The Trial of David Suzuki

Laurie Brown

Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 8:00 PM
Currelly Gallery, Royal Ontario Museum

Suzuki-775

Ticket Information: www.rom.on.ca/whatson or 416-586-8000

In The Trial of David Suzuki Canada’s most respected scientist, Dr. David Suzuki stands accused of seditious libel.

Devastating climate change calls for drastic measures. Dr. Suzuki has written a Carbon Manifesto; a bold, uncompromising plan that spells out the end of oil and sets a new course for the future of sustainable energy. 

Is he talking treason or reason? Will the Carbon Manifesto save Canada or destroy it? Is he undermining the financial security of the country? Or does the economy and country matter when our planet is turning toxic?

In this unique theatrical event we find one our most respected scientists tried in a court of law for speaking out against our environmental practices. The Trial of David Suzuki is a mock public trial with a jury, real lawyers, expert witnesses and a real judge. 

The Cast

The Judge: To be announced
Defense Lawyer: Linda Rothstein, Partner, Paliare Roland Barristers; David Donnelly, Donnelly Law; assisted by Michael Fenrick, Paliare Roland Barristers
Prosecution Team: Will McDowell, Partner, Lenczer Slaght; Vanessa Park-Thompson, Lenczner Slaght
David Suzuki: himself
Court Registrar: Laurie Brown
Expert Witnesses: Michael Hlinka, Gord Miller

We do not know how the evening will end. Along with the jury, the audience will decide whether Suzuki is innocent or guilty, right or wrong. 

This innovative and dramatic trial, played out in the ROM’s Currelly Gallery, will challenge science, law, art… and the audience.

The Trial of David Suzuki will be live streamed at www.trialofsuzuki.ca.

The Trial of David Suzuki, created and produced by Laurie Brown in partnership with Donnelly Law, is presented by Cape Farewell and ROM Contemporary Culture, as part Carbon 14: Climate is Culture and is supported by: Caroline Birks of Panicaro Foundation, and John St. Special thanks to the David Suzuki Foundation.


Cast Bios

Laurie Brown
Laurie Brown is a passionate advocate for the arts and artists in Canada. She has built a reputation as an accomplished interviewer and seasoned broadcaster by bringing out the best in Canadian artists.

Brown is the host of The Signal, a late night music show on CBC Radio 2. Taking the best from the worlds of contemporary, jazz and post rock, she pilots an atmospheric ride out to the edges of new music, six nights a week.

Laurie Brown thanks Cape Farewell for the inspiration and opportunity to make this happen – and to everyone who donated their time and expertise to the trial. And special thanks must be given to Dr. David Suzuki for so graciously coming along for the ride.

David Donnelly
David Donnelly is one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers and an award-winning advocate for smart growth. He has represented public interest groups and ratepayers in some of Ontario’s key environmental battles, including: the Oak Ridges Moraine OMB hearing in Richmond Hill; the Big Bay Point OMB mega-marina hearing; the Walkerton Commission of Inquiry; and the 1.8 million acre Greenbelt Plan for Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe.

Donnelly Law was founded in 2008 to serve leading environmental non-profit and charitable organizations, citizen groups, and First Nations. Donnelly Law is counsel to Environmental Defense and is dedicated to fighting for people and groups who work in the public interest.

Donnelly has been an advisor to governments on law and planning reform, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, and is a frequent media commentator. He regularly appears in court to protect green space, aboriginal cultural heritage and to prosecute environmental offences.

Donnelly has a law degree from the University of Windsor and a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from York University. Prior to practicing law, he was executive director of Environmental Defense Canada from 1988 to 1996.

Michael Hlinka
Michael Hlinka is a tenured professor in the Faculty of Business at George Brown College and runs the Passing the CFA and Passing the CSC Programs at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. In addition to his teaching duties, Hlinka has provided business commentary for CBC radio since 2002.  His first book, Follow Your Money, co-written with Kevin Sylvester, is in its second print run and has been translated into Korean. His first solo effort, Re-Charging the Canadian Economic Machine is scheduled for release in early 2015. When not working, there’s nothing Hlinka likes better than working out at his local YMCA.

Will McDowell
Will McDowell practiced as partner in the litigation section of McCarthy Tétrault since 1989. He then joined Lenczner Slaght as partner in 2008, after serving as Associate Deputy Minister of Justice since 2005 in Ottawa. McDowell has extensive counsel practice in the areas of defamation, negligence, commercial and public law. He is a leading libel and media practitioner, and has been recognized in Lexpert and elsewhere for his expertise in these areas.

McDowell has a longstanding interest in the relationship between aboriginal peoples and the Crown, and has also has been involved in many cases with a significant public dimension. He was appointed by Chief Justice Winkler to mediate issues surrounding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008. In 2009, McDowell acted as Amicus to the Ontario Superior Court in litigation arising from protests in Brantford, Ontario. He was appointed as Commission Counsel to the Mississauga Judicial Inquiry in November 2009. McDowell was also lead counsel in the resolution of Maher Arar et al and the Government of Canada, for which he shared a Department of Justice National Award. He was elected a Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2011.

Mr. McDowell is a graduate of the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1988. He is also a graduate of Queen’s University in Political Studies. McDowell admits he drives a large SUV, although his spouse owns a gas-electric hybrid.

Gord Miller
Commissioner Gord Miller was sworn in as Environmental Commissioner of Ontario on January 31, 2000, to oversee the continued implementation of the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR). He has now been re-appointed for his third term. As an independent officer appointed by the Legislative Assembly, Miller oversees 13 ministries and monitors and reports annually on Government compliance with the provisions of the EBR, Government progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and activities in Ontario to reduce the use or make more efficient use of electricity, natural gas, propane, oil and transportation fuels.

Prior to his appointment as Environmental Commissioner in 2000, Miller worked as a scientist in pollution abatement and in environmental education and training. As Environmental Commissioner, Miller has released 12 annual reports, seven special reports, four Greenhouse Gas Progress Reports and four Energy Conservation Progress Reports to the Ontario Legislature.

Linda R. Rothstein
Linda Rothstein is managing partner of Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein, a 34 lawyer litigation boutique. She practices in the areas of civil and administrative litigation with particular expertise in class actions, commercial litigation, professional liability and misconduct, public law, employment and human rights, judicial review and appeals. Rothstein was Commission counsel to the Goudge Inquiry (2007–2008), and lead counsel to the City of Toronto in the Computer Leasing Inquiry (2002–2005). She is a Toronto Regional Bencher of The Law Society of Upper Canada, a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow and Board Member of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, Past President of The Advocates’ Society (Ontario). Rothstein is also co-author of Lawyers’ Professional Liability 3rd ed. (LexisNexis Canada, 2013) and Professional Liability (ch. 9) in D. Lundy, G. MacKenzie and M. Newbury, Barristers & Solicitors in Practice, (Butterworths, 1998). She was the recipient of the prestigious Law Society Medal and the Award of Distinction from the Toronto Lawyers’ Association, and the 2013 Lexpert Zenith award. Rothstein has been honoured by the Best Lawyers of Canada as the best Administrative and Public Law lawyer (2012) and the best Employment and Labour Law lawyer (2013).

David Suzuki
Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. He is a Companion to the Order of Canada and a recipient of UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize for Science, the United Nations Environment Program Medal, the 2012 Inamori Ethics Prize, the 2009 Right Livelihood Award, and UNEP’s Global 500. Dr. Suzuki is Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and holds 28 honorary degrees from universities around-the-world.

He is familiar to television audiences as host of the multi-award winning, long-running, CBC science and natural history television series The Nature of Things, and to radio audiences as the original host of CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks, as well as the acclaimed series It’s a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies.

In 1990, with Dr. Tara Cullis, he co-founded The David Suzuki Foundation to work with “government, business and individuals to conserve our environment by providing science-based education, advocacy, and policy work for social change that today’s situation demands.” His written work includes more than 54 books, 19 of them for children. Dr. Suzuki lives with his wife and family in Vancouver, B.C.

Vanessa Park-Thompson
Vanessa Park-Thompson practices civil litigation at Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP, with a focus in intellectual property matters. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Vanessa worked in neuroscience research labs in Canada and France.

Multimedia Extras

Gallery: The Trial of David Suzuki

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

  • Scene from the Trial of David Suzuki.

Photos by Kathryn Palmateer


Audio: Laurie Brown

The Carbon Manifesto

Laurie Brown on Suzuki’s Carbon Manifesto (0:01.05)


David Suzuki’s Carbon Manifesto

I’m David Suzuki. I stand here today as an elder, beyond the temptations of money, fame or power. I have no hidden agenda but to speak the truth.

Human beings and the natural world are often too beautiful for words. I’ve spent much of my career filming the wonders of nature and our place in it – many times words would fail me. As I near the end of my life, I am amazed at how much power, technology, wealth and consumption humanity has acquired, and that has transformed our lives while at the same time undermining the very life support systems on which our existence and well-being depend – air, water, soil and food, photosynthetic activity and biodiversity.

Now, my grandchildren are the joy of my life, but I know how uncertain their future is and all the baubles of our consumer society cannot compensate for the rich wonders and generosity of nature. But you don’t have to be moved by the beauty of the world to understand that we depend on it utterly for our very existence. My postwar generation and the boomers who followed lived like kings and queens as we partied as if there was no tomorrow, never worrying about the kind of world we were leaving for our children. Well, the party’s over.

“Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course… If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future we wish for human society…No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished… A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

Those words are taken from the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, from November 1992, over two decades ago. It was signed by over 1,700 senior scientists from 71 countries and included more than half of all Nobel prizewinners.

Since the World Scientists’ Warning, scientific study after scientific study has documented the perilous state of the atmosphere, oceans, forests, vanishing species, toxic pollution and the unanticipated consequences of powerful new technologies.

Now we stand on the edge of a precipice that is of our own making. In less than 100 years, we have managed to lose sight of our absolute dependence on nature, and our responsibility not to foul our own home. We congratulate ourselves for growth, expansion, technological advances, and profits, and we live with the illusion that our inventiveness enables us to keep the economy growing without limit.

Canada has been near the head of the line when it comes to growth and profits in the world. And the tyranny of the belief that the economy is what matters most to the country has transformed us to a point where we can hardly recognize ourselves. George Monbiot writes “Canada: a “liberal, cultured, decent country” has been “transformed into a thuggish petro-state.” I believe this is who we are. A country that in spite of everything science tells us, what the changing weather tells us, is determined to squeeze every bit of oil out of the ground to grab the last of the profits to feed an addiction that we know is destroying a future from coming generations.

Governments and corporations are not just failing us, they are the driving forces that are taking us to the brink, wilfully ignoring the consequences and thereby committing what can only be called an intergenerational crime. The consequences of their actions — and inaction — will reverberate for generations. Wilful blindness is an indictable offence as is criminal negligence, but intergenerational crime is so recent a concept that we have yet to develop the legal mechanisms to act. Our so-called leaders must be held accountable.

This accountability must extend to every citizen of Canada. We have failed our children and our planet because of our fear of change and our fear of the future.

I accuse corporations, including the automobile, energy, pharmaceutical, chemicals, and agricultural sectors; of putting profit and growth before all else including the survival and health of society. That their corporate lobbying is setting our country’s agenda is shameful.

I accuse Canadian politicians of intergenerational crimes. Their actions will affect our grandchildren, and their grandchildren.

I accuse Canadian corporations and government of immoral activity with devastating consequences for the poorest, most vulnerable nations on the globe.

I accuse Canada’s politicians and its citizens of wilful blindness, of failing to be informed about critical issues that they have the power to influence and of failing to take action when they are aware of avoidable ecological crises.

If my country refuses to exonerate me, then it stands guilty of failing to defend its vaunted claim of freedom of speech. If my words are judged treasonous, then so be it.

With my carbon manifesto, I aim to stop these crimes:

  1. Fossil fuels as our primary energy source are over. Within a generation they must stay in the ground. That means exploration and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry end now.
  2. Save the earth’s largest carbon sinks: Canada’s Boreal forest and our oceans must be protected.
  3. Seventy per cent of our energy must be renewable energy within one generation.
  4. A carbon tax of $150 per tonne starts now.
  5. Canadian climate scientists must be able to share their findings uncensored and unimpeded by political and corporate interests.

I hereby offer a manifesto pledge:

Human beings have become so powerful that we are altering the biological, chemical and physical properties of the planet on a geological scale. We must look to the future, and science rather than politics or economics must be our guide.

I know our dependence on fossil fuels must end.

I know it will take massive change for us as a species to survive let alone thrive in the converging global crisis around climate, food, water, fuel and the economy.

I pledge to stop the epidemic of blame around the climate crisis and recognize my own responsibility.

The way I live my life is part of the problem.

I believe we need a new vision for our future as Canadians and as humans.

I pledge that I am ready to implement change. I want to be part of the solution not part of the problem.

I stand with the Carbon Manifesto. This is our way forward.

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