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Naomi Klein’s welcoming gift to the Trudeau government was a rally of over 1,000 people calling for a transition to a just and green economy outside the Vancouver Convention Centre Thursday.
The Canada is Ready for the Leap Rally took place outside the CUPE National Convention. It called on the new government to adopt principles outlined in the Leap Manifesto, an online document authored by 60 Canadian progressives, Klein among them, asking for social and climate justice.
“We don’t just want green jobs, we want green jobs that are unionized and pay a living wage,” Klein said to a sea of CUPE flags waving in front of her.
The manifesto was released on September 15, right in the middle of an election Campaign.
“Why did [we] launch it during an election campaign? Because that’s when Canadians talk about politics,” Klein said.
She wants the new Liberal government to feel the climate justice pressure right away— the rally was held the day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was sworn in.
“Now is the last time to de-mobilize, now is the last time to relax,” she addressed the crowd. “Now is when we can actually have some serious impact. What this government needs is powerful and relentless pressure from below.”
This election, Klein saw what she called an “inspiration gap:” too many Canadians voting for what they didn’t want instead of something they believed in.
“We need a vision for our country that’s more inspiring than just ‘not Stephen Harper’s Canada’,” she said.
The manifesto integrates climate action, Indigenous rights, green infrastructure and racial and gender equality into its demands. That diversity was reflected in how attendees decorated their CUPE branded placards. Some drew green and blue globes while others demanded justice for Highway of Tears victims.
Klein said the document reached 30,000 signatures as of Wednesday night. Its celebrity backing includes signatures from David Suzuki, Neil Young, Yann Martel and Alanis Morissette.
Klein was joined on stage by Audrey Seigl, Reuben George, Stephen Lewis, Paul Moist, Anjali Appadurai.
Seigl, a First Nations activist, opened the rally with song. In June, she opposed Shell’s arctic drilling by taking to the water in an inflatable boat blocking the path of a drill rig along with Greenpeace swimmers. Klein affectionately referred to her as a “kayak-tivist” during her own address.
George, Sundance chief from the Tseil-Waututh nation, is well-known for his opposition to the Kinder-Morgan pipeline.
Lewis, former ambassador to the UN for HIV/AIDS, explained this rally was to build momentum in lead up to the Paris climate summit. He also cracked some jokes for the crowd.
“People get nervous when you talk about the end of capitalism,” he said.
Moist, national CUPE president*, got the November rally crowd some chants to sing along with him. He also explained how public transit would be a key ingredient in the new green economy.
Appadurai, climate communication specialist with West Coast Environmental Law, used her time at the podium to explain the politics of separation and othering. She claimed that by separating ourselves from the earth, we are able to dominate it. She argued it is this same logic of separation that enables the Global North to expropriate the bodies of the Global South.
“There would be a lot more controversy over resource development and over pipelines if it wasn’t indigenous communities, poor communities and communities of colour downstream from these projects,” she said.
Klein also mentioned a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that says Canada can afford to Leap. It proposes a financial model of ending fossil fuel subsidies, implementing financial transaction fees, increasing resource royalties, increasing income tax on the wealthy, cutting military spending and implementing a carbon to afford the shift to a green economy.
“The polluters pay,” Klein said to the crowd.
Megan Devlin was rabble’s news intern during the summer of 2015. She’s now pursuing her Masters of Journalism at the University of British Columbia.
*Paul Moist retired at this week’s CUPE convention. Mark Hancock was elected CUPE president.
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