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James Gutman

The Pan-African Economic Dream

50 years ago the CIA, in cahoots with the Belgium Government, assassinated Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected leader of the Congo. Lumumba, being only in office for 10 weeks, had failed to gain European and American support for his government. He wanted economic and political autonomy for his country.The ability to tax and control the resource industry which had profited European interests seemed like the natural path for a sovereign nation. Africa in the 1960’s was still a land swayed by the influence of European imperialism. Lumumba was shot under the order of Belgium police officers, thrown into the trunk of a C.I.A vehicle and never seen again. Mobuto was placed into office with the full support of the United States and European governments. As dictator of the country for  the next 40 years, Mobuto redefined kleptocracy. He amassed billions of dollars from the country’s resources, while the population suffered with one of the lowest literacy and highest poverty rates in the world.It is hard to say if Lumumba would have done better. He was only in office for 10 weeks before he met his demise. The mines and the army were still largely controlled by the Belgians, and many of the neighbouring countries were still under the control of colonial powers. But one thing lingers from his legacy. Lumumba was an ardent supporter of Pan-Africanism.Long before NAFTA and the European Union, African intellectuals knew that the consolidation of markets and political power could supersede the forces of corrupt bureaucracy and foreign exploitation. The dream of a sub-Saharan economic superpower was and is still in the minds of many.NAFTA and the EU are essentially a confederacy of sovereign nations. Implementing binding economic policy, member nations maintain political sovereignty while benefitting economically through freer flowing trade, and in the case… Read More

In Defence of Affirmative Action

“If you guys are serious about making it out of this ghetto, you got to focus, you got to stop blaming white people for your problems … and you’ve got to learn how to rap or play basketball.”- Dave Chappelle, For What It’s WorthAfter reading Patrick Levy’s recent article Time to End Affirmative Action, I immediately thought about Dave Chappelle. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t because Levy was funny. Levy’s jokes were tasteless and offensive.I thought of Chappelle because his humour is based on the socio-economic racial circumstances that exist within American and Canadian society.Affirmative action exists to provide equality of opportunity to those who have inherited, by birth, the disadvantage of ethnic socio-economic oppression imposed by the formative events within their society. The most pressing example in Canada is seen within our communities of Inuit and other native peoples.To understand why affirmative action must exist, you must understand the problem.Let’s look at the Prairies. After the collapse of the buffalo herds and the influx of settlers, the Indians who once roamed the prairies were marginalized and confined to reservations. Robbed of their way of life by encroaching foreign civilization and starved by destruction of buffalo, Chiefs such as Poundmaker and Big Bear tried to fight back against Canada’s Army. They lost the fight for dignity and autonomy, but they won the hatred of the settlers and government.And here is where the stigma is defined; the cycle begins. Indians would remain poor and hungry, neglected by their imposed government. The white settlers would prosper. These two realities would be perpetuated until today.So what? Abe Lincoln can beat poverty. Why can’t Indians?Because they’re Indians in a white society. Imagine you’re a white shop owner in Regina. You have grown up all your life with the stigma that the Crees from the North… Read More

Human Trafficking and the Bill to Break Parliament

In August of 2010, 500 Tamils — men, women, and children — arrived unannounced off the coast of British Columbia. They were refugees of the conflict between the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, commonly known as the “Tamil Tigers”) and the Sri Lankan government.Canadians were heartbroken and confused. Canada is a country that cares for refugees and victims of conflict. We cherish people like Sen. Romeo Dallaire who have stood up against the atrocities of war. We consistently give aid to countries stricken by natural disasters, such as Haiti after the earth quake, or the countries victim of the Indian Ocean tsunamis in 2004.But the Tamil refugees represent a much more complex humanitarian dilemma. The LTTE is a terrorist organization as deemed by the government of Canada, and these people were trafficked illegally.Human trafficking is a serious problem in the world today. According to the U.S Department of State in 2006, between 600,000 and 800,000 people are victims of human trafficking. With such a high volume of people, the trafficking of humans has become a lucrative trade. The United Nations puts the annual global revenues of human trafficking at $10 billion a year, while other agencies estimate much higher.In the world of human trafficking, Canada is known as a “Tier 1” country. We are a target for human trafficking. Whether it is the trafficking of sex slaves or refugees, Canada is a destination. In 2004, the RCMP estimated that 600-800 people were trafficked into Canada, and an additional 1,500-2,200 was trafficked through Canada to the United States. The numbers today are much higher.To combat illegal human trafficking, progressive governments came together under the UN’s auspices in 2000 and signed the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons. The Protocol was a landmark as it provisioned for states to make… Read More

In Celebration of Louis Riel Day

Yesterday Manitobans celebrated Louis Riel Day. A controversial figure in Canadian history, Louis embodies many of the problems and issues Canadians face today. The Métis story of rebellion has been interpreted in different ways all over Canada. In Ontario he is traditionally seen as a villain. In Quebec he is seen as a francophone fighting the English. In the Prairies he is seen as a hero. I say this: Louis Riel proved Canada is an independent and distinct nation. Growing up in Ontario, I was given a brief glimpse into the life of Louis Riel during my high school history class. Like all obscure aspects of Canadian history, the events surrounding his life were brushed over. He killed Thomas Scott; he had to be stopped. That was all that mattered to me. And why not? World War 1, which is projected in fanfare and tears every November 11th, seems much more interesting and important than a Western rebellion. Indeed, that fatal clash of distant European empires occupies one of the largest spaces in Canada’s historical memory. We are raised to believe that those soldiers who pushed through the Somme mud and died by the tens of thousands sacrificed themselves in the name of Canada. Their blood painted the maple leaf red for the world to see. But why is it we remember a war where Canada gained absolutely nothing and lost so much? After over 200 years of defending Canada the British were getting tired. Canada, far from being the crown jewel of the British Empire, was a snowy outpost of First Nations, colonials and French. It was also hard to defend. Defending a border with a country that had mobilized over a million soldiers in a bloody civil war didn’t appeal to British tax payers or politicians. It was… Read More

The Second Option: The Future of Canadian Health Care

After the recent debates over healthcare in the United States, Canadians are rethinking Medicare. The plight of the 50 million Americans without healthcare has cemented the beliefs in many Canadians that we must keep our system free. It feeds into how we see ourselves. We are a nation that cares. We could never let the injustices of the free market, capital-based healthcare system ravage our society.Canada’s publicly funded healthcare system started out as an experiment in the first democratically elected socialist government in North America, Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan was poor; living in a dominantly rural province at the time, a large number of Saskatchewanians could not afford the most basic medical procedures. Making treatment accessible to everyone seemed like the decent thing to do.The country soon followed. Under Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, every province in the confederation of Canada was providing free medical services to the poorest of the poor. Lester B. Pearson expanded it further with the passing of the Medical Care Act. Under the publicly funded Medicare system Canadians have been enjoying one of the highest qualities of health care in the world.As Americans are thinking of improving their system, so are Canadians. Although most Canadians agree healthcare should be provided to everyone, long wait times for medical procedures and an overall poorer quality of service compared to America’s finer private institutions have left many Canadians looking south. Is there a middle ground between the two systems? Can we synthesize the efficiency and innovation of the American free market healthcare system and the social contract between citizens and government? The answer is two-tiered.Already successfully instituted in France, a two-tiered system of a publicly-funded Medicare system and a coexisting private option would cure Canada’s sicknesses. Workers whose jobs provide private insurance could access treatments at a private clinic, sparing… Read More