2018: A year of ups and downs for social justice

snow timeThis is my last blog of 2018, so now is a good time to reflect on some of the highlights centering on social justice that were significant to me this year.

To start, I was so heartened to witness the comeback of COPE, a party very important to me and one I’ve been heavily involved with for almost 40 years. In October’s municipal election, COPE candidates were elected to all three Vancouver municipal bodies — park board, school board and city council. This shows that the people of Vancouver are once again starting to vote with a social conscience.

On a less positive note, I’m terribly disappointed to hear that the ‘no’ vote carried the day in the electoral reform referendum. I’ve blogged previously about how proportional representation is essential for better equity and diversity in the halls of power.

Also, we all witnessed the lack of meaningful progress at the UN’s COP24 climate change conference in Poland earlier this month. In November, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached a concentration not seen in 3 to 5 million years. Sir David Attenborough warned that “if we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

The people highest-at-risk are the world’s most vulnerable, who are already suffering the effects. According to the WHO, ”communities of color (including Indigenous communities as well as specific racial and ethnic groups), low income, immigrants, and limited English proficiency face disproportionate vulnerabilities due to a wide variety of factors, such as higher risk of exposure, socioeconomic and educational factors that affect their adaptive capacity, and a higher prevalence of medical conditions that affect their sensitivity” to climate change.

Now, more than ever, nations of the world need to commit to a reduction in CO2 emissions, as was recommended prior to the conference by the IPCC’s report. To limit warming to 1.5°C, by 2030 global human-caused emissions of CO2 need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels, reaching net zero by around 2050.

Unfortunately, while COP24 did produce a set of rules to deal with issues such as consistent ways of measuring human-caused CO2 emissions, no commitments were made to achieve the hard targets for reducing them. This shows a total lack of social conscience.

Also in 2018, we saw the retirement of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin from the Supreme Court of Canada. She served as Chief Justice for 17 years — longer than any other Chief Justice in the history of the Supreme Court of Canada. At UBC law school, Ms. McLachlin was my first-year contract law professor — and definitely my favourite prof.

After being called to the bar, I appeared before her in court on two occasions. She was always very respectful, practical, and fair, and ruled against the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper on several important issues, including assisted death, which I blogged about last week.

As I look back on 2018, if there’s one thing I would wish for in the coming year it’s for the world to see more of the type of justice and fairness Beverley McLachlin provided our nation with over many decades.

Penny and I wish you all a very happy holiday season and a successful New Year!

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