As the world is battling the novel coronavirus, the global political order is also undergoing a seismic shift. While it is still too early to predict a post-coronavirus world, some of the ongoing developments might heavily influence the world order—which has been in a state of flux. These include, inter alia, Sino-US rivalry, EU divisions and qualms about the future of international organizations.
As the novel coronavirus rages and economies reel, US and China are embroiled in what has been called ‘a racially tinged’ war of words. The Trump administration as well as key congressional Republicans have labeled Covid-19 the ‘Chinese Virus’ or the ‘Wuhan Virus,’ while the Chinese government officials have hit back by accusing the US military of bringing the virus to China. The expulsion of US journalists from China added to the tensions between the two states amidst the global crisis and has brought the relations between the leading world powers to an impasse. This relates to the general predicament the world is mired in today with regards to lack of cooperation between sovereign states on relatively new issues like climate change, global health, cyber security, and so on. Additionally, rising mistrust between key state actors will have far-reaching implications for the global economy, which has come to an alarming slowdown owing to not only the coronavirus but also protracted trade war between Washington and Beijing.
China and the US have responded to the crisis in starkly different ways. The US has adopted a more inwards policy insofar as it has refrained from sending help abroad, remaining confined to helping its own people. Meanwhile, China notwithstanding the fact that it remained the hotbed of the virus for the initial months, offered assistance to several states, most notably Italy where it sent medical supplies to battle the novel coronavirus even before its European counterparts. China’s prompt assistance in fighting the coronavirus is helping the country boast its soft image and, more importantly, expand its influence in different parts of the world. On the flip side, the US has largely failed to play the role of a global leader during the novel coronavirus crisis.
EU Project Coming Under Scrutiny
The European Union is experiencing its make or break moment as the Europeans continue to remain deeply divided over rendering assistance to countries like Italy and Spain which have been hit hard by Covid-19. Netherlands together with Germany, Finland and Austria have rejected the crucial demand of Italy for issuance of ‘coronabonds’ which entails all EU member states borrowing from the markets on mutual terms. Negotiations on this latest element of the EU’s fiscal response to the pandemic have revived feelings of animosity last experienced during the financial crunch of 2008.This has unfolded against the backdrop of EU countries following divergent paths on strategies to combat the spread of coronavirus.
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While European Union survived Brexit, the repercussions of the politico-economic crisis sparked by the spread of the novel coronavirus are far grave in nature and threaten the very architecture of EU, as indicated by world leaders and experts. The Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, has already warned, “If Europe fails to come up with a monetary and financial policy adequate for the biggest challenge since World War II, not only Italians but European citizens will be deeply disappointed.” Moreover, it would also stoke the winds of “euroskepticism” possibly leading to further strengthening of nationalist and rightwing parties in Europe. The current political impasse can only be resolved if the EU states rise to the occasion and look beyond their national differences and maintain institutional cohesion.
The Future of International Organizations
International organizations are a major pillar of the modern-day globalization, and the US remains the biggest financial contributor to many international organizations, providing them vital financial assistance to run their operations around the world. However, the US gave less than $15m in response to World Health Organization’s (WHO) coronavirus emergency appeal compared to $20m donated by China, Kuwait $40m, European commission $33m and Japan $47.5m. This is symptomatic of the US, under the Trump administration, no longer willing to commit millions of dollars to the international organizations. The White House has been seeing several international organizations not serving its national interests in the recent period.
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In the context of the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump accused WHO of being “very China-centric’’ and said they “really blew” their response to the pandemic. The Trump administration seems to have openly expressed its intention of reviewing funding for WHO as well as other international organizations, which may create space for a new actor(s)filling the void and expanding its global influence. Given the bleak state of the global economy and the growing internal problems of the west, it is likely that China and its allies could fill this vacuum.
How Canadian churches are helping their communities cope with the wildfires
As wildfires burn across Canada, churches are finding ways to support their members and the broader community directly impacted by the crisis.
According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, as of June 13, there are 462 active fires across Canada – and 236 of them classified as out of control fires.
Whether it’s through phone calls or donations to community members, here’s how a few churches across Canada are handling active wildfires and the aftermath in their regions.
Westwood Hills, N.S.: St. Nicholas Anglican Church
In Nova Scotia, St. Nicholas Anglican Church and other churches in the area are collecting money for grocery cards to give to families impacted by the Tantallon wildfire.
The fire is now considered contained, but Tanya Moxley, the treasurer at St. Nicholas is organizing efforts to get grocery gift cards into the hands of impacted families.
As of June 12, four churches in the area – St. Nicholas, Parish of French Village, St Margaret of Scotland and St John the Evangelist – raised nearly $3,500. The money will be split for families’ groceries between five schools in the area impacted by the wildfire.
Moxley said she felt driven to raise this money after she heard the principal of her child’s school was using his own money to buy groceries for impacted families in their area.
“[For] most of those people who were evacuated, the power was off in their subdivision for three, four or five days,” she said. “Even though they went home and their house was still standing, the power was off and they lost all their groceries.”
Moxley said many people in the area are still “reeling” from the fires. She said the church has an important role to help community members during this time.
“We’re called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless and all that stuff, right? So this is it. This is like where the rubber hits the road.”
Is it ever OK to steal from a grocery store?
Mythologized in the legend of Robin Hood and lyricized in Les Misérables, it’s a debate as old as time: is it ever permissible to steal food? And if so, under what conditions? Now, amid Canada’s affordability crisis, the dilemma has extended beyond theatrical debate and into grocery stores.
Although the idea that theft is wrong is both a legally enshrined and socially accepted norm, the price of groceries can also feel criminally high to some — industry data shows that grocery stores can lose between $2,000 and $5,000 a week on average from theft. According to Statistics Canada, most grocery item price increases surged by double digits between 2021 and 2022. To no one’s surprise, grocery store theft is reportedly on the rise as a result. And if recent coverage of the issue rings true, some Canadians don’t feel bad about shoplifting. But should they?
Kieran Oberman, an associate professor of philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom, coined the term “re-distributive theft” in his 2012 paper “Is Theft Wrong?” In simplest terms, redistributive theft is based on the idea that people with too little could ethically take from those who have too much.
“Everybody, when they think about it, accepts that theft is sometimes permissible if you make the case extreme enough,” Oberman tells me over Zoom. “The question is, when exactly is it permissible?”
Almost no one, Oberman argues, believes the current distribution of wealth across the world is just. We have an inkling that theft is bad, but that inequality is too. As more and more Canadians feel the pinch of inflation, grocery store heirs accumulate riches — Loblaw chair and president Galen Weston, for instance, received a 55 percent boost in compensation in 2022, taking in around $8.4 million for the year. Should someone struggling with rising prices feel guilty when they, say, “forget” to scan a bundle of zucchini?
The homeless refugee crisis in Toronto illustrates Canada’s broken promises
Canadians live in a time of threadbare morality. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Toronto’s entertainment district, where partygoers delight in spending disposable income while skirting refugees sleeping on sidewalks. The growing pile of luggage at the downtown corner of Peter and Richmond streets resembles the lost baggage section at Pearson airport but is the broken-hearted terminus at the centre of a cruel city.
At the crux of a refugee funding war between the municipal and federal governments are those who have fled persecution for the promise of Canada’s protection. Until June 1, asylum seekers used to arrive at the airport and be sent to Toronto’s Streets to Homes Referral Assessment Centre at 129 Peter St. in search of shelter beds. Now, Toronto’s overcrowded shelter system is closed to these newcomers, so they sleep on the street.
New mayor Olivia Chow pushed the federal government Wednesday for at least $160 million to cope with the surge of refugees in the shelter system. She rightly highlights that refugees are a federal responsibility. In response, the department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada points to hundreds of millions in dollars already allocated to cities across Canada through the Interim Housing Assistance Program, while Ontario says it has given nearly $100 million to organizations that support refugees. But these efforts are simply not enough to deliver on Canada’s benevolent promise to the world’s most vulnerable.
The lack of federal generosity and finger-pointing by the city has orchestrated a moral crisis. It’s reminiscent of the crisis south of the border, where Texas governor Greg Abbott keeps bussing migrants to cities located in northern Democratic states. Without the necessary resources, information, and sometimes the language skills needed to navigate the bureaucratic mazes, those who fled turbulent homelands for Canada have become political pawns.
But Torontonians haven’t always been this callous.
In Ireland Park, at Lake Ontario’s edge, five statues of gaunt and grateful refugees gaze at their new home: Toronto circa 1847. These statues honour a time when Toronto, with a population of only 20,000 people, welcomed 38,500 famine-stricken migrants from Ireland. It paralleled the “Come From Away” event of 9/11 in Gander, N.L., where the population doubled overnight, and the people discovered there was indeed more than enough for all. It was a time when the city lived up to its moniker as “Toronto, The Good.”
Now, as a wealthy city of three million people, the city’s residents are tasked with supporting far fewer newcomers. Can we not recognize the absurdity in claiming scarcity?
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