Natural and man-made disasters

By Michael Lashley

Earthquake in Nepal, migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea and Aboriginal crisis in Canada! What should be our natural response?

In that natural response, we should express our fullest solidarity – in words, attitude and action – with those who are the victims of disasters, whether the disasters are natural or man-made.

The key policy questions that arise are the same. What can we do to help them? Is there anything that we can do to prevent or mitigate the re-occurrence or continuation of the disasters in future?

Those two questions have more or less clear answers in context of the tragic earthquake that struck the people of Nepal and neighbouring countries a few days ago. International disaster relief initiatives spring into action to save as many lives as possible, recover the bodies of the thousands of persons killed, provide emergency and medium-term assistance to those injured and displaced and to plan the process of reconstruction of the damaged zones.

The scientists will also research the origins of the build-up of pressure, the consequent seismic shift that produced the massive earthquake and the likelihood of more geological threats along the relevant fault lines. Any corrective, preventative or precautionary policies and measures will be identified and implemented.

Individuals, communities, organizations and governments will be active participants in the mobilization of financial, human and material resources to support the needs of the people of Nepal.

No such cooperation and consensus are evident in applying clear-cut “solutions” and emergency measures in the disastrous death of thousands of migrants, refugees and trafficked persons in overcrowded boats travelling to the southern shores of Europe, mainly of Italy.

What is Europe’s response to what the International Organization for Migration calls “the worst tragedy in living memory involving migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa”? At one time, there were naval search and rescue patrols aimed at saving lives but that has now been significantly reduced .There were also naval patrols to stem the tide of migrants.

There is a lot of talk about the need for coordinated international action against the traffickers and boat owners. One of the few constructive ideas proffered is the possibility of returning stability to Libya, one of the major sources of the desperate migrants.

This last idea is striking. In pointing to one of the structural, root causes of the crisis, it directs us towards the options for structural, longer-term solutions. This crisis has been festering for several years before almost 1,000 migrants lost their lives less than two week ago.

The numerous root causes include European colonialism, the many facets of under-development, issues of governance, internal and regional strife, plus the inequities and vagaries of the international economy which is still mainly dominated by North Atlantic countries and China.

It is therefore clear that the “solutions” to this specific migrant crisis lie not just in the hands of the sovereign Libyan people, but also in the joint efforts of the relevant regional and international efforts that must include the African Union, the UN and the countries of the European Union, not forgetting a certain major player in the politics of the Middle East, in the international energy market and in international politics and whose territory lies south of Canada.

And now, most of those same root causes can be repatriated to Canada to assist us in addressing the multi-faceted crisis still lived by our Aboriginal peoples, centuries after the arrival of waves of European “settlers”. Here are some of my views on this, taken verbatim from a note I sent privately to a senior public policy expert:

“I am enthusiastic about the decades and decades of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary hard work that are required to draw up the broad scope of a national, long-term agenda on Aboriginal rights and needs; to structure and divide that work into basic units and time-sequenced modules; to identify and implement the strategy for pursuing that agenda; and to identify and secure the appropriate human, material and financial resources.

“As I see it, the greatest achievement of all will be the governance model to be adopted in this enormous exercise, since, for the first time, the Aboriginal peoples themselves will be fully in the driver’s seat as the co-managers of the whole exercise.

“Moreover, in practical terms, we will not be opening a dangerous and unpleasant Pandora’s Box but the treasure trove of human development which Canada will earn as a result of an inclusive approach that fully engages Aboriginals and all other communities in our country’s bright future.”

Michael Lashley
Michael Lashley