We considered many ways that energy affects our lives, made challenging by Canada’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Both the gargantuan and uncertain nature of the cost of doing nothing, and the potential benefits of courageously investing in clean energy were difficult, if not impossible to imagine, let alone discuss.
One thing that appeared to me to receive consistent support, however, were statements about protecting the rights of Indigenous people, and protection of the environment including species at risk. The quiet, dignified presence of attendees who flew from the North, was a persistent reminder to not forget the North. We had a small taste of cultural differences and felt the importance of overcoming barriers.
It is clearly one thing to verbalize support and quite another to walk the talk. Some little known facts I recently came upon point out government failure to uphold national and international laws. For example, ecojustice took the Canadian government to court to confirm the law in the case of orcas off the coast of B.C.’s Gulf Islands, a law that mandates protection of their critical habitat in order to preserve the whales. In the case of these orcas at risk, toxicity or trauma causing death to one could extinguish the whole group.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International is bringing attention to Canada in one of 10 international campaigns, because of our complete failure to uphold Indigenous rights in the case of Site C Dam (a 20-page report with detail is on the AI website). The federal and provincial governments appear to ignore their explicit legal responsibilities to vulnerable populations.
Food (for example, salmon and caribou) is a fundamental source of energy not much talked about in conversations regarding Canada’s energy future. Our challenge is to not separate and pit one energy source against another, but rather to stimulate an imagination capable of connecting all the pieces in a respectful manner, one in which all of us will thrive. This is something Canadians can do by working together toward a future that is healthy and inclusive, and we have a responsibility to make this well known, in word and deed.
Mary Anne Schleinich