Friday, October 24, 2014

Canadian Patriotism and What it Means to Love our Country

As Canadians come together to mourn the tragic murder of a soldier on parliament hill we should take stock of the love that we feel for this great land and stand up in her defense. We weep for the soldier that was killed and we resolve not to be cowed by the callous contempt of cowards who senselessly kill as an expression of their profound confusion. The name of the shooter who took the life of Nathan Cirillo should be forgotten by history. While at the same time we must do our utmost to find the handful of mentally and morally ill people who would destroy our society.

This does not mean that we rabidly chant "C-A-N-A-D-A" at every sporting event, instead we hold a moment of silence. It does not mean that we will discriminate against people who happen to share a religion with the deranged shooter. This is not who we are as Canadians. For the most part we are a kind and respectful people, but when necessary, we have shown that we can be moved to courageously and selflessly oppose injustice and tyranny.

Now, Canadians are called to take up the struggle once again. As our military is being dispatched to play our part in confronting tyranny in Iraq and Syria, we are also called to engage a non-violent struggle here at home. So much is at stake we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. This is what it means to be Canadian, this is what is required if we are to be able to continue to appreciate the extraordinary natural grandeur of our home and native land.

As we reflect on the horrible act of violence that took place in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we should not forget what happened in the nearby halls of parliament. Not only the the acts of a lone gunmen, but the legislative activities of our MPs.

As we honor the memory of our fallen soldier, our thoughts should turn to our political representatives and their responsibility to defend our values and preserve our land. We need to be aware of what our elected officials do to contribute to (or detract from) our national well being.

Our nation is under threat and not only from the disenfranchised on the fringes of society. Some of those who are the most enfranchised, those who are at the center of our democracy, are enacting policies that are undermining Canada now and for future generations. We do a disservice to our nation if we ignore that our country is under threat from within.

The fact that 345 species are at risk of extinction in Canada underscores the seriousness of environmental insults and the ecological corollaries of climate change. These are not just concerns for treehuggers. If nothing else the economic costs associated with environmental degradation and climate change make these issues relevant to all Canadians.

Recently, a group of independent experts from the United Nations issued a letter to all governments stating that, "climate change hinders the ability to enjoy basic human rights recognized by international law." Climate change is not only about the right to enjoy basic human rights, it is also a murderous scourge that already kills hundred of thousands of people around the world. Unless we change our perilous direction, the death toll will get far worse.

It is well known that fossil fuels are the leading cause of climate change and Canada is already a dirty energy superpower. The Harper government is working tenaciously to further expand our fossil fuel extraction and export. To help realize this goal, the federal government is simultaneously trying to build four pipelines. To the south we have the infamous Keystone XL, to the North we have an Arctic pipeline, the eastbound pipeline is known as the Energy East and the westbound pipeline is called Northern Gateway. Each of these four proposed pipelines would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil to market each day.

The science is clear, we simply cannot afford to burn fossil fuels and hope to keep climate change at bay. Governments and corporations that contribute to this threat should be called out and held to account. As we get ever closer to a hoped for global climate agreement in 2015, nations that stand in the way must be shamed into submission.

Under Harper's Conservatives, Canada has amassed a woeful environmental record. Not only has Canada failed to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, the ruling federal government has withdrawn from Kyoto and efforts to combat desertification. They have shutdown efforts to express dissenting views and expose the truth, this includes gutting environmental oversight and the muzzling of scientists. The federal government also uses Canada's intelligence agencies to spy on peaceful environmental groups. Even venerable environmental organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation are under attack from the Harper government.

The non-violent defense of our environment is not a crime and should not be treated as such. Peacefully standing up for our environment is an act of patriotism, defending the health of Canadians and our ecosystems is the most righteous form of nationalism. Fighting for a democracy which enshrines these rights is both noble and good.

We must avail ourselves of our freedom to democratically oppose those whose policies are environmentally  destructive. Canadians have a constitutional right to expose the government's ecological abuses, indeed this is our patriotic duty.

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