NWT residents behind an open letter to Michael McLeod, signed by 150 people, called on the territory's Liberal MP to oppose fossil-fuel projects like Teck Resources' Frontier mine.
The December letter, organized by climate movement Our Time Yellowknife and signed by 150 people, asked McLeod to adopt the principles of the Green New Deal, a plan inspired by an international movement that – in the words of Our Time Yellowknife's Thomas Gagnon-van Leeuwen – "listens to the climate science, respects Indigenous rights, creates millions of good jobs, and enshrines justice for all."
This week, McLeod told Cabin Radio he "broadly agrees with and shares" the goals outlined in the letter.
"I too support taking concrete steps to ensure we meet and improve upon our 2030 and 2050 emissions targets, in part through developing our green economy from coast to coast to coast," he stated. "This will require a focus on the need for a just transition for Canadian workers, and measures that address the realities of rural, remote, and Indigenous communities."
McLeod added he is committed to seeing legislation on the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples passed by this parliament.
The letter was signed by young NWT residents and Indigenous leaders including Dehcho First Nations Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian, Grand Chief of the Tłı̨chǫ Government George Mackenzie, and Elder and environmental advocate Francois Paulette.
Territorial MLAs Caitlin Cleveland, Julie Green, Rylund Johnson and Kevin O'Reilly were signatories, alongside city councillors Julian Morse and Shauna Morgan. A range of healthcare professionals, educators, and artists – including Leela Gilday – added their names to the letter.
Responding to McLeod's statement, Gagnon-van Leeuwen said organizers were glad McLeod had indicated he supported – in broad terms – the Green New Deal's objectives.
"If he does, he should rise above partisan politics and support motion M-1 for a Green New Deal in the House of Commons," said Gagnon-van Leeuwen. "Words aren't enough in a climate crisis. We expect our leaders to step up and work across party lines."
Introduced by NDP MP Peter Julian, Motion M-1 calls on the Canadian government to create a Green New Deal – which would involve a range of legislation focusing on climate change, sustainability, and social justice. Proponents say the legislation would achieve "prosperity and economic security" for Canada while taking significant climate action.
Critics doubt the feasibility and realism of some aspects of the plan, while the wider Green New Deal movement has been called a "left-wing wish list." Within the movement there remain disagreements on some aspects, such as the role of nuclear energy – not mentioned in Julian's motion.
Our Time Yellowknife wants McLeod to speak out against fossil-fuel projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline and Teck Resources' Frontier mine, an Alberta oilsands project between Fort McMurray and Fort Chipewyan near Wood Buffalo National Park.
"McLeod obviously doesn't have the power to make those decisions unilaterally. But he has the power to use his office as our MP to speak out against them," Gagnon-van Leeuwen said.
"We are downstream from the Teck Frontier mine here in the Northwest Territories. Mr McLeod has the responsibility to speak out ... and to also advocate within his own party at caucus meetings against these dirty fossil fuel projects."