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History Table of Contents
1997 Summer Conference
Summer Conference 1997
Canada and the Asia-Pacific Promise: Hope, Hype and Reality
A Meeting of Cultures and a Clash of Values:
Living Together in an Interdependent World


Clarence, I thought your contrast between the clash of values and clash of culture was interesting. At the same time, I was struck, Kathleen, with your comment about the concepts of native justice based on the concepts of healing. Yet, it seems to me in Western and European, and particularly English-based society, the concept of justice is on that image of blind justice and due governance; a sort of balance within society.

And in Canada, particularly, I think that is an issue as we address the rule of law within Aboriginal communities. Perhaps you could comment on that, because it strikes that, in fact, we are really seeing a clash of values and not a clash of cultures when we deal with the issue of the concepts of justice within Canada?

Makela: In looking at justice as healing, there is quite a difference of values about how you settle disputes within Aboriginal communities and non-Aboriginal communities. In recent years we have been having some progress in trying to get the Canadian government to recognize that there has to be an alternative to the current way of dealing with disputes, especially within Aboriginal communities.

But, I think also you see within non-Aboriginal communities people saying, this system isn't working, we don't like how people are being treated under the current justice system; we don't like how women are treated when they are victims of rape, we don't like domestic violence and how that's treated.

So, I think the state has taken over the role of protecting society. But, we're seeing that actually isn't the most effective way and I think in most cultures, in most communities you'll see that there are probably built in ways of doing it and that's coming forward. The Aboriginal people are saying we have to do this because we have such a high incarceration rate; we can't handle the current way of incarceration and the current justice system. But more people, other than Aboriginal, are saying that also.

Dias: If I gave the impression that I was suggesting there aren't real clashes of values, I'm sorry I gave that impression. There are real clashes of values and what I was talking about was the agreement about a universal core set of values to help us resolve those clashes.

On the two examples you mention, justice. Yes, Western approaches have primarily been through an adversarial system with a win-lose kind of situation, vindication of rights, and has focused in large measure on access — providing access to the system, whereas many Asian justice systems are more concerned with the concept of justice, the quality of justice and, essentially, creating procedures for approaching the system so that access is not a problem.

But, access is the first step. Having got access, what do you get out of that access? This remains a serious problem and this was starkly brought to the forefront with the Bhopal victims; some 100,000 of them who remain today — more than 12 years later — permanently disabled to a greater or lesser extent.

When they sought justice, and they did, in the Western legal systems, the courts of India, the courts of the United States, they've come out 12 years later with virtually nothing. However, there has also been community support systems, at work, which are keeping some of them alive.

So, I think that's one.

In terms of rule of law, I think here, once again, many of the Asian traditions are not satisfied with the concept of the Rule of law, which is nothing more than the law of the ruler. And many of the Asian systems, in fact, are concerned about the justness of the law of the ruler. They will accept the ruler, but ruler's law has a different connotation and it essentially means that some set of values will determine the legitimacy of the law of the ruler.

So, I think, yes, there are different cultural takes on how one interprets these concepts, but once again I go back to the universal standards in which many of the key, non-negotiable core elements of the concept are set out. And all this current attempt, for example, because of cost-cutting and other things, that providing a second grade, second class justice system to deal with what they call small claims courts is, in fact, essentially the problem with these kinds of issues. The claim may be small in monetary terms, but the issue of being cheated by a harmful product is not.

In his opening comment, the moderator talked about one of the pillars of Canadian foreign policy being the promotion of Canadian values. This may be a question of perception, maybe I'm splitting hairs here, but [what is the] perception of how this would be viewed from in terms of [an] Asian perspective when we talk about promoting Canadian values. I'd recommend that we change that and talk about sharing our Canadian values. Maybe Dr. Dias would like to comment on what the perception in Asia would be of our policy and should we change that?

Dias: I won't speak for Asia, but for myself, in two words: Heaven forbid.

Exhibition of Canadian values, fine. You've got something you're proud of show it to the rest of the world and leave it at that. People are rational. They will pick what the consider to be useful, not because it's new — but because it's useful — they will pick what they think enriches their beings and their lives in many different ways.

But, one important aspect that bothers me when we get into this Asian values, Western values kind of dichotomy [is] it's not particularly Asian at all, but invariably when we are talking about values we end up talking about more materialistic values and the other worldly attributes — the non-materialistic elements, etc. — nothing particularly Asian about them, except that we've moved less far away from them in some countries in Asia than in others.

But, I think there is this problem and increasingly after you've got more and more people reasonably well off, what happens then? The problems one of affluence; alcoholism in Scandinavian countries, high suicide rates, mental health issues and these kinds of problems really do show what I was referring to as, sometimes more may well be less.

Dr. Tze, I was not quite sure whether the people in China would like to share our Western, or North American type of medicine, if they're interested in it from a philosophical and cultural point of view. If that should be the case, how would that be possible because of our increasingly technological aspect of medicine which has enormous costs?

Dr. Tze: You'd be surprised what has happened in China, compared with 10 years ago when I first visited China. During this period I have seen a dramatic change taking place.

To give you an example, laser treatment for myopia; they have nearly 10 times the number of machines in China, than in Canada, in just the last two or three years. They have more CT scan and MI; about five or 10 times more than Canada.

So, number one, I don't think it's a good sign, but I'm just saying that they indeed are, in fact, abusing the system.

When you look at the health care system in China, it's very interesting. They do not have a private practice system. Anyone who's sick has to go to an institution, or to hospital as an out-patient.

There are three types of hospitals in China; one uses the Western approach; that means they practice exactly what we practice in Canada, but still they have a department for traditional Chinese medicine. When you walk in that hospital and register you can demand to go to the TCM department. But, 90 per cent of the practice is focused on Western medicine.

And then you have higher spectrum, the focused TCM practice. They have emergency, they do surgery, they have diagnostic facilities and so on just like Western medicine. But, their entire focus is on using TCM for treating patients.

Then, you have hospitals somewhere in between, combining both.

So, when you talk about human rights...any individual, family or patient can select any [hospital] they want. You have paid for or not paid for. Mind you, though, they see 5,000 out patients a day.

I'd like to continue the focus on health care.

Certainly what Dr. Tze was saying about his work in Vancouver to establish for the first time in this country the institute that's working with traditional Canadian medicine is truly historic, because it represents at an organizational level and a public policy level a step towards some integration or some convergence.

What I'm interested in, though, is the phenomenon we have within our country at the level of people, where a lot of integration is already attempted. For example, with cancer [and] with general diseases, Canadians in 50 per cent of the cases will turn to alternate or complimentary methods of healing and treatment in addition to whatever is being prescribed in terms of surgery and prescription drugs.

In some cases this includes Aboriginal methods of healing and treatments. In other cases, it's what you described as traditional Chinese medicine, It's also in terms of ayurvedic medicine from India with a 7,000 year history of its evolution and recently being reactivated in a major way. And in Ontario, there's one doctor who's not only licensed to practice traditional Canadian medicine, but also ayurvedic medicine.

We're finding that if in half the cases Canadian people are turning to alternate medicines, in the case of cancer it's 90 per cent. Nine out of 10 cancer patients in this country are utilizing methods and treatments in addition to the three basic Canadian ways of dealing with cancer, which are to cut it out, burn it out or poison it through surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.

I'd like to invite each of you to speak a bit about how you see this phenomenon.

Dr. Tze: Despite the interest of the public in how this whole process, the integration of these two diversified systems can eventually work together, is not an easy approach. The way I see it, I think apart from the creation mechanism, which is the creation of the Institute, we need to improve the educational system. I'm trying to work with the medical school and try to convince them of the importance of all undergraduate medical school students being exposed to complimentary medicine.

For example, in 1993 a published report in the New England Journal of Medicine, when they did an extensive survey among Americans using alternative medicine, they found that 34 per cent — one out of three Americans are using alternative medicine.

But, 76 per cent of them never talked to their doctors, because they're afraid and also their doctors don't know how to answer. So, there's always a negative attitude. What we need is not only graduate physicians to practice complimentary medicine, but at least that they know what it's all about, particularly in the case of an emergency so they know how to handle it.

It's become very important in the fundamental education process. Second, [if] you go to Chinatown in Toronto or Vancouver you see so many individuals putting their name out there; they're practising acupuncture. There's a lack of accreditation, a lack of quality of control. And it's very dangerous. The consumer needs to be protected. So that means there's a need...we need a standardized educational system.

I'm working with BCIT in Vancouver to develop a degree program in acupuncture. They should know some basic anatomy, physiology, and pathology before the put a needle in somebody's body. Also, I object to any physician going to China for five weeks and come back thinking they're an expert in acupuncture.

Secondly, there's a need to for a proper collection of [information on a] data base so that when a patient, a family, a physician require information can properly screen. [Right now] when you turn on the Internet there's a mass of information. It's very confusing. And [much] of it is useless.

And we need more research. We need to mobilize good scientists to conduct research; to do that we need government to put more money into the research area. We need agencies to put more money into the area.

To give you an example, there's a very exciting team in Vancouver [that] developed a technology using automation screening of sputum to diagnose lung cancer lesions in patients. I worked with them and convinced them it's worthwhile to look at some of the herbal medicines to prevent the progression of the cancer becoming a cancer. They agree with that. In fact, I'm going to China to try and pick up this herbal medicine they've been using for the last 10 years [on] over 10,000 patients, with no side effects [to] hopefully incorporate into this research project.

Once we have one or two major projects and are able to demonstrate their effect scientifically, we can bring in more money, more research and more people. That to me is the answer.

Looking at this panel and the entire weekend, I'm struck by the diversity and, in contrast, the similarity. As we come together, why shouldn't we take the best from each other? That's the process of learning. But the paradox is as we come closer together and become more similar, we begin to lose our individuality.

One can be sympathetic to any kind of individualistic approach, whether it be a particular section of Asia or a particular section of Canada, as evidenced by our Aboriginal representative. But, communications and transportation have removed the separation, whether we like it or not. And we're thrown together. And some of it is damn good, because we learn things from each that we hadn't discovered on our own.

Then we begin to lose our individuality.

I leave with you a comment made by Freud, who said, people are like porcupines. When they get close together they inadvertently prick one another.

How can we help our society evolve where we understand one another, where we share and where we get from one another that which is valuable and try to reject that which is not valuable and, yet, maintain the fact I'm a Canadian from a French-Canadian province and that seems to make me a different Canadian?

Makela: Looking at the idea of the loss of individualism, that's assuming that's how you define yourself as an individual. If you look at it from an Indigenous point of view, it's actually — you don't see yourself as an individual, you see yourself as a member of a collective and it's important that the collective take care of the individuals.

We have this discussion quite a bit with members of foreign affairs, the Prime Minister's Office and a number of different representatives about the idea of individual versus collective rights.

It's interesting that a large percentage of the world's population is of an Indigenous background and their cultural values — not to over generalize — [are that] they see the collective being foremost and the idea that you need to take care of the collective to make sure that the rights of the individual are taken care of, understanding the whole time that people don't live in isolation.

You aren't one isolated individual, but actually you are part of a very big web of human relationships, relationships with other species of animals. You're also related to the environment. The way I've been taught it's very wrong to separate yourself from all these relationships and, for myself, to maintain balance within myself I need to maintain balance with all my relations around me.

Dias: I see, paradoxically, the exact reverse happening. I see growing tendencies toward communitarianism in many parts of Asia, as a reaction to some of the aspects of globalization. There's a resurgence of cultural identification;

there is getting back into groups, because the kind of atomized, individualized aspects that come with globalization are creating new insecurities. And so people are coming together.

The church I used to go to when I was in Bombay has now become completely different from what it was before. It's really a kind of place where people meet and deal with the problems of the community.

The point about picking up what is good and assimilating, etc. Much of that you just can't pick up in the sense that that's a product of a particular way of societies organizing themselves.

To link up with the earlier question about medicine, again in Bombay, one of the worst air-polluted cities in the world, everybody's getting sick and chemical medicine has no answers. So, everybody is going to unani, homeopathic, ayurvedic doctors, because they come from a tradition. These doctors will travel around to three or four towns and cities. two days in the week they'll be in Bombay, two days they'll be somewhere else. So, there are huge queues lined up.

The rich folk used to send their shoppers to stand and keep the place in the queue, but the ayurvedic and homeopathic doctor would not accept that, because behind that tradition of medicine is a different set of values. They're charging nothing. They only charge for the actual cost of the medicine. They tradition is handed down on the understanding it will be done in the same way.

So, what is happening in this process of selecting one is reinforcing what was earlier under attack, because in the big push to modern medicine in Bombay these were almost an endangered species. Now, all of sudden one is seeing a kind of reverse trend.

Many of the trends are not dichotomous, but they are sort of cyclical. Much of it involves understanding the value of balance. Certain aspects of globalization are upsetting certain types of balances and then there's a search for finding the balances, but sometimes through different and sometimes quite unique and creative ways.

In Western medicine you have patents on drugs. You take an organic substance from the rain forest and you make it into an inorganic chemical that we ingest in our bodies and it's patented and it's marketed and it goes through the business system and makes a profit for the drug companies and the government helps this process along as well.

It seems to me there's some vested interests within Western medicine to do the same thing with herbal medicine. This would interfere with the very practice of how herbal medicine, and other forms of complimentary medicine, is applied.

Dr. Tze: You point out a serious problem here. All the global standard for scientific research, double blind study, etc. is very difficult to apply to complimentary medicine. One of the major tasks for the people who are involved in the promotion of complimentary medicine, trying to integrate the two systems, had to look at what methodology can be used, or modified, and [be] equally scientifically acceptable like the outcome studies, not really know exactly how the ingredient worked, but know how the patient would benefit.

That's being going on and I'll be attending a conference in Washington at the end of this month [at which] they will try to give some methodology and standardization [and ways to] look at [how] the whole field can eventually be proven scientifically.

One of the sad parts, as you pointed out, is that all the major drug companies, pharmaceutical companies, are only interest is that they're protected by patent so they can make money. So, they are not interested in investing money in that. But that will change. I think the whole thing is changing.

But, if they can't patent a drug, how are they going to be able to...

Dr. Tze: There's a methodology now recently published in California called pharma-painting. They're using a new technology on how to use a complex ingredient to analyze so it eventually comes out the same type of composition which you can identify to be the process through the FDA. This is in the early stage of development. It's a difficult issue, but it's happening.

Dias: In India, the government deregulated it, so the formal organized medical profession, which had been making it illegal to practice indigenous forms of medicine now don't get that regulatory cover, so all of a sudden it's an official legal activity — it had always been there, but as an underground activity.

Regarding the patenting issue, again India has taken a fairly unique approach, which is, we don't care about bio-piracy in terms of things being taken out of India and being patented in other countries. But, our national patent law is such that we do not allow a thing to be patentable which is in the public domain.?So, we do not allow living organisms, a number of these aspects, we do not allow traditional technologies to be patentable in India. Ironically, here we are under pressure at the World Trade Organization, etc. to be standardizing patent law. In the process of standardizing, removing this particular kind of protection we have, because if it's not patentable in India, access within India is open, even if a multinational is coming and delivering that particular service that multinational is not protected by patent in India.

The idea is we're being forced to give this up in the name of standardization.

Makela: I think we have a lot to learn from India...especially if there are traditional owners and traditional users of medicines, plants and herbs that has to be respected.

Kathleen mentioned that intellectual property is something that is seen quite differently in the native culture. It's almost a part of their identity and a part of [their] whole philosophy, which is quite different from Western philosophy.

But, on the other hand, it seems to me that you're looking for protection in the same way as you would under Western philosophy and tradition.

I'm wondering whether you really can have it both ways. I'm all for being cosmopolitan and taking the best of both worlds, but it seems to me this is really a fundamental kind of conflict and I don't know that you can have it both ways.

I'd like to hear the panel's comments on that.

Makela: Part of the problem that Indigenous people face today, just looking at the idea of human rights. It's been shown time and time again that existing human rights standards aren't applied to Indigenous peoples.

What we're working towards [is] the draft declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples becoming a real declaration. The problem is we do live in a world where a lot of the power brokers are the nation states. And they set up the rules.

When I went to university in my undergraduate [years] I really started examining what was going in our communities back and what was going on with my families and I was trying to come to terms with, why has this happened? Why are we in this state we are in today?

I got very discouraged, because I was looking a lot at Canadian law and specifically the Indian Act, Department of Indian Affairs, and became very depressed. What I decided to do was shift my focus and thought maybe internationally there lies an answer, because there are Indigenous peoples all across the world and they've suffered colonization, they had very similar problems that we face here in Canada.

So, I looked internationally and I kind of was revved up for two years thinking there's going to be answers here. But, what I found out was that the same people make international law as domestic law. And for me that was very discouraging. At that point, I was ready to say, to heck with all of this.

What I did, instead, was I went to law school and I checked out law school. I thought maybe I can find some answers there. I realized very soon into it there wasn't any answers there for me.

But I stuck out law school and now we're trying to work from an Indigenous point of view. At the same time, we are working within the confines of a system that is very well established, very powerful players.

What we are hoping to do is to try and take what we can and somehow preserve what we have, with the idea being that we have a lot to offer the world. Indigenous peoples have a lot to offer. We have some very good lessons and we're hoping — there's a prophecy about this — the idea that when the four different colours of people come together it will be the red person that will lead, if they accept the teachings of the red man, they lead them to a state similar to a Utopia.

I believe in that prophecy. These predictions are thousands of years old. The people in North America, what we call Turtle Island, knew that the Europeans would be coming. They also knew that the people from Asia would be coming.

What's interesting is that in this prophecy they warned, they said be careful when the people of white skin come, because they can be either wearing a mask of friendship or a mask of death, and you really can't tell the difference between the two.

Of course, we realize now they were wearing the wrong mask.

So, we are trying to balance and work with what we have. Sometimes we have to make some very strong compromises, but the one compromise we won't make is that there are basic human rights that all peoples have and we are working towards that.

Dias: I think this whole area of intellectual property rights is an area that should be re-examined from the perspectives of both hype and hope. What is passing for intellectual property rights and the justification for it under GATT and WTO is very different from what were the fundamentals.

When the legal concept of a patent came into existence, it came into existence to serve three functions:

  • One was to reward the inventor.
  • Second was to generate revenues to support the research that produces that creativity.
  • Third was to put into the public domain the advance of the invention.

That's why the technology is public, once it's in a patent. Once that's public, others can take that and build from that.

That's the essence of what a patent is.

Today, what has happened is patent type protection has been extended to things that occur in nature. Plant genetic resources, living organisms, etc., rather than a process of intellectual creativity. And the misnomer is that that has been called intellectual property law, when there is nothing intellectual about that particular aspect again.

And so it would qualify as an oxymoron in my vocabulary, anyway.

But, I think the three basic functions of a patent system, which is to further knowledge and to put into the public domain the state that has been achieved, I think most Indigenous people and most traditional knowledge-based systems would have no problem with that.

What they do have a problem with is essentially piracy of something that is from particular system, which is taken out and then often repackaged as a product through biogenetic engineering and sold in our own countries — in the country of origin of that gene — at enormous sums of money. The global pharmaceutical industry is well organized; it is able to do price fixing better than OPEC was able to do historically.