The title of the Canadian national anthem has never seemed as apt as it does now. But rather than the admiration and awe that the “O” is meant to inspire, Canadians and the rest of the world are more likely to utter “Oh, Canada” whilst shaking their heads in disapproval.
2011 will not be remembered as a shining year in Canada’s national history. Among the things we might like to forget we could file: New crime legislation based on principles that have no evidence in favour of their efficacy. A northern community to whom federal and provincial government denied aid until the spotlight of the international media was too embarrassing to endure. The proposal of not one, but two oil pipelines through some of the little remaining pristine wilderness on Earth. The continued development of the Alberta tar sands in the face of emissions targets that call for the discontinuation of fossil fuels in the coming decades. And, most recently, the distinction of being the first nation in the world to formally withdraw from the Kyoto protocol.
The dawn of a new year brings the potential to right the wrongs of the past and proceed into the future with hope and improved knowledge, but from where I stand it is much easier to feel dread. Although movements like the Arab Spring and Occupy have come to symbolize diminishing apathy on the part of the average person, the average Canadian still refuses to acknowledge the lack of foresight currently being demonstrated by his/her elected officials. This is evident in the election of a Conservative majority government that, in living up to its campaign promises, will likely set the Canadian environmental movement back a decade or more.
While the future direction of the country remains unclear, the question becomes what should we as citizens do as our country’s reputation is continually derailed? It seems that, at least for the next few years, we are left to accept the fate of our electoral choice. In the face of this, though, we must continue to voice environmental concerns. As discouraging as things currently are, the night is often darkest just before the dawn. I have faith that information and environmentally responsible action will continue to spread. I just hope that it is enough to offset the current direction of Canadian politics.