The Canada of today is bright, peaceful, and stands as an example in a world of conflict. Canada “boasts of its high ideals of democracy and all the rights that are guaranteed by its Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but many have been hard won” (14). The Canada we boast of today has formed only because numerous people have suffered and struggled, approaching Canada with open arms despite constant belittlement, dead set on making this country and the world better. David Suzuki is one of those individuals. In David Suzuki’s The Autobiography, he humorously, yet effectively, shares his story and drives home the core values that all Canadians share. As an environmentalist, a scientist, and Japanese Canadian, David Suzuki’s tale reminds us that to be Canadian means to be forgiving, progressive, and helpful no matter the circumstance.
David Suzuki’s story begins in Vancouver, 1936. As a child, he grew up happy, with a caring family who shielded him from the turmoils and conflicts of the world. It was when he was 5, that he saw the world in all its cruel glory. 1941. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. David Suzuki, a child, wasn’t related to it. Yet, when 1942 arrived, the War Measures Act was implemented by the Canadian government, “revok[ing] all rights of citizenship for Canadians of Japanese descent” (15). For three years, until 1945, David Suzuki lived among other Japanese Canadians in internment camps, exiled from his home. One might think he would feel more at home among other individuals also shunned from society, united by their heritage and circumstances. This wasn’t the case. As a third generation, a Sansei, young David Suzuki was rejected for his inability to speak Japanese. Considered a terrorist by the government and targeted by other Japanese Canadians, David Suzuki didn’t belong.
Despite all this discrimination, David Suzuki grew up strong in mind and intellect. An excellent straight A student, he went on to acquire a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Chicago and became a professor in genetics at the University of British Columbia. It was during this time that he stumbled upon the opportunity to host The Nature of Things in 1960, a documentary program that continues even to this day. It was through this show that he awakened his passion for the environment. He plunged himself into the world of our environment, a world laden with corruption, unfairness, and oppression. He worked with the First Nations of Haida Gwaii to prevent unsustainable and illegal logging. He helped raise money to preserve Stein Valley. After working within Canada, he moved abroad, driven by his need to help others. David Suzuki travelled to the Amazon Forest to work with the Kaiapo peoples to save their homes from destruction. After years of working and funding numerous environmental movements, he realized he could do even more. Inviting other environmentalists, he formed the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990, a foundation working towards a greener, cleaner future.
David Suzuki was rejected by both his country and the country of his heritage. Unlike many others who would have been filled with anger and resentment, David Suzuki was able to forgive. He forgave the past and spent his life reaching out to help others, making slow, but progressive change in the world. Ranked the greatest living Canadian in 2004, David Suzuki reflects the values that we Canadians all value. Forgiveness, progressiveness, and a willingness to help. David Suzuki “understood that there is no line or border that separates us from the rest of the world. We are the Earth. We share a common present, filled with uncertainty. And we share a common future as yet untold” (275).