The past two years have been incredibly challenging for the planet, and we are so grateful for this community of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition (MEJC). It’s amazing to look back over all of the organizing we have done during the pandemic—and to realize we’ve done all of it with volunteer labour and a shoestring budget based on donations and financial contributions from individuals, like you!
This blog post includes updates on some of the activities that MEJC campaigns have been organizing since 2020. If you are interested to get involved, consider signing up to participate in our next volunteer orientation, on April 28th, at 7pm CST.
Solidarity with Indigenous Resistance to Fossil Fuels Campaign
The MEJC Solidarity with Indigenous Resistance to Fossil Fuels campaign, or as we often call it the “no pipelines” campaign, has been hard at work over the past few years. We are a dynamic campaign that aims to respond to calls to action coming from Indigenous and frontline groups, by coordinating solidarity actions on Treaty 1 and amplifying frontline voices. Our main areas of focus recently have been solidarity with Wet’suwet’en resistance to the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline (CGL) and supporting the community-led resistance to proposed Canadian Premium Sands frac sand mining in Hollow Water, MB.
Some of the highlights over the past two years have included:
- Actions in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en. We have been keeping close tabs on developments on the CGL pipeline and ways to support land defenders. Recently our focus has been on calling attention to the banks funding the destructive pipeline, chief among them RBC, in coordination with a global #DivestCGL movement. This work has included organizing road blockades and rallies in downtown Winnipeg, theatrical bank sit-ins, #RBCIsKillingMe events, and a dramatic die-in. We have also been leading a divestment campaign on social media, encouraging people to stand up to their fossil-fuel-funding banks.
- No Frac Sand Mining coalition building. We have been working with community members, Camp Morning Star, Our Line in the Sand, Indigenous Climate Action, and other grassroots groups and individuals to support resistance to frac sand mining in Manitoba. This has included co-hosting recent film screenings and panel discussions.
- Climate Emergency actions ahead of the federal election. We helped make climate change an election issue, working in coordination with 350.org and others across the country to organize events like the Manitoba on Fire rally. Then, immediately following the election, we staged the #ClimateEmergency Sit-in in Minister Jim Carr’s office in Winnipeg to deliver the People’s Climate Mandate and awaited a response all day to no avail.
- Solidarity against Line 3 actions. As Line 3 opposition continued south of the border, led by Honour the Earth and other water protectors, we hosted creative actions to call out Canadian funders of the project like TD Bank.
- Collaborated to stop the Protection of Critical Infrastructure Act in MB. This harmful bill threatened to further criminalize people for protesting so-called ‘critical infrastructure.’ We worked with a coalition of organizations and concerned folks across the province to host rallies, write letters, raise awareness, and lobby to get this proposed bill canceled.
- Hosted actions against the TMX pipeline including banner drops, street theater, and rallies.
- Hosted a webinar on Environmental Racism in MB
Responsible Hydro Campaign
The Responsible Hydro campaign recognizes that Manitoba Hydro being a crown corporation means that it is publicly owned—but we the public often are fed lines that we don't understand or that are riddled with pro-Hydro vocabulary.
Hydro is promoted as a green alternative energy source, but in reality it is not all that green. Damage to the environment and the people of communities impacted by the utility's operations is too often brushed over, ignored, or denied. The Responsible Hydro campaign is working to publicize what the true costs are of large-scale hydro production.
Our campaign has been working in cooperation and with support from Wa Ni Ska Tan (an alliance of hydro-impacted communities) to bring to public attention Manitoba Hydro’s actions and impacts on northern communities. In the past we have worked with Wa Ni Ska Tan in promoting World Water Day. In the recent past, our groups have united in setting up and supporting an alternative accountability board for Manitoba Hydro.
What is the purpose of the hydro accountability board?
- The Accountability Board focuses on public education and awareness to hold Manitoba Hydro accountable to sustainable practices.
- The board ensures that voices from communities most impacted by Hydro’s practices are not only heard but also amplified and taken seriously.
- Our goals include investigating public concerns raised by impacted community members, assessing Hydro’s actions based on standards set by utility ratepayers, and informing the general public on the realities of Hydro operations and their impacts.
Why is it important?
- The board seeks to make the truth about Hydro as easy to understand and accessible as possible, by having voices from the front lines tell it as it is.
- The current Manitoba Hydro Board does not provide enough accountability to the corporation, which is why we must do so ourselves.
Who is on the board, and why is it important that they're the ones there?
- The board is composed of a wide range of members who have been elected by the public to most accurately voice the needs of Manitobans and respond to Manitoba Hydro's actions. There are Elders, affected community members, advocates, land defenders, youth, scientists, and scholars on the board—each of their voices are necessary to ensure a full range of stories and facts are made mainstream.
- The majority of the energy produced meets the demands of southern, urban communities, while northern and rural communities experience disproportionately higher levels of harms caused by Manitoba Hydro.
- The board ensures that voices that have historically been pushed aside in conversations that inform energy policy will now have a seat at the table.
Responses to “but hydro is clean energy”
- Mega-dams such as the ones built by Manitoba Hydro have devastating environmental and human effects such as emitting methane, which exacerbates the greenhouse effect; increasing the impacts of droughts through water loss; and flooding, which elevates methylmercury levels, leading to the poisoning of animals and humans, especially fetuses and infants. Dams destroy habitats by clearcutting forests and flooding the area. They cause extinction of native species—such as Lake Sturgeon—by blocking fish passage and damaging the food web.
The Responsible Hydro campaign has also been working to publicize the plight of the northern sturgeon population, which is being driven to extinction by Hydro operations, and how this impacts traditional Indigneous communities. MEJC has hosted a webinar and is working with other organizations such as the Interchurch Council on Hydropower to publicize this issue.
Another area of concern is the provincial government’s ongoing attempts to remove Manitoba Hydro from review by the Public Utilities Board. This could greatly affect the transparency of the utility’s operation. Our group has been working with other community organizations to oppose this legislation time and again.
Green New Deal Campaign
Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition’s Green New Deal campaign focuses on envisioning, planning, and calling for a pan-Canadian just-transition strategy that leaves no one behind. Our priorities include: 70% emissions reductions by 2030; centering Black, Indigenous, People of Colour; Indigenous sovereignty; social justice, and international solidarity and migrant justice. Our activities in the past year include:
- Hosting a March 19, 2021 Action at Gerald James Lynch Park where we displayed art, interacted with passersby and considered the question “What does a world with a Green New Deal look like?.
- Representing MEJC on the Climate Action Team (CAT), alongside the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Climate Change Connection, Green Action Centre, and the Wilderness Committee. We attend weekly meetings with CAT. Check out the recent CAT blog posts by MEJC Green New Deal organizers.
- In collaboration with CAT, contributing to the Manitoba’s Road to Resilience plan for energy transition. MEJC volunteers wrote and edited the “Human Impacts” chapter in version 1, which was released in 2021; we are now gathering feedback for a web version to be released soon; and we are working together with CAT to facilitate community and public consultation on the plan.
- A Just Transition Is a Human Right event as part of the March 12 National Day of Action for a Just Transition organized by 350.org and the Council of Canadians. We were calling on the federal government to follow through on just transition legislation that Justin Trudeau promised back in 2019.
- Representing MEJC at the Manitoba Energy Policy Framework stakeholder workshops in November 2021 and February 2022 and the City of Winnipeg Transportation Master Plan 2050 workshop in November 2021.