I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. The practice always struck me as little more than an excuse to put off self-improvement until next year. But now, with year’s end upon us, and solutions nowhere in sight for the host of problems that we face as a country and as a world, the moment may finally have arrived to exploit this silly annual tradition and appropriate its language for purposes of cynically presenting a false common cause with any blog readers who happen to be into that sort of thing.
With such ingeniously devious trickery in mind, I present to you, O blogosphere, three New Year’s resolutions for the great nation of Canada:
1. Fight Climate Change
The year 2012 marks the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. It also marks Canada’s official withdrawal from the treaty so as to avoid embarrassment for failing to live up to our legally binding emissions targets.
Perhaps not all the blame can be placed at the feet of the Conservative government that has ruled our country since 2006, as the Liberal government that preceded it was infamous for its inaction on the climate file. But current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in his slavish allegiance to Big Tar and the climate distorting effects thereof, has proven himself to be just about the most environmentally unenlightened leader one could ask for short of an all-out climate change denier.
Here’s hoping that in 2013, we start holding our representatives to higher standards.
2. Tackle Poverty
I realize that worldwide anti-austerity protests and the birth of the Occupy movement all took place in 2011, the year when equality finally made its long overdue comeback in the North American public’s consciousness. But good ideas do not come with expiry dates.
It is unforgivable, in an industrialized country, in an era of almost unprecedented material wealth, for 150,000 to 300,000 Canadians to be homeless, or for one in seven Canadian children to live in poverty. And horrendous though these injustices are, they are dwarfed by the heartbreaking extremes of destitution that exist in the developing world, symptoms of unconscionable global inequality.
In 1969, former Prime Minister Lester Pearson famously recommended that industrialized countries devote a minimum of 0.7 percent of their national incomes to foreign aid, a Canadian idea that has become a widely embraced international standard. Four decades later, Canada’s foreign aid level is at 0.3 percent.
This is not acceptable. In 2013, Canada needs to improve its performance on poverty both at home and abroad. And we have to be able to afford it. An adult conversation on taxes is urgently needed.
3. Respect First Nations
Most Canadians benefit from the historic legacy of colonialism. This does not mean that we consciously choose this legacy for ourselves, nor does it mean that Canadians today are all bad people, but this legacy is a fact that deserves to be acknowledged. The country was founded upon the massacre, assimilation, and cultural genocide of the people who first lived here, and to this day their descendents suffer disproportionately from poverty, unemployment, incarceration, addiction, health problems, and suicide.
In the context of this crisis, Prime Minister Harper is making it clear that he cannot be bothered to meet face-to-face with Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence, as her hunger strike is set to enter its fourth week. Her courageous actions, meanwhile, have inspired Idle No More, a First Nations-led cross-country protest movement against the government’s recent omnibus legislation, which activists claim dismantles many long-established measures to protect the natural world, thereby violating the treaty rights of the people who depend upon it.
Indigenous communities are always on the front line of fights against environmental destruction, and all Canadians owe them unlimited gratitude for the sacrifices they make on our behalf. If our government will not respect the First Peoples of this country, then at the very least, regular Canadians of all backgrounds need to stand together with them in the Idle No More movement.
In 2013, we need to actively demonstrate our support for their cause. We need to accept it as our own cause too.