The Green New Deal In Canada: Challenges For Indigenous Participation

This postingis heavily edited for brevity. You are encouraged to read the full posting HERE

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AS WE MOVE THROUGH another colonial election year at the federal level, there is one arena that challenges most politicians: climate change and what we do about it.

Those paying attention to political debates know that taking action on climate appears to be at odds with the economic paradigm created and practiced over the last century and a half.

Rooted in a philosophy of extractivism, Canada’s economy relies on the theft and plundering of Indigenous lands and territories and peoples.

Most of the goods and services created from these extractive industries are the very drivers of climate change itself. Think tar sands, fracked gas, coal, forestry (and as such deforestation), water diversion to support it all, etc.

Considering this extractive economy, it will require a major overhaul for Canada itself to take meaningful action on climate and address the legacy of ongoing colonization, through a transformative economic, social and political shift. It is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore this truth. Droughts, floods, forest fires, super storms, erratic weather patterns, melting sea ice, decline in plant and animal species, and on and on, are increasingly top stories in the daily news (though the media often fails to connect these events to climate change).

While Indigenous peoples have been raising alarms about the state and health of Mother Earth for decades, if not centuries, decrying the abuses heaped upon her, Western science is now catching up, too.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that we have less than 11 years to cut global GHG emissions in half – while protecting our remaining cultural and biological diversity – or face catastrophic climate crisis.

It is also becoming increasingly understood that current plans and strategies, including the Paris Agreement, are failing to include or address the legacy of social injustices created by colonization, capitalism, and militarism; forces that destroy the cultural diversity which is key to mitigating climate change. Correspondingly, high level international and state policies and proposals also fail to include the full participation of Indigenous peoples despite the recognition of the important roles we play in addressing the climate crisis.

This includes the much heralded Green New Deal.

So what is this Green New Deal thing I keep hearing about?

As I write, environmental groups and centre-left political parties in both Canada and the U.S. are advocating for something called the Green New Deal (GND). Both versions of the GND are predicated on stabilizing current economic systems while simultaneously taking action on climate change, along with challenging current systems of injustice. The narrative of GND is an intentional throwback to the New Deal, an economic stimulus package created after the great depression in the U.S. by President Roosevelt.

As Julian Brave Noisecat writes in his Guardian piece No, climate action can’t be separated from social justice, The “Green” New Deal discussions happening in contemporary America “envisions a society where people have universal access to energy, jobs, healthcare and housing [and] is a call for renewed commitment to the equal distribution of opportunity and justice.”

To achieve these ends, the GND calls for major economic shifts toward a green energy economy.

Meanwhile in Canada, the discussions are more preliminary and revolve around conceptualizing a Northern version of a GND. It includes 150 organizations and prominent Canadians, including CUPE Ontario, the Canadian Health Coalition, the Canadian Unitarian Council, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Indigenous Climate Action (that’s us!), Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

The campaign’s current tagline is ripped straight from the IPCC report mentioned above and calls for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

…The fact is that the GND is still being created in silos of elitism and is aimed primarily at influencing, and putting pressure on, colonial and corporate power to lead change.While it’s true that governments should be stepping up, history has indicated a stubborn attachment to the status quo, absent the will and commitment of the people. Indigenous Climate Action and other Indigenous organizations and communities are striving to ensure there are measures of accountability and true transformation embedded in moving things forward on the GND to avoid repeating history..

But they are advocating for systems change, aren’t they?

Yes, but they are also advocating for the same forces that drove us into a climate crisis to please pave the way out for us. Asking oppressors for liberation has not proven an effective strategy.

Currently, the GND proposals are focused on changing the energy infrastructure while redistributing wealth but ultimately failing to center the destructive intertwined roles of capitalism, consumerism, militarism and colonialism as foundations to the current crisis.

In other words, the GND in its current iteration is not a structural solution.

Without an acknowledgment of the severed spiritual and mental connection to the natural world we will continue to make the same mistakes.

It is Indigenous communities, locally, nationally and internationally, that continue to push for an actualization of instilling deeper spiritual connections the Mother Earth to help us relearn what systems of colonization, capitalism, and extractivism have severed.
Without these as tenets to a call for systems change it is merely a regurgitation of the same broken structures that perpetuate disconnection and individualism.

The current proposals for the GND, if ever taken up by those politicians, could have lasting impacts for generations to come, paving the way for new social, political and economic systems providing a new baseline.

We cannot afford for history to repeat itself.

Indigenous health care needs won’t be served by Ford government’s plan

In its efforts to “modernize” Ontario’s health care system, the Ford government might have met its match in Ovide Mercredi, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Tanya Talaga writes.

After 150 years of colonialism — of Indian residential schools, of the Indian Act and the presence of Indian hospitals where First Nations and Métis people received second-class health care — the power of health-care decision making should not be left in patriarchal hands so clearly linked to the past.

Yet in Ontario, the Ford government is turning back the clock as it proceeds with the formation of the new super health care agency, Ontario Health. The new agency’s creation means blowing apart much of the current health-care delivery system — Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and Local Health Integration Networks and others — and centralizing decision-making power to save money.

Or, as Health Minister Christine Elliott calls it, “modernizing” the system.

But by centralizing health care decisions, the Ontario government is doing exactly the opposite, returning to a top-down approach where health-care needs are decided by the few for the many.

The new agency threatens to derail nearly three years of negotiations between Ontario, the federal government and Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) concerning turning over decision-making power about health care to 49 northern nations so they can bring health-care services closer to home. MORE

So much plastic is being made that “recycling has no impact”

overflowing trash
Public Domain MaxPixel

A Canadian scientist wants us to rethink our approach to plastic and challenge the colonial system that produces it.

Recycling has been called a Band-Aid solution, but Dr. Max Liboiron, director of the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) in St. John’s, Newfoundland, had a far more poetic description when she said, “Recycling is like a Band-Aid on gangrene.”

Liboiron, who studies microplastics in waterways and food webs, is the subject of a 13-minute film called ‘Guts,’ created by Taylor Hess and Noah Hutton and published by the Atlantic (embedded below). She runs a laboratory that identifies itself as feminist and anti-colonial, which may sound odd in a scientific setting. Liboiron explains in the film:

“Every time you decide what question to ask or not ask others, which counting style you use, which statistics you use, how you frame things, where you publish them, who you work with, where you get funding from… all of that is political. Reproducing the status quo is deeply political because the status quo is crappy.”

The lab is concerned with preserving certain Indigenous traditions, such as smudging and praying over the disposal of dissected fish intestines following research. It implements protocols such as not wearing earbuds while working on a carcass, as this shows disrespect and lack of connection to the animal.

Liboiron is also committed to promoting citizen science. She has built two devices that trawl for microplastics, constructed from everyday materials. One costs $12, the other $500. These stand in contrast to the standard collection device, which costs $3,500. This makes it impossibly expensive for the average person to sample their own water, which Liboiron believes everyone has the right to do.

She doesn’t mince her words when it comes to recycling and its lack of efficacy:

“The only real mode of attack is to deal with the heavy decrease in the production of plastics, as opposed to dealing with them after they’ve already been created. Your consumer behaviours do not matter, not on the scale of the problem. On the scale of personal ethics, yes. Recycling has skyrocketed [with] no impact on the scale of plastic production whatsoever. Really it’s the cessation of production that will make the big-scale changes.”

As someone who advocates for personal plastic reduction, there’s a lot to take away from this statement. To the naysayers who argue there’s no point trying, the personal ethics response is powerful: We have to do these things so that we feel we are making a difference and to position ourselves to be able to challenge authority and the status quo without being a hypocrite. Does it actually help? Probably not much, if we’re being honest, but it can galvanize the broader societal change required to spur political decisions that can turn off the plastic tap eventually.

Liboiron views single-use plastic as a function of colonialism, the product of a system of domination that assumes access to land, both in terms of resource extraction and a product’s eventual disposal. She wrote in an article for Teen Vogue‘s Plastic Planet series,

“[The plastics industry] assumes that household waste will be picked up and taken to landfills or recycling plants that allow plastic disposables to go ‘away.’ Without this infrastructure and access to land, Indigenous land, there is no disposability.”

Usually this land belongs to developing nations or remote communities, which are then criticized by wealthier ones for mismanaging their waste, despite much of it being shipped there from those wealthier countries. Suggestions such as building more incinerators are made, despite the harmful environmental impact these solutions would have.

It’s clear that recycling isn’t going to solve this plastic crisis, and rethinking the system that produces it is really our only choice. Scientists like Liboiron force us to think outside the box, and it’s refreshing.

MORE

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The Indian Act: What to do with it

If you want to understand the hopes and aspirations of Indigenous nations, at present circumscribed by the Indian Act, take the time to listen to this revealing episode of The Agenda.

The Agenda with Steve Paikin:

Created more than 150 years ago, the Indian Act has structured relations between the federal government and Indigenous people for generations. And in the eyes of many, its purpose was and still is, to assimilate, control, and even destroy the people and communities that come under its jurisdiction.

In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to scrap it. That hasn’t happened.

The Agenda discusses what should be done about the archaic legislation.


Watch the video

 

Why mining justice must be central to the Green New Deal

 

Between May 18 and May 31, people across the country will be holding town halls in their communities to shape a vision for a Green New Deal. There is a Green New Deal set up for Belleville on Monday, May 27th at St Thomas Church, 7 to 9 pm.

Mining in Kailo. Photo: Julien Harneis/Wikimedia CommonsIt is imperative that we win a bold and profoundly transformative Green New Deal to avert the catastrophe of deepening climate breakdown.

We need a rebellion against a toxic system that Extinction Rebellion co-founder Stuart Basden has highlighted includes colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, Eurocentrism, hetero-sexism/heteronormativity, class hierarchy and other oppressions.

That toxic system also includes extreme violence and environmental damage by transnational mining corporations, many of them headquartered in Canada.

…a green colonialism that claims leadership and ignores the lived experience of the global majority “is no victory worth claiming, and it is the default left position if we do not actively fight for a different vision.”

Afro-Colombian anti-mining activist Francia Márquez, who recently survived an assassination attempt, frames her broader vision of challenging climate change as follows:

“I am one of those people who raise their voices to stop the destruction of rivers, forests, and wetlands; one of those people who dream that, one day, human beings are going to change the economic model of death, in order to build a model that guarantees life.”

A conscious and explicit recognition of the need for mining justice — and the impacts of mining injustice on racialized communities around the world — are critical components of the Green New Deal and the economic model of life that we need to build. SOURCE


 

First Nations and the federal election: An exercise in self-termination

This warning by Russ Diabo posted in Ricochet, July, 2015 is even more timely today.

Image result for Ricochet: First Nations and the federal election: An exercise in self-termination

For the past several weeks, I have observed with increasing frequency a call for First Peoples to get out for the upcoming federal election. The mainstream media and now the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, are urging Indigenous people to vote, particularly since it is looking like a three-way race between the federal leaders and their parties (sorry, Elizabeth May).

…I took particular notice of an opinion piece by Tasha Kheiriddin in the National Post. Kheiriddin was responding to Regina Crowchild, a councillor with Alberta’s Tsuu T’ina Nation, who said that she would not want to see “an alien government’s polling station” on her reserve, adding that “if we join Canada in their election system, that’s a part of genocide.”

Here was Kheiriddin’s counterargument:

The reality is that, paradoxically, if First Nations are truly interested in more autonomy, they will never get it without cooperation from the federal government. That means electing a government that is sympathetic to their perspective — and they will never do so unless they go to the polls. Voting is not capitulation, but a recognition that in a democracy, you need to participate if you want your voice to be heard.

Despite the mainstream media’s pleas, we must remember as First Nation individuals we are connected to our families, communities and nations. Therefore we have collective or group rights, which Canadian citizens — whether founding settlers or recent immigrants — cannot claim.

In fact, Canada (including the Supreme Court of Canada) bases its asserted sovereignty and territorial integrity on the racist, colonial Christian doctrine of discovery. Kheiriddin’s argument makes sense only if Indigenous peoples already consider themselves as “Canadians.” MORE

2019 is the year young people rise for climate justice


Photo Credit: Allan Lissner

In Ottawa, Canada — unsurrendered lands of the Algonquin Anishnabe, water protectors and land defenders from across the country gathered on February 14–18th for the mass youth climate convergence, Powershift: Young and Rising, organized by 20 youth. Young and Rising came at a critical time in Canada, falling months after the worst wildfire season on record in the country and reports that glaciers are melting much faster than expected in the North.

Even with the latest UN report stating we have less than 12 years to radically transition off of fossil fuels to prevent the worst possible climate crisis, the Canadian government continues to invest in the oil industry at the cost of Indigenous rights and a liveable planet, while promoting a public image of reconciliation and climate leadership.

Within the past year, the Canadian government purchased an oil pipeline for $4 billion taxpayer dollars, and forcefully removed the Wet’suwet’en Nation from their unsurrendered lands (which they had already proven title to in the Supreme Court) for the Coastal Gas Link pipeline. Kanahus Manuel, Secwepemc Tiny House Warrior, aptly dubbed pipelines in Canada as “transportation corridors that are taking stolen resources off of Indigenous territories,” in her keynote at Young and Rising.

“We are told that we have 12 years to act before irreversible catastrophe yet the urgency of the crisis is flatly denied or met with false solutions. We must build mass power capable of actually reversing this trajectory,” Nayeli Jimenez, Powershift Organizer told me.

Nayeli affirmed that the real solutions are being championed at the grassroots level, “Indigenous communities are standing on the frontlines against resource extraction and fossil fuel infrastructure across Turtle Island.” MORE

Jody Wilson-Raybould testimony reveals another tough lesson for Indigenous youth


Jody Wilson-Raybould appears at the House of Commons Justice Committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday.  (SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

When Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s former attorney general and minister of justice, sat in front of the justice committee on Wednesday I, like so many others, tuned in, anxiously waiting to hear her speak her truth. Here was a smart, accomplished, and composed Indigenous woman, about to speak out against Canada’s most powerful politicians. She sat alone. Before the hearing even began, the image of the scene spoke volumes.

Her testimony was both eloquent and brave. Despite this, I felt an anxiety about the whole situation that wouldn’t subside; I knew that, like in all cases where one speaks truth to power (especially if those speaking are women or Indigenous people in this country), that there would be backlash and consequences — no matter how eloquent or brave you may be.I cringed knowing that the second the hearing ended I would go online and see people calling her a liar and a traitor, blame her if a conservative government were to take power, and generally posting a host of awful things. Implicitly validating all of this, I knew that the prime minister would deny it all.

The real reason I felt so anxious, however, was not because of these inevitabilities — it was because I saw a bigger message they spoke to: that an Indigenous woman can be in one of the most powerful and prestigious positions in the country, and yet is still not shielded from the violence of Canada and the government; that you can try to work within the system, but you will always face incredible resistance if your work threatens the interests of those more powerful, who the system is really built to serve. MORE

Colonial pipedreams & Unist’ot’en

On this week’s episode of the Victoria-based Out of Left Field podcast, independent journalist Zoe Ducklow (New York TimesThe TyeeDesmog Canada) joins the show to discuss indigenous rights & land claims, climate change and the role of activists in the struggle for a reconciliation.

Check out Zoe’s recent piece ‘Nine Things You Need to Know about the Unist’ot’en Blockade’ here: thetyee.ca/Analysis/2019/01/08…Unistoten-Blockade/

SOURCE

Ford government proposes to scrap controversial law placing ‘restrictions’ on development in northern Ontario


Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski seen at the Conservative government’s swearing-in ceremony on June 29, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

The grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is cautiously welcoming a proposal by Premier Doug Ford’s government to repeal a 2010 law that his nation viewed as a form of colonialism.

Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler made the comments after Premier Doug Ford’s government announced a public consultation to repeal the Far North Act, legislation adopted by the former provincial Liberal government that gave First Nations some control over development in their traditional territories.

The government said on Monday that it was proposing to repeal the law with the aim of “reducing red tape and restrictions on important economic development projects” in the northern part of the province, including the Ring of Fire, all-season roads and electrical transmission projects.

This objective has some critics skeptical about the government’s intentions. This includes one critic who described the review as a plan to get “First Nations out of the way” to facilitate industry and government’s mining aspirations. MORE

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