Since Europeans first arrived in North America, the history of Canada has been one of exploitation and greed. Beavers were among the first victims of a ruthless no-holds-barred attack on the natural world. Beavers were hunted to the edge of extinction, with beavers completely extirpated from many regions. Fortunately for beavers, the craze for felted beaver-pelt hats fell out of fashion in Europe just in time to save them. Beavers have been able to stage a comeback. Fortunately for us, too, as beavers are a keystone species whose constructions are essential to providing vital habitat for many other species.
Beavers build wetlands. We, on the other hand, recklessly destroy them. In Ontario, over 70 per cent of southern Ontario’s large inland wetlands (over 90% in some regions) have been lost, drained or converted to other land uses, and this loss continues at an alarming rate.
Nothing much has changed in Canada since the early days of European colonization. Canadians don’t respect their land. Canada has one of the worst environmental records in the developed world. Consider this passage from Dr. David R. Boyd:
That Canada has become an international laggard in environmental policy and practice is now an incontrovertible fact. In 2009, the Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th out of 17 wealthy industrialized nations on environmental performance. In 2010, researchers at Simon Fraser University ranked Canada 24th out of 25 OECD nations on environmental performance.
Yale and Columbia ranked Canada 37th in their 2012 Environmental Performance Index, far behind green leaders such as Sweden, Norway, and Costa Rica, and trailing major industrial economies including Germany, France, Japan, and Brazil. Worse yet, our performance is deteriorating, as we rank 52nd in terms of progress over the 2000-2010 period. Even Prime Minister Harper has candidly admitted, “Canada’s environmental performance is, by most measures, the worst in the developed world. We’ve got big problems.”
You can read the full account linked here: Little Green Lies: Prime Minister Harper and Canada’s Environment.
Things have only gotten worse since the Harper Conservatives came to power. Through a series of omnibus bills (C-38, C-45) the Conservatives have removed what little protection once existed. The goal is to allow industry, especially Big Oil, full and unencumbered access to all and any resources they fancy. Canada has effectively become a subsidiary of TransCanada and Embridge and the oil companies they serve as cronyism and monopoly capitalism are given free rein.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, we now have the Ontario Liberals following the Conservative lead. Ontario’s Endangered Species Act is being rewritten and you can bet that what the government euphemistically terms ‘streamlining’ isn’t being done for the benefit of any species but humans. You can read more at the Sierra Club Canada website, linked here.
When land isn’t protected, when vital habitat is destroyed, endangered species have nowhere to go. Extinction is forever.