is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at email@example.com
Panda-ing to the masses
Like Canadian federal scientists allowed to express their opinions publicly, PM Stephen Harper is extremely rare. Over the past few days, though, the PM has come under attack for taking the time to travel to Toronto to welcome two Chinese pandas to Canada instead of meeting with a group of Nishiyuu youth who had trekked 1600 kilometres to Ottawa to highlight the crisis among Canada's First Nations peoples.
Those critics aren't seeing the big picture. Here, then, are the reasons why it was important for Harper to take advantage of his giant panda photo-op:
The pandas will lay the groundwork for the Conservatives' new immigration policy of fast-tracking entry to Canada for those immigrants who are adorable and won't have a lot of babies.
There's something about frigid, slow-witted animals that speaks to the PM.
The Nishiyuu young people traveled 1600 kilometres. The pandas traveled over 10,000 kilometres. That's a bigger number. Math!
Pandas are endangered. Canada's First Nations are endangered. The world population of giant pandas: under 2000. Canada's First Nations population: over 800,000. Less endangered. Math again!
The pandas are black and white, which is how the Prime Minister sees most issues.
It's not every day that giant pandas come to Canada, whereas Canada's First Nations live in deplorable conditions precisely every day.
The Prime Minister's Office receives countless requests for meetings every day and must say yes to some and no to others. Many factors are considered in deciding which of these events the PM will attend, and each request comes down to the following question: Will it help us suck up to China?
You have to understand how the Prime Minister's schedule works. The Prime Minister can't just do what he wants. Well, yes, he can, but in terms of scheduling, activities are planned well in advance. Remember those spontaneous photos Harper posted on Twitter a while back? Those photos took weeks to plan. Likewise, the panda appointment was locked in months ago, much like the pandas will be locked in a zoo in Toronto for months.
That photo of Harper with the kitten was getting old.
From a diplomatic point of view, it would have been a terrible slight against China if the Prime Minister hadn't turned out to greet the pandas after he went out of his way to welcome the singing crickets from Japan.
Pandas are extremely temperamental. If the Prime Minister hadn't agreed to meet them upon landing, there was no way they were getting on that plane. They also demanded top-grade, fresh-cut bamboo shoots for the flight, bottles of Prepostrice Springs artisanal water, no Michael Bublé music playing in either airport, miniature plush versions of themselves to play with, and no red M&Ms.
In exchange for Canada accepting two Chinese pandas, China will take Don Cherry and columnist Margaret Wente. That's too good a deal to pass up. They too will try to mate in captivity, although China has promised not to stream these activities via webcam so as not to commit further human rights violations.
President Obama has never posed with a giant panda.
On the one hand, our First Nations issues are deeply complex, involving generations of cultural imperialism, land use, the integration of traditional ways into modern times, poverty and drug abuse, self-governance and natural resources, all of which cannot possibly be resolved through a single meeting with Native young people. On the other hand, pandas are cute!
Canada has been ignoring First Nations issues for over 150 years? What's one more day?
Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through www.townships.ca. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.