“Just a good place to live”

01 Jul 2013

So said Donald Creighton in an interview with Charles Taylor for the latter’s 1982 book Radical Tories. Though I can’t answer on behalf of all recent immigrants to this country, not even those from my country of origin, I can do say that this phrase best describes my impression of Canada upon arrival – and I think, by extension, of other recent immigrants as well.

What was my impression of Canada? I remember reading a holiday destination guide back home where the section on Canada occupied a single page; it mostly emphasized nature spots in its pictures and destination choices. My mom thought, and still thinks, of Canada as a better place than the United States in terms of its healthcare system and the politeness/respectfulness of its people, and I share the same opinions as well. We thought of Canada as a better place than the United States, not in terms of comparing one country’s greatness with another’s, but on how better Canada is on internal things. We saw Canada as better than the United States in terms of healthcare than on military strength or international influence.

This is the impression that my family still has about this country, and the same can be said as well for other immigrants, especially those from poorer countries. For us, Canada is a land of opportunity, a place where we can do those things and achieve those goals that we’ll never do and achieve had we remained in our homelands. This is a country where one can feel secure, that no one will just barge in on their doors or fire bullets into their houses with impunity. In terms of corruption, Canada is still better compared to the countries where many of us come from. Politically, Canada is enviously stable. Economically, we see it as a First World economy. In societal terms, Canada is populated by people who are, for the most part, respectful, disciplined, polite and tolerant of each other. This country’s tenet of multiculturalism is an envy of the world, an example for countries torn by ethnic and religious strife.

This country is indeed a paradise for us.

Not until some time later did I begin learning more about this country beyond those rosy impressions. From the media and school, I started to learn about the Canada one will never know from the immigration agency’s brochures. True, it is well-off compared to other countries, but it isn’t a reason to rest on maple wreaths. More so than in previous years, Canada has experienced stress and conflict on a variety of areas. Economically, the country still continues to rely on natural resource exports as mainstay of its economy, despite all those “knowledge economy” proclamations – retail exists side by side with oil & natural gas development and export. Politically, scandals & other affairs have gotten worse on all three levels. Then there’s also the social and ethnic tension between the well-off and not, “visible minorities” and those who’ve been here for centuries. And let’s not forget the condition of the Aboriginal peoples.

I also learned about the history of Canada, that there are many interpretations of it and each has it own implications for this country. There are those who tell the Canadian story as a gradual process of independence from Britain and friendship with the US. There are others who talk about the neglected and suppressed voices of this story from minorities of various backgrounds. Then there are those who talk of Canada as an attempt at creating a different society from the US, the opposite of the liberal individualist Union. Each interpretation has its implications about the fate of Canada, the nature of its society and the degree of its independence globally. The story that guarantees the sovereignty and common well-being of Canada must be maintained.

Still, most of us – recent immigrants and those living for generations – see Canada as “a good place to live.” We never think of this country on grand terms, that it can be more than a country of politeness, respectfulness and gentleness. Someday, that day will come, but when, nobody knows.

When foreign eyes are smiling

15 Mar 2013

Courtesy of Sun News Network

When you open the computer and visit the Web, has it crossed your mind that someone with hostile intentions is looking at every action you make and accessing every important data you enter there? Is your regular talk mate at work, school or the coffee house a foreign agent? Does every word you carelessly blurt out in conversation a valuable gem of information worth recording?

Given how significant we average, normal folks are in the spying order of things, it’s most likely all of these things haven’t happened to you. Nevertheless, the awareness that someone out there is gathering secret information for the employer’s gain and the target’s loss has never been more important. In Brian Stewart’s February 1 report for the CBC, in the aftermath of Canadian naval officer Jeffrey Delisle’s arrest for selling intelligence to Russia, he states that espionage has vastly increased since the end of the Cold War. More countries are now involved, technological advances have greatly aided intelligence-gathering, and economic as well as military intelligence is the most sought-after treasure. The primary beneficiaries of these are Putin and the Chinese Communist Party, and Western governments and businesses are in a worried, costly scramble over securing their precious secrets against this aggressive, cyber-aided spying campaign.

Through all this, Canada has been at the receiving end of the outcries and sobs by Western intelligence, especially in the aftermath of the Delisle affair. The country is now the “soft underbelly,” the weakest link in the otherwise strong security fence against enemies of the Western capitalist world – never mind that the US and our other so-called allies have also suffered intelligence leaks. What this article concerns itself, however, aren’t the problems Canada and its allies face regarding this threat and the solutions in dealing with the latter, but rather a contemplation of it in connection to Canadian security and sovereignty. In short, this espionage threat in relation to Canada alone.

Canada has lived in a dependent relationship with other countries, specifically from the east and south of us, for most of its history. The French and British empires were replaced by the U.S. Empire. Uncle Sam has replaced Louis XIV and Queen Victoria as our objects of deference and genuflection. We now export more natural resources southward than eastward. When before the fashionable things in London are the fashionable things here, now the coolest stuff from New York is the coolest stuff here. We’re now apparently facing a threat from our west. Such a deferential history must be taken to account regarding grumbles and disapprovals from our security partners about our intelligence capabilities. The most important thing here is how this threat affects us solely. If our so-called partners tell us that a national approach to our security is narrow-minded and threatens to split the alliance, we must tell them back on how they expect Canada to perform well in the alliance when it’s treated as a subordinate member there. An effective alliance can only happen when all of its members and their opinions are treated equally, and right now this isn’t happening especially in regards to Canada.

In fact Canada can’t be too trusting of its allies, given that they’re also spying on this country. If we believe the argument that in this world, countries are only here for themselves, that acts of generosity to other nations are only for the country’s benefit, then Canada must be too wary in joining alliances that might not be beneficial to it. The autonomy and sovereignty of this country must be the basic pillars of Canadian security policy. The protection of national interests, namely the defence of domestic development and the promotion of a more independent position globally, must be its guiding principles. If this would involve leaving the Western alliance and going alone, so be it. One of the documentary’s interviewees was right when he said that the popular belief of being Canadian equals no outside threats is “wrong” and dangerous. Anyone interested in ensuring our independence must be prepared to do what’s needed to keep it as such.


EDIT: Added links to the web article and video of Mr Stewart’s report (07-12-2013).

“Spratlys” at suberanya

11 May 2012

Ngayon aminin ko na wala akong alam masyado sa mga detalye tungkol sa kasalukuyang alitan ng Filipinas at ng Republikang Bayan ng Tsina (RBT o “People’s Republic of China”) tungkol sa Spratlys, partikular sa babaw (“shoal”) ng “Scarborough” o Panatag. Ang sasabihin ko lang dito ay ang panganib na dala ng mga panggigipit ng RBT.

Ang pangunahing panganib na dala ng mga nakalipas na aksyon ng “Tsina” ay hindi ang pwersahang pag-angkin nito ng mga teritoryo na kasalukuyang pinag-aawayan ng mga sangkot na bansa. Kung tutuusin, ang panganib ay hindi lang sa mga aksyon sa Spratlys. Kasama rin ang ngayo’y malaking impluwensiya ng “Tsina” sa mga ugnayang pang-ekonomiya (“economic affairs”) ng mga karatig bansa nito sa Asya, mula Burma hanggang Filipinas – kahit na rin sa mga medyo mas angat na mga ekonomiya tulad ng Hapon at Timog Korea – kundi man sa mga ugnayang pulitikal (“political affairs”) nito. Mula nang umangat ang ekonomiya ng RBT simula mga dekada 90 dala ng mga repormang pinatupad ng Partido Komunista nito noong mga huling taon ng dekada 70, ang impluwensiya nito sa kalakarang ekonomiko at pulitikal ng daigdig at lalo sa mga bansang malapit nito ay naging malaki. Pangahas ko itong sasabihin, ang “Tsina” ngayon ay ang Hapon noong ika-19 hanggang ika-20 siglo bago 1945. Sinumang bansa sa silangang Asya na nagmamahal sa sariling suberanya’t kasarinlan ay kailangang maging maingat ngayon sa kapangyarihang kasalukuyang hawak ng Republikang Bayan.

Ang nakataya sa tungggalian sa Spratlys, sa away ng Filipinas at RBT sa Panatag – bukod sa isyu ng teritoryo na maaaring pag-usapan lang sa pagitan ng magkapantay na mga bansa – ay ang pangangailangan na pigilin ang pagkalat ng kapangyarihan ng isang estadong hanggang ngayo’y may konsiderableng hawak sa mga taong nakatira sa loob nito. Huwag nating bigyang katuwiran ang diktadurya.