Criminalize ecocide: cross-party members of parliament join in talks to declare widespread environmental destruction an international crime

Group working to amend international law to include ecocide

Members of parliment Elizabeth May (Green Party), Alexandre Boulerice (NDP) and Jenica Atwin (Liberal) hold a news conference to discuss making ecocide, which is the mass damage and destruction of the environment, an international crime.

MPs from across all parties in Ottawa say they’re partnering with Stop Ecocide International (SEI) to hold large scale polluters accountable using international law. They want to do this by amending international law to include ecocide.

SEI was founded by Polly Higgins and Jojo Mehta. According to its website they, “collaborate with diplomats, politicians, lawyers, corporate leaders, NGOs, indigenous and faith groups, influencers, academic experts, grassroots campaigns and individuals.”

Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader spoke about the need for a change in how Canada views environmental destruction.

“If you throw a brick through a plate glass window of your local Starbucks it’s a crime. If you clear cut the last old growth forest and wipe out a species it’s ok if it adds to the GDP as long as you have a provincial permit,” said May at a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday.

There has been a small but growing number of world leaders including Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron speaking out against what is called ecocide, the widespread and long-lasting destruction of the environment.

Both say ecocide poses a threat to humanity but remains beyond the reach of international criminal law.

The Pope describes ecocide as “the massive contamination of air, land and water,” or “any action capable of producing an ecological disaster,” and has proposed making it a sin for Roman Catholics.

In Ottawa, Amelie Wilkinson, who is the youth for ecocide law co-lead for SEI said during a press conference, “we are here today because we have shared non-partisan interests to protect biodiversity to prevent environmental destruction and ensure that future generations…can thrive.”

The NDP, Green Party and Liberals participated in the news conference. Rob Morrison, Conservative MP for Kootney, B.C., had planned to attend but was unable to, according to Wilkinson.

Wilkinson said there is strong youth grassroots support. She read some quotes from youth across the country about why they are concerned with ecocide.

Wilkinson said that unlike suing and fining corporations, listing ecocide as an international crime means that mass-polluters can be arrested for polluting and liable for the damage it causes.

SEI is working to add ecocide under the Rome Statute of the international criminal code.

The Rome Statute currently has four crimes listed: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.

Jenica Atwin, Liberal MP (riding) said she was attending as an MP, not as a representative from the Liberal party and that she is speaking in favour of amending the Rome Statute.

“I am here today to use my voice as a parliamentarian, as a mother,” said Atwin. She said that the government was making the environment a top priority.

“We need to continue to fully transition from an economy dependent of fossil fuels and strengthen local economies,” said Atwin, whose government bought a $ 3.40 billion Trans Mountain pipeline.

“We are participating actively in our own demise,” said Atwin.

Wilkinson said it’s up to the federal government to act.

“We are calling on the Canadian government to affirm a commitment [to consider ecocide] an international crime,” said Wilkinson.

She said other governments around the world have already done this, but right now SEI is working on bringing together people across partisan lines. Iceland, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Finland and Spain have expressed varying levels of support for the idea and, the Belgian parliament voted to recognize the crime of ecocide at both the national and international level.


Corrections: This article originally misspelled Amalie Wilkinson’s first name as Amelia.

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