Environmental policy is on the minds of politicians and activists who are using Earth Day as an opportunity to critique the Conservative government's record on green issues.
In a statement issued Sunday, Liberal environmental critic Kirsty Duncan panned the federal government for its decision to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol and change the rules on environment assessments, among other moves.
Accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government of relinquishing their ecological responsibilities, she warned of "reckless cuts to climate science, environmental protection, monitoring and industry oversight."
Duncan's words come as eco-friendly Canadians across the country ring in Earth Day with a host of activities devoted to protecting the planet.
Among dozens of planned events is a tree planting in Windsor, Ont., a zoo run in Saskatoon and a parade in Vancouver.
More than six-million Canadians reportedly participate in annual Earth Day projects to improve their local communities.
Though John Bennett of the Sierra Club of Canada says he's proud of the scale of the nation's environmental movement, he says this year's celebrations come at a dark time.
In a bid to speed up approvals of major resource projects, the federal government announced plans last week to limit the role of environmental groups in project reviews.
"The government has actually moved us backwards about 25 or 30 years," Bennett asserted Sunday on CTV's Question Period.
Dissenting voices to speak ‘more often and louder'
Under the new measures, reviews will be restricted to no more than two years and only those who are directly affected by the project will be allowed to participate. This could prevent environmental groups such as the Sierra Club from weighing in on an issue.
"They have just decided that environmental assessment processes are just a rubberstamp and an annoyance," he said in an interview from Toronto.
For his part, Bennett predicts Ottawa's new guidelines will provoke a backlash, especially as Earth Day nudges environmental issues into the spotlight.
"People are going to speak out more often and louder," he said.
Invented in the United States in 1970, Earth Day is devoted to all things green -- whether it's forests, clean air and water, or stopping pollution.
Jed Goldberg, president of the organization Earth Day Canada, says April is an ideal time to be reflecting on our relationship with the environment.
"It's the spring. It's sort of a time of renewal, we're coming out of winter," Goldberg told CTV News Channel on Sunday.
But Goldberg stressed that the lessons learned on Earth Day are meant to ripple into the rest of the calendar year.
"We're really about changing people's habits and behaviours all year round," he said.
Climate change has emerged as a leading concern among Earth Day participants in recent years, a cause furthered by celebrity activists such as former U.S. vice-president Al Gore.
Other Earth Day events occurring in Canada include:
- Toronto: The Toronto Zoo is hosting a "Party for the Planet" where kids can learn how to recycle and enjoy talks with animal keepers.
- Edmonton: Music, healthy food and green workshops are on the agenda at the 2012 Edmonton Earth Day Festival.
- Montreal: Children and adults with shoes to spare are encouraged to donate their old footwear to Soles4Souls, an annual shoe drive.
- Burnaby, B.C.: Free canoe rides, bird and bee box building and trail walks are some of the many activists offered at Earth Fest, hosted by the Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C.
To check for other Earth Day events in your community, please follow the link