Failure to address climate crisis puts children at risk

 

Child wearing mask with wildfire smoke in background(Photo: Aulia Erlangga via Flickr)

On November 12, Veneto, Italy’s regional council was debating climate policy in its Venice offices. Minutes after a majority voted against budget amendments to address climate disruption, the chambers were inundated with water. Venice is known for flooding, but it’s getting worse, and the timing in this instance felt like a message.

Our existence is a marvellous phenomenon. We live on a spinning ball of water and rock at just the right distance from the sun for natural cycles to have developed to create ideal conditions for life as we know it. But exploding human populations and hyperconsumption-driven societies have, in a relatively brief time, knocked these natural systems out of balance. We’ve upset the carbon cycle so rapidly by indiscriminately burning fossil fuels and destroying natural carbon sinks like forests and wetlands that consequences are hitting much faster than predicted.

Australia is on fire. Parts of Europe are flooding. Melting permafrost in Northern Canada is raising fears that naturally stored methane will escape, accelerating heating. Refugees are fleeing homelands as climate disruption makes farming and living in many areas difficult. Entire villages in India are being abandoned for lack of water and temperatures too high for crops to survive.

Canada’s North is heating at close to triple the global average rate, and the country overall at twice the average. The recent Lancet Countdown, an international academic review of climate impacts on human health by 120 experts from 35 institutions, found people in Canada face a range of health risks, including the many effects of increasing wildfires and pollution, such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses. It found pollution from land-based transportation alone caused more than 1,000 deaths in 2015.

In Canada and worldwide, as well as committing our children, grandchildren and those yet to be born to an uncertain future, we’ve made conditions worse for young people today.

In Canada and worldwide, as well as committing our children, grandchildren and those yet to be born to an uncertain future, we’ve made conditions worse for young people today. The Lancet report found children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to climate disruption, as are the least well off.

Global heating is creating a range of health problems. Illness and death are increasing from climate-driven wildfires and smoke, insects carrying diseases such as Lyme and dengue are moving into new territory, malnutrition is on the rise as droughts and flooding cause crop failures and food scarcity, and deadly diarrhea from bacteria like cholera is spreading, with children bearing the brunt of the problems.

“Children’s bodies and immune systems are still developing, leaving them more susceptible to disease and environmental pollutants,” said Lancet Countdown executive director Nick Watts. “The damage done in early childhood lasts a lifetime. Without immediate action from all countries climate change will come to define the health of an entire generation.”

You’d think we’d do everything in our power to protect our children, but we aren’t.

You’d think we’d do everything in our power to protect our children, but we aren’t. Governments here and elsewhere are still putting the fossil fuel industry’s interests ahead of citizens’, while downplaying the climate crisis. Climate science deniers are as vocal and uninformed as ever. Oil industry executives claim to take climate seriously while arguing that fossil fuel demand is rising so we might as well get some money.

With all the knowledge and solutions available, why are we stalling and putting humanity at risk?

As my friend, UBC professor emeritus of human ecology and ecological economics William Rees argued in a two-part Tyee article, we’re still addicted to fossil fuels. Echoing my sentiments, Rees writes, “A rational world with a good grasp of reality would have begun articulating a long-term wind-down strategy 20 or 30 years ago.” But we didn’t act rationally, and many still aren’t. Rees offers 11 strategies to deal with the crisis, which he argues must go beyond the current “green new deal.” Included are “Formal recognition of the end of material growth and the need to reduce the human ecological footprint,” and reducing production and consumption.

We can’t go back to former conditions. But with great effort and human ingenuity, we can learn to better live in balance with nature. We can get through the climate crisis. But it’s too late for half measures. We need an all-out effort as great as or greater than mobilizations for the “great” wars. We need to kick our fossil fuel addiction now, for our sake and the children’s. SOURCE

Unite for bold climate action

Saanich council unanimously passes new plastic bag bylaw

https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1838935&jwsource=cl

VICTORIA – Following the legal process that saw Victoria’s plastic bag bylaw struck down by the BC Court of Appeal earlier this summer, Saanich council has unanimously passed a new plastic bag ban that councillors hope will stand a better chance of taking effect in their district.

While Saanich had already passed a plastic checkout bag bylaw back in June 2019, which was to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, the municipality decided to repeal its initial bylaw with an updated version to avoid the same legal barriers that Victoria now faces.

In July 2019, the BC Court of Appeal struck down Victoria’s plastic bag ban stating that the city had power to enact bylaws that effect business regulations, but not environmental policies. The court found that as the bylaw was focused on environmental protection, the ban would have to receive approval by the BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to take effect.

Seeing the obstacles that Victoria is facing, Saanich repealed its plastic bag bylaw on Monday and unanimously approved to replace the regulation with a new version that will be presented directly to the minister.

The district says the ban will now be delayed and no longer come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, as it needs to be approved by the province.

“At this time, it is unknown whether the minister will be approving individual municipal bylaws and if so, how long approval will take,” reads a report by Saanich staff that was directed to council Monday.

If and when the replacement bylaw is approved, the plastic bag ban will come into effect 60 days after ministerial approval. The 60 day grace period is designed for business to adjust their bag inventories before the ban goes into effect.

“The great thing, in my observation, is that despite the paperwork, despite the bylaw, despite the court challenges, the community is already on this issue,” said councillor Saanich Brice in the council meeting Monday.

“I think that the public and the industry and all of the intersections have this well on its way,” Brice added. “People have moved and want to do the right thing.” SOURCE

Quebec’s Bill 21 leads to ‘irreparable harm,’ civil liberties groups tell Court of Appeal

 WATCH: Opponents to Quebec’s Bill 21 argued in Quebec Court of Appeals that the law targets women and is therefore unconstitutional. The plaintiffs say the law violates sexual equality guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Global’s Tim Sargeant has more

The Quebec government’s contentious religious symbols ban leads to “real and substantial harm” and unfairly targets women, according to Canadian civil liberties groups who made their arguments before the province’s highest court on Tuesday.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) claim Bill 21, the province’s secularism law, harms minority groups in Quebec and limits employment opportunities.

“Let’s be clear, we are already experiencing the effects of the law today,” said Bochra Manaï, a consultant with the NCCM, from the courthouse in Montreal.

Bill 21 prohibits some employees in positions of authority — including teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious symbols while on duty. The law has been widely criticized, but the Legault government maintains it has support from the majority of Quebecers.

The organizations were before Quebec’s top court after their request for an immediate stay of some of the law’s provisions was rejected by a Superior Court judge in July. Justice Michel Yergeau ruled that Bill 21 would continue to apply in full until a challenge of the law could be heard on its merits, saying the applicants did not demonstrate harm warranting a stay.

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In August, Court of Appeal Chief Justice Nicole Duval Hesler granted the NCCM and CCLA leave to appeal the decision.

Catherine McKenzie, a lawyer for the applicants, argued before the court on Tuesday that the impact of Bill 21 is “massive” and that many people in the courtroom are being denied employment based on what they wear.

“The irreparable harm is obvious,” said McKenzie.

The groups claim Quebec’s secularism law also disproportionately affects women and is a direct violation of the sexual equality guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under Section 28.

“So far, the only people whose rights this has infringed [upon] are women,” said Olga Redko, a lawyer for the applicants.
Éric Cantin, a lawyer for the Quebec government, said the province acted in the public’s best interest when it passed Bill 21.

The three Appeal Court justices are expected to deliberate and render a decision in the coming months.

“I would hardly want to speculate what the justices will do,” said Noa Mendelhsohn Aviv, equality programme director at CCLA. “I certainly hope they will hear and they will make the right decision.”

The province’s controversial religious symbols ban is also facing a legal challenge from a union representing 45,000 teachers in Quebec. The Fédération Autonome de l’Enseignement launched a lawsuit over the religious symbols ban earlier this month.

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Both the Quebec government and its opponents have said they are willing to take Bill 21 to the Supreme Court if necessary.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he hasn’t ruled out challenging the legislation, Quebec Premier François Legault has repeatedly warned him not to meddle in the province’s affairs.

Montreal protesters rally in the rain against Bill 21

SOURCE

RELATED:

Amid political gamesmanship, some Quebec Muslim women enticed by offer to move to Manitoba


 

UN Indigenous rights bill approved unanimously in B.C.

First Nations Leadership Council was concerned newly-introduced legislation had stalled at the committee stage


Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, pictured here in 2018, was one of several Indigenous leaders who attended the tabling of the bill last month in the B.C. Legislature. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

B.C. has become the first jurisdiction in Canada to formally implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The bill was approved unanimously in the legislature on Tuesday.

“Today, we have made history,” the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and the First Nations Leadership Council said in a joint statement.

The bill mandates the provincial government to bring its policies and laws into harmony with the aims of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Bill 41 was developed by the provincial government together with the First Nations Leadership Council to uphold Indigenous rights and create stronger communities, said the statement.

Any future changes needed to comply with the UN declaration will be done in consultation and collaboration with Indigenous peoples, the joint statement added.

Indigenous leaders across the province had urged the official Opposition to allow passage of the legislation for a new relationship between the province and First Nations.

Before the legislation was approved, the First Nations Leadership Council had expressed concerns about the bill being stalled in committee, noting it had been at that stage since Oct. 30.

“Our province has been limited by the uncertainty of litigation,” B.C. Green MLA Adam Olsen, who is a member of Tsartlip First Nation, said in a news release.

“And now, rather than conflict there is an opportunity of increased collaboration and of economic prosperity that is fairer for everyone,” he added.

The legislation is now enshrined in provincial law. SOURCE

 

Math Still Missing For Trans Mountain Pipeline Tax Revenue Claim

There’s little clarity about how the government got to a $500-million figure.


Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks to reporters as he arrives at a meeting with Liberal caucus members in Ottawa on Nov. 7, 2019. PATRICK DOYLE / REUTERS

OTTAWA — The federal government says the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will bring another $500 million a year in corporate tax revenue to be spent on fighting climate change, but the Liberals won’t say where they got that number.

The figure was cited by the government when it approved the project a second time last June and was also included in the Liberals’ campaign platform.

In 2018, the government stepped in to buy the existing pipeline between Alberta and the B.C. coast from Kinder Morgan Canada for $4.5 billion. The company and its investors got cold feet about proceeding as political opposition to the pipeline threatened unending delays, so Ottawa bought it. The government intends to see through the expansion and then sell it back to the private sector.

Under heavy criticism from environmentalists for pushing a major pipeline project at the same time as they’ve insisted on the need to slash greenhouse-gas emissions, the Liberals promised any new revenue from the expansion project, including corporate taxes, will be spent only on climate-change mitigation. That includes natural solutions like tree planting and clean technology projects.

Matthew Barnes, a spokesperson for Finance Minister Bill Morneau, said in an email Monday the $500-million figure was a “Finance Canada estimate based on the additional corporate tax revenue that the federal government could receive from the successful completion and operation of TMX.”

British Columbia-based economist Robyn Allan, who is skeptical about the benefits of the expansion project, said she has not been able to get the government to explain the figure for months and is accusing the government of obstructing the information because the analysis won’t hold up to scrutiny.

“If they can’t tell you how it was derived it really begs the question if there is any substance to it at all,” she said.

She is also demanding the government tell Canadians what the expansion is going to cost to build. The last estimate was $7.4 billion but that figure is now several years old and hasn’t been updated since the federal government bought the pipeline. SOURCE

Energy minister cites climate change denial blog in defence of scrapping green energy projects

Energy Minister Greg Rickford called blog ‘one of my favourite periodicals’


Ontario’s Minister of Energy Greg Rickford says he believes in climate change but that it is ‘important that you consider all periodicals and sources of literature with differing views.’ (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford cited a blog that denies human-induced climate change while defending the government’s decision to scrap green energy projects in the province.

During question period at Queen’s Park Monday, Rickford called Climate Change Dispatch one of his “favourite periodicals.”

The website says its mission is to “deconstruct” climate change theories “propagated” by former U.S. vice president Al Gore and “the highly politicized” International Panel on Climate Change. It asks for donations to help “fight garbage science.”

Rickford quoted from a post on the site, titled “Germany Pulls Plug on Wind Energy As Industry Suffers ‘Severe Crisis’,” in response to questioning from the Opposition about $230-million in cancelled renewable enery contracts in Ontario.

“Well, I’ll be a chicken fried in goose fat, Mr. Speaker. It turns out that there’s another jurisdiction that’s having the same challenges we are,” Rickford said.

In its “About Us” section, the online publication says it “does not believe in consensus science” on global climate change.

‘Science is pretty clear’ on climate change

Rickford’s comments come on the same day that the United Nations Environment Programme released its annual Emissions Gap Report.

The 168-page document, compiled by 57 leading scientists from 33 institutions across 25 countries, calls on governments to act immediately, within the next decade, to limit global warming to 1.5 C or 2 C by 2100.

“By now, we know all we need to know. The science is pretty clear, and very frightening,” said one of the report’s contributing authors.

“But we also know we have the technological options that are needed, at least to the short to medium term.”

Minister talks about ‘both sides’

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Rickford said it is “important that you consider all periodicals and sources of literature with differing views.”

“I believe in climate change and I believe in literature that supports a balanced article on any given subject matter that points out both sides of the coin,” he said.

Rickford did not provide a direct answer when asked whether he agrees with the suggestion that human activity is not contributing to climate change.

‘We are past the point of debating,’ says NDP

The NDP decried Rickford’s reference on Tuesday, calling the site a “conspiracy website” and “digital rag.”

It pointed out other articles on Climate Change Dispatch, including one post entitled “Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is Not a Pollutant” and a positive review of a book that compares climate activism to attitudes in Nazi Germany.

“Hate-filled conspiracy theories are not a foundation for good policy,” said NDP Climate Crisis critic Peter Tabuns in a statement.

“We are past the point of debating whether climate change exists. Ontarians know climate change is real, and caused by human action. Does this government know that?”

Meanwhile, a group of young Ontarians is suing the province over what they say is climate change inaction, arguing that the government has violated their charter rights by softening emissions reduction targets. SOURCE

Anti-abortion group says 45 now-elected Conservative MPs would vote to restrict abortion access — here’s why pro-choice experts are concerned

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer finally told reporters in October that despite his own personal anti-abortion beliefs, his party was not going to try to reopen the abortion debate.

VANCOUVER—Not long after Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer was dogged by the abortion issue during the 2019 federal election, questions are being raised about the support many of his party’s members have received from ardent anti-abortion groups.

In October, Scheer finally told reporters that despite his own personal anti-abortion beliefs, his party was not going to try to reopen the abortion debate.

Two Canadian anti-abortion organizations, both of which aim to influence legislation on abortion, collectively supported more than 60 candidates from parties on the political right, with one group alleging many of these individuals would vote to restrict access to abortion, and for the promotion of conscience rights for doctors.

Now 45 of those candidates — all members of the Conservative Party — are MPs.

And while these groups say the candidates they supported are anti-abortion, several of the now-elected MPs have not explicitly discussed their position, or commented to media on why they received support from anti-abortion groups.

One of these groups is Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), a national organization “working at all levels of government to secure full legal protection for all human beings, from the time of conception to natural death.”

A website run by CLC called voteprolife.ca, has a list of all candidates they determined to be “pro-life” in the 2019 election. There were more than 60, all belonging to right-leaning parties, such as the Conservatives or the PPC, or who ran as Independent.

Of the candidates on the list, 45 — all Conservatives — won their seat.

Candidates were given the “green light” endorsement based on their alleged answers to a questionnaire distributed by CLC, or by a having a “pro-life voting record.”

Seventeen now-elected Conservative MPs are alleged to have said “yes” to the question: “If elected, would you vote in favour of a law to protect all unborn children from the time of conception (fertilization) onward?” or a similarly phrased version of that question.

A smaller number of 11 now-elected Conservative MPs allegedly answered “yes” to the question: “Do you support the conscience rights of health care professionals to refuse to do or refer for medical procedures which they oppose?”

CLC has not responded to multiple requests for comment from the Star Vancouver.

Another anti-abortion group, Right Now, which describes itself as a “political pro-life organization (that) is focused on nominating and electing pro-life politicians, federally and provincially,” also lent its support to federal candidates during the election.

Right Now has kept a list of the candidates it supports under wraps. But it recently published a blog post on the results of the federal election, and mentioned supporting B.C. Conservative candidates Nelly Shin and Tamara Jansen, who are both on the CLC list.

Scott Hayward, co-founder of Right Now, would not say exactly how his organization determined who they would support, only that it was “predicated on whether or not a candidate will vote for pro-life legislation, should they be elected.”

Hayward went on to say that while Scheer established that the Conservatives would not introduce anti-abortion legislation, individual members could still introduce private member’s bills.

“No leader of a political party recognized in the House of Commons can unilaterally disqualify any private member’s legislation; we live in a Westminster parliamentary democracy, not a presidential republic,” said Hayward in an email statement. “Our goal has always been, and remains, to elect a pro-life majority in our federal and provincial legislatures so that pro-life legislation can be passed, regardless of political party affiliation.”

A Conservative Party of Canada spokesperson did not answer repeated questions about the party’s possible links to CLC and Right Now, but instead doubled down on Scheer’s comments.

“Millions of Canadians hold personal beliefs and different positions on this issue. The Conservative Party is no different,” said Cory Hann, director of communications for the Conservative Party of Canada. “The Conservative Party will not reopen this divisive social debate.”

Hann then pointed to several Liberal candidates he said had expressed anti-abortion views, including Filomena Tassi, John McKay and Lawrence MacAulay. SOURCE

Jason Kenney foreign-funding conspiracy theory is false and we can prove it


Premier Jason Kenney. Photograph by The Canadian Press / Amber Braken

As long as the foreign-funding conspiracy theory was a lone researcher’s crusade, this thing had a great run.

Underdogs are popular, and suspicion of foreign plotting is a guaranteed box office winner.

Now that it’s official Alberta government policy, however, things are about to get a lot trickier.

The foreign-funding conspiracy theory is a house of sand, where every pillar crumbles to the touch.

At its core, this theory, which Jason Kenney has adopted as the Alberta government’s, is that the province has been targeted by a cabal of American foundations led by the Rockefellers in a deliberate campaign of economic sabotage.

By directing money and influence to an anti-pipeline movement called the Tar Sands Campaign, these foundations seek to advance American energy interests by landlocking Canadian oil.

As I wrote earlier in September, the sham outrage over foreign money is just a cynical ruse. Unscrupulous governments are employing it around the world to discredit, silence and intimidate environmental dissent, and ultimately to choke off resources to activist groups.

Nobody cares about foreign money, least of all Jason Kenney.

No sooner did the premier release the terms of his foreign funding inquiry than he set off for New York, cap in hand, to raise more foreign money for the oil industry.

The Canadian oil and gas industry, jauntily waving the maple leaf, is loaded with over a hundred billion dollars in foreign ownership. It sells millions of barrels of oil to foreigners every day, and now wants a pipeline to increase the foreign markets it can sell to.

And all of this is cheered on daily in a foreign-controlled national newspaper chain.

That’s just by way of a little perspective.

The claim of conspiracy is an accusation of fraud

The direct or indirect claim of conspiracy, at its heart, is an accusation of fraud and breach of trust, based entirely on circumstantial evidence. It’s the suggestion that charitable dollars are diverted for a covert purpose and that multiple organizations are colluding in that deception.

A scheme like this would necessarily involve senior foundation leadership acting in concert, and with malice, to subvert the bona fide charitable objectives of their organizations.

That’s a serious claim that has inflamed public opinion, and damaged reputations and community trust within Canada. It should not be made lightly or on thin evidence, and should be treated with special skepticism when advanced by government leaders.

Not least because we’re in a climate emergency and have better things to do than discredit those working hardest to address it.

Curiously, Kenney’s public inquiry terms of reference are far more cautious than his fiery rhetoric. Despite tarring foundations and environmentalists as “anti-Alberta,” they sidestep entirely the issue of motive or intent, which is central to the allegation of conspiracy or bad faith.

The public, having been led to believe that charitable foundations are corruptly working against the public interest, is entitled to a deeper analysis of motive than the inquiry will examine.

That’s what we’ll look at in this series. SOURCE


Other installments in the series are coming soon:

Part 2: “Alberta is the ‘whipping boy’ of foreign philanthropy” and other myths.

Part 3: Is the Tides Foundation really the ‘funding and co-ordination juggernaut’ behind anti-pipeline activism?

Part 4: Exposing the Canadian oil sector’s victim complex, giving overdue credit to Indigenous and environmental activists, and drawing conclusions.

To assess the conspiracy theory’s veracity, I reviewed data from Candid, America’s most comprehensive foundation and charitable monitoring site.

With a $29-million budget and staff of 140, Candid gathers and maintains detailed data and statistics on hundreds of billions of dollars in grants by 155,000 U.S. and international charitable foundations, non-profits and all U.S. federal agencies. Public tax returns recorded and accessible. Most, but not all, major international funders are included.

The material is cross-referenced, tabulated and readily searchable.

So I searched it.

For the last nine months.

I surveyed tens of thousands of grants totaling well into the billions of dollars, looking for patterns, practices and organizational cultures. I double-checked for errors in coding and data entry (yep, found some). Looking for the network effect, I examined partnership constellations, funding pathways and changes over time.

A lot of superficially significant data often turns out to be just noise. It’s only with exposure to high volumes of data that one begins to discern materiality.

Candid’s data is not a substitute for detailed grant reviews — it’s best employed for detecting large patterns and trends.

My research took me further, to reviewing the backgrounds of directors and key employees of multiple foundations, and examining years of financial statements. I was looking for indicators of weak governance or undue influence within each of the impugned organizations. Family foundations have a tendency toward having family members in lead governance roles, whose priorities and biases can show up in granting patterns.

I checked whether the founder is alive and active in governance and oversight (two major funders are). I reviewed for direct or indirect evidence of impropriety — for instance, claims of misconduct by former employees or independent witnesses. I studied media reports, scholarly and industry research, and spoke to experts in the non-profit world, as well as to parties directly involved or who had personal knowledge of the circumstances.

I then reviewed the oil and gas sector.

What follows below is a distillation of that research.

Overall, there are variances in culture between philanthropic organizations and some steadfast consistencies. Some are very conservative and apolitical, even among the most environmentally committed. Others are more supportive of activism.

In reviewing thousands of grants, these patterns become more evident over time.

The foundations funding the Tar Sands Campaign bore no markers of fraud or unscrupulous conduct within leadership. All of them appeared to be transparent and fully compliant with all legal requirements. There is no direct evidence of misconduct.

But there were surprises.

Every core tenet of Kenney’s conspiracy theory is false

So how do you test a conspiracy theory, anyway?

The same way you tell if your income is high or low. You find the normal range and run comparisons. You check proportionality and look for deviations and irregularities.

After all these years, the most striking feature of the foreign funding conspiracy theory is what isn’t there.

Comparables.

In the absence of comparables, the near endless recitation of international grants to Canadian pipeline opponents is virtually meaningless. Selected samples of raw data don’t reveal more than random pixels in a photograph.

Once these data points are placed in their proper context, i.e., in relation to more complete data and other evidence of surrounding circumstances, the fuller picture emerges.

At that point the theory just collapses.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but every core tenet of Kenney’s conspiracy theory is flatly and demonstrably false.

Reviewing years of grant history, broad patterns and missing context are immediately apparent. For the sake of simplicity, unless otherwise stated, all figures represent the period from 2009 to the present, measured in Canadian dollars.

These are the nine key myths embedded in the foreign funding conspiracy theory. In the remaining three instalments of this series, we’ll examine those myths in groups of three.

Spoiler alert: They’re all false.