Political Environment History

The overarching purpose of this timeline is to highlight that climate change is a non-partisan issue and historically, there have been contributions towards environmental protection by both the federal Conservative and Liberal parties. However, this timeline is incomplete as it only documents the settler government’s conservation efforts starting from 1887, and does not encompass the historic conservation efforts of First Peoples on this land, that is currently known as Canada. It is essential to keep in mind the decolonized history of Canada and the government’s role in taking away land from Indigenous peoples. Indigenous issues should not be partisan and should be central to the discussion surrounding climate change as well as ownership and stewardship of the land in present day Canada. 

 

Additional references for reading on the decolonized history of Canada include: Unsettling Canada by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ron Derrickson, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King and Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival by Bev Sellars.

 

The Government of Canada’s environmental action can be traced back to 1887, when Sir John A. MacDonald’s liberal-conservative government created the first federal bird sanctuary in North America, located in Saskatchewan (1).  The Canada parks branch was established in 1911, under Sir Robert Borden’s conservative government (1). In 1930, the Canadian National Parks Act states that the national parks “shall be maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations” (8). Conservation efforts continued to grow alone until the 1960s, at which point the environment became a bigger priority to the government (1).

Liberal Government – Pierre Elliott Trudeau

(1968-1979)

Experimental Lakes Area, a designated area protected from forestry operations to perform long-term ecological research, is established in northern Ontario. (3)

Pierre Elliot Trudeau announces five new environmental laws in his throne speech. (4)

Most ambitious environmental agenda ever stated in a Throne Speech.

Canada attended the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. (1)

Federal government passed the Canada Water Act. (4)

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is founded. It is considered a big and bureaucratic department, directly under parliamentary whim.(3)

1976

Environmental Contaminants Act was passed to control chemicals (PCBs). (4)

1979

1972

Department of the Environment was created. (4 

Federal government passed the Clean Air Act. (4)

1971

1969

1968

World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere hosted in Toronto, one of the first high-level conferences on climate change. (1)

1988

1990

The Canadian delegation including Progressive Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrat attended the Second World Climate Conference held in Geneva. (3)

Canada’s Green Plan for a healthy environment was created with the aim to stabilize emissions of CO2 and other GHGs at 1990 levels by the year 2000. (7)

1991

The Acid Rain Accord is created between Canada and the US, with the aim to significantly reduce acid rain levels and sulfur dioxide emissions. (2)

1993

Eight new national parks are created. (2)

2/3rd of the Experimental Lakes Area staff were cut. (3)

1996

Progressive Conservative Government – Brian Mulroney (1984-1993)

Liberal Government – Jean Chrétien (1993-2003)

1997

The Kyoto Protocol is adopted in Canada and in every industrialized country except for US, Australia and Monaco. The protocol seeks to reduce greenhouse emissions (a reduction of six percent below the 1990 levels to be achieved by 2012). (1)

Canadian Environmental Protection Act was established. (5)

1999

Conservative Government – Stephen Harper

(2006-2015)

2006

At the 12th “conference of parties” in Nairobi, the Canadian conservative delegation was viewed as “antagonistic and obstructionist” and lacked a commitment to meet existing obligations. (6)

The Office of the National Science Adviser, which is the link between the government and the scientific community, was passed out. (1)

2008

Environmentally related spending was introduced by the federal government: Clean energy research, renovations and energy retrofits for housing and Artic research stations (4)

2009

Canada withdraws from the Kyoto Protocol (1)

2011

Liberal Government – Justin Trudeau (2015-)

The federal government bought the Trans Mountain oilsands pipeline from Kinder Morgan (9)

2018

Federal carbon tax was introduced in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick since those provinces did not introduce their own carbon levy (10)

​2019

 Brian Mulroney is sometimes thought to be Canada’s greenest Prime Minister given the number of environmental laws and treaties made during the progressive conservative government’s time in office (4). Not to be overlooked, the Green Party of Canada was founded in 1983, which marked the environmental movement’s formal entry into politics (1).

 

There are some general trends seen across different governments as they approach federal environmental action. Regardless of the environmental stance stated, governments of both parties blamed previous governments for making emissions reduction commitments that could not be met (6).  There is also consistency from one government to the next to not genuinely tackle emissions reduction while giving ambitious targets to the international community (6).  

 

Moving forward beyond 2020, it is imperative that the federal government develop a  non-partisan approach to climate change that includes recognition of the country’s colonial past. 

About Us

Shake Up The Establishment is a youth-led, registered (#1190975-4) national non-partisan non-profit organization that operates within the geographical confines of what is currently known as "Canada", but what is referred to by its First Peoples, as Turtle Island. Indigenous peoples have inhabited Turtle Island for over 10,000 years, and were the sole inhabitants less than 500 years ago. We acknowledge that our address resides on Treaty 3 land, and is the traditional territory of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas Peoples. Turtle Island is still home to many Indigenous peoples and we at SUTE are thankful to be able to live, learn and work on this territory, whilst continuing to create meaningful change for the climate justice movement. We are aware that our actions as an organization and the work we put out have an impact on our land, and on all that inhabit it. We are humbled to be able to follow the lead of centuries long Indigenous-led efforts towards the protection and stewardship of this land and the people that inhabit it. We are committed to continually evaluating & decolonizing our practices, and we do our best to incorporate the lived experiences of the land defenders and protectors within our work. We also want to honour the voices of Black, and non-Black people of colour within our work, and continually recognize their resiliency in the face of years of systemic oppression as imposed by the Canadian state.

 

Our enterprise is inclusive of all folx who call the geographical confines of what is currently known as Canada, home, and we celebrate the horizontal learning that comes from our diverse identities. As an organization, we will try our utmost best to ensure that only individuals with lived experiences are speaking on behalf of their communities, while still recognizing that Black, Indigenous and communities of colour as well as the LGBTQ2S+ community, are not a monolith. We firmly believe in accountability, and commit to being as transparent as possible in our activism space; to research our topics well, support and centre community care, and minimize any harm, no matter the intent. We have strict policies and procedures to uphold these tenets, and update these on a yearly (or as-needed) basis.

106-325 Winterberry Drive, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8J 0B6

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