates humanity from nature.
One of the key components of capitalist alienation that Karl Marx highlighted was the alienation of humanity from nature. In a Marxist model, humans and nature interact in what Marx referred to as the “social metabolism” of matter. In pre-capitalist times, with humanity recognizing themselves as a part of the natural world, mineral matter from nature used to produce means of life as shelter, clothing, food, and technology would eventually be returned to the soil, thus allowing for nature to continue to reproduce itself and make matter available to humanity once again.
Nature and humanity are able to reproduce each other and co-evolve together over time through a balanced exchange of matter. As Marx puts it plainly, “that (humanity’s) physical and spiritual life is linked to nature means simply that nature is linked to itself, for (humanity) is a part of nature.”
With the rise of capitalism, humans have become alienated from nature, just as they become alienated from the products of their labour and other human beings around them. Alienation from a healthy social metabolism means that nature is conceived of as infinite and costless, to be extracted and exploited without compensation, instead of cared for.
With this new attitude towards nature, capitalist production pushes ecologies past their metabolic limits, causing lasting ecological damage that even the use of fertilizers can’t solve. As Marx aptly stated in Capital: Volume 1,“all progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time is a progress towards ruining the long-lasting sources of that fertility.”
Colonialism and its disproportionate effects of ecological destruction
As capitalism’s insatiable drive for profits comes up against its exhaustion of local ecologies and resources, capitalism must begin to look outward for resources and populations to exploit. To this end, capitalism has and continues to employ violent seizure of land through imperialism and (settler) colonialism, a process Marx referred to as “primitive accumulation.”
In his book Red Skin White Masks, Yellowknives Dene political theorist Glen Coulthard reformulates primitive accumulation to focus on the colonial relation and the question of land, rightfully claiming that in the Canadian context, “the history of dispossession, not proletarianization, has been the dominant background structure shaping the character of the historical relationship between Indigenous people and the Canadian state.”
In the colonial context, capitalism dispossesses Indigenous populations through the seizure of land, not only causing ecological destruction but also enacting genocide through the transformation of the land from “a system of reciprocal relations and obligations” to a resource to be exploited. Thus, the destructive logics of capitalism and settler colonialism disproportionately affect Indigenous peoples in Canada more than anyone else — something that maps with global data demonstrating how marginalized groups are disproportionately suffering the effects of industrial climate change.
Two recent examples can illustrate this point. The effects of the oil sands on Dene and Cree communities in Alberta, for example, has been well-documented; in a 2019 review of literature pertaining to the oil sands and Indigenous peoples, the literature overwhelmingly proves the presence of carcinogenic and toxic pollution from oil sands runoff that has lowered biodiversity and harmed ecosystems. This ecological destruction negatively impacts the ability of these communities to engage in traditional practices of hunting, fishing, and gathering, as well as access sacred land, halting the transmission of traditional knowledge and contributing further to genocide.
More recently in Nova Scotia, Mi’kmaq fishers, exercising their Treaty rights, began fishing in the off-season. Racist, colonial violence erupted, resulting in the cutting of Mi’kmaq fishing lines, the assault of the chief of the Spikekne’katik First Nation, attacks on two lobster storage pounds, and the destruction of a Mi’kmaq lobster boat. Arguments made against the Mi’kmaq fishing in the off-season cited the fear that lobster populations might not have the time to reproduce in order to return to sustainable levels.
The painful irony of this claim is twofold: firstly, the increasing temperature and acidification of the oceans caused by industrial climate change are what pose the most risk for the sustainability of fisheries, even as short-term warming brings more lobsters into Nova Scotian waters. Secondly, Fisheries and Oceans Canada found that out of 2,252 charges laid between 2015 and 2019 related to conservation policy violations, all but “a small fraction” were related to non-Indigenous fishing crews. The violence in Nova Scotia simply proves that the dispossessive logic of the colonial relation, working alongside capitalism’s ecologically destructive logic, is still at work today.
We are living in the Captialocene
With the facts in front of us — and with even furtherevidence that corporations have and still overwhelmingly produce the majority of our global greenhouse gas emissions — it’s clear that responsibility for the effects of climate change is not universal and flat like the Anthropocene narrative claims.
Any leftist who cares about the environment recognizes the disproportionate impacts of and responsibilities for solving climate change and recognizes the key role that Indigenous communities and knowledge play in combatting the climate crisis, should eject this word from their vocabulary and adopt an alternative. Out of the existing options being floated around, the best, I argue, is “Capitalocene,” which centres the true cause of the crisis in its name and thus cannot be pulled into “equal responsibility” narratives.
So speak of the Capitalocene, and rally against capitalism and colonialism’s destructive logics; speak not of the Anthropocene, which masks the structural reality of the climate crisis.
On Monday, the House of Commons passed legislation that includes pressuring federal authorities to officially designated the Canadian Proud Boys as terrorists. Although some part of the legislation is regarded as a step forward, many worry that mention of The Proud Boys specifically could be an empty gesture that won’t fix underlying problems.
Before it got shut down, Canadian reactionary and sole founder of the Proud Boys Gavin McInnes was one of the largest figures on Parler. His podcast series, Censored TV, is still one of the most popular names on Bitchute.
He is, without a doubt, the worst type of person Canada has to offer to the world. So, after the Capitol Hill siege of January 6, when letters circulated calling for Canada to label the Proud Boys a terrorist organization – the most popular of which were proposed by the New Democratic Party and by North99 – they reached overwhelming support in a matter of days.
But aside from his role radicalizing young Canadian men to the alt-right online, Gavin McInnes is not a leading figure in Canadian far-right hate. The Proud Boys themselves are not Canada’s largest far-right terror threat.
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This is why progressive bloggers, writers, journalists, and anti-hate watchdogs have had mixed reactions to the wording of Monday’s House motion that included designating The Proud Boys — McInnes’ pet project — a terrorist organization in Canada. Some are calling for further discussion and an alternate approach.
Ten Things I Hate About Lazy Researching
Since their inception in 2016, The Proud Boys have acted as a sort of bridge between more casual incel and Red Pill message boards and more extreme Fascist groups. McInnes’ well-documented friendship with Joe Rogan and his notoriety as a founder of Vice gave him credibility to a mainstream audience that no other far-right hate group could reach. However, in Canadian media, his reputation hasn’t been as innocent since before the Proud Boys Inception, as many of McInnes’ controversies happened while working for Canadian far-right media outlet Rebel News.
McInnes’s first public delve into Holocaust denial and open Antisemitism occurred while working for Rebel News, starting when McInnes released a Vlog titled ‘Ten Thing I Hate About Jews’. Rebel News’ owner, Ezra Levant, a Jewish man, faced criticism for not only allowing but encouraging the vlog, eventually admitting that he chose the title himself.
McInnes later changed the video title to ‘Ten Things I Hate About Israel’, maintained a firm stance of Holocaust skepticism, and continues to work with Levant today. On his Parler account, he would often post antisemitic content, including a constant invocation of “JINO”s, “Jews In Name Only”, a common trope used to defend antisemitism. He implies that Jews who don’t support Israel in the same capacity that far-right figures do are not actually Jewish. The term JINO is sometimes also used by antisemites to exclude ethnic Jews from conversations about anti-Jewish violence like Synagogue shootings.
McInnes also worked with Faith Goldy at Rebel News. Goldy is a prominent far-right figure in Toronto who cited a white supremacist oath as a guest on a White Supremacist YouTube channel, denied the correlation to white supremacy, and then eventually came out as a ‘nationalist’ (which she currently identifies as).
Because of all of this and more, Rebel News hasn’t been taken nearly as seriously in recent years as entertainment outlets like The Joe Rogan Experience, and in large part Canadians knew not to take McInnes’ boy’s club seriously before our Southern Neighbours did.
There Are Bigger Fasc to Fry
In their current state, the Proud Boys presence in Canada is far from when they were at their most active. Designating them as a terror group now is far too little action done far too late. McInnes himself hasn’t actually been getting his hands dirty since 2018 when he was very publicly filmed wielding a sword at a Proud Boys demonstration in downtown New York City. That evening, Proud Boys filmed themselves committing assault and boasted about lying to the police. McInnes has since resigned from his official post as The Proudest Boy.
The Proud Boys did (and likely still do) still have a few small chapters in Canada. But they’ve never been so emboldened as their New York counterparts. The main reason they’re a topic of constant discussion for Canadian politicians is really because of McInnes’ Canadian nativity and his ongoing relationship with Canadian news organization Rebel Media. McInnes currently lives and works in New York on a green card.
As The Canadian Anti-Hate Network pointed out in their statement on the matter, Proud Boys Canada First, a breakaway group of the Canadian Proud Boys, are actually more extreme than Canadian Proud Boys. As half of Canadian Antifascist Twitter pointed out, both Northern Order and Soldiers of Odin are generally considered to be larger terror threats in Canada.
If the NDP and North99 – an advocacy group accused of using past petitions to gather voter data – were serious about dedicating their efforts to fighting white fascists groups by labelling them as terrorists they might have wanted to talk about designating Northern Order and Soldiers of Odin first and foremost.
Since both cited the Proud Boys instead, one might guess that the real goal was to score political points by demonizing a hate group that’s more of a household name, not to mention one that’s really much easier to combat in its current state. The Proud Boys are less likely to carry out terror attacks than several other white fascist groups active in Canada. This is true regardless of whether or not Canada declares them a terrorist organization. The only difference is who people might credit for their potential silence.
Why It Might Not be Overly Effective
By the time of the Ku Klux Klan’s great resurgence in the 1980s, the Klan has already learned how to deal with terrorism charges in the public’s eye. They diversified. Local chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, often with specific geocentric names, had already emerged during the second birth of The Klan in the 1920s and the strategy wasn’t going to stop working any time soon. The division allowed David Duke, with his chic late-night show public image, to publicly distance himself from any terror attacks local chapters committed with ease. Today, the Anti-Defamation League estimates there are “35 to 40 groups that make up the organized Klan movement in the United States”.
There are, at the very most, three digits worth of very active Canadian Proud Boys’ members. The smaller the numbers of any group, the easier it is to rename, re-brand, and get right back to doing the same thing they were doing before. The evidence so far suggests that they’ve already started, with one report saying they officially disbanded Manitoba’s large chapter. Leaked correspondence shows otherwise.
Although the heat of the controversy has already pushed most into hiding, a designation as a terror organization could still force members to further lay low for months before joining another hate group. Hopefully, some might even join one that lets them masturbate freely so that they can let out some of their pent-out anger without resorting to sedition, as The Proud Boys have pretty strict rules for that.
Getting members of hate groups to limit their activity is not nothing. But it’s also not a long-term solution.
What should be hailed as the crowning achievement from Monday’s vote is the parallel call to federal authorities to “use all available tools to address the proliferation of white supremacists and hate groups”. Our elected politicians acknowledging the terror threat of white supremacists is a terrific step forward.
The reason that short term solutions should be carefully considered before we jump to them is that we, as Canadians, need to avoid falling into the trap of convincing ourselves that the work is done.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some benefits. For one thing, Canadian voters deserve to know where their representatives stand on the issue of Neo-fascist groups operating in Canada. But, what we definitely don’t deserve are politicians abusing the situation in the United States for their political gain.
But choosing to name The Proud Boys specifically is somehow arguably both lazy and extreme at the same time. On one hand, The Proud Boys’ inactivity in Canada makes it an almost empty gesture. On the other, quickly rushing a conversation about the difference between a hate group and a terrorist organization (a distinction seldom made by governments) can set a dangerous precedent, allowing for vastly different organizations to be fast-tracked for the same treatment in the future.
Prominent Republicans in the United States once campaigned to designate “Antifa” as a terrorist organization. Unlike The Proud Boys, there is no organization called Antifa to even be labelled as such. Because the term was so broadly used to describe activism against fascists, it would have set the expectation that terrorism could be nothing but a catchy name for a large movement and an occasional logo. Thankfully, few serious and prominent officials in the US government entertained the idea, and it was instead largely championed by Canadian porn aficionado and American seditionist Ted Cruz.
Some Canadian experts have made great cases for healthy caution in the debate. Amarnath Amarasingam, a Queen’s University assistant professor who researches terrorism, told Vice News that although there would be benefits to the labelling, they were uncertain about what Vice referred to as “not sure if categorizing all violent dissent as terrorism”.
John Clarke, a journalist and a former organizer with The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty also argued against a blanket ban of The Canadian Proud boys for Canadian Dimension, citing his experiences being branded a terrorist for protesting against homelessness.
Addressing “the proliferation of white supremacists and hate groups” on a federal level is a great start. With Canada being no stranger to far-right fueled terror attacks, it shouldn’t have taken this long for legislation like this to be passable. But, it’s certainly better late than never.
Acknowledging terror threats is one part of combating white fascism and far-right hate groups in Canada. There are other policy changes that can help
Earn back the public’s trust in the RCMP.
In 2013, it was reported to the RCMP that Gabriel Wortman possessed a cache of illegal firearms and had assaulted his partner. Despite Wortman’s ban from possessing firearms due to a prior conviction, the RCMP never even interviewed him following the complaint from his neighbour. When Wortman eventually carried out the largest mass killing spree in Canadian history in April of 2020, RCMP failed to use the same emergency warning system used for Amber Alerts to warn potential victims.
In October, The RCMP gave embarrassingly soft treatment to domestic terrorists targeting Mi’kmaq lobster fisheries, with bystanders saying that some officers “just stood there” while fires were lit.
News from Nova Scotia last year severely impacted the public’s already waning faith in the RCMP to take terror threats seriously. They need to build it back.
Educating the public.
Our federal government has the means to better educate the public about the dangers of extremist hate groups. Public education campaigns have worked for fighting the dangers of smoking, why not the dangers of flirting with fascism and racist conspiracies? Canada is rife with multimedia companies facing a shortage of clientele in the wake of last year’s recession, and the cause is worth a little spending.
Investing in mental health.
The Proud Boys sold itself as a “fraternal order” to young men across the continent. The rules about masturbating, the excessive firearms and boys club mentality is, and always was, an appeal to depression, anxiety, anger management issues, and a lack of social fulfillment. The more we reduce our country’s supply of anxiety, the less proud our boys will be.
Isabelle Webber is a recent University graduate with an interest in politics and international relations. Recently, she’s been interested in Canadian politics and finding ways for youth to have their voice heard in upcoming elections.
I turned 18 in 2015, less than a month before the federal election. I voted for Justin Trudeau, as did pretty much everyone my age. Unlike voting when you’re a bit older, the topics that matter to you aren’t plentiful. Many politicians see young adults as a group that “doesn’t vote” and “doesn’t engage politically.” Thus most policy laid out is catered to people with stable incomes & families. The one issue that I voted based on was Justin Trudeau’s promise to legalize marijuana, which was a policy that got young people to vote for Trudeau in droves.
Only 55% of people aged 18-34 voted in the 2011 federal election, but in 2015 67% of young adults showed up. Many of us voted for Trudeau, giving him a majority government for four years. But since his 2015 legalization promise, Justin Trudeau has done little to help the generation that got him elected. He is losing the youth vote, and this is why.
The Changing Political Landscape
First, from when I first voted in 2015 to now, Donald Trump was elected President. Trump’s election introduced young people from across the world to politics; we watched in horror as marginalized groups and working-class people were exploited and terrorized by their government. Donald Trump’s desire to divide people has turned young people, sometimes teens who are not even eligible to vote yet, into politically-involved members of society.
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We may not know about every aspect of how government works or what is even possible. Despite this, young Canadians are currently looking at how the federal government is prioritizing businesses like Loblaws, Air Canada, and Amazon over the working conditions of its employees, the fairness of their wages, or the fact trickle-down economics has been proven ineffective. We see our Prime Minister redistributing billions in Canadian taxpayer dollars to big businesses while thousands of Canadians fall into poverty & hundreds of small businesses shut down.
After five years, young people are starting to notice that our Prime Minister does not care about our future, rather only about protecting the rich and powerful who are exploiting us.
Trudeau’s Betrayal of the Working Class
Then, we get to climate change. A few years ago, I would’ve argued the carbon tax is an effective way to deal with our carbon emissions. However, a carbon tax is completely ineffective if the government gives subsidies to oil & gas companies and we continue to build pipelines at the same time. Canada’s carbon tax is ineffective because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cannot stop his ‘corporate socialism.’ The carbon tax is a way of him saying “capitalism for regular people, socialism for the rich” because even though there’s a rebate at the end of the year, it increases costs for every consumer throughout the year.
This makes it particularly difficult for low-income individuals who can barely afford the necessities as is and are now paying a carbon tax when in reality, businesses should be the ones footing the bill for our carbon emissions, not regular people.
In every decision he makes, we see Justin Trudeau – a man who has never once felt financial hardships – dismiss the needs of working-class people who are the ones keeping society running. We all learned during COVID that the lowest-paid jobs are often the essential ones, yet there has been no real effort to elevate people bearing the brunt of this pandemic. He gave billions of dollars to profitable companies that paid out dividends to rich shareholders while excluding disabled, homeless & grown-up foster children from CERB.
He also failed students by only providing $1200 a month, compared to the $2000 that everyone else got by assuming that students have fewer expenses and thus need less money. This is another example of him being too privileged to understand the effects of his actions. After the WE Scandal, he abandoned the program that WE were supposed to run & left thousands of students out of luck due to his incompetence & mismanagement. That $9 billion he committed to the WE program was never spent on a program to help students, leaving thousands of young people across the country in a difficult situation.
Additionally, while President Donald Trump has paused the collection of student loan payments & interest for all of 2020, our Prime Minister has been collecting payments & adding interest since September. Young adults, overwhelmingly, have been the group most likely to be laid off, working part-time and gig work with no access to benefits once graduating university. The facteven Donald Trump paused student loan repayments is something that should make every single young person with debt think, “who is Justin Trudeau working for?” It isn’t the young Canadians who are having their futures ruined by Trudeau’s willingness to accumulate debt to give to profitable companies.
Finally, despite the CRA admitting it was their fault for miscommunicating the qualifications, Sending CERB repayment letters before Christmas was unacceptable. This will destroy Justin Trudeau’s credibility among young adults and every working-class person that struggled financially during 2020. As I mentioned above, the Canadian government has given billions in pandemic relief directly to profitable companies that laid people off. One example is Air Canada who laid 20,000 people off in March while receiving $400 million in wage subsidy. Air Canada then went on to buy Air Transat and pay out 5.8 million to it’s CEO. Not to mention that they owe millions in refunds to customers and are holding the Canadian government hostage by saying they won’t pay anyone back unless they get more bailout money.
I don’t know who needs to hear this but giving individuals $2000 helps the economy more than giving big business $2000. Consumption is what creates jobs and for us to consume, we need to have disposable income. CERB was designed to give people disposable income to keep banks and businesses from experiencing a crash when all of a sudden, people had nothing extra to spend. Asking people with nothing for their money back, whether he intends to collect it or not, was the nail in the coffin for me. I know that our Prime Minister’s priority is ensuring the success of people in financial situations similar to his, not the Canadians who are struggling. Any time Justin Trudeau says, “we’re here to support Canadians”, just know he’s lying straight to your face and mine.
Reconciliation with First Nations has been described as many things: complex, difficult, and multifaceted. I’ve even seen it described as a “shitshow.” One is tempted to throw their hands in the air and walk away in confusion and dismay.
When it comes down to things like the details of exactly how to proceed, or how to alter Canada’s institutions, or how to move past the Indian Act, this may be true. But broadly speaking, to make concrete, permanent progress in all of these details the solution is quite simple.
So simple that most of the answers have already been given to Canadians. Both First Peoples themselves and various Canadian and International commissions have provided recommendations for the first steps to progress.
Canada simply has to acknowledge First Nations’ rights as titleholders and decision-makers on their own land.
That’s the first step that the Canadian government has refused to take. This has been true since before 1867; this is an appalling lack of political will.
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A roadmap for reconciliation
Arthur Manuel was a widely respected Indigenous leader and activist from the Secwepemc Nation who passed away in January 2017. In his book The Reconciliation Manifesto, he lays out a convincing argument for how to proceed toward meaningful reconciliation. His six-point map towards decolonization is summarized as follows:
Formally denounce the racist “doctrine of discovery” and “terra nullius.” These ideas simply mean that the land in Canada was “empty” and therefore was not owned by anyone prior to European contact.
Recognize First Nations right to self-determination.
This right to self-determination must be in accordance with international human rights standards.
At this point, only then can we turn to talks of “who [Indigenous people] are, and what we need, and who [Non-Indigenous people] are, and what you need, and we can then begin to sort out the complicated questions about access to our lands and sharing the benefits.”
Clear jurisdictional lines of authority based on free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous people.
Striking all colonial laws from the books, while making Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution comply with UNDRIP.
In short, Canada must give the land back. First Nations must be given the ability to have a say in how their lands are developed. Having a say doesn’t mean merely having an opinion heard, as is usually the case so far. An opinion heard can easily be discarded. On the question of land development, it means being able to definitively say yes, no, or yes with conditions.
Land is wealth
Currently, Indigenous people occupy (not own) 0.2% of land in Canada in the form of the colonial reserve system. Reserves are a creation of the Indian Act, which has served as an oppressive, paternalistic force against First Peoples. Reserves are not in any way a form of ownership of land for First Nations; in fact the very opposite is true. It is a system of denying land and title rights. As First Nations throughout Canada expand in number, the size of the reserve stays the same, leading to overcrowded conditions on reserves.
It must be understood that land itself is a significant form of wealth. It has sustained nations across Canada for thousands of years. The Canadian government has systematically taken away a significant source of wealth from these communities.
What if First Nations’ title and land rights had been respected as Canada grew as a nation? What if they had a significant say and a share in the wealth Canada produced?
It is no surprise then that 1 in 4 Indigenous people and 4 in 10 of Canada’s Indigenous children live in poverty. Poverty has many negative downstream effects that also disproportionately affect First Peoples in Canada. This includes discriminatory treatment from all areas of society, including the police.
Treaties: We stole the land fair and square
The legal justification for Crown land, that is land owned by Canadian federal and provincial governments, is summed up by Arthur Manuel as, “Okay, we stole it. But we stole it fair and square.”
The land of Canada was far from empty when Europeans arrived. Most estimates put the population of North and South America in the range of tens of millions of people. This is roughly the same as Europe at the time.
Terra nullius, the doctrine of land being uninhabited, was often combined with the “doctrine of discovery” as a main legal underpinning for Crown ownership of land. Clearly, this idea is bankrupt both factually and morally.
A good chunk of Canada including parts of British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador did not make any treaties with the local Indigenous population. Therefore we can say that the Crown simply stole these areas, not so fair and square.
Aside from this, much of Canada is covered by a patchwork of still legally-binding treaties between the Crown and various Indigenous communities. What exactly those treaties cover is another story. The signing of a treaty doesn’t necessarily mean that a nation has ceded their land ownership claim. There are a few reasons for this:
Some saw the decimation of their traditional economies, such as buffalo hunting on the Prairies. Signing a treaty thus was an act of coping with this destruction.
Some First Peoples sought protection from the Crown, both from other nations and colonizing forces. Any treaty signed on these grounds could easily be invalidated by the genocidal intent of the Indian Act and the residential school system.
Many First Peoples considered treaties to be offensive in principle. Cree Chief Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear) refused to sign Treaty 6 calling it a “rope around our necks.” He resisted the signing the treaty with settlers for years until the threat of starvation became too real. With the buffalo population disappearing and not enough other food sources available, Chief Mistahimaskwa signed the treaty in order to prevent the starvation of his band.
Most nations that did sign treaties did so under their own understanding of land ownership and according to their own customs. These differed wildly from Crown interpretations:
Even in modern times, the federal and provincial governments tend to interpret treaties in legalistic terms, contending that Indigenous peoples “ceded, surrendered, and yielded” their ancestral rights and titles through treaties. In other words, treaties can be seen as real estate deals by which the Crown purchased Indigenous lands and provided them with reserves and one-time or continual payments in return.
This narrow view of treaties has produced a huge divide between the Canadian government’s perspective and that of Indigenous peoples. On the one hand is the government’s view of treaties as legal instruments that surrendered Indigenous rights. On the other is the Indigenous view of treaties as instruments of relationships between autonomous peoples who agree to share the lands and resources of Canada. Seen from the Indigenous perspective, treaties do not surrender rights; rather, they confirm Indigenous rights. Treaties recognize that Indigenous peoples have the capacity to self-govern. Bridging the gap between these two views of treaties poses a huge challenge to people and lawmakers in Canada.
One of the most striking aspects of Arthur Manuel’s six steps toward reconciliation is that the first three do not require much from Non-Indigenous Canadians at all. Simply recognition and acknowledging First Nations right to title on their own lands.
That’s it. Only after that can we all move forward towards real, meaningful reconciliation.