I am a daughter of this coast, born and raised on Vancouver Island, a mariner since my earliest memory: boating with my family, single-handing my own small sailboat, cruising and paddling with my partner. And for the better part of my working life I have laboured against the tide, speaking out to protect the marine environment that I love. Yet now, after many years of incremental successes, all my work, and that of countless others who value nature, is in peril.
Those who know me will be aware that I’ve been relatively quiet since I left “active duty” in the environmental movement. Burnout is all too common in that sector, so although I still do some work behind the scenes, the last half dozen years have been mostly a time of recovery for me: finding a new voice and renewal in photography, where I seek to convey the beauty I find in nature. But now I must break my silence.
Today in Canada, two things that I cherish are truly on the line: nature and democracy.
The Harper government’s omnibus “budget” is a thinly disguised, massive and callous attack on our country’s environmental protection laws and the natural environment that sustains us. At the same time, the government is targeting charities that are exercising their legal right to advocate for environmental protection and for action to stop rising carbon emissions.
Under the changes contained in the “budget”, the hard-won, vital protection for habitat and threatened species that we have had under the Fisheries Act will be removed. Gone also will be the right of citizens, public interest groups and independent experts to have any say in Environmental Assessments or reviews of potentially harmful projects. The National Energy Board will no longer be able to turn down a pipeline project that’s not in the public interest – Cabinet will be able to override it. Scientific research and monitoring of environmental pollutants will be slashed. Charities that work for environmental protection will be audited and potentially stripped of their charitable status.
These are just a few examples of the major and potentially devastating changes that the government is pushing, all brought forward as a fait accompli: no White Papers, no public consultation, no Parliamentary Committee discussions, no public hearings – in short, no democratic process whatsoever. This, in Canada, in the 21st century. I’m appalled, ashamed and aghast.
That’s why today, I’m joining with hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals across the country who are saying that silence is not an option. Nature and democracy are both at stake here in Canada, and the repercussions could last for a very long time. I hope you’ll join us in defending our country’s environment and democracy.
June 4, 2012
Here are some links to help you learn more and take action:
- An Open Letter to Stephen Harper on Fisheries from 4 former federal Fisheries Ministers (Globe & Mail)
- Silence is Not an Option (Georgia Strait Alliance)
- The Top 10 Environmental Concerns in the Budget Bill (Ecojustice)
- Myths and Realities of the 2012 Budget (West Coast Environmental Law)
- Speak out Today (blackoutspeakout.ca)
- Don’t Sell Us Out (leadnow.ca)
- A Tory War on the Environment? (Andy Park, Assoc. Prof. Forest Ecology)
- Fisheries Act Legal Backgrounder (Ecojustice)