By Winnie Hwo, Climate Change Campaigner

More than a decade ago, Chinese New Year was mostly an immigrant affair in Canada. New Canadian families from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and other parts of Asia would typically celebrate at home or in Chinese restaurants in Vancouver's Chinatown and Richmond, or in Markham, Richmond Hill and Scarborough in the Greater Toronto Region.

Today, Chinese Canadians no longer hold the monopoly on Chinese New Year celebrations. It has now become an intercultural festival for all Canadians to share and enjoy. At the David Suzuki Foundation, the Year of the Water Dragon, which only comes once every 60 years, is shaping up to be a busy year of public engagement, especially with Canada's Chinese language media like Sing Tao Daily and Fairchild Media Group.

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On the weekend before the Year of the Water Dragon was ushered in, David Suzuki joined Fairchild Radio for a busy morning of climate and pipeline talks with a live audience. The timing for the hour-long discussion could not have been better, as the Water Dragon personifies energy and creativity, and Suzuki's message for the Chinese Canadian audience was to maximize the two key elements in the water dragon to safeguard our natural environment, especially our pristine waterways in the North.

Suzuki shrugged off the time constraint and focused on the impact the Northern Gateway project could have on fresh seafood and jobs for Canadians. The dual pipelines would run through the Great Bear Rainforest, carrying bitumen to a port where it would be loaded onto supertankers and transported through Douglas Channel, a waterway with strong currents and unpredictable weather, which also produces some of the best seafood in the world.

"Fresh seafood is a major attraction for Chinese Canadians and Chinese visitors to Canada," Suzuki told the Chinese-speaking audience. "Guess where the best seafood in British Columbia comes from? It comes from the northern coastal region!"

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Bruce Nip (Radio Operator at Fairchild Radio), Dr. David Suzuki, Koo Sai Wing (Fairchild Television Camera Operator), Fenella Sung (Fairchild Radio Live Talk host)

As for China's involvement with the Alberta tar sands and Northern Gateway project, Suzuki's message was that although China is investing heavily in developing renewable energy, it is also the world's top greenhouse gas emitting country. If the Chinese people want to enjoy fresh water, soil and air like Canadians, China must work harder at phasing out the use of fossil fuels.

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Harrison Ha (Sing Tao Daily photophrapher), James Fung (reporter), David Suzuki

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Sing Tao Report with Peter Robinson, CEO of David Suzuki Foundation

The influx of Hong Kong immigrants and capital in the 1990s has created a vibrant Chinese-language media in Canada's two major cities, Vancouver and Toronto. According to recent figures from Statistics Canada, more than 300,000 British Columbians listed Cantonese or Mandarin as their mother tongue. The number is even higher in Ontario—more than 400,000 Ontarians reported Cantonese or Mandarin as their first language.

Without a doubt, communicating with Canada's Chinese-speaking communities through ethnic media channels is not only an effective means of sharing environmental messages, it is also long overdue. Through our New Canadian roundtables conducted last year, we have learned that many Cantonese- and Mandarin-speaking Canadians want to play a part in finding solutions to climate change. However, settling in a new country and juggling obligations to work and family means many new Canadians are often at a loss as to how to join the movement to find solutions. With the help of Chinese-language media, immigrants can learn and participate in discussions like the live radio forum that Suzuki guest hosted on Fairchild Radio.

Chinese New Year is traditionally a 15-day celebration. There is no question that Suzuki has provided sufficient material for Chinese Canadians to contemplate during the festive season and between family and business dinners!

February 2, 2012

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