Indigenous and Global South Principles for a Just Transition

CAW-Just Transition
CAW-Just Transition

“A Just Transition means responding to the need to move away from reliance on diesel and extraction, and instead paving the way to renewable energies that integrate with cultural and traditional values.”

Melina Laboucan-Massimo

The federal government is set to table its ‘just transition’ legislation soon. The Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, describes the bill as an action plan for sustainable jobs. Earlier this year, the federal government released the Sustainable Jobs Plan, as a precursor to this legislation. In the Plan, the government notes its shift away from the use of “just transition” stating that the term “sustainable jobs” is more appropriate in the Canadian context.  

What is lost in narrowing the narrative of this economic transition to solely jobs? To what “Canadian context” are they referring? Indigenous land defenders and leaders, labour unions and allied organizations have been calling for a just transition for decades and have put forth recommendations that focus on rights, equity and a whole-of-economy approach. Should the draft legislation not address these recommendations, it would appear that the dominant systems of colonialism and extractivism have once again triumphed and the federal government is putting corporate values and economic growth ahead of Indigenous values, environmental protection, equity, and an economy of life. 

The International Labour Organization released a Just Transition Policy Brief in November 2022 that found that: “Growing evidence shows that indigenous peoples’ knowledge, practices, and ways of living are instrumental for environmental conservation, maintaining biodiversity, furthering green jobs, enhancing resilience, and addressing climate change.” 

The foundation of a just transition must recognize and acknowledge the rights and sovereignty of Indigenous peoples, including the right to free, prior and informed consent and the full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is affirmed in the Indigenous Principles for Just Transition, developed in 2019 by the Indigenous Environmental Network. These principles also affirm that:

  • A Just Transition requires a system change for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples to become true caretakers of the places in which they live, including writing new laws that recognize the rights of local ecosystems to maintain their vital cycles and eliminate harmful projects.

These principles not only offer a vision for an ecosystem more in balance with Mother Earth but a guide to action. How can we amplify these principles and advocate to have them reflected in Canada’s just transition legislation? Come learn more at today’s Climate Action Dialogues: Indigenous and Global South Perspectives on Just Transition. Speakers include Noble Wadzah from Oil Watch Ghana/Oil Watch Africa and Bryanna Brown from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Indigenous Climate Action. Join us at noon EST. Register Here.

Learn More:

RESOURCE FEATURE – Indigenous Environmental Network’s Principles for a Just Transition

Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) held the First Indigenous Just Transition Assembly in October 2019, where participants drafted the Indigenous Principles of Just Transition. According to Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director of IEN, Just Transition “is a vision-led, place-based set of principles, processes and practices that build spiritual, cultural, social and economic power based upon Indigenous Original Instructions.” The framework sets out a series of principles in three areas: Responsibility and Relationship, Sovereignty, and Transformation for Action. 

TOMORROW: Check the blog tomorrow for updates from the joint KAIROS and For the Love of Creation delegation to COP27.  We’ll be sharing video messages from the delegates about their ongoing work for climate justice.

Filed in: Climate Action Week, Ecological Justice

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