Why haven't I posted this yet?

“Bush, Harper and Calderon- Money, Fear, and Fortresses” reads a slogan hanging at the front of the room. The “Stop the SPP coalition” is a small gathering of less than 100 people, swelling to well over that number as the night went on. The four main speakers have a wide variety of backgrounds from author to secretary- treasurer. They have all gathered to discuss one thing- putting a stop to the SPP.

The SPP, or Security and Prosperity Partnership is the joining of North American countries; Canada, the United States, and Mexico. It was launched in March 2005 to facilitate trade between these three countries, as well as unite them in anticipation of a safer North America. It “provides the framework to ensure that North America is the safest and best place to live and do business”, as the official website reads.

What I am constantly being told at the conference, however, is that it means nothing more than money and power for North American governments and private corporations. It also means the exploitation and racialization of Mexican workers, as well as the Canadian government placing a lower priority on its own citizens than Americans.

What does this mean for you, not only as a resident of Canada but as a student? Don’t expect fair treatment at the border if your name doesn’t end in Smith or Jones.

In all seriousness, our oil supplies are expected to dry up within 10 years. Our government has already signed a deal to export 60% of our oil to the U.S. However, the fine print reads that once we begin to export, we can’t stop or decrease the amount of product crossing the border. This means that in case of a shortage, prices for gas would go up and an expansion of the oil mines in Alberta would be necessary to meet demands. The environmental impact on our country would be tremendous if this is to be the case. Same story with fresh water; there is a limited supply within Canada and once it’s nearly depleted, strict restrictions will be put into place on the amount of water you can use. Not to mention how much more you’ll be shelling out for your hydro bill.

The meeting left me with a feeling of dread. How could this be happening right under our noses and yet no one has bothered to take serious note? My worries were only deepened by what I found on the official government website for the SPP (www.spp.gov). There was a Myths vs. Truth section which housed myths such as “The working groups and SPP documents are a secret and not available to the public.” This one in particular bothered me because it is a subtle play on words: the documents, those that are written at least, are available to the public. The crucial thing, however, is that what’s said in the meetings is not. If these governments claim to be so open with information surrounding the SPP, then why go to such extreme lengths to keep the media out of the discussion room?

Another noticeable idea on the site was something that’s been prevalent in the media ever since 9/11. The word terrorism is often used to invoke feelings of unity; it’s us vs. them, whoever “they” may be. The word finds itself in the official government website for the SPP: “…keep our borders closed to terrorism yet open to trade.” One of the speakers for the night, Villegas, described that one of the goals for the pact was to harmonize border policies. No-fly lists have already been synchronized, and we all know how much racism is a part of those after 9/11. This “opens the door for discretionary powers” argues Villegas, because people at the border could simply be turned back because of the way they look. If the officials face opposition, then the migrant can face the charge of being a terrorist and threat to the country, being denied entry forever. As a result, people are less willing to come into Canada and the U.S. for fear of the new border policies. The hard facts verify that there has been a 40% decrease in immigration since the implementation of NAFTA, a predecessor of the SPP that has similar principles.

Rogelio Cuevas provided a first-hand account of the SPP’s methods. He was held in a prison and tortured for fifteen years, accused of terrorism. His crime was activism; speaking out against the injustice that people face in his country. The impact on the Mexican people is clear by Cuevas’ point of view on trade agreements: “Everyone is trying to take…what is ours- what is our right to have”. Combining Canada’s security policies with those of the other two North American countries only means that the horrors inflicted upon Cuevas can happen to anyone. Any innocent outspoken individual- even a student- can just as easily be held by the government. Cuevos believes that the SPP will only legalize such action.

Bush will be in Montebello, Canada on the 20-21 of August to meet with Harper and Calderon. “We should all be extremely worried when Bush comes to Canada” warns McQuaig. In response to Harper’s press release in which he argues that Canada should export so much of its commodities to the States, McQuaig furthers that “…It’s tragic because all that we have to represent our interests is a guy who thinks it’s self-serving to protect [Canada’s] interests”.

If so much of the Canadian government’s attention is being divested into trade and so-called security, then what can we expect in terms of education and healthcare. This question was answered with some bad news. The synchronization of America’s healthcare regulations with ours has already begun with the raising of accepted pesticide levels on produce coming into Canada. Although this allows for easier and more trade, it also signifies a lowered standard of healthcare. More pesticides means more illness and general health problems for the population.

Hassan Yussuf , Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, warned that we are about to be colonized by the U.S. With the amount of homogenization taking place between the two countries, this scenario is not unimaginable.

If you are imagining a “V for Vendetta” scenario with the people fearing their government and not the other way around, you may not be too far off.

The meeting ended on a positive note as many individuals prepared to mobilize. McQuaig summed up the feelings for everyone: “there is no reason for Bush to come to Canada”.

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