A Green New Deal for Vancouver

Addressing the Canadian Genocide at the Roots

Stephen Bau
Jun 22, 2019 · 5 min read
David Suzuki presents at the Green New Deal event in Vancouver on June 21, 2019

Speakers and performers included Kanahus Manuel, David Suzuki, Harsha Walia, and Avi Lewis (The Leap), with MC Anjali Appadurai.

What is a Green New Deal — The Leap
Harsha Walia presents at the Green New Deal event in Vancouver on June 21, 2019

Canada is Genocide

I want to start by acknowledging that we are here on unceded lands, the lands of the Musqueam, Skxwú7mesh and Tsleil-Waututh people. Today, on National Indigenous Peoples Day, it is important that we not just acknowledge land, but acknowledge that what is happening on these lands is genocide.

We have to be unequivocal about it, because there seems to be a debate about whether this is true or not. So, let’s be unequivocal that what is happening on these lands is genocide. The ongoing occupation of these lands, the denial of indigenous jurisdiction, and the approval of Trans Mountain expansion, which will also come with man camps on [indigenous] territory are all acts of ongoing genocide.

Trans Mountain Substation
Auguston residential area beside the Trans Mountain Sumas Terminal

That the Doctrine of Discovery that founded Canada decreed that any land that was not inhabited by Christians was open for European settlement is genocide.

Despite apologies for residential schools, that there are three times more children who are apprehended today than ever were in residential schools is genocide.

That our politicians can figure out how to drill and frack and mine in northern communities and rural communities and every single indigenous community, they have figured out how to extract resources, but cannot somehow figure out how to build schools, how to get clean water, how to ensure food security is a deliberate act of genocide.

Canada is genocide.

The Climate Crisis and Indigenous Rights

Harsha Walia presents at the Green New Deal event in Vancouver on June 21, 2019

And we are all here because we feel the urgency of addressing the climate crisis. We know that parts of the world are drowning, other parts of the world are on fire.

And I want to invite us to think today about addressing the climate crisis at its roots. The roots of the climate crisis is not a result of humans not recycling enough, or using too many plastic straws — but, of course, it is also that. But that is not the root.

It is the violent foundations of our social, economic, and political systems that are creating climate injustice.

The climate crisis that is upon us is a symptom, a devastating symptom of our colonial, capitalist, and oppressive system. A Green New Deal, as sister Kanahus mentioned, must be, in its essence, a Red New Deal, which as the comrades down south of the Red Nation call it, it must be red both in its orientation towards indigenous liberation and it must be red in terms of being radically left.

A Green New Deal cannot be based on market solutions. It must be anti-capitalist, because it is capitalism and its incessant drive for profits that turns everything that is sacred, such as land and water, into a commodity with a price tag.

This is the same “trickle up” system — not “trickle down” system — that exploits labour, where in Canada, the richest CEOs make more in two days than the average worker makes in an entire year. We know that just 100 corporations across this world are responsible for almost 80% of global emissions.

We will be completely ineffective at tackling climate change unless we shut down these 100 corporations.

That means we cannot plead with them to be more green. We cannot plead with them to please be more ethical or more sustainable. They have to be fucking shut down.

Climate change is also being exacerbated by neo-liberal austerity. What that means is centrist governments saying that we have to tighten our belts, because there are no public resources.

But imagine. Let’s imagine that instead of Justin Trudeau giving $4 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel giants and buying a $4.5 billion pipeline that will actually never get built on these lands, imagine that instead our governments upheld the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Imagine that our governments respected the principle of free, prior, and informed consent; that these settler governments returned land and jurisdiction to indigenous nations; that we guaranteed a living wage for all Canadians, as the national inquiry actually calls for.

When it comes to the tar sands, the Polaris Institute has detailed that over half of Alberta’s tar sands actually goes to the United States, and, as we know, the U.S. Department of Defence is the world’s leading single buyer and consumer of oil. There is a clear connection between the tar sands in this country and those who are impacted by military crusading all around the world.

We cannot simply oppose individual pipeline projects because they happen in our backyard. We need to demand an end to the entire military-industrial complex that is fueling tar sands production and the global military-industrial complex that is occupying and killing black and brown people across the world.

Let us imagine that instead of Justin Trudeau announcing that he would boost Canada’s military defence budget by 73% to wage illegal wars around the world, we had free healthcare, that we had extended pharmacare, and that we had decriminalization and a safe supply to reverse the devastating death toll of the opioid crisis.

— Harsha Walia (1:26:10)

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