ELHAM NUMAN/THE VARSITY

A tumultuous year is now behind us, and many are looking forward to what 2017 may bring. The political and social happenings of the past year have culminated in a crucial moment for Canada in domestic and international arenas. Below, contributors explore what we can expect from Canada’s future in the new year.

FOREIGN POLICY

Although the federal government has indicated it will work to “embrace the world,” Canadian foreign policy will need to adjust to a more closed world order, considering the actions of its international allies. Populist movements like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have set the precedent for a shift into a more protectionist and nationalist direction in the United States and Europe. 

As President, Trump will prioritize the protection and interests of US workers. Recent initiatives such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Paris Agreement will likely not be adopted, as they will be seen as an attack on American workers. Within Europe, this will be manifested in the decrement of the single market and the European Union. 

In response, Canada will have to develop new international economic policies and agreements. Although the North American Free Trade Agreement — to which Canada is a signatory — is unlikely to be completely revoked, the US may impose limits on labour mobility and any new trade agreements. With the failure of the TPP, Canada will need to reach out to the Pacific with individual trade deals, while approaching an increasingly aggressive China, which will have the opportunity to take advantage of economic disunity to advance its own power. Similarly, the decreasing power of the European Union will create an airspace that Canada must find a way into if it wishes to further its position in international affairs. 

Sam Routley is a second-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Political Science, History, and Philosophy. 

DOMESTIC ECONOMY AND LABOUR

In 2017, it is unlikely that Canada’s economy and labour situation will see progressive change. The federal government’s stimulus plan is unlikely to result in any qualitative change, as economists predict it will have little to no impact on an already weak economic forecast. The reality of modern capitalism is that housing remains inaccessible, household debt is skyrocketing, wages have flatlined, real and youth unemployment is high, and consumer demand sits in a slump. 

Canadian workers, students, the unemployed, and the marginalized have a tough year ahead. The growth and success of far-right movements in the US and Europe is cause for concern lest similar sentiments threaten progressive economics locally. We can try to maintain faith in the Liberals — it is claimed that Canada is one of the few major countries left in the world with a so-called ‘progressive,’ though staunchly neoliberal, government. At the same time, we ought to keep our expectations low if we attempt to idly weather the ongoing empowerment of far-right economic conservatism without a left-wing alternative. 2017 may be our only opportunity to fight back by demanding better wages, universal basic income, free tuition, and true equality. If we don’t, the situation will only get worse. 

Stanley Treivus is a fourth-year student at Innis College studying Human Geography and Political Science.

ENVIRONMENT

2016 was an optimal year for any environmental enthusiast to be excited about anticipated reforms of environmental policies. The Paris Agreement, for one, presented options on renewable energy and how to cut back on usage. Donald Trump has said that he doesn’t intend to focus on any of the recommendations that were made by the committee, although he has softened his stance in recent weeks. Nevertheless, environmentalists are worried about the precedent being set for other countries, including Canada, insofar that the agreement is not considered to be as urgent as other measures.

We also saw the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL, which leads to worries about the environment come 2017. Already, more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil have spilled into a North Dakota creek. We can expect more spills, and the protests will likely intensify. Trudeau has expressed an interest on working with Donald Trump regarding the pipelines — which not only harkens to the relevance of such conflicts in the Canadian context, but also threatens the relationship between the government and Indigenous groups, which could cause a further rift in reconciliation efforts.

Sila Naz Elgin is a third-year student at New College studying Political Science and Philosophy. 

HUMAN RIGHTS

In a few ways, human rights in Canada progressed in 2016. As of December 4, Canada has taken in over 38,000 Syrian refugees. In May — much to the annoyance of a certain psychology professor — the Trudeau government passed Bill C-16, a comprehensive human rights bill guaranteeing legal and human rights protections for trans people. The bill affords significant protection against discrimination and harassment in the hope that this will improve the safety and quality of life of trans communities in Canada. 

Still, it would be unwise for Canada to rest on its laurels for too long, as practical advances in the area of human rights are still sorely needed. In line with the rationale behind Bill C-16, Egale Canada Human Rights Trust has reported alarmingly high rates of harassment and assault against trans people, noting that 20 per cent of trans people in Ontario have been targets of physical or sexual harassment and 34 per cent have experienced verbal harassment or threats. Furthermore, in April, Global News reported that hate crimes against Muslim Canadians had more than doubled over the past three years. Important steps have been taken, but there is still much to do to ensure that all marginalized communities are protected against violence. 

Adina Heisler is a second-year student at University College studying Women and Gender Studies and English. 

LAW ENFORCEMENT AND JUSTICE

In 2017, the usage and distribution of personal and seemingly confidential data is an important issue with respect to law enforcement agencies. In the summer of 2016, carding was in the headlines all over Toronto due to the repeated carding encounters that Dale James had with the Toronto Police Service, following a previous legal battle under the allegation of racial profiling. 

The Police Record Checks Reform Act was passed in Ontario in December of 2015, and regulates the information that can be disclosed in police checks. A provincial rule regarding the banning of carding also came into effect this month. Nevertheless, activists claim the police can find loopholes to conduct discriminatory carding practices. 

Furthermore, in the age of Big Data, the streets aren’t the only place where our data can be collected and used against us. Consider the use of psychiatric records to detain people with mental health histories at the border, as well as the looming threat of privacy infringement posed by Bill C-51. The risks of data being leaked or abused aren’t going away anytime soon. Therefore, it is imperative that we remain wary of what information the government chooses to collect, and how.   

Ayesha Tak is a fourth-year student at UTM studying Statistics and Sociology. 

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