Good Sunday Morning – Feb 19

Good Sunday Morning – Issue #150!  And happy three-day weekend for Family Day!  Hooray!

I am finally home in Sidney for awhile.  Parliament is on a two-week break and I am working to catch up on many constituent files.

Every now and again, I am reminded of my mother’s experience as an activist.  For years, from when I was a toddler, she had been warning that atmospheric nuclear weapons tests could cause an increase in childhood leukemia, killing children thousands of kilometres from the test zones.  I must have been at least ten by the time the science became unequivocal and it was announced everywhere that nuclear weapons testing had increased childhood leukemia. The Treaty to Ban Atmospheric Nuclear Weapons testing had been signed by the US, UK and USSR in 1963.

My mother had played a large part in the grassroots movement to stop the testing. This one moment was so memorable because she was so upset. One of her friends phoned to congratulate her for being right. “You must be so happy,” she said, “Everyone can see you were right!”  For some reason I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. Mum was so shocked. “You think I am happy? You think I wanted to be right if it meant children would die all over the world?? I would be so much happier to be proven wrong.”

I feel that way all the time about the climate crisis.  I would so much rather be wrong as the evidence piles up that those who warned of the climate crisis were right. I still hope against hope that the science is wrong; that we have more time.

It was a small reflection of that when, watching all my amendments be defeated one by one in the slowest clause by clause ever on Bill S-5, I was given the floor to present yet one more amendment. Some of you who follow the peculiarities of the rules invented just for me by Harper’s PMO and perpetuated by Trudeau’s, will know I am not allowed to vote, or even table my own amendments. The amendments are deemed to have been moved. And I am only allowed to speak for a brief time, generally one minute, and only to present my own amendments. Generally, that translates into a ratio of a one minute statement for every two hours in committee. It is beyond frustrating. This is from the committee record on Monday, February 13:

“…. I firmly believe as a formerly practising environmental lawyer who has worked on this bill since 1988 that this [splitting the schedule of toxic substances in S-5] will threaten the constitutional underpinnings of the entire act. Some people think that as a Cassandra in this movement I draw satisfaction from being proven right. I would much rather be proven wrong. If this act is struck down by the courts because of what you’re doing here today, then I will be very sad. At least you will have been warned.”

The process is not yet over. So far not one of my amendments has been accepted, but all the good amendments made in the Senate, where the government decided to start the bill, related to public notice of GMO animals have been removed by Liberal MP’s amendments.

Nature Canada’s biotech campaign, led by Mark Burler of Halifax, has been slogging through clause by clause watching on CPAC, along with the very few groups raising the alarm about this – Manitoba Eco-Network, Nature Canada, and Canadian Environmental Law Association in the lead.  This is Nature Canada’s news release, written while anger was still running hot.

Clause by clause is not yet over. I still have more amendments to present when we resume March 6, but it feels quite useless at this point.

On another issue, I suppose I could claim to have been right now that the Commission of Inquiry on the Emergencies Act has reported.  I was certain that the law was on my side when I voted that the use of the Emergencies Act was justified. But, as Justice Rouleau wrote, reasonable people can disagree. In fact, Mike Morrice and I voted differently, so this is not a moment for bragging rights.

I wish the media made it clearer that the fact we have an inquiry is that the act, as drafted back in 1988, requires a full commission of inquiry whenever the act is used.  It is very cautious and careful legislation.  I am relieved the judge took note of the role of foreign disinformation, social media and propaganda stoking flames of division.  To me, that is a very worrying contagion. The report is in five volumes and over 2,000 pages long. I will dig in and may share more thoughts later.

This week there were a few developments on the issues I wrote about last week.

The Sierra Club Canada, the organization I led from 1989-2006, has launched a court challenge over the extended permit for the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton. Good for them!  (By the way, Sierra Club British Columbia operates separately from the SCC – much more so than when I was involved. This legal case is brought by the Atlantic chapter of SCC.)

I hope once again that I am wrong and that the Donkin mines is not Westray waiting to happen once again. I hope the repeated safety violations by the US coal mining company are enough to get Donkin shut down before any more miners die.

Last week, I thought of Rita MacNeil and her ballad “Working Man.” This week it is the Ballad of Springhill that runs through my mind. Written by Peggy Seegar and Ewan McColl and performed by many, but in my head I hear Peter, Paul and Mary singing, “Bone and blood is the price of coal. Bone and blood is the price of coal.” The words are powerful and as true today as when first written in the late 1950s.

Best wishes to all for this coming week.  I hope to see many of you at next Saturday’s big march to save old growth.  Later the same day there are events to oppose homelessness on Coldest Night of the Year. (details of both are below).

Love and gratitude,


P.S. – There are three events coming up:

Saturday February 25th: United for Old Growth March and Rally. This peaceful march and rally will begin at Centennial Square (City Hall) in Victoria at noon, proceeding to the lawn of the Legislature for a rally featuring powerful speakers and performers from 1:30-3:30.  You can visit the Facebook event page here.

Saturday February 25th: Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY). The Saanich North and the Islands (SAN) BC Greens are supporting the Victoria – Pandora official location in support of Our Place Society, by raising funds and joining a local walk on the Saanich Peninsula.  This walk will include local high school students and staff, other community groups and municipal staff. You can support them here, (100% of donations go to CNOY) everyone is very welcome to join in the walk – registration starts at 4pm for the 2K walk starting at St. Mary’s Anglican Church, 1973 Cultra Avenue, Saanichton, BC. Pre-registration is recommended.

Monday February 27th: Elizabeth May webinar: The Climate Crisis and Why Nuclear Power is Not the Solution.  This webinar will be hosted by the Environment & Society Program and co-hosted by the Student Union and STU Sustainability at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Time: 5pm Eastern, 2pm Pacific time.