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Green Party Dialogues: A true nation-to-nation relationship is needed, says Amita Kuttner

photo courtesy of the Amita Kuttner campaign

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 leader of the party from Sept. 26-Oct. 3, online or by mail. 

All interviews have been edited for length and clarity. 

Dr. Amita Kuttner, 29, has a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of California. They are a non-binary person who goes by they/them pronouns. Kuttner lives on Lasqueti Island, B.C., and first ran for election last year to represent Burnaby North-Seymour. While they were unsuccessful in 2019, Kuttner says the racism, sexism, and transphobia they faced then, and continue to face in politics is part of what continues to motivate them.

I refused to accept that that’s the way it would be, because then it would keep so many people out. We can’t go forward until we let people in, and everybody gets to be part of that conversation about where we go,” she says.

Dr. Amita Kuttner, 29, is an astrophysicist from North Vancouver. They live on Lasqueti Island, B.C., and are running to replace Elizabeth May as Green Party leader.
Photo courtesy of the Amita Kuttner campaign.

One of your key justice platforms is decolonization, could you expand on that and what steps need to be taken to make progress?

I think it starts with an acknowledgement that our government, and the parties themselves, are colonial so there’s a lot of work that we have to do in order to actually break down ways of thought. 

When it does come to taking action, there are a lot of things that can be done immediately: putting in place the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit report; and implementing UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), all of which are a good start.

Then some basics like making sure that everybody has access to clean drinking water and health care. Beyond that, we actually start to work on having a true nation-to-nation relationship, which is something that’s been said a couple times but has never been put into place and often our programs look more like assimilation than respecting host nations and the differences between all the different cultures. 

How does the RCMP play into that in addressing suspicions of racist behaviors?

To me, that comes down to the fact that the RCMP was founded as a force of colonization in the first place, and is really still being used as that. I am in agreement with those who are calling for defunding and abolition, but I also acknowledge that that is not an immediate process, it’s a gradual process of putting resources towards other important social programs, education, health, housing, etc. 

Systemic racism is very much present but that doesn’t mean that it can be addressed in a vacuum without addressing the determinants of the crime and making sure that we do have community safety resources that are in place for different situations. 

How would you address high costs of food, and difficulty in accessing healthy food?

Going forward, I think we have to really look at and invest into the resilience of every community, and that’s going to look different in different places.

Often we hear solutions for food security that really don’t work everywhere, so making sure that we really develop food security solutions based on region but also based on careful fine-grain approach is very important. I think it also involves an investment into Indigenous food traditions and managing to have a healthy diet that makes sense for your local area as well.

For transportation and for food availability, it’s one of those ridiculous inequities that deserves some government support to just even it out a little bit.  

On your website, you say, “We must ensure technology remains helpful, always used ethically and safely, and must be seen as a tool to use wisely, it’s not a silver bullet.” What do you mean by that?

I mean a couple things by that. 

One, about the silver bullet, often what I hear is that we don’t need to take action on our emissions or swapping the way we live or going through some economic or energy transformation because down the road there will be developed technologies that will save us from what we’ve gotten ourselves into, like carbon sequestration, etc. I just don’t think that that’s a safe idea, and we’re in a dangerous position so we shouldn’t be relying on this magic to solve things.

A lot of my policy work has been in technology, artificial intelligence, automation, data privacy, etc. so there are a lot of risks that come with a lot of the different technologies that are showing up and being developed and it’s past time that we have careful regulation and legislation that controls the use and proliferation of technology. 

Quality of internet and connectivity and the infrastructure that surrounds that is an issue, I think, on a lot of Northerners' minds, how do you address that?

That’s something I relate to because I live in a pretty rural area in British Columbia and it is tough to get good internet. 

Basics like internet access and connectivity, I see as a right and necessity at this point because otherwise you’re keeping people out of being able to properly and equitably access society and work culture. We have to have massive investments in that and also break up some of the monopoly that is going on in terms of telecommunications that is keeping people having to pay ridiculous prices or not even having access because it's not a priority for them to provide infrastructure in the first place.

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

Political movements give us a lot of potential to actually shape the way we live and what our future looks like. It should involve community building and the interesting thing about political races for political leadership is that the membership of political parties is pretty low, so it’s actually a small number of people who get to influence the national conversation. 

So, the message is it’s a huge opportunity for any party leadership race, so join a party and help choose the direction that the party takes, because it helps influence the national conversation and I think, in that, you can really have a much bigger impact than you can in a lot of other political engagements. So a big welcome right now to help us build this movement and we really want it to be your movement, everyone’s movement – not defined by a couple people. So the more people involved in that conversation, the more we’ll work on that community building and all the better.