Canada’s Responsibility for Climate Refugees, by Isolde Murdoch

By Isolde Murdoch, student at the University of Victoria

As the number of people who are displaced from climate-related environmental disasters, such as droughts and hurricanes, rises exponentially across the globe, the question of responsibility arises. Many people think that the governments of the people experiencing displacement due to environmental factors should be held accountable to care for their “own” people. Why should we have to spend our financial resources helping other countries deal with their problems? That is their problem, isn’t it? Take care of our own first, right? But what if, we are responsible for the existence of climate refugees?

As a wealthy, developed nation, Canada is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a leader in extracting the natural resources of other nations, and by means of doing so, causes environmental degradation that forces people to flee their land. Canada has a history of displacing persons from their land – notably, the First Nations. European settlers have, and continue to, segregate First Nations in deplorable living conditions, deplete their resources, take away their livelihoods and erase their culture and identities. It is not until recently that these atrocities have been put in the spotlight, and discourses around reparation have occurred.

Will it take just as long for the Canadian government to take ownership over their role in creating vast numbers of global environmentally displaced persons? Unfortunately, the devastating effects of climate change and environmental destruction are occurring, and time is not a luxury we have. Without the actions of Canada – and the international community – the creation of climate refugees could result in being the largest epidemic of ethnic cleansing that the world has ever seen.

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