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Green jobs mean environmental justice

Carolyn Egan

November 5, 2019

Recently I attended a memorial for Chief Simon Forbister of Grassy Narrows at the Steelworkers hall in Toronto. He recently passed away and had spent his life fighting to clean up the Wabigoon River which was poisoned by mercury dumped by industry with absolutely no regards for the people who had lived there from time immemorial. 

This mercury poisoning contributed to his early death at the age of 63, and those of so many of his people. His son and other members of the community spoke about how they would be continuing the fight. 

This concrete example of the environmental degradation by corporations, and the determination of a small northern community to defend its people speaks to the high stakes in the struggle for climate justice. Indigenous people have been leading the fight against the pipelines in defense their lands and water, and have inspired millions across the country.

The recent global climate strike brought hundreds of thousands into the streets with over 500,000 in Montreal alone. The climate was a key issue in the recent federal election and it is imperative that this struggle continues to build momentum. Another global day of action is coming up on November 29thand trade unionists must mobilize to bring the strength of working class into the fight. 

Workers interests are with those of Indigenous peoples, not their employers who are trying to divide us one from another. 

Corporations do not care about the interests of the workers who create the wealth for the 1% through their labour. Just look at the closure of GM Oshawa, the layoffs at Ford Oakville and so many other workplaces across the country all in the name of increased profits. 

Why doesn’t the oil industry reemploy laid of tar sands workers to cap all the abandoned wells across Alberta… because it doesn’t generate profits! 

Workers at GM Oshawa, which is scheduled to close, are fighting hard demanding that the company be nationalized and retrofitted to build green vehicles. They commissioned a feasibility study that shows that it can easily be done with an initial investment of $1.4 to $1.9 billion. It could be showing a profit within five years. 

GM still owes $3 billion from the earlier bailout. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is demanding that the Canada Post truck fleet be electric and be built at the plant.

The Green New Deal can be central to bringing workers on board in this growing movement. Pressure must be put on every level of government to provide the infrastructure money to create employment which will put people to work in well paying, climate jobs. 

Workers have to view the climate justice movement as fighting for their futures and recognize decent work will come from a strong campaign taking on the corporations and governments which are continuing the environmental degradation we see all around us.

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