[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only. It may contain biased and distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context.]
There was dancing, singing and speech-making at the opening of the Connections Tour at Richmond Centre on Thursday morning, but there was also protesting.
It was supposed to be a positive kick-off to the youth tour designed to promote relations with the Asia Pacific region. But the mood of the event changed as several protesters chanting in unison and holding signs reading "Junk APEC" and similar sentiments filed into the mall display area in front of Sears, upstaging a children's dance performance. They left as quickly as they came.
It failed to agitate B.C. Premier Glen Clark, who opened the ceremony with a speech promoting youth education on the Asia Pacific, stressing trade opportunities in that part of the world that make up $9 billion in exports per year for B.C.
In a private student press conference that followed, the premier was asked, among other things, if British Columbians "are supposed to see Asians as dollar signs." He answered that he was simply promoting the significance the Asia Pacific has on B.C. culturally and economically. B.C. is in a good position due to the fact that "we escaped the devastating recession that hit the rest of the nation," in the 1990s, he said, which he credits to the diversity of trade, not with the U.S., but with Asia.
"APEC itself is not going to solve our problems or open any doors; the Asia Pacific region will."
When asked why the government supports trade with countries that lack human rights, Clark said, "We trade, right now, with countries that have atrocious human rights, but our standard of living would be cut in half if we didn't trade with them."
While some would argue Canadians should live with that cut, the federal government hopes to improve human rights in the Asia Pacific through example, rather than a boycott, he said. Increased economic relationships are expected to highlight Canada's attractive lifestyles and freedoms.
Would First Nations benefit from the APEC summit?, the premier was asked.
"Aboriginal people have huge potential," he countered, specifically when it comes to the lucrative business of selling aboriginal art to Japanese visitors. A possible aluminum smelter plant in Prince Rupert could also bring jobs to native people, he added.
[Article accompanied by photo of a young protester holding up a placard that reads, "Make the Real Connection: APEC = Exploitation."]
"Global Indigenous Business": Aboriginal conference, Trade & Art Show
Vancouver, November 24-25
The biggest Aboriginal business event of the year, the two day conference features an agenda based on Pacific Rim Trade with Aboriginal business people. Special emphasis will be placed on trade between New Zealand Maori, and Canadian Aboriginals. The cultural attractions include Aboriginal drummers and dancers, artists presenting their wares, Maori Dancers, and Aboriginal food. For further information, please contact the Native Investment & Trade Association 1-800-337-7743.