On Wednesday September 8th, TO350 and People’s Climate Movement Toronto led an on-the-ground "Canada's Still on Fire" action at Queen’s Park. The event was one of 60 held across the country in a nationwide effort initiated by 350Canada to make it clear that climate must be front and centre this election.
Climate justice refers to the idea that the climate emergency is not only an environmental issue, but also a political and ethical issue. Climate change will increasingly be a defining experience for all life on Earth in the near future since the changing climate will lead to disruption of fragile ecosystems around the world. Global average temperatures have already increased by 1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2017 and are likely to increase by 0.2°C every decade unless immediate action is taken to stop emissions as well as remove greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the atmosphere . The IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Global Warming of 1.5°C report details the various effects of a 1.5°C rise including sea-level rise, intense heat waves, water and food insecurity, extreme weather events, among others. The most extreme impacts of climate change will largely be borne by populations who have historically benefited the least from fossil fuel extraction and use .
When Toronto350 graded the federal Speech from the Throne in September 2020, we considered whether it represented an appropriate response to the interlocking health, economic and climate crises. The 2021 Budget puts funding behind the Throne Speech’s promises, and so we ask again, does this Budget support Canadians in a just recovery and a transition to a low-carbon economy?
Canada’s use and export of fossil fuels contributes disproportionately to the costs and damages caused by GHG emissions. Extracting and exporting resources has made the country wealthy. At the same time, countries that have benefited the least from extractive economies are experiencing impacts, like food insecurity and forced migration, first and most. Canada needs to do its fair share to redress both social and ecological harms, contributing to an equitable and just transition globally.
Canada continues to lose more critical land, freshwater and oceanic habitats than it conserves every year. Habitat loss problematically increases ecosystem GHG emissions through the release of ecosystem carbon, reductions in the carbon storage capacity of our landscapes, and the loss of critical climate adaptation and resilience services. Canada’s response to the biodiversity crisis is being significantly limited by these feedback loops. These impacts are also limiting Canada's ability to leverage nature-based solutions to help meet our climate change adaptation and mitigation goals.
At the same time, ongoing colonialism continues to override Indigenous rights and land stewardship. We see this evidenced across the country as Indigenous land-defenders stand on the frontlines, confronting destructive projects that are backed by industry and government. Ongoing environmental racism also shows in high pollution rates, as seen in Grassy Narrows and Canada’s Chemical Valley.
Systems that perpetuate harm need to be called out and ended at the same time investments in programs like Indigenous Land Guardians, projects like those highlighted in Power to the People and support for non-market mechanisms that ensure biodiversity protection increase. As noted in the Indigenous Leadership Initiative blogpost, UN Biodiversity Report Calls for Greater Role for Indigenous Peoples, “If Canada places Indigenous-led conservation at the core of its biodiversity approach, we can sustain even more lands and waters.” 
The rate of COVID-19 on First Nations reserves is 40 per cent higher than in the general Canadian population. Indigenous people living in urban areas have been similarly hard-hit. The crisis represents another in a long series of failures of the Canadian state to achieve justice and reconciliation with first peoples. For an effective recovery, Canada must renew its commitment to upholding Indigenous sovereignty, laws, values, customs and traditions by investing in Indigenous communities. Collaboration and partnership will be required to develop and enact solutions that adequately address the needs of Indigenous communities.
Here is a version of our budget submission part 4 of 7, with some simple calls to action that you can take added in.
Art by Corrina Keeling for justrecoveryforall.caRead more
When the Truth and Reconciliation report was released in 2015, many saw it as a chance to finally acknowledge the past and move forward together in a harmonious relationship with the Indigenous peoples on whose land we live and work. Fast forward to five years later and while the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten peoples’ health and disrupt their lives, industry is pushing ahead with projects that disregard Indigenous rights, including the right to Free, Informed and Prior Consent. From east coast to west coast, we continue to see racist harassment and violence directed against Indigenous people, often in the name of land and resource theft. Government is complicit in these ongoing acts of colonial violence whether they support industry outright or stand aside and do nothing. Both stances are an abdication of duty. They are the continuation of a genocidal Canadian protocol that puts profits above the health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities, valuing industrial projects more than human rights.
Yet again, the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations near Caledonia are being invaded by developers and the authorities in the municipality of Haldimand. The developers, Mackenzie Meadows, want to build a housing development on unceded Haudenosaunee land, profiting from territory that does not belong to them. To do this they must steal the land from the rightful owners, the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee.Read more
First Nations, land and water at greater risk after Supreme Court denies leave to appeal
On July 2, 2020, in a ruling with no explanation provided, the Supreme Court of Canada denied the Squamish Nation, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the Coldwater Indian Band leave to appeal an earlier federal court decision that found Cabinet’s approval to proceed with the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion project was reasonable.
The Nations challenged the consultation process, effectively asking: is consultation adequate where the owner of a project, who also has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the Nations impacted, performs the consultation, then assesses the adequacy of its own process? The Canadian government purchased the pipeline from Kinder Morgan in 2018.Read more
Organizations all across the country, including Toronto350, want to prompt changes coming out of the pandemic that confront inequality and systemic racism, to ensure safety and health, and to seize the window of opportunity we have now, to turn the corner away from harmful practices that destroy our climate and the living world around us.
Toronto350’s Just Recovery teachin presents a way that we can win this safer, greener and healthier future. Here is a recording! Toronto350 Teach-in. There are also some things listed near the end of the blog, that we can do now.