A radical Canada Day

Oh, Canada, what will become of you? Although I’m proudly Canadian, my early memories are mixed. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, our government unfairly deprived my family of citizenship rights and exiled us to the B.C. Interior, even though we were born and raised here.

Oh, Canada, what will become of you?

Although I’m proudly Canadian, my early memories are mixed. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, our government unfairly deprived my family of citizenship rights and exiled us to the B.C. Interior, even though we were born and raised here. But my love of nature flourished during that time in the spectacular Slocan Valley.

As a young adult, I moved to the U.S. for educational opportunities not available in Canada. Disturbed by overt racism in the American South, I eventually returned to my increasingly tolerant homeland. I preferred Canada, which to me meant Tommy Douglas and Medicare, Quebec, the National Film Board and CBC.

I’ve never regretted my choice.

Canadians have strived to move beyond inequality and intolerance to create an inclusive and caring society, where education, public health, social programs and enlightened laws provide numerous opportunities. We’re not there yet, but we’ve come a long way in our relatively short history as a nation.

We also understand our place in nature. Surrounded by the world’s longest and most diverse coastline, our mountains, forests, prairies, rivers, lakes, valleys and skies define us and instill wonder and pride. Canada is nature. And nature is life. We know this.

Lately, the tide has been turning. Instead of protecting the increasingly precious and threatened natural systems that keep us alive and healthy, our leaders are rushing to scar the landscape with mines, roads and pipelines to sell our resources as quickly as possible to global markets.

From oilsands expansion to fracking, federal and provincial governments are blindly proceeding with little thought about long-term consequences.

In 2007, our prime minister called climate change “perhaps the greatest threat to the future of humanity.” Now he says, “No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country.”

Yet, many actions our industries and governments are taking will hurt the ability to create jobs and keep the economy prosperous.

Clean energy and educated citizens are healthier investments than an increasingly risky fossil fuel industry — and we can’t hope for abundant jobs and a thriving economy on a planet suffering the ever-worsening consequences of global warming.

Canada was once seen as a country where respect for each other and our land, air, water and biodiversity were valued. Now, some government leaders and their industry and media supporters threaten those who dare question the mad scramble for short-sighted, short-term profits at the expense of the environment, our health and the world’s climate systems, and label us “radicals.”

If it’s radical to insist on maintaining and strengthening values that have long defined us as a nation, then we’ll wear the label proudly.

We are radically Canadian! That means building on the progress we’ve made over the years to create a society based on compassion, equity and respect for the people and places we know and love.

Canada has long been known as a country that gets it right, that treats its citizens well and cares for the land that gives us so much, and plays a constructive role on the world stage.

But now we’re lagging in many areas, our hard-earned reputation suffering. We’re no longer a leader in protecting the conditions that make Canada one of the best places on Earth for citizens and visitors alike.

Enshrining the right to a healthy environment in the Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms would help get Canada back on track. More than 110 countries have constitutional environmental rights. But not Canada. It’s not just about protecting birds, bees and trees; it’s about social justice and ensuring all citizens have the right to the conditions necessary for healthy, fruitful lives.

What kind of Canada do you want? Do you treasure our spectacular natural landscapes, clean water and air and abundant natural resources? Do you value our commitment to fairness, enlightened social programs, education and public health? Do you believe we should do all we can to protect the things that make this country great?

Now is a good time to reflect on these questions, on where we are as a nation and where we want to be. Happy Canada Day!

Scientist, author and broadcaster David Suzuki wrote this column with Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mason Ward battles with a Medicine Hat Tigers’ forward during the WHL Central Division season opener. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers come back to spoil Red Deer Rebels home opener

It’s been nearly 345 days since the Red Deer Rebels last played… Continue reading

Students walk into Hunting Hills High School, which is one of the Red Deer Public Schools with solar panels on its roof. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)
Red Deer high school was placed in lockdown following potential threat

Hunting Hills High School was placed in a lockdown Friday after Red… Continue reading

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some details of the provincial government’s 2021-22 budget need to be ‘sorted out’ when it comes to the hospital expansion funding. (File photo by Advocate staff)
More detail needed regarding hospital funding, says Red Deer mayor

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some information is unclear regarding the… Continue reading

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Thorough sanding of a table top is usually the first step to renewing a finish. Wax contaminants can sometimes still remain on a surface like this after sanding. Cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a rag gets rid of these contaminants without leaving a residue behind. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)
Houseworks: Fixing wood finishes

Q: How can I stop polyurethane from beading up on a mahogany… Continue reading

Need a knife? There are knives of all shapes and sizes at The Kitchen Store.
Hints from Heloise: Finding a good set of kitchen knives

Dear Readers: A good set of knives in the kitchen is a… Continue reading

Runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu speaks to the media at the opening news conference at the Canadian Track and Field Championships Thursday, July 25, 2019 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

New York Red Bulls midfielder Jared Stroud, right, vies for the ball against Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio during an MLS soccer match in Harrison, NJ., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. Entering his ninth season with Toronto FC, Jonathan Osorio said his off-season regimen was no different than in the past. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
Veteran TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio looks to take it to the next level this season

Veteran TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio looks to take it to the next level this season

Powell, Lowry help depleted Raptors beat Rockets

Powell, Lowry help depleted Raptors beat Rockets

Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) makes the save on Toronto Maple Leafs' Zach Hyman (11) as Tyson Barrie (22) defends during third period NHL action in Edmonton, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Toronto continues to lead the North Division standings, but hard-charging Edmonton is now just four points back on the all-Canadian circuit heading into a three-game series between the teams in Alberta's capital beginning Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Maple Leafs, Oilers set for key three-game series atop North Division

Maple Leafs, Oilers set for key three-game series atop North Division

Angela James stands on centre ice in front of the Toronto Maple Leafs team after being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame before Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday November 6, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Hall of Famers James, Lowe, Hay named to Order of Hockey in Canada

Hall of Famers James, Lowe, Hay named to Order of Hockey in Canada

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse talks to center Aron Baynes (46) and guard Norman Powell (24) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris O'Meara
Nurse, five Raptors assistants sidelined to due COVID-19 health and safety protocols

Nurse, five Raptors assistants sidelined to due COVID-19 health and safety protocols

Most Read