KAIROS’ Calls to Action 2024
We regard this time with increasing alarm. Canada and the world are grappling with the pandemic’s aftermath, horrific wars, the erosion of democracy and rise in global temperatures and its catastrophic impacts. Our global partners continue to report increases in gender-based violence.
The past year saw little progress on many of our advocacy calls and in some cases, such as our request to increase Canada’s international assistance, there were setbacks.
We were, however, encouraged by several developments for environmental justice. The Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act received Royal Assent in June, Bill C-226, the Environment Racism bill, made encouraging progress by years’ end, the federal government announced that it will end domestic public financing for fossil fuels by this fall, and Canada finally released its regulatory framework on an oil and gas emissions cap – as imperfect as it is.
We’ve streamlined our calls to action to no more than three per section to help focus our advocacy. We are referring to them now as KAIROS’ Calls to Action rather than Wishes to better reflect what they are and their urgency. All our calls are framed within a feminist and decolonial approach. We provide analysis on the 2023 Calls to Action below. Please join us in advocating for the following Calls to Action.
That the Canadian government, provinces, and territories:
- Work with Indigenous family members and survivors, gender-diverse people, and Indigenous nations and organizations – in particular the Native Women’s Association of Canada – to ensure that the National Action Plan successfully implements as quickly as possible the 231 Calls for Justice of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
- Fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) Call to Action 62.i, that urges provinces and territories to make mandatory from kindergarten to grade 12 “curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada….”
That the Canadian government:
On Ecological Justice:
- Plans for an equitable phase-out of fossil fuels:
- Participates in negotiations to develop and implement a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty;
- Ends domestic public financing for fossil fuels; and
- Bans all new fossil fuel development projects, including pipelines, liquefied natural gas terminals, offshore drilling and fracking wells.
- Enacts and improve key bills that support a just transition:
- Passes Bill C-50, the Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act, with amendments that strengthen its guiding principles, prioritize the participation of Indigenous peoples in decision-making and align the legislation with Canada’s emissions reduction targets;
- Builds on Bill C-50 by introducing legislation that will advance a whole-of-economy approach to the energy transition that addresses current inequities and invests in renewable energy, green homes and buildings and public transit; and
- Enacts into law Bill C-226: An Act respecting the development of a national strategy to assess, prevent and address environmental racism and to advance environmental justice.
- Increases global climate financing, particularly:
- Makes climate finance commitments to the Global South from $5.3 billion over five years to at least $1.8 billion annually;
- Ensures that this funding:
- prioritizes grassroots women’s and Indigenous organizations through grants-based, non-multilateral funding mechanisms;
- supports the leadership of women in climate decision-making;
- is gender-responsive;
- supports racial justice;
- addresses mitigation and adaptation equally;
- Makes a financial pledge to the Global Loss and Damage Fund to adequately respond to the scale of impacts experienced by communities in the Global South.
On Gender Justice:
- Develops with the full and meaningful representation of Black, Indigenous and people of colour, particularly women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, a Feminist Foreign Policy that is grounded in Indigenous and racial justice, is human rights-based and intersectional and does not allow economic and corporate interests to obstruct these principles; and
- Creates space and resources for the development of policy and mechanisms that shift power imbalances in international cooperation to address inherent colonial structure and systemic racism.
On Corporate Accountability:
- Ensures that Canadian supply chain legislation requires Canadian companies to prevent, address, and remedy human rights and environmental harms in their global operations and addresses the gendered impact of resource extraction, including violence against women and girls;
- Facilitates access to Canadian courts for overseas plaintiffs claiming harm by the actions of Canadian mining companies, and empowers the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise with the powers needed to independently investigate such claims, with recognition of and sensitivity towards the gendered impacts of extractivism, including violence against women and girls’ bodies and livelihoods; and
- Adopts and fully implements a legal framework requiring extractive corporations to conduct consultations according to local traditional practices. These processes must fully engage women and guarantee that communities near extractive project sites determine if and how a project will move forward.
On Global Partnerships – Women, Peace, and Security:
- Fully funds and implement the Feminist International Assistance Policy by increasing ODA (Official Development Assistance) by $600 million annually starting in 2024 to 2028 with a commitment to reach the international standard of 0.7 percent of Gross National Income. Ensures that this funding:
- targets grassroots women’s rights and peacebuilding organizations;
- allocates resources to the nexus between peace and security, gender equity and climate justice; and
- is flexible, predictable and long-term;
- Advocates within international spaces, including the UN and individual countries, to increase the leadership and role of women’s participation in peace processes and climate change negotiations at local, national and international levels to ensure the lives and rights of those most impacted are protected; and
- Strengthens Canada’s foreign policy and understanding of security by focusing policy and resources on the nexus between the Women, Peace and Security agenda and environmental justice.
On Indigenous Rights:
- Fully implements TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada) Call to Action 93, which calls on the government, in collaboration with national Indigenous organizations, “to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools;”
- Works with Indigenous peoples and organizations to ensure the $40-billion settlement with Indigenous groups regarding the systemic underfunding of child welfare services is implemented as quickly and effectively as possible upon approval and finalization; and
- Works with Indigenous communities and organizations to fulfill its 2015 promise to end all drinking water advisories on First Nations reserves.
On Migrant Justice:
- Ends the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and returns to permanent residency as the strategy to address labour shortages and to strengthen and build a welcoming and inclusive country;
- Regularizes all undocumented people in Canada. Issues them work and study authorizations as they await processing of their permanent residency applications and stops detentions and deportations so that people who lost status may apply and be processed for permanent residency. This regularization must be ongoing so that no one becomes undocumented in the future; and
- Works with relevant departments, other governments, migrant workers, and migrant support organizations to develop a national housing strategy in support of an essential worker immigration policy.
2023 Assessment of the Calls to Action
In 2023, the federal government did not endorse the initiative to develop a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, significant momentum in support of the Treaty Initiative was gained last year, including endorsement from Colombia and the State of California. The treaty also gained significant support from faith institutions including the World Council of Churches and the Anglican Consultative Council in 2023. By the end of 2023, 14 municipalities in Canada endorse the Treaty Initiative.
In June 2023, the federal government announced that it would introduce a plan to end domestic public financing for fossil fuels by fall 2024. The federal government also published guidelines on inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that will prevent any new measures that would constitute “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies.
Despite this, the federal government continues to approve new fossil fuel development projects and advance other fossil fuel projects, without the consent of impacted Indigenous Peoples, including the Coastal GasLink pipeline among others. We urge it to take its cue from Quebec, which, in 2022, became the first jurisdiction in the world to ban oil and gas development within its borders!
In December 2023, the federal government released its Regulatory Framework for an Oil and Gas Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cap. The framework outlines the federal government’s plan to implement a national cap-and-trade system. Unfortunately, the proposed approach will only cap GHG emissions and not production and the system will not come into effect until 2026.
In June 2023, the federal government introduced Bill C-50, the Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act in the House of Commons. The Act was introduced by the federal government as a pillar of just transition legislation but is limited in scope and does not even mention “just transition.” The bill lacks recognition of the level of social and economic transformation required and the need to prioritize equity, Indigenous rights and accountability. As of January 2024, the Standing Committee on Natural Resources is considering the bill after which it will move to Third Reading.
The bill outlines the role of a Sustainable Jobs Partnership Council, with provisions to help ensure participation of workers and communities in decision-making about just transition. Amendments to strengthen these provisions to include groups historically marginalized from labour in the energy sector are needed, as well as to ensure that representatives of the oil and gas sector will not be part of the Partnership Council.
The passage of Bill C-226 was expedited as KAIROS and others had advocated in 2023! The Environmental Racism bill passed third reading in the House of Commons on March 29, 2023 and went immediately before the Senate. As 2023 concluded, the bill had passed Second Reading as was before the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. Following the Standing Senate Committee’s review, the bill will move to Third Reading. We very much hope to see this bill become law in 2024!
KAIROS also celebrated when Bill S-5, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, received Royal Assent on June 13! Introduced in February 2022, the Bill modernizes the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) and represents the first set of comprehensive amendments to CEPA since it was enacted more than 20 years ago. A member of the Coalition for Environmental Rights, KAIROS supported campaigns that promoted the passage of this bill.
Regarding global climate financing, the federal government has not increased its 2021 commitment of $5.3 billion over five years. Currently, 40 percent of this finance commitment consists of grants and contributions and a minimum of 40 percent is to be allocated to climate adaptation projects. An objective of the $5.3 billion climate finance commitment is to “Advance feminist climate action that supports the poorest and most vulnerable.” According to research of Canada’s fair share contribution to global climate finance commitments, Canada should increase its climate finance commitment to $1.8 billion annually and that funding should be allocated equally between mitigation and adaptation.
On the first day of COP28, global leaders agreed to establish a Global Loss and Damage Fund to address the impacts of climate-related loss and damage in the Global South. Wealthy countries pledged over $700 million to the Fund, of which Canada committed $16 million. The total amount pledged is enough to operationalize the fund but not nearly enough to address the scale of loss and damage experienced by the world’s most vulnerable countries. Canada’s commitment is calculated to cover only one hour of climate impact, according to research by the University of Victoria, in Wellington, New Zealand, which concluded that extreme climate events have caused $16 million of damage per hour over the last 20 years.
In March 2022, two private members bills were tabled to help make companies that are headquartered in Canada accountable for their overseas operations. With Bill C-262, Canada would adopt mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation. The passage of Bill C-263 would empower the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE).
Neither one of these bills has made it to second reading since then. With little government appetite for their passage, they appear to be stalled indefinitely despite calls from KAIROS and other civil society groups to prioritize their passage.
Encouragingly, the government signaled in Budget 2023 that it would introduce legislation in 2024 to “eradicate forced labour from Canadian supply chains and ensure that Canadian businesses operating abroad do not contribute to human rights abuses.”
The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, of which KAIROS is a member, provided the Canadian government with extensive input on this legislation. Despite this, in October 2023, Economic, Social Development Canada requested more information regarding the human rights due diligence obligations, entities covered and enforcement of the import ban. Learn more here.
Global Partnerships – Women, Peace, and Security
While Budget 2023 delivered some promising news, it also disappointed. The Canadian government clawed back its international development assistance in the 2023 Budget by 15 percent, despite calls from civil society and the KAIROS network to do the opposite.
The budget allocated $6.8 billion in international assistance in 2023, bringing Canada’s percentage allocation of gross national income of 0.32 percent further away from the international standard of 0.7.
In 2023, KAIROS and other members of Cooperation Canada called on the federal government to go beyond the 2022 budget of $8.15 billion and to ensure that this funding reach grassroots women’s rights and peacebuilding organizations. KAIROS can attest that this support is effective. The Women of Courage: Women, Peace and Security Program has been very successful in helping women, who are impacted by war and gender-based violence, become active peacebuilders, as well as environmental stewards. The investment is paying off and requires further and increased support, as KAIROS’ Rachel Warden writes in her op-ed to The Hill Times, which was published in September 2023.
Painfully slow. That sums up Canada’s response to the 231 Calls for Justice of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. On the four-year anniversary of the release of the Calls for Justice, the CBC reported that only two of the calls had been completed and more than half were not started.
“That includes key calls that speak directly to the heart of the issue, like Call for Justice 1.5, which calls for governments to ‘take all necessary measures to prevent, investigate, punish, and compensate for violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA [two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual] people,’” according to the article.
Canada’s actions speak louder than words. Its commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is called to question here, just as it has been concerning the $40-billion settlement to compensate for systemic underfunding of child welfare services.
While the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal approved $23.34 billion to compensate more than 300,000 First Nations children and families in July 2013, the $19.8 billion earmarked for systemic, long-term reform of First Nations child and family services was stalled for about half a year until November when cabinet finally provided the negotiators with the new mandate.
Through its lawyer, Canada said that the delay was due to the Assembly of First Nations and Caring Society’s proposed “joint path forward” to finalize the agreement, a development that meant the government had to provide a new mandate to negotiate.
Despite this excuse, little progress has been made since November.
“Children only have one childhood, and when they have serious needs that need to be remedied, we can’t take six, seven months,” said Blackstock.
In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that Canada was discriminating against First Nations children and families on reserve by failing to properly fund child welfare services. This complaint was brough forward by the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. In 2019, the Tribunal ordered Canada to pay $40,000 in compensation to each eligible person.
While progress on Canada’s promise to end drinking water advisories has been encouraging, with 144 long-term drinking advisories lifted since 2015, it is unacceptable that by the end of 2023 there were 28 remaining in 26 First Nations communities. Many are a decade or two old with one beginning as early as 1995.
In addition, there were, as of January 16, 37 short-term water advisories in First Nations: nine in BC; four in Atlantic Canada; seven in ON; four in Manitoba; seven in Saskatchewan; and six in Alberta. There were no advisories in Quebec.
The government is tracking its progress on its webpage: Ending long-term drinking water advisories.
KAIROS and its Network have long advocated for the advancement of the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada’s Call to Action 62.i, otherwise known as Education for Reconciliation. According to Indigenous Watchdog, progress on this has stalled. While some provinces are integrating Indigenous history and culture in K-12 curriculum, some are not. Any progress made in Alberta and Ontario on 62.i took a nosedive since 2020 when governments reneged on commitments to revise the curriculum to include mandatory Indigenous content.
There has been some progress on TRC Call to Action 93. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) continues to work on the information guide for newcomers to Canada after consulting with national and regional Indigenous organizations and historians. IRCC created citizenship test questions to reflect the new content. However, according to the government website: “An exact launch date for the revised study guide, study materials and a new citizenship kit has not been determined.”
We call on Canada to launch theses resources in 2024.
Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) turned 50 in 2023. However, there was little cause for celebration.
TFWP intrenches indentured labour in Canada, fostering conditions of exploitation and workplace abuses that have been well documented, including during the pandemic. In September, the UN’s special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, said that Canada’s TFWP is a “breeding ground” for modern forms of slavery.
The TWFP is a complex web of various streams and requirements that are difficult to navigate and meet. Add to this multiple federal and provincial departments that fail to communicate well with one another, which undermines monitoring and enforcement. Workplace hazards and abuse typically go unchecked as a result.
In September, KAIROS joined the Migrant Rights Network in a massive cross-country day of action that called on Canada to deliver on its promise to regularize people without status. The longer the government stalls on its promise, the longer people remain vulnerable in Canada. We also urged the government to end its TFWP and ensure permanent resident status for all 1.7 million migrants, which is about the same size as the population of Montreal.
In December 2023, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada reiterated the federal government’s commitment to creating a path for permanent resident status for undocumented people, promising “broad and comprehensive” regularization. This announcement came once it was exposed that Canada was deporting 39 people on average per day.
Undocumented people in Canada face numerous challenges, from fear of deportation to limited access to essential services in addition to exploitation and abuse. For years, KAIROS and other organizations have asked the Canadian government to regularize migrant workers and to provide work and study authorizations while awaiting permanent residency. This not only recognizes the workers’ contributions but also aligns with principles of fairness and human rights.
Migrant workers in Canada often face housing challenges that can hinder their wellbeing and integration into local communities. The temporary and seasonal nature of employment, coupled with unfamiliarity with local housing markets and/or relying on their employer’s assistance in housing can result in precarious living conditions. Newcomers to Canada have also been unfairly targeted as the culprit for Canada’s housing crisis. A comprehensive national housing strategy tailored to support essential workers could be ground-breaking in addressing these issues.
Despite Canada’s bid to make some improvements to the TFWP, it can never be enough. The program is inherently racist. It is designed to make it difficult to impossible for workers from overseas to become permanent residents.
If Canada is serious about being a human rights defender, it needs to get serious about ending the TFWP and including migrant workers in a housing strategy. It must regularize the estimated half a million undocumented people already in Canada and give essential workers from overseas permanent residency upon arrival. We hope that 2024 is the year that the TFWP finally ends.