Vancouver, September 9/2002 - Ten years ago, after attending the Earth Summit in Rio as an accredited observer, Michael O'Sullivan, The Humane Society of Canada's Executive Director, left with a feeling of cautious optimism. Now, ten years older, and perhaps a little wiser, he says that as an observer, he has left Johannesburg with a determination to do everything in his power to ensure that Canadians play a more active role in the way in which our government runs.


"If we continue to allow business, civil servants and politicians to make decisions about the well-being of our families and our world then we face a bleak future indeed. For I cannot imagine any less accountable and unrepentant groups than these three, who are directly responsible for the sorry state of our planet," said O’Sullivan. "We gave them our trust, and it has been badly violated."

In Rio, Agenda 21 contained over 2,500 recommendations for actions that included detailed proposals on how to combat poverty, protect the atmosphere, oceans and biodiversity, and promote sustainable agriculture. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg was supposed to be a report card on the state of the environment since Rio and hammer out action plans to address such world threatening issues involving environment, global poverty, food security, and AIDS.

"The most useful outcome of this World Summit was to demonstrate how we have failed to keep the promises made in Rio," said O'Sullivan, "and it was a call to action to put our house in order."

Although the Summit boasted at every turn that it was about 'people, prosperity and the planet' and it's mission was about 'some, for all, forever' - instead O'Sullivan found that every discussion was dominated by money, politics and power. Even more alarming are the recommendations that we need more Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and Partnership Agreements, which means putting even more power and confidence into the hands of civil servants and politicians, which O'Sullivan believes is nothing less than a recipe for global disaster on an unprecedented scale.

"Demanding that politicians and civil servants be held accountable for what they did, or didn't do, during the last 10 years since Rio, was an exercise that was doomed to failure from the very beginning," says O'Sullivan. "As long as we allow elected officials and civil servants to determine what they will or won't do based on their five-year political agendas, Canadians deserve the kind of environment they get."

During the last 100 years, O'Sullivan says we have destroyed more habitat and killed more species than in all of record history. We can either continue with the insanity that fuelled our past behaviour, or we can make changes to ensure our survival: "The situation facing every person and every living creature is serious. The challenges are intimidating, the problems, immense. All of the problems facing the world stand on two feet. And the simple question we need to answer simply this: ‘Do we want a future that is as long as our past?’" said O'Sullivan.

"Because in the final analysis, all of the problems facing us will depend upon the people who care, the people who make the sacrifices, the people who take the practical steps to get the job done. And we have to ask ourselves, each one of us, where we really stand," he said.

O’Sullivan says we need a radical reorganization of the relationship between all levels of government, civil servants, business and the tax weary middle class Canadians who pay for everything and who receive little but thinly disguised contempt, greed and incompetence in return.

O'Sullivan's work to save animals and the environment has taken him to over 85 countries during the last 30 years. He has journeyed from war zones to mountaintops and from deep beneath the oceans to tropical rainforests. He has seen the best and worst of human nature and as a father with a young son and a daughter, he wonders what kind of a world he will leave behind for his children.

"If we fail to grasp the ruins of our destiny, then we have no one but ourselves to blame for a hard time on planet Earth," said O’Sullivan. In the words of Albert Einstein: "We cannot solve the problems of today with the same thinking that gave us the problems in the first place."

He is firmly convinced that unless there is are radical changes in the way Canadians govern our behaviour, we will continue to preside over what has been termed the greatest rate of extinction since the time of the dinosaurs (and ourselves). And that while human beings will still survive, even in Canada, life, as we know it, will continue to get progressively worse. It is inevitable.

That's why he has worked so hard to develop what he calls: The Humane Society of Canada's Action Plan: Prescription for A Sick Planet.



The Humane Society of Canada's Action Plan: Prescription for A Sick Planet

  1. Take Individual Responsibility
  2. Inform, Educate, Involve
  3. Get to Know Your Neighbour
  4. Get A Passport
  5. Who’s The Boss?
  6. Politicians
  7. Stop Infighting Between Levels of Government
  8. Make Constitutional Amendments
  9. Lawsuits and Social Change
  10. Security and the War on Terrorism
  11. Electronic Voting Systems
  12. Everyone Answers to the Law
  13. Business has to take an Active Role
  14. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
  15. Poverty is the Worst Form of Pollution
  16. Work for Charity


A more Detailed Version of The Humane Society of Canada’s Action Plan: Prescription for A Sick Planet is found below.

In the words of British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "Poverty and environmental degradation spell catastrophe for our world."

In the words of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: "The choice is not between development and environment, as some have framed the issue. Development that does not sensibly manage the environment will prove short-lived. Nor should this be an issue of rich versus poor. Both depend upon resources and other environmental capital. One in every two jobs worldwide - in agriculture, forestry and fisheries - depends directly on the sustainability of ecosystems."

"We need to face these challenges head on. That quiet Canadian confidence and strength of purpose is needed now more than ever before. At the end of the day, we can reduce bureaucracy, save money and save lives. We are talking about common sense and survival. This is all about saving us from ourselves. Wild animals have enough sense not to foul their own nest, and so should we," said O'Sullivan.

Here's what the international media is saying about the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development:

  • From the BBC News Summit conclusions at a glance


    CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at via twitter at and on Facebook at:

    [For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

    A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

    The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

    The only organization of its kind, seven days a week, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works across the street, across Canada and around the world helping people, animals and the environment.

    The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) depends entirely on donations to support our programs to help animals and the environment. All donations are gratefully acknowledged with a receipt for income tax purposes. If you would like to support our educational campaigns that protect animals and the environment please make a donation here. Because when it comes to fighting cruelty and violence, we don’t give up. Ever.


    More detailed daily reports on the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg have been prepared by a Canadian non profit agency, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and can be found at

    As an outgrowth of Rio, The United Nations has established the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and more information can be found at


    The Humane Society of Canada's Action Plan: Prescription for A Sick Planet


    1. Take Individual Responsibility: Canadians are notorious for letting governments run things for them, and then complaining when things go wrong. In the end this has proven to be a crippling mistake for people, animals and the environment. For example, each year, Canadians use more energy and produce more garbage than any other citizen on the planet. Instead of spending money on preventative health care which would reduce tragedy, save money and lives, we routinely ignore the impact of environmental pollution which causes diseases like cancer, encourages the spread of West Nile virus, and poisons the very air, water and soil we need to sustain us. For the second year in a row, there has been a drought on the Prairies that has affected over 6 million farm animals and has been described as worst drought in the past 130 years. As humans, we are the only animals that foul our own nest. Instead Canadians of all ages, and from all walks of life need to be informed, educated and engaged about how they can improve their own lives, that of their family and friends, by taking individual responsibility at home, in the workplace and in the community to live and practice a lifestyle that uses animals and nature in a way that causes the least amount of damage.
    2. Inform, Educate, Involve: There needs to be a massive sustained infusion of scientific and practical information in creative, engaging, multimedia formats for use in public life, school curricula, and by the media, non-governmental organizations, governments and business that provides daily and up-to-date information about the nature and amounts of animals and resources used by Canadians each and every day, their specific and overall impact, and the status of this information from around the world in the form of a 'daily balance sheet.'
    3. Get to Know Your Neighbour: We need to rekindle the pioneering spirit of helping your neighbour that once made Canada such a great nation. Instead, today, our great country is torn apart by divisions between East and West, between Quebec and the rest of the country, by multiculturalism that robs us of our national identity by encouraging people to be a Canadian second, and conflicts between those living in cities and those living in rural areas. The poor are becoming poorer, the rich are becoming richer, and the middle class in Canada pays for everything. We need to bring us closer to each other, like the recent Hay West initiative where Canadians from all walks of life from coast to coast pitched in to help. We need to have a reality check. We are all in this together.
    4. Get A Passport: One survey reports that only 22% of Canadians have a passport. Canadians need to get out and see the rest of Canada and the world. See how other people live. By and large, none of us have ever grown up suffering, and this means we can't have sympathy for anyone or anything that does. We should establish a fully funded government program requiring that each Canadian visit and work in a developing nation for a minimum of four months before he/she turns 21 years of age. Canadians are well respected around the world, and we need to use that influence at home and in places like the United Nations to help protect people, animals and the environment. We are all citizens of the world, traveling together on a planet that is unique in our solar system because it is the only one to support a complex web of life, as we know it.
    5. Who's The Boss: Canadians need to take back the control of their lives and their future from civil servants. At the beginning the civil service was intended to provide continuity when new politicians were elected to office. Civil servants played a key role in making sure things ran properly, and were given enormous sums of tax dollars and a great deal of power and trust to do so. Instead, our trust in civil servants has been badly violated, and in the process trillions of dollars has been wasted in creating a bloated bureaucracy full of expensive civil servants who are almost impossible to dismiss or transfer from their positions. Entrenched civil servants can frustrate and outlast their political masters in a variety of ways, and in the end are accountable to no one. For example, infighting between civil servants has held up the passage of an Endangered Species Act in Canada for over 33 years. No one has been held accountable for the collapse of the Atlantic cod stocks. Just over one year ago, a federal government agency admitted that it could not account for $1 billion missing from its coffers - an offence which would land any other Canadian in jail. We should establish a fully funded government program requiring that each Canadian work in government for at least four months before he/she turns 21years of age.
    6. Politicians: There is simply too much power concentrated in the hands of politicians, who vote along party lines rather than being responsive to the wishes of the people who elected them to office in the first place. Each politician only has to be re-elected in order to stay in power and there are no term limits. We have a Senate that is appointed for life, whose members can over ride the decisions made by those politicians who were elected to the House of Commons. We are forced to accept those appointed to positions on the Supreme Court and other key positions without the benefit of any public hearings, and they continue in their roles without the benefit of any public oversight. We need to come up with mechanisms that address these very real problems and put an end to the decades of abuse by politicians at all levels of government. Politicians don't shape public policy, they follow public opinion and then do what they think will cause them to surrender the least amount of power, and do the least for the greatest perception of actually having done something. The playing field also needs to be levelled between political parties anxious to maintain the status quo and agents for social change. For example, non-governmental organizations are severely restricted in how and when they can lobby governments for change and for a $100 donation can only issue a tax receipt worth about $17 dollars; and yet a donation of $100 to any registered political party, whose sole reason for existence is to lobby, nets a tax receipt worth $75. Right now, special interest groups can misuse the system of making donations to any political party.
    7. Stop Infighting Between Levels of Government: This favourite Canadian pastime wastes time, money, and energy and is destructive to the interests of every single Canadian. Even more devastating is that this infighting fosters a climate which actively encourages one level of government to smugly blame the next level of government instead of working on constructive cost effective solutions to actually do something concrete to solve the problems. This infighting can only be stopped by taking a hard look at the way in which each level of government administers programs with our money. Governments don't produce anything and only use money that was never theirs to begin with. Tax weary Canadians are fed up with this kind of nonsense. For eight years in a row, the United Nations described Canada as the best place on earth to live. As we prepare for the future, we need new ways and new ideas to make an even better country for ourselves, for our children, for the other living creatures with whom we share our environment, and to play an even stronger role in the international community of nations.
    8. Make Constitutional Amendments: We are promised peace, order and good government. We're being short changed on all three. We are at war with our environment and ourselves. If anyone believes that we have order and good government, spend a day in court, pick up a newspaper, turn on the radio or TV, or surf the Internet. We live very sheltered, privileged and idealistic lives. Just because there are no bombs falling, and there aren't riots in the streets, and we have a nice roof over our heads and food on the table - we still need to look beyond our own little world. We need to a hard look at our Constitution and make whatever amendments are necessary to ensure the safety and security of the Canadian people, our animals and our environment. We need a boundless ethic and sense of purpose that includes people, animals and the environment and is translated into meaningful social change. This means that we may need to make amendments to our Constitution in order to achieve some of these political, social and environmental objectives; and that Canadians need to take a more active participatory role at all levels of government.
    9. Lawsuits and Social Change: Civil servants and politicians will do everything within their considerable power to fight any changes to the status quo. Canadians need to fight back with all of the considerable resources at our disposal. For example, The Humane Society of Canada is currently considering filing a class action lawsuit on behalf of all Canadians under the legal voting age of 18 years, against all levels of government for failing after 33 years to pass an Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit would argue, among other points, that a failure to act has resulted in the loss of hundreds of species, and in case studies would give examples such as the additional dramatic social and economic consequences such as the collapse of the Atlantic fish stocks, or the loss of a new medicine because a species was wiped out.
    10. Security and the War on Terrorism: While there is no question that a group of fanatical subhuman sociopaths continues to threaten the world, we cannot allow them to fundamentally change our way of life. Perhaps, even more importantly we cannot permit politicians and civil servants to misuse this threat as a reason for not moving forward with initiatives to benefit people, animals and the environment. Civil servants don't like to be held accountable and will misuse the threat of terrorism not to protect our country from the enemy, but rather to protect themselves against what they see as interference and oversight from the public, the media, politicians and the justice system. Anything less than full and unfettered access to documents through freedom of information laws means we will never obtain an independent assessment of whether or not politicians and civil servants are doing their jobs properly. For example, national security is being used a reason by the United States military to override provisions of federal laws to protect marine mammals. Here in Canada, based upon the more than 15 years of experience held by the staff of The Humane Society of Canada over in filing freedom of information requests, and indeed on the Annual Reports of the Information & Privacy Commissioners themselves, civil servants and politicians use every trick in the book to delay, evade and frustrate the release of information under their control.
    11. Electronic Voting Systems: Canada is a world leader in information technology and telecommunications systems. One of the best examples is the electronic infrastructure built in the Province of New Brunswick. We need to establish secure electronic voting systems in homes and public places such as libraries, where Canadians can vote quickly and effectively on expenditures and programs to improve the lives of people, and the well being of animals and the environment. This system would be used to offset the current situation where the total control of trillions of dollars is now abused largely by civil servants.
    12. Everyone Answers to the Law: Nearly ten years ago, a federal law was quietly passed that requires the RCMP to first inform any MP before an investigation is launched. No other Canadian enjoys this right, nor should they. It is these kinds of laws, and this kind of enforcement, which has led to a public crisis of confidence in our justice system. We need to carry out an exhaustive review of all laws relating to the administration and enforcement of justice as they relate to the protection of people, animals and the environment. Then we need to revamp the mechanisms and allocate the necessary human, financial and technical resources to actually make them work properly. For example, under the law if someone tries to put poison in the glass of drinking water that belongs to another person sitting next to him/her, then they rightly trigger a series of criminal and civil liabilities. And yet, industries, operating with the full sanction of government, and apparently society, can poison with impunity the air, soil and water upon which all of us need to survive. This insanity has to stop.
    13. Business has to take an Active Role: In the triple bottom line of economic success, environmental sustainability and social stability. Any discussion between governments and non-governmental organizations that excludes or regulates business to the sidelines means that we are missing the key element needed to drive the engine of success. Because governments and non-governmental organizations lack the financial resources and the long-term motivation to alleviate poverty through business imperatives.
    14. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: When you empower people through jobs, you give them a future. Creating and sustaining massive welfare systems encourages fraud, dependency, and robs Canadians of all of the best things that Canada has to offer and those which they can offer to the rest of society. Instead of welfare, there should be a gradual change and these resources should be used to provide more accessible education to every Canadian to ensure that without exception, every Canadian, who is able and those who must meet special challenges, are given the opportunity to work to improve their own lives and to contribute to Canadian society as a whole.
    15. Poverty is the Worst Form of Pollution: When you give people foreign aid, instead of creating jobs, you condemn them to a lifetime of crippling dependency. We need to give people hope and opportunity, not encourage resentment and despair. We need to completely overhaul the existing way in which we allow civil servants and politicians to give away our hard earned tax dollars in foreign aid, which for the most part flows, directly from the Canadian Government to the government of another country. In the past, our aid has fuelled dictatorships, been used to violate human rights, slaughter animals and harm the environment. This insanity has to stop. For example, at the United Nations Canada took a lead role in 1999 in trying to cut off diamonds being used in Angola to fund war and civil unrest - and yet in 1997 when the Canadian Government was advised that the same group in Angola was used elephant ivory to buy weapons and slaughter people and animals, they told The Humane Society of Canada staff who led the dangerous undercover operation into Angola that their remarks were "inflammatory and intemperate" even as they refused to vote against a reopening of the ivory trade. In places like China, your money and mine has been used to launch destructive dam projects that have harmed the environment and caused the forced relocation of thousands of people.
    16. Work For Charity: Over the past thirty years, charities have reported a drop in the number of volunteers who are willing to consistently volunteer their time, their energy and their talents to a wide range of causes. In part this is due to a two family income, and an overcrowded family schedule that leaves little left over for charity work. We believe that families need to make time because every charity, no matter how small, and whatever their mission, is working to make your community a better place. They not only need your help, they deserve it – because even if you believe that you will never need their help; you can help those less fortunate than yourselves. Once again, we believe that before every Canadian reaches the age of 21 years, he/she should have carried out at least four months of volunteer service for a charity of their choice. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

    "We need to face these challenges head on. That quiet Canadian confidence and strength of purpose is needed now more than ever before. At the end of the day, we can reduce bureaucracy, save money and save lives. We are talking about common sense and survival. This is all about saving us from ourselves. Wild animals have enough sense not to foul their own nest, and so should we," said O'Sullivan.