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Stand up, says Maude Barlow

In town to promote her latest book, prominent social activist Maude Barlow says the U.S. is an imminent threat to Canadian way of life.

Council of Canadians chair says Whistler, Canada, needs to reject Bush-style politics


By Vivian Moreau

Canadians need to be more than wary of the United States’ “fortressing” of North America — they need to get angry, says one of Canada’s most prominent social justice advocates.

Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, in Whistler Sept. 14, said Canada is in real danger of being integrated into America’s geopolitical matrix and of losing control over its resources and social infrastructure. Thousands of militia along the Canadian-American border, a common passport, and reduced water consumption to accommodate America’s demands could soon be realities, Barlow said.

Citing U.S. policies of abandoning precautionary principles in favour of increasing voluntary corporate codes of conduct, Barlow said Canada runs the risk of being sucked into (U.S. President) Bush-style risk assessment political governance that ignores the needs of ordinary people in favour of corporate profits.

“Canadians need to take a different approach than the U.S.,” Barlow said, in order to protect its health-care system and resources. The U.S. is looking for political acquiescence from Canada on issues of defense, on incorporating homeland security policies and building security perimeters as it tries to remake North America into one sector, she said.

Barlow was in Whistler to promote her 15th book, Too Close For Comfort: Canada’s Future Within Fortress North America (McClelland & Stewart, 2006) . Speaking to a crowd of about 50 at Maurice Young Millennium Place, Barlow offered the joke of two cows in a pasture as an analogy for social inaction: One cow rebukes the other for reading cautionary tales, the most recent being Where beef really comes from.

Raised within a socially aware family Barlow said she learned with her “oatmeal in the morning” that the privilege of living within our society means that you should give something back. She said that Whistler’s thumbs down to a public private partnership for the wastewater treatment plant upgrade this spring was noted across the country and encouraged locals to continue the momentum.

“What are you waiting for to take action? Do you want to wait until water from the tap turns green?”

Barlow fielded questions from the audience. Responding to a question of complacency from resident Nick Davies, Barlow said that Canadians haven’t suffered as Third-World countries have but speculated that Canada’s continuing participation in Afghanistan “will bring out much more passion.”

Noting that being the squeaky wheel doesn’t always make for the smoothest path in life, Barlow recalled a close-to-home anecdote. Fretting over personal critiques that go with being a social activist, her mother told her “serious people have serious enemies.”

Now a grandmother, Barlow said Canadians need to speak up if we don’t want our health care system to disappear within our lifetimes or if we don’t want to have to cut back on water consumption to accommodate America’s thirst. “You have to decide to be respected rather than liked,” she said.