A not-for-profit group that made headlines last year for supporting pipeline construction has set its sights on supporting the canola industry.
Suits and Boots, an organization made up of investors and resource sector workers, has launched a campaign called ‘#StandUpToChina’ in the wake of Chinese canola import bans.
The campaign calls for Canadian canola stakeholders to voice their concerns directly to China’s ambassador to Canada and consular officials.
“Our objective is simply to say to the Chinese, ‘Stop what you’re doing on the canola side. Leave the farmers out of it.’ We know very well there’s a bigger question here but we can’t sit idly by and let the Chinese government roll over the canola farmers,” said Suits and Boots founder and director Rick Peterson.
Early in March, China announced a ban on imports from Canada’s largest grain handler Richardson International Ltd., citing contamination of their product. Later that month, they extended the ban to Viterra Inc, but there is speculation that the move was in retaliation for Canada’s detainment of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
“Canola farmers are doing what they should be doing every day. Working hard to create a crop. To have them squished in the middle of this trade dispute is unfair. We’d just like for Canadians to stand up,” Peterson said.
Peterson said the campaign has already resulted in “several hundred” emails. He said in addition to those emails, Suits and Boots plans to spread their message to anyone doing business with China.
“We’re going to be contacting anybody who’s doing business, travelling to China, doing any kind of cultural or sporting exchange with China, and saying ‘be aware,’” Peterson explained.
“Be aware that no matter what you’re doing with them, behind the scenes you have something happening that is crushing the economy in Canada.”
According to the Canola Council of Canada, trade with China alone accounts for about 40 per cent of Canadian canola exports and was worth $2.7 billion total in 2018. More than half of those exports come from Saskatchewan. The industry supports 43,000 farmers in Western Canada and produces more than 250,000 jobs across the country.
“The loss will be made in the fall when they should be harvesting and selling,” said Peterson. “Farmers have bought their seed already. They’ve made their investment. The question now is ‘do we even plant it, will there be a market for the product this fall?’”