Green New Deal tour seeks hope and reconciliation in Canada


David Suzuki and Naomi Klein discussed a Green New Deal for Canada at the Bloor Street United Church in Toronto on June 11, 2019. Photo by Chris Katsarov

The Canadian version [of the Green New Deal] is adding more emphasis on the inclusion of Indigenous practices.

The Green New Deal “must be based on Indigenous knowledge and science and cut Canada’s emissions in half in 11 years,” according to the Council of Canadians, one of many partnering groups.

Pam Palmater, Maria Menezes, and supporters of the Our Time organization listen during the Green New Deal town hall at Bloor Street United Church in Toronto on June 11, 2019. Pam Palmater, Maria Menezes, and supporters of the Our Time organization listen during the Green New Deal town hall at Bloor Street United Church in Toronto on June 11, 2019. Photo by Chris Katsarov

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report last October saying global warming requires “rapid and far-reaching” infrastructure transitions. The UN report, completed by leading climate scientists, warns that without serious action to lower CO2 emissions within 11 years, there will be more catastrophes to come, including floods, droughts, extreme heat and poverty.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) has not been implemented in Canada, which defines Indigenous rights and grants free prior informed consent to the policies that affect them, such as climate change and natural resource development.

On June 11, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples passed Bill C-262 to implement UNDRIP in Canada. It is not yet federal law. Conservative senators objected over fears about its potential impact on resource development and have been accused of stalling. If the bill is not made federal law by the end of the month, new legislation will have to be tabled.

The Green New Deal attempts to align the principles of UNDRIP and traditional Indigenous knowledge with scientific inquiry.

Wanda Whitebird, an elder of the Mi’kmaq Nation from Afton, N.S., welcomed the crowd of a few hundred to the inaugural town hall in Toronto.

Large banners calling for 100 per cent renewable energy and the recognition of Indigenous rights were draped from the second floor of the church. From the front pews to the back, attendees chanted for “climate justice.” MORE

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David Suzuki, prominent environmentalists launch cross-country tour warnings of global crisis

David Suzuki
David Suzuki makes an appearance at United Church on Bloor Street on June 10, 2019.

Some of Canada’s leading environmentalists are trekking across the country to illustrate what they are calling global climate crisis.

Toronto marked the first stop on a seven-city tour for The Leap, a collective of prominent activists who are backing a Green New Deal, an ambitious U.S. plan to curb climate change and transform the economy by investing in clean energy jobs.

The movement is gaining traction among members of the Democratic Party in the United States.

Among those who were touting its virtues in front of a sold out crowd at United Church, located near Tuesday night were author and activist Naomi Klein and environmentalist-turned-broadcaster David Suzuki, who blamed the media for not properly highlighting the perils of planet-wide climate change.

“In May, the United Nations released a study saying we are causing a catastrophic rate of extinction threatening a million species of plants and animals,” Suzuki said. “The next day, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had a baby and pushed everything out of the news.”

“Fundamental changes are urgent,” he warned, saying consequences to ecosystems, food supplies and economies will be dire by the year 2100 if global temperature increases aren’t capped to within 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial era averages.

His sentiments were echoed by Pam Palmater, who works as a professor, lawyer and aboriginal rights activist.

“What will it take for people to wake up and realize we don’t need to just change things around the edges? Stop using plastic straws, yes! But that won’t save the world. This isn’t about who you vote for. The most irresponsible a citizen can do is vote and then call it a day.”

The next stop on The Leap’s cross country tour is Thursday in Montreal, with appearances scheduled to follow in Ottawa, Halifax, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg.  MORE

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CBC isn’t taking the climate crisis seriously

On Monday, the leadership of the CBC rejected using the term “crisis” to describe climate change. Their head honcho’s reasoning? Apparently words like crisis and emergency might “sort of imply, you know, something more serious” is happening.

When I read it, I couldn’t help but wonder — has this CBC director actually been following the news?

Earlier this year, where I live in Ottawa, we faced “100 year floods” for the second time in three years. At the same time in Vietnam, the country where I grew up, record breaking summer heat filled up hospitals across the country. Children and elders were treated for heat stroke in record numbers, and tens of thousands of others had to work through the extreme conditions.

Climate change is a crisis, and we need media and our politicians to treat it like one. That’s why over 5000 people are calling for Canada’s Leaders’ Debate Commission to step in and organize a climate debate ahead of this fall’s federal election. Add your name to the petition and help us mount pressure on the Leaders’ Debate Commission.

When the Ottawa river started to swell, I was there filling sandbags. Thousands of people from all across Ottawa joined in to help their neighbours in need. And, while it was a beautiful moment of solidarity and community, it’s also the sort of thing that happens in a crisis.

The IPCC report released last fall gave us 12 years to cut global emissions in half to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. To do that, we’re going to need an emergency level response like a Green New Deal. But, knowledge is power, and to win we need to make sure that people across the country know that climate change is a clear and present danger. That means our public broadcaster can’t shy away from calling climate change what it is – a crisis.

Sign the petition demanding Canada’s first federal leaders’ debate on climate change.

In solidarity,

Vi Bui, Our Time organizer in Ottawa

Making the Green New Deal Real

THE GREEN NEW Deal resolution introduced into Congress by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey is a manifesto that has changed the terms of the debate over the country’s future. Cutting through the Trump administration’s denials about who is responsible for the extreme weather we already face, it unites the issues of climate change with that of eroding workers’ rights, racism and growing inequality. (At the end of March, the Senate voted against the GND in what has been called a ceremonial stunt.)

The resolution affirms the overwhelming scientific consensus that these are human caused. Further, since the United States is responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions, it demands that this society must take the lead in “reducing emissions through economic transformation.”

Noting that climate crisis is just one of many crises we face, it points to declining living standards, wage stagnation, a large racial divide and gender gap. It states that we now have the greatest income inequality since a century ago. It then proposes a 10-year national mobilization to tackle these issues comprehensively. But in offering a way forward, the details are nonetheless vague.

Corporate politicians ranging from centrist Democrats to the Republican establishment have commented that the proposal is too broad, too expensive, too utopian. Trump labelled it socialist and therefore “un-American.”

It’s clear that a broad political debate has opened. In fact, it is clear that politicians running for office in 2019 and 2020 will be forced to discuss what must be done to drastically reduce fossil fuels and at the same time reduce inequality.

This is a sea change from the 2016 election when Bernie Sanders raised climate change as the most important issue facing the country, the only “major party” candidate to do so. MORE

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says her Green New Deal climate plan would cost at least $10 trillion

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal: The Canadian Connection

How Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis are helping AOC reboot US politics.

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Echoes of the ‘Leap Manifesto’: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses the Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University in Washington, May 13, 2019. Photo by Cliff Owen, AP Photo.

Avi Lewis put the final touches on his script draft, hit send, and waited to find out if he’d be making history with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Lewis is the filmmaker and former CBC host who has collaborated on documentaries with his spouse Naomi Klein, famously the author of global bestsellers No LogoThe Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — or AOC as her many supporters call her — broke all the rules when she knocked off a powerful, 10-term Democratic member of Congress by running as a “democratic socialist” to win her Bronx and Queens seat.

At age 29, AOC was the big story on election night in November 2018 and still is, thanks to her deft use of social media and her bold policy proposals, notably the Green New Deal, her resolution to transition the American economy off fossil fuels by 2030 and guarantee a green job to anybody who wants one. When Klein proposed she be central to a short film about what could result, Ocasio-Cortez expressed interest.

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‘Our plan for a world and a future worth fighting for.’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks May 13, 2019, at the wind-up town hall event of the Green New Deal tour organized by the Sunrise Movement. Other speakers included presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Naomi Klein. Photo via Shutterstock

…several of the Canadian thinkers responsible for the Leap Manifesto, a 2015 plan to completely shift Canada away from fossil fuels by 2050, are now playing pivotal roles in shaping and promoting the U.S. Green New Deal. First and foremost: Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis.

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YOUNG PEOPLE ASK: IS OUR FUTURE WORTH LESS THAN THAT OF OTHER GENERATIONS?

“We can still, as a society, choose to comply with the Paris Agreement. If we don’t, the subtext is clear: our future, the future of Canada’s young people, is worth less than that of the other generations. I prefer to choose hope. “

On April 2, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) tabled a report on Canada’s changing climate.

The effects of climate change can seem abstract and far off, but that is not the case in this country. Canada is already seeing its climate change. And according to the report, these changes are only unfortunately just beginning, and their effects will only become more pronounced over time.

The effects of climate change on Canada’s climate are irreversible, but we can still limit the amount of warming in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects. The report’s authors considered two scenarios: one where global emissions are kept below the 2°C temperature limit set by the Paris Agreement and the other one, the status quo.

Not considered in the report, was a scenario where the temperature increase would be limited to 1.5°C, the threshold for avoiding the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

The ECCC report indicates that regardless of the scenario, Canada will warm twice as fast as the global average, an increase that will be felt particularly during winter. Since 1948, Canada’s average annual temperature has already climbed by 1.7°C.

How can we justify this disconnect between our scientific knowledge on the future of the planet and the absence of political leadership needed to effect a true energy transition?

CANADA’S YOUTH DEMAND CONCRETE, IMMEDIATE ACTION ON THE CLIMATE

This is why youth are mobilizing, week after week. They are following Greta Thunberg’s lead by walking out of school on Fridays and marching in the streets to demand action on climate change. On March 15, 150,000 young people and their allies flooded the streets of Montreal, asking: “Why should study when our future is uncertain?”; and “Why bother with an education when governments don’t listen to educated people?”.

Climate change is not simply an environmental issue; it also involves social and intergenerational justice. While the threat of climate change is starting to be felt in many of our lives, some communities have been dealing with it for centuries. It is essential that this debate forces society to reflect on the disproportionate burden the exposure to environmental risks has imposed on marginalized communities, including Indigenous and racialized peoples. That is why intersectional approaches, like those in the Green New Deal (proposed by the Sunrise Movement, a grassroots political youth group, and championed in Congress by the youngest Congressperson in history, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), are supported by a majority of millennial electors. MORE

How can Canada’s politicians and parties take up the fight for a Green New Deal, and work with communities to translate its bold vision into policy?


Svend Robinson in a recent photo. Robinson says he has decided to try to return to federal politics by running in Burnaby North—Seymour, he hopes it helps the candidate in the neighbouring riding: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. (Svend Robinson)

The NDP has already started using the phrase “Green New Deal” to frame their new climate platform. Avi and Maya talk to maverick NDP candidate Svend Robinson about how the party is doing on climate so far, and whether it’s capable of getting the Green New Deal right.

The NDP’s history of opening itself to the creativity and energy of social movements hasn’t always been an inspiring one. But the good news is, there’s a growing group of radical candidates across the country — and they’re putting transformational change on the table in Canada.

Check out Change Everything’s new episode and subscribe to the podcast here.

As Avi puts it, recording this episode with Svend “was a great chance to explore the movement-electoral interface with someone who has been through it all a few times before.” We can’t wait for you to hear the result. HERE

Green New Deal Discussed in Belleville

“I think there are a lot of people in the County who are very much concerned about the state of the environment. And I think a lot of us feel that there are things the municipality can do to protect ourselves from the disasters that are going to happen if we don’t get our CO2 levels down.”
— Lynne Rochon, Council of Canadians

County residents take part in Green New Deal talks

GETTING GREEN-Community members discuss the Green New Deal in Belleville Monday Night (Sarah de Jonge for the Gazette)

On Monday, Belleville was host to a town hall meeting as part of the non-partisan coalition called the Pact for a Green New Deal.

Approximately 75 people attended this event along with several Prince Edward County residents concerned about climate change and its effects on the human race.

According to the United Nations (UN) there are only 11 years to cut our carbon emissions by half in order to avoid unprecedented environmental catastrophes caused by warming global temperatures.

Cutting emissions in half within the next decade, while protecting jobs, is only one of the Green New Deal’s mandates. Many of the concerns highlight the relationship between environmental and social justice issues.

The Green New Deal is a an idea perpetrated by a group of people and organizations devoted to changing the conversation from one that revolves around whether or not climate change is happening to what can be done to mitigate the effects of climate change and stop it from progressing.

With over 70 organizations involved and over 60 notable endorsements, such as that from environmental activist David Suzuki and musician Dan Mangan, the movement is quickly gaining momentum.

Environmental issues from coast to coast may vary in their scope and definition but what many people in each region of this country have in common is concern with increasing environmental disasters.

In an aptly named “town hall” event, one of many that is an organized group of events taking place across the country, a local group of citizens met to voice their concerns and write down what they believe needs to change in order to effectively reverse and/or mitigate the effects of climate change.

Many of these concerns highlight the relationship between environmental and social justice issues.

Once the data from the town hall events across the country has been collected, it will be collated into a pact which can then be distributed to political parties who will, hopefully, incorporate some of the concerns into their agenda.  MORE

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We’re stepping up – join us for a day to halt this climate crisis

We’re calling for a global strike on 20 September. Disrupting our normal lives is the only way to secure our future

‘We are the people who happen to be alive at the moment when our choices will determine the future for thousands of years’. Photograph: Stéphane Mahé/Reuters

On 20 September, at the request of the young people who have been staging school strikes around the world, we’re walking out of our workplaces and homes to spend the day demanding action on the climate crisis, the greatest existential threat that all of us face. It’s a one-day climate strike, if you will – and it will not be the last. This is going to be the beginning of a week of action all over the world. And we hope to make it a turning point in history.

We hope others will join us: that people will leave their offices, their farms, their factories; that candidates will step off the campaign trail and football stars will leave the pitch; that movie actors will scrub off their makeup and teachers lay down their chalk; that cooks will close their restaurants and bring meals to protests; that pensioners too will break their daily routines and join together in sending the one message our leaders must hear: day by day, a business as usual approach is destroying the chance for a healthy, safe future on our planet.

We are well aware that, by itself, this strike and a week of international climate action won’t change the course of events. The good news is that we have the technologies we need – the price of a solar panel has plunged 90% in the past decade. And we know the policies to make them work: all across the planet some version of a Green New Deal has been proposed, laws that would speedily replace fossil fuels with the power of sun and wind, along the way providing good jobs and stabilising strong local economies. We salute the people – many of them young – working hard to pass those measures against the entrenched opposition of the fossil fuel industry.

The September day of global action is designed to support those people. We hope all kinds of environmental, public health, social justice and development groups will join in, but our greatest hope is simply to show that those working on this crisis have the backing of millions of human beings who harbour a growing dread about our environmental plight but who have so far stayed mostly on the sidelines. It may take a few attempts to get those kind of numbers in the streets, but we don’t have too long: our window for effective climate action is closing fast. MORE

Margaret Atwood, Geneviève Azam, Tom Ballard, Fadel Barro, Nnimmo Bassey, May Boeve, Patrick Bond, Mike Brune, Nicola Bullard, Sharan Burrow, Valérie Cabanes, Rachel Carmona, Dr Craig Challen, Noam Chomsky, Maxime Combes, Thomas Coutrot, Cyril Dion, Tasneem Essop, Christiana Figueres, Prof Tim Flannery, Nancy Fraser, KC Golden, Tom BK Goldtooth, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dr John Hewson, John Holloway, Prof Lesley Hughes, Tomás Insua, Satvir Kaur, Barbara Kingsolver, Winona LaDuke, Jenni Laiti, Bruno Latour, Annie Leonard, Michael Mann, Gina McCarthy, Heather McGhee, Luca Mercalli, Moema Miranda, Jennifer Morgan, Tadzio Müller, Kumi Naidoo, Mohamed Nasheed, Carlo Petrini, Dr Anne Poelina, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Sarsgaard, Dr Vandana Shiva, Rebecca Solnit, Gus Speth, Prof Will Steffen, Tom Steyer, Chris Taylor, Terry Tempest-Williams, Aurélie Trouvé, Farhana Yamin, Lennox Yearwood are signatories to this article

How Could Citizens’ Assemblies be Used to Tackle Climate Change?

From May 20 to 26, 2019, you can join the national conversation to define what a Green New Deal for Canada will look like. Stay tuned for dates and locations where you can join workers, Indigenous peoples, students, trade unions, migrants, community organizations and people across the country to gather, define and design a plan for a safe future and more prosperous present. Citizens’ assemblies are invaluable for getting the public on board and securing more consensus. Building consensus among peers –someone like a single mother, a neighbor, a farmer–is far more powerful that government’s exhortations to act. 

Extinction Rebellion Tell the Truth Protest, London February 22 2019. | David Holt via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.0.

On one mad sunny week over the Easter weekend, Extinction Rebellion brought public attention to the problem of climate change in a way that had rarely been achieved before. The group’s most ambitious demand – to cut greenhouse gas emissions completely by 2025 – is unlikely to be met. But another – for governments to be led by the decisions of citizens’ assemblies on climate and ecological justice – has a successful history in many parts of the world.

Not to be confused with people’s assemblies (a more informal gathering, often of existing activists) citizens’ assemblies are a way of exploring public views on a particular topic and coming up with concrete solutions. They sit under the umbrella term ‘mini-publics’ as an example of deliberative democracy, alongside citizens’ juries, planning cells and consensus conferences.

Sarah Allen, engagement lead at public participation charity Involve, is a big advocate of citizens’ assemblies as a tool for resolving complicated policy problems.

Citizens’ assemblies are a bit like focus groups, but usually larger and longer; they can take up a single weekend or up to a year in some cases. Allen explains on the phone that participants are chosen at random to represent the broader population and are paid for their time so that everyone can afford to take part.

Citizen’s Assemblies were first pioneered in British Columbia, Canada, in 2004 to consider the thorny issue of electoral reform.

All citizens’ assemblies have three stages. The first involves learning about the problem, when everyone is given a primer in the subject and hears from people advocating different solutions. Then there is a period of consideration and discussion, often in small groups. The assembly as a whole then has to decide about what it would do to solve the problem at hand.  MORE

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