“Ecological justice is social justice […] and they’re totally wrapped up in each other” – Trevor Hancock, founder of the Green Party of Canada

After the Canadian Greens lost MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberal Party on June 10th, Green Party founder Trevor Hancock is imploring the party to return to its ecological roots. 

Atwin’s decision to leave followed a period of internal clashes within the Green Party over the Isreali-Palestinian conflict. The Fredericton MP challenged Green Party leader Annamie Paul’s position on the conflict, arguing that Paul had not done enough to expose the atrocities that Israelis were committing against Palestinians. In the aftermath of Atwin’s departure, a minority of Green executives attempted to force a non-confidence vote on leader Annamie Paul. 

Jenica Atwin crossed over to the Liberal Party on June 10th after internal disputes over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Curtesy of Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Trevor Hancock, who became the first leader of the Canadian Green Party in 1984, spoke with Global Green News about the turmoil within the Green Party and offered his advice for how the party should refocus its agenda on climate change. 

Hancock explained that environmentalism has always been at the heart of the Green party. In recent years, however, members have been preoccupied with non-environmental issues.

“I don’t think that the central issue has changed. I think that there are sections of the party that have gotten distracted by other issues that are, to my mind, secondary, such as the whole issue around Israel and Palestine. I really don’t see why the Green Party would be tearing itself apart over that, it’s not a Green issue” said Hancock.

In regard to the party’s platform, Hancock argued that concentrating on ecological issues is a critical way for the Green Party to differentiate itself from other parties.

“I think that the focus has to be on the ecological crisis that we face and the societal response to it.” said Hancock. “I think that part of that means showing how we are different from other parties in the economic and social responses and societal and ethical and value responses to that […] yes social justice is a piece of it but […] it is and needs to be wrapped up in the idea of an ecologically sane society”

Hancock established the Green Party of Canada at a time when there were few political discussions around environmentalism. The Green Party differentiated its positions from other progressive parties by offering a vision of society that went beyond labour rights and a social safety net. 

Hancock clarified that he does not believe the Green Party should ignore social justice issues. Instead, Hancock said that the party should consider these issues within the broader framework of environmentalism. 

“Ecological justice is social justice […] and they’re totally wrapped up in each other. You need an economy that is both regenerative and distributive. It’s not one or the other. In a sense what we need is […] an eco-social approach.” 

Hancock explained that creating a redistributive economy goes hand-in-hand with creating a greener economy.

If you only have only one planet and you only have a certain amount of resources […] then the only way for people who have very little to get more, is not by growing the economy […] but by redistributing all that you already have. So social issues of social justice are totally wrapped up in issues of ecological ways” said Hancock.

Finally, Hancock offered his advice to current Green leaders on how they can refocus the agenda on climate change. 

“[The leaders] might like to start with a recent declaration from the UN Secretary General […] He said that humanity is raging war on nature and this is suicidal, and we have to change that.” said Hancock. “We’ve done very little to reduce fossil fuel reliance. We’ve seen recently major reports on the biodiversity crisis and on and on. All of those stem from an economic system that is completely misaligned with the physical and ecological reality. And that in turn is rooted in a set of values that have to do with growth and greed and consumption.” said Hancock. “[I]n Canada [that] […] means reducing our ecological footprint by 70 to 80 percent, and doing so quite rapidly. There’s more than enough there for an agenda that is really very different from other parties, and that’s what I would focus on.”

Erika Mackenzie

Erika is working towards a Bachelor of Arts Degree from McGill University in Sociology with a double minor in International Development and Communications. Erika's passions include environmental protection, racial and gender equality, Indigenous rights, and affordability for all. Erika has also been published in the McGill Tribune and HuffPost Canada.

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