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Green Party Dialogues: Indigenous communities should be at the heart of a green new deal, Meryam Haddad says

The Green Party of Canada is set to replace Elizabeth May with a new leader in October. NNSL has reached out to all nine candidates to hear more about their platforms, especially as it pertains to residents North of 60. 

Green Party of Canada members can cast their ballots for the next party leader from Sept. 26 to Oct. 3. 

All interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Candidate Meryam Haddad, 32, is an immigration lawyer living in Montreal. Being an immigrant and a lesbian, Haddad touts inclusion of marginalized groups atop her platform.

“We really want to build a green new deal, an actionable plan that leaves no one behind with decolonization and social justice at its core,” she said.

Meryam Haddad, 32, is an immigration lawyer from Montreal. She is looking to implement a green new deal to push forward "bold ideas."
Photo courtesy of the Meryam Haddid campaign.

You’ve said that you’re running for leadership because, “Like many young people (you) don’t feel represented by the current slate of leadership candidates, nor by Canadian politics at large.” What do you mean by that?

People like me, that are my age, that are millennials, that come from equity-seeking groups, and are just not represented in Canadian politics – young people have a distrust in politics and politicians. We’re tired of seeing that there’s no action against climate change and against inequalities. So I decided to run for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada because I want to attract and inspire young Canadians to join the movements to fight for our future because we know that our generation, and the future, are going to be the ones suffering from extinction if nothing happens and if things don’t change. I felt a sense of duty towards my generation and the next ones.

There are calls, globally, to defund the police, and suspicions of racist behaviour is an issue on a lot of people's minds, how do you address that?

The RCMP was originally created to displace Indigenous people from their land onto reserves and the ones who weren’t cooperating were starved to death. That's how it was originally created and the RCMP continues to carry out violence against Indigenous people, as well as racialized people, and poor, and mentally ill and marginalized people. So if the RCMP is a fundamentally brutal and a punitive institution, they are the opposite of what we need in all communities, and especially in the North that is increasingly struggling with health, poverty and well-being. 

So basically what the scholars and the people on the street are advocating for is to defund, and it’s something gradual that needs to be done. The funds need not only to be reallocated but we need to increase findings to social services to allow our communities to be healthy and well. I’m talking about services such as affordable housing, education, pharmacare, mental health services. This is how criminalization and crime rates significantly decrease. We need to re-imagine and rethink our community safety in a way that it’s non-punitive and focuses on rehabilitation instead.

Another key issue – especially in remote communities – is the high cost of food and difficulty in accessing healthy food, how would you address that?

I understand that this is one of the biggest problems that is unique to the North. I know that there is almost 25 per cent of Northern folks that are at high risk of not being able to feed themselves. A lot of communities don’t have access to drinking water, and food and water are so expensive, especially outside the centres. Things that we can think about is to implement a universal school food program because it’s unacceptable that in a country rich like Canada, three out of five children in Nunavut for example, live in food insecurity. 

There are other ways to address food insecurity, to have work and salaries and UBI (universal basic income) for people. By breaking this cycle of poverty, and breaking these inequalities that exist in Canada, this is one way of addressing food insecurity in the North.

Could you discuss access to high-speed internet and how we can move forward on issues of connectivity? 

It’s important to apply for jobs, to be flexible in where you work. It’s important in education also – that’s another thing that it will help with. Indigenous kids, for example, if we nationalize internet, would have access to a university education without leaving their homes. There are other ways to give access to education with isolated communities – it comes also with giving kids, for example, laptops for them to be able to study remotely, just like they did in New Brunswick with the Covid-19 crisis. The provincial government offered to all kids from low-income families laptops, and it did not cost them that much. It ended up costing them about $500,000. It’s not very hard to address inequalities, it’s not that expensive. We just need the political courage and the right leaders to take these positions. Nationalizing internet is something very important and it’s about nationalizing structures to be able to bring these things to remote communities.

If you had to leave Northern readers with just one message, what would that be?

I believe there is a huge potential to win in the North. I believe that we did well in the last election, even though we have a lack of resources and it’s because of the particularities of campaigning in the North, such as isolation and huge distances. I strongly believe it’s time to elect young Indigenous leaders in Ottawa, if they want to, of course. If they want to, and if they want to fight colonialism from within, we are in an emergency, after all. And let’s face it, climate change is a continuation of colonial violence and we are now in a climate emergency that can be addressed altogether. And young leaders from the North and Indigenous leaders all around the country have a place within the Green Party of Canada if they want to. And we understand that a lot don’t want to participate in Canadian politics because it’s part of colonialism, but it’s possible to address and to fight colonialism from within.

Could you expand a little more about climate change being a continuation on colonial violence? 

Who brought capitalism and growth and the economy that we live in? We have an economy that we work for instead of the other way around. It’s not the people that are at the forefront of the climate crisis. It’s not Indigenous folks that did that, but colonialism that created this climate crisis that we live in and these inequalities. And I really believe that the Indigenous communities should be at the heart of a green new deal because they are the experts. They have faced the biggest crisis. Not only do they have the knowledge and the care of the lands, they know about hunting and the fishing patterns that changed because of climate change, and they are the most well adapted folks, and they have the experience of adaptation to climate change.