Climate Injustice in Canada

Harper’s environmental record needs to change

By Robin Sas / October 30, 2012 Source The Concordian

Whether it be pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, the gutting of federal environmental regulations or the muzzling of some of our top climate scientists, the Harper government has done irreparable damage to our international reputation and more importantly to our ecology.

That’s not to mention an unprecedented and secretive trade deal being negotiated with China that would all but ensure the unbridled expansion of the tar sands. This would also increase Canada’s direct role in the release of GHG emissions which threaten to push the global concentration of CO2 over the edge and into dangerous territory.

It’s no secret that Harper is a friend to big oil. After all, this government continues to hand out subsidies to the tune of $1.4 billion to the fossil fuel industry even as energy companies take in record profits.

If there was ever a time for Canadians to come together to stand up and tell this government that we oppose its policies and want an end to these subsidies, this is it.

It is true that climate change will most negatively impact the world’s poorest; but the regressive environmental policies of the current government will also be felt here at home. They will also be felt in communities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change; such as Indigenous communities who have lived and depended on the land for generations, ranches and farms which depend on streams and water tables, and yes, eventually the rest of us.

This is why now, perhaps more than ever, we need a new generation of climate leaders to converge and create meaningful opposition movements. Climate injustice is another form of oppression, inextricably linked to all other battles in social justice. Whether it’s the destruction of the environment, access to education or vast economic inequality we must hold our leaders accountable and ensure equity and justice for all of our citizens. Ending the fossil fuel subsidies and re-committing to the protection of our climate and environment more generally could be a first step.

This week saw historic action taken against the future oil pipelines, and the prospect of more tankers on the B.C. coast shipping tar sands bitumen to global markets. The movement, aptly called “Defend Our Coast”, has rallied thousands of concerned citizens across British Columbia to mobilize and take action against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. As I write this, citizens all across the province are linking arms in front of their Member of Legislative Assembly offices to show they are united in opposition to this pipeline.

This has left me thinking. After a year that saw an incredible mobilization of students in Quebec to defeat the tuition increases and ultimately the Liberal government, why not learn from that success? Let us link our common struggles from coast to coast. Radical grassroots activism has proven to work. It’s time to take direct action against the environmental record, or lack thereof, of our federal government.

This weekend I will be attending a conference called Powershift in Ottawa. There, 1500 youth from across the country will meet to discuss the future of climate change activism and how Canadians can mobilize practically to fight for our country to start taking it seriously. Speakers such as Naomi Klein, Bill Mckibben and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois will be making key note addresses throughout the weekend. Participants will be actively lobbying MP’s, taking it to the streets and getting out their message to end big polluter handouts in every way we can. After all, Harper did promise at the G20 to do so. It stands to be one of the most important convergences of young activists and environmentalists that we’ve seen in the past decade.

We now have a chance to come together and show the Harper government we will no longer let them tarnish our reputation internationally, nor will we let them trample the ecological rights of our most at risk communities while providing subsidies to companies with soaring profits.

As Naomi Klein aptly put it, “ We are part of a groundswell, a global movement against all forms of dirty energy. It is a movement on a roll. The beautiful truth is that we have fossil fuel companies surrounded, and they’re running scared.”

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