Camille Labchuk has her own animal law practice, in fact the only one of its kind in Canada. In this exclusive Green Interview, she speaks with Silver Donald Cameron about defending animal rights and the group she heads up, Animal Justice, a national organization focused on animal law, including law reform, litigation, investigations, and education.
Passion for Animal Welfare and Animal Justice
Camille Labchuk is a lawyer, animal rights activist and the executive director of Animal Justice. In this exclusive Green Interview, Labchuk discusses her animal rights law practice, the organization she runs, and what led her to this point.
In this exclusive interview with Camille Labchuk we discuss:
Passion for Animal Welfare
At the age of nine, Labchuk witnessed the seal hunt on television and became interested in animal rights. Her mother was a significant influence on her interest in environmentalism, and helped her pursue her goals in animal activism. “My mom was a single mother and an environmental activist. She single-handedly took on the pesticide industry in PEI. She was very active when I was growing up and I had a role model from a very young age that taught me a woman can do whatever she wants and can accomplish a lot,” she has been quoted saying. In 2006, after graduating with a psychology degree from Mount Allison University, Labchuk worked for two years as press secretary for Elizabeth May, the new leader of the Green Party of Canada. Labchuk’s long held passion for animals led her to pursue a law degree and in 2014 she started her own solo animal law practice.
Animal Justice is a not for profit legislative fund based in Toronto that works on behalf of animals in Canada. Its lawyers work to pass new animal protection legislation, push for the prosecution of animal abusers, and fight for animals in court. One of its most notable cases was one that involved bestiality. In 2015, Labchuk and other lawyers at Animal Justice went to the Supreme Court to intervene in a law about bestiality. Labchuk was quoted in the media saying,“It was a defence to water down the definition of bestiality to allow sexual acts that were non-penetrative in nature.” The court awarded Labchuk’s group intervenor’s status and they were able to argue the case on behalf of animals. “That was momentous and exciting,” she says.
My Christmas Story
by Silver Donald Cameron
What all three boys wanted for Christmas was a dog. Some kind of pet, anyway. No, said their mother. Toys possibly. Books or clothing certainly. But Hazel Cameron had an ailing husband and a home on a 33-foot city lot, and she was a tidy woman. She had three boys; Donald was 13, David nine, Kenneth five. They made enough disorder. A dog? Absolutely not.
On the third Saturday before Christmas, the boys went to the Saturday matinee at the local movie theatre. The theatre management announced a contest. For every dollar spent in a local store, a customer could obtain one Puppy Buck. For six weeks, the theatre would auction off a puppy at each Saturday matinee.
Six puppies. And the boys only needed one. If they pooled their money and bought one, or even if somebody gave them one, their mother would probably make them take it back. But if they won a puppy, what could she do? She’d be stuck. Puppy Bucks were their only chance.
The theatre also passed out dog-food labels with serial numbers printed on their backs. Every Saturday it would hold a draw, and the winning number would win a caged budgie. A budgie was not a dog, admittedly. But maybe you could teach it to whistle at your mother and say, “Hubba hubba” or something. Most kids threw away their lucky dog-food labels. Donald gathered them up from the floor and the sidewalk and the trash cans, and arranged them in numerical order.
That week, the three Cameron boys spent all their allowances in local stores, and on the second Saturday before Christmas, they arrived in the theatre with eight Puppy Bucks The dog went for fifteen. Donald picked up more labels, but someone else won the budgie.
The boys were depressed. Their friends were outraged. The neighbourhood gang assembled in a basement. Al, Bill, “R.A.,” Jim and Graham, Barry. Hazel Cameron, they decided, was Mean and Selfish. The Cameron boys should have a dog. They had Their Rights. It became a Gang Project.
“If a dog moves into this house, I’m moving out,” Hazel declared. Her sons fretted. The Gang looked grave. But Barry, street-savvy and charming, simply grinned.
Gang members stood outside shop doorways every day after school for a week, begging customers to “ask for Puppy Bucks and give them to us.” Amused, the shoppers did. Half an hour before show time, the boys were still covering the stores. And then, on December 23, the Saturday before Christmas, The Gang entered the theatre, armed with 53 Puppy Bucks.
Barry sat down and turned to the kid beside him, a feckless-looking runny-nosed little shrimp. “How many you got?” he demanded. “Eight,” said the shrimp. “Huh,” said Barry, waving The Gang’s stash. “You lose. We got 53. You might’s well just give yours to us.” The shrimp shrugged — and handed over his Puppy Bucks.
Barry looked at the 61 Puppy Bucks in his hand. A light bulb flashed in his mind. He scampered through the theatre, fanning The Gang’s fat wad and picking up more from the shrimps, suckers and other losers. When the lights went down, The Gang had 263 Puppy Bucks.
The movie took forever. Then the theatre manager began the draw for the budgie. Donald riffled through his dog-food labels. There was no winner on the first number, the second, the eighth. On the ninth, Donald leaped to his feet. “Got it!” he shrieked, and went charging down the aisle.
At last the manager produced the puppy, a six-week-old golden cocker spaniel, heartbreakingly endearing. The bidding moved rapidly. Inflation had set in: another week had generated many more Puppy Bucks. Twenty, thirty, forty-seven, fifty-one —
“Fifty-three!” shouted Barry. Silence in the theatre. Going, said the manager, going… gone!
The Gang had the Camerons’ dog — and still had a commanding position in Puppy Bucks. For four glorious weeks, The Gang went every Saturday to fleece the rubes and claim another dog. A black cocker for Bill, springer spaniels for Barry and R.A., a Lab for Al. (The weekly newspaper noted the odd coincidence that five of the six puppies went to boys on the same block.) The Camerons’ spaniel lived for 14 years, giving the boys endless joy, comforting them through their father’s death, enriching Hazel’s solitary life after the boys moved out, and living long enough to meet her first grandchild. No dog was ever more wonderful.
But the gods were not finished with Hazel. On Christmas Eve, another family, unaware of the auction, brought a hamster as a pet for Hazel’s unfortunate boys. And on Monday, Christmas Day, Hazel confessed that even she had been weakened by their pleas: their parents had bought them three goldfish.
Six pets in three days.
“It was a judgment on me, for being so mean,” said Hazel, who loved this story. “Imagine me saying I’d move out if they got a dog.” For her, always, the climax was suppertime on Saturday, when freckle-faced Barry burst into her kitchen with the tiny blonde head of a bright-eyed puppy peeping from the open zipper of his windbreaker.
“Better get packin’, Mrs. Cameron!” said Barry. “Better get packin’!”
How green is a motor home? Good question. It arose a few times during our cross-country tour, and I had no time to write about it. After all, we were on the road within Nova Scotia for the last 10 days of September, left for Ottawa on September 30, and arrived in Vancouver November 5. The tour was intense and tiring; we did 38 events in 43 days and drove 6743 km. I’ve just written an article reflecting on the tour; when it’s published, I’ll re-post it on my blog.
More on the sustainability of motor homes below – but first I want to mention some lovely coverage we’ve had. I didn’t do nearly as much blogging and social media as I expected to, but Marjorie was and is very active. The best way to keep in touch with our progress is to follow us on Facebook – Marjorie Simmins, Silver Donald Cameron, GreenRights Film, and TheGreenInterview.com.
The most recent coverage is from the delightful Joseph Planta, who has become the go-to interviewer for authors visiting Vancouver. He interviewed both of us separately, and also did a joint interview. The individual interviews are now posted, here:
Over at rabble.ca, Penney Kome did a thoughtful blog post here: https://t.co/1SJQYJJtfu
The leading Ottawa environmental blogger, Rolly Montpellier, also reviewed the project here:
Back home in Nova Scotia, Stephen Clare at Celtic Life magazine thinks that story-telling is in my Caledonian DNA. He sent me his one-page interview as a .JPG file – a photo – and I’ve posted it on Facebook.
Also in Nova Scotia, forestry critic Mike Parker argues in a well-reasoned op-ed that Nova Scotians interested in retaining at least some vestige of a forest should heed Warrior Lawyers and sue the provincial government. https://t.co/dsPrnKoqXH
Finally, blogger Ron Hart at Ecocide Alert has really grasped the message of the book, and responded with one of the best reviews yet. It’s here: http://ecocidealert.com/?p=22146 Ron has also re-posted Penney Kome’s rabble.ca column here: https://ecocidealert.com/?p=22453
There have also been some fine reader reviews on Amazon. If you’d like to post one, I’d be much in your debt; those online reviews can really help a book.
And now, back to the motorhome. Here’s the passage I wrote in my little essay about The Mother of All Book Tours.
Is there such a thing as environmentally-responsible travel by motor home? Surprisingly, yes. There is no zero-impact way to cross Canada, but for a family of four or more – even if two are dogs – travelling by motor home actually generates a smaller environmental footprint than flying and renting rooms. Merlin gets tolerable mileage for a bus-sized vehicle, and we bought carbon credits not only to offset the diesel and propane we used, but also to compensate for the heating fuel in our recycled 1840s home back in Nova Scotia. Merlin’s roof-top solar panels generate much of our domestic electricity, and we buy all the rest through Bullfrog Power. We also host our web sites at Ethical Host, a company deeply devoted to social justice and sustainability.
And, in a sense, we’re still doing the tour. We had pre-scheduled only one event in BC; we didn’t want any deadlines as we crossed the Rockies. But we have all winter to do additional West Coast events. I’ll get back to you on that. The Mother of All Book Tours may yet arrive in a town near you.
The rain patters on the roof, slides down the windows, sluices down the drains. Today’s forecast? Rain. Tomorrow? Rain. Three days, five days, ten days? Rain every day.
We must be in Vancouver. And we are.
When I wrote my last blog post we were in Thunder Bay, in late October. Thunder Bay was warm, gritty and fun; like Sydney, NS, it’s the capital city of a little province that doesn’t actually exist. Northwestern Ontario is so far from what Canadians think of as “Ontario” that it really might as well be a separate province.
Thunder Bay has one of the largest Finnish communities outside Finland, so we opened our day there with Finnish pancakes at the Hoito co-op restaurant in the basement of the Finnish Labour Temple, courtesy of social work professor and food activist Connie Nelson. We ended the day with a Green Rights screening upstairs hosted by scholar/filmmaker Ron Harpelle. In between, Marjorie signed books at Chapters, while I spoke with one of Connie’s classes about Bhutan and the Bhutanese commitment to Gross National Happiness rather than Gross National Product. We kicked it off by viewing my TEDx talk on Bhutan, which you can see here.
The screening in the Labour Temple was beautiful, technically the best I’ve yet seen. The hall has a huge new screen and a crisp, clean sound system, which really showed the film to advantage. It was a pleasure to watch, and the audience included Bruce Hyer, the former MP and deputy leader of the Green Party, someone I’ve been looking forward to meeting.
We had been staying in Wal-Mart parking lots, using our own water and power – many thanks, Wal-Mart – and on our second night our onboard power supply failed. Happily, a few phone calls brought us to Woody’s Trailer World, who diagnosed the problem: dying “house” batteries, the ones that provide 12-volt electricity for the camper, not the ones that start the engine. Two hours later we were on our way, grateful to Woody’s.
It’s a long day’s drive from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, even with a delicious lunch stop at Kokom’s Bannock Shack in Dryden for their unique Bannock Burgers. The next evening, at the University of Manitoba, I was honoured to have the film introduced by Rt. Hon. Ed Schreyer, former Governor-General, former High Commissioner to Australia.
As the first NDP premier of Manitoba, in 1970, Ed — who had read Rachel Carson and Barry Commoner — created the first government department in Canada responsible for the environment. He also hired Farley Mowat as his environmental adviser. Earlier in October, when I was visiting Farley’s home in Port Hope, I had seen the framed cheque for $1.00 from the Government of Manitoba, never cashed, which was his total compensation for the assignment.
The next day I delivered a Distinguished Visitor’s Lecture at the University of Manitoba Law School, after which we drove to Brandon for a family visit. The next day we drove all the way to Medicine Hat, stopping briefly in Regina to provide copies of Warrior Lawyers to Larry Kowalchuk, whose interview is included in it. In Medicine Hat, my son Mark and his wife Andi took us to the amazing badlands of the little-known Dinosaur Provincial Park, where the dogs gratefully went off-leash for the first time in many days.
We reached Calgary on Sunday, October 30, in time for Marjorie’s book signing at Chapters Shawnessy – where she sold out the store’s entire stock of Year of the Horse. That evening at the Unitarian Church in Calgary saw our final screening of Green Rights, followed by a fine discussion.
A trip like this in a 17-year-old motor home will have its challenges, and just west of Calgary the bus abruptly slowed down as its electrical system went crazy. We pulled over and called the Canadian Automobile Association, who assigned Big Hill Towing to send a huge tow truck from nearby Cochrane. The problem turned out to be a defunct alternator, but Dalas, the mechanic, also saw that the front air bags in the suspension system were completely worn out, which could have meant the loss of our air brakes. So we replaced those, too. Big Hill did a great job, and 24 hours later we were on our way to visit family in Canmore.
And next day, the Rockies – the day I had been fretting about all the way from Nova Scotia. Merlin handled the steep hills and twisting curves admirably, but just beyond Field, BC, the “Check Engine” light came on and our speed dropped to a crawl. I phoned Randy Pace, the manager of Big Hill in Cochrane.
Randy explained that when any sensor transmits a signal to the Check Engine light, the vehicle automatically goes into a “limping home” mode, slowing right down and preserving its basic functions, rather like a hypothermic body shutting down all but its core operations. The usual problem – and the simplest – would be that one of the fluids was low: the engine oil, transmission fluid or engine coolant. Check those first. Make sure they’re all up to the mark.
The coolant was low, and I had a couple of litres, so I poured them in. Rock ‘n’ roll! The light went out and the bus rolled on. up and down the mountain passes. And then, in Revelstoke, the light came on again, right in front of a gas station. I bought another jug of antifreeze, and topped up the coolant completely. Out went the light, and onward we sailed.
And then, in Salmon Arm, the light came on again.
I called Randy, and he made some calls to Salmon Arm. Meanwhile Google told me about a local outfit called Van Deursen Diesel – which turned out to be Randy’s recommendation too. It was a good choice: Van Deursen had a service truck out to us in 45 minutes, diagnosed the problem as a faulty “crank sensor” and booked us into their shop in the morning. Another night at the Wal-Mart, and by noon Van Deursen had sourced the part and installed it, and we were on our way. The Check Engine light never came on again.
On to Kamloops, and then a long climb and a steep descent into Merritt, where I threatened to feed the dogs to the bears. Another long climb and steep descent brought us to Hope at nightfall. A good sleep, and by the middle of the next day we were at the campsite on the Brunette River in Burnaby where we had reserved a long-term site many weeks before. It was five weeks to the day since we left Nova Scotia, and we had driven 6743 kilometers. In the 43 days between September 17 and October 30, we had done 38 events – book signings, lectures and film screenings — not counting media interviews. It had been by far the most memorable promotion tour of my life.
A bouquet of roses and chrysanthemums awaited us at check-in – a gift of welcome from my brother Ken and his lady.
Merlin rumbled over to his new home. We hooked up the power and water, enjoyed a meal, and tumbled into bed.
The rain was pattering on the roof. A week later, it hasn’t really stopped.
And the forecast is for rain.
Mi’kmaq Canoe Builder Connected for Thousands of Years
Todd Labrador is a respected and celebrated traditional Mi’kmaq canoe builder, in fact he’s the only one still practicing the craft. In this exclusive Green Interview he speaks with Silver Donald Cameron about the painstaking process involved in making the traditional birch bark canoes and how he hopes it will help to preserve the knowledge and worldview of his ancestors who lived sustainably on the east coast of Canada for millennia. Labrador is also an artist who paints and makes traditional drums decorated with designs derived from the ancient petroglyphs carved in the rocks of his Nova Scotia homeland.
Family History, Birch Bark Canoes, and Mi’kmaq Petroglyphs
Todd Labrador is a master canoe builder, artist, and drum maker. In this exclusive Green Interview, Labrador discusses the knowledge and inspiration he received from his ancestors, the process involved in making a birch bark canoe, and the Mi’kmaq petroglyphs that inspire some of his artwork.
In this exclusive interview with Todd Labrador we discuss:
Todd Labrador learned the ancient Mi’kmaq art of making birch bark canoes from his father Charlie Labrador, a respected leader and first chief of the Acadia First Nation who died in 2002. Though Charlie never made a canoe himself, he remembered the stories and how it was done by watching and listening to his own grandfather, Joe Jeremy Labrador, who raised him and died in 1961, a year before Todd was born. Joe Jeremy was a master canoe builder and Todd grew up hearing the stories about his great grandfather and became fascinated by them. Joe Jeremy continues to serve as Todd’s guide and inspiration.
Birch Bark Canoes
Todd Labrador’s father, Charlie was five years old when he remembers the last canoe being built by his grandfather Joe Jeremy. If it weren’t for Todd taking up the craft the tradition would likely have been lost. Charlie taught Todd that the birch bark had to be a certain quality and special thickness: about an eighth of an inch thick. “On most trees the bark is paper, so it’s a matter of finding the right thickness,” he explains, “and then you can build a canoe.” Charlie also taught Todd how to find and collect the right birch bark, dig up spruce tree roots, split them into long cords and how to bend wood, but Charlie had never actually made a canoe himself. His knowledge came from listening and watching his grandfather Joe Jeremy make canoes. While Todd was fascinated by the stories he needed some practical guidance and took canoe-building lessons from a German boat builder in Halifax. “It took a long time to gather the information and learn the skill because it’s difficult to learn how to bend a piece of wood from a book…it’s something you have to learn yourself and the material will teach you because if you’re not using that material with respect, it’ll break,” says Todd. Today some of his canoes are housed in several major museums in Canada and in France.
The largest collection of petroglyphs found in eastern North America are found at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. The Mi’kmaq have lived in what is now Nova Scotia for millennia and their culture and worldview are depicted in these slate rock carvings. The images of people, animals, hunting and fishing, and the decorative motifs of the time represent a culture and an art form. Todd Labrador etches replicas of Mi’kmaq petroglyphs as a way to keep the art form alive. “When I build canoes sometimes I’ll put them on the winter bark—the hunting scenes on my canoes and also when I make drums I’ll use the petroglyphs,” he explains. “It’s very important to us and when you really look at it, it’s an old, really old form of art but with our art today we’re keeping that tradition going.”
The north shore of Lake Superior is magnificent – great sweeping vistas of water interrupted by majestic islands, endless reaches of yellow and green forest, an aloof northern landscape made for trolls and giants and the music of Sibelius. And then there’s the towering Canada Goose statue at Wawa, an enormous folly asserting the presence of humanity in a terrain as vast and wild as any I’ve ever seen.
It was a long day, but it was a great drive from Wawa to Thunder Bay. And the two previous days were phenomenal in their colour, driving north from Toronto to Blind River through rolling farmlands and lakeside resorts, and then from Blind River to Wawa. Why Wawa? Because Wawa is famous: it’s the place where all the hitchhikers in the days of the hippies got stuck. They’d catch rides across the country, and then their drivers would drop them in Wawa – “and like, man, I was two days in Wawa standing on the side of the road with my thumb out.”
The place is legendary. But I wasn’t prepared for its stunning beauty, or for the quiet and comfortable campground tucked away on the Magpie River. And, to be truthful, I wasn’t really prepared for the hard frost that greeted me that morning. Late October, northwestern Ontario: it’s starting to get cold.
The last event in Toronto was exceptionally stimulating — a gathering of the current students and some of the alumni of the Corporate Social Responsibility Certificate program at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. Imagine a room full of CSR professionals fastening upon one another — most of them are in moderately lonely circumstances within the organizations they work for — all of them eager to exchange insights, learn, look for fresh ways forward. They loved the Green Rights film, and engaged in a crackling discussion afterwards. It was a grand finale to our ten days in the Toronto area.
And so onward to Thunder Bay, just about half-way between Halifax and Vancouver: 2800 kilometers behind us, 3000 to go. In terms of events, however, it’s well over half-way. Since September, Green Rights has been screened nine times, with three more to go; I’ve done nine seminars and class presentations, with three more to go; Marjorie has done 12 bookstore signings and readings, with two more to go.
Right this minute, Marjorie is signing books at the Chapters store on Memorial Drive in Thunder Bay. We’ll be screening Green Rights in the Finnish Labour Temple in Thunder Bay tomorrow evening at 7:00. On Wednesday night, October 26 under the auspices of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law, we’ll be screening the film in Room 200, Robson Hall, 224 Dysart Road in Winnipeg.
And after that, Calgary! Stay tuned for more details of the Alberta events. And then we’ll be in BC for the winter, organizing additional events on the west coast.
A rainy Sunday in Brampton, Ontario – part of a huge sprawl of malls, warehouses, factories and freeways spilling westward from Toronto. We’re in the Indian Line Campground, the closest one to downtown Toronto, but it’s not very close – about half an hour with light traffic, much more in busy periods. It’s a good base for the screenings and presentations I’ve been doing and will be doing over the next few days.
Tomorrow, Monday the 17th, is our screening of Green Rights in Waterloo. It’s at 7:00 PM in Room EV2-2002 at the University of Waterloo.
Tuesday, the 18th, we’re at the University of Guelph. I’ll be meeting with a management class from 4:00 to 5:20, and then at 7:00 we’ll have the public screening at 103 Rozanski Hall.
Wednesday, the 19th, I’m speaking and showing the film to participants and alumni of the University of St. Michael’s College (University of Toronto) certificate program in Corporate Social Responsibility. This is a private event.
Thursday, the 20th, Merlin the Marvellous Motorhome turns north, bound for Thunder Bay and more presentations and screenings on Monday, the 24th.
Update: Port Hope and Toronto
We left Kingston on Saturday the 8th, in time for me to read at a civic memorial for Farley Mowat. Farley’s monument in the town he lived in for 47 years is a overturned boat, a boat-roofed dwelling – a replica (as close as
possible) of the vessels sailed by the Albans from Europe to the Canadian Arctic a thousand years ago. Did this actually happen? Nobody really knows. In The Farfarers, Farley made a persuasive argument that the Albans (whose name persists in names like Albion, Albania, St. Alban’s, and the like) were a pre-Viking people who overwintered under their inverted boats, and left behind them the outlines of the boats in the form of rock walls. It’s a lovely story, and it makes a great monument. After decades on a back street, the monument was being moved to a place of honour on the Ganaraska River, just opposite the public library.
The re-location was marked by two days of celebrations, including a reading in the library by three writers: Claire Mowat, Ken McGoogan (himself a distinguished writer on Arctic matters) and me. Claire read a very funny account of a library board meeting in an Newfoundland outport; Ken read a thoughtful and moving tribute to Mowat as his literary ancestor; and I ready a profile of Farley from 1979. “Farley Mowat, Prophet” appeared in Atlantic Insight, and won a National Magazine Award. If you’re curious, you’ll find it here: http://silverdonaldcameron.ca/farley-mowat-prophet
The following day, Marjorie had a book-signing at one of the most attractive independent bookstores in Canada, Furby House Books – whose proprietor, Lou Pamenter, also wanted copies of my book. So Furby House is the only bookstore in the world that’s carrying Warrior Lawyers. Otherwise you have to buy it online, either from TheGreenInterview.com or from Amazon.
Then Toronto, in time for a Thanksgiving dinner with family, and, on Wednesday the 12th, the only public screening in Toronto, at the Heliconian Hall, a charming old former church that since 1923 has been the home of the Heliconian Club, a club for women in arts and letters. (The club itself dates back to 1909.) The hall is charming, and the crowd, though small, engaged passionately with the film, which made for a lively question-and-answer session afterward.
In the audience was a pioneering environmental professor from the University of Toronto, Lino Grima, who later wrote to commend “your really spellbinding documentary… The photography is stunning and the message is clear. Your movie is a good example of what I would like to see more — a story line that goes from issue to protest to legal remedy/political pressure to establishing the rights to clean land, water and air. ”
How nice is that?
On Friday, the 14th, I was a luncheon guest and then made a presentation on Warrior Lawyers to students and faculty at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. The students were so smart, savvy and engaged that I almost found myself homesick for the classroom. A personal point: when I was young, my mother thought I should be a lawyer – and dreamed that I might go to Osgoode Hall. So it was a pleasure to get there, at last – I’d never been before – and to dedicate that presentation to my mother, wherever she is now.
Wow. Just … wow.
That’s the best word I know to describe the splendid audience reaction to the Green Rights film. People love it! They love the stories, love the hopefulness, love the pace, love the use of folk-art and folk-music to mark the transitions from one story to another. Canadians don’t know these international success stories, and they’re generally thrilled to learn about them. Successes in the Philippines, the Netherlands, Argentina and elsewhere give Canadians hope for success in their own battles.
“I really enjoyed the film,” wrote one viewer, “and marveled at your way with hope-filled yet alarming stories of green resistance.” Great. That’s just what we had in mind.
We’ve now shown the film in Wolfville, Halifax, Antigonish, Ottawa (with a reception at the private dining room of the Speaker of the Senate, see the attached photo) and Kingston. We’ve had great discussions after the screenings, mainly about the film’s contents and about what these stories mean for Canadians. Another big thread in the conversations, though, is how to get this film into wider circulation? Is it going to be on TV? Will you be showing it at festivals? Could I arrange a screening for my own church/class/organization? Can I stream it on the internet?
And the answer is, broadly, Yes! We haven’t yet had time to submit to festivals and broadcasters, but after this tour is finished we will. And yes, of course we’ll provide it to people who want to arrange additional screenings. We don’t yet have an established mechanism for that, but if you’d like to sponsor a screening, send me a message and I’ll get back to you when we put that together.
And yes, you can stream Green Rights on the internet. Just go to www.TheGreenInterview.com and take out a free one-month trial subscription. That gives you access to everything on the site for a month, including the film and all the interviews collected in my new Warrior Lawyers book. At the end of the month, if you don’t want to continue the subscription, you can cancel with no further obligation. We hope you won’t, of course, but that’s up to you. And yes, you can buy Warrior Lawyers there too. Or on Amazon.
I also urge you to like the GreenRightsFilm page on Facebook, or to befriend me there. I say this because I’m trying to make more and more use of Facebook Live to report on our progress across the country in Merlin the Marvellous Motorhome. I’m still just getting the hang of Facebook Live, but it’s a terrific tool for real-time reporting in video, perfect for a trip like this one.
The next public screening of GreenRights is in Toronto on October 12th, at the Heliconian Hall at 35 Hazelton Street in Yorkville. If you haven’t had a chance to see the film, there’s a trailer here. It’s a little out of date, but it gives you a really good feel for the film.
So if you’re in Toronto, please spread the word about the screening next Wednesday – and please come!
After that — and after a couple of university events in Toronto — the motorhome tour proceeds to public screenings in Waterloo on the 17th , Guelph on the 18th and Thunder Bay on the 24th. The details are in the calendar at www.TheGreenInterview.com. I hope we’ll catch you somewhere!
I’m standing in this gorgeous auditorium that seats 350 or 400, and most of the seats are full, climbing up in rows and ranks to the roof. I’m being introduced – very warmly – by Dr. Jonathan Langdon, Canada Research Chair in Sustainability and Social Change Leadership. I’ve done presentations to a couple of classes. But right now, in this beautiful venue, we’re about to screen the Green Rights film. The lights dim. The music comes up. And the film – which Chris Beckett has just polished one last time – looks absolutely stunning on this big screen.
This was St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia last Wednesday, at a screening sponsored by several university departments, including the Coady International Institute, and organized by Jeff Parker of the Antigonish International Film Festival. The Festival isn’t until mid-October, but Jeff and his team wanted to show our new film before we left on our national tour – so they set up this special pre-Festival presentation.
We had a little trouble getting there. I dropped the Merlin the motorhome into a deep pothole in a parking lot in New Glasgow, tearing off one of its jacks and breaking the air dryer in the braking system. You may have seen my Facebook Livecast from the roadside, where we were stuck with no brakes – and towing us away needed an industrial-level tow truck. Merlin is 34 feet long, after all, and weighs many tons. Happily, the breakdown occurred just down the hill from the Nova Truck Centre, who sent down a mechanic to patch the brakes up so that we could take Merlin to their shop. There he stayed for the rest of that day – while Marjorie signed books in Antigonish – and part of the next day, but in the end Merlin was better than ever.
The Antigonish screening was followed by a vigorous question-and-answer and some very pleasant socializing over book sales. The next morning, Marjorie and I and the dogs went home to D’Escousse for one mad day of sorting and packing, closing up the house for the winter and preparing to hit the road with Merlin. Yesterday we got away in mid-morning, ending up in a truck stop in Rusagonis, just outside Fredericton. Today, we hope, we’ll stop somewhere around Trois Rivieres, Quebec. And tomorrow we’ll be in Ottawa, preparing for the big premiere on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s events will begin with a 5:00 reception on Parliament Hill hosted by the Speaker of the Senate and featuring Nova Scotia lobster paired with Nova Scotia’s Tidal Bay wine. The guest list includes representatives from many of Canada’s major environmental and civil society organizations as well as MPs, Senators and parliamentary staffers. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has said she wants to attend.
Then, at 7:00 in the Pearson Ballroom of the Lord Elgin Hotel, with our partners from the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, we’ll show the film to an audience that we hope will respond as warmly as the audiences in Wolfville, Halifax and Antigonish. We hope our Ottawa audience will influence the government to consider that Canada is among only a dozen countries in the world that do not recognize the rights of their citizens to clean air and water, and healthy food. We hope the audience — and the government — will feel that it’s time to give Canadians the rights that are enjoyed by the citizens of more than 180 countries around the world.
That’s what this tour is all about: getting Canadians the right to a cleaner, greener world. So spread the word, and wish us luck!
Wow! A standing ovation, brisk book sales, strong cash donations and a lively question period – what more could one have asked from our Halifax screening of the Green Rights film last evening at Mount St. Vincent University?
The event was graciously hosted by MSVU President Ramona Lumpkin, and MC’d by Dr. Ian Stewart of King’s College on behalf of our fiduciary partners, the Sierra Club Canada Foundation. In the middle of the screening, I was urgently beckoned out of the theatre. A news crew from CTV was in the lobby, and they wanted to do an interview about the film and the Green Rights project. When? Right now. So I did it. I have no idea where it appeared. If anyone can tell me, I’d love to know.
Here’s an image from the film that got a laugh.
After the screening — and the standing ovation – the questions from the audience largely had to do with how we could get wider distribution to the film – getting it into the schools, into faculties of law, to the general public. And people asked, “What can I do to bring environmental rights to Canada?”
To which I replied, “Link up with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot movement.”
The Blue Dot initiative is an organized drive, coast-to-coast, to get the right to a healthy environment incorporated into the Canadian legal system. For those who are persuaded by our film, Blue Dot should be the very next stop. That said, this whole tour has happened so fast that we’ve hardly had time to develop our synergies and linkages with environmental organizations.
In Ontario, however, it appears that the Speaker of the Senate will be bringing a whole range of green players together around his celebratory afternoon reception in honour of the Green Rights film. The event takes place at the Speaker’s chambers in the Parliament Buildingon October 4. The list of invited guests includes representatives of the Council of Canadians, the Assembly of First Nations, 350.org, Ecojustice, Greenpeace, Equiterre, Green Ottawa, Amnesty, Climate Action, Environmental Defense, Ecology, Miningwatch Canada, Ottawa Renewable Energy, Bullfrog Power and others. We’re honoured and humbled that we may meet so many representatives of these great organizations – not to mention MPs and Senators, and possibly a stray Minister or two.
The Speaker’s reception is by invitation only, but the screening at 8:00 that evening is open to everyone, and Blue Dot organizers will be present to engage with members of the audience.
Before that, though, comes the launch of Marjorie’s new book Year of the Horse – today, from 5:30 to 7:30 at Lion and Bright on Agricola Street in Halifax. We have a great band headed by Ron Doleman, and the MC will be the one and only Costas Halavrezos. Lion and Bright is a charming venue, and we’re looking forward to seeing a ton of old friends there – as we did last night, too.
Tomorrow, this magical mystery tour goes to Antigonish, where for three days I’ll be meeting in classes with faculty and students. The big day in Antigonish is Wednesday, when Marjorie will be signing book
s from 12:00-1:30 at Cole’s Bookstore, and from 3:00-5:00 at The People’s Place Library, 283 Main St. After a 5:00 reception organized by the Coady Institute and the Antigonish International Film Festival, we have a 7:00 PM screening of the film at the Schwartz Auditorium.
And then home for a day, and on to Ottawa – and Kingston, Port Hope, Toronto, Waterloo, Guelph, Thunder Bay and points west.
Everybody take a deep breath. Here we go!
We’re launched on the tour! And it’s going beautifully.
We showed the Green Rights film at Acadia University in Wolfville on Monday and had a very warm reception. I did a little Facebook Livecast that morning – I intend to use FB Live often as the tour goes on. Yesterday in Truro, I spoke about Warrior Lawyers to an enthusiastic awards luncheon for volunteers in Nova Scotia’s Adopt-a-Road program. Tomorrow, Sept 22, Marjorie and I are on Global TV’s Halifax morning show at 7:50 AM, and I’m on Rick Howe’s radio show at 12:00 on News 95.7. Friday morning I’m on CBC’s Information Morning from Halifax at 6:45 AM.
Then on Sunday is the next big event: the Halifax screening of Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World, at 2:00 PM at Mount St. Vincent University, 166 Bedford Highway, with a question-and-answer and informal reception to follow. The Facebook event page is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/808550019285048/
Meanwhile, Marjorie has three book signings coming up: Friday, September 23 at Coles Scotia Square, from 12:00 – 2:00; Saturday, September 24, at Chapters Bayers Lake, from 12:00 – 1:30, and that afternoon, at Chapters Mic Mac Mall, from 2:30 -4:00.
STREAMING GREEN RIGHTS – FOR FREE
You can stream the film for free at any time from www.TheGreenInterview.com. You’ll be asked to join the site as a subscriber, which is free for the first month and $10/month thereafter – but you can simply cancel during the first month if you don’t want to continue. We’re asking you to accept a month’s trial in return for streaming the film because this site allows us to do projects like Green Rights, and we hope that the film’s success will help us grow the site. And we put up a new extended interview with an environmental leader every month. Coming up: Todd Labrador, the Mi’kmaq birch canoe builder talking about the art and craft of his work, and its relation to traditional indigeous culture and spirituality.
I’m finding that posting to the blog tends to get overlooked as the days race by. So please follow me or Greenrightsfilm on Facebook, where I tend to post quick notes when there isn’t time for the blog.
Meanwhile, come and join us on Sunday!
Watch the Film
Please click here to view the film. (Members Only).
Please click here to view the 90 min Director’s Cut. (Members Only)
The right to breathe. The right to clean water. The right to wholesome food.
Air, water, food – these are the sources of life. Without them, we die. And in most nations – more than 180 nations, in fact – citizens are legally entitled to these essential elements of life.
But not in Canada or the United States. And that’s what the Green Rights multi-media project is all about: the human right to a healthy environment, and Mother Nature’s right to be respected and protected. The citizenship of North Americans is hobbled because we don’t have these green rights. Canadians and Americans literally don’t know what they’re missing. So we’re telling the dramatic stories of how citizens use those rights in other countries – and are fighting for them here. Green rights are among humanity’s most powerful tools for protecting and repairing the natural world.
The overall Green Rights project (www.GreenRights.com) includes films at three lengths – 10 minutes, 45 minutes, 90 minutes – plus extended online interviews between Silver Donald Cameron and 24 major figures in the international environmental rights movement. It also includes Cameron’s new book, Warrior Lawyers: From Manila to Manhattan, Attorneys for the Earth, available both in paper and as an e-book from Amazon and also his own website. Click here for more information, including how to order.
The Green Rights films vividly portray remarkable legal battles in nations around the world: dramas in the courts and on the land. In Argentina, the Netherlands, Ecuador, the Philippines and elsewhere, devoted citizens and courageous lawyers take on national governments and international corporations – and win. The films, narrated by Silver Donald Cameron, also tell stories of Canadian and American citizens, activists and Natives who are fighting vigorously for the recognition of those rights.
The 45-minute film, set mainly in the Maritime provinces, was broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in September, 2015 under the title Defenders of the Dawn. It is available to be streamed on this site: http://www.cbc.ca/absolutelycanadian/maritimes/
The 10-minute film created for the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot tour can be streamed here: https://youtu.be/BtdO3xX9jlc
The full-length documentary Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World was completed in September 2016, and we’re happy to present it to our subscribers as our regular monthly video. Enjoy!
You spoke. We listened.
You told us overwhelmingly that you preferred the photo that showed me talking with Mi’kmaw canoe builder Todd Labrador, beside the Wildcat River. But some of you found the people lost in the background.
So we cropped it closer, clarified the text, and we’re using it as our thumbnail. Thank you! Here it is:
Meanwhile, Warrior Lawyers has come out on Amazon as a Kindle e-book. You can download it and start reading in minutes. Just click here. It’s also a “Matchbook:” if you’ve bought the paper version, you can get the e-book for $US1.99, rather than $US 7.99.
Also, the GreenRights national promotion tour is coming together very quickly: 14 communities, 11 screenings, 10 universities. Is your town included? You can check that out; we now have a events calendar up on TheGreenInterview.com, here. Just scroll down to the “Publicity Tour” tab and see where we’re going, and when. With more to come!
In fact the tour has already begun. As this is written, on September 11 — look! — Marjorie is signing copies of Year of the Horse at the Coles bookstore in Sydney, Cape Breton. Next Saturday, at 2:00 she’s doing a launch at the library in Petit de Grat, right here in Isle Madame, NS. And the next day we board the motorhome for ten days of screenings and signings and lectures in Wolfville, Halifax and Antigonish before steering onward to Ottawa on September 29th.
Hmmm…. And I have to rig up some kind of a desk in the motorhome. Guess that comes next…
This is an article I wrote a few years ago for a publication issued by the National Union of Public and General Employees. I don’t think they’ll mind if I re-issue it several Labour Days later.
FIGHTING THE NEW FEUDALISM
by Silver Donald Cameron
We are the wealthiest people in the history of the world. So how can it be that at the feet of the cold glass and steel towers of the financial district, a ragged man – having eaten at a soup kitchen or a food bank – curls up to sleep under a blanket of newspapers over a warm exhaust grill?
Let me tell you a story about a country I once knew.
In that country, sixty years ago, food banks and soup kitchens were just an unhappy memory from the Dirty Thirties, when the police protected the rich, the factories lay idle, and dust storms drove the farmers off the land. Starving men clung to boxcars, willing to trade a day’s work just for a day’s food. But the Dirty Thirties led into a war, and the bums and vagrants were suddenly transformed into brave soldiers and sailors. The factories re-opened, spewing out tanks and guns and planes, while a torrent of innovation yielded radar and reactors, plastics and jet engines, electronic navigation, antibiotics and computers.
The hoboes and drifters who had become infantrymen and airmen went out and won the war. And when they came home, they remembered the hunger and hopelessness of the Dirty Thirties, and they said, Never again. We did not fight and die to sustain a society that starves and scorns us. The war showed us how a focussed and determined government, supported by its people, could marshall the whole creative power of the country for a common purpose. If we can do that in order to kill other people, we can do it to nourish our own people.
The veterans dreamed of a society with jobs for everyone, a home for everyone, a democracy that would hold the plutocrats in check. They dreamed of innovations like “unemployment insurance” and “family allowances.” They imagined a Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation that would help working families to buy their own homes. They wanted universal old age pensions, a strong and accessible system of higher education, assistance to the blind and the disabled. They dreamed of universal medical care.
And they got those things, all of them. That’s what created the country I grew up in. Its name was Canada. (more…)
So who’s that? Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, speaking with Bill Casey, MP for Colchester-Cumberland, Nova Scotia — who is a big fan of the Green Rights project and The Green Interview.
And what are they talking about? Casey is presenting the Green Rights project to her, and strongly suggesting she attend the celebratory reception sponsored by the Speaker of the Senate on October 4 in his chambers. He also wants her to view the GreenRights film.
Friends, we’re getting some traction.
Here, for example, is a post on The Nova Scotia Advocate, an independent journalism website is operated by Robert Devet, that links directly to the Green Rights trailer: https://twitter.com/silverdonald/status/769507308745420800
And here’s a big enthusiastic blog post about the Green Rights project and our upcoming national tour — and this post comes from the other side of the world. It’s published by the highly-influential blogger Dan Bloom, who lives in Taiwan and is read everywhere: https://t.co/KD1ZI2Lc4r His tweet about the post was re-tweeted by Margaret Atwood to more than a million followers.
Meanwhile, in Hawaii, there’s a big congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in combination with none other than the National Geographic Society. It’s in Hawaii, and lots of senior officials and many major figures in the environmental world are attending – people like Jane Goodall, E.O. Wilson, Pavan Sukhdev and Sylvia Earle. We’ve interviewed Jane Goodall, but I’d love to interview the other three.
Also in attendance is Prof. Nicholas Robinson of Pace University in New York. Nick Robinson has had a huge influence on Tony Oposa, one of the Warrior Lawyers in my book. Tony showed Warrior Lawyers to Nick, who has included the book into the conference’s book launch event this weekend, and has been tweeting vigorously about it.
Casey, Devet, Bloom, Atwood, Robinson — aren’t we lucky to have such ambassadors? And think about it: Ottawa, Halifax, Taiwan, Hawaii… Not bad, when we’ve been much more focussed on the tour plans than on the publicity. Maybe we’re doing something right.
Help us choose a thumbnail. And: Warrior Lawyers is published!
We need to choose a thumbnail for Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World. Here’s the photo I’ve been using:
That’s an actual shot from the film, but I don’t know how well it communicates for us. I’m standing on a log that’s floating on a pond of crude oil in Lago Agrio, Ecuador – a vivid illustration of Texaco’s reckless disregard for the people and the natural life of the region when they began “developing” their oil fields 50 years ago. But do people understand that when they see it?
Here’s the alternative I’ve been developing:
This is also a shot from the film, near the end, where we’re talking about living in harmony with one another and with the natural world. It’s a lovely shot of me talking with Mi’kmaq canoe-builder Todd Labrador, with one of his birch-bark canoes, sitting beside the Wildcat River in Nova Scotia. It’s not as dramatic a shot, but it’s very beautiful, like a painting – and maybe it conveys more clearly what the film is about.
Or maybe we should choose another shot altogether – a courtroom scene in the Netherlands, perhaps. What do you think? We’d love to know.
Meanwhile, we’ve been focussed on tour planning. I’m in Wolfville at Acadia University for a lecture and screening of Green Rights on Monday, Sept 19, while Marjorie does a book signing at A Box of Delights bookstore. Then I give a speech (on Warrior Lawyers) to Adopt-a-Highway NS in Truro on the 21st, and we’ll have a Green Rights screening at Mount St. Vincent in Halifax on Sunday afternoon, Sept 25 at 2:00. On to Antigonish for events at St. Francis Xavier University on the 28th, including a big screening – and by the 30th we’re on the road to Ottawa for the national premiere on October 4. We’ve put a calendar up at www.TheGreenInterview.com, and I’ll be posting more details there soon.
Finally, Warrior Lawyers has been published on Amazon, with a Kindle version soon to come. I now have an Amazon author page, too: https://www.amazon.com/author/silverdonaldcameron The book is also available from my own site, www.silverdonaldcameron.ca – in paper, and also as a downloadable PDF.
The bad news is that in my last email I included a broken link to the www.silverdonaldcameron.ca site, where the book was on sale at the pre-publication price of $19.99. That price has now gone up to the post-publication price of $24.99 because Amazon won’t tolerate a lower price on any other site. But if you wanted to buy it at the pre-publication price and weren’t able because of the broken link, send me an email at email@example.com. I’ll honour that promise and sell you the book at the lower price.
Salmon — in a Suit
Last week, a St. John’s lawyer named Owen Myers took the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to court. Myers’ lawsuit alleges that the government broke its own laws and regulations by exempting a salmon farm project in Placentia Bay from a full-scale environmental review. The $250 million project would be one of the largest aquaculture sties in the country.
A lawsuit is a whole new approach to the problems with salmon feedlots. The issues with feedlots are numerous and well-documented. Indeed, the Green Interview team produced a 75-minute documentary film on the subject back in 2012. (You can view the film at www.SalmonWars.com). Governments of all political stripes and in several different provinces have had to face down tons of protests, presentations, letters, studies, reports, videos and submissions. By and large, the officials simply ignore all the noise.
But they can’t ignore Myers’ lawsuit. They are going to have to go before a judge and defend themselves. They’ll have to bring evidence to justify their actions. And they’ll have to do it all in the harsh glare of publicity.
And high time, too. In the long history of protest and social progress, there are precious few instances where governments simply saw the light and did the right thing. Usually they have to be forced. One powerful way to exert force is civil disobedience: people in Elsipogtog, NB, lying down on the road in front of the fracking trucks. But another is to use the law. And you don’t have to win the lawsuit to win the day.
Go listen to trailblazing Filipino lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr. There’s a six-minute clip of my Green Interview with him here. Tony Oposa is known throughout the Philippines as “Attorney Oposa,” and he’s won several lawsuits of world importance – for instance, a decision by his country’s Supreme Court that unborn generations actually have legal rights, and that today’s generation has an obligation to preserve the natural world reasonably intact for its successors. That principle of “intergenerational equity” is now known as “The Oposa Doctrine” – and it’s been applied all around the world.
But Tony doesn’t consider himself a lawyer. As he’ll tell you in that clip, he’s a storyteller who uses the courts as his theatre. In court, people, governments and corporations have to listen to your story. They have to think about the issues and weigh the evidence dispassionately. The judges will have to make a decision and maybe order some action. If you lose, you appeal. Then you get to tell the story again. And stories are what move the world.
But look at the difference between Tony’s situation and Owen’s. Owen can only sue to get the government to respect regulations that the government itself created. Because the Philippine law recognizes environmental rights, however, Tony can take up really big issues — offences against Nature, against future generations, against the human right to a healthy world.
UPDATE: THE BOOK, THE FILM, THE TOUR:
Tony Oposa plays a big role in our GreenRights film – and he’s one of the Warrior Lawyers I interview in my book. Warrior Lawyers includes interviews with 17 powerful, bold lawyers from nine different countries. Proof copies of the book just arrived – here’s a photo — so I expect to have finished books by early September. Both the physical book and the e-book will be available on Amazon, and also at www.TheGreenInterview.com and www.SilverDonaldCameron.ca. At our websites, the pre-publication price for the paper book is $19.99. After publication it goes up to $24.99. That tapping sound you hear? That’s opportunity knocking. Buy now and save!
We’re also in the very last stages of completing the feature documentary Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World. And this week our beloved little truck goes to the RV centre to be fitted with the gear that allows us to tow it behind the motorhome. Meanwhile, we’re organizing lectures, screenings and readings in universities from Halifax to the Rockies. (We’ll do the west coast later.)
We have great screenings and discussions scheduled for the east coast, at Mount St. Vincent, Acadia and St. Francis Xavier. In Ontario, we’re delighted at the way things are coming together in Ottawa, Kingston and Thunder Bay. If you’d like to have an event in your community, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s lots more to come. Stay tuned!
There it is, in a nutshell.
In every creative project, there’s a tension between creating the work and helping it find its audience. For months, we’ve been finishing the keystone pieces of the Green Rights multi-media project (www.GreenRights.com) – a feature-length film called Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World, and a book entitled Warrior Lawyers: From Manila to Manhattan, Attorneys for the Earth. Both of them are coming out next month – so it’s time to find their audiences.
The same goes for The Year of the Horse, the second book by my wife, Marjorie Simmins. Year of the Horse is a wonderful story of love and grit, injury and healing, and trials and triumphs with horses and humans. So we’re planning a big fat promotional tour for both books and the film – a tour that will take us from coast to coast in September/October. (more…)
Elin Kelsey, author and science communicator, speaks with Silver Donald Cameron in this exclusive Green Interview about the profound and often overlooked relationship between humans and the non-human world. As the narrative of doom and gloom permeates environmental stories, Kelsey is interested in shifting the dominant narrative to one of optimism and hope by communicating remarkable stories of environmental resilience, ideas that work, and people who make a difference. (more…)
Written and narrated by
Silver Donald Cameron
Chris Beckett and Erika Beatty
The original nations of northeastern North America make up the Wabanaki Confederacy. Their territory is “the dawnlands,” and they are “the people of the dawn.” Today the dawnlands are being assaulted by reckless industrialism, and the people of the dawn are joined by settlers from many other places in asserting the human right to a healthy natural world: clean air, clean water, clean earth.
Canadians don’t have a legal right to clean air and water. Ask the people of Harrietsfield, NS, who have agitated for a dozen years against the toxic contamination of their wells by a construction waste site – and are still only spectators at a regulatory minuet between government and industry. Ask the townspeople of Pictou, who have no legal standing to stop some of the dirtiest smog in Canada, belched forth by the same pulp mill whose effluent has poisoned a small estuary once so important to the Pictou Landing First Nation that they called it “Ah-seg,” the Other Room of their home.
Unlike Canada, most nations do recognize their citizens’ environmental rights. We visit Argentina, where a landmark legal case led to a spectacular cleanup of the Richuelo River, once ranked the eighth most-polluted place on earth. We touch down in India, Ecuador, South Africa. We meet Antonio Oposa, Jr., a Filipino lawyer who sued his government, on behalf of the Philippines’ unborn children, to stop logging in oldgrowth forests and to clean up Manila Bay – and won recognition of the environmental rights of future generations.
Maritimers are now demanding recognition of their own right to a healthy environment. In New Brunswick, a unique alliance of parents, educators, health workers, First Nations and civil servants is lobbying the provincial legislature for a Bill of Rights to Protect Children’s Health from Environmental Hazards. In Inverness County, Nova Scotia, prompted by the Council of Canadians, other citizens and the Waycobah First Nation, the municipal council passed a unique and inspiring bylaw forbidding hydraulic fracturing as a threat to environmental security and an infringement of human rights.
In 2013, after David Alward’s Conservative government had given a Texas oil company permits to explore and frack a huge swath of unceded Mi’kmaq terrain in New Brunswick, a fierce confrontation exploded between the oil company, the government and the RCMP on one side, and an unprecedented alliance of First Nations, Acadians, and English-speaking settlers on the other. In the end, the government was defeated, the oil company retreated, a new Liberal government passed stern regulations on fracking, and a public inquiry began scrutinizing the partisan conduct of the RCMP. Now, two separate “people’s lawsuits” are seeking to consolidate the victories, challenging the validity of the original permits and arguing that the Charter guarantee of “security of the person” necessarily includes the right to a healthy environment, free from the risk of climate change.
A new day is breaking in the dawnlands. The Wabanaki are now allied with Acadians, Anglophones and other settlers – all the people who know and love this realm. The conscience of these people, coupled with their courage, is a force that will transform the dawnlands. Indeed, it already has.