Tag Archives: Canada

The Minimum Wage

A minimum wage is essentially a basic labor standard that sets the lowest hourly, daily, or monthly salary rate that an employee legally receives. Historically, the implementation of this criterion was first executed in New Zealand in 1894 and in the Australian state of Victoria in 1896. In 1912, the state of Massachusetts later instituted this minimum wage policy as well. However, it only applied to both women and minors working in distinctive businesses; these ‘proletariats’ comprised the majority of the working class people who were not administered in a union: “relying solely on public opinion to pressure employers into compliance” (2013, July 28).

In 1918, British Columbia and Manitoba were the first provinces in Canada to establish the minimum wage statute. These inaugurated laws appertained exclusively to female workers because they were considered to be “unorganized and, hence, more vulnerable to exploitation” (). Moreover, the majority of North American unions guaranteed that men received a sufficient salary through collective bargaining – “negotiation of wages and other conditions of employment by an organized body of employees.” Nevertheless, in 1925, the province of British Columbia was the first to launch a regulation concerning the minimum wage of male workers; they adopted the Men’s Minimum Wage Act. During this period, there was an emphasis on the standard or expectation that men were the breadwinners and women were the caregivers: “rates for men were initially set higher than for women” (2013, July 28). Although by 1974, gender-based minimum wages gradually disappeared.

According to Bowal and Franssen, both researchers claim that the cost of living in Canada, even with minimum wages “do not comprise a sturdy living wage for the long term” (Bowal & Franssen, 2012). Through the empirical knowledge of significant others, what these two researchers assert seem factual and/or valid. Moreover, Bowal and Franssen indicate how calibrating the minimum wage in the market too high could potentially result in a decrease of jobs; the government is focused on maintaining a balance between living wages and job opportunities. Today, the principles of a minimum wage assists in protecting non-unionized workers in unskilled jobs and influences the level of compensation of other employees as well.

In Don Watkins’ article “To Protect The Defenseless, We Must Abolish The Minimum Wage,” he shares his subjective opinions and experiences in regard to the how the distribution of means (income) has been substantially unfair. First, he introduces and shares an abstract scenario where the government is concerned about individuals like Watkins and how his gain [money] does not match or outweigh his loss [laptop]: “I’d rather have two hundred bucks than nothing.” This analogy pertains and emphasizes on the enforcement of the minimum wage. Coincidentally, Watkins has a similar outlook to both Bowal and Franssen in that the minimum wage “doesn’t ensure everyone can earn a living.” Evidently, he questions how the system is regulated and doesn’t accept why there are rules that govern how much a person such as one who is skilled, is likely to start off with the minimum: “But it’s not voluntary! You needed the money…” (Brook & Watkins, 2013). In addition, Watkins is convinced that the majority of people acquire work for the sole purpose of improving their resumes; many individuals are trying to climb the ladder. Lastly, Watkins shares his perspective on how an employer should be privileged and/or have the authorization to distinguish the amount a worker should earn – basing on the individuals skills set and experience.

There are three differing schools of thought that have their own interpretations of labour law: Unitarianism, Liberal Pluralism, and Marixm. In correlation to Don Watkins’ article, the school of thought that best fits and/or exemplifies his thoughts and viewpoints would inherently be the Unitarianism Perspective. It is perceptible in Tuckers’ report that in the unitarianism perspective, there are protective legislations including the minimum wage-laws that operate through judicial decision-making. Watkins describes how employers should have the privilege and/or authorization to make recommendations in regard to how much an individual should actually make. The union he believes should not have full control of what a person makes. He affirms that the remuneration should best reflect the skill set and experience of the employee. These statements express the same ideologies of an unitarianism perspective: “It has deprived both workers and employers of freedom of choice and undermined Canada’s economic performance…” (Comack, 2006).

The liberal pluralist approach is a school of thought that contrasts with the unitarian view in association with labor laws. In this particular system, it depicts the labour market by an “imbalance of power between the individual worker and the employer” (Comack, 2006). This perspective opposes the Unitarianism thought because both the employer and employee have the ability to devise an agreement that would benefit and stabilize commercial relations. Whereas in the unitarian ideology, both the workers and employers are concerned with “maximizing their individual liberty and gaining from wealth generated by capitalism” (Comack, 2006). As a counter argument/response to Watkins’ article, liberal pluralists would reply by stating how they can see inequalities without standards such as the minimum wage: “…being responsive to an array of competing interest groups and not the servant of any single body” (Comack, 2006).

In relation to Watkins’ remarks in regards to the minimum wage, in my opinion, the minimum wage standard provides a safeguard to workers and opportunity for everyone. It protects non-unionized workers in unskilled jobs by providing them with a minimum – without the implementation of this act employers could potentially exploit their employees. Those who are uneducated/undereducated or unskilled, the minimum age provides them with a window of opportunity; gives them a sufficient enough of money. Although, we should also bear in mind that because there are so many positions being filled, it prevents jobs for those who are skilled and those who are trying to climb the ladder or better their resume: “…forced the movie theater to pay a wage higher than what my ability justified, it wouldn’t have magically made me more productive – it would have made me unemployable” Overall, Watkins provides convincing remarks that demonstrate why the minimum wage isn’t appropriate but there are also pros concerning this regulation that make it suitable for the economy.

Sources:

Bowal, PeterFranssen, Chris. “Minimum Wages In Canada.” Lawnow 36.3 (2012): 58-60. Canadian Reference Centre. Web. 12 Nov. 2013.

Comack, E. (2006). Locating law: race/class/gender/sexuality connections(2nd Ed.). Halifax, NS: Fernwood Pub.

Minimum Wage Database Introduction. Web. 28 July 2013. <http://srv116.services.gc.ca/dimt-wid/sm-mw/intro.aspx?lang=eng&gt;

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

History of First Nations Genocide in Canada

The United Nations defines genocide generally as “any act committed with the idea of destroying in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” (United Nations, 2013) and elaborates on this statement to include any of the following acts: “killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to physically destroy the group (the whole group or even part of the group), [and/or] forcefully transferring children of the group to another group” (United Nations, 2013). The UN also states that under this convention, there is no immunity from prosecution for nations engaging in practices deemed as genocide (2013).

While Canada prides itself on its reputation as a peacekeeping nation, many unfortunate instances in history have been swept under the rug in order to preserve the public image of a diplomatic, unified state. While the horrific treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada is increasingly garnering public attention, the lack of knowledge about these historical events and legislation, which systematically sought to destroy First Nations culture, is still a critical issue in Canadian society. From the Vatican’s Papal Bulls exploited by European monarchs in the 16th century to vehemently misappropriate Indigenous land to the implementation of the Indian Act of 1876 and the Indian Residential School System, Canada’s development and history expressed and continues to express a colonialist stance and Eurocentric priority. To commence discussion, an analysis of the United Nations literature on genocide coupled with synthesis of historical events involving the Indigenous in Canada is necessary.

Regarding the initial, broad definition which states that “an act committed with the idea of destroying in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” as genocide, it is essential to refer to early Western conquest circa the 1500s. Papal Bulls and the Doctrines of Discovery were used by Christian colonizers around the world, to seize land that was not rightfully theirs; monarchs were not only permitted to claim this land as theirs on grounds of being divine Christians, but were actually encouraged to do so employing whatever force necessary (Gardiner, 2013). This intentional attempt to “destroy in whole or in part… a religious group” is evident, as the goal of the European monarchs and crusaders was to globally purge the non-Christian world (Gardiner, 2013). Following initial conquest, North America was bestowed to King George, with the stipulation that Aboriginal land title would be preserved unless otherwise ceded by treaty, sold to the Crown and resold to settlers (Gardiner, 2013). The Royal Proclamation officiated these ‘guidelines’ and claimed to establish purpose of maintaining both European and Aboriginal best interests and unity, when in reality, it initiated colonialist rule over the First Nations Peoples of Canada (Gardiner, 2013). Subsequent acts such as the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857 and the Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1869 directly sought to destroy the national, ethnic, racial and religious group(s) of First Nations Peoples, by coercively swaying Aboriginal persons to surrender their statuses as Native individuals with the promise of various ‘incentives’ (Gardiner, 2013). Fierce attacks on Indigenous sovereignty, in addition to manipulative legislation that deviously persuaded individuals to abandon one’s cultural identity are a direct assault on a “national…” group. Furthermore, the Indian Act of 1876 was vastly more overarching than previous acts and dictated control over practically any and every small aspect of Aboriginal life, in conjunction with the state’s agenda of aggressive assimilation (Gardiner, 2013). The Indian Act prohibited a multitude of significant Aboriginal cultural practices – an especially notable example being the legal prohibition of the traditional potlatch ceremony: another example of a deliberate attack on Indigenous culture (Gardiner, 2013).

Moreover, the ultimate goal of the Indian Residential School System (1880s – late 1990s) was to “kill the Indian in the child” – a statement that makes direct reference to the broad UN definition in addition to the particular outlined genocide paradigms. Young Aboriginal children were abducted from their parents by the state, and transferred to facilities maintained by religious, European individuals (Gardiner, 2013); this “forceful [transfer of] children of the group to another group” exemplifies the United Nation’s definition of genocide. Furthermore, children were forced to disengage with their First Nations cultural identities by means of appalling punishments in the form of severe emotional, mental, physical and sexual abuse daily (Gardiner, 2013). Children were denied adequate diets and in turn, became extremely malnourished and diseased; additionally, living conditions within the schools were repulsive which also contributed to widespread illness (Gardiner, 2013). According to the UN definitions, this alone would satisfy every single criterion to deem genocide, most specifically “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group”. Likewise, many First Nations children died at the hands of their captors, either directly or indirectly as a result of the cruel maltreatment and neglect of individuals confined within the ‘schools’, yet another example of the systematic destruction of the Indigenous nation within Canada (Gardiner, 2013).

To readdress the question on the whole, the premeditated and relentless attack on First Nations culture and Peoples within Canada was 100% genocide. It is evident that historically, Canada has taken a variety of shocking approaches with the intention of eliminating not only Aboriginal autonomy, but additionally, Aboriginal culture and Peoples. Early Westerners asserted rule over First Nations Peoples through unjust and violent means all indicative of genocide. While the declaration of these historical instances as ‘genocide’ may be inflammatory or offensive to particular members of society, it is a duty our nation owes to First Nations Peoples; there must be acknowledgment and awareness of the harms and tragedies inflicted upon their communities and families. The pervasive colonist, Western ideology still present in Canada asserts that a mere apology and extra funding is ‘enough’ or in some cases, ‘too much’ in terms of remedial measures for First Nations peoples in response to the aforementioned events. I argue that while potentially provocative, labeling the acute, ill treatment of Indigenous Peoples over an extended period of time as ‘genocide’ is completely accurate and necessary. The recognition of the First Nations genocide in Canada would be an act of demystification, as it provides clarification regarding significant historical events that have since been progressively distorted and omitted from public discourse, as they have not traditionally been accepted in accord with the hegemonic Eurocentric stance of much of North America. Acknowledging these injustices and engaging in this ‘consciousness-raising’ provides opportunities to better analyze and comprehend how the historical context and treatment of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada has contributed to the current heightened rates of abuse, victimization and overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples within the Criminal Justice System today. Rejecting the status quo approach of the past by actively engaging in critical dialogue regarding the extensive history of First Nations inequality and wrongs in Canada is an essential step in movement towards promoting equality and justice, and the deconstruction of existing social hierarchies.

Sources:

Gardiner, Paige. (2013). Indigenous People of Canada and Structural Factors. Canada.

United Nations. (2013). Convention on The Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The United Nations. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/treaties/genocide.asp

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Looking Ahead: Deconstruction and Justice

At first glance, my reply to Derrida’s claim “Deconstruction is Justice” is that of agreement. For all its clarity and poignancy, the answer is not easily deduced. To make sense how the agreement came to be, the internal workings of the text require critical analysis. The practice of deconstruction is to unlock provisional conventions and to make space for unanticipated patterns of being (Pavlich, p. 170). The presence of concepts and of definitions is at all times over the horizon. It is a reflexive relationship between openness and closure. The modus vivendi—our way of life—carried with our language and our text will always stand on the end of a new frontier. For Derida and all human beings, everything is language. The power of language and of words comes to define us, unite us, and separate us from others and from ourselves. To ascribe a single definition to a word is to take away its vitality. Justice, like language, is something that is in constant ebb and flow. Weber (2005) claims that justice is “of the incalculable and the unpredictable” (p. 38). It is through the process of deferring to other terms and to calculable externalities—such as law—where infinite concepts, like ‘justice’, may create “meaning, being, and presence” (Pavlich, p. 170). In this sense, one cannot revise a few definitions to the exclusion of all others.

The concept of justice is circular. The end is unknown and its beginning is undistinguished. From where I stand, Derrida (1997) is not mistaken when he claims that “Deconstruction is Justice”. The concept of justice is something that is on the verge of becoming but requires an externality to make it known. For instance, at one point in time it was legally permissible for a husband to rape his wife in Canada without legal ramifications involving responsibility (Criminal Code, 1970). In 1983, Bill C-127 was introduced into legislation to create space for conversation and to make martial rape a criminal offence. From this perspective, it can be said that justice could not be materialized in and of itself; it required the externality of law. Justice may also be observed as a measure that asks for or demands others to state what it is or what it is not. Although it is held that “law does not guarantee justice anymore than justice guarantees good law” (Pavlich, p. 173). Consequently justice, like deconstruction, is provisional and subject to reversal.

The concept of deconstruction is something that happens from within that which already exists or is said to exist. It is shaped by one’s sociological and political context (p. 174), which creates meaning and understanding through language. Deconstruction as a practice is holistic as it opens up concepts that have not been fully unpacked. For concepts and texts that appear fixed or fully understood, deconstruction becomes crucial. In summary, both deconstruction and justice are concepts that favour innovation and development; bridging the gap between theory and process, abstract and concrete. To deconstruct justice is to make possible the unattainable and provisional moments in time. Justice cannot be made a reality in and of itself. It is constantly evolving, changing shape and is in need of other words, subjects and objects that are not present. Life is not static and neither is the praxis of deconstruction or justice.

References

Bill C-127, S.C. 1983, c. 125.

Criminal Code of Canada, R.S.C. 1970, c. C-34.

Derrida, J. (1997). Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida. Edited with a commentary by John D. Caputo. New York: Fordham University Press.

Pavlich, G. 2011. Law & Society, Refined. London: Oxford University Press.

Weber, Elisabeth (2005). “Deconstruction is Justice”, SubStance 34(1): 38-43

2 Comments

Filed under Musing

Making Nature Against the Law

In the twenty-first century the illegal status of cannabis in Canada is ‘immoral, unjust, and intolerable’. The first drug law implemented in Canada was the Opium Act of 1908 when Deputy Minister of Labour Mackenzie King was concerned with an increase of use among Caucasians (Grayson 2008, p. 73). Opium was the Chinese migrants drug of choice. The cannabis plant achieved its criminal status when it was added to the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act in 1923. Today, the possession and trafficking of marijuana falls under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (S.C. 1996, c. 19) as a schedule II narcotic. As a first conviction, offenders face a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail or a $1000 fine, or both, when possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less. Without a doubt, the debate over cannabis illegality is neither new nor unique. With this in mind, it is recognized that many others believe the law to be one that is unjust and intolerable. I often wonder how citizens in a “free and liberal democratic society” claim such status when the people do not hold sovereignty over their own bodies? It is often argued that the use of cannabis is potentially harmful, however it is destructive to the welfare of our nation state and humanity when living organisms becomes prohibited. John Finnis’s framework on Law and Flourish Human Life can be used to argue that Canada’s cannabis law is unjust, as it does not further the common good by criminalizing personal choice and suppresses sociability and friendship by forcing users to partake in secrecy. For Finnis, “justice is about fostering the common good in a community” and concerns interactions and duties with others (Pavlich 2011, p. 37). Likewise, Pavlich would argue that the law prevents the formation of shared objectives that serve everyone. This point could be applied to any arbitrary law and be taken out of context, although this law is unique to others as it is victimless. Criminalizing the production, usage and distribution of cannabis essentially causes more harm and victims than if it were to be legal. For one, the production of the plant often involves the stealing of electricity and bypassing usage meters in order to meet the markets supply and demand while keeping their costs low and workers off the electrical grid (Dehaas, 2012). This then places higher cost onto the legal customers to pay for the lost power. Secondly, the usage of the cannabis plant has been proven to be less harmful than other legal counterparts such as alcohol and prescription painkillers (CBC, 2012). Thirdly, the vast distribution and demand for cannabis has resulted in billions of dollars in revenue for organized crime (Nelson, 2010). The current illegality of the organism appears to be one of hegemony—the way in which elites have their interests be adopted as the common interests—through successful lobbying on behalf of those who are benefitting by it’s illegality (e.g., law enforcement, prison industry, pharmaceutical companies, etc.) as it ensures job security for its ‘combatants’ and produces wealth in industries profiting off of its synthetic counterparts in modern medicine. The time to end prohibition of this plant is long overdue.

“If people let government decide which foods they eat and medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson

References

CBC. (March 23, 2007). Alcohol, tobacco worse than pot, ecstasy: study. CBC News, Health, http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2007/03/23/alcohol-tobacco.html (accessed on September 21, 2012)

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (S.C. 1996, c. 19)

Dehaas, J. (June 23, 2011). Grow-op electricity thefts “like a five per cent surcharge”. Macleans, News, http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2011/06/23/grow-op-electricity-thefts-like-a-five-per-cent-surcharge/ (accessed on September 21, 2012)

Grayson, K. 2008. Chasing Dragons: Security, Identity, and Illicit Drugs in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto.

Nelson, A. (April 20, 2012). How Big Is The Marijuana Market? CNBC, News, http://www.cnbc.com/id/36179677 (accessed on September 21, 2012)

Pavlich, G. 2011. Law & Society, Refined. London: Oxford University Press.

3 Comments

Filed under Musing