BY MARJORIE STEWART
Polls around the world demonstrate that most people don’t want a return to the ‘old normal.’
Many have used the pandemic’s gift of time to reflect as well as to look after each other. We have experienced the inadequacies of global business systems based on cheapness and exploitation. We are aware that governing elites will resist losing their privileges and that ordinary people stand to lose everything in the process of change. Whether the examples of mutual aid that sprang up everywhere will overcome the old ways remains to be seen.
But we should recognize the We Charity muddle of Trudeaus, Morneaus and Kielburgers as the result of ‘old normal’ manipulation of money as the means to achieve worthwhile goals. Even the goals were diminished.
The Trudeau, Morneau and Kielburger families are entangled in a conflict of their own making as complicated as the organizational complexities that morphed We Charity, Me to We social enterprise and Toronto real estate worth more than $40 million out of young Craig Kielburger’s original Free the Children dream. While the salaries drawn by the co-founding brothers from Me to We are far less than those of most major Canadian charity CEOs, the passage of money to and from each segment of the Kielburger complex must be perplexing to charities directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency, given that the wives of both Craig and Marc are executive employees of the conglomerate, and the donations of the Kielburger parents pass through the social enterprise to the charity, mixed in with real estate acquisitions worth two-thirds of the group’s assets.
Perhaps it’s because Fred and Theresa Kielburger were teachers before they got into renovating and flipping Toronto buildings that the target clientèle of We Charity is schoolchildren. The concept is that change can be effected by influencing the young, who will improve society as adults. Not a very threatening concept to worry teachers or administrators or school boards as much as the forthright Free the Children original.
Nutritionist Barbara Bray, writing for the prestigious British Nutrition Society, borrows a term from the U.S. military and suggests that the pandemic has made us ‘volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.’ A new normal must be simpler and locally based. Taking the example of food systems, we have seen the food service sector disrupted, industrial farmers forced to dump food supplies with failed distribution lines and people unable to access food without monetary bailouts and local aid. Situations in the impoverished countries shows the onset of widespread starvation.
Bray relates that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization is warning of devastating effects on poverty, food security and inequality as it plans new international guidelines which must stress resilient food systems capable of delivering food security with essential nutrition. Wrong decisions and indecisiveness “could lead to increased inequality, hunger and poverty.” She quotes Norman Borlaug (who warned us that his green revolution was a mere stopgap): “the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind.”
What we don’t need are house flipping, muddled charity or confused government leaders.
Marjorie Stewart is past chairperson of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.