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Neocolonialism at its (Canadian?) Best

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So, clearly, I need to drop in soon with an update on this weekend’s French election. But, in the meantime, it turns out that France isn’t the only place where colonial history is back up for debate.

A constitutional scholar just published an apparently serious call for Haiti to relinquish its sovereignty–preferably to Canada.

The new Haitian Constitution should do something virtually unprecedented: renounce the power of self-governance and assign it for a term of years, say 50, to a country that can be trusted to act in Haiti’s long-term interests.

Since the US, France, and the UK have a bad record with Caribbean conquests,

The answer may be Canada, for years one of Haiti’s most loyal friends and foreign aid donors — and today one of the most popular destinations for the diaspora. Canadians today yearn for real influence in the world, and there may be no better way than building Haiti anew drawing from Canada’s values of equality, diversity, and compassion, and its unique expertise in humanitarian assistance. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still looking for a major foreign policy achievement since his election in 2015, and this commitment could leave a legacy that would match his father’s own achievements as prime minister.

Now, this plan is not without its drawbacks:

The optics alone of a majority-white country running Haiti — even if in Haiti’s best interests — revive ghosts of the distant but never-forgotten past of slavery.

Really? In the place where the world’s largest successful slave rebellion resulted in the second independent republic in the post-Colombian western hemisphere? You don’t say.

Difficult times often yield impossible choices, and this would be an extraordinarily difficult decision for Haiti’s political leaders. Yet the greatest gift Haiti’s political class can give their fellow citizens is to give up the power to govern. This ultimate sacrifice would be a triumph of national over individual interests, and it would forever memorialize Haiti’s current leaders as the country’s modern founders.

I get that Haiti is in rough shape right now, but find it hard to see how a new imperial overlord would help things. I can’t even begin to imagine how Haiti’s revolutionary founders–and the thousands who fought with them–would respond to this. But this is what they said at the time:

It is not enough to have expelled the barbarians who have bloodied our land for two centuries; it is not enough to have restrained those ever-evolving factions that one after another mocked the specter of liberty that France dangled before you. We must, with one last act of national authority, forever assure the empire of liberty in the country of our birth; we must take any hope of re-enslaving us away from the inhuman government that for so long kept us in the most humiliating torpor. In the end we must live independent or die.

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  • wengler

    Someone from Quebec is making this argument?

    • Dr. Acula

      Yeah, that’s precious.

      • rpick

        Is he from Quebec? Looking at the guy’s website, it just says that he was born and raised in Canada. It doesn’t specify where, and from his name I would assume he was an Anglophone.

        • Dr. Acula

          From the article:

          I moved back to my native Quebec from Port-au-Prince not long before Haiti adopted its constitution 30 years ago.

          In fact, it’s the very first sentence of the article.

          • rpick

            Well excuse me for not wanting to read the thing.

            • Dr. Acula

              I don’t blame you for not wanting to read it.

        • Vance Maverick

          from his name I would assume he was an Anglophone

          “Richard Albert” is perfectly bilingual. And here it says “Albert was born in Quebec to a Trinidadian father and Haitian mother”.

          • sonamib

            His name is also perfectly ambiguous. It’s a plausible French name as well as a plausible English one.

            • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

              Guy Hebert says hello.

              • njorl

                I always liked that bad hockey players had their names pronounced “gill-bert” while good ones were called “zhill-bare”.

  • Dr. Acula

    That article essentially says “Country run by Black people needs to give up their sovereignty so that their White betters can manage things for them”, and a major American newspaper actually printed it?

    • LosGatosCA

      You can only ride the EMAILZ!!! train so far.

    • Harkov311

      The saddest part of all is, the author is himself black.

  • efgoldman

    And Canada would just go ahead and spend billions of loonies to do this… why?

    • LosGatosCA

      This would be the first step in the quest to finally implement their policy of containment vs the US.

      The next natural step would be to get Panama into their new Caribbean sphere.

      • Nobdy

        License Trump’s name for a bunch of building projects near potential military targets. The U.S. can’t bomb your airfield if it is right next to Trump Tower Saskatoon.

        It’s like a missile defense shield only it’s made up of garish gold plated letters that say “Trump”.

      • Harkov311

        It’s like some insane Paradox grand strategy game… except someone is actually suggesting doing it in real life.

    • KithKanan

      A warm-water port, clearly.

      • The Canadians will then border us from both North AND South! No sir, I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.

        • LosGatosCA

          I never trusted those commonwealth countries. Bermuda could be next domino to fall into the Canadians orbit, and with it the entire Triangle.

          Then they will abrogate the 1846 Oregon Treaty and seize the Farallons.

          Haiti, Panama, Bermuda, and the Farallons. It could be a vice grip of death.

          Unless, we can resurrect the secret ‘Canadian Bacon’ counter measures.

          • Hogan

            Haiti is a dagger pointed at the heart of the Turks and Caicos.

        • Jack Canuck

          There is a long-standing proposal floating around in favour of Canada uniting with Cuba: Canuba, if you will. The justifications are basically 1) it would give Canadians a warm domestic holiday destination, so no need to deal with foreign exchange; 2) we’ve already got two languages, how hard could it be to toss a third one in?; 3) Cuba’s got a good medical system already; and 4) it would piss off the Americans because we’d have them surrounded. Sounds like a winner to me!

          • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

            “Cubanada” ( koo bah nah da) has a great ring to it. Also: BEST. THEME RESTAURANT. EVER.

            • I don’t know what the Cubans will do with poutine, but I bet it will be even delicious-er.

          • njorl

            We can not allow a Canubial fusion!

        • rea

          The Canadians will then border us from both North AND South! No sir, I don’t like this.

          Canada already borders the US on the south, as anyone who has ever been to Detroit can testify.

          • eyerolld6

            Not true! South of Detroit is South Detroit. Steve Perry had a song about growing up there. Don’t stop believin’!

          • cpinva

            “Canada already borders the US on the south, as anyone who has ever been to Detroit can testify.”

            indeed it does. been there, crossed over to Windsor. walked snow piled streets (apparently, they don’t believe in plowing until there’s at least 3 feet on the ground.), and enjoyed their lovely, nearly empty, casino. bear in mind, this was in January, so………………

            I’m just going to guess Steve Perry’s knowledge of geography is, shall we say, somewhat limited.

  • rpick

    Writing as a Canadian, what on earth gave this idjit the idea that we could even govern the country in the first place. This idjit is under some delusional impression that Canadian politicians are so competent and statesmanlike that they can successfully manage a society that they know almost nothing about. But no, the work that generations of Haitian leaders have failed to do can be done in a year (a year!) by some hosers in Ottawa This is just the same moldy old idea left over from colonialism that any problem in the third world can be solved if you just throw enough white people at it.

    • Nobdy

      They fail to recognize that Canadian politicians are only able to accomplish what they can because of the wealth and resources of Canada. I think they imagine that if only the great men of Canada were to sweep into Haiti like knights on noble steeds they would be able to implement all kinds of worthwhile Canadian initiatives without understanding how severely constrained those politicians would be by lack of resources both material and non.

      • sonamib

        It’s not just resources. Canadian politicians also have their own citizens’ trust (mostly), they know how to work with the local community leaders, corporations, unions, NGOs and other miscellaneous lobbying groups.

        In Haiti, they wouldn’t know jack about the local politics, and would face a distrutful population. They’re bound to muck it up, badly.

        • JohnT

          Yes, absolutely. It’s not just the optics, it’s the details. Most countries with buggered-up politics (I don’t know anything about Haiti’s particulars) are not in that position because a few hundred or thousand members of the ‘political class’ are bent – it’s the result of a long and complicated evolution between many people and groups that has produced a toxic situation. Adding in some foreign overlords can deal with some of the symptoms but rarely fixes the underlying issues (e.g Iraq)

          Separately, the other not unimportant issue is that there is nothing in it for the overlord in this situation. Modern colonies are more or less valueless, unless they have massive natural resources that can be extracted at prices below the world market price. Even if Canada signed up to this in a fit of ‘philanthropy’, its willingness to spend money and blood to stay the course would be minimal.

          • sonamib

            Yup, basically this colonization proposal is a case of “wrong on so many levels” :

            – Canada would have no interest in ruling properly Haiti

            – Even if they did, they wouldn’t be willing to pour any resources there

            – Even they did want to invest in Haiti, they’d have no clue about WTF they were doing

            • so-in-so

              It’s not like Canada couldn’t find a way to help Haiti short of becoming rulers. Hard, perhaps, but if some Canadians want to come to Haiti to build roads, sewage systems and hospitals I should suppose something could be worked out.

              Plus, the Canadians had a GREAT record under the UN in Somolia (caugh).

        • kped

          Also…despite those things, Canada still has governing problems within it’s own borders (see: First Nations and all the problems there).

          And a lot of Canada’s way of “fixing” parts of the country that struggled with poverty were “find oil there”. Not sure that will work in Haiti like it did in the maritime provinces (which still have their struggles, despite the oil).

          This is just top to bottom stupid.

    • JustRuss

      any problem in the third world can be solved if you just throw enough white people at it.

      *golf clap*

      • sibusisodan

        Ditto. Also, for a brief but shining moment, I visualized lots of trebuchets.

        • N__B

          Visualization.

          [I know that cows are not white people, but seeing as how the nazis these days are so enamored of milk, I figure it’s close enough.]

  • Nobdy

    This is a terrible idea for a host of obvious reasons.

    However, as an American I would happily surrender our sovereignty to Canada or basically any other country that’s not Saudi Arabia, North Korea, or Russia (just because you can’t surrender something to someone if they already control it.)

    I would accept rule by basically any Finn before Donald Trump, and basically any Flemish person as well (but not a Walloon! Oh those Walloons!!!)

    • Cheerfull

      well sure, they’ve been cursed with a funny sounding (to anglophone ears anyway) name, but Walloons were the mainstays of Belgium of its glorious war against the oppressive Dutch in 1830 and have had their good years since, and generally eat better than the Flemish (local conditions may vary).

      • sonamib

        I beg to differ. No one should eat the sorry excuse for food known as “Belgian cuisine”* (either Flemish or Walloon). The best places to eat in Belgium are Antwerp and Brussels, because the immigrant communities there are large and varied enough that you can get actual good food.

        *I’ll grant that the greasy stuff serves as excellent comfort food but that’s about it.

        • JohnT

          Wow. Look monsieur, you’ve written a lot of things I agree with but this is..wrong. It’s practically Trumpesque!

          Belgian cooking is where the comfort food strengths of Germanic cooking meet the technical skills and broader taste palette of French cooking, to make beautiful food together. Which one can then wash down with great beer. I always leave Belgium a kilo heavier than I enter it.

          • sonamib

            The beer is awesome. I maintain that the food is not. The best French food is found in southern France anyway, far away from here.

            But ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, opinions about food, shmopinions about food.

            • sibusisodan

              The best French food is found in southern France anyway

              Preach.

              • wjts

                Despite not having any firsthand experience in the matter, I would think oysters from the northern and western coasts are superior to those from the south, just as New England oysters from the cold Atlantic are better than those from the balmy Gulf Coast.

    • NewishLawyer

      I have a hard time believing that 35 million Canadians would suddenly want to join with 38 million Californians, yet alone the rest of the blue states.

      But I am a cranky realist and miss the point of United States of Canada jokes for the truth.

      • LeeEsq

        +1.

      • John F

        Anglophone Canadians are a lot closer (culturally etc) to non-ex-confederate Americans than they are to the Franco-phone Canadiens…

        and non-ex-confederate Americans are closer (culturally etc) to Anglophone Canadians than we are to ex-confederate Americans…

        and yet, most Canadians (even ones who ADMIT that) get very touchy about it- they are CANADIANS…

    • so-in-so

      Marine LePen and Geert Wilders say hi.

    • N__B

      I would vote for Icelandic colonization of the US* in a heartbeat. Stable government and two new letters for our alphabet.

      *Again.

      • Origami Isopod

        Two old letters, restored.

        • N__B

          %^Þ

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        “I would vote for Icelandic colonization of the US* in a heartbeat.”

        Me too! The icelanders proved their mettle by pulling off a “Kitchenware Revolution” (look it up, it’s on wiki), followed by punishment of Banksters.

    • Colin Day

      However, as an American I would happily surrender our sovereignty to Canada or basically any other country that’s not Saudi Arabia, North Korea, or Russia (just because you can’t surrender something to someone if they already control it.)

      What about Israel?

  • keta

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still looking for a major foreign policy achievement since his election in 2015, and this commitment could leave a legacy that would match his father’s own achievements as prime minister

    This Canadian was too young to follow the story in real time, but I’ve since come to know well and love the famous saga of Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s foray into the wilds of British Columbia, a land most foreign, and his successful wooing of one of the princesses of the land, Margaret, and the subsequent marriage on a famous mountain in the land, Whistler. This highly successful foreign entanglement was to end badly, however, as Margaret one day left her nearly thirty years senior husband to lay first with an American prince of Camelot, Edward Kennedy, and then later members of the touring British royalty from the House of Rolling Stones.

    Yes, Pierre Elliot Trudeau left a towering foreign policy legacy that wore enormous shoes, shoes his son Justin could buff considerably by claiming Haiti for Canada. But only for fifty years, of course, unless the Haitians display a natural proclivity for hockey and curling.

  • corporatecake

    I can’t see behind the paywall, but I’m confused as to what’s being proposed here. Is Haiti supposed to just say “hey, Canada, come rule us for fifty years as a benevolent colonial power, we don’t know what we’re doing”? Or is Haiti supposed to become a part of Canada, like a new province, with voting rights and representatives in Parliament and whatnot?

    • corporatecake

      Hmmm, for some reason I can see it now. I’m not sure why I thought it would be the bad-but-less-insane alternative.

      All the problems with regards to colonialism and a whole nation having no self-governance for fifty years aside, this proposal has a blindingly-obvious practical concern. Even if we accept that the current leadership of Canada would be benevolent overlords with Haiti’s best interests at heart (dicey proposition), there’s absolutely no guarantee that in five, ten, or twenty-five years that the people of Canada won’t elect politicians who, given the opportunity, won’t loot the place and run it further into the ground? Hell, the whole setup seems guaranteed to cause such an eventuality.

      • Ahuitzotl

        they’re kinda saved from that temptation by the place already coming pre-looted

        • corporatecake

          Considering how these things usually go, I’m sure they could find something.

  • Azza

    Nominating Canada as the trustee, and the length of the trusteeship is crazy, but there is a kind of precedent.

    The Portuguese abandoned sovereignty in East Timor in 1975. Indonesia seized the country and ran it as a military colony until 1999. The estimate is that 25% of the population were killed by Indonesian security forces during their rule. Indonesian forces basically stole or wrecked as much infrastructure as they could in the leadup to the UN takeover.

    The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor governed the country from 1999 to 2002 backed by an international force drawn mostly from Australia and Southeast Asia. The administrator was Sérgio Vieira de Mello, later killed in Iraq.

    UNTAET worked in East Timor, which arguably started from a lower base of infrastructure and social development than Haiti, but the situation was different from the Canadian proposal. UNTAET operated with the consent of the Timorese people, expressed through FRETILIN, the liberation movement. The transition period was 3 years instead of 50. East Timor is by no means a paradise but they are a vibrant democracy and they are making progress with economic and social development.

    • sonamib

      UNTAET worked, but Indonesian sovereignty clearly did not.

      The proposal is not to hand over Haiti to the UN, but to another country (Canada), which would make it a situation more akin to Indonesian sovereignty than to UNTAET.

      Not that I think Canada would treat Haiti quite that bad. But still.

    • LeeEsq

      The United Nations failures in overseeing these sorts of operations outnumber its successes and their interventions into Haiti haven’t been a roaring success either. The Haitians need to govern themselves and work out their problems and issues themselves.

  • veleda_k

    I think Richard Albert should surrender his personal sovereignty to me, since he’s clearly an idiot on his own. I’d pretty much just tell him to shut up and stop writing tripe.

    • sonamib

      But only for a short, short 50 years, right?

  • Robespierre

    Then why not just join the two countries on equal footing? Could it be he’s not serious about helping?

  • Docrailgun

    Reunify Hispanola?

    • rm

      No bad history there, should be easy.

  • rm

    HOLY FUCKING SHIT.

    I’m not a historian, but I studied the literature of the US and Haiti as writers from each country depicted the other, which meant learning a lot of the history.

    Let’s just say this guy should have asked Frederick Douglass about the prospect of recolonizing Haiti. (I hear Douglass is doing a great job and getting recognized more and more). But if he’d consulted Douglass his ears would now be burned off.

    Even Booker T.
    Washington
    told the public that white people had no business interfering in Haiti. That’s how wrong the idea was.

    I realize this guy is part Haitian-Canadian, so it’s unlikely to be an idea based in racism, but it’s still HOLY FUCKING SHIT wrong.

    The UN did help Haiti after the earthquake. And also brought in cholera from Nepal. Wonder why Haitians continue to be skeptical about foreign troops here to help.

    • DrDick

      Yeah this piece conveniently ignores the fact that much of Haiti’s problems are a result of an effective embargo of Haiti by all the colonial powers and later by neocolonial exploitation by Europe and the US.

      • John F

        and then came the Duvalier* family, one thing after another.

        How many times did the USMC take over too?- The US ran the country as a defacto colony for some 15-20 years early in the 20th Century- that didn’t help.

        Some Africa Countries showed remarkable economic and political development over the past 25 years- when the Cold War ended and Western meddling eased up.

        *Seriously, look at the Dominican Republic- the DR is far less ecologically damaged than Haiti largely because one of the DR’s thugs just happened to have a conservationist bent… That’s actually a pretty random factor, but it’s a large part in the current divergence between DR and Haiti.

  • sibusisodan

    Toussaint L’Ouverture is the best name in history by a distance. Way to respect his legacy…

    • wjts

      It’s up there, but falls a little short of Praise-God Barebone and his son Nicholas If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned Barebone.

  • This is so jaw-droppingly bad. Not just the idea, but the arguments used to support it.

    • DrDick

      Rudyard Kipling would be so proud of him!

      • Harkov311

        Indeed. It sounds like flavor text box from a protectorate war in Victoria 2.

        For those who don’t know, it’s a strategy game set in the 19th century, and it basically doesn’t censor, excuse, or paper over what a racist, empire-happy time that was.

  • LeeEsq

    What I want to know is how much alcohol and drugs were consumed before the author decided this was something he should write down in print and publish in a semi-major paper?

  • Ahuitzotl

    I get that Haiti is in rough shape right now

    where right now covers the period since … Christophe? a round 200 years of completely fail government?

  • BiloSagdiyev

    Modest counterproposals:

    a) Haitians shall be granted free travel and residence in Canada if they so desire. (Even if they desire to live there in January!)

    2) Haiti will give given some nuclear weapons, to deter any further invasions by would-be colonialists.

    iii) Canadians may only vacation in Haiti during agricultural seasons requiring field labor. One day of hoeing or picking or weeding earns one day of leisure.

    Much like the retention or expansion of executive branch powers, and the eavesdropping regime, in the early Obama years, gee, one problem with this plan is that Canada won’t have a cool prime minister forever.

    • aturner339

      The fact is the easiest thing any Western county could do to help Haiti is to lift any caps on immigration. It’s the obvious thing which means it won’t be considered.

      • John F

        When I lived in Western New York on Canadian border I got to witness many Canadian Political disputes- the Quebecois were unhappy with Canadian immigration policies because the immigrants all seemed to become Anglophones…

        So some Anglophone Canadians suggested setting up an expanded consulate in Haiti since it was the only Francophone Nation where significant numbers of people really wanted to emigrate (anywhere)… the result was the Quebecois would shut up for awhile about immigration altering the linguistic balance in Canada…

  • Thom

    Maybe the author is really Richard Alpert, aka Ram Dass, and therefore maybe he was high when he wrote this.

    Ok, the proposal is ludicrous. But if we are going to speculate on ludicrous proposals for Haiti relinquishing its sovereignty, then why Canada. My modest proposal would be Angola. Like Canada, this is a state that ruthlessly exploits petro-resources at all costs. Unlike Canada, it is a place from which the ancestors of large numbers of the ancestors of Haitians hailed from.

    • John F

      why Canada.

      Language

      and the author is Haitian-French Canadian

      • Thom

        The language of Haiti is Kreyol, not French. If you want to take my snarky comment seriously, then fine, Portuguese–along with kiKongo and other Bantu languages of Angola, more grammatically similar to Kreyol than French is–will work just as well as the language of the overlords as will Canadian French.

  • njorl

    I could see writing this as a set-up for arguing Quebecois independence. Once you get people arguing how stupid it would be for Canada to control Haiti, your turn their arguments on to Canadian control of Quebec. The idea of Canada running Haiti is so stupid, you’re bound to get people going overboard in their arguments against it.
    It wouldn’t work, but it would be an interesting idea.

    • so-in-so

      There you have it! Quebec breaks free from Canada and forms a union with Haiti!

      • N__B

        I foresee snap elections being called over differences in spelling.

    • sonamib

      I guess someone could say “Haiti should not be colonized by Canada because Francophones should never ever be ruled by Anglophones!” but no one has said something silly like that.

    • John F

      I had professor in Buffalo who once claimed that the best thing that happened to Quebec was being run and ruled over by the English for a century- He claimed French colonies tended to have rougher transitions to self-rule than English ones, because of the way France ran its colonies as opposed to England. In French colonies there was no “native” management class that could competently run things on independence- French colonies (and Spanish ones) were run on Feudal lines- and the “natives” or “colonized” people were treated as serfs- no self-rule over ANYTHING. English colonies were just as oppressive for the “natives but in very different ways (Capitalistic rather than Feudal ways). A “native” in a country colonized by England was more likely to be allowed to learn and exercise “management” skills, than places conquered by France or Spain.

  • Nick never Nick

    I’m not claiming that this article isn’t a racist piece of garbage or anything — but here in Canada there is a long tradition of arguing that such-and-such a place should join the country. Since I’ve come here, there have been serious advocates for:

    Barbados — apparently this has been in semi-serious discussion once or twice. Canadians would really, really like this.

    Iceland — during the financial crisis, there was a small movement to offer Iceland the right to join, with reference to Newfoundland. “70 years ago Canada made an offer to a small, isolated island in the North Atlantic . . .” This was also when a number of people were suggesting the loonie was going to become some sort of important circumpolar currency.

    Scotland — just a couple weeks ago. “If Brexit happens, Scotland should join Canada and remain inside the EU too.” I actually think this is an awesome idea, congruent with Canadian history and culture, even though it would lead to total depopulation as the entire country between Toronto and Vancouver drains into southern Italy, Greece, and Portugal. Quebec would never put up with it, though maybe with enough references to “Ye Olde Ally” or whatever they could be brought on board.

    • Nick never Nick

      Note — I didn’t realize that the author in question has a Haitian background. For me, at least, that puts this more in the category of ‘naive good-government type’ than ‘racist neo-colonialist’, I’d edit that out if I still could.

    • John F

      Ever since 11/2016 I’ve been thinking that having NY and New England join Canada would be nice…

      • N__B

        I prefer to resurrect Burr’s Northeast Confederacy (NY + New England) and seize the Canadian Maritimes. Once we have control of the world’s lox supplies, there’s no stopping us.

        • Nick never Nick

          THE DOOR SLAMMED SHUT ON THIS WHEN NEWFOUNDLAND, THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC, SLIPPED FROM YOUR GRASP

  • Harkov311

    The new Haitian Constitution should do something virtually unprecedented: renounce the power of self-governance and assign it for a term of years, say 50, to a country that can be trusted to act in Haiti’s long-term interests.

    I guess I should be a little amazed that some of the language justifying protectorates from the 19th century is basically the same. But I’m more creeped out than amazed.

  • BeatTheDealer

    In April it was suggested that Scotland should leave the UK and join Canada. Now Haiti is being floated… the Day of the Leaf has finally arrived!

    • N__B

      the Day of the Leaf

      Worst 1950s-horror-movie-where-Elisha-Cook-Jr.-gets-killed-in-the-first-reel EVER.

  • leftwingfox

    I’m surprised no-one’s brought up to continued neglect and mistreatment the First Nations up here.

    • N__B

      Someone – not me – did.

      • leftwingfox

        You’re right! My apologies to kped, I completely missed that while reading through.

  • WhatToDo

    Maybe the French could just pay back all the money they extorted from Haiti all those years.

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