| On November 3, 2008 in Waterloo, Ontario a student activist group, Anti-War @ Laurier, from Wilfred Laurier University targeted Manulife Financial for their leadership role in the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) and the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). The NACC and SPP have been organizing and indeed initiating the framework for a redefined, more powerful version of NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement), often referred to as the ‘North American Union.’ The intentions of the NACC and SPP is to promote economic and security cooperation between Canada, Mexico and the United States, however, little information has been given to the general populations of these nations and even less has been done to consult the citizens who’s lives will be affected.
As part of a regional Day of Action, demonstrators descended on the Manulife Financial office in Waterloo, with other protests occurring throughout South-Western Ontario. Protestors in Waterloo centered their attention on the Manulife Financial employees in an attempt to inform them about the actions of the corporations CEO Dominic D’Alessandro an NACC member. The demonstration culminated when AW@L members occupied the office lobby in an attempt to speak with the CEO. After a brief discussion with company representatives the demonstrators left the lobby at the request of local police.
The primary goal of the demonstration was the dissemination of information regarding the true intentions of the SPP, a deeper integration of North America. This will, however, be predominantly beneficial for corporate interests. Most at risk if the SPP’s goals are realized is Canadian and Mexican sovereignty. The Canadian people will see the erosion of environmental laws, natural resource protection and possibly the most frightening aspect of all, the ability for the American Military to enter Canada unilaterally.
Multi-national corporations have attained a degree of power today that is unrivaled. They have replaced the colonizing nations of previous centuries in their ability to subjugate entire nations, with the result often being extremely detrimental to the imposed nation and incredibly profitable for the corporations. Poverty, environmental degradation and political corruption, seemingly endemic in the 21st century, have been the result of profit driven corporations, aided by organizations such as the World Bank, the IMF (International Monetary Fund), NAFTA and unless action is taken, the SPP.
In an interview with an AW@L representative, it was clear that the general feeling among the student group is of great concern for the future. They are deeply worried about the possible outcomes when decisions that should be made democratically, by governments representing the rights and values of their citizens, are instead, being made by an elite group of corporate CEO’s. The goal of AW@L is to transform violence to peace through dialogue, and this was evident in their peaceful demonstration focused on education and community awareness.
Earlier this year AW@L played an integral role in halting the Olympic ‘Spirit Train’, traversing Canada in order to raise awareness about the abuse of Native rights in preparation for the 2010 Olympics to be held in British Columbia.
For more information on AW@L and the SPP and NACC visit their website at www.peaceculture.org.
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I am currently a graduate student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Undertaking my masters within the department of Environment and Resource Studies, with a focus in sustainability and particular attention to energy and governance issues.
I have been a staff member at TIG since winter of 2008 as editor for 'Environment and Urbanization Issues'.
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