Canada and the UN Food Envoy

Olivier De Schutter UN Special Rapporteur image

I often find the actions the Harper Government’s takes on behalf of Canada embarrassing, the latest chapter is ‘Canada and the UN Food Envoy’.

After an eleven day visit to Canada, Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, stated that Canada was “in violation of international obligations” because nine hundred thousand Canadian households and as many as two and a half million people can’t afford adequate diets.

“What I’ve seen in Canada is a system that presents barriers for the poor to access nutritious diets and that tolerates increased inequalities between rich and poor, and aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.”

Q: How did Canada respond to this shocking statement?
A: Jason Kenney, the Harper Government’s Immigration Minister, said the United Nations “should focus its efforts on those countries where there is widespread hunger, widespread material poverty and not get into political exercises in developed democracies like Canada.” Mr. Kenney added, “I think this is completely ridiculous. Canada is one of the wealthiest, most democratic countries in the world.”

Well OK, let’s see, so, over seven percent of our population, one of the wealthiest, most democratic, countries in the world can’t afford an adequate diet and Canada officially responds by demeaning and figuratively shooting the United Nations messenger; unbelievable, but all too true.

Wouldn’t an appropriate reaction to this embarrassing evaluation have been to ask Dr. De Schutter, “What can we do?” or perhaps, to state, “We will begin to address this problem immediately.”

Unfortunately, this is just one more example of the “politics of mean”, it’s classic Harper Government arrogance and self-righteousness. Hey, it’s simply not part of their Oil and Gas agenda and they’re too busy planning to expand tar sands development by bringing in 150,000 foreign workers. They apparently don’t have time for 2,500,000 Canadian citizens who cannot afford an adequate diet. This government certainly doesn’t speak for me. I apologize Dr. De Schutter.

>> Fortunately, there’s something to hope for…

Tom Mulcair’s Two Words

Dutch windmill

Tom Mulcair’s two words have generated discussion across Canada. Everyone is talking about ‘Dutch disease.’

Whether, or not, you believe that Dutch disease exists in Canada, is, in my opinion, beside the point, because the conversation has afforded Mr. Mulcair an opportunity to introduce himself to Canadians and to share other less catchy, but equally, or more, important, two-word pairings:

  • sustainable development
  • fair trade
  • balanced economy
  • manufacturing jobs
  • better world.

My favourite part of this conversation has been Mr. Mulcair’s statement that we’re allowing multinational oil and gas corporations to, “use our air, our soil and our water as an unlimited, free dumping ground.”

Northern Gateway Pipelines

Northern Gateway Pipelines route

The proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines will travel all the way from Alberta’s tar sands to Kitimat, BC (~ 1,200 km long, crossing more than 750 streams). Heavy crude will then be pumped into supertankers that will then transport the oil to China for processing and consumption.

Important: Contrast Enbridge’s PR website, the one I linked to in my first paragraph, to this one from the Sierra Club.

If you listen to the Harper Government or the Premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan the pipelines will usher in a new income stream, new jobs and lead to a booming Canadian economy.

The tar sands are a precious Canadian resource, but they’re less precious than the multinational oil and gas corporations would have us believe; there are immense environmental costs. That said, if they’re developed in a sustainable, environmentally sensitive fashion they could help Canada pay for our transition to a green economy.


  1. Extracting oil from the tar sands is currently devastating Alberta’s boreal forest and undoubtedly contaminating the watershed. Have you watched the film Petropolis? If not, it’s currently available for viewing on Netflix.
  2. Do you know what a tailings pond is? If not, click here.
  3. It doesn’t make economic sense to export raw natural resources. Why isn’t Canada refining the bitumen (heavy crude oil) here?
  4. What happens when the pipelines leak?
  5. What happens when one or more of the supertankers has a spill. Have you watched ‘Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster.’ HBO often shows reruns. Check out the pathway a supertanker has to travel before it reaches open ocean. Launch Google Earth and search for Kitimat, BC Canada and drill down for a closer look at the route the tankers will have to travel.
  6. Kitimat to the ocean

  7. If Canada really has the second largest oil reserves in the world, why are we still importing over forty percent of the oil we consume? My suspicion is that this has something to do with multinational oil and gas corporate profits.
  8. Why is the Canadian taxpayer subsidizing the richest, most powerful, corporations on earth?
  9. How much is the massive, Harper Government’s, pro-oil, PR campaign costing us?
  10. Has Canada forgotten about Global Warming?

Alberta and Saskatchewan’s tar sands have been there for thousands of years. What’s the rush? Conservatives would have us believe extracting the oil and building pipelines has to be done immediately.

I’ve always wondered why Alberta didn’t select a single tar sands location and use it as a proof of concept to demonstrate to environmentalists world-wide that tar sands’ oil could be delivered in as friendly a way as any other oil that is currently produced. Alberta’s government chose not to do that, likely because it was impossible, with current technology. The unfortunate result is that Canada is viewed as a source of ‘Dirty Oil’ around the world. Once again, I suspect Big Oil exerted their influence and made more than one location an urgent priority for Conservative governments.

Q: Why is Big Oil in such a hurry?
A: My understanding is that, over ninety-percent of all the income earned goes directly to multinational oil and gas corporations.

Update (20120530) – Enbridge™ will spend up to $5 million (5,000,000) on a multimedia ad and PR blitz for the Northern Gateway Pipelines. >> Vancouver Sun

Related Posts:

  1. The Enbridge Conundrum
  2. Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

Related website:

  1. Radicals for Our Coast