The advert that appeared in numerous Canadian newspapers this week, condemning Canada's weak position against climate change and its proximity to big oil companies.


During the COP17 climate talks earlier in the week, it was leaked that the Canadian government would be pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol this year. 

Santa won’t be delighted to hear that news (the North Pole may soon be ice-free in the summer, as Arctic temperatures continue to rise at an alarming rate) -- but it’s really the people of Africa who are being hardest hit by the realities of climate change.

Following Canada’s proclamation, our own Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke up to challenge Canada’s support for the oil and gas industry, urging it to start leading the world in addressing climate change, the same way it did in opposing Apartheid in the 1980s.

"Canada, you were once considered a leader on global issues like human rights and environmental protection," says a new statement signed by Tutu and other South African leaders that was published in newspapers on Tuesday. 

"Today you're home to polluting tar sands oil, speeding the dangerous effects of climate change."

Oil produced from Canadian Tar Sands is said to be the world’s dirtiest fuel; its processing has a huge environmental impact, not only in terms of environmental degradation and pollution, but also in terms of its massive carbon footprint. The tar sands are a particularly potent fossil fuel, and their development would be a climate catastrophe.

"For us in Africa, climate change is a life and death issue," said Tutu. "By dramatically increasing Canada's global warming pollution, tar sands mining and drilling makes the problem worse, and exposes millions of Africans to more devastating drought and famine today and in the years to come."

In the halls of the COP17 conference center Canada is being talked about as a belligerent bully, and many are reminiscing about the nation that once played a productive role on the world stage as a problem-solver and decisive leader. 

And around the world, people are protesting against the Canadian government’s marriage to the tar sands industry -- many of them Canadians, dismayed to learn what their government is doing in their name. And we in Durban are feeling a pang of sadness at the moral decline of the Canadian delegation. It’s just one more instance of governments listening to polluting corporations, and not the people. 

Join Desmond Tutu in sending a message to the Canadian government by adding your voice here.