What will 2013 hold for Canada?

On Thursday, January 17th, 2013 in Island Tides

I admit that I have failed in my number one goal for 2012—either convincing Stephen Harper to change his mind about Kyoto or to force him out of office in time to stop the withdrawal from Kyoto. On December 15, 2012, Harper’s letter of intent for legal withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol took effect. It marked the first time in Canadian history that our once reliable and steadfast country has exited any treaty we have ever ratified.

As a New Year’s Resolution, I knew it was a long-shot—but so are many New Year’s Resolutions. So, like most of us this New Year, I will re-commit to some unfulfilled 2012 resolutions — including seeing Stephen Harper leave office (one way or another) within 2013.

Crystal-ball gazing is notoriously prone to failure, but let me make some likely predictions. Within the continuing attack in the House of Commons against the fabric of Canadian criminal law, we will see more bills that assault Charter rights through a ‘tough on crime’ agenda. The Conservatives are bound to return to the internet snooping bill, C-30, famously described by Vic Toews as representing a choice of standing with the Conservatives or standing on the side of child pornographers.

Up early in February will be C-43, titled the act for the ‘faster removal of foreign criminals act’ but which, actually, can limit access to Canada to people who are not criminals at all. The bill gives the Minister of Immigration the right to deny a claimant permanent residency in Canada for ‘public policy reasons,’ a term which is undefined.

We will see the last significant environmental law (at least among those that have an impact on land-use and conservation) being dismantled. The Species at Risk Act (SARA) was rumoured to have been planned to be in the fall omnibus bill, C-45. The Hill gossip is that the provinces were not willing to see the act being downloaded to the provinces as rapidly as was being proposed. Environment Minister Peter Kent has said to expect the overhaul of SARA as stand-alone legislation.

It won’t be too early to start seeing the impacts of the egregious changes from 2012. The new and pathetic excuse for an environmental assessment act is so badly drafted that even industry is bound to start complaining. And the destruction of the Fisheries Act in relation to protection of fish habitat could well be the subject of litigation, especially due to the impacts on First Nations rights.

Another potential area of litigation could be First Nations push back against the Canada-China Investment Treaty. I keep hoping that a case can be brought for injunctive relief to block ratification while there is still time. As I write this, the treaty is not yet ratified. The Prime Minister can legally ratify at any time he convenes a Cabinet meeting. We need to keep the pressure up, particularly on Conservative MPs, to urge them to pressure the Prime Minister to, at a minimum, reject the treaty with language that locks us in for 31 years. We should insist that, at least, the exit provisions match NAFTA, with a 6-month opt-out provision.

By December, the Joint Review Panel on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, or as I like to call it, ‘The Great Pipeline of China’ will report. Thanks to changes in C-38, the National Energy Board is no longer the decision-maker. The NEB will make a recommendation based on the Joint Review Panel report. Then, Prime Minister Harper’s Cabinet will rule. Despite all the opposition, and the clear climb-down on rhetoric from the PM and his Cabinet members in the last year, it will be a surprise if the project is turned down. We will stop it from being built, somehow, but we cannot afford to assume the fight is already won.

Beyond the legislative agenda, we are likely to experience within Canada and globally, more extreme weather events due to human-induced climate change. I am convinced another year cannot go by without people around the world, urged on by the world’s scientists, making the links and demanding governments take action. We need to become more active, more assertive in making the case that the changes we are seeing now are dangerous, and that we are only seeing the tip of a very large (and melting) iceberg.

No doubt we will experience heartbreaks (I cannot speak of what happened to little children in Newtown, Connecticut). We can never anticipate exactly how the military industrial complex will make its greed and Machiavellian machinations felt in a troubled world. We will have moments that bring us great joy, worry about things that in the scheme of things do not matter much, and love and lose loves, as in every year. The world did not end in 2012 and perhaps human consciousness will evolve.

Perhaps, from our beautiful islands—big and small—off the west coast of British Columbia, just perhaps, our work for change will lead the way. All the best to us all in this new year.

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