Global COVID-19 cases hit an average of more than 800,000 this week for the first time. That rise is largely driven by India, which reported nearly 390,000 new cases on Friday. Locals describe it as hell. 

Indian states are running out of vaccines as rich countries continue to hoard jabs like dragons stockpiling treasure. Rich countries send aid, and pretend that the crisis is unrelated to their vaccine hoarding, or the West-centric systems that prioritized funding vaccine development in Western nations over the Global South.

International aid is a colonial redux — something I touched on this week in my piece on vaccine apartheid. 

Of course we should expect rich countries to help poor countries, so long as we don’t dig too deep into what makes countries rich or poor in the first place. It’s like billionaire philanthropists: rich people giving their money away seems good on the surface, until you have to question the systems that permitted one person to hoard so much wealth. Billionaires — like rich countries — are wealthy because of systems put in place that allow them to prosper, to the detriment of others. 

But let’s strip away the long history of power imbalances and think about aid charitably. In its purest form, international aid has similar virtues to wealth redistribution in domestic policy. It’s moving money from entities with too much to those with not enough. 

This reveals new problems. For example, the amount of money donated is always woefully inadequate. One aid researcher argued this aid couldn’t be neo-colonial because the amounts in play have simply been too small to leverage geopolitical influence. Canada is sending a pitiful $10 million worth of funding — well short of the $5 billion we’ve set aside for domestic vaccines.

For another, aid always comes too late. We’re 14 months into the pandemic — long enough that we know how exponential growth works. (India’s sudden upswing in COVID-19 cases was preceded by weeks of spread that started in March.) We also know acting earlier has more effect than waiting until things get out of hand. So why have Western countries waited so long before offering meagre aid?

At home, we see this same belated pattern with domestic policy. Response to the drug toxicity crisis has been playing catch-up for a decade. Outside of the provinces and states that went for COVID-Zero, policy has been uniformly too slow in responding to rising case counts — leading to unnecessary sickness and death.     

We shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken until people are dying in the streets in India for Canada to get involved. Why stop a crisis from happening when you could let it happen and look sad afterwards?

As ever, thanks for spending part of your weekend reflecting on the week with me. Stay safe, and stay angry.


This Week From Passage

Doug Ford Is Using The Pandemic To Criminalize Tenant Organizing.” Cole Webber.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford loves landlords. He loves landlords getting money, and being able to kick out renters who aren’t giving them enough money. Even with occasional eviction freezes, Ford’s government has been strengthening Ontario’s pro-landlord legislation, making it harder for tenants to get a fair say in an already disastrous housing market. Cole Webber outlines the extent of the province’s legislation — and how working class renters are organizing to fight back.

Strike Breaking Is A Labour Of Love For Federal Liberals.” Robert Hiltz.

Around 1,150 dockworkers at the Port of Montreal have been working without contracts for more than two years, and they’re now striking over work schedule changes that they didn’t agree to. The federal government tabled legislation ostensibly to “encourage negotiation,” but in reality, they’re strike breaking, claiming Montreal will lose business to the Port of Boston. So the feds are forcing these rightfully angry workers back into their precarious jobs, all to keep Canadian businesses happy. 

It’s Time For Ontario’s Science Table Members To Resign.” Robert Hiltz.

Let’s say you have a job advising an egomaniac on something you’re an expert in. “Here’s what you should do,” you say. The person you’re advising ignores you. “No, really, this is important,” you say, and he ignores you again. This time, people die. And then you give him more advice, and he says he’s listening to experts (you) while patently ignoring your advice, and more people die. When does continuing to give advice to someone who doesn’t listen become a tacit approval of their plans? When do you quit? Hint: it’s now.

Law Enforcement Should Have No Place In Unions.” Sophie Birks.

Unions have always been an anti-capitalist way to wrestle with the power of the ruling classes. Police exist to protect the ruling classes, and especially their property. Sophie Birks charts how police unions have made police forces more likely to use lethal, discriminatory force — and stonewalled investigations into police brutality. While police are allowed unions, unions are complicit in the harm that police forces inflict. 

Canada Is Perpetuating Vaccine Apartheid.” V. S. Wells.

More than 100 countries are lobbying to waive intellectual rights to vaccines, which would allow nations across the globe to start manufacturing more doses for their own populations. Imperial powers are against this. Canada is “undecided,” but it should be adamantly pro-waiver. Making the pandemic last longer hurts the entire world, and yet our government is happy to let poor countries suffer most to avoid pissing off the U.S. pharma industry. 

Elsewhere In Canada

The Translator Kids.” Christopher Cheung, The Tyee.

Even though a quarter of Metro Vancouver households speak a language other than English or French at home, there isn’t a robust provincial system in place to translate official information. This gap has become especially obvious during the pandemic. Families — and especially children — often end up doing translation work themselves. Christopher Cheung tells the story through a mix of reporting, analysis and personal experience, and it’s fascinating.

The Benefits Of Public Policy Cannot Be Found On Fiscal Balance Sheets.” Chuka Ejeckam, Rabble.

You might remember the federal budget from approximately six eons ago (last week) where the biggest single line item was child care investment. It was couched in the language of capitalism — this will help more women participate in the workforce! It’ll pay for itself! Chuka Ejeckam examines what this kind of framing says about Canada and Canadian policy.

Around The World

Amid Brazil’s COVID Chaos, Socialist Marica Forges Different Path.” Monica Yanakiew, Al Jazeera.

Brazil’s COVID crisis has largely been swept under the rug in global news because India’s surge is newer and stranger. Under President Jair Bolsonaro’s disastrous leadership, more than 400,000 Brazilians have died. And yet Marica, a dormitory community about 60 kilometres from Rio de Janeiro, has warded off unemployment, kept healthcare running and provided universal basic income thanks to a socialist town council and a local virtual currency, the mumbuca.

Rape And Reparations In Mexico.” Danielle Mackey, Lux.

How do feminism and prison abolition function in Latin America? Meztli Yoalli Rodriguez, quoted in the piece, says feminist thought “is always divided by hemisphere — either above the Rio Bravo or below it […] and that invisible border ends up demarcating fault lines when in reality, there’s a lot of similar thinking.” Danielle Mackey uses a specific sexual violence case from 2002 to unravel how criminal justice activism in Mexico shares feminist and abolitionist ideas.

Ideas & Culture

George W. Bush Can’t Paint His Way Out Of Hell.” Sarah Jones, Intelligencer. 

It would be cool if we stopped trying to rehabilitate war criminals. Former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair, the first man I ever truly hated, has a mullet now, and Dubya is painting soulless portraits of successful immigrants who fit the story he wants to tell about himself. Don’t let heads of states’ post-leadership actions rewrite the narrative of their time in office. 

Covid-19 Exposed Britain’s Callous Disregard For Worker Safety.” Katie Barnes-Monaghan, Tribune.

This story is about the specific situation in the U.K., but the message resonates everywhere workers have been forced to risk their lives ‘for the economy.’ COVID-19 deaths disproportionately impacted workers in “essential,” physical-space occupations — cleaners, carers, processing or factory operations. Short-sighted decisions on PPE provision, lockdown rollbacks and inadequate sick pay led to preventable deaths among workers. It’s worth getting mad about.

One Last Thing

Last week’s episode of the Alberta Advantage podcast on corporate feminism is a great listen, and their newest delves into the origins of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation — the precursor to today’s watered-down NDP.

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