Was it the mention of "major scientific meeting" that scared them off? Surely, Canada's government didn't pull out of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification because of the cost. We spend just over $300,000 a year to support it. That's nothing compared to the $26-million cost to taxpayers for a three-month ad campaign for the government's Economic Action Plan.
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Canada is the only country in the world to pull out of the convention. We won't attend a scientific meeting next month in Germany, which will examine solutions to the increasing droughts that have been spreading across the world and destroying valuable farmland. The problem is particularly severe in Africa, where millions of people have been plunged into poverty and many condemned to death. Worse still, Canada pulled out of the convention quietly, without even notifying the UN secretariat.
The government has referred questions to the Canadian International Development Agency, which it earlier announced was being shut down and folded into the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Ironically, it was a conservative government, under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, that helped negotiate Canada's entry into the UN Desertification Treaty — along with other UN agreements to tackle environmental problems, like UN Convention on Biodiversity.
Canada is becoming increasingly isolated on the world stage, especially when it comes to environmental issues — from pulling out of the Kyoto Accord to shutting down world-renowned research facilities like the Experimental Lakes Area to this latest move. With continued cutbacks and attacks on scientific and environmental programs, resources and organizations, one has to wonder whose interests the government is representing. If the government is abdicating its responsibilities on the environment to the provinces and industry, who will speak for us internationally?
For our government to stop working with the rest of the world to resolve some of the most serious issues we face is a betrayal of Canadian values. After all, as David Suzuki has said, "Nature pays no attention to human boundaries."