Mr Minister: I might be a radical but so are you!

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On Jan. 9, Conservative Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver wrote an open letter to Canadians outlining how “radicals” funded by “foreign special interest groups” are trying to undermine Canada’s national economic interests. These radicals are people of all ages, trades, locations and political affiliations who are demanding proper environmental assessments for massive destruction projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline.

This photo

This photo

In an attempt to understand what Mr. Oliver is saying, I looked up the definition of radical in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. While many are unaware of its primary definition, “of, related to, or proceeding from a root,” more conventional usage, including Mr. Oliver’s employment of the word, applies its secondary definition: “associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change.”

I am an individual seeking environmental justice. I would rather see my government investing in green renewable energy and the development of more efficient technologies. I oppose risky, destructive projects such as the massive tar sands expansion and other industries that cause serious, irreversible damage to our natural environment and ecosystems. I oppose practices such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking), drilling, and uranium mining, which destroy Indigenous lifestyles.

In case you’re wondering, I am not “funded by foreign special interest groups.”

On the contrary, as a rational individual I have studied the environmental assessment process and believe that there are major systemic problems that undermine the natural environment and traditional ways of living.

Documents from Environment Canada obtained from Postmedia News through access to information legislation showed that the government is not accounting for the real cost of tar sands development. Communities affected by pipelines, fracking, and tar sands expansion have not been properly consulted.

I would like the environmental assessment process to be properly used. I would also like to see, as per the mandates of Environment Canada and the Department of Natural Resources, an environment minister whose “business is protecting the environment,” and a minister of natural resources who “shall have regard to the sustainable development of Canada’s natural resources and the integrated management thereof.”

In the event that the government fails to ensure the integrity of due process, taking them to court in order to properly assess the risks is a perfectly valid course of action for concerned people to take. However, it requires a lot of resources and commitment. This is not simply a “quintessential American approach,” as per Mr. Oliver’s view.

Mr. Oliver is saying that the system through which our decisions are made is “broken,” and that “it is time to take a look at it.” Moreover, our environment minister seems to have forgotten his mandate and is busy lobbying internationally on behalf of the most destructive, carbon-intensive industry in the world. At the same time, our minister of natural resources is asking to reduce the “unnecessary delays” stemming from public hearings and consultations with scientists and downstream communities regarding the environmental assessment process.

Demanding the protection of our environment has never been that radical. It seems to me that the eagerness of our government to change the “broken” system and essentially abolish the most important part of the environmental assessment process is “associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change.” This, ironically, is the definition of radical.

I might question existing systems and try to affect change, however, it seems that our government is radically working towards changing Canadian systems and values – something every Canadian should be aware of.

This article first appeared in the Leveller, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Jan. 2012).

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