Dave Chidley/ CP Photo
Lott Honyust of the Oneida First Nation was one of thousands of indigenous activists who took to the streets this month in the Idle No More campaign protesting the feds’ moves to undermine native sovereignty.
Another year, another few records blown: 2012 wasn't just the usual "hottest year in recorded history"; North America was also battered with record droughts and storms, not to mention devastating attacks on enviro safeguards. Luckily, enough Canadians were pissed off about pipelines and mega-quarries to keep us hoping the world can still turn itself around.
HARPER'S FUCK-THE-PLANET BUDGET
The PM put an end to all green pretense and came out swinging with a declaration of war on the environment. The omnibus budget Bill C-38 seriously neutered the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act ,limiting the number of assessments required, slashing the budget for them and ignoring harm to wildlife not deemed official species at risk.
The Department of Fisheries budget was gutted and the Fisheries Act filleted so only fish of "commercial, Aboriginal, recreational" value are protected. As well, the word "waters" was sliced out of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, now the Navigation Protection Act. Which means that 99 per cent of Canada's waterways have been, well, hung out to dry. And, surprise, pipelines and big energy projects are now exempt from the new act and species-at-risk protection, clearing all sorts of regulatory hurdles for Harper's buddies.
Thew year's second budget bill, C-45, solidifying the slicing and dicing in
C-38, sparked nationwide native-led #idlenomore days of action throughout December.
RADICALS, TERRORISTS AND AUDITS
First came the tactical name-calling: get a minister (Joe Oliver) to label mainstream enviro orgs "terrorists" and "radicals" for opposing the oil sands pipeline expansion. Then follow suit by budgeting $8 mill into C-38 to audit any enviro charity that talks politics. This spring, David Suzuki walked away from the Suzuki Foundation to free his voice and keep the org from losing its charitable status. All this bullying did have a silver lining - it prompted an unprecedented coalition of over 500 enviro groups, trade unions, First Nations, faith groups, scientists and human rights orgs to black out their websites to protest
C-38. Sadly, the bill passed unscathed.
PLASTIC BAG BAN, WE HARDLY KNEW YOU
City council has managed to protect some key green soft spots from Rob Ford's axe, including Community Environment Days and four LRT lines, but it let its plastic bag ban blow away in the wind. Or at least condemned it to a purgatory where the bylaw will sit on the books with no legal mechanism for enforcing it. Fingers crossed that bag ban supporters are right about the issue returning from the grave next June when a staff report on reducing plastic bags comes out.
BOREAL FOREST AGREEMENT TEETERS
The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement was a major "high" on our 2010 list. The truce between 21 logging firms and nine enviro groups called a halt to boycotts from eco orgs in exchange for forestry firms' promise to stop logging endangered caribou habitat. The historic pact protected 76 million hectares of public forest. Or so we thought. Turns out it was more PR than protection. Leaked documents revealed that the agreement didn't actually affect the rate of tree-chopping, just the location. Still, eco groups played nice - until now. Just this month, Greenpeace pulled out of the agreement, saying one of the signatories, Resolute Forest Products (formerly AbitibiBowater) has been violating the CBFA by building illegal logging roads. There are also charges that two and a half years into a three-year agreement, next to no conservation plans have even been hashed out. The whole thing's a big disappointment.
CANADA, CLIMATE VILLAIN
Sometimes winning can be embarrassing. In Canada's case, the feds took the prize for international climate saboteur again in 2012 at the Doha talks. The world agreed to extend the Kyoto Accord, and though we're now the only nation to officially pull out of the damn thing, Canada still felt obliged to send in delegates to undermine the move. Do us all a favour next year, will ya, Canada, and just stay home?
MEGA-VICTORY AT MEGA-QUARRY
Ding-dong, the monster mine is dead! That's what you get when you pretend to snap up land for a potato farm, then announce plans for the largest open-pit quarry in Canadian history. The threat to groundwater in T.O.'s local food belt sparked a tenacious coalition of diverse land and food lovers: rural farmers, urban foodies, First Nations, rock stars and celebrity chefs like Michael Stadtländer. From five-day protest walks to SoupStock, Mega-quarry opponents laid out a winning game plan. Even a Hill + Knowlton PR team couldn't dig the quarry out of this grave.
Photo by: R. Jeanette Martin
STICK THAT IN YOUR PIPELINE
Lucky for the rest of us, it wasn't a good year for Enbridge. The looming eco-threat of pipeline expansion out west and pipeline reversal in the east (which could mean shipping corrosive tar sands fuel through Ontario's 30-year-old Line 9) fired up resistance from Burlington to Burnaby. First Nations leaders along with farmers and community groups all stood up to express their dissent. Enbridge might as well have thrown hot oil on the flames of discontent when 120,000 litres of Canada crude leaked south of the border just weeks after a safety board review likened Enbridge's handling of its 2010 Michigan oil spill to the "Keystone Cops."
TRICLOSAN'S LONG GOODBYE
Clap your hands, everybody - in the spring of 2012 the feds finally announced they'd be labelling antibacterial bad boy triclosan, found in body care products, an official toxin and a "danger" to the environment. But they stopped short of acknowledging this endocrine/thyroid disruptor's potential risks and failed to listen to the Canadian Medication Association and Environmental Defence, which have pushed for an all-out ban. Instead, Health Canada promises it'll ask industry really nicely for a voluntary phase-out.
NO MORE TEARS FOR J&J USERS
After years of protests by medical bodies and enviro health orgs, Johnson & Johnson finally agreed to stop using formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and carcinogen-contaminated sudsers by 2015 in all of its brands, including J&J, Aveeno and Neutrogena. The company also vowed to get rid of hormone-disrupting phthalates, triclosan and, depending on the line, estrogenic parabens, too. Hope this shames Procter & Gamble and L'Oréal.
GET TO KNOW THY TOXIC NEIGHBOUR
Good news for anyone curious about dodgy chems lurking in their 'hood: you can now find thy polluting neighbour thanks to the city's long-anticipated online ChemTRAC program. All you need is a postal code/intersection to pull up data on small businesses releasing 25 priority toxins. I think they should market the program with a little Sesame Street-inspired "Who are the toxic-emitters in your neighbourhood?" infomercial. Just saying.
YES, WE CAN... MAYBE?
The wreckage of super-storm Sandy stirred up two orphaned words we hadn't heard from the mainstream press or presidents in a long time: "climate change." Yes, the weather-ravaged Ghost of Christmas Future seems to have paid Obama a visit - which matters to Canadians why? Because Harper's a big fan of playing Simon Says with our southern neighbour, and a window of hope for federal climate action in the U.S. leaves a door open for copycat regs north of the border. Will the worst of 2012 bring out the best from our pols in 2013?