David Suzuki: Here’s to a radical Canada Day!

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Oh, Canada, what will become of you?

Although I’m proudly Canadian, my early memories are mixed. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, our government unfairly deprived my family of citizenship rights and exiled us to the B.C. Interior, even though we were born and raised here. But my love of nature flourished during that time in the spectacular Slocan Valley.

As a young adult, I moved to the U.S. for educational opportunities not available in Canada. Disturbed by overt racism in the American South, I eventually returned to my increasingly tolerant homeland. I preferred Canada, which to me meant Tommy Douglas and Medicare, Quebec, the National Film Board, and the CBC.

I’ve never regretted my choice.

Canadians have strived to move beyond inequality and intolerance to create an inclusive and caring society, where education, public health, social programs, and enlightened laws provide numerous opportunities. We’re not there yet, but we’ve come a long way in our relatively short history as a nation.

We also understand our place in nature. Surrounded by the world’s longest and most diverse coastline, our mountains, forests, prairies, rivers, lakes, valleys, and skies define us and instill wonder and pride.

Canada is nature. And nature is life. We know this.

Lately, the tide has been turning. Instead of protecting the increasingly precious and threatened natural systems that keep us alive and healthy, our leaders are rushing to scar the landscape with mines, roads, and pipelines to sell our resources as quickly as possible to global markets. From tar sands expansion to fracking, federal and provincial governments are blindly proceeding with little thought about long-term consequences.

In 2007, our prime minister called climate change “perhaps the greatest threat to the future of humanity.” Now he says, “No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country.”

Yet, many actions our industries and governments are taking will hurt the ability to create jobs and keep the economy prosperous. Clean energy and educated citizens are healthier investments than an increasingly risky fossil fuel industry—and we can’t hope for abundant jobs and a thriving economy on a planet suffering the ever-worsening consequences of global warming.

Canada was once seen as a country where respect for each other and our land, air, water, and biodiversity were valued. Now, some government leaders and their industry and media supporters threaten those who dare question the mad scramble for short-sighted, short-term profits at the expense of the environment, our health, and the world’s climate systems, and label us “radicals”.

If it’s radical to insist on maintaining and strengthening values that have long defined us as a nation, then we’ll wear the label proudly. We are radically Canadian! That means building on the progress we’ve made over the years to create a society based on compassion, equity, and respect for the people and places we know and love.

Canada has long been known as a country that gets it right, that treats its citizens well, cares for the land that gives us so much, and plays a constructive role on the world stage. But now we’re lagging in many areas, our hard-earned reputation suffering. We’re no longer a leader in protecting the conditions that make Canada one of the best places on Earth for citizens and visitors alike.

Enshrining the right to a healthy environment in the Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms would help get Canada back on track. More than 110 countries have constitutional environmental rights.  But not Canada.

It’s not just about protecting birds, bees, and trees; it’s about social justice and ensuring all citizens have the right to the conditions necessary for healthy, fruitful lives.

What kind of Canada do you want? Do you treasure our spectacular natural landscapes, clean water and air and abundant natural resources? Do you value our commitment to fairness, enlightened social programs, education and public health? Do you believe we should do all we can to protect the things that make this country great?

Now is a good time to reflect on these questions, on where we are as a nation and where we want to be.

Happy Canada Day!

Comments (3) Add New Comment
Gorge Carlin
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Rating: -7
Buffy
If "Gorge Carlin" realizes that his properly spelled namesake was a comedian making a satirical point with the conclusion that the planet may be fine but we humans aren't and won't be, then fine. But maybe he's like the right-wingers who think Stephen Colbert is the real deal, telling it like it is.
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George Lewis
I have been trying to understand the issues around climate change and greenhouse gasses given all the headlines we see constantly. David brings up tar sands and fracking in the same sentence as though they are both bad for the environment but never mentions coal. From what I can see coal is the worst emitter of greenhouse gasses not the tar sands so why keep harping on the tar sands? Also fracking is noted by the US as the biggest reason that their emissions are decreasing. Isn't reducing emissions a good thing? I realize there have been a number of reports of gas leaking into the watertable but as a geologist (not employed in the energy or mining sectors but I do have a geology degree)it is hard for me to believe that the gas leaks into the watertable because of fracking. Perhaps from leaking drill pipe but that is easily fixable and we definitely need environmental regulations to deal with that. Companies that cross that line definitely need to be held responsible for any environmental damage. At least here in Canada we have some of the toughest environmental regulations in the world for which I am grateful.

The other issue that no one seems to address is that the single biggest impact we have on the environment is the number of kids we have. Its time to start a dialogue around this issue because it matters little if we save a few percentage points here and there if some people are cranking out 5 kids.
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