The provincial Tories are demanding Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner apologize after he compared climate change challenges to the evacuation of allied troops at Dunkirk during World War II.
Schreiner said he meant no disrespect, but will not stop drawing attention to the gravity of the climate change crisis.
Speaking at a Green Party fundraiser in Toronto Tuesday, Schreiner said “we’re at our Dunkirk moment” in the battle against climate change, making reference to the provincial government’s climate action plan.
The evacuation at the French coastal town of Dunkirk in 1940 saw over 60,000 allied troops killed, wounded or missing. It also resulted in 340,000 allied troops being evacuated and is historically seen as a sign of resilience and overcoming odds.
"There is nothing in that plan about how we're going to tackle the biggest crisis humanity's ever faced, our generation's responsibility to the future,” Schreiner said of the province’s plan during his address to the crowd Tuesday that was broadcast live on Facebook.
“I keep thinking that, you know, thank goodness, this premier was not in charge at Dunkirk. Because we're at our Dunkirk moment and if you think about it, like when all was lost and you thought, ‘let's throw in the towel, the Americans haven't joined the fight yet,’ and Churchill said, ‘we will fight,’ and the people of Britain, the people of Canada, the people of the Commonwealth rose to the occasion and what looked like all was lost, they turned the tide. That's the moment we're facing right now with the climate crisis and we need all hands on deck."
The Tories said in a news release that the comparison was an “insult to the brave men and women who fought and died in World War II and to their families.”
“Mike Schreiner needs to take ownership of his irresponsible and inappropriate comments and apologize immediately,” they said.
In a written statement Thursday, Schreiner qualified his remarks by saying that “the urgency of the climate crisis requires all of us to mobilize on a global scale to address the biggest crisis threatening our generation.
“Climate change is already uprooting millions of people and costing tens of thousands of deaths annually from storms, floods, droughts, heatwaves, disease and malnutrition. I will not stop drawing attention to the gravity of the crisis, and I will not fail our children and grandchildren by refusing to tackle this challenge head on."
He also noted that his grandfather and father-in-law both fought in World War II and that he is "grateful for the sacrifices of all veterans.”