Language Politics

Canada is being shaken to its foundations. I'm glad.

As someone whose Franco-Ontarian ancestors tilled the soil of Lafontaine and Penetanguishene (which is Ojibway for "land of the white rolling sands"); as someone with an Ojibway brother-in-law; as someone who has fallen in love with the "enemy" (anglophone women); and finally, as some one for whom the single most beautiful aspect of all the large cities in Canada and in the world is the rich ethnic rainbow, I make the following proposals:

  1. That the French, English and aboriginal peoples be officially declared equal founding peoples of Canada and distinct nations.
  2. That whatever native language is spoken in a particular part of Canada be considered one of the official languages in that area and that resources be made available to make this a viable reality both for native people and for those who would want to learn the language.
  3. That French be the official language of Quebec and that all anglophones and allophones who choose to live there commit themselves to learning it, while at the same time having the right, and being given the resources, to maintain their culture.
  4. That English be declared the official language of the rest of Canada and that all francophones and allophones who choose to live there commit themselves to learning it, while at the same time having the right, and being given the resources, to maintain their culture.

Finally, we should ask ourselves why Canada's foundation is coming undone. Fundamentally, so much of it is based on military conquest. The English conquered the French, and both of them subjected the First Nations to their combined military might. My final proposal, therefore, is the most fundamental one of all: Build a completely new political foundation where our collective resources (taxes) are diverted from military spending and costly alliances and channeled toward the serious exploration and development of civilian-based defence-a reality that more and more military people are admitting is an urgent need for our eventual global security.

I believe that with such genuinely new foundations, Canada would deservedly be "the envy of the world"-and more importantly would be a spiritual force in the global community.

Len Desroches, Toronto, ON

In Defence of Cuban policy

We are profoundly distressed by the tone of the editorial and the content of the article on Cuba which appeared in the Jan/Feb. issue of Peace Magazine. ("Searching for Middle Ground: Cuba's Chronic Dilemma"). We appreciate the fact that Peace Magazine does not try to be politically popular but in this case we think it is simply wrong. This is especially so when Canada's sovereignty is under attack by the Helms-Burton law and in view of the Foreign Extra-territoriality Measures Act (FEMA), which has been passed by the Canadian parliament in an effort to protect Canada's right to establish its own trade and foreign policy. Other countries have done the same in line with U.N. policy.

Implicit in Holly Ackerman's attack on Cuba is the assumption that the U.S. blockade of Cuba is justified. However, according to U.N. document A/50/211 (June 7, 1995) that is not so. It explains at length why the United States cannot use the argument of the nationalizations of foreign property in Cuba to justify its embargo policy. In part it says that: "The General Assembly and other organs of the United Nations have confirmed, in what have become landmark resolutions, that countries engaged in a process of social transformation have the right under international law to nationalize foreign property and that the question of compensation is a matter for sovereign decision by the nationalizing country...The Cuban nation- alizations were carried out in full compliance with the principles set forth above.

[In line with which they passed Act 851/60 which]...established procedures for paying for expropriated property through the issue of government bonds...to be amortized over 30 years." (Partial funding of this was to come from the sale of sugar to the U.S.)

"However...the United States government, on 6 February 1962, proclaimed a full-scale economic blockade of Cuba. Unlike other countries, such as Canada, the United States government did not opt for negotiation to defend the interests of its nationals; United States citizens were denied access to the mode of payment established by Act 851/60 by their own government when it eliminated the Cuban [sugar] quota and thereby automatically and arbitrarily deprived them of their right to receive appropriate compensation."

In Part IV it says, "The refusal of the United States to join Cuba in seeking a negotiated solution to the problem of compensation contrasts with the international practice of that country in other cases...since WW II, the United States has negotiated 10 lump sum agreements in settlement of claims arising from the widespread nationalization of United States-owned property in other countries." The wording of signed agreements between Cuba and other countries, including Canada, are quoted giving concrete evidence of the good intentions of Cuba and their compliance with those agreements.

During the Batista dictatorship, which the U.S. government supported, the Cubans were living in deplorable conditions. Why didn't the U.S. hail the revolution as a great liberating event for the Cuban people? We think it was because it threatened the economic and political hegemony which the U.S. considers its right to exert over other countries, e.g. Reagan's justification of the military invasion of Grenada was that Latin America and the Caribbean constitutes "America's backyard."

We simply do not believe much of the comment of the American media regarding Cuba. For example, while the United States was supporting UNITA in Angola, the CIA was sending out official communiqués regarding the heinous crimes of the Cubans who were assisting the Angolan government against the invading armies of apartheid South Africa, John Stockwell, former CIA officer working in Angola at the time has now denounced those accusations as complete fabrications. How many other lies are there?

Nowhere does Holly Ackerman acknowledge the fact that Cuba has provided both material and intellectual support for many people in developing countries in need of such help. Cuba has sent more doctors abroad than the WHO. Because of their successful organization of free, universal and excellent health care at home, they have sent over 200 doctors in the last few months to establish badly-needed rural health clinics in South Africa, in Tanzania and in other Third World countries. They have brought nearly 14,000 child victims of the Chernobyl disaster to Cuba for treatment at their own expense, and are continuing to do so. In April 1996, CBC showed a documentary on the children being treated in Cuba. (We have a copy.)

The tone of the article gives no hint of looking for understanding of, or finding fair solutions for, the problems precipitated by the U.S. embargo which puts Cuba under siege thereby producing the siege mentality.

The people we know who have been involved in projects to aid and support Cuba do not try to depict it as a paradise but they have all come away with high regard and understanding for the efforts the Cubans are making to improve their lot in the face of the difficulties caused by natural disasters, e.g. the latest hurricane, and the U.S. blockade.

There are many U.S. citizens of good will as shown by the statement of the American Pastors for Peace shortly before their third U.S.-Cuba Friendship caravan set out. Under the title, "What is the US embargo of Cuba?" it says "The US government imposed an economic embargo against Cuba in 1963 when it realized that the Cuban revolution was committed to independence and socialism. Cuba, which was colonized first by the Spaniards and later by the U.S., became a fiefdom of U.S. sugar corporations, and a haven for the Mafia. A few wealthy Cuban families and some middle-class professionals thrived, but poverty, illiteracy, prostitution, and repression were rampant. These conditions gave birth to the Cuban revolution."

We agree with that statement and the attitude it reflects because it denotes a willingness to understand and help-an attitude that is not apparent in the editorial and Holly Ackerman's article.

Jean Smith and John Valleau, Toronto, ON

Peace Magazine Mar-Apr 1997

Peace Magazine Mar-Apr 1997, page 5. Some rights reserved.

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