Challenging, Confronting and Defying Corporate Power

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 Credit: Patricia Charest Mugwaneza, Inter Pares

SNC-Lavalin. General Motors. Facebook.

Along with so many others in Canada these days, we at Inter Pares are reflecting upon the seemingly ubiquitous and far-reaching nature of corporate power. Confronting corporate harm is central to our economic justice programming. Where public interest collides with corporate interests, we believe the government has a role to play as a responsible counterweight. We ask whose voices are heard, and in whose interests decisions are made.

Lucy Sharratt challenged corporate power as she testified in front of a Parliamentary Committee on the topic of "public trust" in our food system. Lucy is the coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), where Inter Pares is an active member. CBAN promotes food sovereignty and democratic decision-making on science and technology issues in order to protect the integrity of the environment, health, food, and livelihoods in Canada and globally. CBAN questions how farmers can truly have control over their livelihoods when just four companies own 66% of the global commercial seed market. And how Canadians can make informed food choices if our government refuses to establish mandatory labelling of genetically engineered foods. CBAN also seeks to expose Canadian regulators’ heavy reliance on science generated by the very same companies asking for product approval.

Emily Dwyer confronted corporate interests earlier this year in front of national media when she expressed extreme disappointment that the Canadian government had reneged on a commitment to establish an independent ombudsperson for corporate abuses of human rights. Emily works for the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA), another coalition of which Inter Pares is a key member. She has spent countless hours trying to establish a Canadian regulatory framework to hold extractive companies accountable for their widespread and egregious human rights abuses globally. The government promised to establish an ombudsperson with investigatory powers, financial resources, and a mission to reform Canadian corporate behaviour abroad. However, the ombudsperson established has no such powers and affected communities overseas, who are often poor and vulnerable, still have little recourse. Despite this setback, the CNCA’s struggle for corporate accountability continues undeterred.

Melanie Benard defies corporate power when she speaks about the critical need for a universal, public pharmacare program in Canada.  Melanie works for the Canadian Health Coalition (CHC), another coalition to which Inter Pares belongs. The CHC is committed to preserving and expanding our universal public healthcare system. Canada is the only country with a public healthcare system that doesn’t cover access to prescription medication. Globally, we pay the third highest prices for medication. Currently, one in four households cannot afford their prescription medication. Large pharmaceutical and insurance companies are a major barrier, desperately lobbying to protect their vast profits. The CHC passionately advocates for pharmacare so that no one in Canada has to choose between putting food on the table and getting the medication they need.

Inter Pares actively supports organizations and movements that interrogate, challenge, and curb corporate power. Lucy, Emily and Melanie are remarkable activists resisting and organizing for change. It is a privilege to work alongside them.

Inter Pares actively supports organizations and movements that interrogate, challenge, and curb corporate power.

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