Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Mexican Rights Violated by Canada in Free Trade’s Name

Mexican rights violated in free trade’s name
Published September 3rd, 2007 in Opinion

In mid-August, I spent several days in a small vacation town called Montebello, located between Ottawa and Montreal. In this town on the historic Ottawa River is a resort complex owned by a prominent hotel chain.

The heads of state from Canada, the United States and Mexico were there meeting on August 21 and 22 with an array of the most powerful businessmen and industrialists from North America.

In the town of Montebello itself, along with me and several other Laurier students, were almost 1500 protesters opposed to the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) meetings that were happening on the grounds.

None of us ever got to see the great Canadian landmark that is the Chateau Montebello. Standing between us and the meetings were hundreds of police in full riot gear and three-meter fences, with hundreds more police inside, along with Canadian and American military security and (allegedly) a small contingent of American private security forces.

I could talk about how the police fired tear gas and pepper spray, used tazers on protesters, fired rubber bullets into the crowd or how they had provocateurs planted in the crowd. I could talk about how the SPP signals, to me, the American dream of Manifest Destiny coming to fruition and poses a serious threat to Canadian sovereignty.

I could also talk about how the SPP process is inherently undemocratic, having zero public consultation from civil society, such as unions, indigenous groups, academia and provincial governments, and will never even be debated in the House of Commons.

I could talk about bulk water exports, militarization of the border, the planned fivefold increase in tar sands production, integration into the American wars on drugs and terror and integration of regulatory policies on issues ranging from the environment to healthcare.

But I don’t want to talk about any of those things. All of the above are Canadian issues that have been addressed by national press. It is everyone’s responsibility to be informed and push to be heard and represented in the Federal government regarding those issues.

What I do want to talk about is how the SPP is going to drastically affect already egregious human rights violations faced by the peoples of Mexico, and how those rights are being trampled upon for the economic benefit of a small group of elite corporate and political interests.

The SPP is the deep integration of continental security and free trade. But, as a banner at the protest in Montebello asserted, “security is not [the same thing as] justice”, especially when free trade – not fair trade – is being held up as a virtue.

In southern Mexico, on the day NAFTA was kicked into gear, the indigenous Zapatista army rose up against neo-liberal economic expansion into their territory.

The Mexican constitution was undone by NAFTA, privatizing lands guaranteed to the indigenous Mayan peoples. More than 10 years later, as the Zapatista insurgency continues, the SPP is about to privatize the Mexican National Oil Company.

We can be assured that the security component will mean an increase in the violation of the human rights of the indigenous peoples of Southern Mexico.

The plight of the peoples of Northern Mexico is no less serious. Their rights are about to become even more marginalized by economic interests.

In fact, it is Canada’s utterly broken migrant worker program that is, incredibly, being used as a model for the new increased Mexican migrant worker programs. In brief, they are designed to import highly exploitable Mexican labour and the system is prone to extremely high rates of human rights violations. They have many mechanisms built in that prevent reporting of those incidents; for example, a worker can be deported for filing a complaint against his employer.

Furthermore, the workers themselves are often the very same people who have been displaced from their own lands and jobs by the conditions of free trade agreements. The SPP plans to drastically increase migrant worker programs instead of paying Canadian citizens decent living wages to do those same jobs.

These are just two of the many ways the SPP will affect the human rights of Mexicans. In Canada, it will also contribute to the ongoing human rights violations being perpetuated against Canada’s First Nations, to increased marginalization of the rights of all workers and to increased violations against Muslims as Canada becomes integrated with the American war on terror.

It will also result in the drastic curtailment of the civil liberties and rights of all Canadians, as American-style security will become a major feature of Canadian life after the deep integration called for by the SPP occurs.

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