Canada History Week 2020

CANADIAN HISTORY AND THE ENVIRONMENT: A COLLECTIVE EFFORT Interview with Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault Many Canadians have special connections to the environment – including the current Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault. Before entering politics, he co-founded Équiterre, an environmental organization, and has been advocating for climate action ever since. For Canada History Week 2020, we spoke to Minister Guilbeault to learn more about his thoughts on Canada’s environmental history. Minister Guilbeault pointed to figures like David Suzuki, Michel Jurdant, and Hubert Reeves as influencing his passion for the environment, as well as his own experience growing up in close proximity to nature. He also emphasized the importance of moments like the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 1987 Montreal Protocol as moments that raised awareness for environmental action and highlighted international cooperation. While he acknowledged the impact of these famous dates and figures, the minister also emphasized that each individual is just one brick in the wall of the larger environmental movement. “We often like to think – and it’s human nature – to try and find these heroes, those people who have been so instrumental,” he said. “But by and large, this is a collective effort.” When asked to share some specific connections between modern-day activism and the history of environmental stewardship in Canada, Minister Guilbeault described the popularity of today’s environmental movement as a culmination of the work of previous generations. “We’re seeing our younger generations be vocal and active. In the summer of 2019, we had half a million people marching on the streets for climate change. The prime minister was there, I was there, leaders from all sectors of Canadian society and all walks of life.” “I think we can all agree that there is a movement in Canada like we’ve never seen before demanding environmental action on the part of government and certainly on the part of companies. I think this movement is a result of all the work that has been done by previous generations to come to this point,” he said. “I think what we’re seeing now is a result of that environmental history that built itself over time in Canada.” Minister Guilbeault concluded by emphasizing another link between the past and present – the longstanding history of Indigenous environmental stewardship. “Nature and the environment is not separate to the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink. For Indigenous people, the relationship to nature is an intrinsic part of everyday life and for many Canadians, we’ve lost that,” he said. “I think we can certainly learn from that relationship.” 15