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We are Canadian. We are all villains now. 

The world rightly sees Canada as the villain at the Copenhagen climate change talks

"O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!" Robbie Burns composed those immortal lines before the advent of today's powerful international media. These global village chroniclers are certainly giving Canadians the gift of seeing ourselves---and the picture's not pretty. Apparently we're seen as corrupt villains bent on derailing efforts to head off the looming climate change disasters that threaten flood and fire. Take British journalist George Monbiot, for example. His columns for The Guardian are deadly heat-seeking missives syndicated all over the world.

"So, here I am," Monbiot wrote recently from Toronto, "watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petrostate." He went on to describe how Canada abandoned its commitment under the Kyoto Accord to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, increasing them instead by at least 26 percent over 1990 levels. "Until now I believed that the nation which has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States," Monbiot continued. "I was wrong. The real villain is Canada."

Monbiot then chronicled Canada's efforts to prevent fellow members of the Commonwealth from adopting a resolution calling for binding greenhouse gas emissions targets. He reported that environmental groups presented Canada with a Fossil of the Year Award in recognition of our efforts to disrupt the December 2008 climate talks in Poland. That same month Germanwatch, a non-profit organization based in Bonn, rated Canada's record on its climate change performance index the second-worst among the world's 60 richest countries. Yes, we ranked 59th---just ahead of Saudi Arabia. Finally, Monbiot predicted Canada would do everything in its power to wreck the current climate talks in Copenhagen.

But why would such a peaceable, decent bunch like us try to do a shitty thing like that? Monbiot gives two reasons. The Canadian government, he writes, "is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee's tea party." He's referring to the antics of our Pinocchio prime minister and the ultra right-wingers around him. As the leader of CRAP, the Canadian Alliance Reform Party, Stephen Harper signed a 2002 fundraising letter pleading for money to block the Kyoto Accord. He called it "a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations." Nowadays, he pretends he cares about climate change, but our emissions are predicted to rise to 44 percent above 1990 levels in 2010 and the chimpanzee tea party in Ottawa has done nothing to curb them.

Monbiot's second reason tells us why. The Harperites have their heads buried deeply in Alberta's tar sands. Current plans call for levelling 3,000 square kilometres of boreal forest, strip-mining the land to recover the tar-like bitumen and shipping it off unrefined to the fading American empire. It's a key part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, the corporate-driven plan for a fully integrated North American economy. Thanks to the tar sands, Canada is already the single largest oil exporter to the US and if things go as planned, we'll contribute more than a third of Uncle Sam's oil.

Alberta journalist Andrew Nikiforuk points out that Canada is now one of the highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. "The tar sands industry burns enough natural gas every day to heat four million homes," Nikiforuk reports in his 2008 book Tar Sands. More recently, he completed a report for Greenpeace Canada which points out that by 2020, "emissions from the tar sands will rival those of many large European nations." No wonder then, that as the Canadian government tries to block climate change agreements to protect tar sands development, we're seen as villains---or as Monbiot writes, an "immediate threat to the global effort to sustain a peaceful and stable world."

We would do well to heed our foreign critics. As Robbie Burns wrote, seeing ourselves as others see us, "wad frae monie a blunder free us."

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Vol 26, No 34
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