Diana Yoon is a climate justice activist and currently the NDP candidate for Spadina-Fort York. Ian Borsuk is an environmentalist and community organiser in Hamilton.

The Canadian government should show leadership and halt trade negotiations with the Mercosur Bloc (which includes Brazil) to stop an unprecedented acceleration in deforestation of the Amazon. 

The Amazon is often referred to as the “lungs of the world” — but top scientists in Brazil have sounded the alarm that the already devastating amount of deforestation has increased at an unprecedented rate under the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. This deforestation has largely been to make way for cattle ranching, crops and land speculation. 

This week, Bolsonaro turned down international support and demonstrated weak interest in trying to stop or slow down the fires. In fact, he has made it clear that his government’s economic ambitions trump any concern for environmental impact or Indigenous rights. Bolsonaro even took the Harper-esque step of firing the head scientist of Brazil’s National Space and Research Institute for defending the satellite data gathered that showed an 88 per cent increase in deforestation compared to last year. And to top it off, Bolsonaro’s environment minister proposed “monetising” the Amazon by opening it up to commercial development as a solution to illegal logging. We cannot let this kind of absurd corporate greed run unchecked. 

Brazillian scientists are calling for international pressure on the Bolsonaro government to stop the destruction. French President Emmanuel Macron has stated that the fires amount to an international crisis and was joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in calling for the fires to be put on the G7’s weekend meeting agenda last week. Tensions between Bolsonaro and Norway and Germany have mounted after the two European countries froze funds transferred to Brazil to help fight deforestation — the freeze a result of Bolsonaro refusing to actually spend the funds on their agreed upon purpose. 

Despite this, Bolsonaro is now claiming that the country lacks the resources to stop the fires. Bolsonaro even floated the accusation that NGOs were starting the fires as a way to discredit his government, which has also seen major protests led by Indigenous women against his government’s policies. 

And yet, the Liberal Party of Canada has continued to work closely with Bolsonaro, notably continuing trade negotiations despite his history of anti-black, anti-indigenous, anti-LGBTQ+, and anti-environment rhetoric and actions. Canada and Brazil are also both members of the Lima Group — a coalition of countries convened to intervene in the Venezuela. 

In a time of climate crisis, the Amazon fires are a clear example of what’s ahead if our governments continue to prioritize corporate greed over Indigenous rights and land. Canada has a global responsibility to halt trade with Bolsonaro while the Amazon burns.

To let this crisis to continue to go on is near criminal. Indigenous people in the Amazon are losing their homes and land to industry aggression. The smoke from the fires has gotten so bad that images of Albertan cities during our new “smoke season” look tame in comparison to São Paulo being plunged into darkness as a major source of oxygen for the entire planet burns. 

Just this year, the Liberals passed NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s Bill C-262, which enshrines the The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in Canadian law, and declared climate change to be a national emergency. It’s time for Canada show leadership on these two vitally important efforts and join with other global leaders to find a solution to this crisis. 

As young people who have dedicated our lives to tackling the climate crisis, we are urging our federal government to take a stand against the destructive inaction that is causing irreparable harm to the health of the Brazilian people and our global climate.

As we approach a federal election, it’s time for Canadian voters to demand that the burning Amazon, Indigenous rights, and the climate crisis be critical election issues. If Justin Trudeau and his party do not act, Canada deserves a leader and a government that will.

Image: Alexander Gerst/Flickr