Law society's diversity policy 'most egregious' violation of freedom of speech: professor
Guests: Bruce Pardy, Renatta Austin, Janet Leiper
It has been decades, if not centuries that we have gravelled with these issues raised within the Canadian society. It has taken us four years to name the problem and to start talking solutions to partly be a great [unintelligible]. We need to talk about the problem, be blunt about its existence, to those who feel the first step is too far, it has been long time coming, that we recognize we need to create a healthy work environment for all of our colleagues.
AMT: Well that is Julian Falconer a prominent human rights lawyer speaking at the Law Society of Upper Canada last year. That body which represents all Ontario lawyers and paralegals has just released a report showing that Ontario's racialized law professionals suffered discrimination at every stage in their careers. Ontario's Law Society is now acting on recommendations that came out of that report. But one of them is proving controversial. Last month it's 58,000 members received - The members are called licencees - they received an email telling them they'll need to submit a written statement of principles to the society outlining their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Bruce Pardy has objected to this mandatory submission. He's a law professor at Queens University. We've reached him in Kingston Ontario hello.
BRUCE PARDY: Hello.
AMT: How did you react when you got that e-mail?
BRUCE PARDY: Well I got to me in the e-mail while I was eating lunch and it almost made me choke on my food. The news that we would be required to draft and submit a statement of principles attesting to certain values is an extraordinary proposition, and the most egregious kind of violation of freedom of speech. So for it to take place not only in Canada but at the behest of the governing profession, a governing body of some of the legal profession, is an extraordinary thing.
AMT: What does it mean to submit a statement of principles?
BRUCE PARDY: What does it mean, meaning in practical terms, or?
AMT: Like, how would it work? What would you have to do?
BRUCE PARDY: Well, you have to sit down and you have to draft out a statement that corresponds to what the Law Society would like to hear. They've provided a couple of templates which you can use and adopt if you if you wish. But the bottom line here is that this is the authorities requiring you to say what it is that they want to hear. And that idea is alien to this country. I mean the Supreme Court has said as much they have said that forcing someone to express an opinion that they may not have is totalitarian and alien to the tradition of free nations like Canada.
AMT: So you see it is it's an infringement on your freedoms.
BRUCE PARDY: It is. And I must make this point that this dispute and this issue is actually not about whether or not those particular ideas are valuable. Diversity and inclusion and equality can be very good values. And this is not about whether or not the report is correct or not. This is about whether or not authorities can make you say what they want to hear regardless of whether the content is good or bad, whether or not you approve or disapprove. You could change the substance that the subject of these requirements and the objection would still be the same. If for example the Law Society had said: “Everybody will submit a statement attesting to the fact that you value and promote freedom of speech” the objection would still be the same because now you are requiring people to say things. And that idea that there are thoughts and their words are not their own, is intolerable infringement of a basic idea.
AMT: And yet there are those who would argue that in 2017. Why would it be a problem for lawyers to say they value and promote diversity?
BRUCE PARDY: Because it will as I say it's not a question about diversity itself. It's about whether or not you can be made to say that you agree with anything, anything at all. Pick the value that you value the most. And of course there's a hierarchy of values and society consists of a whole lot of individuals who think and believe and value different things and that's the way it's supposed to be. It is in fact a diversity of opinion. In order to be able to have a society in which that can exist you must be able to think and speak for yourself, and it is not a question about which values are most important. Different people will hold different values as being more important than others.
AMT: Okay Bruce party I have someone else wanting to join this conversation. Renatta Austin is a Toronto lawyer with her own practice Eglington West law office. She's with me in our trying to studio welcome.
RENATTA AUSTIN: Good morning.
AMT: How do you view this requirement for lawyers?
RENATTA AUSTIN: Well I think what I'll start by saying is I think there's a bit of a misunderstanding with the greatest of respect to Professor Pardy in terms of what the law society is actually doing here. As someone who has followed this closely what I will say is to start, as with any other profession when someone seeks to join the legal profession in Ontario, we're already required to make declarations one more call to the bar about our values and how we will conduct ourselves and our professional and personal lives. So that's the first thing. We also operate under a number of rules of professional conduct and one of those rules is a requirement that we will follow the law and also acknowledge our special obligation to hold up human rights laws. And so the statement of principles and I just want to correct what's been said, my reading of it is not that there's any requirement that we draft a statement of principles and that the Law Society is somehow trying to control our thoughts and tell us what to believe. It's a statement of principles acknowledging existing obligations. So under rules of professional conduct we're already required to uphold human rights laws. We have a special duty as lawyers to make sure that in our in our interactions with the public, as well as with our colleagues, that we promote human rights and inclusion and diversity in those principles that are enshrined within our human rights laws. So the only thing that this is doing is saying: “Individual licencee, you on your own come up with a statement of principles that you can draft yourself acknowledging what your obligations are and once a in your annual reports we are just going to ask you to confirm with us that you have done that.”
AMT: Is there a penalty if someone doesn't do that?
RENATTA AUSTIN: Based on my reading of it there is no penalty. From what I've seen from the Law Society and that e-mail is that if you don't comply, at the end of the year you tell them that you don't have the statement, they will follow up with you. And as far as I read it that's about as far as things go.
AMT: Bruce Pardy.
BRUCE PARDY: Yes this is I believe a mischaracterization of what the statement of principles requires. There's a very important distinction here between being required to follow the law - which no dispute all the lawyers have to do that - on the one hand, and on the other hand to say that you agree and value and promote certain ideas. The law does not say that you must value and promote things. It says here's the way in which your conduct is governed. That's fine no problem at all. But to be required to state that you agree with it, that you value it, and that you will actively promote it is an entirely different proposition. At the core at the core of free speech is the liberty to criticize the content of the law. And so you must obey it. But at the same time you obey it you are allowed to say that you don't agree with it. And if you state if you make a statement and are required to make a statement that says that you do in fact agree with it, then you have just betrayed your own principles and your own soul.
AMT: I have a clip that I'd like to play. This week Toronto litigation lawyer Jared Brown appeared in a YouTube video with Jordan Peterson. And you Bruce Pardy, Mr. Brown basically takes issue with the underlying points raised in this in this new study and this requirement and the report that recommended it listen to him.
The requirement that's being rolled out right now is the result of a report in total strategies to address issues of systemic racism in the legal profession. I mean that statement on its own is saying that our industry, as well as the law society organization itself, is systemically racist. And clearly that's - to me and you know it's a very bold statement and one that I think requires some level of scrutiny. You know it's got me concerned because my industry has now been deemed a racist by the body that governs it.
AMT: Okay well that's another issue. Renatta Austin, what's your response to that statement?
RENATTA AUSTIN: Well I think - with the greatest of respect to my colleagues in the clip that you just played - I think it's telling about the resistance that we are getting from this is coming from quite frankly white males who may not experience the same kind of discrimination that some of us in the profession who are racialized, who are members of different minority groups experience. Where - this is the Law Society's efforts to address this issue of systemic discrimination actually came from feedback from members of the profession as well as from the public. This wasn't the Law Society just making a decision on its own to try to solve a problem that according to this gentleman doesn't exist. This was members of the profession saying: “These have been my experiences in the profession, whether it's in an employment context, it's in the context of how we interact with our staff members, with members of the public. I myself have been in courtrooms and lawyers lounges and seen and heard inappropriate and discriminatory comments being made towards colleagues, toward members of the public. So this is where this is coming from. So with all due respect I think it's always easy in these conversations for white males who perhaps this is not top of mind for them and part of their day to day experience to be dismissive of these types of offer is very smart.
AMT: Bruce Pardy, do you accept the underlying issues in the report, what the report concludes about systemic racism in the profession?
BRUCE PARDY: I think there may be some problems in the methodology used in the report but I must emphasize this, that is not the point here. If the report is done very very well and there are no problems with it, this problem about the fourth speech which still exist. It is not about the substance of the report. It is about the idea that the Law Society can come in and tell you what to believe and what to say.
AMT: What do you think? How do you think the Law Society should address diversity in the profession?
BRUCE PARDY: Anna Maria that is not the question.
AMT: It's is the underlying question now. That's what they're trying to get at?
BRUCE PARDY: Well no that is what they want is the question to be. What the Supreme Court has said is that forcing someone to speak in the way that you want to hear them is alien to the idea of a free society. It makes the law society into an ideological bully, and it also makes them hypocritical. Recently they decided not to allow graduates of a law school out in BC called Trinity Western to be licensed because one of the reasons that they gave was that it was inappropriate for an institution to require its members to make a pledge of values which is what Trinity Western requires them to do.
AMT: That is based on religious belief.
BRUCE PARDY: That's correct. But the point is this the law society's rejection of was an abstract one in principle which is that institutions should not require people to take on certain values, which is now exactly what it is that they've done themselves.
AMT: okay so let me ask, because we're almost out of time here. You are in this video as well and it's called a call to rebellion for Ontario legal professions. What rebellion are you planning?
BRUCE PARDY: We simply suggest that because this requirement is so over the line about what should be required. We suggest that people simply not comply with it so as to market their objection. I suspect that this requirement will be unconstitutional. But even so, myself what I'm going to do is I am going to take a copy of the column that I wrote in the post and simply submit that as Nystatin to principle.
AMT: Okay and we are almost out of time. Renatta Austin, just your view of that.
RENATTA AUSTIN: What I'll say is that being a lawyer in Ontario is a privilege. And in 2017, from my perspective, if there's any member of the profession who has a problem with acknowledging their responsibility to uphold human rights in this province perhaps the legal profession is not the right place for them to be. This is not an exercise in controlling anyone's thoughts. It's recognising the values that are enshrined in our charter and human rights law.
AMT: We have to leave it there. Thank you both.
BRUCE PARDY: Thank you very much.
AMT: That is Renatta Austin Toronto lawyer with her practice, her practice is called Eglinton West law office. She's in Toronto. Bruce Pardy is a professor of law at Queen's University in Kingston. They're both licensed by the law society of Upper Canada. Well when it comes to diversity in the ranks of lawyers in Canada's most populous province here the numbers: The proportion of racialize lawyers in Ontario is has gone from 9% in 2001 to 18% in 2014. Janet Leiper is an elected governor of the law society of Upper Canada - a position known as a bencher. She co-chairs what the society calls its challenges faced by racialized licensee's working group. She is a lawyer with her own practice in Toronto. She's former Integrity Commissioner of Toronto and she joins me in our Toronto studio. Hello.
JANET LEIPER: Good morning.
AMT: So the comment that this statement of principles is forced speech and a threat to free speech how do you respond to that?
JANET LEIPER: The working group carefully considered how to make this a meaningful part of a whole suite of recommendations that were meant to respond to the first challenges report, which took place about four years ago was a product of research, that raised the issues for us that before that had been known anecdotally but nothing further. So this particular aspect, adopt a statement of principles is geared towards the acknowledgement of an existing obligation and as well it talks about behavior. So this is a distinction the Supreme Court of Canada itself has drawn. It said the freedom to hold beliefs is broader than the freedom to act on them. And in the context of lawyers who are licensed and hold big positions of trust and paralegals as well in society, this is part of our obligation from the rules - you heard that earlier from Austin - our rules and our act talk about the special responsibility of licensees of the Law Society to uphold human rights laws.
AMT: And you just heard that there appears to be some debate or nonbelief among some lawyers whether even systemic racism exists, how do you respond to that?
JANET LEIPER: Well I would invite them to read the first report which was a product of independent research, independent of us. So we retained consultants who went out and did qualitative and quantitative analysis. And it's interesting because the experience of racialized licensees is so vastly different the numbers are huge as opposed to people who identify as being from a dominant majority as to what their experiences are an advancement and in hiring and in making partner. And that is borne out by the numbers more generally where we see racialized licensees are under-represented, as you go up the ranks. We hear it from focus groups that were conducted. We spoke to over a thousand people as well as a survey across the profession. But it's not just the legal profession. You can find this in every state every sector. Scientific American did a whole report in 2014 about the stem sector of science technology and the same issues there. It's sort of embedded in our culture and it's not about calling people individually racists. It's about saying look we live in a culture that was settled by white settlers. And it became part of the culture that that would be dominant so that people - as waves of immigration came here people have had to struggle with being seen as different and other.
AMT: And so how will this new requirement promote diversity?
JANET LEIPER: So this part of the requirement, again it's part of a 13 different recommendations, it is there to underline to lawyers and paralegals what their obligations are, to make sure that they are attending to those obligations and they can see themselves as leaders in promoting and promoting by their own behavior promoting by carrying out their obligations.
AMT: So individual lawyers need to do this but also law firms that have 10 or more legal employees. Am I right?
JANET LEIPER: Well that's right. If you're a law firm of more than 10 then you have to have a diversity policy. If you are an individual lawyer like I am or somebody with a smaller workplace, it's a matter of - as Ms. Austin said - you write your statement of principles. You do not have to submit it. The Law Society is not going to review your statement of principles. You have to report to them that you have considered it and done so and you say yes or no. They are providing information about how to do that. Some of us will probably want to be quite prominent about it. Put it on our websites. You can put it in your policy binder. It's a matter of having you attend to the obligation. And we do this already in other areas. You may remember a number of years ago a mortgage fraud was a big issue and probably still is it still continues to be something we struggle with. We added to that lawyers report a requirement that real estate lawyers acknowledge their obligations to try to prevent mortgage fraud. So this is not the first time we've done something like this to underline those obligations.
AMT: Okay, thank you for coming in. That is Janet Leiper she is an elected governor of the Law Society of Upper Canada. She's co-chair of what is called The Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group. She joined us in our Toronto studio. Let us know what you think. As you listen to this you can tweet us we are @TheCurrentCBC. Find us on Facebook. Go to our website cbc.ca/thecurrent and stay with us we're about to meet the three man behind the podcast Sickboy. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.
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Sickboy podcast tackles chronic illness with laughter
Guests: Jeremie Saunders, Taylor MacGillivary, Brian Stever
AMT: Hello I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current. Still to come for the people who live on the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. The choice is clear: Adapt or die as their islands disappear. Climate change means rising sea levels and every year less of their home land rises above that sea. Former President Anote Tong joins me as part of our project Adaptation, in the next half hour. But first it's sick and it's worth catching. Sickboy, the podcast.
Welcome to sick boy. A podcast where we will talk about what it's like to be sick.
[Music starts] So let's talk about it.
AMT: That is Jeremie Saunders launching his podcast Sickboy in 2015. Jeremie has cystic fibrosis and when he says he'll talk about what it means to be sick some of it goes like this.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: If there's anything that you can avoid in your life make it a barium enema because the very serious. It was awful. Not only was it the scariest moment of my life in CF, it was also my most embarrassing moment. I'm probably - what was I? I was probably about 14. And I remember coming in to do this barium enema and I've got the most gorgeous doctor.
VOICE: Oh no!
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: and she's like she must be like 25. I was like oh my god this is… This is amazing this is my doctor.
VOICE: You have arrived at a porno set.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Until she pulls out this like giant tube with a balloon attached to it.
VOICE: Oh my God!
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: And then she has to stick that thing at my butt.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: And then they have to blow the balloon up so that the thing doesn't like fall out of my ass.
VOICE: Oh my God.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: And then so it doesn't - it gets worse than that.
VOICE: They ask you to stand up and walk around.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: She says: “All right. All right you're full. We're not done yet. So you need to go to the bathroom over there.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Empty out and come back. So she pulls the thing out. Barium looks like milk.
VOICE: Oh! God!
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: So I'm just spraying milk in front of this beautiful woman.
VOICE: Get graphic.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: It was the most [laughs].
VOICE: Oh this is the best part.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Anyway, anyway…
AMT: Any way. Well, where do I start after that one?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: I cannot believe that that just played on The Current [laughter].
AMT: Hey, you put it out there.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: I did. Oh my gosh. Oh, yes.
AMT: Jeremy Saunders, okay I thought cystic fibrosis was about lungs. What does it have to do with your butt?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Yes. Well it is it is very much about the lungs but it's actually a multi organ affecting disease. So basically my body produces a much higher volume of mucus than the average person. And so that higher production of mucus is all throughout my body. The whole thing behind the barium enema story, why that happened, was well it's because I had this thing called intussusception, which is where my small intestine was rolling itself in on itself, kind of like you'd roll up a pair of socks. So I have to orally take enzymes and I would miss these pills when I was a kid I'd forget to take them or I'd be you know a bad kid and not take them because I wanted to be normal. And it would lead me to these really serious bowel obstructions and of course, this all kind of led into this very severe intussusception which is what led to the barium enema, in front of probably the first woman I ever fell in love with. I think it was love at first sight.
AMT: Well but this is what it means to be sick and have a chronic illness. Jeremy Saunders You are in our Toronto studio along with two friends who are your co-hosts of the podcast. So let's introduce Brian Stever and Taylor MacGillivray. Welcome.
GUEST: Thank you for having us.
AMT: You're all from Halifax. You're in Toronto in advance of a broadcast this Sunday of a documentary about you called Sickboy, just like the podcast it airs on CBC Television CBC Docs POV. So let's talk. Welcome all of you.
GUESTS: Thank you so much for having us. Thanks. Thank you very much.
AMT: Brian and Taylor did you ever think you'd laugh so much about sickness?
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: Oh not until I met Jeremie and then as soon as I did I knew that I would, very much so, for a long time to come.
BRIAN STEVER: It's funny. The funny thing is that there is there is nothing funny about being sick, about getting a disease or having an illness. But there are a lot of funny circumstances that come from that. So like Jereie's barium enema story. That's something that we can all laugh about in hindsight and even though it was serious in the moment. That's where the humor is and that's what Jeremy has really been able to show, Taylor and I, especially through his podcast.
AMT: So I'd like just to get something straight. Jeremie has an illness, a lifelong illness, the two of you do know of. You're his friends and you're willing to talk about it all.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: Right.
BRIAN STEVER: Yes.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Actually these two are - You guys should be science experiments, really. You’re specimens. You're both extremely gorgeous and on top of that fit. AF, as what the young kids would say.
AMT: You know I wondered if I should do this with the three of you because you have your own podcast so you can go rogue.
BRIAN STEVER: Well that's a good question. Where do you fit into these two categories? So, are you somebody who identifies with having an illness or are you like Taylor and I, who have illness affect you in other ways in your life but maybe not personally with your own body?
AMT: Illness affect me in other ways of life not personally with my own body. So, sure, friends who get cancer, people who get ill. And how do you talk to people about it and how do you let them talk to you and what do you ask. So the kinds of things that you discuss on your podcast I can learn from, and I can go: “Wait a minute, this is good to know.”
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: See that's the thing right. Like when we first came out with this podcast, we would say to people: “Oh it's a podcast where we talk to people about what it's like to be sick” and the response would be: “Oh, so it's for sick people.” But no here's the thing is that every person everyone in the entire world is in some ways affected by illness or effected by death or effected by just hard circumstances. Those are the things that we just tend to talk about on the podcast. We all deal with those things in our own way. So this is the thing about Sickboy is that it's the message that we're trying to put out there and the conversations that we're trying to have. Therefore, they are for everyone to be having.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: We're trying to bridge the gap between people who are sick and people who are not.
AMT: So remind us what does cystic fibrosis do to a person?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: So it affects a lot of different aspects of the body. But the big one the primary one is that it is a pretty serious lung disease. So my lungs are filled with this mucus, this fluid, and that provides this like breeding ground for bacteria which can lead to infection and that infection leads to fibrosis or scarring of the lungs. And over time, slowly but surely, the lungs begin to deteriorate. The majority of the people who pass with cystic fibrosis die from lung failure.
AMT: And there is no cure.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Not yet. No. There is no cure. It's a genetic disease. So this is something that I was born with but the advancement in how far we have gone in terms of treating cystic fibrosis has been astronomical. When I was born my parents were told that it would be very unlikely that I would live very much past my 20th birthday. And today sitting here with you I'm 29 years old. So you know and the average life expectancy today for people living with cystic fibrosis is something - they're really specific about it – it is something like 52.7 or something. And actually what's really cool is it's the highest average life expectancy in Canada than anywhere else.
AMT: So what is your lung capacity, Jeremie?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: My lung capacity right now hovers in like the mid 60% range.
AMT: So what does that mean you can or cannot do?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Right now I feel like I can pretty much do everything although…
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: Except smoke your corncob butt.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: You cannot do that.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Yes I had to give that up. No I pretty much can do everything.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: They sit outside on their little chairs on the balcony and I sit inside watching them. But I can I can pretty much do everything. I mean I get I get a little more winded. There's like, I have these moments where old I'll be doing something like I'll be taking my dog for a walk and I take him through this graveyard back in Halifax and there's this hill like that goes you know - and it's not a super steep hill but we get to the top of it. I sometimes will notice how winded I am. And if I'll be walking with my wife Bridey and our dog and I'm looking at my dog who's a French Mastiff who's just like panting so hard and I'm like: “I feel you buddy. We're in this together” and Bridey is you know she's just breathing very normally, breathing easy. But I've got this like pant coming on. The last 10 years or so I've been on this very steady decline in terms of lung function. And so it's you know every year it just becomes a little more apparent, a little more visceral, a little more noticeable.
AMT: Are you on a lot of medication?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Yes. I take about 40 pills a day. I do about two hours of treatment a day in terms of like keeping my lungs functioning. So I do a nebulizer when I wake up. Looks like a vaporizer but it's attached like very loud obnoxious generator. That's what I call a generator. Yes. So I do that in the morning and then I do it before I go to sleep just to keep this this whole machine running.
AMT: So Brian and Taylor, you've known Jeremy for how long?
BRIAN STEVER: I've known Jeremy for a boat over 15 years now. Jeremy and I first met at competing in the sport of Sprint canoeing. Jeremy was actually a better athlete than I was when we were 12 years old and it's kind of embarrassing because he has a genetic chronic lung disease and we were competing in like a timed aerobics sport.
BRIAN STEVER: But you know he was a year older than me. There's a big difference when you're 12 and 13 and you know…
BRIAN STEVER: There’s pictures of us when we were kids. You can see them in the documentary actually. I'm standing next to him on the podium and he's like a full foot and a half taller than me. So I blame it on that. The podium also was number one which is generally about a foot and a half taller than…
JEREMIE SAUNDER: Number two just say it.
BRIAN STEVER: That's right. Yes. I've known Jeremy for over 15 years now.
AMT: What about you, Taylor?
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: Jeremie and I, even though from the same city, around the same age, never knew each other back home. Serendipitously we go and take a yoga teacher training together and we get roomed up in Brazil together and meet on day one.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Seven years ago?
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: Yes it was seven years ago, 2011.
AMT: Close friends ever since.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: Almost immediately best friends. He asked me to be one of his best man at his wedding, maybe just over 30 days after we met.
AMT: So did you always joke about his illness? Like when did you two come to the point where you could talk about this and joke about this with him?
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: For me it was almost instantly because what happened was I arrived at this at this remote place where we're doing this training. And I arrived late at night. They this four by four through the jungle and then at one in the morning and I'm like: “Oh my god. I'm going to I'm going to walk in here and these guys are going to be sleeping my roommates.” Now Jeremie is up and he has to do his treatment before he goes to sleep. So he's there he's got his nebulizer, vaporizer, contraption that he's doing his medication before he goes to sleep. As soon as I walk into the room I go: “What's that? What are you doing? Are you...
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: I am smoking that good Brazilian stuff, man. Some rare Brazilian stuff.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: And then he goes, he makes some joke and then goes: “No no no, this is what I do for my illness.” Like immediately we were talking about his illness and making jokes and it's our sense of humor that like connected us as friends really quickly. So almost immediately with Jeremie.
AMT: Well your podcast brings other people with illness, kids, young people who have degenerative illnesses who have had them since birth. Lots of different people and didn't give us an idea of the kinds of stories your guests tell you.
BRIAN STEVER: Oh man yeah. There's been so many at this point we've recorded over 100 different episodes and we explore physical illness and mental illness and we've explored sexuality as well. And within the first couple of weeks we recorded an episode of boat bipolar and that blew my mind. It opened up this entire world of mental illness that I absolutely had no idea about, because it's similar to Jeremie's cystic fibrosis in a way that it's almost an invisible illness, but it's this thing that we can't quite understand. So I'd definitely say that the mental illness side of things has been the most profound impact on me because I had absolutely no idea about it when we started this.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: We talked to people living with these illnesses, whatever they may be, but we're not there to like understand what is the illness. That's not all we're interested in. We're there to understand what is the human experience you're going through in living with that illness. And that's like that's the thing that we're all that humor exists right. That's where it naturally kind of flowed out of people where they're telling us about the just the absurd experiences that they've had in living with diabetes, terminal cancer, bipolar or what have you.
AMT: How do you find your guests?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: They find us it so you know when this whole thing started it was just the three of us we did one episode where it was me Brian and Taylor. After that we decided okay well let's make sure that wasn't a fluke. Let's see if we can recreate what we just did. So we reached out to a friend, Matthew Eniah who had brain cancer. We recorded with him and then somebody heard we were doing this so they said you should talk to my friend. And so we talked to someone who we didn't really know but we sort of knew. And then from there it just turned into this insane outpouring of people coming for being like “I would like to talk. I'd love to share my story.” And now we're sitting on a list of close to 500 people.
AMT: Where they are from? They're not all from Halifax.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: All over the world.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: All over the world.
AMT: All over the world you have like in the film you've got somebody from India saying this is great.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Sam.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: Our biggest fan.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Her name Sam. She's actually a huge huge fan.
AMT: So Jeremie, you know you didn't always laugh about this. What was it like for you as a kid?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: I was a bit of a angsty kind of a bit of a drama queen. I wasn't always this way. There was a lot of like why me. A lot of trying to hide the fact that I have this disease. I didn't want people to… I would never be caught taking my medication in front of anyone. You know I was very- I was ashamed and embarrassed about it. I didn't like the fact that it made me different. And so I tried to just cover it up as much as I could. I really didn't ever really want to talk about it. If it did come up in conversation, I would go there, but it would just kind of really reinforce all of my fears that I had about not growing old and how that was going to affect me in my future you know. Like not too long ago I came across this autobiography that I wrote and in it I go through this whole - it was a school project. I was like 16 and I go through this whole thing about you know who's going to want to marry the guy that's going to die partway through the marriage. You know it's just like this very sad very – I was very sad about it. But somewhere in there, there was like a shift. And I mean today looking back at that, I'm just astounded that that's the way I thought about it. I live with a very different perspective these days.
AMT: We actually have a clip from a scene in the documentary where your dad is reading part of that autobiographical essay. Let's listen to him.
When it comes to thinking about my future and what I want to do with my life, when it comes to getting married and having kids. I don't really know what to think. I don't mind talking about CF and explaining what it is. But when I sit and think about things like what's the point of having kids [sobs] and who would want to marry someone who they know was not going to live. That's a tough. Those are the kinds of things that are hard to think about. And it makes me feel kind of useless.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: [Sobs] Man. [Laughs]
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Sad dads. Like sad dads. That sucks. I hate sad dads.
AMT: It's hard for you to hear your dad but your dad choking up there. He had not read that.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: No, like you know there was a lot of- I love my parents so much. Like I honestly I'm so grateful I have I have such incredibly supportive and just like beautiful parents. They did everything that they possibly could to just like make sure that I lived the longest that I can live, the healthiest life I have. I could live, the best happiest life I could live. But the one thing that – and this was like, this is definitely a big part of the documentary - The one big thing was that we never really talked about my illness much as a family. Mostly because I feel like my parents didn't know how to bring it up, like how do you broach that subject.
AMT: Then they didn't tell you it had an expected lifespan.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: That's right yeah. So I found out that cystic fibrosis is actually a fatal disease with a shortened life expectancy when I was 10. I found it on my own. My parents never told me and we never really had a conversation about it. And that's because they were told not to tell me. You know that's what the team the CF team the doctors were telling them their whole thing was like, he'll find out and then he'll come to you with questions and that's where you have that discussion. But that's not how it worked. That's not how it played out in my life. I found out by myself and I buried it and I buried it deep. And I'm not - I've never really spoken to a therapist about it. I'm not a psychologist obviously but I feel like taking that information and stuffing it so deep down it fostered this like really deep seated anger that I carried into my life young adult life. And I just pushed that so much on my parents. And it wasn't until I made that realization that I was I was carrying that weight of anger and really feeding it to them that I just realized how insanely silly that is and because it's not their fault. You know they are just flying by the seat of their pants they had no idea.
AMT: And in the film your mom and dad, what are their names?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Cobb and Maxine.
AMT: And your mom says, essentially: “We were processing this too. We couldn't tell him you're going to die at X age because we couldn't - we couldn't figure out what that meant for ourselves.”
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: They could barely wrap their own heads around. So how are they going to get some young child to wrap his head around it?
AMT: The 16 year old self who thought that no one would want to marry him actually you fell in love and you got married. Tell us about Bridey.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Yes. Oh Man. This is like emotional. Yes. I love my parents very much. Oh frick I'm sorry Maria. This is this is embarrassing. I'm crying.
AMT: You thought you were going to laugh.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: And my wife is - she's incredible as well. Her name is Bridey. I love her very much and she's just been an incredible support in my life. She's known about my illness like right off the bat. We actually became really good friends in theater school here in Toronto, at Ryerson University and that's where we met. And we were good pals for the first year of our program and then we started to fall for one another. And it was like kind of the first time that I actually had a relationship or romantic relationship with someone who I didn't try to hide my disease from or like the knowledge of my disease from because she already knew. It was already out in the open and there was something really like liberating to that, although I did try to hide like I would. I still wouldn't you know take my pills in front of her and those kinds of things. But yes.
AMT: The three of you interview Bridey on the podcast. Let's listen to a bit of that.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: What is it like when you start to fall in love with somebody who you know has a disease that limits their life expectancy?
BRIDEY: Well the thing is that I've lost people that I loved before. And so I feel like grief is the price of loving someone.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: That's so perfect. That's the price you pay when you take on another…
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: So don't ever love anyone.
BRIAN STEVER: Yes.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: It's not worth it.
AMT: Jeremie, what does it do to you to hear Bridey say that?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: It's just real. It's the real honest truth. When we decided to do this together, to take that step in committing ourselves to one another, she was fully aware of what we were deciding to get into. And I made sure that both of us were very aware of what the future, statistically, very likely will hold. And she was just right there. She was just right there with me like there was no there was no hesitation. We both just knew that we were madly in love with each other and so that didn't matter. It didn't matter what was statistically to come. All that mattered was that in there and the moments that we had together.
AMT: So you've had these conversations about what it means for the two of you as a couple?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Yes. We had the understanding that that's what comes with it. But then again we don't we don't really talk about it too much.
AMT: So that podcast was really an eye opener in some ways for you, for all of you. Right? Somebody you know but it's a different way to hear her.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVRAY: Up until that point I had probably never talked to Brighty about it. To be a part of it and to be a facilitator for you guys for Jeremie and Brighty to have that conversation, as well as we also sat down and interviewed Cobb and Maxine, Jeremy's parents - which like sit in and be a part of that family discussion that quote unquote never happened was pretty ground-breaking to be therefore and to be a part of…
BRIAN STEVER: I think the interesting thing about all of this that's really remarkable is when you sit down with any one person for an hour and have a really real and vulnerable conversation, you feel like you know them so much better, but it builds a really strong connection. I find the biggest challenges is walking into that room once the recording is finished and thinking that I might not see these people again, especially the strangers that come into the studio and sit down with us and I want to have them come back and hang out and get to know them even better. Because we don't have those type of conversations very much in today's society.
AMT: You know there's more questions I want to ask but we have to take a short break. I'm speaking with the hosts of Sickboy the podcast Jeremie Saunders, Brian Stever, Taylor Macgillivray. Stay with us over the break. A reminder that the CBC television documentary called Sickboy airs Sunday on CBC Docs POV. So we'll continue this conversation in our next half hour as well as part of our project Adaptation. We're going to hear from Anote Tong, former president of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, talking about how rising sea levels mean his country is disappearing into the ocean. He's got ideas for adaptation. Stay with us. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.
AMT: Hi I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current. Later in this half hour I'll be joined by a former president of the island nation of Kiribati. Its very existence is being threatened by rising seas and climate change. But before we go there we're picking up our conversation with three guests who host a podcast called Sickboy. It is Frank. It's funny. It's an ongoing discussion about what it's like to live with illness for host Jeremie Saunders that illness is cystic fibrosis and he hosts the podcast with his friends Brian Stever and Taylor MacGillivray. Halifax is their home base. They are with me in our Toronto studio. If you missed the first part of our conversation it's worth finding later on our website cbc.ca/thecurrent or go to the radio app. So now, Jeremie, Brian, Taylor some of your guests, some of your earlier guests have died.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVARY: I think three of our guests passed away yes.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: And two in like quick succession last winter. We kind of had this running joke because we had had a few interviews with people who were quite terminally sick and it had been probably like over a year since we had had these conversations with these really really terminally ill guests, and we kind of had this joke like oh Sickboy cures you. Yes. And then when we had to guess who passed away, it was like our world kind of came crashing down a little bit and we realized like we're not living in this bubble. Things got really real. It was an interesting perspective shift I think when we had a guest former guest pass away.
AMT: Well I'm wondering Brian and Taylor I mean your co-host has a fatal illness. How did it make you look at Jeremie differently?
BRIAN STEVER: It absolutely did for me. I remember the first guest that we had on the podcast who passed away was Andrew Henderson. We learned about it and I'll never forget the moment. We were in Vancouver recording some episodes and we got this news and I kind of broke down in tears. We all did. And the tears that I were crying were partly because Andrew was such a beautiful human being and died so graciously. But the other part was “oh my god like my best friend who is here with me right now is affected by some type of illness that statistically will probably take his life too.” And that was the first time that it felt real.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVARY: Yes. It's funny how sometimes like with the show and what we do can almost be an escape for people like Brian and I to put off how we feel about Jeremie. It's always us asking somebody else about how they feel about their illness or their loved one who is sick. Although I do kind of like meditate on death, my own death. I haven't had somebody in my life that's passed away that's like really close to me. So grief for me is a foreign concept. I have this kind of fear that it will break me. So it's kind of this this kind of shadow in the corner that I don't know how I react to.
BRIAN STEVER: The most interesting part is that Jeremie is here trying to prepare people. He talks about his is death. And we joke about it and we laugh about the concept of him dying sooner than anybody else and how this is a motivation for him to live his life and how he's personally okay with dying, but also at the same point even though he is prepared, I feel like it's almost impossible for him to prepare us because it's just a concept in our minds right now that his death is inevitable. But when it really happens it definitely scares me.
AMT: What do you think when you hear them talking like that, Jeremie?
JEREMIE: All I can think of is which one of you is going to take my force affects light saver [laughter]. Which one I really should actually give it to.
BRIAN STEVER: I want that shirt that you just got the other day.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: I think death is - death sucks you know. Death is not a fun thing to experience or to you know to be affected by, and I hear what you're saying Brian. I don't think you can prepare anybody for the weight of grief. But I do think that in what we're doing, and in me you know trying to set you guys up for this thing that is inevitably going to come, and whether it comes to me first or one of you guys first we have no control over that. What I do have control over is somehow just having a little bit of an effect in prepping you for that day so that when it happens it doesn't like break you, Taylor.
AMT: You're also helping them look at illness as a part of life. Brian your mom was diagnosed with cancer. How has your conversation gone with your mom since you've done the podcast? What have you learned about that? How have you been able to use that?
BRIAN STEVER: Yeah. Was it was a really interesting process dealing with that because my mom was first diagnosed because of this mass that they detected in her bladder. And she was she was trying to downplay it and saying like “well you know they don't know if it's cancer. They don't know what it is yet.” And eventually she told me that it was cancer. Now what I felt through the entire process is that she was trying to downplay the symptoms and the procedures that she was going through because she wanted to protect me. But I was also genuinely concerned about how she was dealing with it because we have sat down with so many guests who deal with the emotional repercussions of or look the emotional challenges of dealing with sickness so I was really concerned for her too. And I felt like I didn't know how to tell her that. And I wanted her to be comfortable opening up to me. But it was so hard to just bring it up with her and I kept saying like I don't know what to say I don't know how to bring it up. And I remember we were standing down by the Halifax waterfront and Taylor said just do it. All you have to do is to say that you want to talk to her and that is the hardest part in all of this because once you do that once you engage in that conversation, then it's out there in the open and the conversation will flow from that. And I can say now from my experience that once you do that and you get to the other side it is better.
AMT: How is your mom today?
BRIAN STEVER: She's doing really well. She was told that she's cancer free. The scary thing about cancer is that you don't know when it might come back. It could be days, weeks, years. But she's good right now.
AMT: Taylor, what we're talking about here with this podcast is you know not only the conversations you have in the podcast but the conversations that it then generates elsewhere. What kind of feedback are you getting?
TAYLOR MACGILLIVARY: I mean we get we've got a ton of feedback. People have reached out to us and gone. I listened to your episode and it made me realize a symptom of something that I have. I went to see my doctor and because of that I had a tumor removed that I didn't know was there. Like crazy stuff.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Sickboy is actually responsible for four separate circumcisions.
BRIAN STEVER: That's right. Yes.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: That is not a joke. It's legitimately we've had four people go: “I've gotten circumcised since I've listened to sick boy. And this one particular episode which” I think is pretty darn.
BRIAN STEVER: It was a really good episode. So we had this episode about circumcision and about this condition that you know well a lot of guys have.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: It is called phimosis.
BRIAN STEVER: Yes. Phimosis. And we had all - we these guys start writing and going: “Oh my God I've needed to be circumcised for so long.”
AMT: You're making such an impact on people it's interesting because in the end you're talking about illness and death but you're really talking about life.
JEREMIE SAUDERS: Yes.
BRIAN STEVER: that is it.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVARY: Big time.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: It's the absurd the absurdity of humanity of just the absurdity of just living to be human. Like that's that that really is what this entire thing is all about.
AMT: And I you know I'm also struck by the fact, you don't have the luxury of sleepwalking through life. You seize every day, don't you Jeremie?
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: I do. But that's the other thing about the show is like I want to just force that onto everybody. You know because the thing is Anna Maria Toronto is going to die. Brian Stever is going to die; Taylor MacGillivary is going to die. We're all dying. We're all dying. Like. Yes I have a disease that statistically might take my life a little sooner than you but,
AMT: Maybe not.
JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Maybe not. So.
TAYLOR MACGILLIVARY: Carpe diem.
BRIAN STEVER: I call this is a YOLO.
AMT: We've got to end it there but thanks for coming in. And thanks for what you do. Thanks for making us think and really think and maybe talk a little differently.
GUESTS: Thanks for your conversation.
AMT: Jeremie Saunders, Brian Stever,Taylor MacGillivray host of the podcast Sickboy. They live in Halifax. They've been with me in our Toronto studio. This Sunday, you can catch a new TV documentary about them on CBC Doc POV. It is called Sickboy. Let us know what you think. As you listen to them what you're thinking about illness? Do you live with illness? Do you need to talk about it with your friends? Do you need to talk to someone, living with illness in a different way? Let us know you can tweet us we are @The CurrentCBC find us on Facebook go to our website cbc.ca/ thecurrent. And this is The Current on CBC Radio One. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti.
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How one Pacific island nation is battling rising sea levels
Guests: Anote Tong
[Music: Adaptation theme]
VOICE 1: What are your plans for the future?
VOICE 2: My plans for the future is to migrate.
VOICE 1: To migrate.
VOICE 2: Yes, to leave this country.
VOICE 1: Why do you want to leave Kiribati?
VOICE 2: I want to leave Kiribati because of, climate change.
VOICE 3: I have no choice. No other choice, tsunami coming or high tides affecting our water, how can we survive for the future?
Well that is Etrily Karibwa citizen of the island nation of Kiribati speaking to CBS News. Kiribati is defined by the ocean its islands stretch across a vast expanse of the South Pacific between Australia and Hawaii and as sea levels rise the oceans threaten to wipe it off the map. And that means it's 110,000 residents face a very uncertain future. Kiribati’s very existence depends on adaptation and the country's former president is exploring some novel options. Anote Tong joins us from New York City as part of our project Adaptation. Hello.
ANOTE TONG: Hello. And nice to be talking to you on an issue that's of critical importance not only to Kiribati, but to many other countries.
AMT: Well how seriously does climate change threaten Kiribati?
ANOTE TONG: Well we know the science and given the situation we find ourselves in barely two meters above sea level on average and what is being predicted is a rise of around the medium may be more. The projections continue to change. But they don't get any better. They get worse. But given those projections our future is in serious jeopardy.
AMT: Can you tell us what life is like on Kiribati?
ANOTE TONG: Our life in Kiribati is wonderful always has been wonderful. I mean we are in the middle of the ocean. We are a people of the sea because we're surrounded and we see the sea from the morning until the time we sleep and then we listen to the waves as we sleep. So that is what Kiribati is all about. I know that it's paradise in the sense. We have our own difficulties. But seeing what is happening in this part of the world and other parts of the world, we believe we have it very good. And so this thread is really a new disruption and something that we have not fully comprehended so far.
AMT: In your own lifetime, how have you seen it change?
ANOTE TONG: I have people coming to take films about a village which used to be a one of the larger villages in the island where I went to school in the 1960s. That village is no longer there because it's been washed away. There's been several attempts to try to protect its, building seawalls but that's not succeeded.
AMT: And now as president you encouraged people to migrate with dignity. What does that mean?
ANOTE TONG: Let me explain a bit of the policy because it's often misunderstood. What I advocated was that our options would be severely limited. I hope people understand that that if the water is coming and taking away your home then you have two choices either you do something to adapt and to build your own resilience. Or you migrate you move somewhere else. So if our people are to move then they must not move as climate refugees. I've always rejected the notion that we should be refugees. And the reason I say that is because we know it's going to happen if it happens we should have had enough time to prepare our people for that. And so this is when I started advocating a policy of migration with dignity if that was to be the case. What it means is that people if and when they do migrate, they would migrate that people with their skill. They will not go into with the new community, society as second class citizens. But they would go in as people with they can make a contribution to the community even become leaders in the community and therefore having lost their home it is my sincere hope that at least they would be able to retain their dignity
AMT: But - I want to say how easy, but easy is not the word - but I mean what kind of a challenge is it for people to leave?
ANOTE TONG: People don't want to leave. You will hear that over and over again. But given the choices we are facing this we have to consider the practical realities of what is happening. And so we've got to prepare our people so that at least they can make the choice themselves whether to migrate or remain. And I do believe that the other part of this strategy should be to continue to build our resilience so that as a nation as a people we do not disappear entirely from the face of this earth. And so I had been working on a program which we called Pacific rising. It's an attempt and a stubborn response to this challenge not to give up. And so it would involve a very significant adaptation [unintelligible].
AMT: What are you talking about?
ANOTE TONG: I'm talking about building - if not all of the island some of the island so that those of our people to stay will have somewhere to stay.
AMT: You built up on the land that's already there? Like you bring in other land and build it up.
ANOTE TONG: Now that is the question isn't it. And so that is the what I'm going through the different committee I speak and different parts of the world advocating this and it's part of the program that I'm working on.
AMT: Okay. And you've also talked about floating islands. What does floating islands mean? Just explain that to me.
ANOTE TONG: Well I've been in consultation with the companies and in Japan specifically who have educated that we can continue to live on islands and they can build these structures which can accommodate at the time up to 30000 people. But of course it would be floating, something like oil rigs. But I know that the technology is changing all the time. I've been talking to people who were doing exactly that in the islands of French Polynesia and actually doing a commercial program. And so that is already happening. I know of structures which are floating, floating airports. But also I've been looking around and I have been in consultation with the United Arab Emirates will build those lovely islands and they have come to visit us.
AMT: Oh right, because they have built Palm Island in the waters of Dubai.
ANOTE TONG: And I've been talking to them. They have visited it Kiribati to do studies because they've done it. There's no doubt they can do it in that part of the world. Just the question is how can something be built that would be resilient - climate resilient in the future.
AMT: Do you still live in Kiribati?
ANOTE TONG: Of course indeed I do. I love it.
AMT: Five people from Karen Boss tried to claim refugee status in New Zealand on the grounds that they are climate refugees. They weren't accepted. How did you react to that? I know you don't believe you shouldn't be refugees but how did you react to the to the New Zealand decision?
ANOTE TONG: I think that is the moral question, isn't it. And I think that is the moral challenge that I've always been talking about, that the world at some point in time the global community has got to ask itself the question. If and when it becomes necessary for people to relocate because of what's happened on climate change the question will be: What would be our response? And I think the challenge that New Zealand has not maybe has not come to terms with that, yet. For my part I really haven't decided how we should be dealing with it. But I can see that in time in time there would be the possibility that people would have to migrate. The question would be: What would be the reasoned response from the different communities and countries around us and in the rest of the global community?
AMT: We're talking about the possibility of your country literally disappearing from the map, otherwise. And I'm wondering what that means in terms of identity and culture.
ANOTE TONG: Well I think it's not something that would be new news. Nor do I see it the possibility that we would move as a people to one spot to one area in some part of the world and retain our identity. I don't think that is possible. I, during my time in Davos I as a government we bought a piece of land in Fiji and there was a lot of interest about that excitement about what it was I was doing.
AMT: That was in 2012.
ANOTE TONG: How about that. Yes.
AMT: What were you doing what why did you do that?
ANOTE TONG: [Laughs] Why did I do that? I think a lot of people suggested that I was going to move people there. Well, my answer then who has been that. No I will not be doing it. But what I didn't say is. But somebody else who follows may do it. But let me make a comment here because having done that I've always understood the sensitivities of suggesting that we would move and mess to another country because we know - we see what's happening in Europe. Initially there was welcoming arms but now it's becoming difficult and I don't want that to happen to our people.
AMT: All right but let me just stop you for a second if I may because you did buy this land what have you done with that land?
ANOTE TONG: It's an investment because we do have sovereign funds invested abroad and we've lost quite a bit of it. And on the financial market my view was that if we invested in land, real estate then the possibility of a loss is very slim in fact I can see the value of the land appreciating very fast and if it should become somewhere that would could have some of our people residing, then why not.
AMT: It's an interesting concept. It would be as if you bought a piece of land in Canada. You couldn't just move everyone here and you still have to have an agreement of government to do this, right.
ANOTE TONG: Absolutely. And I mean that's always been understood. We'll never get round the formalities that are required. But let me tell you it's part of the strategy was actually to tell the world that you're not coming forward, stepping forward on this. But we are regardless of whether you do or not we have no choice but to do something and that is something.
AMT: And I want to ask you there are some scientists who dispute the idea that Abbas will end up underwater because of sea level rise. Scientists at the University of Auckland have found evidence that coral atolls actually grow with rising seas. How do you respond to what they argue?
ANOTE TONG: Well I would say I would invite them and their families to come and live in Kiribati for the rest of the time because let them put their lives and their family on the line. I mean science - were getting a big mess of science that's coming forward, but what are experienced on the ground is crop food crops are dying. A lot of communities have had to move, keep moving around. That is happening more frequently in many of the islands. During my time in office during parliament sessions I'm always getting asked for protection of communities. And there were times when I said I'm sorry there is nothing we can do. Because what is happening is beyond our capacity to deal with it. I didn't see any [unintelligible] growing and dealing with that problem. If they have the solutions please come around. We'd be very happy to welcome those with the practical solutions not the theoretical solutions.
AMT: We can't talk about climate change without talking about President Donald Trump. What do you make of his announcement earlier this year that the United States would pull out of the Paris agreement on climate change?
ANOTE TONG: Well I think he's just delivering on his promise that it's America first. And I think in this world globalized world we talk about having no option but to be part of the global community. Well let me tell you that we wished we were not part of this global phenomenon that's happening which is climate change. You know we wished that the U.S. would keep whatever they emit into the atmosphere but unfortunately they cannot. If you could keep your emissions within your national borders go ahead and do what you please. But the reality is you do not and you cannot. You don't even try to do it. And so I believe I have a right to tell you what you should be doing with your emissions how much you should be emitting because you are throwing them away.
AMT: You raise some issues of how you are adapting and told us some of the ideas that are being looked at. What do you say to those people who would say “well look at them aren't they great. They're adapting. We don't have to worry about climate change we'll all just adapt.”
ANOTE TONG: Well I says I feel sorry for them because they don't have the capacity to know to human beings with the humanity and the human values because they cannot see that what they're doing is actually destroying that part of the world. I wish we didn't need to rely on support from other parts of the world but we do. Initially if we could only achieve a higher rate of return on the resource that we have in abundance then we would not need to be going around asking people to provide us with resources so that we can build our climate the resilience. We have a huge fishery, one of the largest in the world. But at the moment we are getting 10 percent of its value on the side of the wharf not in the supermarkets. And so if we can get a higher rate of return I have no doubt in my mind that we can build that resilience.
AMT: You sound so calm as you talk to me and I'm guessing there are days when you just want to yell.
ANOTE TONG: I think I've done my yelling. I think what I've learned if you bother to read my speeches at the United Nations General Assembly you'll see the change of tone because I was angry. I was frustrated. I was yelling because when I was talking in beginning of 2004 the focus of the international attention was on terrorism. Nobody was talking nobody was listening to what I was saying on climate change. But over time it was so heartening and so gratifying to see the change of tone. Until now everybody is talking about climate change it's become fashionable and sexy to be talking about climate change but it's not about talking about climate change. It's about doing something about climate change. And so wonderful we've achieved Paris. But for us we need to go beyond Paris as soon as possible because our situation is urgent. And so yes I over time I had to be become more rational because what I've learned is people do not listen to a radical. And so I think I would call myself - I've become what I call a rational radical.
AMT: Well it's important to hear your voice. Thank you for speaking with me.
ANOTE TONG: And thank you for giving me this opportunity. And of course Canada is a country that I had my eye with the change of policy. I met your prime minister. He is a wonderful man.
AMT: Is Canada doing enough to help you at this point?
ANOTE TONG: No not yet.
AMT: What do you need from Canada?
ANOTE TONG: A more positive response or more human response. I saw what your prime minister did to the Jews he went out there to meet him personally. I'd like to see that happen. Because we are talking. We are screaming that the global community but to come up to build the place where they can run to whenever there is a cyclone warning whenever there is a tsunami warning because when the tsunami warnings came and we announced it people ran over the place looking for somewhere that they can stay out of the water. A lot of people going to church to pray. And so a lot of us went around looking for they would put their children. So this is happening this is the response we wanted to be able to reassure our people that they have somewhere to go if and when the next wave comes.
AMT: Anote Tong thank you very much for speaking with me.
ANOTE TONG: Very welcome and thank you. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
AMT: Anote Tong is the former president of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. We reached him in New York City. Let us know what you think of what he had to say. You can tweet us we are @TheCurrentCBC. Find us on Facebook. Go to our website cbc.ca/thecurrent. That's our program for today's stay with Radio One for q. Actor Willem Dafoe joins Tom Power to talk about his latest film The Florida Project, my favorite film from the Toronto International Film Festival the Florida project. Willem Dafoe talking about that film today with Tom Power. Remember you can always take The Current with you to go on the CBC radio app free from the App Store or Google Play. Piya Chattopadhyay is here tomorrow. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. Thank you for listening to The Current.