Photo: Notes from the Edge: Take back Canada with the Blue Dot Tour

By Severn Cullis-Suzuki

I have lived in B.C. all my life. As a child of activist parents, I participated in and witnessed many environmental battles on the coast: Clayoquot Sound, Stein Valley, Carmanah, South Moresby. I remember my childhood energy and excitement during the environmental activism and momentum of the 1980s, when many ecosystems were protected from logging. Some have been preserved since, like the Great Bear Rainforest. But now, living on Haida Gwaii in the northern part of British Columbia, I'm aware that the list of successes is dwarfed by energy and mining projects all across the north of our province.

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There are too many pipelines to know about. Too many mines to keep track of. Too much Big Money to fight with citizen donations and the energy of engaged citizens who keep day jobs. The Mount Polley tailings pond breach brought some attention to the situation. But issues like that are symptoms of a meta-strategy: to extract as much as possible from the Earth while the going is good, leaving others to deal with the aftermath. Future generations can figure it out with all the possibility and technology we imagine they will have.

These days, Enbridge is rallying us together, but if its pipeline proposal is defeated, there will be another proposal from another corporation next year. And while we've been unifying to fight the Northern Gateway proposal, other projects have quietly been going through. Natural gas pipelines are already being built.

We can't keep fighting the symptoms when the whole system is sick. We need to level the playing field to have a chance for a world in some kind of balance. We need a game changer.

My parents, Tara Cullis and David Suzuki, founded the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990, hoping to amplify their impact and focus on solutions for environmental and social problems. Their first office was above an autobody shop. I would walk there from my elementary school around the corner. Years later, as an adult in 2006, I joined the Foundation as a board member. It's been a privilege and an education to sit on a board of great volunteers to direct the organization that my parents founded. I am so proud of the many projects the Foundation has undertaken and completed. I am proud that its work has focused on the environment but has been conducted with solidarity and respect for First Nations' title and rights.

But what I am most interested in, in my own work and at the Foundation, is the push to change the Game. That's what the Blue Dot Tour is about to set in motion, a campaign to make a shift in our highest governing law, the Canadian Constitution. Dad and the Foundation are leading the Blue Dot Tour across Canada this fall to launch a multi-year campaign to add the Right to a Healthy Environment to our Constitution.

Our democracy is in serious need of rejuvenation. Maybe I feel this because our voter turnout is so low, or because of our unjust first-past-the-post voting system. I definitely know this because our government has eliminated taxpayer subsidies for opposition parties, and because our hard-won environmental protections and processes have been so diminished. And because of our government's lack of transparency, as well as its attacks on the freedom of charities and scientists to speak out. Canada is becoming known for its offences against its environment and indigenous peoples and even science. Now, at international forums, people are not as friendly as they once were when I state my nationality.

So the idea of making an amendment to the Constitution is both idealistic and a declaration of faith in our democracy. I love it because it is getting at the heart of the matter, asking, what are our Canadian values? Who are we as a nation? What is our role in our own governance? We are getting ourselves and our government to put that on the record! The ambitious plan of changing the Constitution is a test and trial of our democratic health. The Foundation will only be able to accomplish it if the Canadian people want it and stand up for it. So come on, Canada! Let's come out for the Blue Dot, to launch this campaign to change our Constitution. It's time to take back our country.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki is a David Suzuki Foundation board member who works on issues related to intergenerational justice and reconciling our relationship with Earth. She lives on Haida Gwaii with her husband and two children.

This blog was originally published on

September 16, 2014

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