Most of the news is bad. This week’s dispatches had only one piece of good news.
Touching on that good news first, a report from the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung claims that the German parliament will not approve the EU-Canada trade deal. The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) has been a source of concern in many townhall meetings in Saanich-Gulf Islands. I oppose it. The Green Party opposes it. And, at least as far as public meetings and letters to my office can measure, most of my constituents oppose it.
In reply to concerns at townhalls, I have always said I was less worried about the CETA than about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and far less concerned than about the Canada-China Investor-State Agreement (FIPA). What all three have in common is that they contain investor-state agreements. An investor-state agreement is the sum total of the China treaty. The others have many provisions of which the investor-state agreement is a part.
The reason I have been less concerned about CETA than other treaties is two-fold: the China treaty is the most dangerous with its 31 year lock-in, and CETA’s ratification process is challenging. I have never believed it could be ratified. First, it must be approved by the European Parliament itself. Then it must be approved by the parliaments of each of 28 member states in the EU.
The German report is just the first time the block is becoming clear. Green Party members in the EU Parliament and the domestic Green Parties in every EU parliament, oppose CETA, particularly because of the investor-state agreement. It would be a first for the EU. It would create a precedent for the EU-US agreement. While Greens also oppose CETA’s benefits to Big Pharma, it is the investor-state aspect that draws the most solid opposition.
So much for the good news.
It seems much of the world is now classified ‘trouble-spot’. The horrific downing of the Malaysian airline passenger jet over Ukraine; the escalation of Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram’s activities, including kidnapping schoolgirls and, this week, the wife of Cameroon’s vice-president; the new outbreak of violence in Libya; and the on-going humanitarian tragedy of Syria, all deserve massive mobilization of the peace-making efforts of the world’s most powerful nations. Canada is no longer in that group as we have lost our traditional place of respect as a middlepower.
Then there’s the Israeli bombardment of Gaza—trapped civilians with nowhere to flee. Yet complexities loom when Hamas provokes attacks by launching its rockets into Israel. Canada represented by the Conservative prime minister, the NDP Official Opposition and the Liberal party all parrot support for Israel.
I support Israel and the Green Party defends Israel’s right to exist. Just as we have Green Party colleagues in the EU, we have colleagues in the Green Party of Israel. But that does not require that we violate our core principles to decry violence. As I said in my keynote at the recent Green Party convention in Fredericton:
‘I want to at least touch on what’s happening right now in Israel and Gaza, and the Palestinian people and the Israel people and say, from the bottom of my heart, that Israeli children and Palestinian children have an equal right to be free of bombardment. And I condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization for sending missiles into Israel, but the Israeli retaliation and the invasion of Gaza violates international law and humanitarian norms, and any Prime Minister of Canada worth his or her salt would say that as a friend and ally of Israeli, ‘you’ve gone too far—you must move to peace talks’.’ (July 19, 2014)
Scott Taylor, editor of Esprit de Corps magazine, has a better memory than most. He can connect the dots. In his July 28 column (‘[HMCS] Toronto’s deployment ‘empty gesture’.’) Taylor noted that the unrest in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Mali goes back to a single mistake—one wildly supported by Harper and Baird. He writes: ‘Much of the chaos, violence, and anarchy in those countries, at the hands of al-Qaidalinked extremists, can be directly traced back to the overthrow of Libyan President Moammar Gadafi in October 2011 … As Canada celebrated NATO’s victory over Libya with a parade on Parliament Hill, the ‘dogs of war’ unleashed by Baird and company refused to return to their kennel. Libya remains a failed state awash in violence, and al-Qaida fighters, with weapons from Libya, have captured vast swaths of Syria, Iraq and Mali.’
When conflicts threaten to escalate and as the prospect of a growing list of failed states loom, I am grateful for a core commitment to non-violence and peace. In June 2011, I was the only MP to vote against continued aerial bombardment of Libya. That good people in every party were forced by party leadership to vote for bombing, rejecting cease-fires and peace-talks, was appalling.
Now the same ‘group-think’ has captured analysis of the cycle of tragic violence in the Middle East, as well as in a tinder box in our relations with Russia as the situation in Ukraine becomes ever more violent. When things get increasingly insecure, when speaking clearly runs contrary to what is ‘politically correct,’ leadership means hanging onto clear principles—respect for human rights, the rule of law and rejecting violence as a solution for anything.