Elizabeth May to push Trudeau for Indigenous representation at Paris climate change talks

Brandi Morin
APTN National News
On the heels of Canada’s election Monday Green Party leader Elizabeth May is travelling to Ottawa Wednesday to request a meeting with Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau to discuss climate change.

Specifically, the upcoming United Nations COP21 gathering in Paris at the end of November.

“We’ve gone through 10 years of an ongoing nightmare for those who understand climate … Stephen Harper’s stance on climate change has slowed down the world, hurt global negotiations, and thank God it’s over now, but we have a lot of work to do to make sure Justin Trudeau is prepared for what’s ahead,” said May in an interview with APTN National News before boarding a plane from Vancouver to Ottawa.

And if Canada is going to be prepared for the talks they should have Indigenous representation on its offfical delegation, she said.

“If you go to international negotiations, and you go as Canada, how could you not have First Nations, Metis and Inuit leadership on the delegation?” said May. “You just couldn’t.”

Canada will still have Indigenous people attending the Paris talks, including Eriel Deranger of Athabasca Fort Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) who is accredited to take part in the conference through the United Nations.

“We are in an urgent situation and have been for many, many years,” said Deranger, an advocate for the environment and communications coordinator with ACFN.

“The very places, species and eco systems that are threatened by climate change from resource and destructive industries that are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, are the very places we have been fighting to protect since colonization.”

Deranger’s First Nation, in northern Alberta, is located upstream from the tar sands. She said the community has struggled to find balance between economic participation with industrial development while bearing the brunt of the environmental effects of the latter like pollution, contamination of the water, lands and wildlife.

Deranger refers to herself as an Indigenous rights land defender and believes climate change is the number one threat to Indigenous rights worldwide.

“Our cultural identity is no longer under threat from the colonial ideologies that tried to undermine us but climate change is the new threat,” she said.

May agrees that climate change is a violation of Indigenous rights and wants Indigenous voices to be heard.

“I completely agree. And the planetary threat that exceeds any threat to human survival on the planet- basically it’s (climate change) is the most significant threat the we face other than nuclear war and we are totally running out of time… the Paris negotiations are our last chance,” said May.

Online petitions calling for May to be appointed Canada’s new environment minister started circulating Tuesday and were gaining thousands of signatures by Wednesday.

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