Signs of progress—but a long way to go—on the environment

I love this country, but for action on the things that I hold dear, I’m left wanting more.

As a Montrealer, a Quebecer and a Canadian (each individually, and all collectively), I’ve been incredibly lucky. My upbringing in Montreal allowed me to soak up a culture truly seeped in multiculturalism in deeply enriching ways. I’ve benefitted from Quebec’s socially and environmentally progressive policies in areas such as education and natural resource management. And through my work, I’ve been from one end of the country to the other, witnessing the beauty in unique settings and in our similarities.

I have, however, also been disappointed on issues of international development and climate change. As someone who completed a Masters in International Developmentincluding research on the social implications of climate changethese are evidently key concerns for me.

When I entered the international development space, Canada was just beginning to understand the implications of the previous government’s stance on the environmenta perspective anchored in exploitation rather than stewardship. It was later when I was living in Europe that Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol. I was so ashamed that I found myself reminding people that I was from Quebec, whose position better reflected European sentiments towards climate change and environmental practices. Later, my dismay deepened when it was revealed to the public that scientific research (especially related to the environment) had been stifled by the government and scientists restricted in their communications. During those 10 years, I found myself continually wondering whether I (and my work) still had a place in my home country.

Progress, or something like it

I, like many others, saw glimmers of hope with the 2015 election. With the relatively recent rhetoric-rich and action-poor reality south of the border with President Obama, I knew that hope wouldn’t be enough. And, again, I wasn’t alone in that realization. We, as young (and older!) Canadians, recognized that we would need to hold our new political leaders accountable for promises made.

There have been early signs of progress: re-engagement with science and scientists including on ocean and freshwater issues, and a renewed focus on improving the health and rights of women and children as expressed by the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. But we still need to push for action on promises that were made like an energy strategy that takes into consideration current economic, social, and employment realities along with future environmental, health, and international implications, and a fair and forward-looking approach to subsidies to create an economy that works for generations to come.

Beyond the issues identified by the current government, there are other areas in dire need of attention. Our embarrassing track record on official international development assistance (ODA) demands to be rectified immediately and continuously over the coming years to attain the 0.7% of GNI target championed by former prime minister Lester Pearson. And we should increase our funding to international climate change mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund to at least match Sweden’s (a far smaller economy, whose pledge dwarfs our own).

My community of similarly cautious and conscientious people keeps me asking myself tough questions. And I know that, together, we will keep asking them of this government and those to follow, until we don’t have to proclaim that “We’re back!” because our actions will demonstrate our commitment to building a better world for all.

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