Do you remember when Canada led by example?

Whether the cause was peacekeeping, supporting the fight against apartheid in South Africa, or protecting the environment, Canada was a team player. For younger Canadians, this notion of Canada as a global leader must seem like an attitude from a bygone era.

Oil has changed Canada. It’s certainly changed some of our leaders and their values. They ignore the reality that extraction and consumption of oil is altering our climate. Right now, we have the opportunity to head off the most calamitous impacts of climate change. But our leaders champion unbridled oil sands development that will increase Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

No apology is offered for this conduct. Not even to the vulnerable populations who can’t defend themselves against the effects of climate change: floods, drought, and violent storms. Instead, you’re given excuses.

The most common of those excuses for inaction is that we produce less than two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s true, but Canada produces far more emissions per capita than other nations and emissions from oil sands production are predicted to surge. Saying that Canada’s only responsible for a sliver of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions avoids the obvious: the problem of climate change is a cumulative one.

That’s not the kind of excuse that a team player would use. I think it’s time our leaders remembered that.

Canada must play a leading role in the fight against climate change. It’s a role we excelled at as peacekeepers and a role that helped us, and our global partners, win the fight against ozone-destroying contaminants and acid rain. And this is why — even in the absence of Canada’s leadership on climate change and energy issues — you support Ecojustice in our fight against reckless energy development.

In Canada, challenges against oil pipelines — Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan, and Line 9B (in Ontario and Quebec) — have put the media spotlight on dirty tar sands oil while highlighting Canada’s failure to invest in mass transit, renewable energy, and conservation. In the same way, challenges against oil sands projects through the environmental assessment process focused public attention on the increasing threat to our climate — and on the vulnerable populations forced to deal with a degraded environment.

I know that the prospects of success sometimes appear bleak, but I’ve witnessed growing public support, an increasing appreciation of the perils of inaction, and the building of international alliances that will create the critical mass needed to push leaders to act.

You and I are a small part of this global movement, but each member of the team has a vital role to play. When it comes to climate change, it’s time for Canada to lead.

Let us know how you feel by adding a comment below. Do you think Canada could one day lead the world on climate change? What would it take for us to get there?