Beaver Devoured by Canada's New National Animal, the Snake
Compelled by a strange feeling of responsibility to manufacture one of those generic end of/beginning of the year articles, I recalled a memory from my childhood. Thumbing through a geography textbook as a young mushroom-haired boy, probably wearing either a Spiderman jumpsuit or an entire Toronto Blue Jays uniform, I found a cartoon that was comparing the size of Canada with Russia. Russia, represented as a grinning bear in a fez cap, was much larger than Canada, which was depicted as a beaver holding a hockey stick. In my approximately seven year old brain, these images didn't demand much scrutiny beyond wondering what the bear thought was so funny. After all, what's laughable about a beaver? Nothing, that's what.
The beaver is a builder, a herbivore, an aquatic genius, a noble beast with work ethic that can make hot-blooded Protestants feel fancy. Indeed, the beaver is a majestic creature, an animal that deserves better than to be sullied as Canada's national creature. A suggestion: re-illustrate our geography books to include a species that actually reflects Canada's behaviour domestically and internationally. I think some variety of snake is more fitting. Unlike beavers, snakes do not have legs, movable eyelids, external ear-openings, or eardrums, just like many of the government officials and corporations that represent us here and abroad. Therefore, considering the troubled eggs our dry-eyed, legless, and hard of hearing Canadian elites have been laying all over the planet this year, I don't believe it's fair to ridicule the beaver any longer as Canada's national creature.
For a start, the Harper Government's embarrassing tar sands approved performance at the Copenhagen Climate Summit is already well documented. Even if our government is confused by science and unwilling to take an ambitious step towards saving our species, at least we won a record six fossil of the day awards!
The iconic Canadian beaver took another hit from the wrong when Richard Colvin, a former senior diplomat in Canada's war in Afghanistan, alleged that the Canadian military has been knowingly handing over prisoners to be tortured by Afghan forces. Either not knowing what all the fuss was about, or not wanting to reveal the Conservative Government's role in this miserable situation, Defense Minster Peter Mackay rejected calls for an independent public inquiry into the torture allegations. Later on, in an extreme act of un-beaverness, Stephen Harper took his ball and ran home, again, calling his second parliamentary prorogue since becoming Prime Minister. We can understandably assume that Steve is opting to work on more Beatles covers in preparation for a potential spring election rather than facing inconvenient questions about his role in torturing Afghans.
I feel it's a good time to point out that unlike our restful Conservative parliamentarians, there is no ancient political mechanism like prorogation in the beaver's natural environment. On the contrary, beaver's are known to work very hard, often from dusk till dawn feverishly gathering twigs and logs to improve the quality of their dams.
Steve Harper also made a remarkable trip to India in search of a new market for the beleaguered Canadian nuclear industry. Our Prime Minister was trying to peddle aged CANDU reactor technology – technology that can no longer meet Canadian safety regulations – onto the Indian power grid. I guess we have to do something with all of those reactor parts that aren't safe enough for us, and why not give them to one of the most populated countries in the world? It is, before all, a big market.
An issue a beaver may also have considered is that, 35 years ago, India used Canada's nuclear technology to create a nuclear bomb. Back then, Canada sold the technology to India under the pretense of energy needs, and before Steve Harper's government came into power, the relationship between Canada and India was very strained as a result of India developing the bomb. Some countries, like Australia, whose national animal is the kangaroo, are not selling India nuclear technology because of concerns that India has still refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. If India were to sign on to this treaty it would be at least a symbolic gesture saying 'okay, we won't make that many more nuclear bombs'.
Then again, as the Globe and Mail reported on November 28th, the Indian nuclear market is going to be worth $25-50 billion in business opportunities over the next 20 years. In other words, far too tempting a buffet to worry about the possibilities of food poisoning and obesity.
In other snake-like activity, Canada's mining and gas companies continue to spit strife, unchecked by our government, virtually everywhere they operate. It was, for example, a pretty standard year of operations for Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration Limited. That is to say, the Canadian company managed to generate all of the dramatics of a stereotypical American soap-opera without that cozy distance one is afforded by eating chocolate and watching beautiful people sleep-with and murder each other on television.
In the beginning of December, Mexican police arrested three men, all current or former employees of Blackfire in connection with the November 27th murder of anti-mining activist Mariano Abarca Roblero. Roblero had publicly opposed Blackfire's barite mine in the city of Chicomuselo.
A few days later, Globe and Mail reporter Andy Hoffman broke the story that Blackfire is attempting to impeach the mayor of Chicomuselo for asking for too much money to “prevent locals for vandalizing or protesting against [the] mine”. In the impeachment documents attained by the newspaper, it was revealed that Blackfire gave close to $18 000 to mayor Julio Cesar Velazquez Calderon, but declined to organize plane tickets and a 'sexual evening' with a Spanish television star for the sexually frustrated mayor. Those requests were apparently too corrupt for the company to meet and they promptly began legal proceedings to have Calderon impeached.
Oh, and in the same month, this site, already linked to the murder of Abarca and political corruption was shut down by Mexican authorities for environmental violations. These violations included high-levels of pollution and toxic emissions.
That's a surprising series of events even for a soap opera, but the timing of these incidents couldn't be worse for any large Canadian mining outfit. Bill C-300, legislation aimed at holding Canadian resource companies accountable to international human rights and environmental standards back home, was being reviewed by parliament. Despite every Conservative party member voting against the Bill, the mining accountability act is still progressing through parliament. If passed, the bill would give the legal impetus to try Blackfire in Canadian courts for their practices abroad.
After this year's performance, highlighted by an irresponsible nuclear trade pact with India, efforts to not hold companies like Blackfire accountable for their crimes, a truly bed-wetting performance at the Copenhagen Climate summit, and a refusal to be accountable on Afghan torture allegations, the Prince of Prorogue Steve Harper will have a lot to answer for when he returns to parliament on March 3rd. Going forward, while we must force our government to do better, we should also consider letting the beaver off the hook. That lovely little guy deserves better than our country's efforts this past year.