This election, who we vote for matters more than ever. Not just for our country, but for our children’s future and the health of our planet.
In the next five years, Canada and the world will face critical decisions about our future. As ecosystems fail and the planet warms dangerously, our collective well-being is deeply under threat. There is still time to chart a course to a safe future for all – but we must act urgently to uphold environmental protection, economic justice and human rights.
The good news is that solutions already exist. Together, we can turn the tide on climate change, we can nurture nature, and we can choose a healthier future. It all starts with one vote – your vote – for our one earth.
We’re asking you today to join the building wave of support and vote for the environment this October.
Will you take the pledge?
I DEMAND THAT ANY GOVERNMENT THAT REPRESENTS ME MUST:
Implement a strong climate action plan that meets our international commitments to keep global warming below catastrophic levels
Establish economic equality and ensure social justice
Respect and promote the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Media and politicians often regard environmentalists as a special interest group with political priorities served by “green” parties. If a Green politician isn’t present or allowed to participate in a public debate, journalists tend to eschew environmental questions, considering them the purview of the absent party. It’s absurd to think an issue like climate change belongs to one party. It should be the highest priority for every politician and candidate and should receive daily media attention.
All parties should have policies to protect life-sustaining air, water, soil and biodiversity and to encourage renewable energy. Those of us who prioritize these factors are not like opera, rodeo or car-racing buffs, yet that’s how we’re often perceived.
In November 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report, a gauntlet thrown to challenge all humanity. If we don’t reduce fossil fuel use by almost half by 2030 and 100 per cent by mid-century, climate chaos could destroy the underpinnings of civilization, including food and agriculture, coastal communities, ocean productivity, and the global economy. This is not a Green issue; it’s an urgent challenge confronting all people. We can’t ignore it as we head toward a federal election on October 21.
Global warming affects everything and everyone. United Nations groups dealing with immigrants and refugees worldwide can’t cope with the masses of people leaving their homelands. As ocean levels rise and flood heavily populated areas; heat waves, drought and weakening monsoons destroy agriculture; pest outbreaks ravage forests; and changing ocean currents and temperatures transform marine ecosystems, tens of millions of people will be forced to seek liveable asylum. Climate change and its solutions must be addressed by all those concerned about immigration and refugees. The repercussions for Oxfam, Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, and so many other organizations will amplify in coming years.
For years, medical professionals and health organizations have warned that climate change will exacerbate consequences such as cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems, and spread of illnesses like Lyme disease, malaria, Zika, and dengue. A recent report in The Lancet points to the urgent health consequences of climate change.
In Canada, where temperatures are rising at twice the global average rate, we’re already experiencing impacts: shorter outdoor hockey and skiing seasons; forest infestations of pests like the mountain pine beetle; vanishing glaciers that feed watersheds; loss of Arctic sea ice on which animals like seals and polar bears depend; extinction of populations of temperature-sensitive salmon like sockeye; increasing ocean acidity that inhibits shellfish growth; destruction of park ecosystems; explosive growth in rat and poison ivy populations; extended prairie droughts; deaths from heat stroke; huge fires; massive floods…
Canada’s recently revised food guide acknowledges climate impacts. In a radical departure from the meat- and dairy-dominated guides of the past, it indicates that a primarily plant-based diet is not only better for our health but reduces the risk of climate change.
Global warming affects almost everything in our lives and the biosphere. It’s not a special interest touted by enviros or the Green Party. It’s a crisis for all humanity. The bar set by the IPCC report is challenging, made worse in Canada by almost a decade under a government that didn’t prioritize climate change. If we accept the goal of a 45 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, we have to start on it immediately and on an enormous scale. This is a challenge for us all and must be the highest priority for every party. We shouldn’t let any candidate for office avoid discussing climate risks. MORE
A Q&A with Leah Gazan, the ‘fearlessly progressive’ Indigenous socialist running for the NDP this fall.
NDP candidate for Winnipeg Centre Leah Gazan: ‘I’ll either fail miserably or I’ll do well, but I need to be true to who I am.’Photo submitted.
Leah Gazan had an important choice to make when she decided to seek the federal NDP nomination in Winnipeg Centre.
Should she take the regular politician route, calibrating her tone and message so as to inspire, but not freak out, whatever constitutes a moderate, middle-of-the-road voter these days? Or should she run, as she put it, on a “fearlessly progressive agenda rooted in socialist values?”
Gazan chose the latter. And as the Indigenous activist and University of Winnipeg lecturer headed into the nomination race against long-time Manitoba MLA Andrew Swan, she figured, “I’ll either fail miserably or I’ll do well, but I need to be true to who I am.”
Gazan, from the Wood Mountain Lakota Nation, ended up clinching the nomination by signing up a record number of new party members, tripling the riding association’s membership.
She’s now taking her uncompromising style of grassroots politics into a federal election that could decide how aggressively Canada responds to the climate emergency, if progress will be made on human rights for Indigenous peoples, and whether we shut down or embolden a home-grown white nationalist movement. The riding was won by the Liberals in 2015, but had been held by the New Democrats for the previous 18 years.
The Tyee recently spoke with Gazan over the phone from Winnipeg. She laid out a revolutionary political vision and strategy that seems to have more in common with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than the moderate restraint urged during the previous election by former NDP leader Tom Mulcair.
The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
On being described as “a super competent feminist socialist”:
“Well, I’m a proud socialist. I think we need to start looking at things differently. You know, the Liberal government bailed out a pipeline company for $4.5 billion. Why not invest that in something like a guaranteed annual liveable income, free tuition for postsecondary students? I think that we’re at a point where we are living in a growing corporate dictatorship where the value of human life and human beings and the value of the environment means less than the wealth and prestige and power of big multinational corporations.”
On throwing out the traditional rules for politicians:
“We put a lot of stakes in individual politicians, but very, very rarely do we talk about people power. On the day of the nomination there were actually a thousand people who showed up. I don’t want it just to be made about me. I want to make it about a movement and the power of people coming together. And I think that is what grassroots movements do. People forget about the massive social change that has happened throughout history. The civil rights movement, for example. So I see my role as a community voice directed and led by the community.”
On the power of knowing and owning your identity:
“It becomes your shield. Especially if you come from groups that have historically been oppressed, so that when you go out in the world and you have to deal with things like racism, stereotypes and prejudice, you know clearly who you are and you have a pride in who you are. And that’s one of the things that was really attacked for Indigenous people through things like residential schools and what happened during the Sixties Scoop. When you strip somebody of their identity, their culture and the ability to live out who they are, you take away that shield and you make people really vulnerable.”
“I was really blessed to be brought up by two very progressive parents who understood the importance of me having a really clear foundation in my identity. My father was a Holocaust survivor. My mom was a Lakota woman from Wood Mountain Lakota Nation. She grew up in the child welfare system. That’s something we had to journey through as a family. So I feel really fortunate that with the kind of deck of cards my parents were dealt that I was able to have a clear sense of who I was. That’s a real gift.”
On why she’s spent years fighting for Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
“It’s a human rights document that was developed over 23 years at the United Nations with Indigenous people throughout the globe. And it’s the minimum human rights that any person, Indigenous or not, needs to have. Things like clean drinking water, access to housing, being able to speak your language. As we know with what’s going on in Attawapiskat where there is a growing crisis with clean drinking water, not everybody, particularly Indigenous Canadians, have been afforded basic human rights in this country.”
“I spent the last few years travelling across the country, meeting with thousands of Canadian from all walks of life. I have never met a Canadian who says, ‘I am opposed to children having access to clean drinking water.’” MORE
Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our children…– Sitting Bull
In the time of the Seventh Fire, the Anishinaabe were told, we will have a choice between two paths: one well-worn, but scorched; and a second that’s not well-worn, but green. We are instructed to make a choice. For those of us who choose the Green Path, there is another fire– it’s called the Eighth Fire. … Light the fire, I say.
There’s no question that the Wiindigo (a cannibal spirit which stalks the North Country), or what I refer to as Wiindigo Economics, has scorched the earth– that’s the path of fossil fuels, war, capitalism, greed and irresponsibility. We see that. Indigenous people have seen that for five hundred years. In fact, we have lived in a post-apocalyptic world. That’s our lot.
We remember our people– 90% of them perished from biological weaponry of smallpox blankets. We remember them. We remember when America was great– there were 50 million buffalo, passenger pigeons blackened the skies, and there was fresh water, water you could drink everywhere. We remember the forests, the plants, the rivers, and the sacred places. We feel sorrow, traumatic shock, not even post-traumatic stress disorder; ongoing stress. We live it. We experience the amnesia, historic and ecological, and we remain. We are survivors. We remain grateful, seek to keep our covenant with the Creator and our relatives whether they have paws, roots, hooves, fins, or wings. We remember them in our clans, our ceremonies, our instructions, and seeds.
What I notice more than anything is that the birds and insects are gone. I know that’s the beginning. I also know that I live where the wild things are– there are still frogs, birds, wolves, deer. Anything which is endemic seems to be stable, anything which moves is perishing. That makes sense, because about 75% of the remaining biodiversity in the world is in Indigenous territories. Simply stated, if we want to keep our memories and keep life, we will need to protect those relatives. And we will need to plant. Seeds are promise, they are hope.
A Graceful Transition and the Sitting Bull Plan
Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our children…– Sitting Bull
I have been wanting a graceful transition from the fossil fuels era. That means: having a plan or two, getting things in order for the transition, weaning myself from my addictions, and relocalizing. I call this “from a tipi to a Tesla.” That’s basically what I want to see–good technology. In public policy this is posited as the Green New Deal agenda, but I’d go further, and call it the Sitting Bull Plan– it needs to be broad, bigger than the U.S., and have the depth of Indigenous knowledge. Here are some elements.
Where the Wild Things Are
That’s Indigenous peoples. On a worldwide scale, over 85% of the world’s remaining biodiversity is in Indigenous territories. We live where there are wolves, bears, buffalo, sturgeon, geese, eagles, and salmon. We live in the Amazon, in the places where the “uncontacted people” remain, in a world with the animals. Our lands also retain agro-biodiversity of thousands of seeds grown for a millennium, and the grasses and forests to support life. Our territories contain sacred places and sacred landscapes, all of which are the places where we are able to reaffirm and recharge our relationship with Mother Earth. Stand with these people. Because there is life where we live.
Be a Water Protector. Worldwide, water is under great threat, and many go without. The term Water Protector was mainstreamed under a hail of water cannons and tear gas at Standing Rock, but people have been working to protect ground water and surface water for decades. That’s water not only humans drink but all the other relatives, whether they have wings, or fins, or roots, or paws. I often muse that Water Protectors should replace the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts as youth civic organizations. Everyone should be a Water Protector. MORE
Ontario Premier Doug Ford puts his phone number into a man’s cellphone during a visit to a partially flooded area of Constance Bay, northwest of Ottawa, on April 26, 2019. Photo by Kamara Morozuk
Anyone who had an issue with Ontario Premier Doug Ford used to be able to call him.
For years, he handed out his personal cellphone number at events, a practice dating back to his days as a Toronto city councillor.
But Ford has now disconnected that number, overwhelmed by a flood of automated calls from special-interest groups, the premier’s office said Wednesday.
Spokeswoman Ivana Yelich didn’t specify which special-interest groups had been calling the premier — when the number is Googled, dozens of social media postings pop up — but she said one man in particular called over and over to ask Ford to subscribe to his YouTube channel.
“He had to turn off his phone at night,” Yelich said. “It became unbearable.”
Ford and his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, both gave out their numbers freely during their time at city hall. The premier in particular has touted his open phone line as a sign he’s not “stuck in a bubble” or in an “ivory tower.”
It appears Doug Ford no longer wants to hear from the people.
Ontarians used to be able to call @FordNation’s cell phone directly. But the premier disconnected it after a flood of calls from special interest groups — and a persistent man who wanted Ford to subscribe to his YouTube channel. #onpoli
At an event in Washington, D.C., in February, Ford read out his number onstage. MORE
Chief Lee Spahan of Coldwater Indian Band celebrating on Aug. 30, 2018, when the Supreme Court overturned the Liberals’ first TMX approval. Photo by Michael Ruffolo
The decision — described by one First Nations chief, Lee Spahan from the Coldwater Indian Band, as “disrespectful” — comes more than a year after scientists first recommended that Canada should list both the Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead trout under the Species At Risk Act.
The federal legislation allows federal cabinet ministers to make a final decision in response to the scientific advice.
In this case, it would have required stricter protections of critical habitat that could challenge the potentially adverse effects of construction or an oil spill from the west coast Trans Mountain project.
In a July 11 press release, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) said “the Government of Canada has determined that an emergency listing would produce suboptimal ecological, social and economic outcomes relative to a comprehensive, long-term collaborative action plan with British Columbia.”
Chief Spahan of Coldwater Indian Band disagreed, calling the decision “disappointing,” “frustrating” and “disrespectful.”
Feds say they can undertake better Steelhead protection without the Species At Risk Act, but Chief Lee Spahan says decision is “disappointing” and “frustrating.” #cdnpoli #bcpoli
“They [DFO] are mismanaging our fish right into extinction,” he said. “They have to open their eyes and start protecting the water and the fish because without water, the fish can’t survive. MORE