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)
Laurie – what has been the outcome of the bill? I have not heard much about it here in Washington State. We are having our own nightmares with an impending sweeping effort to roll back environmental laws and privatize public lands – which include old growth forests. It seems conservatives everywhere are hell-bent on destroying the planet, for ample compensation to their campaigns, of course.
I am glad that you have spoken up – it is so true that we eventually burn out from so much activism. I have promised myself to do what you have done: retreat for a while and concentrate also on photography (a life-long dream), but every time I devote some time to it, some other insane law or proposal comes through that would devastate an area or a species, and my battle gear comes out of the closet. I remind myself that, sometimes, all it takes is a few dedicated souls to stop the madness – I just wish we could find more souls to join us!
Thank you so much for your efforts.
And thank you for your efforts too! You’re right, the insanity continues on both sides of the border. The voting on Bill C-38 is still going on in Parliament. The Opposition parties have been pulling all-nighters to try to stop or delay its passage. Because it’s such a massive Bill, they’re racking up hundreds of debate. The good news is that even though it will almost certainly pass (since the Harper Government has a majority of seats in Parliament and has appointed a similar majority to the Senate), it could come back to haunt them, because even many Conservative supporters are unhappy at how they have included so many sweeping changes under one gigantic Bill. Here’s a current article with more info.
Thanks for the link to the most recent article, Laurie. Quite interesting and devastating. I used to admire Canada and its citizens for being concerned about the environment and for having such excellent social programs to care for its people. For example, I quickly supported Simon Jackson and the Spirit Bear plight when I learned about it, and loved the fact that the people pushed the legislation to protect the bear’s area (although I recently heard that the area has been under ‘attack’ for logging again?). I’m also a huge fan of Alex Morton and her battles against farmed salmon.
It is very sad and troubling to see how the Harper party is turning everything around, going back to the beginning of the industrial age when there were no protective measures in place for either workers or the environment, and no retirement or health benefits to speak of (similar to here also).
If it was up to the Republicans in the US, we would have been back there long ago. If it doesn’t have to do with increasing defense or subsidies to oil companies, the majority of them turn a deaf ear to environmental protection, health care, and the economy. Too bad most people (all over the world) do not vote with logic and reason – instead most are persuaded by the TV ads.
Our latest bill, called the National Security and Federal Land Protection Act, would allow the U.S. Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security to bypass 16 environmental laws (from the Endangered Species Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act) within 100 miles of the U.S. border. All in the name of “national security to protect our borders”. Geez, I didn’t know Canada and Mexico were planning an attack, did you?
Good grief. May the force be with us!
Good post, and just the sort of call to action that I think people need to hear – repeatedly. I can not help contrasting the near-silence from English Canada on Bill C-38 with the disruption and noise of the student protests in Quebec. The Quebec students are ultimately defending their self-interest, and maybe that is the difference here. In spite of decades of environmental “education”, people still do not ID environment as one of their vital interests. Still, we have to keep trying….
Thanks for commenting, and I agree, Andrew – although I do think that Bill C-38 has sparked much more public commentary than any Budget Bill I can recall in the past. For example, the Vancouver Sun did a major four-part feature on the environmental impacts and implications. I take some hope from that.
Great post here Laurie, we truly commend you for getting involved in such an important topic as this. I am personally surprised that there isn’t more global outrage for this sort of behavior. As a fellow Canadian and Vancouver Islander, in some ways I feel like this is being rushed through under our noses while we all struggle to make ends meet and make it through the day.
Absolutely true, Toad – I think that they’re counting on most of us being too overwhelmed to get involved. Thanks so much for commenting – great to have you weigh in on this. Glad you like the post…though clearly it’s one of my worst, photographically speaking! 🙂
Thank you Laurie for breaking the silence (though I know you haven’t been
completely silent). I am sick at heart with the actions of the Harper government against the enviroment. Like you, I have worked for years, with incremental victories to
preserve and protect the enviroment. It is terrifying to find that with a stroke of
a pen, all could be put in jeopardy. I don’t understand this kind of short-term
thinking, but hazard to say it’s about pure greed and corrupt power. Patti on Denman
Greed, corrupt power, and also, perhaps, that he who pays the piper picks the tune. The Harper Conservatives are beholden to the big oil, gas and mining companies that have financed their party’s campaigns, and now I guess it’s payback time. You’d think none of these guys have grandchildren, the way they are squandering the future by ignoring all the “externalities” like pollution, habitat loss, species loss, human health degradation and all the other costs that don’t show up in their spreadsheets. Unfortunately, repairing the damage that they’re doing will be a lot more challenging and expensive than it would have been to prevent that damage in the first place. The silver lining, I believe, is that people are waking up and starting to organize to stop this madness – or at least, let’s hope so! Thanks for writing, Patti.
Lets call to impeach Mr. Steven Harper for bill C-38 and the rest of his party’s crap they keep doing in the name of “Democracy”
Sounds appealing, although I don’t think we have this ability under Canadian law, alas. However, I have been wondering lately whether there’s any possibility under international law – after all, some of the decisions they’re making are going to have some major impacts on the global environment. Thanks for your comment.