An unrecognizable Canada

In the past few months, every time I open the newspaper I close it an hour later with a disturbing feeling in the pit of my stomach. What has happened to Canada? Really, what has happened to society in general?
But, for the purpose of this article, I will limit my complaints to the true North, strong and “free.” Really, I am just restrained from voicing all of my complaints due to the word limit.

Many right wing enthusiasts scoffed and rolled their eyes when the greater part of Canada warned them that our country would become a different society under Harper’s “majority.” But, as more and more articles appear in the news about Harper’s grand plans to transform our country into one resembling our less liberal neighbours to the south, I can’t help but lament our country’s fast track to an extreme conservative state. Let me provide several recent examples to illustrate this.

Texas politicians have recently disapproved of Bill C-10 — the new “crack-down” on Canadian crime. The bill calls for more minimum sentences, particularly for drug crimes. quotes a criminology professor at a Toronto panel discussion as saying: “I teach an third-year criminology course at the University of Ottawa. Eighty per cent of my students are criminals under this legislation. About 10 to 20 per cent of them would be liable to a mandatory minimum sentence in a federal penitentiary of two years for simply passing a tab of ecstasy at a party on university campus.”

The Texans explained that they used a “tough on crime” approach, and all that resulted was billions of dollars spent on more prisons — not less crime. CBC News quotes Teresa May-Williams, a forensic psychologist, as saying that the tough on crime stance assumes that an offender’s drug problem will disappear while in prison. In reality, we will be spending obscene amounts of money to build prisons and put young offenders who have smoked pot into the criminal justice system. Once in the system, they will come in contact with real, hardened criminals and reintegration into society will become nearly impossible.

Since when is Canada so conservative that right wing Texans are criticizing our policies as ineffective and extreme? Even more confusing is why this bill is being introduced in the first place, when our country’s crime rate is at a 40-year low? In my opinion, this exposes how conservative Harper’s policies are becoming and how Canada is on the fast track to an exclusive and intolerant society.

Do we really want to be spending money that Canada doesn’t have on putting pot-smoking 14-year-olds into the system? What we need are community and preventative measures to help youth stay away from the drug trade and petty crime. Additionally, we need drug treatment centres for criminals who are legitimately addicted to drugs, rather than placing them in jails where drugs are still a problem — if you don’t believe me, please refer to a recent incident at Stony Mountain where drugs were being thrown into the courtyard.

On another note, Canada recently received an unwelcome visitor: George W. Bush. When news of the visit began to circulate, Amnesty International (AI) began to encourage Canada to arrest the former (and less than popular) president. Since the former president’s administration used interrogation techniques such as the war crime practice of waterboarding, AI urged Canada to hold Bush responsible. As a party of the UN Convention Against Torture, Canada has a right and responsibility to prosecute those in support of torture techniques.

Nevertheless, Bush’s visit to British Columbia came and went, not only without any investigation but included a $150,000 cheque of gratitude. AI quotes Canada’s Minister for Public Safety Vic Toews as saying: “Those who have been involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity will find no haven on our shores; they will be located and they will face consequences.”

Vic Toews’s quote exposes the deep hypocrisy evident in recent Canadian politics. I have to wonder what type of supporters of war crimes Toews is waiting for? We had a blatant supporter on Canadian soil and we did nothing but give him our attention and a big cheque. Perhaps the Canadian government is waiting for a war criminal from the East to arrive, someone who committed waterboarding against North American prisoners? Maybe then the Canadian government will take action.

Last, but certainly not least, is the controversial ending of the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk. For a prime minister who seems to focus on the economy and lowering the unemployment rate in Canada, this new change might cause the rate to rise in one fell swoop. This decision could hit our own province hard. CBC News reports that Churchill, a town of just 1,000, will lose 200 jobs. Churchill MP Niki Ashton told the Globe and Mail: “We were aware of Stephen Harper’s agenda certainly in the overall sense. We didn’t know how ruthless he and his government were planning to be.”

This decision will allow the free market to work its “magic” under the invisible hand, an economic characteristic that Conservatives value greatly. Those who don’t value it? The farmers who are losing their jobs and who will not be able to sell their wheat and other products at the rate they previously were under the CWB.

These are just three of the many incidents that have dampened my spirits as of late. Those unmentioned include Harper’s dreams of tougher immigration laws and scraping the gun registry. For those of us who didn’t sign onto these right-winged policies, it is a scary time for Canada. One can only hope that our naturally inclusive and tolerant Canadian spirit will overcome the harsh, hypocritical and privatized atmosphere that is seeping into our country.

Rachel Wood is a political studies and criminology major fearful of the track her country is on.

11 Comments on "An unrecognizable Canada"

  1. Ann Ominous | November 9, 2011 at 7:53 pm |

    It’s the grand experiment, and a lot of repairs will be needed once the Reform party is ousted from government. Some things, such as the Wheat Board will be unfixable. Things such as the Reform party crime legislation are reversable, but the damage this legislation will do to young offenders cannot be readily fixed.
    Citizens of Canada are traditionally liberal in their thinking, and I believe this will be the downfall of the Harperian doctrine. Harper has a base that is still pushing the beliefs of the religious right. They are still demanding abortion be brought to the forefront. Many of his base are still keen on the elimination of the Canada Health Act. If Harper tries to deliver on these demands he will be finished. If he does not try, he once again risks splitting the right. What comes around goes around.
    I find Harper’s government very entertaining and scary all at the same time. One thing that keeps me calm about what is happening, is that besides being Canadian, I have citizenship in another more liberal country. If my preferred country Canada becomes too Orwellian, I have absolutely no reservations about leaving. In the meantime, I really do expect our federal government to implode, and I will enjoy sitting back and watching it happen.

  2. John De Pape | November 9, 2011 at 10:10 pm |

    Whenever I read a commentary like this one about the Canadian Wheat Board, I get a disturbing feeling in my stomach. It is unfortunate and frustrating to read commentaries like this that have taken for granted the diatribe from the CWB about the impact of removing the single desk of the CWB. You may not agree with the conservatives, but real evidence will tell you they are on the right track regarding the CWB. The CWB has become a huge drain on the prairie economy, fraught with poor marketing performance, burdensome costs and no accountability to anyone. The CWB estimates of increased revenue to farmers (of $500 million per year) are outrageous and based on flawed analysis. Other analysis using publicly available data indicate the CWB costs the economy close to $1 billion annually. The move to an open makret for wheat is welcomed by forward thinking farmers as they recognize that the future of the family farm (both big and small) relies on the removal of the CWB and the increased revenue and opportunities that come with it.
    Check out

  3. You are too funny!

    Tell me, when Chretien won majorities with the same percentage of the popular vote, did you question the legitimacy of the result? Of course not.

    Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!

  4. Matt Lechewsky | November 10, 2011 at 6:33 am |

    ”CWB estimates…based on flawed analysis.”

    That’s rich. This coming from a guy who spends his time comparing one-day spot prices at U.S. elevators that farmers may or may not even get to the CWB’s pool return outlook (a forecast annual average sales price) as though it’s comparing apples to apples.

    Keep up the good work debating first-year university students.

  5. Steve Paulsson | November 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm |

    Joe – where was the legitimacy of the result challenged in here? This is a lamentation of the result, not a challenge of its legitimacy.

    Besides, when Chretien won power the runners up were at least closely related ideologically (the Bloc and Progressive Conservatives) to the Liberals on most issues of public policy. Also, those three parties also used a lot of evidence in developing policy, unlike our current government.

  6. John De Pape | November 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm |

    Matt: you either have me confused with someone else or have not paid close attention to the work I do. I have never compared spot prices to the PRO – in fact, I advised some that were that it was a flawed comparison. I compare the final pool return net to a farmer to the daily prices in the US. Most years over the past ten years or so, the US farmer could sell at the lowest price of the year and still get a better return than the guy in SK or MB.

    I like to focus on efficiency – the CWB comes with a huge cost to the industry. The CWB never talks of the cost – ever wonder why?

    As for the flawed analysis, I stand by that. Further, some of them were done by “academics” that are known repeat plageurizers. Real credible. Oh yeah, and these studies never looked at costs either.

  7. It is refreshing to read an objective analysis; all to rare in this era of corporate owned media.

    I would have liked to see a mention of Mr. Harpers changing the responsibilities of Canadian citizens from lofty goals to meaningless dribble. In my opinion, he did so because under the old responsibilities he was not considered a good Canadian, under the new ones, anyone who goes to church and has a job seems to be.

  8. Thank you for bringing up the hypocritical stance of Canadian government on hosting a war criminal. This event is a huge embarrassment to our Country. We had him in our grasp! Although politically it would have probably been more appropriate to dis-invite and warn him instead. But he’s still a murderer, even according to Vincent Bugliosi (

  9. One of the most worrisome aspects of this government is their absolute and flat-out refusal to even CONSIDER dissenting view points. See Minister Ritz’s comments about how the majority result gives them absolute power to essentially do what they please : ‘Ritz said the Harper government has a mandate from western Canadian farmers to eliminate the single desk, noting the Conservatives won every rural riding in Western Canada in the May 2 election.’-LeaderPost ( When a centrist to right-leaning newspaper like the Globe and Mail worries about the effects of the CWB’s dismanteling, more discussion is obviously needed on the bill 🙁

    Even more troublesome, as some above have mentioned, is the CPC pushing through ideologies instead of good governance (see : basically every legislation introduced this year).

    Lastly, as to the legitimacy of the election win, obviously the result stands. But with it comes legitimate questions as to the structure of our electoral system, as well as concerns about the CPC’s own behaviour during the election, as refelected in today’s news of the charges against several CPC members being investigated by Elections Canada :

  10. Steve Paulsson,

    The reason I mentioned Chretien is because he was the closest to Harper’s percentage of the popular vote and the most recent example. The author clearly questions the legitimacy of the PM’s win.

    There have been only a few 50% plus majority governments in Canadian history. Our first past the post voting system virtually makes this impossible in a multi-party parliament.

  11. I just want to say I really enjoyed your article and definitely agree with what you’re saying. The Canada I was taught about in elementary school isn’t the same Canada I’m living in as a university student.

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