In the past four years, the world has faced many challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reimagine what solidarity and collaboration look like. The cracks in our health care system became impossible to ignore. Corporations are working overtime to capture our political and social institutions and the climate emergency is escalating. The situation is dire, but our Atlantic chapters are rising to the challenge.
Hurricane Fiona’s landfall last autumn was a clear reminder to residents of the Atlantic provinces that climate change has deadly – and costly – consequences. Not only do we have a responsibility to protect our planet; we can’t survive without immediate, significant action toward climate justice.
Our North Shore chapter continues to have hard conversations in their communities about the need for climate adaptation. Through town halls and film screenings they are building community and inspiring change. They have worked hard to preserve biodiversity and to protect our fragile ecosystems by supporting a glyphosate ban and they continue to engage with elected representatives whenever possible.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Avalon chapter continues to contest the Bay du Nord deepwater offshore drilling project by organizing rallies, raising awareness, and speaking to Canadian and Norwegian media to provide firsthand perspective. In March of this year, the chapter released a statement about the project impacts in solidarity with Sierra Club, Equiterre, and MTI who are challenging the project’s environmental approval in court.
After more than a year of campaigning, we are thrilled to see Fredericton join the other Atlantic capitals in formally recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis. Our Fredericton chapter worked tirelessly with allies to build power to positively influence municipal policy.
The Kent County chapter is similarly working toward development of an environmental bill of rights in conjunction with the New Brunswick Environmental Network and will be a signatory on the final document, which is slated to be presented to the provincial legislature. During a recent New Brunswick by-election, two Kent chapter members ran for seats in Five Rivers, using that platform to speak to environmental issues and against shale gas development.
Despite the lack of social license for shale gas development in New Brunswick, Premier Higgs has been openly supporting a return to fracking. After recent announcements that two LNG export terminals slated for development in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will not receive gas supply from Western Canada, discussion about the potential for New Brunswick shale gas projects have reignited. Various organizations including local Council of Canadians chapters are speaking out against a return to fracking, but allies report that there is increased pressure on Indigenous groups in the province to sign on to consent to fracking. The recent dissolution of a decades-long gas tax revenue agreement between the province and some First Nations reserves has created some steep financial pressure and fracking is being promoted as an opportunity to replenish revenues. Our New Brunswick chapters and the national office have signed onto a letter speaking out against these coercive tactics, and are monitoring the situation closely.
Nuclear power and in particular SMNRs (small moduler nuclear reactors) is also on the radar in New Brunswick. Across the province chapter members are working to reframe and delegitimize the proliferation of false climate solutions and to insist on responsible renewables development.
Insisting on Responsible Development
Across the region, chapters are fighting to ensure that those in power balance economic demands with environmental and social justice. In Newfoundland, the Avalon chapter has been supporting local activist groups, building alliances, undertaking research, and advocating for a Federal Environmental Impact Assessment in relation to the World Energy wind farm project slated for development on the Port au Port Peninsula. They stand in solidarity with local residents who are fighting for more meaningful community engagement and a federal impact assessment for that project. They are also raising concerns that the project uses resources in Newfoundland and Labrador to grow corporate profit, and to provide energy overseas while the costs, environmental impacts, and risks stay local.
In Nova Scotia, the Halifax Regional Municipality chapter has also been working to support local groups to protect crucial environments from destruction through development. Hartlen Point is a top ten birding spot in Canada and a very popular community gathering space, with beautiful beaches and dunes, and a diversity of habitat. Its destruction via the development of a naval testing facility on site will have lasting negative impacts on the land and the surrounding community. Chapter members have attended rallies and public information sessions relating to the proposed Department of National Defence installation and have been working to spread the word about the risks associated with the project. The chapter is also supporting the Protect Eisner Cove group, which is invested in protecting one of the last substantial wetlands in proximity to the city from development. They continue to insist, despite opposing rhetoric from developers and politicians, that we need both affordable housing and environmental protections – and that both are achievable.
On Nova Scotia’s South Shore, open-net salmon pens are a hot topic, with discussions centered on balancing the human need for work and food with the need for a habitable planet and healthy ocean. The South Shore chapter is busily planning a series of upcoming events to help educate people about the dangers of open-net pen fishing, the importance of supporting fisherfolk, and alternatives to the open-net pen system. The chapter will also be hosting an event titled “Celebrate the Ocean” on June 10, encouraging people to learn about and protect the ocean and to celebrate what it offers. The chapter is collaborating with other likeminded organizations to make their event informative, accessible, and family-friendly.
Solidarity and Campaigns
There is a lot of work to be done, and our Atlantic chapters know that the only way we win is together. Atlantic chapters are strengthening relationships within their communities, with allied organizations, and with each other to increase our collective impact.
Several Atlantic chapters alongside some of our west coast chapters met to discuss shared struggles, leading to the creation of a Coastal Solidarity working group. Following an initial meeting, these chapters signed onto an open letter against Open Net Pens along with several other organizations. The letter was published in the New Brunswick Media Coop.
The chapters are also sharing ideas and tactics to influence their MPs to support strong just transition legislation and to establish Pharmacare for All. Several chapters have already successfully petitioned their MPs and had our just transition petition tabled. Others have met with the MP to discuss our vision of just transition. More to come on just transition soon.
The focus in this moment is on the Pharmacare campaign. We believe that no one should have to choose between necessary medications and food or rent, and our chapters agree. We hope you do too! Please join us at one of our Pharmacare town halls! The Atlantic Pharmacare tour kicks off on April 24th in Halifax with Avi Lewis, after which Avi makes stops in Charlottetown on April 25th, and in Fredericton on April 26th before continuing west. Local town halls are also scheduled for Sydney on May 8th and in Antigonish on May 9th. (Avi will not be present at those stops.) A full list of events including confirmed speakers is available here. More events will be added as chapters and organizers confirm their plans.
Hosting a tour of this size requires a lot of support and collaboration. Every chapter has its own priorities and level of capacity but the work that they have been doing to build community connections, show solidarity, and support their communities has been integral to our organizing. As a result of their recent outreach work, many chapters have had new members join! New members are always welcome! Solidarity and mutual support are at the basis of all sustainable social change. We have chapters in every Atlantic province, many of whom offer hybrid chapter meetings and events. If you are interested in joining your local chapter – or in starting one closer to home – get in touch with your Regional Organizer who will point you in the right direction. (You can also support our work by becoming a member!) There’s plenty of work to do, and as we know, many hands make for lighter work.
Local chapters across the country have long been a political home to a network of local activists committed to resisting corporate power, strengthening democracy, and working for social, economic, and environmental justice. Chapters are leaders in their communities as they engage with Council of Canadians campaigns on water, just transition, or pharmacare, as well as regional and local issues of importance. As we continue to hold our government accountable, expose the corporate agenda, and push for policies that put people, planet, and democracy first, it has never been more important to get involved in your local community, engage in the critical work of public education and engagement, and build back power together. Join the fight by becoming a member of the Council of Canadians and joining a chapter near you.
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