Yellowknifers look for Green New Deal that understands NWT

Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green, right, participates in a discussion at a Green New Deal town hall on May 29, 2019
Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green, right, participates in a discussion at a Green New Deal town hall on May 29, 2019. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

Yellowknifers supporting the Green New Deal movement urged that the deal “not be too southern-focused” as they met on Wednesday.

Around 75 Yellowknife residents attended Wednesday’s meeting.

The Pact for the Green New Deal, a campaign only recently formed, claims emissions can be cut in two by 2030 – while creating a million jobs in industries from renewable energy and electric vehicles to care homes and low-carbon housing.

Styling the deal as a broad “roadmap” for rapid emissions reduction without irreversible economic damage, its backers also demand “an ambitious plan for clean public transport in cities.”



However, the pact’s text as published – and accompanying materials – do not specifically address many realities of the North, such as the reliance of many NWT communities on diesel generators for power, or the carbon footprint of northern air travel.

“We didn’t really have a solution to that,” Yellowknife city councillor Shauna Morgan admitted in reference to air travel. She was summarizing one discussion after the audience had broken into working groups.

Morgan urged the territory, and Canada, to “focus on using technologies that are currently out there, proven technologies that we need to make more affordable, more popular, and more well-known.”

She added: “None of these things are easy. It’s daunting.”



Others called for an end to fossil-fuel subsidies, in direct contrast to the NWT government’s active courtship of such industry, and more responsible approaches to food production.

Former Łutselkʼe Dene Chief Felix Lockhart said: “If we’re going to survive, we’re going to do it together.

“We are not alone here. We are a lot of people, and we are calling for action – calling for change – in a diplomatic, respectful way.

“We cannot be forceful or disrespectful. We’ve got to be able to talk to each other in a good way but, nevertheless, we have to make an impact for policies to be changed. It starts with ourselves.”

A briefing document published by the pact’s national organizers states: “We can build a 100-percent renewable economy based on public ownership and dignified, well-paying work.

“We know that the federal government, in collaboration with all other levels of government and Indigenous Nations, has the capacity to pull this off,” the document continues. “But we also know that only the people – in a deep, wide, and democratic process – can give it the legitimacy and true diversity it needs to succeed.”

Roadmap for change?

Wednesday’s meeting formed part of a network of similar town hall-style gatherings across Canada, designed to provide feedback as the groups promoting the deal try to ensure it gains momentum.

The Green New Deal’s text calls on Canada to cut its emissions at least in half in the next 11 years, while “meeting the demands of Indigenous knowledge and science [and] protecting cultural and biological diversity.”



The text states: “It must leave no one behind and build a better present and future for all of us.”

The Green New Deal’s principles are, according to organizers, backed by dozens of groups and high-profile individuals.

Proponents include several major unions, the Indigenous Climate Action group, Greenpeace Canada, and others.

The website of the Pact for the Green New Deal declares it is non-partisan and has no political affiliation.

Thought the territorial government has recently pushed liquefied natural gas exports via the Arctic Ocean as a means of revenue generation, the NWT government has itself already committed to a significant emissions reduction in the next decade.

The territory’s stated aim is “a healthy economy that uses less fossil fuel, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.”

‘Black as night’

Earlier in the evening, 11-year-old Nina Slagter – a student at JH Sissons – described drawing inspiration from Democratic politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and fellow youth environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

“I really care about nature, and to see that gone in the future scares me,” the Grade 5 student told the audience inside Yellowknife’s North Star building.



Eleven-year-old Nina Slagter, right, presents to Yellowknife residents at a Green New Deal town hall in May 2019

Eleven-year-old Nina Slagter, right, presents to Yellowknife residents at a Green New Deal town hall. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

“When I was six, we were camping on the North Arm during a very smoky summer. In the middle of the day, it got black as night. It was very scary. Is this our future? Is this the new normal?

“We have to stop sticking with the same old ways and what we know. If we don’t change our ways, there will be some big consequences and … future generations will be affected.”

The meeting followed multiple days of climate strike action by a number of Yellowknife students in recent weeks, co-opting a model established by Thunberg.

Students in other NWT communities, such as Inuvik, have been holding similar strikes for months.

However, local organizers admitted no Green New Deal town-halls were being held in NWT communities outside Yellowknife – and acknowledged that should change in future.