The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) has done nothing to improve national security since its introduction nearly three years ago, according to civil rights attorney Julius Grey who presented his talk, “Is the Security & Prosperity Partnership a threat to our democracy?” at Concordia Tuesday night.
Grey explained that under the SPP, the United States’ unwillingness to compromise with other governments denies Canada the ability to develop a foreign policy or immigration policy of its own.
“A three-way security system equates to a U.S. security system,” Grey said.
Grey described economist David Ricardo’s assumption that free trade will bring prosperity to participants as a “myth” and argued that the presence of a stronger power in the agreement will receive more benefits than the other trading partners.
“A whole lot of unnecessary hysteria is created by a third power that we cannot control, and there is small chance that the U.S. will change,” he said.
He insisted that free trade among members of the SPP has served only the most wealthy – those in the top one per cent – and provides little to no benefits to the rest of the population.
Grey also argued that North America is less secure today than it was in 2001, and even the 1980s, despite legislation like the United States’ Patriot Act that infringe on individual rights under the guise of improved national security.
“In moments of panic, people believe that there is increased insecurity,” Grey said, evoking the Canadian government’s decision to relocate Canadian Japanese citizens during World War II.
“People realized by the end of the war that this was not the proper way to handle the situation.”
Despite terrorist attacks that occurred in Canada, such as the Air India attacks in 1985, Canada did not suspend the right of habeas corpus. Terrorist attacks have not increased, but Grey argued that Canada’s partnership with the U.S. has had increasing implications regarding Canadian security policies.
Grey also criticized the effect of free trade agreements on outsourced production of consumer goods at the expense of both labourers and consumers.
“People assume that we are better off based on this basket of cheap consumer goods. How have our lives improved since the 1980s? Aside from improvements in medical care, we have slightly better photography; we can flirt online with random strangers; we have all these new gadgets that lack intrinsic value,” Grey said.
In order to mend the effects of consumerism, Grey advocated for a decrease in free trade and capital devoted to consumer goods and an increase in social programs such as education and health care.
“If we don’t adopt solid market practices and stop cutting social programs, infrastructure projects and cultural programs for consumer goods, our living standards will decrease,” he said.
Grey explained that the U.S.’s deficit incurred by going to war has not helped its citizens. Its deficits based on social programs make for an educated and healthy population that is not resilient to difficult times.
“A deficit based on consumer goods makes the hard times impossible to get through,” he said.
Citizens in Action, an advocacy group dedicated to promoting education and political action, organized the talk.