There is no Peace without Justice!

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born in the aftermath of horrors and ashes of the Second World War and several centuries of colonialism and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  The UDHR says, “All human beings are born free and equal in rights and dignity.”[1]  And that, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living…health, food, clothing, housing, medical care, social services and social security… “[2]

Canada is a signatory to international human rights treaties in which it undertakes to full realization of these rights.   An undertaking that remains unfulfilled.

Today, “taking stock of multiple crises can seem depressing and distressing. Antonio Gramsci wrote of the interregnum, that in between time when the old world is dying and the new world is not yet born.  He warned of morbid symptoms.  A time of monsters. But, also a time of hope and possibility.”[3]

“Our gross national product, now, is over $1.643 Trillion US[4] a year, but the GNP – if we should judge Canada by that – the paraphrase the words of Robert F. Kennedy spoken 5 decades ago, “it counts air pollution and cigarette sales, and ambulances to clear to clear our highways of carnage.  It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our forests and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.  It counts the bullets and the cost of bombs…and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.  Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, their quality of their education, the air they breathe, or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our friendships and love; …it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”[5] 

Here at home, we have 215 unmarked graves at Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and thousands more across the country. We’ve had massive wildfires, heat dome, a global pandemic, attacks on science and health care workers, on media and democratic institutions, anti-vaxxers and convoys that sought to overthrow a democratically elected government and try the PM for treason. 

We experience manifestations of racism, misogyny, conspiracies, threats and intimidation, anti-immigrant and anti-women, and rise of the far right, despoiling the idea of freedom – elements of fascism. And, all this legitimized by one of our mainstream political parties.  

“We don’t even have a common set of facts.  Disinformation and misinformation wrapped up in ideology result in disparagement and denial of climate science that risks our planet and human life.  Forty years of neoliberalism and politics of austerity – tax cuts, privatization, deregulation, financialization”[6]  –  have fueled extreme inequality, governments focus on protecting the market and those who most profit from it – oligarchs, and concentration of enormous wealth and power in few hands.  All this, has fed insecurity and fed hate and division.  

How do we end this ideology, this ideology, this misery?  With a consensus and mobilizing for a peaceful, just and sustainable future. 

First, few key points for countering this unravelling, the encroaching threats and tyranny, from Timothy Synder[7]:

  • Defend institutions. They need our help. Choose an institution you care about – a court, a newspaper, a law, a labour union, a human right – and take its side.
  • Vote in local, provincial and federal elections.
  • Take responsibility for the face of the world. Pay attention. The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow.  Notice the swastikas, symbols of hate.  Do not look away, nor get used to them. Set an example for others to do so.
  • Believe in truth.  To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then none one can criticize power.  If nothing is true, then all is spectacle.  The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
  • Listen for dangerous words. Be alert to the use of words of traitors, terrorists, enemies.  Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

Indifference and silence is the breeding ground for injustice.  It enables the oppressor.  

Be courageous!

Although, we stand in a crucial time, in Gramsci’s interregnum, we can win the future.

Building a caring economy and strengthening our democracy and human rights. Fighting for a clean environment and sustainable planet, for universal rights but with an understanding of diverse needs.  After all, we all of us – are stronger together.  

George Bernard Shaw: “Some people see things that are and ask ‘Why?  I see things that never were, and ask ‘Why not?’

We can do it. We can do better!  Organize.  Mobilize. For Peace, Justice, Reconciliationfor clean air, water and earth.  Toward a better society and world.  

Thank you.  Kukwstsétsemc.

[1] Art. 1

[2] Art. 25

[3] Alex Himelfarb, Interregnum: finding hope and solidarity in times of crisis and division,

[4] 2020 (-5.4% due to covid-19 pandemic).

[5] The Last Campaign, Robert F. Kennedy and the 82 Days That Inspired America, Thurston Clarke, Henry Holt & Company, New York, 2008, p. 49.

[6] Himelfarb, ibid.

[7] Timothy Synder, ON TYRANNY, Twenty lessons from the 20th Century, Tim Duggan Books, New York, 2017.

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If you don’t have $20 million, relax. A wealth tax won’t hurt you.

By Linda McQuaig, reproduced from the Toronto Star, April 13, 2021.

Benjamin Franklin observed that nothing is certain except death and taxes.

Another certainty is that the wealthy will concoct fatuous arguments to justify lower taxes for themselves.

The ultra-rich have been so relentless in making their case — or having hired guns make it for them — that they’ve managed to largely shed their tax burden in recent years even as they’ve grown spectacularly, exorbitantly, astronomically wealthy. (Canada’s wealthiest 87 families had wealth of $259 billion in 2016; our top 44 billionaires increased their wealth by more than $50 billion during the pandemic.)

Most Canadians have had enough of this. A recent Abacus poll shows that a striking 79 per cent of Canadians favour a wealth tax.

In fact, a wealth tax would be the simplest, fairest and most effective way to collect billions of extra dollars of revenue a year, and to limit the power and political influence of the billionaire class.

A wealth tax only targets the wealthy. An NDP proposal — based roughly on proposals by U.S. senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — would levy an annual tax of 1 per cent on net wealth above $20 million. If you don’t have $20 million, it’s not coming for you.

The NDP plan would raise an estimated $10 billion a year — or more if the rate rose for bigger fortunes, notes economist Alex Hemingway of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Here are some of the facile arguments being trotted out against a wealth tax.

A wealth tax is foreign to the Canadian tax system. In fact, Canada already has such a tax. It’s called the property tax. It’s imposed on almost all the wealth held by low and middle income Canadians — their homes. A wealth tax would simply extend the property tax to include other forms of property mostly held by the wealthy, such as stocks and bonds (above $20 million).

A wealth tax has not worked in other countries. The wealth taxes adopted in many European countries were badly designed. They had low thresholds, so they taxed many people who were not ultra-rich, just well-off. Today’s proposed wealth taxes only target those who are clearly, undeniably wealthy.

The ultra-rich will find ways to evade or avoid the tax. Our tax laws, which permit widespread tax avoidance and evasion, are not laws of nature but policy choices made by legislators. Stopping tax evasion is simply a matter of political choice — especially with today’s technology that makes it easy to digitally trace the movement of money. An increase in Revenue Canada’s enforcement budget — to be used against tax haven trickery — and tougher penalties for cheaters could be extremely effective. The only thing lacking is political will.

A wealth tax would discourage savings and entrepreneurship. Hardly. The tax would only hit those who have accumulated enormous assets, typically long after their initial entrepreneurial effort (or those who have inherited huge assets through no effort). Does anyone seriously believe that, in the future, creative Canadians would stop being entrepreneurial if they thought they would only end up with a fortune of, say, many hundreds of millions of dollars rather than perhaps a billion dollars?

Some wealthy taxpayers have very low incomes and thus might not have the cash to pay an annual wealth tax. If truly wealthy individuals have small incomes it’s because they’ve arranged their finances this way in order to avoid paying income taxes. They could easily sell some of their assets. There’s no reason to sympathize with their plight. After all, if working people lose their jobs, they’re forced to sell assets (except their homes) until they’re sufficiently poor to qualify for welfare benefits.

A wealthy family could lose control of a family business if it were obliged to sell shares in order to pay the wealth tax. Highly unlikely, but possible. But so what? There’s no evidence that wider corporate ownership would be a bad thing.

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Canada Was Not Prepared

When COVID-19 began taking a deadly toll in China, Ottawa naively expressed “sympathy” and “full confidence” in China’s ability to contain the virus.  China was lying.  Canada was ill-equipped.

The Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) early warning system once considered a world leader had been scaled back by Harper Conservative budget cuts and Trudeau Liberals hastened its demise in 2019. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) had also been stripped of crucial capacity to provide early warning of the pandemic due to federal government cost cutting and negligence. 

Doctors, epidemiologists, scientists were shunted aside by “managerial” bureaucrats and budget cuts which followed tax cuts. It is vital to move quickly and decisively in a pandemic.  South Korea, Australia, New Zealand did just that and faired much better than Canada.  PPE was in short supply.  Conservative privatization had sold off Connaught Labs a global-leader of vaccine production and Long-Term Care facilities were under severely resourced.

The costs to the health, lives and economy of Canadians could have been much less severe if we had the capacity to institute significant measures earlier.  Our country is now topping 700,000 cases and 19,000 dead. Conservative and Liberals have been privatizing and turning over vital public assets to their wealthy corporate backers for too long.  The first priority of any government must be to invest and maintain vital public services ensuring the health and protection of its people. We must never let this happen again. People are the economy.    

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BC Conservative MP’s Cathy McLeod & Dan Albas, stoke fear & division on CBC Daybreak Kamloops

The pandemic has shone a glaring light on the gaps in our health, economic and social system and Canada’s Conservatives do not seem to have a credible solutions, except to distract by stoking fear and division.  Conservative MP’s have taken to the airwaves saying ”criminals shouldn’t get early access to vaccines”.  This is irresponsible and dishonest.  The facts: the COVID-19 infection rate of prisoners is 5x that of the general public.  Public Safety Canada has confirmed only 5% of inmates who are elderly or medically vulnerable will be vaccinated on a priority basis.  The government is following the advice of experts on the national advisory committee on immunizations.  Furthermore, the law requires a legal duty to offer essential health care to prisoners.  Prisoners live in congregated facilities, outbreaks spread fast and can then infect corrections officials, their families and overwhelm hospitals.  More than half of all prisoners are serving short sentences of one month or less. Vaccinating soon to be released vulnerable prisoners reduces the risk of wider community infection.

Some prisoners are on remand and not yet had their trials.  They are not convicted and presumed innocent.  Indigenous and racialized persons make up a disproportionate number of incarcerated.  The Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides fundamental protections to all Canadians, including prisoners. 

Instead of focusing on health care, reconciliation or alleviating social conditions, Dan Albas and Erin O’Toole use a reprehensible strategy of fear of crime – US style dog whistles of increased policing, harsher punishment and veiled racism – avoiding serious evidence based solutions to social problems.  On the pandemic response and challenges of vaccine supply, it was the Harper Conservatives that muzzled scientists, cut supports to GHPIN (Global Public Health Intelligence Network) and to Public Health Canada.  Conservative governments sold off Canada’s Connaught Labs, a world leading vaccine producer, and their provincial cousins privatized or cut supports to long-term care.  The vaccination of vulnerable prisoners is a cheap distraction from more serious and pressing issues.  

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP Cathy McLeod now complains of “polarization”: Erin O’Toole, whom she supported for Conservative leader, coddles Trump wanna-bees, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists, in his caucus, some of whom were on Parler, an extreme right-wing US social platform.  As a member of Stephen Harper’s caucus, McLeod remained silent when the party fomented racism with “old stock Canadian” rhetoric, and a snitch line, or when Andrew Scheer stood with Yellow-Vesters.  Erin O’Toole is the same guy who borrowed from the Trump playbook to win the Conservative leadership with his “Take Back Canada” race-baiting and “Make Canada Great Again” slogans.  Conservative MP’s are caught wearing “MAGA” hats.  

Canada’s Conservatives have been playing for too long from the Republic Playbook.  And, it is dangerous.  It undermines our democracy.  Democracy is fragile.  We are not so immune in Canada.  We should not be naive – words and discourse matter.  


1. I sent this reply to CBC Kamloops in response to the interviews with the Conservative MP’s to which I did not receive any reply, nor was a member of parliament from another party or expert on health and prisons interviewed for a contrary view or balance.

2. It is ironic that Dan Albas and Cathy McLeod use CBC as a platform to disseminate their opinions, when Conservatives including Erin O’Toole support privatizing the public broadcaster.  A strong public broadcaster is vital to Canada particularly at times like this with so much corporate concentration of media and newspapers are withering. 

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Politics of Empathy & Justice: Why We Can’t Go Back To “Normal”

The coronavirus has exposed the failures of the pre-pandemic economy and social services. Rates of infection are reaching record numbers and fears of massive economic and social harm are growing. Where do we go from here? We cannot go back to the old “normal”.

An economy that worships rugged individualism and enables extreme wealth in few hands, is an ideological and moral failure. Wealth and economic power equates with political power. Oligarchies jeopardize freedom and democracy.

It must be countered before it’s too late, with a solidarity and politics based on empathy and justice, stepping beyond oneself, to others – an empathy that embraces our common destiny and future – as humans and for the health of the earth – for future generations.

It necessitates an activism and demanding through elections and citizen-empowering politics, holding large corporations responsible for harming the environment and exploitation that enables inequality. It means demanding taxation and policies that put human well-being above profit. And, of upholding human rights and combatting intolerance and hate.

We must not stop at merely “recovering” from the coronavirus pandemic. We need to step out of the old “isms” if we are to tackle systemic racism, rising intolerance and hate, concentration of power in the hands of few and the crisis of climate change. We must not go back to business as usual or stifling incrementalism. We cannot wait. We must be bold!

Canada needs investments for innovation and improving productivity – such as infrastructure, skills training and education, green technology, combined with substantial enhancements in health and social services to lift the country out of inertia and declining standards of living.

“Investments after the Second World War were instrumental in propelling an era of strong productivity growth and economic prosperity. Strong, sustainable growth would also help us manage the heavy debt load that has piled up over the last decade and will continue to pile up because of COVID…by improving the government’s capacity to keep its revenues growing comfortably faster than its debt-service costs.” 1

The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of front-line and essential workers. We have banged pots, thanking them – and then we stopped. The large corporations have cut pandemic pay raises and deepened their massive profits. Caring isn’t temporary, only for a crisis. It is a principle that should be permanent in a successful and healthy society.

So what will this require? We must demand bold changes. There is no shortage of ideas: a guaranteed livable wage; enhancements to public health care to include Pharmacare, dental, eye and mental health care; social programs that that make our communities more resilient and equitable; end bailouts to companies that pollute, worsen the climate crisis or do not treat their employees equitably; childcare and education – the pathways to economic participation, higher productivity and democratic empowerment; public transit, efficient buildings, green infrastructure and technology.

A reform of taxation lies at the heart of achieving these transformative changes. The ultra-wealthy must return a fair share of their wealth to society and large corporations must pay a fair tax rate. Tax evasion and off-shore tax havens must be aggressively pursued and loopholes shutdown. Forty years of cutting taxes and repeatedly cutting them, again and again, has been a dismal failure, depriving governments of vital revenues and public investments.

Governments could also, for example, look at nationalization or creating public utilities in areas such as high quality broadband, indispensable to work and economic progress, if the private sector is unable or unwilling to address the public necessity of universal, affordable access. We’ve done it before, such as with Hydro, and it works.

The pandemic has exposed the false notion adopted by Liberal and Conservative parties that governments need to get out of the way, that less government is better, of deregulation and privatization. We need look no further than long-term care homes, shortage of PPE, cuts to pandemic preparedness and warning programs, and to science. And, the list grows.

We have seen the necessity and value of government and public programs to help us get through this pandemic when we needed it most. There are lessons to be learned. Let’s not forget them.

  1. Carolyn Wilkins, Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, Globe & Mail, Report on Business, November 13, 2020, p. B3.

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The Failures & Dangers of the Pre-Pandemic Economy, Part II: Retrenchment or Reset?

“May you live in interesting times”: an ancient saying attributed to the Chinese. Ironically, it is a curse that life is better in “uninteresting times” of peace and stability than times of trouble and turbulence.  We are now in “interesting times”, COVID-19 has profound global impact and shocked us out of complacency.

The virus has exposed the gaping holes of our economic and social system.  The prosperity and stability of the post WW II era in western countries was eclipsed by a pre-pandemic economy that failed us in many ways, resulting in gross income inequality and insecurity of precarious work.  Middle class and worker incomes have stagnated while huge swaths of wealth are more and more held in the hands of the few – the top tier, the 1%.  In turn, billionaires buy influence and dominate political and economic power.

Governments that embraced neo-liberal ideology slashed spending and taxes, outsourced to the private sector, relaxed regulation and eroded public health and services – whilst lacking the resources required at hand at a time of urgent need. 

The ideological denigration of government and public institutions has contributed to public cynicism – voter turnout declined and the insidious role of private money further accelerated the capture of political power and levers of government.  Economic insecurity has provided fertile ground for fear and division, the scapegoating of minorities and immigrants and the rise of diversionary dog-whistle politics or worse – demagogues and authoritarianism – such as Trump, Bolsanaro, Orban and Erdogan. 

COVID-19 has accelerated exposure of the inequities and fears.  We are at historic crossroads.  Which direction will we go? That’s a tough one – it could go either way.  Does it risk economic depression or calamity with governments choosing more austerity? Already powerful voices are calling out the deficit and “debt” – for a retrenchment.  Or, does it show that the right has little to offer after decades of “Government get out of the way!” and the worship of the market.  In Canada, New Zealand, Scandinavia, and Germany, among others, we are witnessing collective action, government and the public sector reiterating the role of government in crisis and helping their people to survive and get through the crisis. 

Canada is rich country. It’s also clear we always had the resources.  The pandemic has exposed “ugly truths”.  Polls show four-in-five Canadians agree COVID-19 has revealed problems of the elderly and vulnerable Canadians and troubling inequality in our society.   This is the result of choices and ideology – of priorities and values, of how resources and wealth is apportioned in society.

Governments have the capacity to help shape a better future.  Public investments and strategic initiatives in infrastructure, public transit and universal broadband, pharmacare and dental care, diversification with renewable energy and a Green New Deal, affordable housing, improved minimum wage and benefit standards, ensuring supply chains and food security vital to national security, training and supports to transition displaced workers and education investments for a modern and adaptable workforce, a national strategy to address an aging population and child poverty, and universal child-care.   

“How will you pay for it?” critics will opine. How much are we willing to pay to live in good and prosperous country?  By reforming the taxation system and making it fair and progressive.  Challenging the view that any tax is a bad tax.  We could consider:

  • A wealth tax: A well-designed wealth tax would address risk of wealth transfers out of country and contribute back to the health and well-being of a society that has provided the wealthy so much;
  • An inheritance tax:  The boomers, the largest demographic sits on substantial assets to be bequeathed and a modest inheritance tax would support growing demands on health care and assist the younger generation which will bear the burden of supporting an economy with a demographically aging population;
  • Raise the GST 2% back to 7%, before Harper cut it and generate $15B annually;
  • Close unfair legal tax loopholes and create an elite division to aggressively go after large-scale tax evasion and offshore tax havens.  PBO conservatively estimates $240B Canadian stashed away in tax havens and $25B annually leaving the country;
  • Consider increasing the capital gains tax to back 75%, before Liberals reduced it.  Why should human labour be taxed fully and capital less so?   
  • Incentivize and reward innovation.  End subsidies to fossil fuel and polluting industries;
  • Create a National Commission, like the Carter commission more than 50 years ago, to modernize the entire tax system. The economy, technology and society have changed drastically since then. This is long overdue.

As for the national debt, we should not be fooled by the old scare “the cupboard is bare”.  Borrowing costs for government are extremely low, governments have a very long time frame to manage debt and much of the debt we are adding is owed to ourselves.  The Globe & Mail editorial, “At no time in history has Canada been able to borrow so much for so little.  Which is fortunate, because at no time since the last war has Canada needed to borrow so much, so quickly.”1  Increasing revenue permits strategic investments, avoiding drastic and brutal cuts, and reduces the debt.  

“The ideological denigration of government and public institutions….Economic insecurity has provided fertile ground for fear and division, the scapegoating of minorities and immigrants and the rise of diversionary dog-whistle politics or worse – demagogues and authoritarianism – such as Trump, Bolsanaro, Orban and Erdogan.

The evidence and research is clear, we pay a high price for inequality.  And, it is dangerous.  It breeds resentment which in turn fuels anger and extremism.  The more equal a society, the more successful it is.  Conversely, “almost everything – from life expectancy to mental illness, violence to illiteracy – is affected not by how wealthy a society is, but how equal it is.” (Pickett & Wilkinson). Even the IMF is warning states to raise taxes on the wealthy to tackle inequality. (7-1-20) The success of post war Keynesian economics may be making a comeback.

This is a revolutionary moment in politics, the choices we make will shape political direction and societal views on policy issues for decades.  This is the time for swift and meaningful change – a Great Reset.  Good ideas and beliefs are not enough, it requires organized and collective action.  Progressives must be ready for the challenge. Let the debate begin.  Our collective future will depend on it.

  1. Globe & Mail, 28-4-2020
  2. Wilkinson & Pickett, The Spirit Level, Why Equality is Better for Everyone, Penguins Books, 2010.
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The Failures & Dangers of the Pre-Pandemic Economy: How Did We Get Here? Part I:

We Canadians live in one of the richest societies in the history of the world. A Canadian, John Humphrey, was instrumental in the creation of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including right to social security and a standard of living adequate for health and well-being – food, clothing, housing and medical care, necessary social services, and education. Canada pledged the full realization of these human rights. (1)

So, how is it that homelessness, hunger and food banks have proliferated and the scourge of child poverty remains in our midst? Affordable housing is out of reach for workers and the middle class in many of our cities. Over half of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque. Forty percent have no retirement savings.

Income inequality is at historic levels not seen since before the Great Depression. The top 1% gained a majority of national income before 2008 and gained almost all the additional income created in the so-called recovery. Why is this important? Increased inequality results in slower growth, lower GDP and greater instability. It undermines and threatens democracy. It breeds fear, resentment and scapegoating. In the aftermath of the horrors and lessons of the Second World War, US President Roosevelt warned:

“Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of
a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. In our day these
economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.”

So, how did we get here, to an economy and political outcomes that are failing us?

Margaret Thatcher said that, “there is no such thing as society and Ronald
Reagan said that government is not the solution to our problem; government
is the problem. These stupid slogans marked the turn away from the post-war
period of reconstruction and underpin much of the bullshit of the past forty
years.” – The New Yorker, May 2020.

These are not accidental accretions, it is about values and ideology – power and influence of moneyed interests that dominates the political system, reinforces itself at every turn – for the benefit of the oligarchs and plutocrats, with their well-resourced think-tanks and media conglomerates.

For decades, the neo-liberals have demonized government and propagated a religion of tax cuts. Austerity at every level has eroded our key institutions and programs designed to help people.

[, Illustration by Andrew Rae, 20-6-17]

In Canada, in 1982 the MacDonald Commission urged neo-liberal policy, calling for “free trade” and curtailing the welfare state. The 1987 Conservative budget cut taxes on the wealthy and NAFTA restricted the rights of the state to regulate business and corporations. The 1995 budget included a 40% cut in transfers to provinces by 1997 – for health, welfare and education. Paul Martin and the Liberals abandoned Keynesian economics. In 2000, the Liberals broke their promise to restore 50% of future budget surplus to restore funding cuts, instead cutting $100 Billion in taxes over 5 years. More than 30% of the tax cuts went to the top 5% of income earners and more than 70% to the top 30%. Corporate taxes were cut more than 35%. Cuts to unemployment and welfare impacted the provinces ability to reduce poverty. (2)

The deficit scare was used to justify and mobilize political messaging for the actions taken. Other OECD countries such as Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Australia reduced their deficits less quickly than Canada, but neither did they reduce their national government spending to the degree Canada did, as a percentage of the economy.

For a brief interlude in 2004, the NDP led by Jack Layton was able to pressure a Liberal minority government to reverse a proposed $4.6 Billion cut in corporate taxes to instead spend money on affordable housing, public transit and education.

The election of the Harper Conservatives accelerated the attack on the progressive state. Child-care program cuts were accompanied by a cut in the corporate tax from 22% to 15% resulting in $10 Billion reduction in government revenues within 3 years. The political optics of boutique tax cuts resulted in disproportionate benefits to those with higher incomes. The GST was cut 2% with a loss of $15 Billion in annual government revenue, while it may have been politically popular, polls suggested it have been better used to fund infrastructure to cities and towns. By 2010, the Conservative finance minister boasted that the federal tax revenue to GDP was the lowest since 1961 – an era prior to the great nation building programs such as Medicare, Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, Employment Insurance, expanded post-secondary education and social assistance. (3)

Tax cuts do not pay for themselves. The incomes of average Canadians have stagnated for the past 40 years, the benefits have gone hugely to the top percentile, accompanied by cuts to public services vital to the well-being and progress of the country and it’s people. There has been a massive increase of income inequality and a growing disconnect by the top 1% to the struggles and needs of the majority of the population.

What lessons can be learned from the financial crisis of 2008 and the crisis of COVID-19? Why should it matter?…It threatens social stability and undermines democracy. We require a bold way forward to a new economy and political choices that are better for the Canadian people and the country, a more promising, egalitarian and prosperous future.

Some ideas to accomplish this, will follow in Part II…

(1) Articles 22 & 25; (2) Source: Alex Himelfarb & Jordan Himelfarb, editors, “Tax is Not a Four Letter Word, A Different Take on Taxes in Canada”, Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2013. (3) ibid.

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Human Rights & Emergency Powers

COVID-19 has reached almost every country in the world. Politicians may be tempted to use extraordinary powers. It is necessary for governments to counter the spread of COVID-19, which is itself a human rights responsibility. Governments must protect rights to health and life.

Human rights were designed for hard and exceptional times and to protect the vulnerable and prevent abuses. They are hard fought rights that arose in the aftermath of the ashes of WWII and crimes that shocked the conscience of humanity.

In my country of Canada, already some politicians have been quick to urge invoking the Emergencies Act. Thus far, the Federal government to it’s credit has resisted the temptation, although the opposition parties had to forstall a hidden provision in a financial relief bill that would have given the Liberals unlimited discretion in spending authority to the end of 2021 and enormous unchecked political advantage – usurping a fundamental role of parliament.



To invoke emergency powers, international human rights law puts the onus on a state to demonstrate:

1. existence of compelling circumstances and state interest;
2. necessity, reasonableness, proportionality, and temporary use;
3. having exhausted less restrictive and alternative measures;
4. non-discrimination;
5. ensuring and protecting core minimum rights;
6. participation of individuals and affected groups in the decision-making process.

Limitations on rights must include being “determined by law” and “solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society.”1

On March 16, 2020, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged all states to “avoid overreach of security measures in their response to the coronavirus outbreak and reminded them that emergency powers should not be used to quash dissent.” Authoritarian leaders such as Victor Orban of Hungary and Duterte of the Phillipines have used the pandemic as a cover to further erode human rights and democracy. Kashmir has been under severe lockdown for months preceding coronavirus and at risk of even more severe measures. Democracies die behind closed doors. History tells us that emergencies have been used as a pretext for power grabs by authoritarians.

Canada’s Quarantine Act and provincial emergency measures, which are less restrictive and intrusive on civil liberties appear to be working and with reasonableness. However, this is accompanied by risk and concerns of domestic violence and abuse for women and children. Marginalized persons, Indigenous persons, racialized persons and minorities are at greatest risk of law enforcement abuses or societal injustice. Media reports substantiate incidents of racial discrimination and targeting of persons of Chinese descent.

The politics of Emergencies can be manipulative and tempting. Canadians have memories of then Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau invoking the War Measures of Act in response to two high-profile kidnappings in Quebec in 1970 by FLQ separatist extremists. The measures were popular with the majority of the public. And, they were excessive, infringing on rights and misused by law enforcement and some politicians. NDP Leader Tommy Douglas opposed the use of Emergency powers and paid a price in loss of popular support. History and historians, however, proved Douglas’ principled stand to be right.

At times of crisis, democracies are in need of courageous leaders; our democracies are stronger and the obligations of human rights upheld. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1816, John Adams wrote, “Power must never be trusted without a check.” Public transparency, media coverage, and honest political debate ensure that any restriction on rights meets legal and human rights standards – for legitimate public health goals.

We have a duty to take care of each other, to protect human rights. Let’s keep the human in human rights, while curtailing the spread of COVID-19.

1.  International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Art. 4

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COVID-19: Canada’s Emergency Benefit & Wage Subsidy – Gaps & Concerns.

COVID-19 is a public health and economic crisis. Governments are urgently responding to avoid an economic depression and social instability.

The government of Canada has announced a number of programs, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and to wage subsidies of up to 75% of employee wages.  The two programs alone are in the tens of billions of dollars.

(Photo from the Atlantic magazine)

The CERB was announced last week and it is a direct benefit of $2000 per month to help with loss of income due to the COVID-19 crisis and it is an improvement on the two EI related benefits announced earlier. However, CERB does nothing for many Canadians, such as students and graduates about to enter the job market, those unemployed for a longtime, anyone who earned less than $5000. This gap in support especially leaves out the homeless, marginalized and most vulnerable segments of our society. This omission is a moral and policy failure.

These are just some of the people who won’t qualify for the benefit.

If you’re self-employed and your income is significantly reduced, but you’ve managed to make a partial income, you appear to be ineligible. For example, if you normally make $2500, but now making $250, you likely do not qualify. You also won’t qualify if you voluntarily stopped working.

Canada has more than 500,000 post-secondary students graduating in the next couple of months, many of them would not have made $5000. They are entering the workforce for the first time and left without this income support – and, there are no jobs.

The Federal Wage Subsidy, like the CERB is well-intentioned, but not without significant concerns. It is one of the most expensive federal programs ever.

It is estimated that the subsidy of 75% for companies with a 30% revenue decline would cost $6.3 billion a week, and over $80 billion over three months (CD Howe Institute). This is more than all the major federal transfer programs for an entire fiscal year – not three months – to the provinces and territories for social assistance, health, equalization and so forth.

Much is unclear about this program. It should go to those companies that need it most: small and medium sized businesses and non-profits. Large corporations, many of which are profitable and had earnings in the hundreds of million or billions of dollars could also receive large subsidies. They don’t need it. What if employers do not pay the remaining 25% to their workers? What if banks, rental companies defer payments from customers and renters and require payment later? Do they still qualify? What if companies pay out huge bonuses to executives or do share buy-backs? What if industries which were already in decline such as oil companies or due to poor business decisions, that has little to do with COVID-19 – can they still step in and use the subsidy? What about numbered or anonymous companies? 

There should be concern about waste, misuse and corruption. For large companies and employers, it could be examined on a case-by-case, where necessary.

There’s no question that the federal government has a crucial responsibility to help Canadians get through this crisis. The CERB will be an essential help for many families. As for the wage subsidy, implemented properly it can be a beneficial program. It is imperative that the program not be misdirected and that it goes to those businesses that really need it, because we’re all paying for it.

The federal government is means-testing programs for individuals – the most vulnerable and poorest Canadians will not get the CERB – all the more reason to scrutinize the wage subsidy and ask if it is being used for proper policy objectives and if it’s the best use of public emergency money.

Many Canadians have been advocating for social programs such as universal pharmacare, childcare, affordable or tuition free post-secondary education, dental and eye-care – for decades.

A Universal Basic Income payable to all would cost less, be easier to administer than the complexity of various different programs coming from the Federal government, and have significant benefits. The UBI could then be taxed back based on progressive taxation next year. But, that is a topic for another day and post.

The Liberal government has, however embarked down a different pathway and the need for financial assistance is immediate. There are many gaps and valid questions that arise about the CERB and Wage Subsidy programs. It is our role as Canadians to ask those hard questions, demand transparency and responsible use of public funds.

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SPEECH by BILL SUNDHU: “Walk To Embrace Diversity”, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Kamloops, BC, March 21, 2019.

The Charter of the UN is based on the principle of the dignity and equality inherent in all human beings. It recognizes that Racism is repugnant to the ideals of any human society. This is a dark time for human rights. The time for platitudes and touchy-feely speeches on diversity has passed. “There comes a time when [we] must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but we must do it because Conscience tells [us] it is right.”[1] If my words make anyone feel uncomfortable then I can only hope it is an opportunity to ask hard questions of ourselves – open our hearts and minds; to question some of our preconceived notions and assumptions. That’s not a bad thing – for, we all have blind spots and prejudices.

The United Nations proclaimed the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966. Every year, March 21 is recognized as a day where the international community can come together in an effort to eliminate ALL forms of racial discrimination.

Racist extremist movements based on ideologies that seek to promote populist, nationalist agendas are spreading in various parts of the world, fueling racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, often targeting migrants and refugees.

We condemn nationalist populism and any form of racial superiority ideology that advances exclusionary or repressive practices and policies that harm individuals or groups on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin and religion, or other related social categories.

We can all agree on that. But, that’s not enough.


Inflammatory language and dog-whistle politics are creating a climate of fear – and must be denounced. Islamophobia and white supremacy when unopposed – spreads and it kills.

When political leaders refuse to name and disavow it, or give space to those who preach it – they normalize it.

Real Leaders use their platform to call out and oppose – they don’t use it to empower white supremacists – for wedge votes and the desire for power. And, you can’t invoke “Canadian values” tests, “barbaric practices”, “Old Stock Canadians”, refuse to condemn Islamophobia (M-103), use coded language, and play fast and loose with the facts and policies on migrants and refugees. You can’t hang out with Islamophobes and racists and aspire to be good leaders for our country. Never mind the votes, condemn it.

It’s not enough to express condolences and condemn violence and murderous acts of hate when they occur. It’s too late. And, we’re sick and tired of “thoughts and prayers.”

Silence and doing nothing is also a choice. Indifference is the breeding ground of injustice. The Nobel laureate, Elie Wiesel, reminded us:

“Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence
encourages the tormentor never the tormented.”[2]

Leaders make your choice. Never mind the votes. Condemn it.

Whether its islamophobia, anti-semitism, white supremacy, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, or xenophobia, we’ll be standing up and speaking out against hatred. All of Canada’s political leaders – local and national – should do the same.

But that’s not enough.

Keeping the peace and security, of individuals and groups, avoiding threats and violence is only a bare minimum.

What is our responsibility?

Racism is a pernicious evil. It is an affront to human dignity. It is a negation of the human personality. It is still with us. And, it hides and manifests itself in varied and complex – insidious ways.

The comedian Chris Rock, says all his white friends, only have one black friend. Think about that, for a moment. “The more contact we have with each other and learn about one another, the less likely we are to fear one another. This may sound trite, but the more we know about other groups, the more likely we are to pass that information on to one another and improve social cohesion. In turn, we are better able to identify and challenge those bent on dividing society.”[3] It is our collective responsibility as diverse societies to recognize our diversity and to uphold the human rights of others from those that would undermine or attack our fellow human beings.

Does a person’s colour or appearance affect who you imagine as your leaders – your MLA, MP, Provincial Premier or Prime-Minister? Does socialization in white supremacy or colonial history result in your predominantly imagining white persons in positions of power or is that the default position? Does the workforce of the city of Kamloops truly reflect the diversity of the street and our community? These are uncomfortable topics. But, if we don’t ask the right questions, we might not find the right answers to a more humane and inclusive society.

Because doing nothing is not good enough.

(Walk for Diversity, Kamloops Immigrant Services Society, 2019)

In a pyramid, every brick depends on the ones below it for support. If the bricks at the bottom are removed, the whole structure comes tumbling down. Indifference, minimization and veiled racism – not challenging racist jokes or putdowns, saying “why can’t we just get along”, a white ally speaking over POC, tokenism or claiming reverse racism, victim blaming, and paternalism are examples – of the lower level bricks – of the pyramid of racism and discrimination. Racism must be confronted at its roots, so it does not incubate and grow.

We need an antidote to complacency. And, we have to stop thinking about racism as someone who says the N-word or its equivalent. The academic Robin DiAngelo writes,

“Why is it so hard for white people to talk about racism – they just don’t
listen…Day in and day out, most white people are absolutely not receptive to
finding out the impact on other people. There is a refusal to know or see, or to
listen or hear, or to validate.”

They will insist, ‘Well, it’s not me’, or say ‘I’m doing my best, what do you want
from me?’ She defines this a white fragility – the inability of white people to
tolerate racial stress. This, she says, leads to white people ‘weaponising [their]
hurt feelings’ and being indignant and defensive when confronted with racial
inequality and injustice. This creates a climate where the suggestion or accusation
of racism causes more outrage among white people than the racism itself. And if
nobody is racist, she asks, why is racism still a problem? What are white people
afraid they will lose by listening? What is threatening about humility on this topic?”[4]

“Racist beliefs and practices are frequently invisible to everyone but those who suffer from them. Too often (white) Canadians tend to dismiss evidence of their racial prejudice and their differential treatment of minorities… The discomfort or denial of racism is so habitual…that to even make the allegation of bias and discrimination and raise the possibility of its influence on social outcomes becomes a serious social infraction, incurring…wrath and ridicule. This discourse has become a central rhetorical strategy. It functions as an expression of resistance to forms of social change. Demands of marginalized minorities…are discredited as an ‘overdose of political correctness’.[5]

“Contrary to what some people think, racialized people are often reluctant to relate their experiences of racism. Few enjoy recounting incidents in which they felt humiliated. People tell their stories at great risk.”[6]

Some of us will even have experience or knowledge of those persons who wrap themselves in the garment of being a moderate or progressive ally. And, he or she might defensively and falsely accuse a POC or Indigenous person of having called them a racist on the slightest or mistaken pretext. This person then expresses his or her outrage and (white) fragility by holding out the racialized person for public shaming. This is a kind of narcissism where the white person plays the victim, twists the story and is complicit in racism. Attacking these racialized voices and person is not only a denial of racism, it is suppression.

In his famous letter from the Birmingham Jail, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, warned of the real danger:

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers.
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely
disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable
conclusion that the [Negro’s] great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is
not the white citizen’s councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate,
who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which
is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with the goal you seek, but
I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes
he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical
concept of time and constantly advises [the negro] to wait for a ‘more convenient

“Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute
misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more
bewildering than outright rejection.”[7]

In the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood – we embrace each other – and we must listen and do so carefully. The consequences of our actions for others are a far more important consideration than feeling good about ourselves. We can learn from each other.

Racism and discrimination exists in every society. The challenge is to be true to the values we profess – on which we claim our country is predicated – and to ensure our ideal of equality and human rights. St. Augustine said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

We need courage to deliver on the promise of equality, non-discrimination and human rights. It is a test of our commitment to true equality and justice. Our rights are interdependent, inter-related and indivisible. We need each other. We need a community that values and needs everybody, for a great life, and common future together.

Please look to a person next to you, and say “I am here for you.” Do it now.
Because we are here for each other today, tomorrow and every day – in solidarity. We All Belong Here. Peace and Love, to each and every one of you.

Thank you.


[1] Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

[2] Elie Weisel, The Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, the Accident, Hill Wang Farrar Strauss & Giroux, 2008.


[4] Robin DiAngelo,

[5] Frances Henry and Carol Tator, The Colour of Democracy: Racism in Canadian Society, 3rd edition, Thomson-Nelson 2006, pp. 22-29, 352.

[6] Report of the Ontario Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System, 1995, Toronto: Queen’s Printer, p. 35.

[7] Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, A Signet Book, the New American Library, New York, 1963, pp. 84-85.


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on SPEECH by BILL SUNDHU: “Walk To Embrace Diversity”, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Kamloops, BC, March 21, 2019.