Jail politicians who ignore climate science: Suzuki
Didn't mean it literally says scientist's spokesperson
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Prominent scientist David Suzuki says that people should look for a way to hold politicians who ignore climate change science legally responsible.
David Suzuki has called for political leaders to be thrown in jail for ignoring the science behind climate change.
At a Montreal conference last Thursday, the prominent scientist, broadcaster and Order of Canada recipient exhorted a packed house of 600 to hold politicians legally accountable for what he called an intergenerational crime. Though a spokesman said yesterday the call for imprisonment was not meant to be taken literally, Dr. Suzuki reportedly made similar remarks in an address at the University of Toronto last month.
The proposal has lit up many conservative blogs since it was first reported by the McGill Daily on Monday.
Addressing the McGill Business Conference on Sustainability, hosted by the Faculty of Management, Dr. Suzuki's wide-ranging speech warned against favouring the economy to the detriment of the ecology -- the tarsands in Northern Alberta being his prime example.
"You have lived your entire lives in a completely unsustainable period," he told students and fans. "You all think growth and [climate] change is normal. It's not."
Toward the end of his speech, Dr. Suzuki said that "we can no longer tolerate what's going on in Ottawa and Edmonton" and then encouraged attendees to hold politicians to a greater green standard.
"What I would challenge you to do is to put a lot of effort into trying to see whether there's a legal way of throwing our so-called leaders into jail because what they're doing is a criminal act," said Dr. Suzuki, a former board member of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
"It's an intergenerational crime in the face of all the knowledge and science from over 20 years."
The statement elicited rounds of applause.
"He sounded serious," said McGill Tribune news editor Vincci Tsui, who covered the event. "I think he wanted to send home the message that this is very crucial issue."
When asked for further comment, Dan Maceluch, a spokesman for Dr. Suzuki, said that he did not mean the statement to be taken literally.
"He's not advocating locking people up, but he is pulling his hair out."
How a law concerning climate-change denial could be enforced baffled at least one leading criminal-law expert. "We used to have an offence of spreading false news," said Kent Roach, the Prichard-Wilson Chair of Law and Public Policy at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.
"But that was struck down by the Supreme Court."
Yet there could be a better blueprint for Dr. Suzuki's legal scenario.
The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, a Liberal-sponsored private member's bill that passed and was given Royal Assent last year, legally requires the Conservative government to abide by the international pact's short-term environmental targets.
In the event that conditions are not met, government officials are held liable.
"Every person who contravenes a regulation made under this Act is guilty of an offence punishable by indictment or on summary conviction, as prescribed by the regulations," the act reads, "and liable to a fine or to imprisonment as prescribed by the regulations."
The act adds that there are further legal measures in the event of subsequent and continuing offences, but does not specify the penalties.
The Conservative government said last year it would not abide by the Liberal-sponsored bill, since private member's bills cannot force the government to spend money.