March for jobs, justice and the climate launched in Toronto

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Photo: Megan Devlin

It was chilly in the shadow of the TD building at King and Bay Thursday morning as about 40 members of a coalition of grassroots organizations raised their red placards at the launch for the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate.

The march will happen July 5 -- on the eve of the Pan American Climate Summit of the Americas -- but it was clear that the movement has already gained support.

The launch criticized the fossil fuel industry's power and called for a justice-based transition to a clean-energy-based economy.

"We're ready for the next economy," Naomi Klein said in her address. "Canadians are clearly getting tired of the fossil fuel roller coaster."

The march is a collaboration among a range of stakeholder groups including 350.org, Idle No More, No One is Illegal, GreenPeace, oil divestment activists from the University of Toronto and Canada's largest private sector union, Unifor, which represents many of Alberta's energy workers.  

"It's a climate movement that recognizes that what unites us is stronger than what divides us," she said. "Time is too short to allow those divisions to keep us from building the kind of coalitions that will safeguard life one earth," said Klein.

The location of the launch, at the heart of Toronto's financial district, underscored the message that change is needed.

"This is the top of the mountain. This is where the mining corporations make the decisions to impoverish our people," said Syed Hussan who was representing No One is Illegal. "As we stand here, surrounded by glass towers, we need to name the system of injustice… That system has a name and that name is capitalism."

Clayton Thomas-Muller of 350.org agreed.

"We need to understand the root causes of climate change. We need to make the link to our economic paradigm. We need to normalize talking about the C-word -- that word capitalism," he said. 

One of the tenets of the justice-based transition to a clean energy economy, speakers at the event explained, is that it ensures those most impacted by the climate crisis are the first to benefit from a clean energy economy.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a Lubicon Cree and Greenpeace campaigner, told the story of how her family suffered during the Alberta oil spill in 2011.

"My family texted me and told me 'we can't breathe, our eyes are burning, we're nauseous.' They had to shut down the school for a week and a half. The government wasn't giving our community a proper emergency response plan," she said.

She dubs communities like hers in Alberta's tar sands "sacrifice zones" to the progress of the fossil fuel industry.

"We need to put Indigenous rights at the centre of this movement," said Wanda Nanabush of Idle No More.

Some speakers brought up potential solutions for immediate enactment -- oil divestment and solar power.

"If it's wrong to wreck the planet, it's definitely wrong to profit from that wreckage," said Jody Chan of the University of Toronto divestment movement.

She explained oil divestment as one way to challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry.

"Universities and other public institutions can shift billions of dollars away from fossil fuel extraction and exploration and shift that towards growing a clean and fair economy," she said.

Laboucan-Massimo spoke about other action that can be taken, including her work to bring solar panels to her community. 

"Every roof can be part of the solar solution. Panel by panel we will show politicians what true leadership is," she said.

The March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate will be held on July 5 in Toronto.

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