canadian content

a forum of thoughts and rants on what canada is (or isn't)
from the inside and out

april 98

And Have a Good One!

Milan Sablic
And Have a good one! -the man said after not letting us in the already packed Railway Club during our first months in Vancouver. Oh yeah, and you have a very good one yourself, buddy!- I almost said, pissed off, not familiar with the phrase.

There is some foreigner who wants to talk to you - we used to say, whenever an English speaking person would call us on a phone.

Let's hope they are not run out - we would joke, every time we'd stop at the gas station for some gas, quite a usual thing in the country where we came from.

My father, when he was here a few months ago, was very pleased to learn that we don't get our electricity cut off in the winter. Both of my parents were quite impressed with the fact that somebody is taking daily care of the apartment building we live in, how neat the trees and flowers in the gardens are and more than forty TV channels with nothing on.

Drivers and rain are worse than I expected, prices of alcohol and cigarettes and the music scene too, food is kind of all right, everything else is just fine.

Have a really good one.


The Two Directions of Canada's Foreign Policy

Jeremy Baillie

Under the conflicting directions of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy, Canada's Foreign Policy is seemingly trying to move in two directions at once. Prime minister Chrétien's focus is on trade and making Canada a significant partner in the global market. While the Prime Minister focus on the economic side of Canada's Foreign Policy, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy is focusing his attention on humanitarian issues such as the banning of anti-personnel landmines.

Why or how is Canada's foreign policy being pulled in two different directions? To see this we need look no further than the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference held in Vancouver in November 1997. Canada welcomed with open arms President Suharto of Indonesia. The Suharto Government is responsible for what amounts to ongoing cultural genocide in East Timor.

For some readers, some background on East Timor might be necessary. East Timor is a tiny island which lies just north of Australia. East Timor was a colony of Portugal up until 1975 when it finally recognized the right of the East Timorese People to self determination. On December 7, 1975 Indonesia invaded East Timor. Almost immediately the United Nations Security Council demanded the withdrawal of Indonesian military forces from East Timor. The U.N. Security Council repeated their demand againin April 1976 and continued to do so right up until 1983. Frequent calls for the Indonesian military forces to vacate East Timor have been made up to the present day.

So what does this have to do with Canada? On votes taken by the U.N. General Assembly on East Timor Canada has repeatedly abstained. The reason being Canada has strong ties with the Suharto government in Indonesia. Many Canadian companies operate subsidiaries in Indonesia. One must stop and consider the fact that Indonesia is (perhaps this will change with the recent Asian financial crisis) one of the fastest growing and largest economies in the world and currently ranks as the world's 11th largest economy. Indonesia's people represent an excellent market for Canadian made products. In the global economy Indonesia possesses an educated work force, but more importantly they possess a workforce that will work for substantially less than a Canadian worker.

Canada therefore sees an advantaage in ignoring the issue of East Timor. However, it seems our government is going well beyond merely ignoring East Timor. During the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference held this past November in Vancouver, Canada not only invited Indonesian President Suharto, but also gave him an award.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy has been campaigning hard getting countries to sign on to the world wide ban of the manufacture and export of anit-personnel landmines. By no means is the issue of banning the use of anti-personnel landmines not a worthwhile goal for Canada and other nations to pursue. However, one has to ask why Canada will on one hand seek to ban a weapon of destruction while giving an award to a man who is perpetuating cultural genocide.

Surprisingly, the answer to the above question is quite simple. If Canada fought for the removal of Indonesian forces from the island of East Timor it would hurt Canadian companies. Suharto would assuredly work to make it difficult for Canadian companies to do business in Indonesia. If Canadian companies are hurt economically it hurts politicians or more importantly governments in power. Canadian companies are like American companies, they remember which politicians and/or governments helped them and which did not come election time. Therefore, it simply is too risky politically for Canada to take a strong moral stance on the issue of East Timor.

However, it is within Canada's ability to take a strong moral stance on the issue of landmines. The banning of anit-personnel landmines is a goal the Canadian government can work toward without hurting itself politically. It is easy for a nation such as Canada to spearhead a movement to ban anti-personnel landmines. We have no major enemies along our borders and we face no threat of immediate invasion. Paul Koring quotes Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer in the September 13, 1997 Globe and Mail saying, "for countries [such as Canada] surrounded by friends, sheltered by allies and facing no serious possibility of war...a landmine ban is costless and a lovely opportunity for moral display".

As well, as the Globe and Mail points out, "a negotiated ban on anti-personnel landmines would be the Liberal government's biggest diplomatic triumph since coming into office in 1993 [with some insiders] hoping it will restore credibility to a trade-driven foreign policy that has relegated Canadian concern for human rights and humanitarian assistance to the back burner.

With an estimated 110 million landmines buried throughout the world that maim or kill approximately 70 people a day, pursuing a goal of eliminating the production and use of anti-personnel landmines is without a doubt a goal well worth pursuing. Canada is trying to have its cake (trade) and eat it too (banning landmines). The Canadian government must examine its foreign policy and decide its one direction instead of working against itself by pursuing two very different goals.


Minimum Wage Workers Are Humans Too?

Chris Blank
After having worked many minimum wage jobs I have concluded that the workers of those jobs do not qualify for human rights. If you've worked one, I'm sure you can recall the times when you felt really lousy about yourself. And who did you have to thank for that? The Management? Often. The Customer? Almost always.

Watch the interaction between customer and worker next time you're waiting in line. Often you've got some terrified sixteen year old serving some crab-ass who feels that because the world has dealt them a few bad cards that they should thus make everyone else miserable. Yeah, O.K., thanks for coming out.

These obnoxious people should line up and buy guns and permanently discount themselves, so that we of the minimum wage will no longer have management scream at us for not fullfilling the every whim of the beloved customer. Of course there are a few managers who understand the problem with customers, and it's usually managers who were mere lower workers themselves not so long ago. And, it can't be forgotten, there actually are a few wonderful customers out there. Some people understand what it's like to make a living doing something you hate, so they try to cheer you up. These are the customers that make work worth returning to.

A lot of the problems have come from that monstrous policy that "the Customer is always right." My ass they are. There have been tons of instances when customers have tried to pull scams or have been outright wrong, and every other worker saw this too. Sometimes even other customers have intervened and told the other customer to shut-up (this is rare, but much like watching a street brawl about to erupt).

I recall recently applying for a job at Overwaitea (a major grocery store chain in British Columbia) where they put that Customer mantra before me, and demanded to know whether or not I agreed with it. Actually, Overwaitea has stopped letting you come in and drop off your resume. What you have to do is call a number which a computer then asks you a bunch of questions that you answer by pressing one or two on the key pad. Needless to say I didn't get the job. I pressed that I didn't think the customer was always right, hoping I would get a chance to justify my claim. No dice. Nice system, Overwaitea. Maybe next you'll replace your workers with robots, and your produce won't just be covered with wax but will instead BE wax.

Overall, it appears that even the best of us forget out manners at times. I've been with co-workers and have had to witness as they treat some anonymous minimum wage sluggo just like us like crap. As soon as many of us drop the apron or take off our designer uniform (by people who live in a fashion black hole), we forget what it's like to blow eight hours or more a day on a job you hate. mostly because the customers are swine who want to crucify you because their poodles hair didn't come out right at the groomer's.


Canada Sucks

Chris Blank
Everytime I turn around it seems another group of workers has gotten pissed off and decided to go on strike, walk out, or whatever else it is organized workers can do to get attention. And not only is it just any old group of workers; it is the employees of our good old government who appear to find no end to their woes.

Firstly (not really, but first in recent memory) there were the city-workers in Vancouver, B.C. who decided to no longer do garbage pick-up. To be honest I can't recall the details of this, other than I was glad I wasn't living in Vancouver at the time. The other thing is remember was wondering what it would be like if other groups decided to strike. My worst fears were, of course, played out over the course of the following year or so.

It continued in the fall of 1997 with the Ontario teachers, who were getting their preparation time cut. Knowing several teachers, I understand how crucial this time is to them. If they don't have a few minutes during the day, then they'll be at school working until five or six, and then taking more work home. Actually, many of them do this anyways, and their preparation time helps put a dent in this "extra" work. Both sides buckled in this instance, making concessions they could momentarily live with.

Next came the big postal dispute. Key-rist. What a huge pain in the neck for all of Canada. What was it this time? If memory serves correctly it was because workers were being cut, and the remaining ones would have to deliver more mail. Instead, the workers wanted more money. In order to try and force the government into giving in to their demands they decided to walk off the job before christmas. Good timing, one would have thought. Unfortunately the government wouldn't break. Instead, they caused the general public to become unsympathetic to the postal workers FAST. Just when postal popularity polls couldn't afford to get any lower, Canada knocks them down. I don't recall how this one was resolved...I think it was the government forcing the workers back on the job with the threat of legal action or something.

Now we have the doctors getting fed up for not being paid for their "on-call" time. The medical professionals say they aren't being paid enough to be at the bedside of the ailing public 24hrs a day (of course this is primarily in isolated communities where there are few doctors servicing many people). One question I do have, though, is in regards to how much doctors in these areas are pulling in a year. Then again, I may be another disillusioned victim of television. Perhaps it's only those privatized American doctors which make the big money. At any rate, the doctors began reducing their availability to make up for this on-call non-payment time. And once again it seems like the government wants to wait for the general public to get fired up and yelling at the doctors. Why do I say this? Well, because our esteemed Health Minister Penny Priddy is off sitting on her tush or something in sunny Mexico- instead of getting her buns back home to deal with a crisis situation. What exactly does her job description entail, anyways? Apparently it doesn't cover job disputes.

Whose next? With layoffs in many sectors it seems the government is covering itself. No workers, no problems. The Canadian government has been slow or pathetic in it's dealings with labour disputes over the past year or so. It's as though they cut the budget all around just so they could balance it. And then when we are red-faced, yelling, frothing at the mouth they oh-so kindly stabalize education funding. Sure, this will make us all forget the problems that have went on. We will be so ecstatic from this mouldy mana that we will forget who caused education to require stabalization in the first place (In reality, though, the government's actions make many of us want our stomach's pumped).

To the Canadian government I say this- you're damned lucky your employees haven't learned how to make Molotov cocktails (aptly named after the Russian commissar of foreign affairs 1939-49) or bring guns to work like their southern counterparts. Then government workers might actually get the government's attention.


what the hell?!

on feb 5/98 it was announced that a 65 year old man had contacted Bell Canada and informed them that he was going to kill p.m. jean chretien with an explosive device. he was tracked and arrested by police.

the news report on the subject abruptly ended here.

however, had this been a threat against bill clinton, we would still be hearing about it. first there would have been the exposè. the report on the psychology of the criminal would have been given. we would have had to sit through repeat after repeat of the glorious, overhyped video-arrest. we would have seen the courtroom drama, the lawyers as characters in melodrama. the criminal as a pawn of the news/entertainment industry.

then again, perhaps the small mention is due to the fact that it's not every day that someone tries to kill our prime minister.

only in america is that an unmentioned everday occurance.

let me ask a really stupid question...why do we get income tax back? if the point of it is so that the government can help keep us two- tier health system free, and attempt to keep up our other social programs, then why do they only want this "interest free loan?" doesn't it seem odd that they take our money to keep the country running, but then give an enormous sum of money back at the end of the tax year? i wonder how other highly taxed countries run this system. and we wonder why the government is always in the red...

gun-toting orca drunk beaver? now what do these two images say about the way we view animals? left is one of the many athletic orca mascots from the XV commonwealth games (image taken from a sugar packet), brandishing a firearm. he looks rather psychotic if you ask me. and the other is a liquor store campaign utilizing our friend mr. beaver as a mascot telling us that b.c. liquor stores are #1, eh (image borrowed from a liquor store bag). he is attacking our nationalistic sensibilities in order to entice us consume more liquor. if our mascots don't shoot us, they'll drive us to drink. lovely

anyone check out the 1998 arctic winter games? these are amazing, with events like the knuckle jump (it's like pushups- only you have to move down the floor), and many others which displayed a greater sense of sportsmanship than i've ever seen elsewhere. competitors were from tyumen, greenland, magadan, alaska, nwt, yukon, and alberta. this was the first year i even realized these exist, but wow are they fun to watch. after the recent nagano games i thought i was a little olympic-ed out, tired of the sponsors and the politics. but the arctic games test more than the competitors physical abilities; the games show how important community is for isolated areas. if you missed them, catch them next time round for sure.



name: Jacqueline

age: 18

birthplace: Vanderhoof, B.C.

siblings? where were they born? My oldest brother was born in Aden, Yemen; the next was born on a military base in Germany, close to the Belgian border. They've never lived in Canada; my 3rd brother, younger sister, and myself were all born in Canada.

where have you lived?

describe any interesting political situations you've lived under: Until this year, Guyana was torn by factions (low key civil war). However, while I was there at the time of some violence, I was very young and have no recollections of it affecting me.

how old were you when you left canada? I was three when we left Canada for a year abroad and almost five when we returned.

what were your childhood perceptions of Canada? perhaps because my parents were British nationalists, I was raised with a terribly negative attitude towards Canada- Canadians in general seemed slow and dull.

what do you like about canada as opposed to other places you've lived? I love the space in Canada; in both Europe and semi-tropical countries, everything is cramped but here here we have big mountains, big skies, big waters and so much breathing room. Unfortunately, my opinion of Canadians has not changed- they are, on the whole, a disinterested and apathetic bunch.

what's your general world view? I haven't got one, I've yet to visit the whole world; anyways, I'm a Canadian!

what brand of beer/spirits do you drink? When I drink beer it'll be Guiness, but I'm a red wine, rum, kahlua kinda girl

what languages do you speak? French (but it's getting rusty from disuse), a working command of Spanish and Flemish (like "feed me" and "where is the bathroom?"). I can passably read Latin, although I've never tackled any real material.

admired political figure? I admire Tony Blair, but Mikhail Gorbachev is my hero

have you ever been fishing? I have been fishing (according to family photos) but I was young and I can't recall

what do you think about canadian sports? Absolutely pathetic- half the money invested by the gov't goes to bureaucrats, we have many talented atheletes who can't go anywhere due to lack of support, it isn't promoted by the gov't which is why there are so many fat children around, and hockey as a national sport is all wrong because these people are making outrageous sums of money to go out there and brawl with each other.

do you talk to yourself? Yes, I talk to myself

where would you most like to be right now? If I could go anywhere right now, I'd stay right here. I'm feeling kinda happy at the moment.

where do you place yourself on the political spectrum- right, left, or centre? I would have to say that I'm leaning to the left

what sports have you played? would you like to give hockey a go? I have no interest in hockey, but I played field hockey for 5yrs (it's closer to soccer than ice hockey), I play competitive squash and tennis, and I cycle for fun.

do you believe in god? I believe in something but 'god' isn't really the correct word. Religion in Canada is lacking but it isn't for me to say whether or not that is a good thing. I don't attend church service anymore, although I love churches and their atmospheres; I'll sometimes pop in to one on my own

what canadian/world personality would you most like to be? I don't want to be anyone but myself

any opinions on euthanasia? Should be allowed- death is a difficult thing, it would be easier if people knew that they could die peacefully, and painlessly at home amongst the people they love

the death penalty? I'm of two minds about this one...

what is your favourite book/film? my favourite movie is Dead Again (Kenneth Branagh), and book is... I dunno, there are a million

how socially active are you? is there a need to be? I'm not very socially active and I have no desire to be


use a government agent

each issue we are going to examine what exactly it is those people in the mysterious blue pages of the telephone book do.

this month let's take a look at...
what they'll do for you is help you find info (or at least tell you where to look), and they carry up to date monthly statistics (on things that change often) over the phone. there is a number-punch system in which you can find out (severely outdated) stats on religion and other things.

i specifically asked her about statistics on alcohol and substance abuse in canada, and here's what they told me to check:
portrait of families in canada-on child abuse
canada's alcohol and other drugs survey- 1994
health status of canadians- 1994
alcohol and drug consumption amongst canadian youth in the stats can journal called canadian social trends (august 1992) . as well check out alcohol use and consequences in canadian social trends (autumn 95, and summer 94)

the lady there was super helpful and friendly, and this service was not at all what i was expecting. so use a government agent today

statistics canada: 1-800-263-1136
oh, and what did this research tell me? sorry, couldn't check it up since i live in an area where i don't have access to these resources. damn.


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canadian content thanks all contributors, but would especially like to thank whoever saved society from the mad orca.