The Harper Government was negligent in withdrawing from the International Convention on Combating Desertification and Drought Print
Earth News
Written by Joan Russow
Tuesday, 09 June 2015 17:00

By Joan Russow PhD

Global Compliance Research Project

Photo of 2012 drought in Alberta


Digby McLaren, Past President of the Royal Society of Canada,  once stated that "inaction is negligence``. (Global Change Conference, 1991)


This dictum could be aptly applied to the Harper Government. Their inaction on drought has been negligent


On March 13, 2013, the Harper government withdrew from the International Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought

The withdrawal from the Convention would have been after there had been a serious drought in Alberta


 In 2012, the Globe and Mail reported the following:

Scientists warn it’s the ‘new norm’ after worst drought in 800 years

The signs of drought were everywhere, from shrivelled rivers and lakes in the American West to brittle brown lawns and parched farm crops in the Canadian Prairies.


Projections indicate that drought events of this length and severity will be commonplace through the end of the 21st century,” the group of 10 scientists from several American universities and the University of British Columbia wrote in a study published Sunday in the Journal Nature Geoscience.


Under Canadian law “Environmental negligence suits”


Focus on compensation for loss caused by unreasonable conduct that damages legally protected interests. Unreasonable conduct means doing something that a prudent or reasonable person would not do, or failing to do something that a reasonable person would do. The plaintiff must establish certain key elements of the tort— cause in fact and proximate cause, damages, legal duty, and breach of the standard of care. Note that fault may be found even in the case of unintended harm if it stems from unreasonable conduct.

The Criminal Code (Section 219) affirms that lack of intent to harm is no defence if damage results from conscious acts performed in careless disregard for others:

Everyone is criminally negligent who (a) in doing anything, or (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons” (where ‘duty’ means a duty imposed by law). Significantly, Section 222(5) (b) states that “a person commits homicide when, directly or indirectly, by any means, he causes the death of a human being, by being negligent (emphasis added) (Cited by Bill Rees in “is Canada criminally negligent? He wrote this in reference to Canada’s inaction on climate change)


Was the withdrawal from the Convention not a blatant act of negligence because in the Convention are several reference to the obligation to establish a national plan to prevent drought


National action programmes 1. The purpose of national action programmes is to identify the factors contributing to desertification and practical measures necessary to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. 2. National action programmes shall specify the respective roles of government, local communities and land users and the resources available and needed. They shall, inter alia: (a) incorporate long-term strategies to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought, emphasize implementation and be integrated with national policies for sustainable development; (b) allow for modifications to be made in response to changing circumstances and be sufficiently flexible at the local level to cope with different socio-economic, biological and geo-physical conditions; (c) give particular attention to the implementation of preventive measures for lands that are not yet degraded or which are only slightly


If the Harper government had established a national plan, the current drought that is beginning to happen in Alberta and BC could have been averted or mitigated.

For example in the preamble to the convention there is the linking between drought and food security

Mindful that desertification and drought affect sustainable development through their interrelationships with important social problems such as poverty, poor health and nutrition, lack of food security,

And in Article 10 c, there is the following duty:

To establish and/or strengthen, food security systems, including storage and marketing facilities, particularly in rural areas;

And promote the use of drought resistant crops and the application of integrated dry-land farming systems for food security purposes;


In BC, It would be prudent to abandon the Site C Dam proposal, which would be flooding productive agricultural land. In addition, it would have been prudent to have increased not decreased the Agricultural Land Reserve. And in Alberta, would it not also have been prudent, to have terminated the tar sand’s production because of its extreme consumption of water

Harper and his government have been negligent for withdrawing from the International Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought and for their not embarking on a national program to prevent drought.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 June 2015 10:28