About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Oh, The (Cost of) Humanity

The more Don Cherry talks about politics, the more I wish he'd stick to being wrong and pig-headed about hockey.
The flannel-clad commentator took to his often misused Twitter account yesterday to talk about Canada's commitment to Haiti. "You know, I am one of those guys, like most people in Canada, we like to help the countries all over the world. But sometimes it makes you wonder," he tweeted. "Maybe it’s just me. But Canada gave Haiti 49.5 million dollars last year. Are we nuts?"
"We’ve got a guy dying in Toronto waiting 3 hours for an ambulance," he continued, "We got people waiting 7, 8, 10 hours, if they’re lucky, in a waiting room with one doctor for a zillion people.
“We nickel and dime our doctors, nurses and veterans plus a million other services. Yet we can send almost 50 million to Haiti.”
He's not, necessarily, wrong. There are problems within our own system, but at the same time it seems that for all the money, things aren't getting any better in Haiti. At least that's the perception. The perception is that money equals progress, shower enough money down on a problem and it fixes itself, and if it doesn't fix itself, we're either not spending enough money, or we're spending too much to be effective. Of course, if that were wholly true, parts of the Gulf Coast wouldn't still be a mess more than seven years after Katrina.
But Cherry's comments are part of an overall disturbing trend I've noted since the economy went into the tank in 2008. I call it the End of Compassion, a state of being in which one should be grateful for what they have, even if what they have is minuscule as compared to what others have. For example, if you have a job working at Wal-Mart, you should be grateful to be employed at a low-paying job in the face of the fact that so many others have no job at all, let alone the fact that you have to get up at 3 am on a holiday weekend to work a minimum 10 hour shift. That was the most common response to many Wal-Mart employees organizing protests against such treatment over the American Thanksgiving weekend last fall.
This sort of thinking has come to the forefront in our own nation with the recent "Idle No More" protests and the hunger strike of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. Any online coverage of these protests and political actions is tamed by a comments section that includes the questioning of why Canada's First Nations deserve more funding or federal support since they give nothing back to the country economically. Laying aside the fact that the land we're so eager to dig up and extract precious materials that will make a select few wealthy was literally stolen from them, is there no social imperative to help an ethnic group that basically lives in Third World conditions, in places most people want nothing to do with, right here within our own borders?
But to go back to Haiti, which International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino has promised no new funding till a top level review of the current funding has been done. Fantino told the Montreal paper La Presse that he was disappointed in the apparent lack of progress in post-earthquake Haiti that Canada's billion dollars has bought. Haiti's Economic Minister Marie Carmelle Jean-Marie argues that most of the Canada International Development Agency's money goes to Canadian firms operating in Haiti rather than the Haitians themselves, but such rare commentary to the press by the normally question shy Fantino suggests this is more about overarching government policy than the limited example of Haiti.
Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe echoed that sentiment in an interview following the announcement telling the Toronto Star. "For any future co-operation, when it’s decided to resume, we will ask the Canadian government to focus on the priorities of the Haitian government," he said by telephone from Port-au-Prince.
“Basically, the development assistance, because of the perceived weakness of Haitian institutions, was routed directly to NGOs (non-government organizations) and Canadian firms...
“That weakened our institutions.”
But Fantino and CIDA are standing firm. In a statement posted to the CIDA website today, Fantino added that, "Canada’s assistance will not be a blank cheque."
Again, the principle's sound, everyone should be able to stand on their own two feet and Canada can't subsidize other countries forever, but if the last couple of years should have taught us anything it's that people can do the right thing, work hard their whole lives and pay their fair share, and still have the rug pulled out from under them. At times like those, the ones with the most should be willing and prepared to help and not put penny-pinching first because they don't see the type of progress that they think there should be. Julian Fantino, and I guess Don Cherry, disagree.

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