As eco-fascism takes hold, Canada’s leaders have yet to prove they’re up to the fight

OTTAWA—Many have been ringing the alarm about the terrifying connections between climate change, economic anxiety, and white nationalism movements and ideology. Eco-fascism, as it is otherwise known, is no longer a theory that resides in the depths of seedy internet forums. It is a fatal threat that must be challenged in the open.

The El Paso shooter’s manifesto is one example of this that should not be buried and ignored—to do so would mean we are burying our collective heads in the sand after a deadly and hateful mass shooting that killed 22 people and injured two dozen others on Aug. 3.

The manifesto, titled The Inconvenient Truth, was posted shortly before the attack on the online forum, 8chan: “… the American lifestyle affords our citizens an incredible quality of life [yet this] lifestyle is destroying the environment of our country.” Therefore, he argues, “the next logical step is to decrease the number of people in America using resources” so that if “we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable.”

These environmental and economic takes are directly tied to the shooter’s concerns over the so-called “Great Replacement,” the white nationalist notion that white European populations are being replaced by non-white people through mass migration, demographic growth, and declining white birth rates.

Eco-fascism is a growing movement that is insidious and far more dangerous than even climate change denial. We have seen this new far right-wing ideology taken up in France by the National Rally party, and by far-right movements across Europe. Earlier this year, an Ipsos Public Affairs poll found that 37 per cent of Canadians say immigration is a “threat” to white Canadians.These views now appear to have a political voice in Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party of Canada.

The sad reality is that the climate crisis is the cause of significant numbers of forced global migration, with millions already migrating due to environmental and climate forces. Despite this, political parties, politicians, and even some social movements in Canada have treated issues of immigration, racism, economics, and climate change in isolation. And they do so at the peril of marginalized communities.

The answer to eco-fascism is environmental justice. Environmental justice asks us to approach issues of environment from the perspective of equity, and in a manner that protects the most vulnerable communities, not only the environment and physical nature itself. Environmental justice recognizes that the climate change crisis (including exposure to toxins, clean drinking water, etc.) disproportionately affects Indigenous, racialized, and low-income communities. The language of environmental justice allows us to address economic anxiety of low-income and working class folks, while addressing climate change, and supporting climate crisis migrants.

Historically, mainstream environmental organizations and movements in Canada have been largely led by white people and focused on natural conservation. In fact, environmental justice was not mainstream until the recently proposed Green New Deal, an economic stimulus package put forward by some Democrats in the United States, which aims to address climate change and economic inequality.

Canada’s major political parties are still largely behind on adopting environmental justice policies.

The Green Party, which bills itself as the only party capable of moving to a fossil-fuel free economy, has nary a word to say about race, inequality, nor Indigenous environmentalism, specifically, in its climate change platform, called Mission: Possible—though it does reference needing equity for Indigenous peoples to achieve climate security. These issues are mostly divorced from climate matters, and are siloed off in their positions on universal basic income and other social programs, which make no mention of climate change.

The New Democratic Party has taken up the cause, in part, by proposing their own plan, called New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs. A plank of the climate change platform is “supporting Indigenous leadership in climate action” and notes that “Indigenous communities are on the front lines, dealing with the impacts of climate change every day, and are best placed to protect cultural and biological diversity through control over their territory.” The rest of the platform is silent on issues of race and inequality where they intersect with environmental action.

The Conservative Party of Canada has put out what they call A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment, which, to my surprise, acknowledges the importance of working with Indigenous people to address climate change, and states that “a changing climate disproportionately impacts Canada’s Indigenous peoples—especially those living in remote and Northern communities and working in industries such as mining and forestry.” Yet makes no other commitments to inequality and climate crisis.

The Liberal Party, which has yet to release its 2019 platform, ran in 2015 on a climate change policy centred almost exclusively on carbon pricing. The Greener Communities 2015 platform similarly failed to mention issues of inequality. Their more recent efforts to declare that Canada is in a national climate emergency is completely bereft of any analysis as to who is affected by the climate crisis. Meanwhile, the Liberal Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, bragged on Twitter about the quality of Ottawa’s drinking water while First Nations communities face decades-long water crises.

Continued silence on environmental justice will leave space for eco-fascist views to take hold, virtually erasing any efforts made on reconciliation and equity to date. Canadians and politicians alike have a duty, especially in the face of growing white nationalism and violence, to promote and fight for environmental justice.

Amy Kishek co-hosts the Bad+Bitchy podcast.

As published in The Hill Times