On Nov.11 of this year, the notes of our national anthem will be heard at every Remembrance Day Service across the land. With elaborate ceremony, we remember those whose lives were cut short in the mindless maelstrom of battle. Some who appear at the cenotaphs have no clear understanding of the history of Canada in the conflicts of nations. Canadians died for dishonest reasons in the shameful Boer War. They died by the thousands amid the mud, rotting body parts and well-fed rats of trench warfare in the sanctioned blood-letting we call the Great War. Canadian lives were sacrificed again in the Second World War, in Korea, in peace-keeping operations and, now, are being sacrificed in Afghanistan.
We sing, "O, Canada, we stand on guard for thee." The words have no meaning unless we know what to guard against and are willing to do it.
As claimed in the oft-repeated slogan of the time, the Second World War was being fought to make the world "safe for democracy." Sixty-five years after the victory celebrations, it seems Canadians fought and died to make the world safe for large corporations.
We are to have another free trade agreement, this time with the European community. It seems the only people standing on guard for us are the true patriots who have penetrated the veils of secrecy drawn tightly around the Canadian cabinet and the prime minister's Office. They have published warnings in their small newspapers and journals. Major players in the Canadian media scene are only beginning to recognize the threats implicit in what is known of the proposed Canada-Euro agreement. When the matter is raised publicly, federal government spokesmen say the agreement will result in a tremendous increase in Canadian trade and, presumably, a tremendous bonanza for Canadians. Who will get the money? Large corporations will, of course. What is beneficial for large corporations is rarely beneficial for large populations.
The flaws in the North American Free Trade Agreement have not been eliminated. One of the most glaring faults in the agreement became evident when the federal government was forced to pay millions in compensation to the makers of a fuel additive for banning the product that had already been banned in the United States. There are other horror stories. NAFTA has limited, or has the potential for limiting, the right of Canadians, through governments at all levels, to develop made-in-Canada policies with respect to agriculture and almost all other areas of human endeavour, including health care, education, ecology, water supplies and intellectual properties. Those who know, claim the Canada-Euro deal is even more dangerous.
If the agreement is signed, the closest and most elemental result will be a further erosion of the right of primary agricultural producers and their rural governments to retain the full range of decision-making power they need for themselves and for the nation as a whole
The natural resources of our planet are not infinite. Expanding production and population growth cannot be, as corporation-friendly trade agreements envisage, the keystones of a safe and peaceful future for Planet Earth and the human race.
If the Canada-Euro agreement is signed, we can all sing "O! Canada, don't stand on guard for thee." To be even more honest, we could hire a tunesmith to provide us with extra notes for some expanded lyrics. I am thinking of "O! Canada, we stand on guard for foreign corporations who pump money out of Canada and don't give a damn for the welfare of Canadians."