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Beyond Climate: Suzuki tries to steer conversation to how should we actually respond to climate change threats

Thu, 2018-10-25 22:59
October 25, 2018Beyond Climate: An interview with David Suzuki, filmmaker Ian MauroNew documentary film looks at how environmental changes are playing out in parts of British Columbia, an area described as Canada’s ‘seminal province’ for climate change.Climate ChangeDavid SuzukiBC
Categories: News for progressives

Beyond Climate: An interview with David Suzuki, filmmaker Ian Mauro

Thu, 2018-10-25 22:50
Phillip Dwight Morgan

This Friday, renowned Canadian scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki joins filmmaker Ian Mauro at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto for the world premiere of Beyond Climate. The film lays bear the devastating impacts of forest fires, crop failures, pine beetle infestations and ocean acidification in communities in British Columbia, an area described as Canada’s “sentinel province” for climate change.

The documentary film is part of the 2018 Planet in Focus Film Festival, running from October 25 to 28. Beyond Climate explores the impacts of climate change in areas of B.C. like Haida Gwaii, Whistler Blackcomb and the Okanagan Valley, and the wide-ranging hardships the changes due to climate are having on all aspects of daily life for people, living and working in a region known for its rich ecosystems and biological diversity.

Earlier this month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report calling to limit global warming to 1.5°C on climate change. The report revealed that greater than 99 per cent of coral would be lost with 2°C as opposed to an anticipated 70-90 per cent with global warming of 1.5°C. Similarly, the IPCC warned that a failure to maintain a 1.5°C limit could increase the likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer from once per century to once per decade.

For many people, the report’s prognoses -- a choice between 70-90-per-cent coral loss or complete loss -- have come as a stark reminder of the urgency of our situation. For Mauro, the reports findings are consistent with what he and Suzuki have seen in British Columbia.

“One of the things that David and I agreed upon very early is that B.C. is a sentinel province for climate change. It is really showing us what kind of future is going to unfold across Canada and across the world.”

“The film shows what’s happened with a degree of warming since industrialization. With one degree of warming, where we’re at right now, we’re already seeing the visual impacts across the landscape, lived impacts across the landscapes, the economic impacts.”

Suzuki expands upon Mauro’s comments noting that IPCC reports are vetted by several oil-producing governments. As such, the actual window for reducing emissions is likely much narrower that IPCC timelines suggest.

“What you find throughout the entire history of the IPCC reports is that they have always been very, very conservative. They’re predictions of what’s going to happening in the next five years have always -- always -- fallen short of the reality.” 

He added, “I was struck by the fact that even though we have this document vetted by Saudi Arabia and other countries, the reality is that they have now set a very short timeframe. David Schindler, one of the leading scientists in Canada, says this report is already three years behind what the data are telling us.”

Despite the magnitude and urgency of climate change, Canada continues to stray from its emissions targets, routinely seeking to expand oil and gas production. Canada has the second-worst mining record in the world, according to a 2017 UN report and, in Ontario, under the newly-elected Progressive Conservative government, cap-and-trade emissions controls have been repealed.

For Suzuki, this kind of decision-making reflects the fact that governments and people still treat the environment as a special issue that is secondary to the economy, rather than the defining issue.

“When I hear (Environment Minister Catherine) McKenna say ‘Well, oh yeah, we’re doing our best. We’re doing this and that,’ while justifying the investment of billions of dollars in a new pipeline, which is going to have to stay busy for another 30 or 40 years to recoup that money, when I see Canada’s investment in a $40-billion liquefied fracked gas plant, you can’t say that we’re serious about meeting the Paris target. I think that before the next election we’ve got to make a massive movement to get our elected representatives to get what we need done.”

This is short-sighted thinking that, according to Suzuki, requires the public to put pressure on their elected officials.

When asked directly about Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Suzuki said “the fact of Doug Ford’s election is staggering to me, but shows that we aren’t focused on the really important issues --and that’s what we’ve got to do. Then, I believe that the Doug Fords will either have to come in and say ‘You’re right, this is the highest priority,’ or they’re not going to get elected, period.”

At a time when many are still reeling from the IPCC report, Mauro and Suzuki have issued an important call to action through a beautiful film that is sobering in its urgency and yet cautiously hopeful.

“I have three kids and I do not want to make disaster movies,” Mauro said, adding “I don’t want to paint my kids or anybody else’s kids into a corner, saying ‘We don’t have a chance. We don’t have hope.’ Beyond Climate asks the questions: ‘How do we get beyond climate? How do we actually respond to this in a way that doesn’t ball-and-chain us to a damned future?’”

For information on the Planet in Focus Film Festival, running October 25-28 in Toronto, visit planetinfocus.org

Phillip Dwight Morgan is a Toronto-based journalist and writer. He is the inaugural rabble.ca Jack Layton Journalism Fellow.

Photo: Beyond Climate

Categories: News for progressives

Why isn't Muskrat Falls megadam project sparking outrage?

Wed, 2018-10-24 22:09
October 24, 2018Why isn't Muskrat Falls megadam project sparking outrage?In 2019, the entirely preventable methylmercury poisoning of the traditional country food web of Indigenous people downstream of the Muskrat Falls megadam in Labrador is set to begin.NL
Categories: News for progressives

Year before vote, Trudeau government is weak, but opposition is weaker

Tue, 2018-10-23 23:44
October 23, 2018Politics in CanadaOne year before the next federal election, the Trudeau government is weak, but the opposition is weakerAfter three years of weak performance in government, Team Trudeau can be thankful the opposition parties are even weaker.Justin Trudeaufederal election
Categories: News for progressives

Vancouver’s new progressive city council embodies an exciting opportunity

Mon, 2018-10-22 23:19
Libby Davies

Over the decades, I’ve run in nine Vancouver civic elections, winning five. But, as a long time voter,  this latest election on Oct. 20 was one to remember.

Into the wee hours of the morning we waited doggedly for the last polls to come in -- hanging out at the legendary Polynesian bar room in the basement of the Waldorf Hotel on Vancouver’s Eastside, desperate to see who would be mayor. Hanging in the balance were the 10 city councillors who make up Vancouver city council who had already been declared elected -- five for the right-orientated NPA and five representing the Greens, COPE and One City parties. All evening, the vote count had wobbled back and forth by a few hundred votes, between independent Kennedy Stewart, who represents progressives, and Ken Sim, from the NPA. Sim and his team had spent buckets of money during the campaign hoping to regain power in the city they once dominated.

Finally, there were whoops of jubilation as the last poll, No. 133/133, came in confirming Stewart’s narrow 900-vote lead -- and the prospect of a new progressive city council became a little more real.

The voters of Vancouver sent a message they wanted change. Gone were the high hopes for VISION Vancouver, which had been in power for a decade.

This year, voters faced a more complex election process and campaign. Not only did they have to wade through a huge ballot of candidates where names were placed in random order making it difficult for people to select their choice, the campaign itself was sometimes confusing as as civic organizations ran partial slates and there were many


But now that the election results are in, what can we expect? 

It’s a very mixed bag, and the days of a dominant majority group have ended -- at least for now.

The new progressive majority on city council -- with Stewart as mayor and three Greens, one COPE and one One City representative -- is held together by a fragile thread of generally held common positions from the separate platforms of each group. It is not exactly an iron-clad guarantee that things will work.  

The new council has eight female councillors -- an historic high for Vancouver. But it needs to be noted that the new council doesn’t reflect the multi-racial make-up of the city.  

We have an exciting opportunity before us -- and possibly a bold model for progressive politics. Things could go extraordinarily well if the players involved can get passed the old and negative baggage of division and past partisan bickering. Or, it could crash and burn as individual partisan agendas and egos take over. 

Critical to success will be the ongoing leadership and involvement of the Vancouver and District Labour Council, which did a heap of brave work in difficult circumstances prior to the election, weaving together a list of supportable candidates to guide progressive voters. Their continued leadership is now very important to a successful outcome.  

Of course, the role and leadership of the new mayor and council is critical, too. I have high hopes and confidence that Stewart has the skill and capacity to work across party lines, as he did in Parliament as an MP, to forge strong relationships to deliver the critical changes for Vancouver. He is focused, creative and interested in results, not playing games.

Green councillor Adriane Carr, with her long-standing experience with how city hall works, can be a positive role model for new councillors. Also, watch for One City newbie Christine Boyle, who has already demonstrated her democratic and lovely way of working with people in the community. And COPE’s Jean Swanson -- my old time friend and comrade from the Downtown Eastside in the early 1970s -- is a powerful force for change that is needed more than ever. 

There will be many challenges ahead -- not the least of which is unrelenting pressure from powerful development interests who have enjoyed enormous influence in Vancouver and are bound to a belief that they know what’s best for the city. 

We are facing multiple crises -- housing affordability, overdoses from a poisonous drug market, a city fractured by wealth and poverty where more and more people are pushed out by high prices and growing isolation.  

We have high expectations that the new progressive members of council will get to work on these and many other issues. They won’t be prefect and they will make mistakes. Residents need to accept that and not set impossible standards that no one can reasonably meet. Their chances for success depends on their ability and good faith to work together and, most importantly, to develop trust with each other without judgment and punishment. I believe they can do that. And as their constituents, we can reinforce the principle that goodwill and cooperation are the order of the day. 

Libby Davies is a former COPE city councillor and former member of Parliament.

Photo: Downtown Vancouver/Facebook

Categories: News for progressives

Hard-working former MP Kennedy Stewart is Vancouver’s new mayor

Mon, 2018-10-22 21:00
October 22, 2018Hard-working former MP Kennedy Stewart is Vancouver’s new mayorVancouver has a new mayor, former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart. He beat a field of 21 candidates in the Oct. 20 election by a slim margin.BC
Categories: News for progressives

Hard-working former MP Kennedy Stewart is Vancouver’s new mayor

Sun, 2018-10-21 23:39
Karl Nerenberg

Former British Columbia NDP MP Kennedy Stewart won the race for mayor of Vancouver on Saturday, Oct. 20, beating a large field of 21 candidates by a slim margin. Based on his record on the federal stage, we can expect Stewart to be a civic leader who does his homework, pays close attention to policy details and does not confuse rhetorical success with tangible results.

Stewart was first elected to the House of Commons in the Orange Wave election of 2011. That’s when the Jack Layton-led NDP won 101 seats to become, for the first time in its history, the official opposition party.

Stewart won in Burnaby Douglas, part of which had once been Svend Robinson’s riding. Robinson, the first openly gay MP, was a leading figure with the NDP from the 1980s to the early 2000s. He was a high-profile MP who took on contentious causes such as the right to die.

Stewart took a more nose-to-the-grindstone, less flashy approach. He was the party’s critic for science and was known as a hard-working member who diligently mastered his files.

Now, it is expected that NDP leader Jagmeet Singh will run in Burnaby Douglas to fill Stewart’s seat when a by-election is called.

Before he got into politics, Stewart had been a professor of public policy. His published works include important contributions on local government and effective democracy. While an MP, he collaborated with two colleagues, Conservative Michael Chong and Liberal Scott Simms, on a book called Turning Parliament Inside Out: Practical Ideas for Reforming Canada's Democracy, which consists of a series of essays by MPs from all three major national parties.

As an MP, Stewart opposed the Trans Mountain pipeline-twinning project, which would have great impact on the environment, quality of life and economy of his riding. He helped citizens engage with the National Energy Board consultation process and, last March, together with Green Party leader Elizabeth May, got himself arrested for demonstrating too close to a pipeline work site. He pleaded guilty to criminal contempt and paid a fine of $500

The Burnaby MP also championed increased investment in social housing and vigorously opposed the Harper government’s muzzling of scientists, especially environmental scientists. To assure government policy is aligned with solid science, Stewart proposed the creation of a Parliamentary Science Officer, whose independent role vis-à-vis the scientific and evidence-based rationale for policy would be analogous to that of the Parliamentary Budget Officer vis-à-vis finances.

Stewart’s most notable and concrete success as an MP was his initiative to get the government to accept online petitions in addition to paper petitions.

Paper petitions are a long standing feature of the Canadian parliamentary system. Every day in Parliament, MPs rise to present petitions duly signed and submitted by their constituents. The House enthusiastically adopted Stewart’s private member’s motion that it should extend the same courtesy and consideration to electronic petitions. In December of 2015, Parliament launched a new website to accept such petitions. 

Photo: Kennedy Stewart/Facebook

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.

Categories: News for progressives

CBC should provide live TV coverage of Ontario municipal vote results

Sat, 2018-10-20 00:13
October 19, 2018ElectionsCBC should provide live TV coverage of Ontario municipal vote resultsThe CBC is shooting itself in the foot with its decision not to provide live television coverage of the municipal election results in Ontario. CBC Toronto election
Categories: News for progressives

CBC should provide live TV coverage of Ontario municipal vote results

Sat, 2018-10-20 00:05
Karl Nerenberg

The CBC has decided not to broadcast Ontario’s municipal election results live on television. The elections at the local level in cities and towns throughout Canada’s most populous province take place Monday, Oct. 22. The public broadcaster says it cannot afford the advertising revenue it would lose by pre-empting popular prime-time shows like Murdoch Mysteries in its biggest market.

Daniel Bernhard, executive director and spokesperson for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, is a big supporter of CBC, but does not like this decision one little bit.

“Canadians expect our public broadcaster to behave like a public broadcaster. Private companies put advertisers first. CBC should put citizens first,” he said.

Catherine Tait has only been president of the CBC for a few months, but has had generally good reviews so far. She is a good communicator and can boast she is the only CBC president with a background in hands-on television production.

The decision on election night in Ontario is a major blunder. It is pennywise and pound foolish in the extreme. CBC spokespeople say the corporation will cover the elections on radio and the Internet. That is not the same as what has become the gold standard of election night coverage -- live television.

When one of the most vocal supporters of an organization -- in this case, the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting -- feels the need to publicly chastise it, that organization should worry.

Worse, the politicians in Ottawa who vote on the CBC’s annual budget have taken note.

At a recent Senate committee hearing on the future of broadcasting and telecommunications, the CBC’s clumsy and ill-timed decision was a topic of considerable comment -- none of it kind.

Many politicians in Ottawa are already dubious about the CBC. Some are outrageously ideological and do not think the government should be spending money on a service the private sector can quite adequately provide, in their view. Others are supportive in principle, but often feel frustrated by the public broadcaster. They have historically complained, for instance, that when news happens, private broadcasters send one crew, but the CBC sends four or five. That may be more than a bit unfair, given the CBC operates radio and television networks in two languages.

But politicians have other, less refutable complaints. For instance, a good many are not happy the CBC refused to carry any of the leaders’ debates during the last federal election campaign. There is back-story to that, of course. It dates back to when former prime minister Stephen Harper refused to take part in debates organized, as they had been for decades, by a consortium of broadcasters. Harper accepted invitations from others, including the Globe and Mail and the Munk Centre.

There was some justification for the CBC to balk at carrying programing of any kind over which it had no control. However, the other party leaders did take part in the debates and the CBC could have decided the public’s need for information outweighed its own need for control. In Ottawa, politicians have not forgotten what many of them view as an arrogant and heedless decision by the public broadcaster.

The lesson here is that the corporation has to really watch its backside when contemplating moves that might offend the political class.

CBC’s defenders in Parliament try to counter the free enterprise fundamentalists’ arguments by pointing to the unique public service mandate of the corporation. The CBC undercuts those defenders when it decides to so flagrantly abandon its public-service responsibilities in favour of a few dollars of ad revenue.

After a good few months, the choice the corporation made on the election in Toronto, and every other Ontario municipality, now puts the CBC’s new president way behind the 8-ball. It is especially damaging for Tait because her most concrete and prominent commitment upon taking on her new role was to re-invest in local programing, especially local news and public affairs programing.

Whoever advised Tait on this gave her utterly dumb advice. She might consider finding some new advisers, and soon.

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.

Photo:  City of Toronto/Facebook

Categories: News for progressives

Climate crisis sparking call for watch groups to do more

Fri, 2018-10-19 01:20
October 18, 2018EnvironmentExtinction Rebellion says it's time to move beyond mass marches and petitionsThe climate crisis is creating a new wave of activism, now as the warning about global warming go unheeded, new groups are calling on watch groups to do more.Climate Change Extinction Rebellion
Categories: News for progressives

Help rabble take it to the next level

Thu, 2018-10-18 07:10
Judy Rebick

Dear rabble readers,

Not many people know that rabble was one of the first independent journalism sites in the world. We founded rabble 17 years ago back when the internet was still young. A lot of sites have come and gone since then, but rabble is still alive and kicking, thanks to community support.

Did you know that babble, our discussion board, was the first example of interactive social media in Canada? rabble.ca launched as a non-profit operation designed to provide space for progressive news and views that you couldn’t find elsewhere. rabble was a visionary publication then and still is now.

Even though today we are overwhelmed with news and opinion, rabble steadfastly continues to provide news and analysis that others ignore. In a time of “fake news” rabble provides news and analysis you can rely on. And rabble relies on you to be able to continue that work.

Over the years, we have tried a variety of funding options. As a pioneer publication, we didn't know what revenue streams would work for an online publication. Like many social justice activists we experimented and found that the best and most reliable funders are you. For a monthly contribution at whatever you can afford, you can ensure that rabble continues to provide excellent news and opinion for years to come.

If someone had told me in 2001 that rabble would still be serving its readers 17 years later, I would have laughed -- but thanks to the work of staff over the years and the interest of our readers and supporters, rabble is still amplifying the work of social movements all across Canada. Your support means so much for rabble and independent news and media democracy.

In 2018, when more and more people are understanding the need for political activism to fight back against the Right, ensure a sustainable environment and continue the battle for social justice and equality, there is a crucial need for rabble.ca. And the simple fact is that rabble needs you to get to the next level. Will you join me in growing and strengthening news for the rest of us?

Help rabble take it to the next level with big editorial projects such as the Toronto election series, and planning for the upcoming federal election. These are major endeavours as rabble continues their commitment to exploring the perspectives of progressives across Canada.

And as rabble goes into its 18th year (an elder in internet years) it’s time to finally make rabble.ca a bedrock of the progressive community. It’s time to make rabble a sustainable organization for future generations. You have been part of that history, we hope you’ll be part of the future. Help rabble take it to the next level with a donation.

Thank you,

Judy Rebick

P.S: rabble has given a couple of extra incentives too:

Become a monthly supporter at $5/month or more and receive a free copy of Corporatizing Canada: Making Business out of Public Service.

Become a monthly supporter at $8/month or more and receive your free copy of Corporatizing Canada AND choose a copy of EITHER The Reconciliation Manifesto, by Arthur Manuel, with Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson OR David Austin’s Moving Against the System.

Judy Rebick is a well-known social justice and feminist activist, writer, journalist, educator, and speaker. She is the author of Heroes in my Head, Transforming Power: From the Personal to the Political, Occupy This!, Ten Thousand Roses: The Making of a Feminist Revolution, Imagine Democracy. Founding publisher of rabble.ca, Canada’s popular independent online news and discussion site, Judy continues to blog on rabble.ca.

Categories: News for progressives

Trial for protesters who turn the valve on Alberta tar sands oil will get to argue necessity of actions

Thu, 2018-10-18 01:06
October 17, 2018Valve-turners challenge climate crimes with non-violent direct actionThis trial could have historic significance the defence is being allowed to argue that the actions alleged to the accused were necessary and legally justified given the harm of climate change.
Categories: News for progressives

May and NDP MPs show anger in debate on climate change

Wed, 2018-10-17 01:01
October 16, 2018EnvironmentPolitics in CanadaMay and NDP MPs show anger in debate on climate changePassions fly high as House debates UN’s climate change report, with Green Party leader Elizabeth May telling government: ‘We need to do twice as much.’
Categories: News for progressives

May and NDP MPs show anger in debate on climate change

Wed, 2018-10-17 00:54
Karl Nerenberg

The House of Commons took the deadly threat of climate change seriously for one long evening on Monday. At the request of the NDP, the Green Party and one Liberal MP, Parliament held an emergency debate on global warming, which went on from the supper hour until midnight.

The NDP got the ball rolling early in the day, with a letter to the Speaker signed by Parliamentary Leader Guy Caron. It pointed to some of the damning numbers in last week’s United Nations Panel report on climate change.

"To meet the required emissions levels outlined by the panel,” the NDP’s Caron said, “Canada’s emissions will need to be reduced by almost half – far below our current performance. In fact, according to the panel, the world needs to reduce its (greenhouse gas) emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate change. The panel has made clear that preventing a single extra degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference for millions of people across the globe. It also firmly states that our current course of action is not working."

Liberal MP Nathan Erskine-Smith started off the debate by quoting former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, who famously answered the question, “Why do we go to the moon?” by saying, “We go not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”

Erskine-Smith then quoted the current U.S. president, who, when asked a few days ago about climate change, said: "I don't think it's a hoax, but I don't know that it's man-made. I will say this. I don't wanna give trillions and trillions of dollars.… I don't wanna be put at a disadvantage."

We have politicians in Canada who also want to do nothing about climate change, the Toronto MP said, looking at the Conservative benches opposite him.

"Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that he has heard from people across Ontario and from out west, and he wants the prime minister's hands out of their pockets,” Erskine-Smith told the House. "This is … wilful blindness toward the evidence."

Conservative MPs took umbrage at the suggestion they do not care about pollution and the environment.

As Quebec City Conservative MP Gérard Deltell put it:

"What we are looking for are positive, constructive, effective measures that have a direct impact.

"I hear the government and the other opposition parties say that we absolutely must tax pollution, but we disagree.… They want to impose the Liberal carbon tax and refer to the UN report by quoting it as though it were the Bible. The UN proposes a tax of $5,500 per tonne of carbon emitted…. That means an additional tax of $12 per litre of gas. I would like all House members who agree with the UN report to stand up and confirm that they want a litre of gas to cost an extra $12 tomorrow morning.”

That line about $12 per litre recurred in virtually all Conservative MPs’ interventions. Not one of the Conservatives who spoke proposed even a single specific measure to combat climate change. The closest they got were vague allusions to funding for innovation.

NDP discussed incentives to change behaviour

Speaking for the NDP, Caron wore his own economist’s hat.

"My economist colleagues are likely familiar with the term ‘Pigovian’ tax, which is a tax that seeks to change people's behaviour,” he said. “The problem right now is that we have no incentive to change our behaviour. Without incentives, people will not change their lifestyle.… Many Canadians know that we should drive electric cars, or at least very fuel-efficient cars.… Even so, more and more SUVs are being sold.… There is a big difference between what people know they should be doing and what they actually do."

British Columbia MP Richard Cannings also spoke for the NDP, expressing anger and frustration at the sophistry he hears all too often from defeatist and cynical politicians who say any action to curtail emissions is futile, so why bother.

"The Conservative side says that we should not have a carbon tax because B.C. has had one for 10 years and it is still having fires. So what is the use?" Cannings said scornfully. “That is not how it works. It shows either a shocking misunderstanding of how climate change works or just a wanton disregard."

He then made one of the most honest and telling points of the evening:

"If the whole world went carbon neutral today, we would be at that one-degree rise,” he explained. We would still have those fires. We would still have floods. All that extreme weather would be with us. What we are trying to do is save us from a far more frightening future!"

Cannings pointed out that with a two-degree increase in global warming, we would see the hottest days of summer increase by 4°C, which would mean heat waves in British Columbia that could easily reach 44°C. For those who are still not entirely attuned to the metric system, Cannings translated that number to 112° Fahrenheit.

The NDP MP had a few tangible suggestions for the Liberal government.

"Instead of investing $4.5 billion in an old pipeline,” he said, “we could copy the U.K. and spend $2 billion on building electric vehicle infrastructure across southern Canada. We could provide meaningful incentives for Canadians to switch to electric vehicles, just as Norway has done. We could invest billions in other clean technology projects across the country."

He also mentioned retrofits to buildings, which produce 40 per cent of our carbon emissions.

Elizabeth May was firm and uncompromising

Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s speech was the fiercest and most passionate of the evening. She started by telling a bit of her own story as a long-time environmental policy expert and activist.

"I have had a ringside seat for the decades during which we could have arrested climate change before our glaciers were melting, before we were losing the Arctic, before our forests were on fire, before we saw draught and climate refugees, and before we had tornadoes in Ottawa,” May told her parliamentary colleagues. “We had a chance in the 1990s and we blew it. We had a chance in the first decade of this century, but every time there has been a warning from scientists, the alarm bell has rung and society has hit the snooze button."

She continued in the same vein, directly addressing her fellow politicians, combining controlled rage with a planetary and historical perspective:

"If we are grownups in this place, then we should face the science clear-eyed.  We have allowed greenhouse gas emissions to increase to such an extent that we have already changed the chemistry of the atmosphere.… We do not know when we will hit a tipping point of irreversible self-acceleration where the ultimate consequences are not about bracing for bad weather, but about bracing for millions of species going extinct. Even if humanity can hang on now, can we imagine hanging on to human civilization in a world with a four-degree, five-degree, six-degree or seven-degree rise in temperature? The answer is no."

May made it clear that there is no point now debating the government’s current halting and inadequate climate plan. The UN report calls for far more robust and resolute action than Canada is currently taking.

"This is not a status-quo debate,” she said. “The UN Panel report has said to us as a country that our target is approximately 50-per-cent too little. We need to do twice as much. I know that is hard, but to save the lives of our children, what would we not do?"

Then, in response to a question from a Liberal MP as to what specific actions she would propose, May did not, as government spokespeople so frequently do, retreat behind generalities. She unapologetically proposed a radical series of specific and sweeping measures.

"This is a heroic effort on a global scale," the Green leader said. "It means decarbonizing our electricity sector, not just getting off coal, but making sure we do not switch to polluting natural gas instead. We have to improve the east-west electricity grid, get rid of internal combustion engines, use electric vehicles, and ensure energy efficiency and retrofits for every building. At the same time, we have to ensure that there is green biodiesel for our tractors and our fishing boats."

May concluded by explaining that "all of those things have already been invented. That is the miracle. They are all possible. We just have to tell our fellow citizens that we are ready. It is a challenge, and we are all going to do it together."

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.

Photo: Green Party Flickr

Categories: News for progressives

Analysis: Courts must uphold Indigenous rights when the Crown denies them

Mon, 2018-10-15 23:56
October 15, 2018Indigenous RightsPolitics in CanadaAnalysis: Courts must uphold Indigenous rights when the Crown denies themMaking a distinction between the executive and legislative branches, the Supreme Court recently ruled the federal government doesn't always have to consult Indigenous people. The distinction is flawedIndigenous rightssupreme court of canada
Categories: News for progressives

Analysis: Courts must uphold Indigenous rights when the Crown denies them

Mon, 2018-10-15 23:46
Karl Nerenberg

Last week, after the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament does not have to consult Indigenous communities when drafting new laws, CTV’s Don Martin asked: “Don’t Indigenous groups have the opportunity to express their concerns during the committee hearings that normally happen when the government presents new legislation?”

That was a good question, to which the answer is: For the particular legislation that provoked this court case there was no such opportunity.

In 2103, the Mikisew Cree Nation went to court because the Stephen Harper government at that time had used a sneaky, backdoor procedure to push a series of massive, legislative initiatives through Parliament, thus avoiding normal hearings by parliamentary committees.

Harper and his ministers had slipped major changes to fisheries, navigable waters and environmental oversight legislation into the back pages of voluminous omnibus budget implementation bills. Using that tricky manoeuvre they could avoid the messy business of public committee hearings and extended debate in the House of Commons.

It was an entirely unprecedented gambit.

Normally, fisheries, navigable waters and environment bills would go to the appropriate parliamentary committees, where there would be hearings and an opportunity for various groups, including First Nations, to express their views and concerns. 

Budget implementation bills are different sorts of beasts. These bills only come after Parliament passes the budget, which, as a rule, outlines the government’s taxing, borrowing and spending policies in fairly broad strokes.

The purpose of implementation legislation is to put the measures Parliament has passed in the budget into effect. As a rule, such legislation is a matter of housekeeping, not a way to introduce entirely new policies in diverse fields. The finance committee might have a look at such legislation. Other committees do not, and, in the normal course of events, do not need to.

And so when Harper chose to radically change environmental oversight of mega projects and protection for fish and navigable waters, through the fine print of a budget implementation bill, his sole purpose was to enact these highly contentious and major changes with a minimum of scrutiny and debate.

The opposition parties cried foul, of course. But in a majority Parliament the opposition is, it seems, powerless.  The government paid zero heed when NDP MPs pointed out it was proceeding in an arrogant and undemocratic manner. In our parliamentary system the majority rules, at times absolutely, and all too often at the beck and call of the prime minister. That’s what parliamentary sovereignty can amount to.

A section 35 case was born

Enter the Indigenous community.

The Harper government’s stealth changes were a direct attack on Indigenous hunting, fishing and resource-harvesting rights. They would mean increased industrial activity on protected Indigenous territory, bringing increased pollution and destruction of habitat. Indigenous anger at the Harper government’s high handed approach spawned the Idle No More movement.

Fierce public demonstrations were one way for Indigenous people to express their sense of betrayal. But there were also other ways and one of those was through the courts.

After consulting legal experts, a large consensus of First Nations supported the Mikisew Cree Nation when it launched a court case challenging the offending implementation bills.

When the government proposed major legislative changes with a direct impact on First Nations, without even allowing for any Indigenous feedback, the Mikisew’s lawyers argued it was acting contrary to section 35 of the 1982 Constitution. That section, as the courts have interpreted it, guarantees and protects Aboriginal and treaty rights.

It was particularly galling to Indigenous people that representatives of the mining and oil and gas industries had actively lobbied the government to make the contentious changes. And they did so behind closed doors, without any public scrutiny.

Private interests had access to key government decision makers, while the public, including that part of the public most affected ­ – the Indigenous community – had zero opportunity to express its views.

Justin Trudeau’s government promised, prior to the last election, to change Parliament’s rules to make omnibus bills of the sort Harper’s government used with such alacrity a thing of the past. Not only did it fail to do so, the Liberal government resorted to the same tactic itself, as when it created a new infrastructure bank through the budget bill in spring 2017.

Canadians, as a whole, might have to put up with this sort of guff.

We might have to acquiesce when prime ministers act as though the only purpose of the legislative branch, Parliament, is to rubber stamp anything the executive branch proposes. As long as we insist on using a voting system that gives parties with 39 per cent of the vote 100 per cent of the power, we cannot expect better.

Indigenous communities are not, however, in the same position as the rest of us. Even the majority of the Supreme Court recognized, in its ruling of last week, that when Indigenous peoples’ rights and interests are at stake, government must consult them.

The majority of justices put it this way:

“The duty to consult is an obligation that flows from the honour of the Crown, a foundational principle of Aboriginal law which governs the relationship between the Crown and Aboriginal peoples. This duty … ensures that the Crown acts honourably by preventing it from acting unilaterally in ways that undermine section 35 rights.”

Put simply, the Crown (that is, the government) must never act “unilaterally” in a way that could have an adverse impact on Indigenous peoples.

Given that, why did the majority reject the Mikisew case?

The duty-to-consult rule, they said, only binds the executive branch of government, the cabinet, not the legislative branch, Parliament. And, they added, it is not the place of the courts to tell Parliament how to go about its business. Parliament is the master of its own domain.

Canada does not have U.S.-style separation of powers

One gets the impression reading the majority decision that the justices imagined they live in the United States.

In the U.S. there is, indeed, a clear separation between the legislative branch (Congress) from the executive branch (the president and his or her cabinet). The Americans quite accurately describe their system as one of checks and balances, even if it is not working quite as planned these days.

The Canadian system is different. Here, the prime minister and, for the most part, the cabinet ministers, sit in Parliament, together with the other 300-plus MPs and, in practice, the members of the executive tend to dominate and control virtually everything Parliament does.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Rosie Abella was aware of that fact. She pointed out that the Crown, in fact, means both Parliament and the cabinet. To that, she added that the Crown is constitutionally obliged to “act honourably” in all its dealings with Indigenous peoples. There is no loophole that allows the Crown to ignore that obligation when it styles itself as a legislature rather than an executive.

Harper was still prime minister, still the chief executive of the government, even when he was at his seat in the House of Commons. The same held true for the members of his cabinet, and the same holds true today for Trudeau and his cabinet.

A Constitution would be meaningless, Abella argued, if the government did not have to respect it seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and whether the leaders of that government were seated in the House of Commons or behind their desks in their offices.

Abella put it this way:

“The honour of the Crown is always at stake in its dealings with Indigenous peoples, whether through the exercise of legislative power or executive authority.”

The court majority did not even make an effort to refute that argument. They simply ignored it.

When this case got under way, the Harper team was in power, and one would normally expect it to vigorously defend itself against the Mikisew Cree complaint. Trudeau, on the other hand, promised a new, less confrontational and more respectful approach to relations with Indigenous peoples.

Trudeau said his government intended to conscientiously consult with Indigenous groups on all matters that might concern them. He never said there were any exceptions to that commitment – as when, for instance, Parliament was considering new legislation.

Why, then, did Trudeau not simply instruct the government’s lawyers to cease objecting to the part of the Mikisew case that affirms the Crown’s obligation to, in all cases, consult Indigenous people when government action might affect them?

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.

Photo source:  House of Commons Flickr

Categories: News for progressives

In a dissenting voice, Justice Abella upholds Indigenous rights while majority on Supreme Court waffles

Fri, 2018-10-12 21:46
October 12, 2018Indigenous RightsPolitics in CanadaIn a dissenting voice, Justice Abella upholds Indigenous rights while majority on Supreme Court wafflesThe Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision this week that says the federal government does not have the duty to consult Indigenous people when drafting laws, includes a powerful opposing opinion.#Indigenoussupreme court of canada
Categories: News for progressives

In a dissenting voice, Justice Abella upholds Indigenous rights while majority on Supreme Court waffles

Fri, 2018-10-12 21:41
Karl Nerenberg

The Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision this week that says the federal government does not have the duty to consult Indigenous people when drafting laws, includes a powerful opposing opinion.

The two dissenting judges emphatically and eloquently support the Indigenous position. And over time, that powerful dissenting opinion might carry more weight than the majority’s.

The case goes back to 2012, at a time when Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was perfecting the art of the omnibus bill. One such bill, a technical budget bill, used the fine print to radically change both the fisheries act and the approval process for large resource projects.

Indigenous groups across the country saw those stealth legislative changes as threats to their hunting, fishing, harvesting and other land-use rights, many of them guaranteed by treaty. One group, the Miskew Cree First Nation of Alberta, initiated a court case, arguing that the Crown’s constitutional duty to consider the rights of Indigenous groups includes consultations during the legislative drafting process.

A lower court upheld that principle, but the majority on the Supreme Court has just said no dice.

The majority decision rules that the Crown, the executive branch of government, does, indeed, have a duty to consult with Indigenous peoples, which is why the cabinet had to fully consult First Nations on Trans Mountain. However, the seven judges declare that duty does not extend to the legislative branch – Parliament.

“The duty to consult doctrine is ill‑suited for legislative action,” Justice Andromache Karakatsanis wrote on behalf of the majority.

The judge points out that there is considerable precedent requiring the Crown to consider Indigenous rights and consult with Indigenous groups as it conducts its activities on the ground. However, she emphasizes, there is no precedent whatsoever that requires parliamentarians in the act of crafting and considering legislation to engage in such consultations.  And, she adds, it would be impractical to do so.

A dissent that relies on many precedents

Justice Rosie Abella respectfully, but forcefully, disagrees, and the newest Supreme Court judge, Sheilah Martin concurs.

“The duty to consult arises based on the effect, not the source, of the government action,” Abella wrote, “The Crown’s overarching responsibility to act honourably in all its dealings with Indigenous peoples does not depend on the formal label applied to the type of action that the government takes with respect to Aboriginal rights and interests protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982.”

Section 35 refers to a provision that was quite literally forced on the current prime minister’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, when he was negotiating the package of constitutional changes that included a charter of rights and a made-in-Canada formula for amending the constitution in the future.

These days, we pay lip service to the idea that Indigenous groups are founding peoples of Canada. Back in Pierre Trudeau’s time, nearly 40 years ago, hardly anyone noticed when Indigenous peoples were entirely left out of the all-white-male constitutional process. The Indigenous leadership of the time had to force its way in: first by going to the Supreme Court and then by appealing to the actual Crown, the Queen in London.

As a last-minute compromise, Pierre Trudeau and the provincial premiers agreed to a one-sentence addition to the new constitution, namely: “The existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

The terms of that begrudgingly accepted add-on were not defined at the time. But since then a series of court rulings have put flesh on the bones of the idea of Aboriginal and treaty rights.

Justice Abella cites a number of those rulings, notably the 1997 Supreme Court decision in the case known as Delgamukw. That ruling affirmed that the undefined wording of section 35 could, in practice, entail exclusive Indigenous rights to significant pieces of unceded territory.

Abella quotes the portion of that 1997 decision that states that while the nature and scope of the obligation to consult might vary, “there is always a duty to consult.”

Based on both recent precedents and some going back half a century, Abella argues that in all its actions –whether they be those of crafting laws or of enforcing them – the Crown has a duty to consider the interests and rights of Indigenous peoples and to consult with them.

 “There is no doctrinal or conceptual justification which would preclude a duty to consult in the legislative context,” Abella argues.

The majority decision tells Indigenous groups that although they cannot, as a matter of course, insist on being included in the process of making laws, they do have the unfettered right to challenge those laws in court, once they are passed.

Abella says it is unfair to force Indigenous peoples to wait until after laws abridging their rights are passed to then challenge them in court. She says the burden should be on the legislators, even if it might require them to work somewhat differently.

If Parliament were to accept its obligation to consider Indigenous rights at the outset when creating new laws, it might, Abella recognizes, “have an impact on the legislative process. “

She then adds bluntly that such an impact is simply an unavoidable fact of life “if the guarantee under section 35 is to be taken seriously.”

The senior judge on the current court then pushes the argument to its logical conclusion with this powerful and difficult-to-refute statement:

“Adjustments to the legislative process cannot justify the erasure of constitutionally mandated rights. Indeed, there would be little point in having a Constitution if legislatures could proceed as if it did not exist when expedient.”

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.

Photo source: The Supreme Court of Canada

Categories: News for progressives

Our path to common purpose and change

Thu, 2018-10-11 23:17
Pam Palmater

Dear rabble readers:

As a mom, lawyer, professor, author, activist, a Mi'kmaw citizen, and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation, I’m worried, angry, motivated, and of course, active. We face incredible obstacles towards achieving justice and reconciliation.

There are many things to do. For me, one way to make a concrete contribution is to make a concrete contribution to rabble.ca. It really does matter. If you can please, please support rabble.ca's independent progressive journalism right now at rabble.ca/donate.

We need rabble.ca to tell the stories that need to be heard. When it comes to media, in the early days of the Idle No More movement, and before, rabble was a key resource for people to learn about, share, and discuss the movement. That's still true to this day. From Kinder Morgan and the Trans Mountain pipeline construction, to the crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women, rabble.ca is our great forum for debate and real information. I'm happy to report that rabble has been a strong supporter of my work for years and helped share the work of many other Indigenous activists.

A good example of the rabble.ca difference is in the current Liberal government's portrayal in mainstream media around its relationship with Indigenous communities. The truth that needs to be told is Trudeau's betrayal of First Nations people, and therefore his betrayal of all Canadians.

The fact is that Trudeau told Indigenous people that he would recognize our legal right to veto any development on our territories. That means the right to say no to pipelines. This, as we know, hasn't happened. Justin Trudeau has betrayed us. He has approved two major pipelines, Kinder Morgan and Enbridge Line 3. These pipelines, if built, would destroy the very lands and waters on which we all depend, First Nations and Canadians alike. And as the Trans Mountain pipeline has gone through the process of being approved, appealed, bought out, and sold (all without proper Indigenous consultation), rabble.ca has not let up on Trudeau and other pipeline supporters.

I'm asking you to please do what you can to support rabble.ca. rabble is a great forum for debate and real information, and if you can contribute, please do so now at rabble.ca/donate. If you can't afford a donation, please encourage a friend or colleague who can. Word of mouth means a lot in grassroots struggles, and that is what this is.

What we need in Canada is an independent media system that is tuned to the activism that fights for a more just, wise, and equal world. That's what rabble is. Please help us on our path to common purpose and make change at rabble.ca/donate.


Pam Palmater

Pam Palmater has been a practicing lawyer for 20 years and is currently an Associate Professor and the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University.

Categories: News for progressives

Analysis: Toronto election campaign highlights flaws in system

Thu, 2018-10-11 22:24
October 11, 2018Analysis: Toronto election campaign highlights flaws in systemAs the Toronto election campaign heads into its final days, writer Phillip Morgan looks at how the democratic system is failing the city
Categories: News for progressives



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