Looking ahead to 2023, many challenges face us, including preserving our natural environment. CNS photo/Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Protecting people and our planet in 2023

  • December 8, 2022

With the ending of another year, we celebrate Jesus’ birth, the beginning of a life that leads to life for us all. As we ring in 2023, we need the new life of Christ to combat the culture of death.

Many challenges await us in the year to come. Two particularly timely ones are respecting the sanctity of human life and preserving our natural environment.

The value accorded to human life in contemporary Canada continues its steady decline. If nothing is done to stop it, March 17, 2023 will go down as a very dark day: by extending medically-assisted suicide to those suffering from mental illness, Canada will have one of the most liberal end-of-life policies in the world.

In a statement released Dec. 1, the Association of Chairs of Psychiatry in Canada calls for a pause in this deadline, saying that the country is not ready for so-called MAiD to be offered solely on the basis of mental disorders.

The group lists issues that need to be resolved, some of which include the lack of education to prevent suicide, limited access to mental health and addiction care and the absence of a definition of “incurability” for various mental disorders.  

The Society of Canadian Psychiatry posted an online petition to delay MAiD expansion until 2024. As of Dec. 1, more than 80 psychiatrists signed the petition, expected to be presented to federal government officials later this month.

That experts are even considering offering MAiD to mentally ill patients is deeply disturbing. One practitioner who outright refuses such an expansion, Barrie psychiatrist John Maher, was quoted on CTV National News saying doctors will be “assisting someone in the completion of their suicide. The doctor is the sanitized gun.”

He told CTV’s W5: “I had a patient who talked to me recently about MAiD who wants to die because of his belief no one will ever love him.” 

It’s hugely important that we continue to speak out against this horrifying practice and demand that medically assisted suicide not only be prohibited for the mentally ill, but rescinded altogether.

Another daunting challenge for 2023 is the preservation of our natural environment. 

Human activities have damaged ecosystems to the point where dramatic heatwaves, fires and floods are becoming commonplace. These and other climate change impacts are strongly connected to land. Natural features such as forests and wetlands regulate temperature and rainfall and are home to many species of plants and animals that, in turn, maintain a healthy environment. It’s vital we keep these natural ecosystems intact as much as possible.

But that is being threatened in Ontario with the passage of Bill 23. The new law, which promises construction of 1.5 million new homes in the next 10 years, overrides some municipal zoning laws and weakens conservation authorities’ ability to stop development that would harm the environment.

On Nov. 4, the government launched a month-long consultation on its proposal to remove around 7,400 acres from the Greenbelt so that new houses can be built.

Adding new units is indeed necessary since housing supply — particularly affordable housing — falls far short of demand. But the government’s key strategy appears to favour the construction of new subdivisions with houses that are far larger than those elsewhere on the globe.

Canada ranks third in the world for the largest homes, with an average size of 1,700 square feet. In Hong Kong, houses in Hong Kong are on average 484 square feet. In Russia, it’s 614 square feet and in Italy, 872 square feet. As a society, we need to reflect on the fact that smaller homes and multi-unit structures allow us to conserve land, protecting our environment and green spaces.

We need to exercise caution in clearing virgin land for development, focusing rather more on re-designing the space we currently have in urban areas. There are deserted buildings and wasted space in cities across the province that can be revitalized to create new neighbourhoods. 

There have been many proposals to increase housing supply in cities. For instance, the 2019 report “Rethinking the Yellow Belt” calls on the City of Toronto to allow for the construction of duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, row homes and low-rise apartment buildings in areas that are currently designated for detached houses only.

Municipal officials have indicated they will challenge the new law for a variety of reasons. We can add our voices to theirs for the government to come back to the table to design a housing strategy that will benefit families, especially low-income families, while protecting the natural environment.

(Majtenyi is a public relations officer specializing in research at an Ontario university.)

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