Opinion

COLUMN: Canada gets more cozy with China

If money talks, then it has learned to speak Chinese.

Why else would Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accompanied by five ministers and 40 business executives, ink $40 billion worth of trade deals recently with a country that has sentenced countless Syrian men, women and children to death?

Aren’t we taught at a young age to ignore bullies?

China’s record on human rights, despite decades of Western pressure, is still deplorable.

Tibet remains oppressed through an illegal occupation, child labour runs rampant in the country with thousands of children working for meagre wages in sweatshops pumping out Western delicacies such as iPods and shoes, and, last week, the Chinese used their veto at the United Nations Security Council to prevent Western countries from forcing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and end the violence against his own people.

If you haven’t seen the footage trickling out of Syria, you should. Citizens were forced to use grappling hooks to retrieve the bodies of friends, family and neighbours from the streets because government snipers make it impossible to enter the streets safely.

Bombs continue to fall on civilian homes, killing or injuring innocent people.

Foreign affairs minister John Baird called the UN’s failure to act “disappointing in the extreme” as Canada levied sanctions on Syria, a move that hurts the citizens more than the government and its faithful military.

If what is going on in Syria is so intolerable, then why are we striking deals with one of two countries in the world – the other is Russia – that is allowing it to happen?

Cash. Money. Greed. Oh, and panda bears.

We get loaned two cuddly Chinese panda bears to symbolize our warm and fuzzy relationship with a nation that has no problem ignoring human rights.

The prime minister said it himself during his trip to China that Canada is for sale to whoever has money: “We’ve got resources to sell to anybody who wants to buy them,” he said. Surely we can set our moral sights higher than that.

With 16 nations, including Spain and Italy, recently receiving credit rating downgrades, with Greece on the verge of bankruptcy, and with the U.S. economy limping along, it’s natural to look for new buyers.

The PM’s mandate is to ensure Canada and Canadians are successful and as wealthy as possible. But he needs to be firmer in demanding Chinese observance of human rights. He said he raised human rights concerns “in very clear and strong terms” with the Chinese. We can only hope.

Chinese money is already heavily invested in Alberta’s oil sands (and it continues to purchase more American debt), so by establishing a market in China, the PM will likely have his dream of running a pipeline through some of British Columbia’s most pristine wilderness to reach Asian markets come true, which brings us to this government’s record on the environment, which is as bad as China’s record on human rights.

Along with pipelines emanating from the oil sands like a spider web, Canada also recently bailed on Kyoto, even as Canadians continue to burn more fossil fuels per capita than any other country.

Harper, after snubbing Canadian scientists who earned a Nobel Laureate for their work on climate change, doesn’t leave much to the imagination on what he thinks about the planet heating up a touch.

He is likely ecstatic the Arctic will finally thaw out so he can build – you guessed it – more pipelines full of Canadian oil, natural gas and water, all headed in the direction of our Chinese friends.

So now Canada, with its questionable record on the environment, and China, with deplorable records on human rights and the environment, are best of friends. All of the other kids in the schoolyard must be thrilled.

So yes, money’s new language is Chinese, and I bet Harper doesn’t need a translator.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

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