May 16, 2020
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:
I have been listening to your daily briefings that mark your leadership with compassion for your fellow Canadians in this pandemic times. Grateful that the Prime Minister’s wife has been declared healed of the otherwise deadly virus. Containing COVID 19, what many refer to as fighting an unseen enemy in WWIII, has exposed Canadians’ vulnerabilities and preferential thrusts over the past five months and onto the next 20 more months or so. You have offered assistance to a huge number of Canadians who lost their jobs and applied for employment insurance and/or CanadaEmergency Response Benefit. You have articulated that saving lives entails more than social distancing; it requires equity and justice in cultural, economic, environmental, geopolitical, and global relations – a tall order for many international leaders.
I want to call your attention to a number of pressing issues in this pandemic.
Firstly, please know how a billionaire of entrepreneur in Alberta continues to operate a slaughterhouse for vulnerable immigrants and permanent residents, giving the virus more hosts to annihilate. Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney has yet to propose a good deal for mostly Filipino immigrant workers with Cargill’s owners and executives who, after a 15-day shutdown of the meat plant, re-opened and continued business operations and insisted on deploying workers without providing them with personal protective equipment, or redesigning their work layout for proper distancing. While it is good to ensure the food security of Albertans and Canadians, food security operations should come with workers’ welfare in mind.
When the ugly reality of unfair labor practices and workers’ poor conditions stares us in the face, I find covers-up of inhuman business operations in social media chirps like “our company continues to be mindful of our workers and their safety” so appalling, hypocritical, insensitive, and infuriating. Government leaders, business owners, and private entities have yet to not only walk their talk but live it.
Secondly, as a Canadian, I felt great sorrow over the 2019 inaugural Alberta's spending cut programs, and over pink slips issued to teachers, the slashing of healthcare budget, and the rise of political vendettas among Alberta’s leaders. I have always wondered why social services such as education and healthcare are the first to be sliced out of the economic pie every economic downturn. I have been a professor in international universities for many years, and I have seen how important it is for a country to progress through citizens educated well in formal non-online education. Ditto with healthcare that celebrates the future and promise of children and youth at risk, and honors the great contribution of senior citizens to Canada’s multicultural heritage.
Prior to and with the pandemic, students are encouraged to train online. This reduces education to a moneymaking venture. Such a pity, will you not agree? You were a teacher, and you have witnessed excitement and joy among learners as they interact face to face, and navigate discoveries and novel ideas with their teachers. Absent teachers’ actual classroom presence, will online education serve the goal of shaping critical thinkers, a selfless workforce and humanists among learners? Does not online education serve to only worsen class reproduction, and spawn competition, class and digital divide, obstinacy, and slavery in a language that is also foreign to its advocates and proponents? In our continuing effort to flatten the pandemic curve, parents and older siblings or relatives may assume the role of good teachers.
With the pandemic, there is a mad rush to get non-healthcare-trained people employed in long term care facilities. Thinking and feeling Canadian not trained in healthcare would assert that a “no” to that job offer actually means being mindful of the seniors’ need for only the best trained healthcare workers. Will you not agree that the best training always comes with a generous slice of Alberta and Canada’s economic pie for K-12, university education, and/or technical or vocational training earned not only nationwide but worldwide? On the pretext that universal principles underlie all levels of education, it is high time to allocate generous provincial and federal dollars for academic bridge programs and not for re-credentialing or decredentialing courses designed for immigrants educated in their home countries. It might be high time, too, to provide short courses and instructional materials to old timer Canadians who have yet to learn and appreciate the culture and language of newly sworn Canadians. After all, this is one of the ways the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 can be enacted justly.
Thirdly, in Alberta's unfolding business story in 2019 characterized as one of economic paucity that gets worse during this 2020 pandemic, certain industries such as oil, gas, and airline get bailed out in many forms. Gas and oil prices, as well as airfares, plummet, and yet prices of gastronomic goods escalate. The erring CEOs or industry projects proponents go unpunished, and the lowly citizens, homeowners, and students get taxed heavily.
I wonder if The Right Honourable Trudeau would look kindly into nationalizing oil, gas, and airline industries. There would be pluses and minuses to this move, a process that would have to engage taxpayers, social scientists, policymakers, and legislators in public consultations. Unscrupulous business models and unbridled greed need to be curbed and so with bailouts that have become the ugly symbol of neoliberal times.
This 2020 pandemic teaches us a lot of important values that seem to be lacking among many of our leaders. The walk to achieving a country of compassion, equity, generosity, justice, peace in a warlike struggle against the deadly virus then becomes tedious. Allow me to close with a wish that The Right Honourable Trudeau and the Parliament would look into harmonizing this walk with Canadians nationwide.
(Veronica Caparas finished her PhD in Educational Policy Studies (Theoretical, Cultural, and International Studies in Education aka Social Justice and International Studies in Education) at the University of Alberta on a full SSHRC-Bombardier scholarship, Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement, Presidential Prize of Distinction, and GRA Rice Scholarship in Communications. She may be contacted via