Climate Strike: Demanding Action Now!

Today, youth, hopefully accompanied by people of all ages, will take the street across Canada and the world to demand concrete and immediate action on climate change. The necessity of this strike comes from the timid response, to say the least, of world leaders to the climate change crisis, one of the biggest environmental and socio-economic problems our species has ever faced. As states maintain the status quo of unrestrained economic growth powered by fossil fuels, young people, who will have to live with the potentially disastrous effect of climate change, have little choice but to take the street in the hope of saving our future. The situation is aptly summarised by 16 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg during her speech at the UN’s Climate Action Summit in New York City on Monday: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”

Today, I gladly join the climate strike in Toronto to fight for a better future. The consequences of climate change are already being felt (acutely in some regions of the World, like the Arctic) and are predicted by the scientific community to reach catastrophic proportions if the raise in global temperature is not limited to 2oC, preferably 1.5oC. In my main field of research, marine environmental law, climate change is already causing havoc. Marine biodiversity—already under considerable stress from overexploitation, marine pollution and loss of habitats—will be particularly impacted by the effects of climate change. Warming waters can significantly disturb marine ecosystems by affecting spawning, distribution, and abundance of species. The recent and gruesome image of thousands dead chum salmon in Alaska is but one example. The absorption by the oceans of large quantity of CO2, the main culprit behind climate change, is resulting in ocean acidification. This acidification spells disaster for many species relying on calcium carbonate structures (e.g. shells) for survival as such structures will weaken and eventually dissolve. There is also evidence that acidification may decrease species’ reproductive capacity, slow their growth and increase their susceptibility to disease. These are but examples, as there is more.

While the Paris Agreement and its parent convention, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, provide for a global framework to mitigate climate change, its effectiveness depends on states’ ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets. So far, the targets are lacklustre, and the action to meet them are even more disappointing. In the marine context, the situation is worse as the current international legal framework is simply not adapted to respond to climate change. It is already struggling at reaching its current environmental objectives without factoring in climate change. It is thus crucial that states approach climate change in an integrated manner; i.e. equitably tackle all the consequences of climate changes, socio-economic and environmental, in addition to dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A start would be to address the root of the problem, which is to say humanity’s callous use of natural resources and other living beings pushed by western and now dominant ideas of nature. This difficult but important restructuring of most societies’ way of thinking is not only necessary to ensure our survival, but it also provides an opportunity to renew for the better our relationship with the rest of the natural world, including marine life.

This global climate strike is a momentous opportunity and we must seize it. It is time to make our voice heard. It is time to demand change. We will not sit idly by as world leaders ignore the most pressing issue of our time. We must use this opportunity to initiate the changes that are needed to ensure the integrity of our planet, to take matters in our own hand for a more just and sustainable future. In the words Greta Thunberg: “We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

Farming the Sea, a False Solution to a Real Problem: Critical Reflections on Canada’s Aquaculture Regulations

Given the dismal state of world fisheries and their continuing decline—exacerbated by climate change—aquaculture is touted by some to be a promising means for fulfilling the growing global demand for seafood, as reflected in its rapid growth as a segment of the global food system. However, large-scale aquaculture presents a complex set of environmental and social issues, and the introduction of genetically engineered fish and seafood adds a further layer of
complexity to the already contentious nature of conventional aquaculture practices.

This article is a critical analysis of aquaculture regulation in Canada. In addition to setting out some of the major issues posed by industrialized aquaculture, it argues that shifting the “production” of seafood from marine fisheries to aquaculture merely shifts the cause of environmental damages. Further, in the context of food security, large-scale aquaculture is an inadequate and oversimplified solution to the problems raised by coastal and Indigenous populations’ reliance on declining fisheries resources. Specifically, using two case studies, this paper criticizes the current system’s overreliance on dominant risk paradigms, which are often closely informed by science. Yet, the relationship between law and science is fraught with tensions, as the two have notably different priorities and methods. In rethinking the role of aquaculture in natural marine resource management, especially in a changing climate, it is important to ensure that careful regard is given to the socio-cultural factors, inequities, and environmental degradation that are inherent in the production of seafood.

For full article, click here.

The Value of Fish: Changing the Purpose of Fisheries Regulation in Canada

*une version française est disponible ici — this blog post was first published on foodlaw.ca

Why do we fish? This may appear as a silly question, but given the dismal state of fisheries in Canada and in the world, it is a very legitimate question. Several answers come to mind: to make a living, for spiritual or cultural reasons (e.g. a ceremony), and for recreation. However, there is one reason that underlines all fishing (with the exception of recreational fishing when the fish is released): food. We fundamentally and undeniably fish to eat. No one will be astounded by that answer, but as obvious as it may seem, one would be hard-pressed to find any reference to food in Canadian fisheries regulations.

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Calling Out Fascism: Reflections on Trump and Pathways to Resistance

*Originally published on 10 February 2017, re-published due to technical issues

The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America was a shock to many. After all, it is difficult to imagine someone less qualified for the job who would also be able to achieve the feat of winning a presidential election (thanks in part to the archaic presidential election system, i.e. the electoral college). He has no experience in politics and the actions of his team over the past two weeks suggest that he also has very little clue on how the administration he is leading actually works. This could be characterised as incompetence, and in part it is, at least in terms of how to effectively implement his policies.[1] Nevertheless, one should be careful to claim that all of the chaos and failure coming out of the White House is due to incompetence. I say this because in so doing I fear one would continue perpetuating the same mistake a considerable amount of people did over the last year, that is to not take Mr. Trump seriously, both as a candidate/President, and as a threat. And a threat he is. The chaos he creates is probably more representative of his personality, megalomaniac/narcissist, and ideology, a form of nouveau fascism, than solely of his incompetence. The recent Muslim ban is a great example. I think it is important to take Trump seriously, especially if we wish to craft effective paths of resistance.

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Of Diversity and Balancing of Rights: TWU v LSUC

The legal profession is not the most diverse of profession. For the longest time it was reserved for white cis men with enough financial mean to survive legal training. It has slowly opened its door to white cis women (although there are still issues, especially in the private sector). It is still very white and cis-hetero normative however.[1] There are probably many causes for the homogeneity of the legal profession (financial barrier to access the profession, hiring biases in large firms, the image of the profession, etc). The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) is at least currently considering ways to increase diversity in the profession. While the LSUC is far from having control over all the factors affecting diversity, it does have the power to accredit law schools, and law schools are often viewed as the true gatekeepers of the profession. This power is, however, rarely used as new law schools are a rare thing. Trinity Western University (TWU), a private university that caters to evangelical Christians, is the most recent university so seek accreditation. TWU has an infamous covenant that all students are required to sign. This covenant forbids sexual intimacy except between married heterosexual couples. This unsurprisingly shocked many people including benchers (the decision-makers of the LSUC). Accrediting TWU seemed, at the very least, to go against diversifying the legal profession. The LSUC ultimately rejected TWU accreditation because of its discriminatory covenant. A law suit ensued, pitting equality against freedom of religion. Days before Toronto Pride, the Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) upheld the decision of the LSUC.[2] In this post, I shortly expose additional background on the case. I then explore the decision’s treatment of the LSUC’s decision making power. I finish by looking at the ONCA’s approach to the balancing of rights.

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The Need for Solidarity: Black Lives Matter and Pride

For those who are unaware, the Toronto Pride Parade was on 3 July this year. Usually the parade is pretty uneventful for the erudite. It can be a fun and colourful event (and has some significance when it’s your first), but it’s pretty repetitive (especially the one in Toronto). Same floats, same corporations pretending to care, same organisations, etc. This year, however, something pretty significant happened during pride. No, I’m not talking about Prime Minister Trudeau’s participation in the parade (I couldn’t care less about that in all honesty). Nor I am talking about the 34 years too late apology by the police for the Toronto bathhouse raids in the 80s (what about reparation?). I’m talking about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest during the parade. The group, composed largely of black queer people – supported by other people of colour and indigenous people (POCIP) – stopped the parade for 25 min to make demands to Pride Toronto. The demands were mostly more inclusion of POCIP in pride. One, however, shocked a great many people: the removal of the police as participants in pride events. The executive director of pride accepted the demands, only to backtrack in part the next day. We will see how things progress, but I doubt BLM will simply give up (thankfully).

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