Why Just Food Matters

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Everyone needs to eat, yet even in our democracy there are people with low access to food and the food they can get is low quality. This shouldn’t be the case, so let’s do something about it! Colin Dring created the Just Food website to help educators explain and explore our food systems in Canada. The National Observor intervied Dring to find out why he created the site.

The Just Food website says the resource “brings diverse standpoints relevant to food discourses to the table.” Can you give me an example of one of those perspectives? 

Much of contemporary food system perspectives come from people in positions of privilege. Take, for example, a food bank. When we think of the food bank, we’re not necessarily thinking that people who use the food bank should have a say in the decisions or the kinds of services offered or the kinds of food provided. The dominant discourse is that people experiencing poverty should just be grateful and thankful. I think this reproduces a system that treats people like objects. So, when we talk about including diverse perspectives, we’re really talking about elevating and drawing attention to the impacts of privilege in maintaining the world as it is.

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In Canada Your Doctor May Tell You to Walk it Off

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Doctors in Canada may soon be prescribing the oldest medicine in the world: walking it off. Thanks to the work of family doctor Dr. Melissa Lem in British Columbia the province will allow a walk in nature to be prescribed by doctors. It’s been proven time and time again that exposure to nature helps with all sorts of medical conditions and recovery times. This initiative to prescribe nature means people can take medical time from work to go for a hike and get a nudge from their doctor to improve their lives.

Dr. Lem wants to bring the program to every province.

Prescriptions for nature became available through this program at the end of last month, and their availability will improve as more health-care practitioners sign up for the prescription packages, which include fact sheets, relevant literature and a unique provider code. This can be done on the program’s website.

In the coming months, Lem intends to expand the program to other provinces and territories, forging partnerships between health-care and parks organizations and sharing the resources she has spent years collecting. Until then, she said health-care providers outside B.C. can sign up in advance and will get their prescription packages when the program reaches them.

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The Importance of Mapping Fossil Fuel Companies

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The Corporate Mapping Project in Canada tries to connect the dots between corporations, organizations, and governmental bodies in regards to the oil and gas industry. Despite all evidence that the tar sands are horrible for the planet the Canadian taxpayer continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industry. Why?

That the answer the mapping project looks to help investigate. By showing the connections between corporate and political players we can expose anything from sketchy polices to blatant corruption. This project is great for researchers and economist trying to understand why Canada props up a dying (and lethal) industry.

You can see their list of the top 50 companies in terms of power and influence in Canada’s oil and gas industry.

We focus on “mapping” how power and influence play out in the oil, gas and coal industries of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. We will also map the wider connections that link Western Canada’s fossil fuel sector to other sectors of the economy (both national and global) and to other parts of society (governments and other public institutions, think tanks and lobby groups, etc).

Our mapping efforts are focused in four key areas:

  1. How are the people and companies that control fossil-fuel corporations organized as a network, and how does that network connect with other sectors of the Canadian and global economy? That is, how is economic power organized in and around the fossil-fuel sector?

  2. How does that economic power reach into political and cultural life, through elite networks, funding relationships, lobbying and mass-media advertising and messaging? What are the implications of such corporate influence for politics and society?

  3. How is corporate power wielded at ground level, from fossil-fuel extraction and transport right through to final consumption? If we follow a barrel of bitumen from its source to the end user, how does it affect the communities and environments all along the way? How and why do certain links along these commodity chains become flashpoints of intense political struggle, as we have seen particularly with pipeline projects?

  4. How can we build capacity for citizen monitoring of corporate power and influence, while expanding the space for democratic discussion?

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Teck Halts Work on Tarsands Proposal

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Canada is waking up to the reality of the climate crisis, those ringing the alarms includes a diverse group from the Wet’suwet’en Nation to Greenpeace. Now a large fossil fuel company, Teck Resources Ltd., has decided to not move ahead with an environment-destroying tarsands project partly due to the fact that planet is facing catastrophic climate change. The company CEO released a statement stating that the Canadian government needs to clarify its climate policy (essentially asking for regulation) and that the economic benefit of fossil fuels isn’t as clear as it used to be. The pressure that people put on Teck over the last years has proven effective, thanks to everyone that helped fight Teck’s initial plan!

Hopefully this helps empower the Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests. Protesting works.

Lindsay wrote that customers want policies that reconcile resource development and climate change — something he said the region has yet to achieve, but he did not clarify if the region he was referring to was Alberta or Canada.

“Unfortunately, the growing debate around this issue has placed Frontier and our company squarely at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved. In that context, it is now evident that there is no constructive path forward for the project,” he wrote.

Energy consultant Greg Stringham, who has worked for the industry, government and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said tight economics and increasing risks put Teck at the centre of debate around energy projects.

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Canada to Update Digital Privacy Laws, Hold Companies Accountable for Breaches

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Last year Canadians witnessed too many data breaches of their data and the federal government is reacting. Large Canadian corporations didn’t do enough to protect their databases against attackers and as a result personal data of Canadians is now in the hands of criminals. Canada will now follow the lead of Europe and other jurisdictions by holding corporations financially responsible for any future breaches. This should help force companies to respect their customers.

“It will be significant and meaningful to make it very clear that privacy is important. Compensation, of course, is one aspect of it,” said Bains, adding that the government also wants “to demonstrate to businesses very clearly that there are going to be significant penalties for non-compliance with the law. That’s really my primary goal.”

Statistics Canada says that about 57 per cent of Canadians online reported experiencing a cyber security incident in 2018.

Ryan Berger, a privacy lawyer with Lawson Lundell in Vancouver, said legislating compensation could get private companies to start taking privacy more seriously.

“It will incentivize organizations … to take steps to protect that information and ensure that, for instance, health information is encrypted,” he said.

“So right now, there aren’t the sorts of financial implications for them if they fail to do that.”

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