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Archive for 2006 August
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I’ve been involved with Amnesty International all of my adult life. In fact, my interest in environmental issues sprang from a realization that global warming may well be the most monumental threat to human rights worldwide that the world has ever seen. A few months ago, about the same time I joined the Green Party, I also volunteered to help start up an AI co-parliamentarian group in Toronto to lobby our MPs for improvements in our human rights record in Canada. We are currently working to lobby our MPs on two issues – complicity in torture of Canadians detained abroad and indigenous rights in Canada.
The issue of indigenous rights came up in Elizabeth May’s victory speech, where she pointed out that Canada is one of only 2 nations to vote against the International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She didn’t reveal the full scope of the tragedy. Canada was one of the nations that had played an active role in the negotiation of the draft text under the Martin government. This year, the Harper government turned its back on that work, stating that the declaration is “incompatible” with Canadian laws and policies, including land rights policies that have been repeatedly condemned by UN and other human rights bodies. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN and other human rights groups have also specifically and repeatedly condemned Canadian policy toward the Lubicon Cree and toward the Innu. In 1990 , the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that the failure to resolve the dispute with the Lubicon Cree was a serious violation of the human rights of the Lubicon people. Sixteen years later, logging and large scale oil and gas extraction have transformed the land of the Lubicon, who have astronomical rates of alcoholism and suicide, and no resolution to the land dispute is in site.
The reason this comes up today is that I’ve just received a call from Amnesty International’s Toronto office, because Maria Minna (who is the MP for Beaches-East York) is very interested in discussing this issue further and they urgently needed a delegate to speak to her. She had not realized that Canada and Russia were the only two countries on the UN Human Rights Council to oppose the declaration, nor that her own government had been instrumental in crafting it. Outraged, she promised to bring it up in the house. I’m meeting with her tomorrow morning.
It’s nice to know that someone takes human rights seriously. All too often, the issue gets ignored.
We had one of the largest delegations to the Green Party of Canada convention in Ottawa. Ten of our members registered to go, though one was unable to make it, and two spouses tagged along. I’ve made all delegates who are not members of our executive guest authors for the next month, so they can contribute their thoughts on the convention.
The delegates from our executive were me, Andrew James, Doug Wright, and Joseph Cunko. Non-executive delegates were Mary Ann Grainger, Anthony Lucic, Chris Lea, Jim Harris and Lee Anne McAlear. Read more »
I will now remember the summer and fall of 2006 as book-ends around an indescribable weekend in Ottawa, August 24th to 27th. As a newbie to political conventions, I was happy to find so much diversity, yet, so much cohesion in our green family. How could we possibly be a one issue party? How can Canadians ignore the breadth of ideas and solutions within this party? How do we change the perception of Canadians? We are talking about concrete policy, but we are also talking about changing people’s attitudes and about the party, the environment and their place in all of it (how else will they vote Green?). No small task.
All of this fermented in my mind with the election of Elizabeth May as leader of the party. She is in a unique postion to change the perception of our party at a national level which is critical to getting MPs in Parliament. Something tells me she’s up to the job.
What about you and me? When I arrived in Ottawa on Thursday I was unsure. I had doubts about the party itself; about its level of organization — its sophistication of policy. I even had concerns about my perception to family, friends and co-workers — how do you explain a “green epiphany” to them? How do you convince them that you haven’t joined a small-time, go-nowhere movement?
The inclusiveness of debate at the convention and the pervasive feeling that I was constantly participating in something solidified an answer for me:
Being Green means Acting Green — be it a protest, a petition, a simple discussion, a sign or a vote. I think the cycle may work like this: Acting Green = Changing Peoples Perception and Attitudes = Building Concrete Support = Acting Green, and so on.
Acting Green means participating in change, not watching it, waiting for it, or even debating it. Find your niche (I wrote this over my lunch break — 45 min. of political action) and start acting. We need to destroy the false perceptions that have been applied to this movement. Others will notice. They’ll see results. Eventually they will follow and we’ll have Green MPs and Green Policy in this country.
Our outgoing leader, Jim Harris, is one of the members of our EDA (Electoral District Association). Actually, it is only at this convention that I discovered that we have another former leader in the riding, Chris Lea, who was leader from 1990-1996.
Jim has some superb qualities. He’s an unparalleled fundraiser and he’s a moving speaker. He pushed the party to field a candidate in every riding, which led to enormous growth in visibility, in votes, in membership and in party finances. He has also been very helpful to me personally, responding to my questions and addressing my requests.
I wanted to thank Jim at the convention. But I also wanted to make it fun. I remembered Jim’s “Order of Green” award. He carries these things by the dozens in his pockets. They are small lapel pins with the Green Party logo. He hands them out liberally, always with a degree of solemnity that somehow leaves you moved, even though the recipients are legion and it is, after all, just a pin. He compares it to the Order of Canada. He calls the recipients his heroes. He extols their contributions above and beyond the call of duty. Quite often, he cries when he’s handing these things out.
So I decided to create a Green Order of Danforth in Jim’s honour. It is a green paper clip. It is given to anyone who contributes to the EDA above and beyond the call of duty. If you put up a lawn sign, volunteer, show up at an event or contribute money, you are definitely eligible. You can collect them and make a necklace.
Jim got the very first one at the awards dinner at the convention. His wife Lee Anne got the second. And a funny thing happened to me on stage as I tried to speak in the same serious voice that Jim uses when handing out little bits of metal. I actually started getting into it. A wierd part of my brain actually started to take this seriously. So while there’s definitely an amusing aspect to the Green Order of Danforth paperclip, I think it does serve as an effective token of appreciation. It isn’t large and cumbersome. It isn’t something that somebody’s going to have too much of already. It’s something most people can actually use. On the last day of the convention, I gave them out to all the delegates of our riding association who were still there, and noticed, with a certain satisfaction, that some were displaying their paperclips attached to their shirt collars.
So, what began as a bit of a joke is probably here to stay. And your first opportunity to get your Green Order of Danforth will be Monday, at Union Station, 8 pm. See you there.
One thing I was disappointed with at the Green Party Convention was that my proposal to encourage a diverse slate of candidates didn’t pass. All my own prospects for candidate in this riding are men, all but one are white. Now if you know me at all, you’ll realize that I’m really quite fond of white men, and men in general, but it is nonetheless embarassing, during an election, to have to answer multiple questions about the diversity of the Green slate, with nothing positive to offer.
One day soon, I’m going to let you in on my personal thoughts about potential candidates, but I want everyone to have a voice first. I would love to find the perfect candidate who will not only be a credit to the local Green Party, but will also help diversify our slate. Tell me if you know that candidate. Actually, if you know anyone out there who would make a great candidate, please get in touch with me. And don’t forget to consider yourself. I’d love to be in a position where we actually had a choice!
We are in the middle of a byelection in Parkdale-High Park, where Green Party of Ontario leader Frank de Jong is running. He has agreed to make the Portlands power plant an issue in his election, and I’ve offered to help on his campaign. I’ll probably be distributing flyers for him next weekend. If we could get a crew from Toronto-Danforth, it would spread a lot of goodwill.
Jim Harris has asked me to mention the campaign for clean energy in Ontario. Greenpeace, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund and Toronto Environmental Alliance have joined together to make clean energy an election issue. They are concerned that the Province is promoting nuclear power, and failing to close the coal-fired power plants, and they are using the byelection in Parkdale-High Park to make it an issue. Go to their site at www.cleanenergy4ontario.ca to read more and to sign on to the campaign.
If you want to get more deeply involved in the energy campaign, they are meeting at 7 pm Thursdays in August and September for strategy sessions at the Tinto Coffee House at 89 Roncesvalles Ave, 2 1/2 blocks north of Queen St W. Call Sarah at 416-537-3966.
To get involved in Frank de Jong’s campaign, contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The big message of this convention was to build up a grassroots community, to engage our supporters and to give them a voice. That’s what inspired me to start this blog. Our entire executive are authors and can all contribute. We invite your opinions. You can add comments to any blog entry by clicking on the word “Comments” that appears below each post.
If you have an existing blog you want us to link to, we’d love to do that. Right now we’re linking to Chris Tindal (the former Green Party candidate for Toronto Centre, who has a very good blog) and Elizabeth May, as well as to Green Bloggers. If you don’t have a blog and want to start one, we suggest you do it through Green Bloggers, but any blog connections are welcome.
If you want to open up a topic for discussion that isn’t on this blog, please contact me at email@example.com and I will try to open up that discussion for you. Any ideas on how to improve this blog or the main www.danforthgreens.ca site are also very welcome.
2006 Sep 6: Portlands Energy Centre public meeting
While the Portlands Energy Centre has not had a full environmental assessment, it turns out that building the gas pipeline to supply the power plant may require more public consultation than the plant itself.
This is Ontario, where you need an EA for a speed bump, but not for a nuclear power plant. Your government, at work for you.
So this is a public meeting to discuss the impacts of the pipeline. Let’s get a crowd out there. Get enraged. As this is one of the only meetings that actually involves a public consultation, it is imperative that we make a scene. Call any friends you have who might be interested. Let’s show some real opposition if we want to kill this plant.
Portlands Energy Centre Public Meeting.
Wednesday, 2006 September 6 at 6pm.
Matty Eckler Community Centre, 953 Gerrard St East
(at Pape, opposite Gerrard Square). Free.
Send a message of congratulations to Elizabeth May at
firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com. Elizabeth gets hundreds of emails daily, but she’s always delighted by messages of support.
2006 Sep 4: Elizabeth May whistle-stop 2006
Elizabeth May will be arriving at Union Station in Toronto on Monday, 2006 September 4 at 8 pm. We want to have a crowd out to meet her. You don’t need to support the Green Party for this. Anybody interested in hearing Elizabeth speak is encouraged to come out. I’d like to get a bolt of cloth and get a banner message on it. Any artists out there to help me with this?
She’s in control in a media scrum. She’s knowledgeable on every topic that comes up. She quotes facts, dates, numbers and people in a relentless barrage. She contrasts current policies with others that have worked better at other times or in other places. She points out contradictions in government strategies and leads the listener through to reasonable solutions. Best of all, she does it while oozing grace and good humour, smiling all along. Read more »