The re-colonization of Canada

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, April 2012

Government and business interests are selling our country and its resources to the Chinese.

NORMALLY I'M QUITE AN OPTIMISTIC PERSON but this year it seems harder than usual to come out from under the winter. I can’t blame it on the weather, though the marathons of dreary days did add a certain weight. No, the bigger bleakness comes from what feels like a steady stream of news that points to a country and society—namely ours—on the downswing.

First, there’s the whole Enbridge Northern Gateway issue, a pipeline project that the Harper government seems hell-bent on boring through British Columbia despite the rising opposition of the Canadian public including the thousands who live up and down the proposed pipeline route. The issue is complex enough all by itself, but throw in the punitive way Ottawa relates to us these days and the disturbing revelation that our oil industry belongs more to China than to us, and feel the claustrophobia begin to rise.

High up in the Canadian Arctic another piece of us is being hollowed out. The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Lab (PEARL) is one of only three stations in the world that monitor atmospheric activities around the North Pole. Its data are vital to the ongoing development of reliable climate models but the Harper government is closing it down anyway. Seems we either don’t need that information anymore or will add it to the many tasks we outsource.  

Meanwhile, the robocall scandal is ripping wide open as I write. In a sacrosanct democracy such as ours, which routinely sends people to other nations to scrutinize the fairness of their election proceedings, you would think that we’d be one voice in demanding a thorough investigation into our own alleged voting irregularities. But that’s not been the case. Instead, we—politicians and ordinary citizens alike—have rushed to entrench ourselves along partisan lines, to the point where parliament has become a lamentable fish market of carps and red herrings, and the bloggers among us write as if political stripe is some God-given religion to be assessed from only the narrowest of parameters. And so the real issues, the ones pertaining to honesty, fairness and the running of the country, lie mired beneath the wheels of bellicose bias.

Democracy can be cumbersome but the Chinese government does not have this burden. As a result, it has accomplished much around the world in the last decade or so, cultivating the agriculture and energy resources it will need as the next top superpower. We’re an important rung on its ladder. Not only has it insinuated itself nicely beneath our topography, it’s also started buying farmland in Ontario, a development that’s largely going under our radar.

We also remain unbothered by the fact that most of what we own was made in China. We’re not curious as to why they can make it and get it here for less than we could produce it at home. We’re not alarmed that a junket of politicians including our prime minister recently went to China looking for still more deals to keep foreign dollars coming in. We don’t see that our mute reliance on such large-scale outsourcing—in tandem with costly domestic bickering and partisan pettiness—will inevitably undermine our own economic, social and political autonomy.

How far can this go and how will it end?

Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping dropped a clue when he addressed a trade conference in Los Angeles last February: “A prosperous and stable China will not be a threat to any country. It will only be a positive force for world peace and development.”

Threat? An assurance out of nowhere that we have nothing to fear carries in itself the whiff of a threat. Did Xi imply that we’ll be okay as long as we keep China “prosperous and stable” by way of our milquetoast policies and acquiescence? That we’ll keep shipping our oil and logs and chunks of ore while saying, “Make something of this and we’ll buy it back,” even if we suddenly were to see our mountains and forests and pristine waterways in an entirely new light?

A few years ago a Kenyan told me that his country’s highways were all being built by China. “We can’t seem to do anything for ourselves anymore,” he said sadly. Nor can we, I couldn’t help thinking.

If the pipeline goes through and the tankers begin plying our coastal waters, we’ll have come full circle in the history of us. We’ll be a colony again, this time for the mighty and insatiable China. We’ll load up their boats with whatever they want. Should they start fancying beaver pelts, I’m sure we can fetch those for them too.

Writer Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic’s books include People in Transition: Reflections on Becoming Canadian, Ernie Coombs: Mr Dressup, and Pier 21: The Gateway that Changed Canada. She cherishes and safeguards every Canadian-made article she owns.