As the fog clears from my crystal ball I can see a press conference convened by the then Prime Minister of Canada in 2040, Mr. Jagrup Singh, as he takes the mike to issue an apology on behalf of 55 million Canadians and the federal governments of the previous five decades. It is an apology to the extinct wildlife of Canada that the mass immigration policies favoured by all political parties extinguished, policies kick-started by the Brian Mulroney government and most particularly by Immigration Minister Barbara MacDougall in the early 1990s. In retrospect, the one percent per year immigration growth target proved to be the death knell for farmland, wetlands and wildlife habitat in Canada.
Prime Minister Singh explained that the massacre occurred because governments of the day took the advice of environmental NGOs like the Sierra Club and the David Suzuki Foundation who advised them that “smart growth” strategies, that is, land use planning, would defend wildlife and farmland from any ecological consequences resulting from runaway population growth and economic development. We could invite the world here and have our cake and eat it too.
In fact, the most famous Canadian intellectual of the time, Dr.William Rees, was quoted as saying that there was “no necessary connection between immigration and biodiversity loss” and if immigrants were settled in dense urban zones strictly defined by planning boundaries then “Greenfield” acreages “would never be compromised.”
But Dr. Rees was proven wrong. We couldn’t have our cake and it eat it too. Not even at the beginning of the millennium. Smart growth was a failure from the start. Portland, Oregon was to be its poster child. Instead it was a showcase of its limitations. When the sheep-pen is bursting with people, the wolves are waiting in the wings to extend the urban boundaries and develop the surrounding greenbelts. And those who live in dense neighbourhoods have a footprint that reaches out to impact wildlife living in the hinterland. The residents of highrises consume more than twice the energy of rural residents. Ultimately it is not where Canadians live, but how many of them there are, that proves decisive for the environment. That was the autopsy report for Canada’s wildlife.
Prime Minister Singh’s apology followed a long Canadian tradition of mea culpas. First it was to the Japanese Canadians for their internment during the War. An apology plus cash. Then the Chinese Canadians got an apology plus cash for the Head Tax. The Liberal government of 2005 gave 2.5 million dollars to Italian Canadians who were negatively impacted by the War Measures Act during the Second World War. And then Ottawa apologized for the Komagata Maru incident. Then there was an apology for the treatment of First Nations children in residential schools. Finally in the year 2020 the Ukrainian Canadian community received an apology for the disgraceful internment of 5000 Canadians of Ukrainian descent during and after the First World War.
Now in 2040 Canada’s wildlife get an apology too. Posthumously.
Who is going to give us a posthumous apology, when we are the authors of our fate?