On militarism, Indigenous land defenders, the Red Deal and the Green New Deal

Published by Brent Patterson on

With the Canadian government committed to increasing military spending to $32.7 billion a year by 2026-27 and subsidizing the fossil fuel industry with about $60 billion a year, where will the public dollars be found for a Green New Deal (GND)?

The same question might be asked globally given military expenditures rose to $1.917 trillion in 2019 and oil and gas corporations received $5.2 trillion in subsidies in 2017.

In July 2019, Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the executive director of Indigenous Climate Action, noted: “Currently, the GND proposals are focused on changing the energy infrastructure while redistributing wealth but ultimately failing to center the destructive intertwined roles of capitalism, consumerism, militarism and colonialism as foundations to the current crisis.”

The concerns expressed by Deranger are reflected in the Red Deal.

Professor Nick Estes, a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, notes: “It’s not the ‘Red New Deal’ because it’s the same ‘Old Deal’—the fulfillment of treaty rights, land restoration, sovereignty, self-determination, decolonization, and liberation.”

The September 2019 draft of the Red Deal notes: “Imagine if the US military had to hold a bake sale to keep its doors open instead of preschools, domestic violence shelters, art and language programs, and family planning clinics?”

It specifies that in 2015 military spending accounted for upwards of 54 per cent of all discretionary spending and that $718.3 billion in discretionary spending had been proposed for the military in 2020. It then compares that to the “$66 billion of discretionary funds are spent on healthcare each year, with $5.4 billion allocated to IHS [the Indian Health Service, a division with the US Department of Health and Human Services].”

The Red Deal notably focuses on militarism and military spending as others are now urging the Green New Deal to do as well.

Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies has written: “To fund the Green New Deal, with all of its component parts, we must transition away from the current war economy that pollutes the planet, distorts our society, enriches only the war profiteers.”

She adds: “An end to US wars across the globe and massive cuts to the military budget will provide funds for green jobs, public education, health care for all, green infrastructure development. And we will transition our nation’s security away from failed and failing wars into a new foreign policy based on peace and diplomacy, not war.”

She also flatly states: “Wars and the military render impossible the aspirations contained in the Green New Deal.”

And Medea Benjamin and Alice Slater have further warned: “If climate change is not addressed rapidly by a Green New Deal, global militarism will ramp up in response to increases in climate refugees and civil destabilization, which will feed climate change and seal a vicious cycle fed by the twin evils militarism and climate disruption.”

Professor Estes, a key participant in the Red Deal process, also writes: “We can start by defunding the US military and reallocating its resources to the parts of the world and the people the United States has destroyed, destabilized, or dispossessed.”

These issues are interlinked with the accompaniment of human rights defenders.

Global Witness has reported: “164 land and environmental defenders were reported killed in 2018, which averages out to more than three a week.”

It then observes: “Governments and business are failing to tackle the root cause of the attacks – overwhelmingly, the imposition of damaging projects on communities without their free, prior and informed consent.”

And they highlight: “Widespread impunity makes it difficult to identify perpetrators, but Global Witness was able to link state security forces to 40 of the killings.”

The Guardian has also reported: “More than 300 human rights defenders working to protect the environment, free speech, LGBTQ+ rights and indigenous lands in 31 countries were killed in 2019, a new report reveals.”

That article notes: “In nearly all countries that experienced mass protests last year, human rights defenders – who mobilized marches, documented police and military abuses, and helped citizens who were injured or arrested – were specifically targeted.”

Perhaps the key piece of legislation in the House of Commons in this country is now Bill C-232: An Act respecting a Climate Emergency Action Framework.

That bill, introduced this past February by MP Leah Gazan, calls on the Government of Canada, “in consultation with Indigenous peoples and civil society, [to] develop and implement a climate emergency action framework to achieve the objectives of the Convention on Climate Change respecting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The coming debates on Bill C-232, as well as the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Scotland in 2021, are just two forums where the issues of climate breakdown, militarism and Indigenous rights can be raised and hopefully advanced.

Photo by Rob Wilson Photography from Honor the Earth website.

Peace Brigades International is committed to making space for peace by accompanying at-risk human rights defenders, environmental activists and Indigenous land defenders; providing peace education; and building on the heritage of nonviolent action that tells us that peace is more than the absence of war.

You can find us on Twitter at @PBIcanada.

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