Historical notes

(still under construction -- many pieces missing -- your comments welcome -- BK)

Partial list of early environmental journalists and non-fiction environment writers in Canada

  • Grant Allen - Naturalist who later turned to science fiction
  • Fred Bodesworth -- Author Last of the Curlews The story follows the bird throughout a year during its migration to South America and return to the Canadian Arctic.
  • Dennis Brueckert -- Canadian Press environmental reporter. In recognition of his dedication to reporting on the environment, The Dennis Bueckert Memorial Scholarship in Environmental Journalism is being established. It will be awarded annually to a student with a strong interest in the environment proceeding from third to fourth year in the Bachelor of Journalism program at Carleton University. (2007)
  • Peter Desbarates -- Former television anchor, former dean, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Univeristy of Western Ontario
  • Harold Innis -- Media theorist, U. Toronto media professor whose early work included history of the fur trade in Canada.
  • Michael Keating --
  • Farley Mowat -- Known for books on the Canadian North, such as People of the Deer (1952) and Never Cry Wolf,(1963) and A Whale for the Killing. Never Cry Wolf was made into a film, released in 1983.
  • Grey Owl -- 1888 --1938 Grey Owl (Archibald Stansfeld Belany) born in Hastings, England. Belany emigrates to Canada in 1906 and pretends to be from a First Nations tribe when he enlists in World War I. By the 1920s he is a well known nature writer and advocate for environmental protection in Canada.
  • Marq de Villiers --

Environmental history resources

  • Natures Past Canadian Environmental History Podcast
  • Network in Canadian History and Environment - NICHE

Environmental history time line for Canada

  • 1534 -- Jacques Cartier explores the St. Lawrence river, claims land for France
  • 1600s -- Fur trade expands into rivalry between French, English and Dutch
  • 1670 - Hudson's Bay Company established in London
  • 1783 -- Fur traders in Montreal set up Northwest Company\
  • 1821 -- Northwest Company merges with Hudson Bay Company after bitter and bloody fighting
  • 1867 -- British North America Act unites eastern provinces into Dominion of Canada.
  • 1898 -- Gold rush in the Yukon Territory
  • 1906 -- Canada negotiates border pollution agreement with US and helps establish a scientific committee to guide efforts to end pollution and conserve fishing resources. Renowned scientist David Starr Jordan is to lead the committee. Little opposition is expected because the tide of Progressive Conservation is seen to be rising. But US fishermen, fearing international regulation, raise opposition and manage to get Congress to gut the treaty. A greatly weakened version of the treaty passes in 1913.
  • 1911 -- World's first national park service (Parks Canada) is established as the Dominion Parks Branch. See Alan MacEachern, Writing the History of Canadian Parks> >
  • 1913 -- U.S.-Canada boundary pollution commission established. Following an initial report, Congress considered a bill to prevent dumping of sewage into the Great Lakes and its tributaries, but the Public Health Service objects on the basis that the bill would be enforced by localities with questionable jurisdiction. Fishermen have already gutted key provisions of a the treaty in 1906. The greatly weakened boundary commission can do little more than observe as conditions deteriorate.
  • 1913 -- US Migratory Bird Act to regulate hunting runs into controversy; spring hunting and marketing of hunted birds prohibited; treaty with Canada in 1918 solidifies regulations. Act also prohibits importation of wild bird feathers for women's fashion into the U.S., ending "millinery murder."
  • 1915 -- Group of Seven -- Canadian landscape painters -- become active.
  • 1918 -- Migratory Bird Treaty with US restricts hunting of geese and other migratory birds.
  • 1930 -- Canada National Parks Act
  • 1960 -- Don River in Toronto repeatedly catches fire, but it is the Cleveland, OH, Cuyahoga river fire in 1969 that makes an international impact.
  • 1971 -- September 15 -- The Phyllis Cormack, renamed Greenpeace, sets out from Vancouver to protest US nuclear testing on the Aleutian Island of Amchitka. The action sets off global environmental protests. A few months later, the organization Greenpeace is founded in Victoria, B.C. Its initial mission is to oppose atomic testing on Amchitka Island, Alaska. See: Greenpeace: How a group of ecologists, journalists, and visionaries changed the world; by Rex Weyler (Raincoast Books in Canada, Rodale Press in US, UK, NZ, Australia, Sept. 2004).
  • 1974 -- Energy Minister Donald Macdonald says Canadian oil self-sufficiency will not last unless an "intensive program" started to develop Altberta's tar sands.
  • 1979 -- Former Greenpeace founder Paul Watson and crew ram the Portuguese pirate whaler Sierra on the high seas, the first of 10 whaling vessels sunk or incapacitated by the Sea Shepherds and allies during the next 14 years. The Sea Shepherds go on to confront illegal driftnetters and other maritime poachers, facing prosecution by government in some jurisdictions, emulation by government agencies in others, and encountering both in Atlantic Canada, where Watson served jail time in the mid-1990s for challenging foreign fishing vessels two years before the government itself did. (M. Clifton, 2007)
  • 1979 -- U.S. and Canadian Energy departments agree to technology cooperation for developing Alberta tar sands. An energy conference in Alberta hears estimates of trillions of barrels of heavy oil and tar sands reserves.
  • 1970s - 1980s -- Lead smelter controversy in Toronto
  • 1981 -- Federal Energy Ministry derided by conservatives in House of Commons following suspension of American-controlled Imperial Oil Ltd. C$12 billion tar sands project. Critics say the ministry did not provide sufficient incentives.
  • 1982 -- Alberta premier sues CBC over a 1977 television docudrama called The Tar Sands. The minister said the docudrama falsely portrayed him as weak during negotiations over Alberta's tar sands project. The suit resulted in a May 22 out of court settlement for $50,000.
  • 1983 -- Protests begin against clear-cut logging in Clayoquot Sound, Canada. By 2000, the Sound will become a United Nations Biosphere Reserve.
  • 1984 -- Start of a 10-year suspension of the Atlantic Canada offshore seal hunt. The hunt resumed in 1995, after the failure of the depleted cod fishery to recover from overfishing left the Canadian and Newfoundland governments looking for someone or something to blame, and by 2002 was back up to near-peak levels. (M. Clifton, 2007)
  • 1984 - Sept. -- About 10,000 caribou drown at Calcaire Falls, Quebec, after their migration path is flooded by Hydro Quebec. The loss represents about 1.5 percent of the George River herd, but was significant as an unanticipated consequence of filling a new dam reservoir.
  • 1987 -- Sept. 16 -- The Montreal Protocol international agreement to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals signed by 24 countries, including the US, Japan, Canada and EEC nations.
  • 1988 - South Moresby park in Queen Charlotte Islands off British Columbia is set back over attempts by province to protect mining interests there. Plan to create a national park had collapsed due to controversy.
  • 1988 -- June 23 -- NASA scientist James Hanson and others warn Congress about possible consequences from global warming -- rising sea levels, drought and increased storm severity. Meanwhile, the World Meterological Organization and UN Environmental Program establish the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). At the World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in Toronto, Canada, a resolution calls for global CO2 emissions reductions of 20% by 2005.. A United Nations resolution is approved characterizing climate as a "common concern of mankind."
  • 1991 -- Dec 4 -- Environment Ministry announces new paper mill regulations to eliminate dioxins and furans and reduce suspended solids and other pollutants. Further study of organochlorines was recommended. The regulations were to be put into effect over a three year period.
  • 1992 -- February -- NASA finds record-high concentrations of chlorine monoxide in stratosphere. Ozone over northern parts of U.S., Canada, Europe and Russia could be depleted in late winter/early spring by as much as 40%.
  • 1993 -- Rafferty Alameda dam project between Saskatchewan and North Dakota completed. Controversial project was described by George Hood in Against the Flow as monumentally confused on the government level and reflective of increased power of the industrial interests.
  • 1993 -- April 13 -- British Columbia government approves more logging on Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation council and several environmental groups vowed to stop logging in the forest. Over 850 were arrested over the summer and 12,000 people joined protests, arguably the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience in Canadian history.
  • 1994 -- Oct 11 -- Nova Scotia Dept. of Environment warns that PCB contamination in some provincial lakes is as high as 62 ppm, more than 30 times over national safety standards.
  • 1994 -- Nov 20 -- Ontario Hydro abandons plans to build $10 billion Great Whale hydro project in northern Ontario.
  • 1995 -- May 19 -- Environment Minister Sheila Copps introduces bill in Parliament to ban the use of MMT, a manganese-based octane-boosting gasoline additive. The ban was partly due to the fact that MMT interferes with pollution control equipment in automobiles and trucks. MMT was made by Ethyl Corp. of Richmond, Virginia The U.S.
  • 1997 -- Heritage Minister rejects commercial development plan for Banff, Alberta, located inside the boundaries of Banff National Park.
  • 1997 - Court orders release of Ontario Hydro documents to the Globe and Mail. The documents involve internal reviews of serious safety problems in three nuclear power plants.
  • 1998 -- A controversial asbestos study from the University of Quebec published in the New Engloand Journal of Medicine says asbestos risks have been exaggerated by the US EPA. Other asbestos experts, for example from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, disagreed with the Quebec study.
  • 2000 - June -- A lethal strain of the E. coli O157:H7 bacterium in drinking water kills nine people in Walkerton, Ontario, Canada.
  • 2000 -- Clayoquot Sound becomes a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
  • 2001 -- June 18 -- Ontario and Quebec provincial premiers and eight US governors agree to Great Lakes pact curbing diversions and exports of water from the region. Five major diversions, such as the 2.1 billion gpd supply to the city of Chicago, had left lake levels at their lowest points in 40 years, studies said. The US states included Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
  • 2002 -- Dec 16 -- Canada ratifies Kyoto climate treaty, commiting to 6% reduction in greenhouse gasses from 1990 levels by 2012 (equivalent to 20 - 30% from 2002 levels).
  • 2003 -- August 14 -- Electric power failure affects 50 million people from New York to Ontario. A US-Canadian task force report on the incident blamed FirstEnergy Corp of Ohio for not being aware of a potential overload of its system.
  • 2005 August - Canada sends naval vessels to the Arctic port of Churchill. "The move is seen as a challenge to rival territorial claims and follows a spat with Denmark over an uninhabited island," according to a BBC timeline of Canadian History. Resource issues, especially undersea oil, may be involved.
  • 2006 - February -- Five million acres of rain forest on the west coast of Canada, the Great Bear forest, is saved from logging, and another 10 million acres will be logged under following an agreement between provincial and national governments in Canada. See Friends of Clayoquot Sound web site.
  • 2007 -- Aug 2 -- Russia plants flag on seabed within what is probably Canadian waters in an attempt to claim additional oil and gas resources. This isn't the 15th Century," Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay told the CTV channel. "You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'We're claiming this territory'," he said.
  • 2007 -- University of Alberta study shows salmon farming is associated with declines in the wild salmon population of spawning areas on the west coast.
  • 2009 -- February 19 - PM Stephen Harper and US president Barack Obama discuss "clean energy" issues. Harper wanted to exempt Canadian oil produced from oil sands from stringent US environmental regulations. Obama had been lobbied strenuously by environmentalists not to agree.. The U.S. imports more oil from Canada than from any other country.