North-OPINION – N.W.T. mines are COVID-19 time bombs — let’s put people over profit – by Thomas Gagnon-van Leeuwen (CBC News North – April 28, 2020)

Thomas Gagnon-van Leeuwen is an organizer with Our Time Yellowknife, the local chapter of a grassroots, youth-led climate justice movement for a Green New Deal in Canada.

COVID-19 has forced everyone to make sacrifices. Beyond the human impacts, many businesses in the N.W.T. have closed or curtailed their operations, leaving owners in a cash crunch and sending employees to the online unemployment line.

But in the Northwest Territories, one sector is largely exempt from the travel restrictions and ban on indoor gatherings that keep us safe.

Two diamond mines still operate in the territory. They are ticking time bombs that risk causing a COVID-19 outbreak. This could overwhelm our health-care system and extend the current measures by months.

The pandemic is a wake-up call: we need a new economy that puts people over profit. For the past year, I have been organizing with Our Time Yellowknife to promote just this. It’s called the Green New Deal.

It would create thousands of good jobs to tackle the existential threat of climate breakdown. This could include addressing the N.W.T.’s dire housing crisis and investing in child care and healing programs, which are low-carbon sectors. It would uphold Indigenous rights and leave no one behind.

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