11 Two Great Men, One Great Fraud

According to World Counts (2020), life as we know it will end in 29 years, 324 days, 14 hours, 1 minute, and 51 seconds and counting – if all things stay the same. This is when the Earth’s environmental life support systems are expected to fully collapse. Environmentalists and scientists have warned about this possibility for decades and continue to work hard to save planet Earth. Canada’s great minds are among these. In fact, Canada has a long history of environmental activism beginning in the late 19thcentury with Grey Owl and culminating today with Canada’s much-celebrated David Suzuki. These two Canadian icons, however, share less than one might think.

The common thread that connects the lives of David Suzuki and Grey Owl is their love for the environment. It seems both environmentalists embraced their love for nature early on in life. For Suzuki, his time in Slocan, B.C.’s Japanese internment camp between 1942 and 1945 sparked his love for the wilderness (Bailey & Phillipson, 2019). For Grey Owl, it was his early fascination with the Canadian wilderness and Aboriginal people that triggered his passion (Smith, 2015). Both have written a number of books and both have given lectures on the importance of conservation, with Suzuki taking his message to the airwaves personally through his famous television show, The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. Where Grey Owl was appointed head of different conservation programs in western Canada, David Suzuki established his own foundation for conservation. It is important to note that at the time, Grey Owl was Canada’s most powerful spokesperson for the environment, as Suzuki is for us now.

The differences between these two great Canadians, however, are noteworthy. For one, Grey Owl learned about the environment directly from the Aboriginal people themselves. He lived with the Ojibwa on Bear Island and learned their language, their traditions, and their way of life (Canadian Icon, 2020). Through the Ojibwa, Grey Owl learned how to canoe, snowshoe, and hunt and trap animals – until he became one of them. David Suzuki, on the other hand. garnered his initial knowledge from his studies of the environment at universities, by completing a B.A. in biology and a Ph.D. in zoology (Eldridge, 2020). Whereas Suzuki was born and raised in Canada stemming from a Japanese immigrant family, Grey Owl deceived the public by claiming he was Aboriginal, when he was in fact an immigrant from England by the name of Archibald Belaney (Smith, 2015). His dream, even as a child, was to move to Canada and become an ‘Indian’, believing his long lost mother to be an Apache (Canadian Icon, 2020). To better suit the role, Belaney applied henna to his skin and black dye to his brown hair in a ridiculous effort to darken them. It was not until Grey Owl’s death in 1938 that the truth of his real identity was revealed, tarnishing his otherwise remarkable environmental legacy.

David Suzuki and Grey Owl have both fought hard for conservation in Canada, but in different times. Grey Owl’s efforts rose out of his Ojibwa wife’s concern for the environment, resulting in the writing of conservation books and doing lecture tours. David Suzuki is still on the front line fighting for the cause but uses a multimedia approach ideal for today’s world: television, radio, social media, websites, podcasts, and lectures. It is his hope that Canada will soon join over 100 other nations and turn the notion that humans have a rightto a healthy environment into Canadian law. If this happens, greater care for our environment becomes mandatory. Perhaps then, we will treat the land with the respect it is due and acknowledge that even a tree is our friend.



Bailey, P., & Phillipson, D. (2019). David SuzukiRetrieved February 10, 2020 fromhttps://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/david-suzuki

Canadian Icon (2020). Grey Owl, white Indian. Retrieved February 10, 2020 from http://canadianicon.org/table-of-contents/grey-owl-white-indian/

Eldridge, A. (2020). David Suzuki: Canadian scientist, television personality, author, and activist. Retrieved February 10, 2020 from https://www.britannica.com/topic/columnist

Smith, D. (2015). Archibald Belaney, Grey Owl. Retrieved February 10, 2020 from https://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/archibald-belaney-grey-owl

World Counts (2020). Planet Earth. Retrieved February 10, 2020 from https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/planet-earth


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