The evidence of the global climate crisis is everywhere. Melting glaciers and polar ice caps are contributing to rising sea levels, resulting in regular flooding in coastal nations and regions. Severe droughts in the Middle East for over a decade have exacerbated conflicts in the region. Extreme dry heat has sparked widespread wildfires in California, Australia ,as well in BC and other parts of Western and even Northern Canada. In addition to those crises, the Amazon rainforest is on fire. The fires in the Amazon, however, are not caused by the climate crisis. These fires are not natural; they are part of a deliberate strategy by the government of Brazil to clear land for grazing cattle as well as for mining.
The Amazon fires have accelerated under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office at the beginning of 2019. Bolsonaro has proudly outlined his plans to develop the Amazon for commercial purposes, including mining and large scale beef production. He is quick to dismiss environmental concerns and inherent Indigenous land rights in favour of exploiting the land for economic purposes.
Large scale beef agriculture is particularly important to Bolsonaro because beef is Brazil’s biggest export item. A Yale University study reports that 80% of the deforestation in the Amazon is due to extensive cattle ranching, because cattle ranching requires huge amounts of land and water. By different estimates, it takes nearly 2000 litres of water to produce one beef burger. And cattle emit methane into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas that is more potent and dangerous than carbon dioxide.
The Amazon is a unique, biodiverse ecosystem. We won’t be able to grow back or reproduce the Amazon. It is irreplaceable and must be protected. The trees there capture and store billions tons of carbon every year, making it a global carbon sink, which is critical in the fight against the global climate crisis. When these trees burn to the ground, they release all the carbon they have been storing back into the atmosphere.
The exploitation of the Amazon rainforest is imperiling the one million Indigenous peoples who live there. President Bolsonaro is threatening their food sources, their health, their homes and their traditions in favour of producing and exporting beef. Bolsonaro is quoted as having said: “Where there is Indigenous land, there is wealth underneath it.”
What can Canada do to help reverse this situation?
Canada must delay or reject the Canada-Mercosur deal. This is a free trade agreement that has been under negotiation between Canada and the Mercosur countries: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. This deal would have serious consequences for the environment, for Indigenous land rights, and for Canada’s own agriculture business. That is why I wrote to the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Foreign Affairs last month expressing my concerns about this trade deal.
Canada is a trading nation, but we are also proud of our democratic values. It is time that we hold Brazil accountable. Canada must follow the lead provided by France and Germany who have not ratified the EU-Mercosur deal because they recognize that they would be rewarding and giving credibility to a trading partner which does not uphold democratic and environmental values.
The impact of trade deals on our lives is often unseen or not very well understood. This time must be different. We have to connect the dots and respond in a way that is clear. Canada should not continue negotiations on the Canada-Mercosur deal until Brazil is fully committed to protecting the Amazon and Indigenous rights. Together, we need to take action.
Here are some suggestions for actions you can take:
Sign and share this parliamentary petition that I sponsored, which calls for termination of the Canada-Mercosur deal
Read and share science-based information about the deforestation of the Amazon with family and friends
Read and share my letter to the Ministers below. Ask your MP not to support the Canada-Mercosur deal until the environment and Indigenous rights are protected
Eat less meat and be mindful of where the meat you eat comes from.