Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Platform: Sovereignty

Sovereignty has always been a hot button issue in Canada. Confederation happened largely as a response to threatened US aggression and it has frequently been said that the only thing Canadians can tell you about what being Canadian means is 'not American'. One of Stephen Harper's big issues has been Arctic sovereignty and fears have emerged among many about what pacts like Nafta and the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) will mean for Canadian Sovereignty.

These are all large and complex issues and none of them will be solved quickly or easily. The arctic, for example, is under claim by a number of issues and still others are calling it 'international water'. No one is going to get everything they want on this. It is going to take more than military shows and the planting of flags. The issue will not be settled with weapons. It will take a United Nations settlement and we can only hope that whatever happens that the indigenous people of the North are treated fairly and that irreparable environmental harm isn't done in the rush for resources. Whatever is decided about the division of the Arctic it will never be 'home' to anyone but those who have called it that for a thousand years or more.

On issues such as NAFTA and the SPP it is not that anything terrible or threatening to sovereignty has happened to date. It is more the possibilities left open by some of the language that is scary. Equally scary are some of the opponents of globalization, NAFTA and the SPP. I had conversations with some of them during the last election that made the most right wing of Harper's conservatives seem calm and reasonable. Many of them were quick to judgement, name calling and threats at the merest hint that you weren't 100% behind their platform which relies heavily on a complex web of conspiracy theories involving hundreds of people in dozens of countries.

My politics may not be status quo, I may be independent minded by I am neither a radical nor a revolutionary. It should also be noted that Canada is not a country of radicals or revolutionaries. This, I think, is what the Canadian Action Party and at times the NDP fail to understand. Most Canadians, on a day to day basis, don't pay much attention to politics. Even most of those who vote do not delve deeply into issues. In general I would say that most are good people, who believe in slow progress and swift action only in an obvious crisis. They are not, by any means, on the verge of taking up arms to overthrow (as Phillyist puts it) "the Knights Templar, the Illuminati, the Masons, or the Loyal Order of the Water Buffalo,"

Having vented adequately on that, what I would do on the issue of international agreements is this:

1) Pass a law that essentially says that Canadian law trumps international agreements. So if Canada signs, for example, the international treaty on land mines and simultaneously bans land mines - excellent! But if an international court says that Canada must change it's environmental laws because of a subsection of a trade agreement the Canadian government of the day should refuse and possibly, if necessary, withdraw from that agreement.

2) Pass a law that says that foreign soldiers or police may not pass onto Canadian land under arms. That means that if police or soldiers cross Canada's borders they must do so without weapons. If an American ship refuels in Halifax that's fine, but it's soldiers cannot disembark with weapons.

I think having these things in place would ease most reasonable people's fears about the international agreements that Canada takes part in. I said this was a complicated topic and I'll touch on it again when I post on gun control, the First Nations and Quebec.

My Platform: Introduction
My Platform: Arts and Culture
My Platform: Poverty
My Platform: Business and Industry
My Platform: Crime
My Platform: Carbon Tax
My Platform: Labour and Workplace Reform
My Platform: Electoral and Ethics Reform
My Platform: Education


Downes said...

> Pass a law that essentially says that Canadian law trumps international agreements.

This is already the case. No international treaty is ever binding until Parliament passes (and the GG signs) "enabling legislation".

Dwight Williams said...

Not everyone may be aware of this particular detail. Not all of us studied social sciences in school, and not all of us who did paid proper attention.

Justin Beach said...

Under NAFTA trade disputes can be sent to a special multi-national court. That court can can declare an 'unfair trade advantage' and order Canada to change its laws or impose penalties and fines - so in that case Canadian law is subjugated to non-Canadian courts.

While Parliament passed the "enabling legislation" on NAFTA they did so without being able to foresee what that could mean for Canadian domestic law and many people see this as a threat to Canadian sovereignty.

I would make it a matter of law that Canadian law trumped international agreements.