Pact for a Green New Deal Holds 150 Town Halls, Reaches 7,000 Canadians in Two Months
Two months after a diverse collection of Indigenous, civil society, environmental, and labour groups launched the Pact for a Green New Deal in Canada, organizers have issued a report summarizing key recommendations submitted to date by thousands of interested citizens.
More than 150 town hall events have been held across Canada so far, roughly half of them in communities of more than 100,000 people, the rest in towns with fewer than 30,000. All told, with groups ranging in size from four in Iqaluit to more than 300 in Edmonton, the town halls have attracted more than 7,000 participants, each “representing environmental groups, labour unions, faith groups, political parties, city councils, community and neighbourhood associations, Indigenous organizations, women’s organizations, the Fight for $15 and Fairness, student unions, [and] local media.”
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At each town hall, the report states, organizers asked participants to share “their red lines and green lines: the things that absolutely should not be in a Green New Deal for Canada, and the things that people, groups, communities, and institutions want—and in some cases, need—to see in a Green New Deal in order to be onboard.”
That opening question produced “an incredible 8,900 red lines and green lines,” the organizers say. Notably, “there were almost three times as many green lines as red lines, suggesting that participants are eager to focus on a hopeful and positive vision of the future.”
Receiving a great deal of support was the “green line” of Indigenous sovereignty, with participants insisting that a Green New Deal must include the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There were also numerous calls to fully implement the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Also shining very bright as a “green line” was the urgent need for a mix of regulation, subsidies, and fundamental economic reforms to lay the groundwork for a Green New Deal in Canada.
Participants also affirmed the need for a legally binding climate target for Canada, in line with the science of limiting average global warming to 1.5°.
The town halls pointed to green infrastructure as a fundamental building block of an equitable and sustainable society, with participants citing renewable energy, public housing, and fully-accessible public transit as strong green lines, along with food justice, local and ecological agriculture, and clean manufacturing.
Because “the climate crisis cannot be addressed in isolation,” social justice issues were top-of-mind for many participants who “made connections between environmental issues and struggles that have long been led by communities on the front lines of racism and an extractive economy: migrants, Indigenous communities, rural towns and villages, poor and working-class people, and disabled people,” the report states. The town halls also “noted the rising leadership of youth whose lives and futures are at stake, and who must be included at decision-making tables.”
The sessions envisioned a Canada that would “pay its fair share of the climate debt to countries in the Global South that have been impacted by practices and decisions in Canada,” and ensure that “corporations based in Canada are not damaging the climate and environment elsewhere, contributing to conditions that force people to migrate.”
Among the main red lines, many participants “talked about putting a stop to the industries, institutions, and practices that endanger our future and accelerate environmental destruction,” beginning with the fossil and plastics industries. Core demands included a full shift to 100% renewable energy no later than 2040, an immediate end to fossil subsidies, and a freeze on new fossil fuel extraction and transportation projects.
While the composition of the town halls reflected successful outreach “beyond the ‘green bubble’ that typically exists within mainstream environmental events and campaigns,” the report adds, more effort will be needed to reach out “to the labour movement, social justice movements, Indigenous peoples, and those who are marginalized or who have been most impacted by the current and historical harms a Green New Deal must address.”