Public Benefit Journalism Project
In partnership with the Centre for Investigative Journalism, I-SEA is pleased to feature quality investigative journalism projects in areas of public interest, with specific emphasis on Indigenous issues and impacts of climate change, and Canada's clean energy technologies.
Toxins In Canada
The documentary opens onto beautiful blue skies, fields of wheat and a house on a farm in Saskatchewan, as country music plays in the background.
The Englots, a family growing wheat, soybeans and canola, discuss their day over morning coffee. Loretta, the mom will tend to her horse and the dogs, while dad Norman and son Luc will scout the field to check for weeds.
In May 2009, Quebec government scientist Louis Robert was 15 minutes away from entering a conference room to give a lecture about phosphorus when he got a phone call from his boss ordering him to call it off.
Lee Johnson is dying.
The 46-year-old former groundskeeper from California regularly handled a popular pesticide called Roundup at his job. On some days he sprayed hundreds of gallons of the formula over several hours around sports fields and schools.
First Nations Forward
"It is known to Tsleil-Waututh that our origin story is in this salt water, right here," Charlene Ts'simtelot Aleck said.
She sat on a rock looking out over səl̓ilw̓ət, or Burrard Inlet, from the beach at Whey-ah-wichen. The beach, also known as Cates Park, was a summer village not long ago, when the Tsleil-Waututh population was 10,000 strong, and European settlers hadn't arrived at the far west corner of Turtle Island.
On a muggy Tuesday afternoon, Haisla First Nation member James Harry parks his burgundy SUV near Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and says a quiet prayer. Then he walks into the streets and alleys where he used to get high.
Harry is now five years’ sober, working with his First Nation in search of his own people in those same alleys. When he finds those struggling with addiction, his message is simple: “I’m here on behalf of the Haisla Nation. I want you to know that you’re not alone.”
The future of energy is renewable, and the economic opportunity contained therein is a natural fit with Indigenous notions of stewardship.
The Six Nations of the Grand River have grasped this concept with both hands.
Or, at least, the economic development corporation (devcorp) of Canada’s largest First Nations population has, investing billions of dollars into solar, wind and other emissions-free energy projects. The proceeds of said projects are now being used to upgrade community facilities and boost other economic drivers, such as tourism.
Haíɫzaqv elected and hereditary governments have signed a $37-million investment agreement with the Crown on Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) territory.
The funds, announced Thursday, will be invested into four priority house posts, meaning four priority areas of investment. The house posts are self-government; housing and infrastructure; economic development; and language revitalization and preservation.
Wendy John says her husband travels a lot, so he's always going back and forth to Vancouver's airport. Over the last couple of years, he's seen a change — when he walks through the gates, he sees Musqueam faces. He could see a customer service agent he recognizes, or a friend stepping out of an elevator that leads to the airport’s offices.
"He said, I just love coming into the airport now, because you see your own people," said John.
Justin Hall says he doesn't call himself the first Indigenous winemaker in Canada — but many others do.
Hall, a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band, is one of two Indigenous winemakers in North America. He's partway through his 15th season at Nk'Mip Cellars. The winery is owned by the band, and the wealth is shared among the people.
Chief Clarence Louie stood against a backdrop of dry hills spotted with sage bushes. Nearby, there's a sign that says to watch for rattlesnakes. He was standing in his territory. It also happens to be Canada's only desert.
He said he looks around the Okanagan, and he sees some of British Columbia's famous provincial parks. And he sees something missing.
The Tŝilhqot’in Nation has been fighting to protect Teẑtan Biny (Fish Lake) for decades. While Taseko Mines' proposed open-pit copper and gold mine has been rejected twice at the federal level, the Liberal government granted permits for an exploratory drilling program — slated to start today — but the nation organized a peaceful protest and sent the construction team home.
The Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations have been working to bring back the Klinse Za caribou herd from the brink of extinction. Five years after they started a maternal pen for pregnant mothers to raise their calves in a protected area, the mountain herd has gone from 16 animals to nearly 100. Caribou guardian Julian Napoleon said his people share the herd's story of strength and survival .
Twenty-four-year-old Jonas Prevost doesn’t own a cellphone. He has some social media accounts, but says he doesn't use them, and he spends most of his time in the forests on Haida Gwaii.
He said if someone wants to get hold of him, they’ll have to just walk to his house in the village, see if his truck is in the driveway and knock on the door.
Canada's Clean Economy
t’s the end of a long day in the midst of a busy clean-energy conference and Mark Rabin is still bursting with energy — after all, energy and power generation are his business, and his efforts have brought renewable energy to the set of the latest James Bond film.
Infinited Fiber Company’s fabric feels similar to denim, although it is perhaps a little smoother, is cheaper to produce and will likely last longer. But the most interesting part is what it’s made out of: dried and discarded husks from agriculture, recycled and reconstituted cardboard and old clothes.
The biotech company, a spinoff of the state-owned VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, is one among many concrete examples of what’s known as the circular economy. It’s a mainstream term in Europe, but it doesn’t yet exist in the Canadian lexicon.
Canada has become the first country to sign on to the Drive to Zero Pledge, an international initiative aimed at increasing the number of zero and low emission vehicles in the medium- and heavy-duty transportation sector.
By signing the pledge, Canada is joining other partners, including municipal governments, in committing to eliminate barriers and implement mechanisms that accelerate the viability and growth of zero emission technology for these commercial vehicles.
Canada is helping to fund a new initiative connected with a group of wealthy donors like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos to help startups finance new energy technologies that can lower carbon pollution.
Breakthrough Energy Solutions Canada is expected to be a “public-private” initiative orchestrated out of Natural Resources Canada, and will involve annual pitch events where entrepreneurs can perform for investors, Dragons' Den-style.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's Green New Deal is music to the ears of Quebec Premier François Legault.
Under de Blasio’s plan to tackle climate change, unveiled Monday, all city operations would run on 100 per cent “zero-emission Canadian hydropower” within five years. Negotiations would begin “right away” with the aim of signing a deal by the end of 2020.
Canada is home to leading-edge electric bus manufacturing companies, but a report released Thursday by the Vancouver-based think tank Clean Energy Canada says that the country's transit agencies are not buying and using the cleaner buses as fast as their counterparts in other countries.
“The conversation’s really just starting in Canada,” said Merran Smith, Clean Energy Canada’s executive director.
“We’ve got four buses in Vancouver, two in Victoria, 10 in Toronto,” Smith said. “Our leader is Montreal with 36 buses ... Overall, Canada’s approach is very cautious and there isn’t a good reason for it (to be cautious).”
There is mistrust and suspicion of government intentions. There are fears about devastating impacts to communities. There's anxiety over whether officials can deliver on promises. And there's frustration with being disparaged as dirty.
These are some of the stark assessments from the thousands of workers in coal mines and coal-fired power plants across Canada that were captured by 11 experts appointed by the government almost a year ago.
The special task force was launched by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna on April 25, 2018 to investigate how to fairly provide for these workers as their livelihoods are taken offline over the next decade.
Alberta's NDP government is planning a new auction for renewable energy capacity that is aiming to move it closer to its 2030 target of getting 30 per cent of its electricity supply from wind, solar and other green sources.
The government announced plans on Tuesday to add another 400 megawatts of renewable electricity capacity to its energy mix by way of an auction that mandates that the winning project or projects benefit Indigenous communities.
The auction will be the fourth auction of renewable electricity capacity as the oil-rich province creeps closer to its 2030 target, the government said in a statement. Currently about 10 per cent of Alberta’s electricity generation comes from renewable sources, the statement added.
Alberta's NDP government says that sharp reductions in pollution from electricity production in the oil-rich province over the past two years prove that carbon pricing is effective.
The new numbers are based on the data that the government collects from the electricity-generating facilities themselves and was made available on request to National Observer.
The developers of a long-delayed electricity transmission project to transport hydroelectric power from Quebec to the New York City metropolitan area say that construction will start in 2020.