The proposed Mother Canada monument: one citizen’s concern

I am writing to express my concern about the proposed Mother Canada memorial, which is to be placed in a national park at Green Cove.

As much as I support art, even art that is controversial, my support does not go so far as to allow an endeavor of human beings to impose itself on the pristine natural beauty of a national park. We have a National Parks Act written to prevent just such an intrusion on the park.

As for the art itself, I am opposed to it per se. It has not been conceived by an artist, but by a businessman. It is concerning to me that in the conceptual phase of such a project, we’re already talking about “marketing potential”. This, in my mind, somehow detracts from the principles for which our soldiers fought, and it debases the artistic purity of the work.

One trait I like to lay claim to as a Canadian, is subtlety –a reluctance to glorify ourselves above noble ideals. In my mind, our military commitments have never been for the glory of Canada, but have been humanitarian in nature. This is one of the traits I embrace as a Canadian. I worry that the statue as it is currently envisioned is a clumsily conceived monument to vainglory.

I agree with John Greer’s analysis that as an abstraction of “Canada Bereft”, the work is conceived out of sentimentality, rather than pure sentiment. It is the latter that should inspire art, not the former. Therefore, as a work of art, Mother Canada limits itself to being a poor imitation of something unique and beautiful. It somehow cheapens Canada Bereft in my mind.

Lastly, as a monument that is placed on a Canadian shore, it (in its present design) would completely disregard the long heritage of Canada’s First Nations. It is very European in its style, and speaks only of our participation in European ventures. Its permanence as an image on Canada’s shore seems to me to cement an understanding of Canada as a descendant of, and continuing participant in European colonialism.

A Quick Win: Why Chevron funds public schools.

I’m astounded at the lack of skepticism about Chevron’s initiative to fund schools.

Let me say from the outset that public school children should be kept free from the influence of any corporate ideology.

Corporations by their very nature are exploitive, and their existence depends on their ability to manipulate the public into consuming. It is rare indeed that a corporation would undertake a humanitarian project with nothing to gain. In fact, oil corporations in particular go to great lengths to manipulate public opinion. Witness the enormous efforts of Big Oil to shout down environmental science.

In British Columbia, the Vancouver School Board is getting a lot of press lately for refusing to accept donations from Chevron Corporation. These donations would provide much needed lab equipment to schools that are only too willing to accept because of the shortfalls caused by government underfunding of public education.

Not coincidentally, the gap between school needs and government funding began increasing annually some 12 years ago –immediately after the BC Liberal government reduced the province’s corporate tax rate to the lowest in the country. The amount that corporations like Chevron provide in funding can’t come close to what they would be providing had the tax rate stayed the same. Chevron is well aware of this.

Chevron’s program is really a stroke of genius. The big oil corporation gets to recoup some of its donation money through tax breaks. Nor are the donations anonymous. In fact, short of actually advertising in schools, Chevron scores big feel-good points by showing its “generosity”. The donation gets talked about in the press, and Chevron can claim to fund education initiatives in its corporate manifesto.

And even better, the government looks at Chevron as an “education partner”. And as  a “partner” who contributes much needed money, Chevron become a stakeholder, and as a stakeholder, it has influence on government policy –including policy regarding schools. Once we begin to depend on corporations for funding, the corporations are very much in a position to call the shots.

Corporations haven’t traditionally been great supporters of public education. A recent event in BC lays bare the agenda of business regarding public education. In the recent BC Court of Appeals case in which the government is trying to overturn the Provincial Court’s ruling that acted illegally when it stripped teachers’ contract language through legislation. A coalition of corporate interests applied for intervenor status in the case so as to have the ruling overturned.

How strange! Why wouldn’t BC’s corporations want smaller classes in schools? After all, the vast majority of credible research (not to mention common sense) suggests that this is a good idea. Obviously the answer is that they would be called upon to fund them through higher taxes. They’ve gotten used to the lower rent that they pay for being based in BC.

Chevron is not brazen enough to try to re-write a curriculum, or to force McDonalds-like ads targeted at children (School districts would never allow this.), but it’s well known that the big oil companies are huge government lobbyists. And Chevron is certainly putting its stamp on things.

Here’s how you know that a donor is motivated out of philanthropy: the donor gives anonymously, and the donor does not specify how the money is spent. It’s interesting that Chevron has limited its contributions to science and technology. Nothing for the liberal arts? No musical instruments? How about sponsoring a summit to study the causes of global warming?

Chevron gains much out of its funding of schools. It has found a nice situation that is ripe for exploiting. Schools are desperate. And what does Chevron get? PR on the cheap. It’s a quick win, and it’s dodgy.