Canada: Protests condemn climate crimes

December 9, 2009

"Climate Inaction Costs Lives." That's the message Greenpeace activists delivered during a spectacular protest action in Ottawa on December 7, the opening day of the United Nations' climate conference in Copenhagen.

Nineteen activists scaled the roof of Canada's Parliament building and unfurled banners that condemned the inaction of the country's Conservative Party government and the largest opposition party, the Liberals.

Police arrested 20 people -- nineteen who were on the roof and one who was on the ground. They will face criminal charges of public mischief.

Canada is one of the largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gasses in the world. The tar sands extraction projects in the province of Alberta are the largest single source of carbon pollution in the world.

This has led British climate change campaigner George Monbiot to label Canada a "corrupt petrol state".

In an extraordinary commentary published in Canada's largest circulation national daily, the Globe and Mail on December 5, Monbiot condemned Canada's role in sabotaging global climate talks.

Three days later, he told CBC Radio's As It Happens that Canada has "systematically sabotaged" the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 that aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

He said Canada has sabotaged the creation of a new protocol at Copenhagen to take account of new and alarming trends in the biosphere.

Canada, Monbiot said, has "gone out of its way to obstruct meetings aimed at creating a new and stronger protocol to deal with climate change".

Greenpeace echoed these charges in its statement during the December 5 action. While hanging from the roof of the Parliament building, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema said, "Harper and Ignatieff [leaders of the governing Conservatives and opposition Liberals, respectively] are failing to take seriously the staggering human tragedy of the climate crisis.

"Hundreds of thousands of people die every year and millions more are displaced because Canada and other developed counties don't take action on climate change.

"The Global Humanitarian Forum warns that this is just the beginning of the human tragedy of climate chaos."

Monbiot's commentary in the Globe pointed, importantly, to the devastating consequences of the tar sands for the estimated 20,000 indigenous peoples who live in the vast geographic area being despoiled by the projects.

He said: "No one who has seen images of the oil-sands operations can quite believe what Canada is doing to its own land. No one can quite believe that this prosperous country is treating its aboriginal peoples like Nigeria treats the Ogoni of the Niger Delta.

"The oil sands are turning Canada into a harder, crueller place."

Greenpeace is calling for the Alberta tar sands projects to be shut down. That's a very different message than the one presented by Canada's pro-capitalist Green Party, the trade union-supported New Democratic Party, and by most environmental NGOs.

They call for a "moratorium" on future tar sands projects, which would leave untouched the massive, multi-billion projects already producing the dirty oil or that will come on stream in years ahead.

During a recent speaking tour to Canada, former US vice-president Al Gore also called for a shutdown of the tar sands.

Two other oil and natural gas-rich Canadian provinces — British Columbia and Saskatchewan — are also proceeding headlong into huge, "unconventional" (read dirty) oil and natural gas developments.

The bulk of dirty oil and gas produced in Canada is sold to the industrial/military complex in the United States.

[Roger Annis is an aerospace worker in Vancouver. He can be reached at]

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