Ottawa — Canada's prime minister must put the health of the world's citizens at the centre of discussions at the upcoming UN climate summit, according to Canadian health professionals. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last week that he will join world leaders at the historic meeting in Copenhagen in December.
Action on climate change will save lives according to the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. These leading health organizations are calling on the federal government to meet this historic challenge and to commit to science-based reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to help protect the world's people from the disastrous human consequences of climate change.
"Canada's physicians strongly believe that the health of the world's population must be the central consideration when governments deliberate on public policy whether at home or abroad," says Anne Doig, president of the Canadian Medical Association. "In Copenhagen, Canada must step up and take a collaborative approach for action on climate change.
Canadian nurses point out that voluntary action by individual Canadians is not enough to solve the problem of climate change, at home and abroad. "Behavioural change must be coupled with supportive government policies and programs that enable Canadians to live healthier lives," says Kaaren Neufeld, president of the Canadian Nurses Association. "The prime minister must sign on to a fair, ambitious and binding global agreement in Copenhagen."
Canada's future physicians emphasize that the world's poorest citizens, most of whom do not have access to adequate medical care, will bear the brunt of unchecked global warming. "Malnutrition, heat stress, diarrhea, extreme weather events, infectious disease, population displacement and conflict over depleted resources are all expected to increase as a result of climate change. If we fail to act on climate change we will face an even bigger challenge in achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which are aimed at significantly reducing poverty and disease by 2015," says Tyler Johnston, president of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students.
"Doctors and nurses are at the forefront of health issues, and therefore represent a voice of knowledge and experience. When they say global action on climate change is vital for the health of people around the world, our communities, and our future — we should listen," says Peter Robinson, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation.
For further information:
Lucie Boileau, Canadian Medical Association, Lucie.Boileau@cma.ca
Paul Watson, Canadian Nurses Association, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ijab Khanafer, Canadian Federation of Medical Students, email@example.com
Kristen Ostling, David Suzuki Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to editors:
The letter to the Prime Minister from the Canadian Nurses Association is available at:
The letter to the Prime Minister from the Canadian Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and College of Family Physicians of Canada is available at:
The letter to Minister of Environment from the Canadian Federation of Medical Students is available at:
Medical students associations at the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta, the University of Toronto, and University of Western Ontario have also sent independent letters to the Minister of the Environment.