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Normal Was A Crisis: The Youth Have Decided That We’re Not Going Back | Op-Ed

The Big Picture: Parliament reconvenes on September 23 with the Speech from the Throne, and our national conversation will pivot to what our post-pandemic future might look like. Let’s collectively imagine a recovery plan that doesn’t aim to return us to our destructive and unsustainable status quo.

A Ticking Time Bomb.

The thing I’ve been struck by time and again during this pandemic is seeing the brokenness of our system thrown into stark relief.

Our current status quo was simply not designed to last: an inherently destructive “business as usual” protocol that only led to worsening socio-economic inequality, human suffering, and environmental degradation.

  • The paradigm of infinite growth on a finite planet was a fuse, threatening to set off a bomb with terrible existential consequences.

I’m a second-year student in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have weathered the majority of this pandemic in the comfort of my own home. Since school ended abruptly in March, I dedicated my free time to climate organizing and other activism work. It’s given me a ringside view of the disaster rapidly unfolding around me.

Normal was a crisis.

The pandemic was a global wake up call; it highlighted the precariousness of our society.

  • Millions of people living paycheque-to-paycheque were suddenly out of work.
  • Our hospitals were flooded.
  • Homelessness and food insecurity were now key-issues.

Everything that we knew had been turned on its head. Suddenly, the grocery store workers and bus drivers we used to take for granted had become our frontline heroes. The government worked at an unprecedented pace to distribute food and funds to those most vulnerable.

Our rapid and relatively successful response to this crisis proves that we have the capability to build back better, starting today.

But, we’re also living through a global pandemic.

It seems like our empathy capacity has been stretched to its limit in the past six months.  Between the barrage of bad news accompanied by any pandemic-related headline, the impending climate crisis, and the Black Lives Matter movement, we scarcely have time to even think.

However, this is not the time to throw up our hands in frustration and give in to the nihilistic dread. The moment we’re in presents a unique opportunity to envision a better, more equitable future. Now, more than ever, we have the chance and impetus to collectively imagine a Canada that tackles all these issues simultaneously by uplifting people and the planet over corporate profits.

Intersectionality cannot be ignored.

It is both impossible and foolhardy to separate these movements, as there is a clear intersection between social, environmental, and racial justice. These are complex, multi-faceted issues that disproportionately affect already vulnerable communities, and require dynamic, radical, and inclusive solutions.

While grassroots organizations and activists on the ground have been calling for these changes for decades, there has never been a better moment to act than now. We must capitalize on the momentum from the government’s pandemic response to demand these necessary and timebound systemic changes.

Fighting for a Just Recovery

As a rising tide lifts all boats, a “Just Recovery” is a chance to break down the systems that led us to this crisis and replace them with something better. This Just Recovery framework, first championed by, has since been adopted by dozens of Canadian NGOs and organizations. Its principles include

  • Prioritizing the wellbeing and resilience of communities
  • Enshrining social, environmental, and racial justice.

On September 25, youth-led environmental groups all over Canada will be participating in strikes and other direct actions with the goal of showing politicians that youth are choosing to not go back to our pre-pandemic status quo.

This Not Going Back campaign is predicated on one simple truth: young people, on whose shoulders falls the burden of addressing all these societal issues, are fed up with the crisis that our old normal was.

We’re Not Going Back to a Canada that:

I, along with the friends in my organizing circles, spend much of our time fighting for the Just Recovery cause, not just because we have a passion for advocacy work, but because it’s simply fundamental to our survival.

It’s vital that we always remember that history isn’t something that just happens to us; it’s something we actively create.

When we think about the legacy we want to leave a decade from now, how do we want to be remembered?

We’re Not Going Back

The NGB campaign, in solidarity with other Canadian justice groups, is calling for a Just Recovery, a plan for and by the people that:

  • Invests in people, not corporations.
    • Makes the wealthiest 1% pay their fair share;
    • Creates millions of good jobs, including for oil and gas workers and other carbon-dependent industries;
    • Provides universal and accessible healthcare, housing, and education for all;
    • Enshrines food security and clean water for all;
  • Dismantles racism and colonialism.
    • Upholds Indigenous rights and sovereignty, including implementing UNDRIP and landback;
    • Defunds the police, working towards a long term goal of abolition;
    • Guarantees permanent residency status for all;
  • Tackles the climate crisis at the scale and urgency the science demands.
    • Decarbonizes by 2030;
    • Applies international pressure for wealthier countries to meet 1.5°C targets while increasing financial support for countries in the Global South and others hit hardest by the climate crisis.

Press Conference on September 11th introducing the #WereNotGoingBack Campaign

The Bottom Line: In the next few weeks, we will decide on the fate and future course of this country. This is a powerful moment for transformative change. Will you join us on the right side of history?

  • These kinds of changes are not only possible, but necessary. Let’s get to work. 

Interested in getting involved? Visit the campaign at We Are Not GoingBack!

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