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UK veteran, 96: Defend the peaceful Europe my generation died for | UK

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Devon, United Kingdom – Brigadier Stephen Goodall has always fought on the winning side -and hopes he will be doing so again in what he admits will be his last battle: Brexit.

Sitting upright in his armchair at his home in Devon, England, the 96-year-old British Army veteran recalls the ultimate sacrifice made by comrades to end warfare in Europe.

“My own experience of the Second World War has convinced me that we must defend the peaceful and democratic Europe that so many of my generation died for,” he says.

“I am an old man and the outcome won’t affect me – but it will affect my family and many people that I know for years to come.”

Goodall is an icon in the campaign for a second referendum on the UK’s relationship with the European Union after a first vote in 2016 started the clock ticking towards withdrawal on March 29.

He made headlines by volunteering to lead the first march for a “People’s Vote”, calling for a plebiscite – just as he had volunteered to fight fascism in 1942.

He is also the honorary commanding officer of the Veterans for Europe anti-Brexit campaign, launched by former military personnel.

The European Union was designed for peace, and personally, I believe that Brexit is the single most cowardly thing this country has done because we are running away from our friends and allies.

Stuart Thomson, Veterans for Europe cofounder

As the People’s Vote campaign intensifies its pressure on the UK’s divided parliament, the former brigadier epitomises the sense of duty that has prompted veterans to put their heads above the parapet.

“It is essential to do all we can to build international institutions like the EU that reduce the need to risk the lives of young men and women in the future,” he says.

The brigadier exudes a strong sense of duty as he recalls the 31 years he spent serving his country.





Brigadier Stephen Goodall (right) with a German colleague during his time at the Royal School of Military Engineering [Courtesy: Goodall family]

Wounded in Burma during the campaign against Japan, he returned to Europe where he served in Germany before running the Royal School of Military Engineering, which brought him into close contact with former European friends and foes.

Goodall reels off a list of reasons why he believes Brexit would be bad for Britain and is “unpatriotic”, from threatening to break up the UK to barring immigrant professionals who care for elderly people.

But he is particularly angry at the “shambolic” approach taken by Theresa May’s government to this issue: “Where are we being taken by these idiots?”

Veterans for Europe

Goodall epitomises the prominent role military veterans have at times assumed in the campaigns for and against Brexit.

For example, 97-year-old British veteran Harry Shindler – who now lives in Italy – led a failed legal sortie at the European Court of Justice to declare the result of the 2016 vote invalid for excluding 1 million UK expatriates.





Harry Shindler, a 97-year-old British veteran, led a legal sortie at the European Court of Justice to declare the result of the 2016 referendum invalid [Courtesy: British Embassy in Rome]

The Veterans for Europe campaign was launched after the 2016 referendum to dispel the idea that military personnel are instinctively pro-Brexit.

Cofounder Stuart Thomson says: “The European Union was designed for peace, and personally, I believe that Brexit is the single most cowardly thing this country has done because we are running away from our friends and allies.”

Thomson, a Royal Air Force communications engineer from 1987 to 2000 who served throughout Europe, stresses the strong EU links formed by military personnel in their personal lives.

Many have European spouses after being stationed with the British Army of the Rhine, at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in Belgium, or at bases in Cyprus and Gibraltar, and Brexit calls their right to remain in the UK into question.

Duncan Hodgkins, another cofounder, heads up work supporting those European spouses. He is married to a Dutch woman.

An army administrative official who served for 10 years in Germany, he revealed that Veterans for Europe was attracting the interest of colleagues in EU countries and had already gained members from France and Germany

“We are now looking to expand Veterans for Europe on the continent because we have the unity and we all believe in the same thing, peace in Europe,” he says.

Veterans for Brexit

Not all military veterans oppose Brexit, however, and some fix their bayonets against European integration.

The campaigning organisation Veterans for Britain was created during the 2016 referendum to make the case for EU withdrawal, but has since taken a lower profile; it did not respond to requests by Al Jazeera for comment.

Other veterans not aligned with any group spoke of their support for Brexit.

Lewis Campbell, a 68-year-old from Surrey, served in Northern Ireland with the Royal Green Jackets between 1969 and 1979, where he lost seven friends in action.

He voted for Brexit.

“I didn’t mind being a member of the European community, but became disillusioned when they started to impose rules that we must obey,” he says.

Campbell, who also served in Germany and was a corporal when he left the army, opposes the free movement implied by membership of Europe’s single market.

“The way things are going, we won’t be a country if we don’t get out of Europe.”

Michael Massey-Beresford, 81, from north London, served in the Green Jackets for 27 years, ending up as a major before retiring from the military in 1981.

He spent long periods in Germany and insists that European military integration threatens NATO.

“I served NATO, which is effective, but then there’s the European army, which would not be,” he says. “You can’t have both: it just doesn’t make sense.”





Michael Massey-Beresford, 81, is a former major in the Royal Green Jackets who backs Brexit [Gavin O’Toole/Al Jazeera]

However, while both former soldiers have different reasons for backing Brexit, there is one thing they share with their adversaries: criticism of May’s handling of this issue.

Campbell says: “It’s a hell of a mess.”

Massey-Beresford adds: “I just don’t understand what’s going on in Westminster, it’s absolute turmoil.”

Military symbolism

As the UK’s Brexit preparations take centre stage, with the deadline for quitting the EU fast approaching, the military itself is being deployed.

Thousands of troops have been put on standby to support government contingency plans if Britain ends up crashing out without a deal.

This reflex, to see the armed forces as a source of stability in times of crisis, helps to explain why veterans have emerged as powerful symbols in the Brexit debate.

Professor William Philpott, of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, said Britain’s military role in Europe has been central to its self-image.

“In the 20th century we fought two world wars in Europe, and that certainly shaped our national psyche and our relationship with it,” he says.

He noted that warfare has shaped two ideas in the popular imagination: an image of Britain standing alone and an image of Britain as a force for good in the world, both evident in Brexit debates.

“There are those who will be attracted to that atavistic view that we don’t need to be with the Europeans,” he adds.

“And on the other side, there are those that appreciate that Britain has been and always will be part of Europe.”

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed

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On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon

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When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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