Land of plenty

Today is World Food Day.  For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we can give thanks for all that we have available to us.  For those in the southern hemisphere, we cry out for justice and that all might have enough.

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is an organization that seeks the welfare of people elsewhere and tries to address the need of those who need food.  According to some YouTube clips posted online, this organization has met many peoples’ need and has made it possible for them to live better lives – better health, better strength and energy.

I had the opportunity to hear some speakers from a group called No One Is Illegal (NOII) on Thursday of this week (thanks to the organizational work of UBCO prof, David Jefferess).  They’re a collective of volunteers that work to change the climate for those who migrate north because of little opportunity in their native land. NOII works to change peoples’ perceptions of “illegal” immigrants.

NOII says that migrants were exploited to build Canada (one example, here on the west coast, being Chinese labourers, and the head-taxes they were forced to pay).  Migration happened, and continues to happen, as a result of colonialism (where nation states were established for purposes of trade, and the powerful colonizing nations exploited the less-powerful, but resource-rich colonized nations).  Migration happened, and continues to happen, as a result of environment (people need land in order to grow crops; if the land is exploited, it affects peoples’ ability to survive on the land).

Today, we have trade agreements (often couched in language that makes it sound reasonable, like “free trade”) that are, in effect, following a treaty process.  Treaties were made with aboriginal peoples’ in order to gain unfettered access to resources (this process is also one of colonization, and it is essentially the process of globalization).

NOII says that people should have the right to move, to stay, and to return.  When people feel the need to move in order to save their lives or livelihoods, and they end up arriving on the shores of countries that are affluent, it can be traced directly to colonial/globalizing activity in their home nations.  The image was held up of a train with goods being driven into an affluent country from a colonized region, and a person from the colonized place climbing aboard to ride with their goods into the new country, but then being denied entry at the border (while the goods were happily welcomed!).

I’m conscious that we, in Canada, have embraced the colonial mindset.  We have political leaders who do their utmost to make it possible for companies and corporations to get ahead, and to draw resources from other countries to benefit us while driving others into desperation.  Currently, Bill C-300 is to be voted on in the Canadian House of Commons.  It is a bill calling for accountability of Canadian mining corporations in other countries so that peoples’ environments and livelihoods are not destroyed as we extract whatever it is we’re wanting to profit from out of their country.  Sadly, my MP says he and his party can not support this bill.  In an email to me, he wrote: “I am unable to support Bill C-300 because certain provisions have the potential of hurting our own Canadian companies by opening the door to punitive lawsuits meant to forward the political or competitive agendas of others without guaranteeing improved conditions for the people of the host country.”

All of this leads to gluttony and a sense of entitlement.  We unrealistically start believing that resources are infinite, and we treat them that way.  In fact, we end up wasting, squandering, and denying to others the gifts of the earth that are meant for all.

We can work to help people find a place of belonging here, in this place that our ancestors claimed as “home” only a matter of a few generations ago.  We can work to help those whose ancestors have always lived here to reclaim their identity as stewards of this place, and we can join in that work.

When our elected leaders work with those who only see dollars as what unify us and the primary reason for relating, we must speak up.  Minister Kenney has been vested with a responsibility to people who arrive here in their time of need.  Rather than engage their full story, people from other cultures are painted in a light that aligns them with evil around so that the public will support a discriminatory move to send desperate people back to a place and situation of abject need or violence.

On this day where food – a basic need – is held up, we might do well to consider need of people everywhere.  …and then work towards meeting that need.

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Posted on October 16, 2010, in Tyler's occasional web log. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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