On May 31st, I was thrilled to participate in the 5th annual Tommy Douglas Institute conference at George Brown College in Toronto, under the theme: “Social Justice = Environmental Justice: Rethink! Reclaim! Respect!”
Educational communities and like-minded organizations were invited to explore progressive ideas and critical perspectives on educating and organizing for change in the 21st Century. On behalf of the Douglas-Coldwell Foundation, I was able to address the participants to give them an overview of our work and our achievements. We were also able to connect with many participants who visited our booth during the conference.
The Institute was established in 2013 in honour of Tommy Douglas, by a group associated with the inspiring Community Worker program at George Brown College. It was created in collaboration with the School of Social and Community Services, and the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in consultation with the GBC Foundation, the Douglas-Coldwell Foundation and the DCF Honorary Patron, eminent Canadian actress and activist Shirley Douglas.
The main focus of this year’s conference was the single most important issue of our era: the environment, and the need to connect climate justice to social justice.
Indigenous rights and environmental justice activist Clayton Thomas-Müller, and Professor Vandana Shiva, were the highlights of this conference. This year's Institute also included roundtable discussions, performances, an Environmental Justice Fair and a panel discussion on this year’s theme, featuring Joanna Kerr (Greenpeace Canada), Dusha Sritharan (Toronto Environmental Alliance), Katie McKenna (LEAP) and filmmaker Ali Kazimi, as moderator.
From unions to farmers, teachers to health-care workers, politicians to citizens, more and more people are asking: If jobs are not green, can they be just? How does the natural world have an effect on issues such as healthcare, education, and housing? Can we fight for Indigenous sovereignty, gender and racial justice, freedom from conflict and violence, sustainable communities, and the rights of all humanity, without linking them to climate change and the environment?
Environmental justice relies on building environmental literacy into every corner of our lives, understanding that there is no issue, community or ideology that can live beyond a planet unable to support life. We must also recognize the need for mobilizing across a shared responsibility to the natural world.
The panels and roundtable discussions that took place at the conference are the kinds of initiatives the Foundation wants to keep supporting. Our hope is to strengthen the connections we have with the Tommy Douglas Institute, and to further support students and their education in many more community colleges like George Brown.
Please join us in our cause by making a contribution of just $15 through our website, or by becoming a member. Our survival lies within our solidarity!