By Laura Cameron
I feel like I’m living in two alternate realities. On the one hand, governments in Canada and around the world are heeding the voices of the youngest and most vulnerable communities and have declared a state of emergency on climate change, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
Yet on the other hand, the Canadian government has approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline that would triple its capacity and make those emissions reductions targets next to impossible to hit. This pipeline would necessitate expansion of the tar sands – Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions – against the authority of many Indigenous nations whose territory it crosses, in the absence of an economic basis for the project, and with apparent disregard for the costs of climate impacts brought on by the pipeline.
As a concerned young person, I’m try to reconcile these events — happening not only in the same world but in the same week and by the same government. The hypocrisy is incomprehensible.
This is what we’re conditioned to expect in an election year: political jockeying, symbolic gestures, and industry-pleasing stunts in an elaborate act to attract as many votes as possible. Five months out from the federal election and the major parties are starting to unveil their various plans for economic development and climate action – all of which fall short of what science and justice demand.
What the federal candidates must not forget is that youth and millennials will make up the largest voting bloc in October’s election – over 37% of the electorate.
We’re also the voters that will face the largest impacts of climate change in our lifetimes.
That’s why young people across the country have launched the Our Time campaign to demand bold action that matches the scale of the crises of climate change and colonialism that we face. We’re demanding a Green New Deal for Canada.
Because it’s our time for transformation of our society and culture away from consumption without consequence, and toward sharing, gratitude, and reciprocity.
It’s our time for a plan that meets the demands of science by creating millions of good jobs through historic economic mobilization to get Canada to 100% renewable energy.
It’s our time for a plan that lifts up frontline communities that bear the worst impacts of climate change, and prioritizes upskilling workers in the transition. A plan that enshrines Indigenous rights and title and takes real action towards reconciliation, as defined by Indigenous communities.
It’s our time for a plan that addresses the concentration of political power and wealth by corporate CEOs, slashes oil and gas subsidies, and reverses the widening income gap across Canada.
These aren’t new ideas. Indigenous leaders, community organizations, and grassroots groups have been fighting for justice since long before I was born. But at this critical moment, the Green New Deal is an effort to join these struggles in a unified movement for racial, economic, migrant, and climate justice, recognizing the intersections and common issues at their roots.
This is the vision of a safe and just world that we are demanding, and we won’t settle for anything less. We won’t fall for any half measures or incremental market-led solutions. We won’t be placated by a symbolic declaration of climate emergency if it isn’t accompanied by a serious emergency response plan. We won’t concede to new pipeline development in the name of fundraising for the energy transition. We won’t accept a “clean new deal” that fails to meet the urgency of the climate crisis and provide a safe future for children around the world.
Like the growing numbers of hot days in the Prairie summer, like the swelling seas of the Atlantic coast, like the disease-bearing pests of the BC forests, like the fanning flames of Alberta’s record wildfires — young people across Canada are rising. We’ve come of age in a moment in history when the world is at a tipping point, and rather than turning away, we’re turning to face it.
Over the past months local hubs of the national youth-led Our Time campaign have be established in over 10 cities across the country – from Yellowknife to Winnipeg to Halifax – building an unstoppable social movement to push for a Green New Deal for Canada. Our Time is part of the national Pact for a Green New Deal, a coalition of nearly 100 civil society organizations calling for ambitious action on climate change and inequality.
The momentum building around the Green New Deal in Canada is palpable. In May, over 200 townhalls were organized by communities across the country to talk about what these solutions look like on the local level — building the Green New Deal from the ground up.
And this week, organizations from the Pact for a Green New Deal are in the midst of a coast-to-coast tour to continue galvanizing support and local organizing energy for the Green New Deal in the lead up to and beyond the fall election.
The tour hits Winnipeg this Saturday. The Leap Co-founder Avi Lewis will be joined by Prairie Climate Centre Co-Director Nora Casson, Aboriginal Youth Opportunities organizer Jennaliiciious, and local artists and Our Time youth leaders to talk about the hope that a Green New Deal offers and how people across the country are working together to make climate change an election issue.
The climate emergency is a palpable reality, not just a political campaign ploy. We must demand that our leaders build an emergency response plan. A Green New Deal can be that plan, and young people speaking up and showing up can make it happen.
Laura Cameron is a volunteer community organizer with Our Time Winnipeg and the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition. More info on A Green New Deal & the June 22nd Winnipeg event visit: https://theleap.org/portfolio-items/tour/
Previously published in the Winnipeg Free Press, Friday June 21, 2019