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82% of Canadians urging government action to tackle plastic pollution: CBC poll

82% of Canadians urging government action to tackle plastic pollution: CBC poll


Nine out of 10 respondents to a survey about the impact of plastic waste on the environment say they are concerned or very concerned about the problem, and 82 per cent say they believe that government should be doing more to tackle it.

The Angus Reid Forum conducted a representative online survey of 1,500 Canadians from March 14 to 17 for CBC’s Marketplace about what they thought about plastic pollution, over-packaged products, and the government’s strategy on the issue. (A randomized sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.) 

The results suggest the majority of Canadians are concerned about plastic, believe that individuals and businesses have a responsibility to reduce it, but also feel strongly that not enough is being done by government to address the issue.

Federal strategy promised

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said plastic packaging is on the federal government’s radar.

“Wait till June, that’s when we’re coming out with our strategy with the provinces and territories,” she said in an interview with Marketplace.

“We’ve got to go through a proper process with this, working with industry, working with cities, everyone needs to be part of it.”

A Marketplace poll suggests that more than eight in 10 Canadians believe that government should be doing more to tackle the problem of plastic waste. (David MacIntosh/ CBC News)

While McKenna said that “there’s a role for bans” on certain types of plastics, she stopped short of committing to the types of bans other jurisdictions have introduced. Just last month, the European Union approved a ban on 10 types of single-use plastics, including straws, cutlery and styrofoam cups to come into effect in 2021.

“It’s not just about banning, because I think there’s a lot of focus on banning,” McKenna said.

“I think we need to focus more on the circular economy.”

In a circular economy, the thinking goes, packaging would be reused or repurposed.

A Marketplace viewer sent in an image of plastic wrapped disposable forks and straws from a Subway restaurant. The chain says it’s transitioning to paper straws. (David MacIntosh/CBC News)

Marketplace commissioned the poll after hearing from viewers who sent in pictures of plastic packaging that they found to be excessive, including packaging on fresh fruit and vegetables, hardware items, toys and clothing.

Some other examples included plastic-wrapped disposable straws and forks given out at Subway restaurants.

When Marketplace reached out to some of the companies that created or sold the packaged goods, only Subway shared plans to change the packaging, saying that the sandwich chain is in the process of switching to paper straws this year. It did not outline any plans to move away from the plastic-wrapped disposable cutlery.

Cannabis packaging under scrutiny

Some viewers pointed to the large amount of plastic used to distribute small amounts of legal cannabis, just the latest product to come under scrutiny.

Marketplace viewers contacted the show to express their concern about the amount of plastic used to package legal cannabis. (David MacIntosh/CBC News)

Marketplace showed some examples of cannabis packaging to Adria Vasil, who wrote the Ecoholic series of books and writes a regular column on green living. The way cannabis is packaged — in non-recyclable plastic plastic bags, clam-shell packages or in plastic bags inside sealed jars or boxes — represents a missed opportunity by the manufacturers and the province of Ontario, she said. 

“They could have designed this from the ground up to be green, to be compatible with the province’s recycling system, and instead, they just completely fell asleep at the switch.” 

The Ontario Cannabis Store pointed out that all cannabis packaging has to be tamper-proof and child-resistant. Even so, Vasil says she’s disappointed more thought wasn’t given to environmentally friendly packaging.

Watch: Marketplace showed some of the examples of cannabis packaging to environmental commentator Adria Vasil.

Author Adria Vasil demonstrates some of the excess and non-recyclable plastic packaging that can be found on products sold online at the Ontario Cannabis Store. 0:59

The results of the survey indicate companies may need to think twice about how much plastic packaging they use in the future or run the risk of losing sales.

More than half of the 1,500 respondents said they would not buy certain products if they felt the packaging was excessive.

McKenna said businesses have a big role to play in tackling plastic pollution.

“We need companies to be more responsible,” she said.

“We have got a huge problem, and we all have to be acting together, right now.”  

Shoppers say few neighbourhood options

Despite widespread use of municipal blue bin programs, just 11 per cent of the plastic used in Canada is actually recycled. The rest is either sent to landfill, incinerated — resulting in harmful emissions — or discarded in the environment.

And although the polling suggests that three-quarters of Canadians accept that it’s their responsibility, too, to reduce plastic, a majority say they find it difficult to do so.

“Zero-waste” or “low-waste” grocery stores have opened in cities such as Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, but just 39 per cent of Canadians polled said they knew of places they could shop for products without much plastic packaging in their neighbourhood.

“It’s a really big concern,” said Michelle Genttner, co-owner of Unboxed Market, a zero-waste grocery store in Toronto that sells produce, meat, bulk groceries, household goods and even has a hot table with ready-to-eat food free from plastic packaging. Consumers bring their own containers. 

“For those people, I would say look to your farmers markets, go to your stores, ask the questions.”



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SNC-Lavalin fallout has some Indigenous Canadians questioning Trudeau's commitment to reconciliation

SNC-Lavalin fallout has some Indigenous Canadians questioning Trudeau’s commitment to reconciliation


The Trudeau government is defending its commitment to reconciliation as a growing number of Indigenous leaders and youth say they’re discouraged by his decision to eject two key figures on the file from the Liberal caucus.

“I’m very disappointed that it had to come to this,” said Linden Waboose, a 22-year-old from from Eabametoong First Nation who sits on the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Oshkaatisak Council, an advisory network of ten youths aged 18-29 from Northern Ontario.

“I feel like [Trudeau] doesn’t value that relationship he committed to in 2015.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said no relationship is more important to him and to Canada than the one with First Nations, the Metis Nation and Inuit Peoples.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at an evening caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday after kicking both former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould and fellow ex-cabinet minister Jane Philpott out of the Liberal caucus. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The day after he chose to oust Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus, Trudeau faced some hard questions about that promise from young women who gathered on Wednesday for the Daughters of the Vote event in the House of Commons. In response, Trudeau said again that reconciliation is “probably one of the most important” issues for his government.

Reconciliation ‘way more than one person’

Many in Indigenous communities saw Wilson-Raybould and Philpott as champions of their causes.

Philpott won respect for her efforts as Indigenous Services minister to end drinking water advisories and reform Indigenous child welfare. Wilson-Raybould was, of course, the first Indigenous person to hold the position of justice minister and attorney general.

Crown–Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says the government’s work on reconciliation goes beyond the work of one person. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett calls Wilson-Raybould a trailblazer, but said the work on reconciliation continues.

“This is way more than one person,” Bennett said.

“This is our Indigenous caucus. This is all the partnerships we made. We want to keep going on reconciliation. Equality means that if you cross the line, there are consequences.”

Investments in reconciliation are significant part of the Liberal government’s election year budget; $4.5 billion has been added over the next five years to try to narrow the socio-economic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

‘Irreparable harm and damage’

The SNC-Lavalin scandal has been eating into Liberal support since Feb. 7, when the Globe and Mail reported that Wilson-Raybould had faced inappropriate political pressure over the decision to pursue criminal prosecution of the company on bribery charges. Wilson-Raybould and Philpott both later resigned from cabinet to protest the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin file.

In her testimony before the Commons Justice Committee during its investigation of the SNC-Lavalin affair, Wilson-Raybould said she would not apologize for being a strong advocate of transformative change for Indigenous peoples.

As she was being shuffled from her justice post, she warned senior people in the government that it would not look good for the government.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, wants the prime minister to apologize to Jody-Wilson Raybould and Jane Philpott. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

In text messages to Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s then-principal secretary, she wrote that the “timing of pushing me out (which will be the perception, whether true or not) is terrible. It will be confounding and perplexing to people.”

That perception is already being echoed by some.

“I think there is irreparable harm and damage done to Prime Minister Trudeau’s vision and stated intent to carry forward the reconciliation agenda,” said Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

“The trust has been broken.”

Russ Diabo, a First Nations policy analyst, believes reconciliation is tied to the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Stewart warned that the Trudeau government will be a “one-time wonder” and said the only way it can repair its relationship with those hurt over the prime minister’s decision to oust Wilson-Raybould and Philpott from caucus is for Trudeau to apologize and then step down.

The outrage could have consequences in this fall’s federal election. Some pollsters suggest Indigenous voters could swing the outcome in as many as 11 ridings.

A ‘double standard’

First Nations policy analyst Russ Diabo said he also believes the way Wilson-Raybould and Philpott were dropped from caucus will cast a shadow over the government’s reconciliation agenda. He pointed out that Wilson-Raybould was offered the Indigenous Services portfolio after being shuffled out of justice, but turned it down because of her opposition to the Indian Act she would have had to administer in that job.

“In the context of this reconciliation agenda, she is a symbol of, I think, the Trudeau government’s commitment to fulfilling that,” Diabo said.

“The intent of the government is in question.”

Diabo said the criticism of Wilson-Raybould over her decision to secretly record a phone call with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick amounts to a “double standard,” because Wernick was deputy minister in the former Indian Affairs department when it was monitoring the social media posts of First Nations activist Cindy Blackstock.

Sheelah McLean, one of the co-founders of the Idle No More movement, said Philpott is also a symbol — of how non-Indigenous Canadians can stand in solidarity with Indigenous people.

“The fact that they left together, I think, is a much larger narrative that really challenges what’s been happening in Canada over the last 150 years,” McLean said.

“This is about Indigenous peoples standing up against government and corporations, and then about what are Canadians, what are non-Indigenous people going to do to support Indigenous people as they continue this fight against colonialism.”

AFN questions government’s ‘motivations and actions’

In a written statement, the Assembly of First Nations also expresses its disappointment with Philpott and Wilson-Raybould’s punishment.

“The events of the past few weeks raise serious concerns about the motivations and actions of this government,” wrote National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

“In order to regain First Nations’ trust, we must all recommit ourselves to reconciliation and I urge both the Government of Canada and all parliamentarians to focus on passing key First Nation legislative priorities in this session of Parliament. This includes supporting a better future for First Nations children and families based on respect for our rights, languages, and cultures.”

Supporters of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott like B.C. Regional Chief Terry Teegee are using the hashtags #istandwithJody and #istandwithjane online.

“She [Wilson-Raybould] was doing her job, upholding the law and the integrity of the attorney general’s office, and as soon as she did that and held to her principles, as an Indigenous woman, as a government official, she’s being punished for it by the powers at be,” Teegee said.

“I think it could’ve been handled a lot better.”

But not every organization feels that way.

Metis Nation defends Trudeau

Clément Chartier, the president of the Métis Nation, questions why the two MPs weren’t expelled from the Liberal caucus sooner.

“For the Métis Nation, we believe that this prime minister and this government have done more than any other government, or more than any other prime minister, in dealing with us on a nation-to-nation, government-to-government basis,” Chartier said.

“This whole thing with the former attorney general, we saw as a major distraction getting away from what the prime minister should be concentrating on in terms of reconciliation, and in particular with the major nation.”

Waboose said the examples of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott have convinced him to pursue a career in politics.

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde and then-Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott listen to a delegate’s question at the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa in December 2017. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

“It’s inspired me to be a politician one day,” said Waboose, who wants to be an MP.

“I hope one day that I can become the first prime minister, the first Indigenous prime minister of Canada.”

Ashley Wesley, 24, from Mishkeegogamang First Nation, sees this as a moment for the government to act.

“Some youth are really disappointed and discouraged by what’s happened. Other youth have expressed they’re upset, but they’re also motivated to try to push for changes in the government,” Wesley said.

“This is an opportunity for the government to show they are really serious.”





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Goodale says he won't put Canadians 'at risk' to bring ISIS fighters home for trial

Goodale says he won’t put Canadians ‘at risk’ to bring ISIS fighters home for trial


A day after the United States called on its allies fighting in Syria and Iraq to bring their foreign fighters home for prosecution, Canada is insisting it will not put its citizens at risk to answer the call.

“We have heard the request, or the suggestion, from the United States, but at this point, the fact of the matter remains that is a dangerous and dysfunctional part of the world in which we have no diplomatic presence and we are not going to put our diplomatic officers or consular officials at risk,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Tuesday.

Goodale said Tuesday that Canada is still working with its allies in the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network (Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the U.S.) to gather evidence that can be used to convict Canadians who went abroad to join ISIS — but he said he would not risk Canadian lives to do so.

“The issue is in part working with our allies to make sure that we are collecting the maximum amount of useable evidence that can be practically available and useable in the justice system to lay charges, to prosecute,” he added.

As the U.S. prepares to withdraw its remaining troops from the region, the U.S. Department of State issued a statement Monday that said the Syrian Defence Forces have taken custody of hundreds of foreign fighters from countries all around the world.

“The United States calls upon other nations to repatriate and prosecute their citizens detained by the SDF and commends the continued efforts of the SDF to return these foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin,” the statement said.

According to Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue who has been to Syria to visit camps where foreign fighters are being held, there are currently four Canadian men, three women and seven children in custody in the country.

A spokesperson from Goodale’s office said the government would not confirm Amarasingam’s figures “due to the privacy act.”

All of the children born to Canadian women who left Canada to join ISIS are under the age of five, with several being under the age of one, Amarasingam told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

“The behaviour of the parents that have put those children in that situation is absolutely appalling and reprehensible,” Goodale said. “We will examine carefully what can reasonably be done to protect those who are innocent in these circumstances.

“But this is a situation that [ISIS] has created, and to which those who have gone to that part of the world to participate have also contributed, and they need to show to their responsibilities.”

The risk of ignoring America

Amarasingam said that the Syrian Defence Forces are not going to be able to hold foreign fighters in camps indefinitely and the U.S. may fear they’ll escape or be released before they can be returned to their countries of origin.

“Leaving hundreds of jihadist fighters — well-trained jihadist fighters — in a kind of weird limbo state, if the Americans do pull out, is not ideal from a national security point of view,” he told Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos.

Amarasingam said the SDF could strike a deal with the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to turn the fighters and their children over for execution.

“There’s this assumption that bringing them back brings about a whole bunch of complexity, which is true, but I think leaving them leaving them there is just as chaotic as bringing them back,” he added.

Jessica Davis and Amarnath Amarasingam on the logistics of the U.S. call for countries to repatriate foreign fighters and prosecute them at home. 11:34

Jessica Davis, former senior strategic analyst with CSIS, told Power & Politics that Canada has been avoiding bringing home its foreign fighters — but continuing to turn a blind eye to the situation will be more difficult now.

“Despite all of the dynamics around the Trump administration, the Americans are still our number one ally, particularly in the security and intelligence space, so this is the kind of thing that has to be taken very seriously,” she told Kapelos.





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