By Peter W
2/12/2019

The best part of my day is finding out that another member of Parliament has signed our MP Pledge for Environmental Rights. Blue Dot volunteers send in photos of themselves smiling with their representatives, holding signed pledges. Back at Blue Dot HQ, we ring a bell for every new signature.

Launched in October, one year out from the federal election, the pledge provides an opportunity for leaders to show their support for the idea that everyone should have equal access to a healthy environment, including clean air and safe water. Our goal is to get this into parties’ election platforms, to ensure that environmental rights are part of the next government’s mandate.

With 338 ridings to cover across this large country, the campaign depends on a national network of local volunteers. Besides expanding the movement’s reach, these superheroes contribute local knowledge of their riding and as constituents, they’re able to request a meeting with their MPs.

This formidable team is a result of several years of building organizing power and leverages Blue Dot’s earlier municipal-level efforts. It brought in quick wins (now more than 170 municipalities recognize the right to a healthy environment), and built up a motivated and dynamic network of volunteers with the skills to get things done.

 

The pledge provides an opportunity for leaders to show their support for the idea that everyone should have equal access to a healthy environment, including clean air and safe water.

 

A groundswell of regional support has showed local politicians that the MP Pledge is an opportunity to represent the best interests of their constituents.

For example, Georgia Kokotsis is part of a Montreal group that have been active since Blue Dot kicked off in late 2014. She took part in many activities before deciding to become a pledge leader. A few weeks ago, she and her best friend organized a meeting with Emmanuella Lambropoulos, MP for Ville Saint-Laurent. They made the pitch for supporting environmental rights, pointing out that Ville Saint-Laurent passed a Blue Dot resolution in 2015 and that there are more than 1,000 Blue Dot supporters in her riding. Lambropoulos signed the pledge enthusiastically, took a photo with the volunteers, and encouraged them to reach out to her fellow MPs.

West Vancouver Pledge Leader Lisa Brasso met with her MP, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones. “My meeting was an opportunity for me to thank her for her ongoing support,” Lisa said. “She re-confirmed her commitment to environmental issues, her resolve to continue being assertive on that front, and she was more than happy to share insights and ideas on how to extend the reach of the pledge.”

Long-time Ontario volunteers in Waterloo Region, Richmond Hill, Hamilton and Scarborough secured pledges from MPs and federal candidates. Kerry Mueller, Jim Marston, Cheryl Lewandowski, Terry Knight, and Kathleen Wong have worked with their communities for years to raise awareness about the need for environmental rights in Canada.

 

Supporting environmental rights is not only the right thing to do, but a direction that holds great promise for Canada.

 

In other ridings, the pledge inspired a whole new cohort of volunteers. Several new pledge leaders took part in our Toronto webinar that prepares volunteers for the task, supported by our MP Pledge Toolkit. The Don Valley West team was born at Blue Dot Toronto’s National Day of Action, where residents Anne Louise Gould and Jeanette Butterworth first connected. They met Andrea Stephens and Jill Langford at another Blue Dot gathering a few months later, and the group arranged to meet with MP Rob Oliphant, who signed the pledge and offered to help Blue Dot engage the North Toronto community. This brings our total to 46 signatures, and the list continues to grow.

Although it’s exciting to see such positive results so early in the campaign, in many ways, the process is more important than the outcome. By engaging with their representatives, educating them about environmental rights and highlighting support in their ridings, volunteers increase the chances of MPs taking the pledge seriously, long after the ink has dried. Each pledge signed represents many meaningful conversations and another politician convinced that supporting environmental rights is not only the right thing to do, but a direction that holds great promise for Canada.

Support for environmental rights is growing at the national level. The Liberals, NDP and Greens have all passed resolutions in support of creating a Federal Environmental Bill of Rights. Globally, more than 150 countries have recognized these rights in law. If this momentum continues, Canada could soon join this group — thanks, in large part, to our amazing Blue Dot volunteers.

 

Vancouver East: Jenny Kwan (NDP)

 

Header photo: Volunteers in Richmond Hill, Ontario, secured a pledge from MP Majid Jowhari (Liberal Party of Canada) showing his commitment to the environmental rights of his constituents.