Gavin MacRae photo, courtresy of the Watershed Sentinel

Comox Valley adds voices to the demand for a federal climate debate

Jul 18, 2019 | Environment

By Gavin MacRae

Some 30 rallies held Wednesday across Canada – outside CBC studios, offices and in the streets – aim to pressure the public broadcaster to host a debate between federal party leaders on the climate crisis ahead of the coming election.

For the Comox Valley’s part, around 60 people gathered at Marina Park in Comox for a rally organized by Comox Valley Nurses for Health and the Environment.

“As our public broadcaster, the CBC has a moral obligation to make sure that every single person in Canada knows which of our leaders have a real plan to tackle the climate crisis,” read the Facebook event page for the rally.

Speakers included Alex Nataros, a family doctor in Comox; Nalan Goosen, leader of Youth Environment Action; Celia Laval with the Comox Valley Unitarian Fellowship Justice Committee; Mark de Bruijn, nominee for the Green Party candidate for North Island – Powell River; and Rachel Blaney, NDP MP for North Island – Powell River.

In covering climate change, “Canadian media and the CBC need to up their game,” Laval said, summing up the sentiments of the speakers.

Because the climate crisis and ecological collapse are possibly the biggest issues humanity has ever faced, Laval said, “This is not just an election issue, this is the election issue…. We demand CBC hold a debate of the federal leaders.”

Nataros said concerned voters can call or write the CBC or use the hashtag #changethedebate on social media.

Scrutiny of Canadian media’s coverage of the climate crisis – CBC’s in particular – has grown in recent months after the UK paper The Guardian became the first to update their journalist’s style guide to replace the term “climate change” with “climate crisis” or “climate emergency.”

“‘Climate change’ is no longer considered to accurately reflect the seriousness of the situation,” reads the updated guide.

An open letter published on May 28 in The Tyee, by Mount Royal journalism professor Sean Holman, further pressed Canadian media. In it, Holman wrote that media in Canada have repeatedly failed to “apply basic journalism principles to the climate change crisis confronting us.”

An example given by Holman is when on May 6, news of the birth of a royal baby eclipsed the release of a major UN report warning of critical worldwide declines in biodiversity.

After analyzing climate coverage in a database of 569 English language Canadian newspapers and CBC and CTV newscasts, Holman found mainstream media reporting “too often does not reflect the scope and severity” of the climate crisis.

To correct course, Holman’s letter outlined a five-point plan for media to better prioritize, cover, localize and contextualize climate reporting.

Eventually the CBC clarified their position: their journalists have latitude to “sometimes” use the terms “climate crisis” and “climate emergency,” but they will retain “climate change” as the default term. The CBC’s director of journalistic standards described the new terms as having “a whiff of advocacy to them,” garnering criticism on social media.

The discussion appears to have driven change. The CBC launched an “ambitious and comprehensive” climate series they say will appear on television, radio, online and on CBC Kids News, “because Canada’s youth care deeply about this issue.” The Toronto Star also recently published an in depth series detailing impacts of the climate crisis in Canada as well as solutions.

Gavin MacRae is the assistant editor of the Watershed Sentinel magazine, which is a publishing partner of Decafnation. You can also see this story at, or click their icon above


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