Category Archives: social justice

Video of Elizabeth May During Pride Week

There’s an unfortunate irony to blogging: when you’re busy with lots of interesting stuff going on, there’s no time to blog about it. So it has been this past week.

This past Sunday I marched in my third Toronto Pride Parade in a row. I think I’ve mastered the required elements: lots of sunscreen, as little clothing as possible, and a humble acceptance of the inevitability of getting soaked by high-powered water guns (otherwise known as hoses). The banner photo of this site (for the moment at least) was taken just before the parade, and is of Victoria Cate May Burton, myself, Elizabeth May, and Amanda Bond.

The below video, as previously promised, is of Elizabeth’s speech at our Pride Week Meet & Greet earlier that week at Byzantium on Church Street. In it she highlights a few little known Green Party facts, including that we’re the only federal party to have ever had an openly gay leader, and that we became the first federal party to support same-sex marriage in 1996. (Our openly gay leader was Chris Lea, from 1990-1996. For some reason people sometimes make the incorrect assumption that it was Jim Harris, thus Elizabeth’s clarification in the video.)

And We’re Back (With A Look At Carbon Credits!)

The last few days I’ve had to focus my blog-related-energy on moving this website to a new host. My email addresses at this domain have stopped working four times in the past three months (I get about 100 emails a day, so it’s frustrating to try and guess what I might have missed), and iPowerWeb, who had been hosting this domain, didn’t even respond to my last email (yes, I was smart enough to send it from another working email address). The switch would have happened over the last 24 hours–hopefully you all survived.

I’m now on Dreamhost, which has some neat business practices I thought you might want to know about. For one, they’re employee owned, which is positive from a social justice perspective. They also have all sorts of open source applications that can be installed automatically (including the software this blog runs on), and open source is something I’m very supportive of.

The other neat thing about Dreamhost is that they’ve purchased carbon credits to offset the emissions created by running their business (including “paper in the office, electricity for our servers, even the gas in our cars that bring us to the office“). You can verify that this site is actually “hosted green” by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the right column of this page.

The basic idea behind carbon credits (aka carbon offsets) is to either pay someone else to reduce their emissions instead of reducing your own (buying credits), or to make money by reducing your carbon emissions more than the average bear (selling credits).

This carbon trading system works best when in conjunction with a “hard cap,” resulting in a “cap and trade” system. That means that each emitter is given a maximum amount of carbon they’re allowed to emit. If they exceed their limit, they’re forced to buy credits from other emitters who have reduced below their limit. The Green Party of Canada proposes setting up a cap and trade system for what’s known as Large Final Emitters (or LFE, for eco-geeks), but you could theoretically apply this system at the individual level as well.

Of course, carbon credits are a bit controversial these days, since for the most part there isn’t yet an easy and transparent way to ensure that buying a credit for one tonne of carbon actually results in one less tonne of carbon being released into the atmosphere. That’s really important because, from a climate change standpoint, the only thing that matters is that the over-all amount of greenhouse gases getting released into the atmosphere goes down (which is also why the “intensity targets” approach of George Bush and Stephen Harper is a hoax).

In other words, the purchase of carbon credits should only be used as a last resort, after a company or individual has done everything they can to reduce their emissions in the first place. For example, instead of buying offsets for your coal-generated electricity, buy your electricity from a clean supplier instead. Instead of buying offsets for your car, get a more efficient car or, you know, stop driving as much.

Dreamhost, as far as I can tell from their website, has taken at least some of those kinds of steps, but probably not as many as they could. But hey, none of us are perfect. For now I’m filing this under “better than nothing.”

ps. Seriously though, the main point of this post is, “if you emailed me in the last two days and haven’t heard back, please try again.”

A Made In Canada Shame

There has been, of course, a lot of noise and criticism of the Harper government’s shameful betrayal of Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto accord, citing preference for a “made in Canada” solution. Less attention has been given, however, to another “K” accord that represents a possibly even more shameful made-in-Canada betrayal. From the day Stephen Harper’s government was elected with a mere 36.3% of the vote, despite some feeble public relations exercises to the contrary, the Kelowna Accord never had a chance.

Signed by Paul Martin in what he didn’t realize was the twilight of his government’s life, the Kelowna Accord represented a historic agreement between the Government of Canada and Aboriginal peoples that sought to “improve the education, employment, and living conditions” for Canada’s natives. Two Conservative budgets and a private member’s bill vote later, the agreement is effectively dead. Harper apparently didn’t consider it a priority, and we know how he feels about priorities.

Adding to the disgrace (regular readers will note that “disgrace” and “shameful” are not words I use often or take lightly) this week was Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice, who is refusing to apologize for native residential schools, again despite a written commitment from the previous government.

Some quick background. Starting in 1874, native children were forcibly removed from their homes by the RCMP and taken to these schools. They were not allowed to speak their own language, even amongst each other. They didn’t see their parents for months. Many were physically and sexually abused. A 1909 report found that the mortality rate at residential schools in Western Canada was 35%-60% within five years. The explicitly stated goal of these schools was the assimilation of native society into European culture. And the last school did not close until 1996.

I happened to visit the site of a former residential school this past weekend. Keeping the above in mind as we drove down the tree-lined driveway towards a grandly intimidating building at its termination was, shall we say, chilling. Keeping the above in mind while listening to Jim Prentice explain that Canada has nothing to apologize for because “the underlying objective [of residential schools] had been to try and provide an education to aboriginal children,” was, quite literally, infuriating.

Let’s not mince words. Either Prentice is shockingly ignorant of history or he is defending what were racist policies designed to eradicate Canada’s first nations through forced assimilation. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence pointing towards ignorance.

An apology would be only a modest first step in the right direction, and this government is walking the other way.

New Low

It’s no secret that I don’t have a lot of love for Stephen Harper, but yesterday he sunk to such a new low that even I was surprised.

For the past few days, opposition parties have been asking the government questions about the handling of Afgan detainees because, well, there’s mounting evidence that we may be implicated in their torture, and because when they asked defence minister Gordon O’Connor about it he — what’s the term again? — “mislead” the House. So, you can see why they’d be concerned.

Harper responded by saying that, just because they asked those questions, those MPs obviously cared more about Taliban prisoners than Canadian soldiers. He subsequently refused to apologize. In other words, not only has “you’re either with us or against us” migrated to Canada, somehow concern for human rights is now anti-Canadian.

Speaking of which, I will remind you today, on World Water Day, that under this government Canada still refuses to declare water a human right. (So, what is it then? A privilege?)

I used to think comparisons of Stephen Harper to George Bush were exaggerated and unfair. Not any more.