The case for ecosocialism

Vancouver writer and musician Geoff Berner is a board member of Canada’s newest electoral political party, the BC Ecosocialists. The following is an abridged version of a presentation he made on behalf of the board at the party’s official launch, held Oct. 28 in Vancouver.

Canada’s newest political party describes itself as greener than the greens and more left than the NDP

Image result for ecosocialismI  know I’m a settler, not invited to this land by its original peoples, I know I’ve got a lot of work to do here to get right with Indigenous people and my own conscience. For me, helping to start the BC Ecosocialists is part of that work.

So here we go. I’m Geoff Berner. I’m a Jewish folk singer, writer and activist. I was born and raised in Vancouver, B.C.

I’m here as a member of the board of Canada’s newest party, the BC Ecosocialists, and I have the honour and daunting responsibility of having been asked by the others on the board to be the first to speak.

Some of you know who I am. I’ve played in bars, cafes, folk festivals and punk rock squats. I’ve played many times for people at marches, protests and picket lines, all over the world.

As a point of human honour, we refuse this death cult that our society has become, that our political parties have become. I haven’t been everywhere in B.C. but I’ve been more places than most people. From Ymir to Haida Gwaii to Fort St. John to Prince George to Golden to the Okanagan to the Gulf Islands to Vancouver Island. When I sing, I try to openly share my culture and my soul with people. When I do that, I find that people are moved to share things with me. And in this way, we build friendship.
Here’s what my friends tell me, everywhere I go: Things are getting worse, and nobody in power seems to want to do anything about it.

My friends in Ymir, near Nelson, showed me how the NDP-Green government is set on logging their precious watershed for only a million dollars’ worth of timber. Their NDP MLA ran for office, promising to protect their water. They are devastated by Michelle Mungall’s lies.

My friends on the Gulf Islands tell me the fishery there is nearly finished, because of poor management, fish farms and warming waters, and what licences remain mostly belong to Jimmy Pattison, the evil billionaire whom Premier John Horgan likes to bear hug.

My friends in Cawston, in the Similkameen Valley, tell me about the struggles of small farmers to stay afloat when everything is set up in favour of the big, corporate, Roundup-spraying agribusinesses. And they tell me about the routine and well-known financial, physical and sexual abuse of workers hired to pick the crops, in a province run by the NDP, a party that was once founded to give workers power. What a cruel joke that history has become.

Everywhere, my friends who are workers in resource industries shrug bitterly, as they tell me what it’s like to have to leave their families, their homes, for weeks at a time, because the man camps are the only place where they can make enough to keep their houses.

Travelling to make a living myself, I’ve anxiously choked as I rode through the endless smoke of climate catastrophe wildfires, and I’ve spoken to people who live in the woods, who told me about the terrible mismanagement of B.C.’s forests — astoundingly unwise practices of old-growth forest clearcutting, mass herbicide spraying and tightly-spaced tree farms practically designed to fall to disease or fire.

I went up and played a benefit outside Fort St. John against the Site C dam. The NDP and Greens try to gaslight the people opposing these policies, but we know the NDP and Greens promised to stop Site C and LNG. We have the video footage. How cynical and awful do you have to be to betray a promise like that, and then pretend you never said any such thing? It’s hard to imagine for ordinary people who don’t lie for a living.

My Indigenous friends tell me of the lies and the ongoing colonialism and racism they face. Their dark and sophisticated dry humour reminds me so much of Jewish humour in the face of antisemitism. They mock the obviously insincere lip service that the NDP-Green government pays to reconciliation and Indigenous rights, all the while helping industry continue to snatch and despoil more land. And this government continues to do the same to Indigenous children, snatching them into a foster care system that is bigger and just as abusive as the residential school system that these official people now make costless apologies about and cry crocodile tears over. It’s disgusting.

My friends who are frontline workers and drug users tell me of the horror of what the press calls “the opioid crisis” or “the fentanyl crisis.” We know what it really is: an artificial crisis created by the War on Drugs, which the NDP-Green government refuses to call off, consigning thousands of people to lonely deaths out of sheer political cowardice. It’s beyond enraging. It’s murder.

My friends on the front lines have to resuscitate six or seven people a night, and most can only do the job for so long because they’re traumatized from watching people die in front of them night after night. Somehow this is treated as normal. And when they feel used up and done, there is no support for them. No help.

In the cities I know lots of people working multiple jobs to pay for nasty basement apartments where the landlords don’t fix anything, and there’s nothing they can do about it because there’s nowhere for them to go. I know people who stayed for years in abusive relationships because there’s nowhere for them to go. Because this government refuses to build the public social housing people need.

And we musicians and artists are chased out of everywhere we go. Every week another music venue or arts space closes because of the neverending pressure of [former Vision Vancouver city councillor] Geoff Meggs’ condo glut. If the NDP ever intended to do good work, why on Earth would they hire Vision Vancouver’s Meggs, a chief author of our current housing and arts space crisis, to be the Premier’s chief of staff? That was a declaration of evil intent. And evil has been done to many, many people.

I have friends being chased around by cops night after night because they’re not supposed to be sleeping in their vehicles. Well where the fuck are they supposed to sleep? Fuck the police!

And I have friends in Surrey and other cities who work in Vancouver, who have to spend outrageous amounts of money on transit that should be free, to take two hours to get to work and two hours to get back. And the universally-hated Translink gives itself awards every year. Fuck Translink!

Nurses and doctors I know tell me that as Health Minister Adrian Dix relabels and rearranges inadequately funded services, what’s really actually happening is that the health care system is being made ever more centralized, with more decision-making and power being given to the management types who get paid big money to do fuck-all except attend conferences where they learn useless buzzwords.

And more and more work and responsibilities are pushed down on health care workers on the front lines, who already do the lion’s share of the real work, but now also must complete educational modules on “overcoming burnout in the workplace” that advise them to drink more water and do more yoga. But the fact is that health care workers burn out because they get tired of confronting the fact that they can’t take care of people. They can’t house them, keep them safe, nurture them, give them hope. The things they signed up to do. They can only patch people up and send them back out to suffer, needlessly. Good luck surviving on welfare rates designed to kill. Burnout.

Were we made to be dominated by corporate power? Were we made to step over our fellow human beings in the street?

My teenage son and his friends tell me that their clueless principals lecture them in school assemblies about the dangers of social media. How they should stay off their phones, because their phones are making them anxious. Well maybe they should actually listen to what the kids have to say about what makes them anxious. Because here’s what my son tells me: they’re anxious about having no reasonable expectations of a decent future. No job security, no housing security. They’re going to be saddled with massive unpayable debt if they go to university to try to get ahead. (At universities, by the way, everyone except the elites of administration and tenured professors are treated like disposable garbage or worse) and what’s the point of trying to get ahead on a barren wasteland of a planet? It’s not their phones that are making them anxious.

So what are we going to do for these kids? Just tell them that the Liberals would be worse, so suck it up? That the Greens were right to prop up austerity and the doubling of our carbon output? Because it could be even worse?! Is that our message to the youth?

I marched with these anxious young people against the climate catastrophe, with 200,000 in the streets of Vancouver, my hometown, and there they all were, full of hope, and also outrage and frustration. And How dare you! And no one to vote for. No one to vote for.

I watched, agog, as the same politicians that are doubling down on fossil fuels and austerity, effusively praised these kids, who were literally begging for their lives.

Is that the best we can do? Leaders like that?

Were we made to be dominated by corporate power? Were we made to step over our fellow human beings in the street? Were we made to sigh and shrug, when our friends, our relations, tell us, “I don’t know how I’m going to pay the rent this month. And I don’t know how I can deal with all this debt.” When they say, “I keep having to work more, but I’m so traumatized by what’s happening at work that I don’t know how much longer I can keep it up.” Were we made to sigh and shrug when the scientists duly report AGAIN, as they have been for 40 years, that everything around us is fucking dying? People, were we humans beings made for despair?

No. We were not made for that. We refuse to accept that. As a point of human honour, we refuse this death cult that our society has become, that our political parties have become.

So we have set out to do something. We don’t know if it’s going to work, but we’re going to try.

And when a bunch of us got together to collaborate on policy, in every category, we set ourselves a question:

What if we just decided not to be assholes about everything? What if we acted like everyone, every person, really mattered? Mattered as much as Jimmy Pattison.

What if we just did the right thing for a change? Didn’t throw people, or nature, under the bus? And as for the money to pay for doing the right thing — what if we took away the wealth of obscenely rich people, like Jimmy Pattison and Chip Wilson from Lululemon and the people whose boys go to elite private schools like St. George’s? What if we took their wealth away, to pay for doing the right thing? Like we used to.

Millions of people want us to do the right thing. The people who lifted up Occupy Wall Street, Idle No More, Bernie Sanders, Jean Swanson, Autumn Peltier, Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jeremy Corbyn.

Let’s raise welfare to a rate people can live decently on. Let’s call off the War on Drugs. Let’s actually return land and power to Indigenous people. Let’s stop all fossil fuel projects.

Ecosocialist movements are growing in other parts of the world. So we decided to build a party here. We reached out to Indigenous people. We reached out to the tenants’ rights groups. Environmental activists. The union activists. Student activists. The disability rights activists. The small farmers. The queer and trans activists. Sex workers.

We asked: What is the right thing to do, regardless of the so-called cost?

We wrote our policy collaboratively, and that’s how we’re going to fix the policy, as we move along. Yes, we’re going to screw up, but we’re going to listen to people and apologize and take responsibility for our mistakes, and we’re going to keep fixing our policies to make them always, always, answer the question: what is the morally right thing to do, if we really do value each and every person equally?

Because what we want to make is an electoral funnel.

A funnel, to take all this rage and frustration and urgency and hope and pour it into a bottle, set it on fire and huck it straight at the oh-so-complacent powers that be.

If we can earn the support of enough of the people who were out there marching, we can shake this province. And this country. And one day, we’re going to win. You watch.

So that’s what I think we’re here to do. And if you agree, I challenge you to join us, and fight for that together, by going to our website, and signing up as a member. It only costs a dollar. And then we’ll take it from there.

And then together, let’s really build a better world together. Not just pretend we are, while everything goes to shit. Let’s raise welfare to a rate people can live decently on. Let’s call off the War on Drugs. Let’s actually return land and power to Indigenous people. Let’s stop all fossil fuel projects. Let’s have a real Green New Deal, with real jobs, not just destroy the Earth and buy a few electric cars to feel better about it and call that a climate policy. Let’s give people universal dental care, child care and pharmacare. For everyone. And eliminate billionaires in this country, in the process. Those are the right things to do. And there’s no good reason not to do those things, dammit.

As I mentioned, I’m a Jew. I’m part of a leftist Jewish tradition that reaches back to the Yiddish Bund, and beyond, for centuries. Jews are taught to never bow down or kneel to any ruler. Never.

So I will leave you with the words of the great Rabbi Hillel. These words ring down with the same purpose as when they were first spoken thousands of years ago. These words I’ve been repeating to myself every day, lately, to give myself strength, I share with you. I’ve made a tune to sing them to:

If I am not for myself, then who will be / Who will be for me? / If I am only for myself what am I then? / If I am only for myself what am I then? / And if not now / If not now / If not now / Then / When?

Meet the young Indigenous organizers working to bring together ceremony and activism in Alberta


Veronica Fuentes, a 20-year-old organizer with the Beaver Hills Warriors, says it’s important for Indigenous activists to “recenter the narrative and take hold of the narrative” when it comes to advocacy on land and climate issues. Photo: Abdul Malik / The Narwhal

For Indigenous activists in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton), a change in government doesn’t necessarily mean a change in tactics.

When Alberta premier Jason Kenney was elected in April, many local activists kicked into high gear.

A public inquiry into the funding of environmental groups, a war room, scrapping the carbon tax — all of these policies seemed to many activists to be an onslaught of worrying government policies.

But for Edmonton organizer Veronica Fuentes, it seemed a bit like more of the same.

Fuentes, whose father is Salvadoran and whose mother is from the Yellow Quill First Nation in Saskatchewan and a survivor of the sixties scoop, is an organizer in early her early twenties who is part of an Edmonton group called the Beaver Hills Warriors.

The colonial violence inflicted on her family members by past governments is part of the reason, she tells me, that she doesn’t feel all that different under Jason Kenney.

“That’s the difference when it’s Indigenous-led organizing,” she says. “The faith you have in your government is already skewed.”

When I meet Fuentes, she’s just handed in her last assignment for her second year in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta.

In addition to her studies, she works a number of jobs and spends as much time as she can organizing with the Beaver Hills Warriors, an Indigenous youth collective that advocates for Indigenous rights.

She focuses her energy on Indigenous-led activism — for her, that’s activism that centres ceremony, self-care and community building.

She also believes engaging in electoral politics has its place. “We’re all well aware of it, we follow it, we all just sit in our seats just, like, facepalming,” she says. She believes centring Indigenous ceremony and building relationships among Indigenous people is also powerful — if not more so.

“That’s not to say we don’t understand the significance of engaging in electoral politics, but a lot of us don’t feel safe in those spaces,” she tells me.

“The reality for my community in El Salvador and in Saskatchewan — [my family is] from the Yellow Quill First Nation — is very, very different from the reality that’s centred in white climate justice,” Fuentes, who identifies as Anishinaabekwe tied to Treaty 4, says.

“A group of Indigenous folk took note of that and wanted to recenter the narrative and take hold of the narrative.”

The Beaver Hills Warriors was born out of this Indigenous-led movement in activism and community organizing.

‘It’s all interconnected’

Nigel Robinson, another member of the Beaver Hills Warriors, was 24 when he first took out a weathered copy of “The Fourth World: An Indian Reality,” by George Manuel from the Edmonton Public Library. “I read the first 70 pages of that and it blew my mind,” he says.

For Robinson, those pages put words to feelings he had not seen in print before. He remembers reading about how “the common perception that Indigenous people are inherently inferior … and that the colonizer uplifted us,” and it struck him that there must be a persistent belief in inferiority in order for a society to dispossess Indigenous people of their land.

Indigenous activism Alberta climate justice

Nigel Robinson is a member of the Łuéchogh Túé First Nation near what is now called Cold Lake, Alta. In his lifetime, he’s already seen changes in the lake, which has been part of his motivation to advocate for climate justice. Photo: Abdul Malik / The Narwhal

Robinson had been thinking a lot about the larger forces at play in society since his father’s death in 2010, at the age of 48, when Robinson was still a teenager. He says he heard terrible sentiments at the time, with people saying, “he’s just an Indian.”

Robinson says that was when he “started to think critically” about some of the issues he saw in his community. He began to realize they were “methods of dispossession.” He says residential schools and “imposed alcoholism,” both at play in his father’s death, were tools of colonialism.

“It’s all interconnected,” he says.

Robinson’s family has a history of advocacy. He says his uncle was of particular inspiration to him, and was a mentor until his death earlier this year.

He’s been asked to present to local high school classes and prefers to steer presentations away from what he calls “tokenizing” performances, toward discussions about modern, nuanced Indigenous life.

When we meet, he’s on contract with the Blue Quills language program, and is passionate about the importance of Indigenous languages. He’s working toward fluency in Dene and Cree. “Indigenous languages are the first languages the land has given us,” he says.

And he’s a mainstay at Beaver Hills Warriors events.

Indigenous activism Alberta Greta Thunberg

Nigel Robinson on the megaphone at an October climate rally in Edmonton — in which Indigenous activists led the march — joined by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Photo: Sharon J. Riley / The Narwhal

‘Life-sustaining nature to our worldviews’

Robinson is a member of the Łuéchogh Túé First Nation near what is now called Cold Lake, Alta.

He never drank the water from Cold Lake, but his grandparents did. He grew up swimming in the waters, but that’s now discouraged too.

“The lake is easily impacted,” Robinson says, and his own observations of its changes were part of what led him to his work advocating for climate action. (Robinson recently attended the climate summit in Madrid.)

Robinson has been very involved in the group’s recent actions to push for the federal government to reject proposals for Teck Resource’s Frontier Mine project —  a massive new oilsands mine proposed in northern Alberta.

Indigenous climate justice Madrid

Robinson (centre) at a Reject Teck rally at the climate summit in Madrid. Photo: Allan Lissner / Indigenous Climate Action.

climate justice Indigenous Madric Frontier mine

Indigenous activists have called on the federal government to reject Teck Resources’ Frontier oilsands mine project in Northern Alberta. Photo: Allan Lissner / Indigenous Climate Action.

There’s a “life sustaining nature to our worldviews,” Fuentes says. “And I think that’s something we can teach the Western world something about.”

This is something Fuentes is conscious of — and conscious of who is centring the narrative.

“Energy solutions without free, prior, informed consent of Indigenous communities — this replicates colonialism, which I think is something that we that we have to be constantly pushing [back against],” she says.

That’s part of why the “Reject Teck” campaign has been conscious of amplifying Indigenous voices.

Indigenous activism Alberta climate change

There’s a “life sustaining nature to our worldviews,” Fuentes says. “And I think that’s something we can teach the Western world something about.” Photo: Abdul Malik / The Narwhal

Indigenous activism Alberta justice colonization

Robinson first read George Manuel when he was 24. He remembers how it struck him that there must be a persistent belief in inferiority in order for a society to dispossess Indigenous people of their land. Photo: Abdul Malik / The Narwhal


‘Unfairly paints us as militant natives’

Fuentes is concerned with the way Indigenous activism is often portrayed in the media. “It unfairly paints us as militant natives,” she says. “And that’s exactly what makes us unsafe.”

One of the first actions Fuentes remembers with the Beaver Hills Warriors was anything but militant.

“We occupied 104th and Jasper [in downtown Edmonton] for about 45 minutes with a round dance,” she remembers. The action was in “solidarity with the Gidimt’en check point raid and the Wet’suwet’en at Unist’ot’en Camp.”

“We’d like to move f

Nova Scotia premier keeps his promise to Pictou Landing to stop environmental racism

Image result for APTN: Nova Scotia premier keeps his promise to Pictou Landing to stop environmental racism


Premier Stephen McNeil is keeping the deadline of the 2015 Boat Harbour Act.

Legislation that mandates Northern Pulp to stop dumping effluent into Boat Harbour at the end of January 2020.

The mill has been dumping toxic waste into the harbour in Pictou Landing First Nation for the last fifty years.

Northern Pulp asked for more time to find an alternative, otherwise they are closing the mill.

The Nova Scotia government said they will not grant an extension.

Pictou Landing Chief Andrea Paul says it is time her community starts to heal.

The cleanup is expected to take over four years. SOURCE

Gidimt’en spokesperson Sleydo’, a.k.a. Molly Wickham, accuses RCMP of acting as mercenaries for industry

Sleydo', a.k.a. Molly Wickham, is the spokesperson for the Gitimt'en Checkpoint.

Sleydo’, a.k.a. Molly Wickham, is the spokesperson for the Gitimt’en Checkpoint. CARLA LEWIS PHOTOGRAPHY/WET’SUWET’EN ACCESS POINT

An Indigenous woman has issued a scathing statement about the RCMP in the wake of an astonishing news story about a police raid on traditional Wet’suwet’en territory last winter.

Sleydo’, a.k.a. Molly Wickham, was among 14 people arrested at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint on January 7 when heavily armed Mounties arrived to enforce a B.C. Supreme Court injunction obtained by Coastal Gaslink Pipeline Ltd.

On December 20, the Guardian reported that the RCMP was prepared at that time to use lethal force, arrest children and grandparents, and apprehend the demonstrators’ children.

“We have never ceded or surrendered our lands,” Sleydo’, the Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson, said. “This is an issue of rights and title with our sovereign nation, and RCMP are acting as mercenaries for industry.

“With terminology like ‘lethal overwatch’, ‘sterilize the site’, and the threat of child welfare removing our children from their homes and territory, we see the extent to which the provincial and federal governments are willing to advance the destruction of our lands and families for profit,” she continued. “The state has always removed our people from our lands to ensure control over the resources. This has never changed.

“At a time when the province has introduced the UNDRIP legislation, the RCMP are occupying our territory for the sole purpose of protecting industry and ensuring extractive projects proceed unhindered.”

UNDRIP is an acronym for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 10 states: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option to return.”

On May 30, 2018, Parliament passed Bill C-262, which calls for the laws of Canada to be in harmony with UNDRIP. The bill, which was sponsored by former NDP MP Romeo Saganash, has gone through a Senate committee but still hasn’t received Royal Assent.

On November 28, Royal Assent was granted to a provincial law, 2019 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s Act. This legislation affirms that UNDRIP applies to B.C. laws.

Coastal GasLink obtained agreements from all the elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre pipeline route from northeastern B.C. to the yet-to-be-built LNG Canada facility near Kitimat.

It’s part of a $40-billion private-sector project that’s received a green light from the federal and provincial governments.

But hereditary chiefs claim jurisdiction over their traditional territories and insist that elected chiefs and councils only have authority over reserves created under the Indian Act.

Coastal GasLink is a subsidiary of TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada Pipelines. It’s pushing forward with the Keystone XL pipeline project over the objections of Indigenous people on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.

In 1997, hereditary Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan chiefs won a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada when all nine judges affirmed the existence of Aboriginal title post-Confederation. The Wet’suwet’en, like most B.C. First Nations, have not signed treaties with the Crown.

In 2011, a B.C. Supreme Court ruling stated: “Each Wet’suwet’en chief has rights and responsibilities specific to the particular territory over which that chief has been given a duty to protect.”

Gidimt’en Checkpoint@Gidimten

Nothing has changed in 150 years! They are willing to kill us for our lands and steal our children. We will never give us @JustinTrudeau @jjhorgan 

Exclusive: Canada police prepared to shoot Indigenous activists, documents show

Notes from strategy session for raid on Wet’suwet’en nation’s ancestral lands show commanders argued for ‘lethal overwatch’

There are five Wet’suwet’en clans. Each has its own house groups. One of those clans is the Gidimt’en, which is led by Hereditary Chief Woos. Sleydo’ is the Gidimt’en spokesperson.

“The facts released by the Guardian‘s exclusive article today to the Canadian and global public reveal the reality between Indigenous peoples protecting our lands and RCMP since contact and continuing today,” Sleydo’ said in her statement. “Here we are, nearly 2020, and we are still being threatened with violence, death, and the removal of our children for simply existing on our lands and following our laws.”

In the Witset feast hall in December 2018, the clan announced that it was creating the checkpoint to protect its territory as well as the territory of the neighbouring Gilseyhu clan. Its members have created the Unist’ot’en Village, which it describes as an “Indigenous reoccupation of traditional territory”.

According to the Guardian, RCMP commanders issued instructions that officers could “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” when taking down the blockade at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint in January.

The Gidimt’en clan called that “abhorrent”.

“We want to live free on our lands, without the constant threat of violence by CIRG (Community Industry Response Group), who are illegally occupying Gidimt’en territory,” Sleydo’ said.


Environmental activists have launched a social media campaign expressing solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people by using the hashtag #wouldyoushootmetoo.

rayne ”listen to young people” fisher-quann@raynefq

we have evidence that the canadian state was willing to shoot and kill Indigenous land defenders. someone that looks like me would never get the same treatment. it’s time to hold the RCMP and the Canadian government accountable for their racism.

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p a y t o n 🌽@paytonrose14

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Be part of the campaign in response to the state police violence being against the wet’suwet’en nation. The campaign would be having young people holding signs asking “would you shoot me too” and using that hashtag and tweeting at politicians

View image on Twitter


I’d presume these officers’d wear masks as they wouldn’t want to be identified later for having shot protesters in cold blood. Do we know what type of masks Canadian law enforcement would be using for such a task? What’s the protocol for this? 

Replying to @BusyBurn and 2 others

Pre-meditation. “We were just following orders” stuff. #WouldYouShootMe 

Video: Mohawk intellectual Russell Diabo broke down the Indian Act in 2013.SOURCE