THE MERRIAM-WEBSTER dictionary defines issue as “concern, problem.. As in climate change is an issue. As in it is a concern that there will be more droughts and heatwaves. Hurricanes will become stronger, and sea levels will rise by feet, not inches. And here in Kamloops, we brace for further devastating fires. Of course climate change is an issue. But it is also a fact.
Earlier this week, news broke that Elections Canada told groups in a training session that only official third parties could promote climate science. Suddenly, climate change was viewed as a partisan issue rather than as fact.
Elections Canada was derided across Canada and overseas for the statement.
Then yesterday (Aug 20), Elections Canada seemed to back down somewhat when its CEO issued a statement on its website that said in part: “The Act does not prevent individuals or groups from talking about issues or publishing information,” said Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault. However, if they spend $500 or more on certain activities, they will need to register with Elections Canada as third parties.”
So environmental groups can talk about climate change, as long as they register their activities.
But it still begs the question of whether Elections Canada should be controlling the discussion of facts at all.
We all have different stories of how we have experienced climate change.
Last week, I experienced climate change in a whole new way.
For 10 days, at the beginning of August, I paddled a canoe down the Keele River. The Keele flows east for more than 300 km from the mountains of the Yukon – Northwest Territory border to the Mackenzie River. For 300 plus km the river flows through wilderness. For 200 km, I could count on one hand even the smallest signs of mankind.
There are no roads, people or habitations. All there is are magnificent mountains, endless miles of stunted pine forests, and signs aplenty of caribou and moose.
But then, for the last 100 km, as the river is at lower elevations, until it reaches the Mackenzie River, the signs of mankind are non-stop.
For 100 km, for kilometer after kilometer, the hillsides above the river have collapsed. Great swathes of forest have slid down hillsides into piles of dead trees.
The permafrost has melted, and without the permafrost, the hillsides have lost their strength.
Worse, as the permafrost melts, additional methane is being released into the atmosphere and further exacerbating the warming of the climate.
There in the wilderness of the Keele River, miles from any human settlements, close to the Arctic Circle, climate change has come and wrecked destruction.
It seems from the comments on Twitter that many are appeased by Perrault’s statement.
For myself, it still feels like a damper is being put on science.
I really don’t know what Perrault means by issue. Is the discussion of the facts considered issues, or the way we want to tackle the problem? Do scientists have to stop discussing climate change during the election unless they register as third parties? Can only registered environmental groups discuss that this was the hottest July on record?
The issue of how we tackle climate change is what is up for debate this election. But the facts of climate change, and the costs it is wrecking is undebatable and should be free for individual and groups to discuss now and during the election.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.