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Karen Restoule: My experience as a First Nations woman inspires me to stand against antisemitism

Commentary

A large pro-Jewish crowd gathered in front of Parliament in Ottawa on Monday to express their support for Israel amidst the ongoing conflict with Hamas and to decry antisemitism in Canada and abroad. Organized by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, speakers included Liberal MP Anthony Housefeather, Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman, and Hub contributor Karen Restoule. The Hub is pleased to run an expanded adaptation of Karen’s poignant remarks here.

It is with honour that I stand with you here today. I raise my hands to all of you, and to all of those who have come before you, for the courage that each of you carry.

I see it. Just by virtue of who I am, and where I come from, I see it. I, too, come from a long line of people who have struggled to fight hatred, prejudice, displacement, negative stereotypes, and discrimination. I empathize with you. I see and recognize what you are going through.

Much like us, it is clear: Jews are Indigenous Peoples of the Land of Israel from time immemorial. And I am proud to stand with you today and every day.

However, it must be said that while our experiences exist in parallel, they are not the same. Some have suggested correlations between Hamas and Israel in the Middle East and the reconciliation work led by First Nations here in Canada in the West. Over the past weeks, here in Canada, we have heard the use of the terms “colonizer”, “settler”, and “decolonize” to justify terror, violence, kidnapping, rape, and targeted civilian massacres. I fundamentally reject the politically motivated adoption of our historic and ongoing relationship with the Crown by some Canadians to justify this.

To be clear: there must never be an acceptance, tolerance, or justification for evil actions by terrorists and criminals in modern Canadian society.

And while, yes, these realities have existed at one time in our shared history as Canadians and Indigenous Peoples, we have found ways—and will continue to find ways—to peacefully resolve our differences through truth-sharing, dialogue, action, and growing mutualism.

As a First Nations woman and as a proud Canadian, I commit to stand witness, to be a Keeper of Truth. Every Canadian across this country is a witness to the events that unfolded on October 7th and to the steep increase in antisemitism that has transpired since then, including here at home in our country.

There has been a disturbing trend to normalize boycotting Jewish Canadians, to normalize calling for the eradication of Jewish peoples from their historic homelands, and to target Jewish-led businesses, schools, and places of worship.

We cannot let the darkness of lies shroud us from speaking out truth. The truth that October 7th happened. That it targeted innocent civilians with unimaginable scales of hatred and violence. We must all speak out courageously against antisemitic hate in our own land today. We share a collective responsibility to address wrongs. To act. To make things better.

It’s fitting that we gather here this week, as soon, in just a few evenings, hundreds of thousands of Jewish Canadians and friends will join together to light the menorah, remembering the miracle of the oil that lit the temple for eight days, the temple whose foundation rests to this day in Jerusalem.

As our days shorten, it’s a reminder that there is a miracle of light burning in all of us, from a power beyond us. Let’s remember that light in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Let us speak truth, show love, and work relentlessly toward lasting peace.

Steven Globerman: The Trudeau government’s plans to lower prices make no sense

Commentary

Most of the commentary about the Trudeau government’s recent fall economic update has focused on housing initiatives and debt projections. But the update also proposed significant new regulatory burdens on Canadian businesses to ostensibly lower prices for consumers. However, these proposals are ill-conceived, miss the root causes of the problem, and in some cases simply shift costs from one group of consumers to another.

For starters, the Trudeau government wants to amend the Competition Act, the federal law regulating competition in the marketplace, to establish a “Grocery Task Force” to supervise “big grocers,” stabilize prices, and monitor and investigate practices such as “shrinkflation”—that is, when producers reduce the size of products due to rising production costs.

While the government’s proposals are light on details about enforcement, it’s easy to imagine the difficulty the Competition Bureau, the federal law enforcement agency tasked with enforcing such things, would face in determining, for example, what constitutes shrinkflation. If a grocer changes the packaging size and price of a specific product, is that always shrinkflation? Or is that grocer, in an effort to cover their full costs, simply expanding the range of options for consumers who may opt for lower prices over higher volume?

In reality, if the Trudeau government wants to help lower food prices for Canadians, it would reduce tariffs on imported dairy and other food products and eliminate provincial marketing boards. These costs are passed on to consumers at the checkout line. 

Also according to the economic update, the government plans to crack down on so-called “junk fees” such as roaming charges, excessive banking fees, and airline fees. But how would competition authorities determine when certain fees are “junky” while other fees are legitimately meant to recover costs for services customers desire? Clearly, such judgments would be totally arbitrary. And if the government prohibits specific fees, without helping increase competition in the affected sector, the new fee prohibitions will likely result in increased prices for other transactions involving affected businesses. In an effort to reduce prices for Canadians, the Trudeau government will simply push costs from one consumer—or one transaction—to another. 

It’s also noteworthy that the worst-offending industries, in the government’s eyes, are among the most sheltered from foreign competition. Specifically, in Canada, foreign ownership restrictions in sectors such as media/telecommunications and air transportation are among the most restrictive in the developed world. If the government wants to meaningfully protect consumers, it would scrap direct and indirect restrictions on foreign competition in these industries—for example, eliminate “cabotage” regulations that prevent foreign airlines from operating domestic routes within Canada. More competition in the air means lower prices for Canadian air travellers. 

Finally, the Trudeau government wants to address so-called “planned obsolescence” where manufacturers create demand for more expensive new versions of existing products by deliberately designing products (e.g. smartphones) to wear out or function less effectively over a relatively short period of time. But the concept of planned obsolescence is open to debate since informed consumers in a competitive marketplace will purchase products at the lowest available price with “lifespan” (and other factors) in mind.

Furthermore, planned obsolescence is often—if not always—in the consumer’s best interest. “Value engineering” is a design process meant to use as little material as possible in a product while still delivering an acceptable lifespan. For example, the useful life of a smartphone is limited to a few years due to rapid technological improvements in both software and hardware. It would be wasteful to build a smartphone with a physical lifespan much longer than its useful lifespan. Competition policy bureaucrats in Ottawa are likely ill-equipped to distinguish between efficient and inefficient product obsolescence.

Increasing competition in Canada is a worthy objective. Unfortunately, the Trudeau government’s latest proposals seem more designed to win votes than improve the welfare of Canadian consumers.