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Posted: December 8, 2019

Citizens have never been trusted

By Dr. Brian L. Horejsi

Op-Ed Commentary

My personal impression of Canada is that of a tattered nation where social cohesiveness based on equality of all citizens in the eyes of the law and within our political system, and with a common-good agenda, has been in continuous decline since the post war years of the 1950s.

The sheer genius of universal health care had enveloped Canadians (thank you Saskatchewan!), human migration was a fraction of today’s friction-causing levels, extreme behaviour, later to be bred by decades of “what can you do for me first” thinking and propaganda, was non-existent, political distortion created by corporate money was just an evil glimmer in some corporate boardrooms, and aboriginal people still thought, and were treated as though, they were Canadians.

National parks were actually national in management and services and actually functioned as parks and not economic stimulants. Critically, human consumption of the earths biologically productivity was well below the level where waste by products – greenhouse gases – were threatening our existence.

There were – and these numbers are staggering – 21 million fewer people in Canada and 177 million fewer in the U.S. in 1950.

In the U.S. their National Forest system already stood as a shining example of legislated establishment of the public good, and brilliant environmental protection legislation like endangered species protection, and near constitutional guarantees of the public right to influence environmental decision making was entrenched in the National Environmental Policy Act, powerful legislation that materialized through a unique collaboration of public activists and academics.

As a young man I was optimistic this exceptionally inclusive and utilitarian democratic framework would be recognized and enacted in Canada.

Of course, I was hoping it would lead to the protection of landscapes that would provide for the viability of caribou and owls dependent upon old growth forests, bull trout dependent up clear free flowing river, and grizzly bears who depend upon safe habitat without roads, as just a few examples.

It seemed logical: why would any country claiming to be a civil society not protect their environment, and by extension, themselves? To my eventual dismay, our “leaders” betrayed us.

It’s not that I cared only about caribou or wild sheep or bears, but I always believed keeping our common landscapes ecologically functional was necessary not just for them, but for humankind and our mental and physical well-being.

Above all, I saw these democratic structural laws and regulations as empowering citizens – of every description – to protect and control their environment and control the exploding excesses of a “growth and consume” monster because they knew it was in all their best interests to do that

Today, we have division the likes of which we have never suffered from. We are fractured by religion, by lingering allegiance to scattered homelands, by demands for legal and economic advantage over others, by how long someone has been in this country or on the landscape; by citizens carrying baggage for corporate interests like the oil and gas or timber industry, and by inequality of legal treatment and economic opportunity perceived or real.

It matters not if you are French or Aboriginal, young or elderly, religious or atheist, born here or a recent migrant, Conservative of Bloc Quebecois – the only powerful value we currently share in this country is our environment, from clean water and air to intact landscapes – the things that nurture and rejuvenate people emotionally, mentally and physically.

I suspect many Canadians now see why the government-corporate alliance – one that deliberately fuelled a divided Canada in order to advance private interests – feared you and I and all of us, should we ever become active legally entitled citizens.

Canadians are now absorbing the impacts of the disastrous ecological, political, social and economic consequences of having failed to collectively realize there is more to this “thing” we call life than economic growth, political power, and  ever more financial gain.

Dr.  Horejsi is a wildlife and forest ecologist and a resident of B.C. He writes about environmental affairs, public resource management and governance and their entrenched legal and social bias.


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