By Kelly Anne Fay
“I’m crossing the country to join Canadians from all walks of life, coming together to protect the people and places we love. It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done.”
~ David Suzuki
I was one of the lucky people who got to attend the Blue Dot Tour when it stopped in Ottawa. The David Suzuki Foundation spearheaded this cross-country tour, intended to be a grass roots call to action – for Canada to once again be a leader on the issues of environment and social justice. The tour is part of a larger vision of bringing together communities, to push for a future where decision-making happens with our well-being in mind. Starting with towns and cities making municipal declarations, the ultimate goal is to have constitutional recognition of environmental rights and responsibilities.
The evening opened with a soulful First Nations reading by an Elder, followed by a traditional song that honoured “the mother”. It was a night of information interspersed with musical acts The Fortunate Ones, Kinnie Star and Sarah Harmer. David Boyd, an environmental lawyer and activist, enlightened us with many positive stories of countries that have embraced environmental rights as non-negotiable. Though talking about tough issues, the night was also filled with positivity and brilliant video clips such as the one that told us: “Don’t f*^$! with the bees!” #SaveTheBees instead.
From a local perspective, we heard from Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa, Graham Saul. With over twenty years of experience in the area of social and environmental justice, Mr. Saul believes that the grassroots approach advocated by the Blue Dot initiative remains the most effective way to bring about change.
Ending the evening, Dr. Suzuki was charming and personal in his delivery of the message of coming together at local levels to affect the change we want to see – and the realization of a network of communities making sustainable policy decisions to protect the people and places we love. At present, the right to a healthy environment is recognized in five provinces and territories; if we can see all provinces and territories involved, we will then be in a place to push for environmental rights and responsibilities as a part of our deeply cherished Canadian Constitution.
Canada used to be considered an environmental leader but now possesses one of the poorest environmental records of all industrialized nations; the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) tracks Canada’s progress on environmental issues in the areas of air, water, energy, biodiversity, waste, climate change, ozone depletion, agriculture, transportation and miscellaneous – and Canada now ranks a dismal 28 out of 29 (1). One effect can be seen in the over 20,000 premature deaths every year in Canada, attributed to air pollution (2). The Blue Dot movement is based on the concept that no one should suffer from these types of preventable environmental impacts.
The Blue Dot movement asks that all levels of government recognize our right to breathe fresh air, drink clean water and eat healthy food, with ultimate inclusion of this right in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This would mean that no matter the government in power, this fundamental right could never be undermined.
More than 110 countries around the world recognize their citizens’ right to live in a healthy environment. The Blue Dot movement wants to see Canada join this list. As the Blue Dot video states, it’s about “ordinary people coming together to take extraordinary action.”
You can check out and support the effort at Bluedot.ca and get the conversation going with #Bluedot… because our health depends on a healthy environment.