Wow! We’ve Made a Difference!
The whole idea of our Green Rights project (www.GreenRights.com) – which includes 30 Green Interviews, three films, and a book – was to persuade Canadians and Americans that they should have the legal right to a healthy environment: clean air, pure water, healthy food. We don’t have that now.
What we learned during our research and filming, however, was that legal systems do offer various other techniques that shrewd and dedicated environmentalists can use. In our CBC-TV show Defenders of the Dawn (2015; click here to view it), we told how the citizens of Inverness County, Nova Scotia persuaded the municipal government to pass a by-law asserting the right of its citizens to pure water, which means no fracking. We also reported on several lawsuits which contend that the provision in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteeing “life, liberty and security of the person” must logically include the right to breathe, drink and eat. And in our segment on the Harrietsfield, NS water scandal, we introduced Marlene Brown, who recently launched the first private prosecution in the history of the province, against the two numbered companies responsible for polluting her water.
That use of the courts is exactly the kind of thing we hoped to encourage. So you can imagine our delight to receive a message from Richard Rachals of Lunenburg, NS, saying this:
“About a year ago I stumbled on Defenders of the Dawn. Inspired by that work and the Oposa Doctrine, I retained the services of our newly bewigged Jamie [activist-turned-lawyer Jamie Simpson] to investigate the possibility of having a fourth grade class sue the Provincial and Federal Governments for their right to a habitable planet.
“Both Jamie and [Dalhousie law professor] Meinhard Doelle felt that a frontal assault based on our Section 7 Charter Right to ‘Security of Person,’ or on Public Trust Doctrine, would be premature at this time and possibly create a bad precedent for later attempts. So, reluctantly, we decided to pursue a course of establishing smaller legal precedents that would empower ordinary citizens and eventually lead to the larger goal of a Charter challenge.
“We chose Harrietsfield as our first case and contacted Lisa Mitchell, the executive Director of ECELAW. Now, after six months of work, Jamie has helped Marlene Brown file a private prosecution, the first such action in Nova Scotia.”
I was stunned. It’s a basic feature of activist journalism – of life, really – that you never know what impact your activities may have. But here was a confirmation that the Green Rights project was having exactly the impact we had hoped it would have. I sent a note to the whole Green Interview team.
“This email,” I said, “makes the whole effort worthwhile. Marlene’s case may well open the door to a whole wave of prosecutions that wouldn’t have happened without the Green Rights initiative. We’ve made a genuine and important difference, and I’m just thrilled — as I think all of us should be.”
And you – who have supported us through this long journey – should be equally thrilled. It’s your triumph, too. The trial is slated to go ahead on June 13.
However, making a difference isn’t the same as making a living. Green Rights has been a huge success in terms of impact and influence, but financially its performance has been modest. Furthermore, Donald Trump’s sabre-rattling about slashing educational funding has spooked some of The Green Interview’s best institutional clients in the US. So I’ve updated, refreshed and re-focused my speaker’s page at eSpeakers.com, hoping to turn a useful penny at the podium while also promoting the films and the book.
If you’re looking for a speaker, or know someone else who is, please send them this link to my page. Or just go to www.eSpeakers.com and search for me by name. I appreciate any leads you can generate.
The recent screenings in Wolfville and particularly in Mahone Bay were very satisfying. The Tatamagouche screening scheduled for June 10 has been postponed till the fall, so the next screening is on July 1, as part of a literary festival at the public library in Margaree Forks, Cape Breton. I’ll also be reading from my own work at the festival. CBC’s Mary Lynk will host, and other presenters will include novelist Donna Morrissey and Ian Brown of The Globe and Mail. Scott Macmillan will provide music, and all in all I expect we’ll ring in Canada’s 150th birthday in fine style.
Why not come and join us? I’d love to see you there!