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Farley Mowat, acclaimed Canadian author, dead at 92 May 7, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Art, Literature and Culture, Canada, Environment.
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Roger’s note: Farley Mowat was indeed one of the great Canadians of our time.  He was a one of a kind genuine character, and this was reflected both in his writing as well as his public appearances.  He was a great warrior against injustice to both human and non-human animals, an outspoken critic of the execeses of capitalism and imperialism.  For his views and his labors he was denied entry to the United States, which to my mind is a proud badge of honour.  I have read only his major works, and I was most fond of  his two books on the life and work of Dian Fossey and his autobiographic, “My Father’s Son.”  I compare Farley Mowat to Mark Twain and Jack London.  If you haven’t yet discovered his writing, you are in for a real treat.  Canada will mourn the loss of a national treasure.

 

Outspoken writer of 45 books, including the popular Never Cry Wolf, was famed for his unwavering, fearless focus on protecting nature.

By: Dianne Rinehart Book Reporter, Published on Wed May 07 2014

Acclaimed Canadian author and outspoken environmentalist Farley Mowat died Tuesday at 92 — only days shy of his 93rd birthday.

His family has not issued a statement, but his brother John requested privacy for the family, while the author’s website noted: “To allow for Farley’s family and friends to mourn, book sales will be suspended until further notice.”

The author, whose famous books on nature such as Never Cry Wolf delighted readers for five decades, was still active in campaigns to protect nature in his beloved country right up to the end. In fact he was recently quoted on CBC’s The Current, complaining in his trademark indignant and energetic manner about a plan to increase Wi-Fi service in Canada’s national parks.

“My thoughts can be expressed quite simply. I think it is a disastrous, quite stupid, idiotic concept and should be eliminated immediately,” he said.

“I have very strong feelings that national parks, provincial parks, any kind of parks, that are theoretically set up to provide for the protection of nature, in some form or another, should be respected absolutely and ultimately, and human beings should be kept out of them as much as possible.”

Mowat was never one to back away from controversy — or the work he loved.

Acclaimed Canadian author Farley Mowat has died at 92. This photograph was taken at his home in Port Hope in 2012 when he was profiled in the Toronto Star.

Vince Talotta / Toronto Star Order this photo

Acclaimed Canadian author Farley Mowat has died at 92. This photograph was taken at his home in Port Hope in 2012 when he was profiled in the Toronto Star.

A 2012 Star profile of the author of 45 books — from People of the Deer (1952), to his memoirs Otherwise (2008) and Eastern Passage(2010) — described him as still rising at 6:30 a.m. to walk his dog and then get down to writing after enjoying breakfast with his wife, Claire.

“By 8 he’s writing, driven by the passion, the hot blood, the rage and the awe of the wonders of the natural world that have always enlivened Mowat’s adventure yarns,” late Star journalist Greg Quill wrote.

Mowat’s friends, authors Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, told the Star in an email: “We are deeply sorry to hear this sad news. Farley was a great and iconic Canadian who understood our environmental problems decades before others did. He loved this country with a passion and threw himself into the fray — in wartime as well, also with a passion. He was so good-natured and down to earth. We will miss him very much.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Wednesday on Parliament Hill: “I’d like to start by reflecting on the sad news that we just learned that Farley Mowat has just passed away. He was a family friend from my childhood; he came up to Harrington Lake a few times. He got along great with my father. And actually, he gave us a Labrador retriever we called Farley, who had a penchant for running after porcupines, as I remember.

“But Mr. Mowat was obviously a passionate Canadian, who shaped a lot of my generation growing up with his books and he will be sorely missed.”

Mowat was also godfather to Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s 22-year-old daughter, Victoria Cate.

“He was family,” May said as she absorbed the news of his death, which came as a surprise to her. She had been planning to call Mowat on Monday to wish him a happy 93rd birthday.

The two old friends spoke about a month ago, and May said Mowat was still brimming with energy and ideas — and his usual outrage against the Conservative government.

Mowat was born in Belleville, Ont., in 1921, the son of a librarian, and grew up in Belleville, Richmond Hill, Trenton, Windsor, Saskatoon and Toronto. At the age of 13 the budding environmentalist founded a newsletter, Nature Lore, and wrote a weekly column on birds for the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix.

He served in the Second World War from 1940 to 1945, taking part in the invasion of Sicily and later mainland Italy before working as an intelligence officer in the Netherlands in 1945.

Through his writing about nature and animals, he became an ardent environmentalist.

“For the last 25 years he’s been the international chair of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and I’ve been on the board of the Farley Mowat Foundation,” Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, told the Star by phone.

The society even named a ship after Farley.

Watson, who last spoke to Mowat two weeks ago, was astonished at the news of his death. “He was upbeat. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with him. It’s very sudden.”

He said thousands of people around the world have become environmental activists through reading Mowat’s books. “He was a very close friend.”

Mowat’s books have sold more than 14 million copies in 20 languages in 60-plus countries.

They have “defined the Canadian wilderness for readers all over the world — the landscape, the isolation, the weather, animal and native life — with a heightened sense of reality no other writer has achieved over the past six decades,” Quill wrote after visiting Mowat at his Port Hope home.

Mowat won many awards for his writing over the decades: he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal in 1956, the Governor General’s Award for Lost in the Barrens in 1956, the Leacock Medal for Humour for The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float in 1970, the Order of Canada in 1981 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare in 2003.

Five of his books were turned into feature or TV movies: The Snow Walker (2003), Lost in the Barrens (1990), Lost in the Barrens II: The Curse of the Viking Grave (1992), Never Cry Wolf (1983) and A Whale for the Killing (1981).

While he was much loved, he also had his critics. The now defunct Saturday Night magazine published a 1996 exposé, “A Real Whopper,” about him written by former Star writer John Goddard, questioning the authenticity of Mowat’s stories.

“For years I felt the Toronto media were out to bury me alive,” Mowat told the Star in 2012, referring to latter-day efforts in the literary community to reassess his work according to journalistic standards of accuracy and truth.

“That was never my game,” he said. “I took some pride in having it known that I never let facts get in the way of a good story. I was writing subjective non-fiction all along.”

Despite the criticism, Ronald Wright, a historian, novelist and essayist who has studied Mowat’s works, told the Star in 2012, “he has always gone his own way, a powerful defender of the oppressed and mistreated — from Canada’s native peoples to the many other beings with which we share this Earth. . . . Like the literary reportage of George Orwell and Ryszard Kapuscinski, which has drawn similar attacks, Farley Mowat’s work is loved worldwide and will outlive its critics.”

Mowat’s immense archives — they take up 350 boxes — are housed at McMaster University. Rick Stapleton, an archivist who worked closely with Mowat, was also shocked by the writer’s sudden death.

“He was in good spirits when I talked to him last week,” Stapleton said. “He said he had a clean bill of health and was heading down to his summer home in Cape Breton for the summer.”

Stapleton said the archives hold at least 100 letters from children thanking him for his books.

Mowat leaves behind his wife of 56 years, Claire, a novelist, memoirist and author of illustrated children’s books, and two children, David and Sandy.

With a file from Susan Delacourt

Rallies Across Canada Ask Canadians to ‘Stand Up for Science’ September 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Science and Technology.
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Roger’s note: I loved it when I read that at one of the rallies of scientists you would hear this chant: “What do we want? / Peer review! /  When do we want it? /  Now!”

 

 

New advocacy group fighting for the survival of public science

 

by Natascia Lypny

The future of science in Canada is grim, warns a new advocacy group fighting for its survival.

Last July’s Death of Evidence rally at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. On Monday September 16 there will be a nation-wide follow-up on this protest against the Harper government’s cutbacks in science and its efforts to muzzle scientists. Scientists and politicians will speak at the Dalhousie Student Union Building at 1 pm. (Photo: Richard Webster)

Evidence for Democracy, a national non-partisan group comprised largely of scientists, journalists and concerned citizens, is asking the federal government to reverse what it sees as disconcerting trends in how science has been treated in Canada since the Conservative Party took power in 2006.

On Monday, it will host Stand Up for Science events across Canada — including Halifax — to bring attention to the deterioration of federally funded research, the dearth of evidence-based policy decision-making, and broken communication between scientists and the public.

“This isn’t just about scientists and our careers, but really what we’re trying to get across is the fact that science really does matter to all Canadians, that we all have a vested interest in keeping science healthy in Canada,” says Katie Gibbs, executive director of Evidence for Democracy.

A recent PhD recipient from the University of Ottawa’s biology department, Gibbs helped organize last July’s Death of Evidence rally at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The mock funeral shed light on what was at the time fresh wounds to the scientific field.

Last April, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Nunavut lost its funding, closing the doors of a centre critical for the collection of data on air quality, climate change and the ozone.

The following month, the federal government announced it would cease funding the Experimental Lakes Area, a large operation that monitored everything from ecological systems to climate change.

The month after that, the government passed Bill C-38, also known as the “omnibus bill,” over one quarter of which had direct impacts on science-based decision making at the federal level. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was ditched and its agency crippled; the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act was nixed; the Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act and Species at Risk Act were weakened; several environmental monitoring programs were killed; the list goes on.

“You’d be hard pressed to find somebody that’s not affected by the cutbacks,” says Prof. Thomas Duck, who works with the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University.

He’s also a former PEARL researcher and will be participating in Halifax’s Stand Up for Science. On top of seeing his Arctic studies crumble, Duck has seen much of his high-tech laser radar work in Halifax disappear, and his beloved colleagues leave the country for opportunities elsewhere.

It’s not just the lack of funding that has dissuaded them; Duck, who has been vocal about the cutbacks, says the government has muzzled scientists, breaking off critical communication lines with the media and the general public.

Although cuts to scientific research have occurred across many fields, Duck and Gibbs agree that environmental science has been the hardest hit.

“This government certainly hasn’t hidden the fact that one of the goals of their mandate is to make Canada an energy super player, and it’s suspected that a lot of the cutting of environmental monitoring was to help expand oil development without having to run into science saying that that’s not good,” says Gibbs.

Cuts to environmental monitoring have also led to a lack of publicly available evidence to inform discussions across Canada on the oil sands, says Duck.

“It appears now that our current government would like to be governing in the dark,” he says. “They would rather develop their policies based on something other than evidence. How they’re going to do that is anyone’s guess.”

The ramifications can already be felt on the ground, says Duck. In Nova Scotia, a local Environment Canada team that tracked mercury levels in the province was eliminated, potentially endangering the ecosystem and residents.

Duck says Environment Canada “is a really damaged organization” that could take a “generation or more” to rebuild.

Outside of the environmental field, Gibbs says Canada is reeling from the 2010 decision to eliminate the mandatory long form census. This May, when the first results of the National Household Survey since the change were released, statisticians lamented a lack of confidence in the numbers.

Whether they agree with these changes or not, Duck says it is difficult for provinces to counteract them. Many, like Nova Scotia, have little money for scientific research funding, a budgetary item historically taken up by the feds. However, Duck says provinces can impose their own safeguards against changes to environmental protection policy by putting their own regulatory acts and bodies into action.

Gibbs says Stand Up for Science serves as a message to the federal government that now is the time to correct some of its decisions before its too late.

The Halifax event, featuring Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie, will take place at the Dalhousie Student Union Building (6163 University Ave.) on  Sept. 16 at 1 p.m.  Scientific research projects by Dalhousie faculty and students will also be on display.

Statement: Canada-China Investment Agreement October 26, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Economic Crisis.
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Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada
House of Commons October 24, 2012

Mr. Speaker, here is your 60 second briefing on the Canada-China investment treaty, the most significant treaty of its kind since NAFTA.

I requested a technical briefing from the Minister of International Trade on September 27. I got it one hour ago, so I can update folks.

It confirms that Chinese state-owned enterprises would have the right to complain and charge for damages for decisions in Canada by municipal, provincial, territorial or federal governments. It confirms this treaty will apply till 2027 for a minimum, and potentially till 2042, and China can complain of anything it feels is arbitrary.

It will be of greater benefit to Chinese investors in Canada than to Canadian investors in China.

No province has been asked if it approved of this agreement.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister asked that members of this place should acquaint themselves with the treaty. I have. It threatens our security, our sovereignty and our democracy. Yet this 60 seconds will be the only briefing this House gets.

Canada Turns Hard Right, to Israel’s Benefit May 8, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Democracy, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: as the article below points out in contradiction to its title, Canada itself did not turn right; rather, 40% of those who voted, and 24% of those eligible to vote, cast their ballot for the ultra-right Harper Conservatives.  60% of those who voted cast their ballots for one of the four other parties (NDP, Liberal, Bloc Quebec, or Green).  Such is the nature of Canadian “democracy” that the corporate dominated war-mongering, worker hating Tories have a carte blanche do destroy what is left of the social safety net, allow for the continued deterioration of the environment, and support war-mongering dictatorial governments around the world.  It is a (literally) dying SHAME.

The letter that follows the article, from Council of Canadians Chairperson, Maude Barlow, outlines the damage the Tories are set to wreak with their new won “majority” government.

 
Saturday 7 May 2011
by: Jim Miles, The Palestine Chronicle

On May 02, 2011, Canadian electors voted in a majority government for the former minority government of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party. The Conservatives won 167 out of 308 possible seats, although statistically, because of Canada’s “first past the post” system of electing representatives, they did not receive a majority of the “popular” vote. With a voter turnout of 61 per cent, and the popular vote of 40 per cent for the Conservatives, only 24 per cent of Canadians elected the new government.

The main issue turned out to be “stability” – not economic stability, not world stability, not peaceful stability, but stability in that Canadians did not want to have to another election for as long as the mandate lasted, which in Canada is four years.

The opposition for the first time ever is the New Democratic Party, a left wing party that made huge gains in the province of Quebec and smaller gains in other areas. And for the first time ever, the Green party leader, Elizabeth May, was elected in her riding, a singular counterpoint to what will become the Conservative government’s ignoring issues concerning the environment.

Policies

There are significant differences in domestic policy that do not have an impact on the rest of the world. The main thrust is similar to the U.S. policies of less government, more privatization of health care and education (mainly under provincial control, but funded in part by the federal government.)

Canada’s foreign policy will be affected, as the Conservatives will now turn hard to the right and follow if not increase the rhetoric and actions used by the U.S. in its foreign policy. Canada has generally followed the U.S. lead with some minor diversionary arguments to help Canadians feel that they are an independent country. However, most of Canada’s economy is tied to the U.S. economy, and most of its foreign policy reflects that of the U.S.

Environment

Canada advertises itself as a green country, the great outdoors to come and explore, with vast regions of wilderness and adventure. On environmental issues the government is distinctly on the side of the large corporations, meaning there may be some lip service paid to the environment, but the real thrust will be towards resource extraction for other countries and corporations profit and benefit. The Harper Conservatives have argued that they are “aligning” our policies with those of the U.S., essentially meaning that any current environmental laws will tend to be ignored, removed, or watered down.

The Alberta tar sands are the biggest most obvious issue. Requiring huge amounts of water and other energy (natural gas) in order to extract the oil residues, the tar sands have become the oil corporations best ‘safe’ reserves. After the lengthy sand scrubbing process, much of the tar sands by-products are then transported to the U.S. after being reconstituted into a form of crude. Under the NAFTA agreement (free trade between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada) the U.S. government has first rights to the oil before Canada gets any remaining share under circumstances of oil shortages. Mexico at least was smart enough to protect its oil resources.

Foreign Policy Militarization

Foreign policy for Canada, as witnessed by the tar sands and NAFTA, is very much in line with U.S. foreign policy. In the first part of the Twentieth Century, Canada followed Great Britain’s global imperial lead, following on their imperial history of creating Canada to protect its own interests at the expense of the French, the nascent U.S. empire, and of course the indigenous population of Canada. As the U.S. became Canada’s lead trading partner and the global imperial leader, Canada followed, often projecting an image of the peaceable kingdom, but more frequently acting in full support of U.S. initiatives. (see Yves Engler, The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Fernwood/RED Publishing, 2009)

Currently Canada’s military supports U.S. actions in the Indian Ocean, Afghanistan, Haiti, more recently in Libya, and in Palestine/Israel. The Harper government is intent on purchasing sixty five of the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter plane. Canada has no need of this plane unless it intends to support U.S. actions overseas, as there is nobody in the world capable of attacking Canada in a manner requiring Canada’s use of the F-35. Its main beneficiary, apart from the support given to U.S. foreign policy actions, is to the corporate businesses that make the fighter. Many Canadian companies are complicit with U.S. companies in the manufacture of armaments and technological items used for warfare. These companies will benefit financially from the government largesse in purchasing these weapons.

The price is huge, especially when considered against the squabbling about the mere hundreds of millions of dollars accounted for health care and education. The original sticker price of $75 million per plane is indicated to really be much greater, as “Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer…estimated in March that the sticker price for the radar-evading plane would be more like $148 million apiece.” To maintain the planes, a “new Pentagon report suggests Canada could pay up to $24 billion over 30 years to maintain 65 planes.” (CBC.ca, April 26, 2011). The total cost – and these costs as witnessed by U.S. experience always tend to increase even more significantly than projected – of $33 billion is a wonder when the government is calling for fiscal restraint.

What it really amounts to is the slow militarization of the Canadian economy in line with the U.S. economy, as that is where the major manufacturing profits are made in this era of market financialization. It also suits Harper’s agenda of creating “courageous warriors” for projecting Canada’s power on the international scene.

Palestine/Israel

That power is fully aligned with U.S. power and initiatives. Canada has always supported Israel in its fight against the Palestinians, even more so at times than the U.S. government. Canada was the first, before the U.S., to denounce the democratic election of Hamas in Palestinian elections in 2006. Canadian ignorance refuses to recognize that by drawing the ‘extremists’ into power, there is a necessity to moderate and accommodate policies in order to both retain power and to provide services for the citizens. This has been well evidenced by situations in Ireland, and South Africa as the best examples, but also is show with the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon, who have never attacked another country.

The Canadian government creates the same fear of terrorism as the U.S. The Palestinians are considered intruders into their own land, while the Israeli’s are granted their supposed god-given right to inhabit the land regardless of who resided there most recently and over a long historical period. Canada supports the Israeli line of “we are the victims” while the Palestinians are the ‘perpetrators’ of all the violence.

The world can expect, now that the government has a majority, more policies that support both U.S. and Israeli initiatives around the world, economically and militarily – recognizing that the two are well entwined. They may not be broadcast as such, but worded in more carefully phrased rhetoric or rhetoric disguised in a similar manner as the U.S. freedom and democracy agendas are phrased in the U.S.

Generally, the trend for Canadian foreign policy will be a strengthening of its supposedly independent hard line approach to ‘terror’ in support of U.S. policies. Canada is not strictly a sycophantic follower of the U.S. as it inherited a great deal of its underlying ethos from the British imperial system. Canadians pretend to be much more worldly and compassionate, but with the Conservatives receiving only 24 per cent of the actual voting populations support, what is really reflected is a comfortable complacency with the status quo combined with an underlying willful ignorance of some of the main global problems of today.

- Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.

LETTER FROM MAUDE BARLOW, COUNCIL OF CANADIANS CHAIRPERSON


Friends,

The 2011 federal election was historic in many ways and most of us are still trying to process the outcome. It is crucial that we pause to reflect on its meaning and think carefully about the next steps we must take.

While it is true that the remarkable surge in support for the NDP means a more dependable progressive voice in the House of Commons than we have had for years, it is equally true that the most socially and economically right-wing government perhaps in Canadian history has just won a substantial majority in the House and – along with their control of the Senate – is now free to implement its agenda even if every member of every other party votes against it.

The Harper Conservatives are now free to:

- cut corporate taxes and transfer payments;

- go after public services, public sector workers and public pensions;

- allow the growth of private health services to undermine Medicare in the lead-up to the expiry of the Canada Health Accord in 2014;

- vigorously promote more unregulated free trade agreements like the Canada–European Union CETA, that will drastically curtail the democratic rights of local governments to promote local economic development, local resource sovereignty, or local food production;

- kill the Canadian Wheat Board;

- fast track the security perimeter deal with the United States that will violate the civil liberties of Canadians and give away crucial pieces of our sovereignty;

- kill the long-gun registry;

- continue to decimate environmental regulations, under fund source water protection, promote dirty energy projects such as the tar sands, gas fracking and Arctic oil and gas drilling, while ignoring the rights of nature;

- and spend our money on military equipment and prisons we don’t need and don’t want.

This means we at the Council of Canadians and civil society in general have our work cut out for us as never before.

However, there are important signs of hope. The Harper Conservatives do not have the support of the majority of Canadians. Almost 40% of eligible Canadian voters did not cast a ballot in the election and of those who did, fully 60% voted for parties other than the Conservatives. This means that over two-thirds of Canadians who were eligible to vote did not cast a vote for the Harper agenda.

As well, the presence of an opposition with a clear progressive agenda on trade, social and environmental justice and public services will create the opportunity for unparalleled (until now) collaboration between Members of Parliament and progressive civil society. While we have had good working relationships with some Liberal MPs on some issues, how frustrating it was to see the Liberals side with the Conservatives on signing trade deals with corrupt and criminal regimes in Peru and Colombia. Further, the election of the first Green Party member, Elizabeth May, will open the door for an environmental debate and dialogue too long missing from the House of Commons.

And, as Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew reminds us, we have fought battles against both majority and minority governments before and won. Unfair deals such as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the Security and Prosperity Partnership were defeated by popular protest. Unfair trade deals are fought and won outside Parliament, in the court of public opinion, he points out. It was also public pressure that stopped Canadian troops from being sent to Iraq. Similarly, no matter how much Stephen Harper dislikes public health care (and is on record in his preference for private health services), he can go only so far in his dismantling of Medicare, so deeply loved and fiercely protected is this most important of Canadian social programs. And let Harper try to open the doors for commercial export of our water and see how far he gets!

In other words, this country and its values still belongs to the people. As our director of development, Jamian Logue, says, “Neither our democratic responsibilities nor our democratic opportunities ended on May 2. Democracy is a 24/7 pursuit. We have the right and responsibility to act beyond the ballot box.”

What is needed now is a coming together of progressive forces in civil society and the labour movement as never before in our country’s history. Social and trade justice groups, First Nations people, labour unions, women, environmentalists, faith-based organizations, the cultural community, farmers, public health care coalitions, front line public sector workers, and many others must come together to protect and promote the values that the majority of Canadians hold dear. And we must work with, and demand the active representation of, the opposition forces in the House of Commons. In particular, the NDP must oppose the Harper agenda with the full weight of its new power and the Liberals must redeem themselves by working alongside the NDP in defending the interests of the people of Canada.

As the old union saying goes, “Don’t mourn – organize!”. The Harper majority is unfortunately really due to our “first past the post” system. (An American friend writes that he and his colleagues are having trouble understanding how Stephen Harper is Prime Minister with way less than half the votes in Canada. This reminds us of the urgency to promote proportional representation.)

But support for the Harper agenda is paper-thin, as most Canadians do not share the values of this agenda. This then is our task: to work hard over the next four years to protect the laws, rights and services that generations of Canadians have fought for from being dismantled; fight the corporate-friendly, anti-environmental, security obsessed agenda that will come at us; and prepare the way for the kind of government in four years that does in fact, express the will of the people – one with an agenda of justice and respect, of care for the earth, of the more equitable sharing of our incredible bounty.

This will be hard work and will take a great deal of courage and commitment. But really, what more important thing do we have to do?

Maude Barlow

Chairperson

The Council of Canadians

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