People from all walks of life attended a town hall meeting to participate in nation-wide discussions to develop a shared vision for what the Green New Deal in Canada could look like.
The event drew approximately 200 students, professionals, and interested citizens at the Italian-Canadian Club on June 6. They gathered at round tables and worked in groups to creatively brainstorm ideas which will go to a non-partisan organization in order to build a policy agenda based on what is being heard by communities across Canada.
Their shared vision will be taken to political leaders after the upcoming federal election for them to adopt on their respective platforms.
“I think it's time. I mean, we’ve built the perfect storm,” said PhD student in Climate Change Kearney Coupland as she stood on stage.
“We’re warming in Canada twice the rate of the rest of the world. We're seeing higher temperatures, more forest fires, more occurrences of 100 year floods like in Ottawa and Montreal where they've seen two in the last three years, melting Arctic permafrost that's releasing greenhouse gases and fundamentally changing the foundations on which ecosystems and human beings rely on in our northern communities and at the same time we’re said to be in one of the largest migrant crisis since world war two.”
As groups gathered together, they had the task of prioritizing two objectives in Canada. One idea was pitched under a red line – meaning it needs to cease – and the other idea under a green line – meaning it needs to be pushed forward.
Participants came up with ideas such as stopping the oppression and marginalization of people, curtailing the dominance of petroleum-based economies, eliminating fossil fuels, stopping the decline of species and their habitats, investing in green energy, honouring Canadian heritage and providing safe food and water for people all around the country.
Senior fellow at the University of Toronto and mediator at the event, Marva Wisdom, said activities like this give each person a chance to individually come up with what they see as a priority for the community, for the country and for the world.
“It is necessary because not only are we looking at each individual's priorities and concerns but we are also looking at the collective and we want to be talking to each other about how we would like to conduct ourselves as human beings on this planet to make a fair, more just, more sustainable environment not only for ourselves but for the next generation,” said Wisdom.
Coupland said the terminology of the Green New Deal is derived from the New Deal Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced in the 1930s in response to the Great Depression to create jobs, reforestation initiatives and social welfare projects. The New Deal had set a vision into direct investment, innovation and employment by developing solutions with resources that were available at the time.
And while the New Deal was introduced at a different time and fought a different issue, Coupland said the approach is necessary to adopt in order to deal with what we are facing today.
“No it wasn't a perfect answer and it had its failings, it was the last major societal transformation in North America that occurred in the speed and the scale that we know is necessary to deal with the climate crisis,” said Coupland.
“This inspired hope in people who were hopeless to some and offered an opportunity to be entrepreneurial which sounds awfully familiar to a situation we are in now.”