Raise your voice
Wildfires are hitting Nova Scotia’s health-care system hard and forcing First Nations to evacuate in Alberta, where Danielle Smith is back as premier.
Bay du Nord, Canada’s first deepwater offshore oil project, is on hold, highlighting the fossil fuel industry's instability as the energy transition unfolds.
And that $3 billion that Canada’s biggest banks added to their Trans Mountain loans? Canada is backing it with a guarantee — meaning taxpayers could be on the hook.
This week, I’m bringing you another story from our Canada’s National Observer community. For Earth Day, I spoke with Clara, a CNO reader who’s helping to make Vancouver’s film industry more sustainable. The newsletter was a hit — I asked whether you wanted more stories of small climate victories, and 95 per cent of the folks who responded said yes. So, I’m back with another inspiring story from our CNO community. Read on to find out more!
And if you — or someone you know — has a small victory to share, please send me an email! I’d love to continue this series and highlight more of our CNO readers, and I always love hearing about all the incredible things you are up to. You can reach me at [email protected].
Have a great weekend and stay safe!
— Dana Filek-Gibson
Looking for more CNO reads? You can find them at the bottom of this email.
Speaking up for the planet
In a past life, Sheri Plummer toed the line. As a school administrator, she had to be careful not to cause a stir, especially in communities that were “not quite as amenable” to the environmental causes she supported, Sheri tells me over FaceTime this week.
But roughly a decade ago, when an oil pipeline threatened the coast she loves so much, Sheri decided to speak up. She’s been raising her voice ever since — and encouraging others in her community to join in.
It all began with Northern Gateway, a pipeline slated to run through B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest. The now-cancelled project would have raised tanker traffic in the waters next to this rare coastal temperate rainforest. Sheri thought people needed to know what was at stake. So she and a group of equally concerned citizens organized the Cycle to Protect Our Coast, a multi-day bike ride down the east coast of Vancouver Island, where Sheri and her husband Bill (who first tipped me off to Sheri’s advocacy work) live. In one community, the group sponsored a presentation on the pipeline project. In another, they met up with Green MP Elizabeth May. Their journey made the local news.
After four days, the group arrived in Victoria in the rain, and that was that. No one emerged from the Parliament Buildings — home to B.C.’s legislature — to meet them, “but we felt we had certainly accomplished something by speaking to folks at each of the communities on the way down,” Sheri says.
And so, Communities Protecting Our Coast (CPOC) was born. The group, which Sheri now helms with the help of a treasurer, is determined as ever to get people talking and thinking about how the climate crisis affects their own communities. CPOC doesn’t have much of a formal structure — there are no weekly meetings, for example. But over the years, Sheri and her collaborators have become skilled at bringing together neighbours of all political stripes to take action whenever they see an environmental threat that needs addressing. That’s no small feat in a world where climate change is increasingly labelled as an issue of concern solely for “progressives.”
“We have a whole spectrum of folks that might not think exactly the way we do,” she tells me. “But isn't that part of what it's all about?”
More than a decade after that first bike ride, CPOC has organized protests, film screenings, panel events and, once, a green exhibition to help local residents see how they might contribute to a cleaner world. The longer they’ve been around, the more they’ve gotten to know like-minded people in other communities, too, helping out their neighbours when environmental issues arise.
“It's kind of a new feeling for me to be much more of a collaborator, I guess, a co-operator, but if it brings more folks into thinking about the climate issues and taking action, that's good,” Sheri says.
CPOC’s latest effort was helping to organize a rally in support of residents near Baynes Sound just up the coast, where a pop-up shipbreaking operation — opposed by the K’ómoks First Nation, whose traditional territory includes the shipbreaking site, local residents and the regional government — continues to operate. Shipbreaking is a dangerous industry. Done without the proper safety precautions, it can expose people and environments to toxic chemicals. Alongside the Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound and Pacific Wild, CPOC helped to grab the attention of politicians like MP Gord Johns, who spoke at the rally, Sheri says.
Since then, local residents have also met with their MLA, Josie Osborne, she adds, and the day we spoke, Sheri was fresh from a roundtable meeting with B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman and her local MLA, Adam Walker, the day before. She says several people at that meeting — meant to raise environmental concerns in their own community — drew attention to the same shipbreaking operation up north, even though it’s taking place in another riding.
“We're good coastal neighbours,” she says. “We're going, ‘Hey, this may not be right where we are but we care about each other and we care about the whole coast.’”
As we spoke, Sheri talked about balancing the “dismal thinking” that can come with tackling climate change with hope. She finds a lot of joy in volunteering for NatureKidsBC, a non-profit that helps connect kids with the natural world. And last year, Sheri started Climate Hugs, a monthly section in her local newspaper that celebrates people in the community who are helping protect the planet. So far, she says, Climate Hugs has highlighted Fridays for Future activists, local streamkeepers, educators and people working in clean technology, among others. Each recipient also gets to make a donation to an environmental organization of their choosing, thanks to support from the Canadian Federation of University Women and Arrowsmith Naturalists.
“It's really taken off, and now the museum is taking it on,” she tells me. “I guess they're going to have a series of the Climate Hugs recipients speaking in the fall. So, it's been fun to see how you might start something, and then it takes off in other directions and other people take it on.”
When I ask Sheri for advice on how to get involved in climate action in your own community, she recommends joining local environmental and nature groups. There, she says, you’ll find “the kinds of folks that might be interested in taking it a step farther.”
Her other tip? Don’t make getting involved a chore. As a school administrator, “meetings were the anathema,” she says. That’s why she tries not to make CPOC too regimented. Instead, a core group of volunteers — folks who are equally as enthusiastic as Sheri — help organize CPOC’s events. After that, it’s all about spreading the word.
More CNO reads
DFO raids a seafood company, possibly over its own paperwork error. The federal fisheries department seized the catch of an Indigenous fish harvester Friday afternoon, alleging it was illegally caught, Rochelle Baker reports.
Forget herbicides. Sandblasting will whack those weeds. A weed expert in B.C. is testing out whether farmers can trade chemical-laden pesticides for pelting pesky plants with corn grits and crushed walnut husks, Marc Fawcett-Atkinson reports.
Here’s how climate change is fuelling fires in Eastern Canada. Cloe Logan breaks down the impact of not only a warmer climate and drier seasons but what hurricanes and human activity are doing to make the East Coast’s fire season worse.
The concentration of Canada’s bank ownership is “unrivalled in any advanced economy.” So says shareholder advocacy group Investors for Paris Compliance, which is urging regulators to stop RBC’s bid to buy HSBC Canada, John Woodside reports.
“The money’s not there.” Educators at First Nations schools in Ontario are struggling to scrape together the funding they need to keep the lights on, fix school buildings, run cultural programs and generally support students who face unique challenges as they attend school so far from home, Matteo Cimellaro reports.
Elizabeth May has returned. Can the same be said for her party? The long-serving MP is back at the helm of Canada’s Green Party, alongside co-leader Jonathan Pedneault. May sat down with Hot Politics host David McKie to talk about the Greens’ recent turmoil and what it will take to get back on track. Listen the podcast on our website, Apple podcasts or Spotify.
Fisheries on the West Coast may be vulnerable to money laundering. Former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German warns a lack of transparency makes them attractive targets for criminals looking to launder money, Rochelle Baker reports.
Ontario proposes a rule change that would allow more facilities where dogs learn to hunt live animals. Animal rights advocates fighting to stop the rule call the hunting facilities “cruel and vicious,” Abdul Matin Sarfraz reports.
The feds dig deep on public-private partnerships. Their answer to an order paper question reveals Ottawa is planning to bring the private sector in on a mostly electric rail megaproject in Canada’s busiest service corridor, Natasha Bulowski reports.
Mining companies are snapping up claims to develop Indigenous land. What happens when a nation doesn’t consent? An ethical investor warns provinces and mining companies ignore consultation with Indigenous Peoples at their own peril, as the oversight can set the stage for future conflict, court challenges and delays, Matteo Cimellaro reports.
Juliette Tapaquon's tragic story exposes health-care inequality. The 39-year-old member of Carry the Kettle First Nation was escorted out of a southern Saskatchewan hospital by police months before her death. Her mother is still fighting for accountability. Read the latest report from Surviving Hate.