KAIROS Mandate Letters to the Prime Minister of Canada
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
We at KAIROS write to you during a kairos moment, when multiple crises have converged and opportunities arise for transformational change. In our work we advocate for such change in elevating the rights and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples, women, temporary foreign workers, and ecological systems.
The climate crisis and COVID-19, compounded by a failure to fully consult and poor policy implementation, impact at-risk people, communities and ecologies. Much can be done to prioritize new and renewed relationships, and to empower people at home and abroad. We are after all as vulnerable as the most vulnerable among us.
In previous mandate letters to your Ministers, you have prioritized reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, a feminist approach to international assistance, increases in immigration admissions, and climate action.
As you prepare mandate letters for your new cabinet, we ask that you review and consider KAIROS’ recommendations.
On behalf of everyone at KAIROS, we wish you a productive and transformational 44th Parliament.
Executive Director, KAIROS Canada
KAIROS’ Recommended Mandate Letters:
On Climate Justice to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
The sixth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published in August 2021 concluded that “climate change is already affecting every inhabited region across the globe with human influence contributing to many observed changes in weather and climate extremes.” Many of the changes are unprecedented and some will be irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.
The 2018 IPCC report warned that the world must limit warming to 1.5°C to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change. The sixth assessment report reaffirms this warning and finds that unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.
The pledges and targets that governments have made, including National Determined Contributions and some long-term or net-zero targets, will limit warming to about 2.9°C above pre-industrial levels. Canada’s current pledges and targets will fail to limit warming to 1.5°C, but Canada’s revised climate plan released in December 2020, and other recent commitments, will move us closer to this target. This can only be done with strong action and implementation.
The impacts of climate change, as well as pollution and resource extraction, are disproportionately felt by Indigenous, Black, Brown, low-income, and other vulnerable populations in Canada and around the world. It is critical that the government acknowledge the impact that environmental racism has on these communities, particularly on women and gender-diverse populations, and take meaningful steps to redress these harms in Canada, and enforce Canadian corporate accountability abroad.
The climate crisis requires immediate and decisive action informed by science, a commitment to upholding human rights and redressing inequities, and recognition of Indigenous peoples as rights holders in the development of climate policy. The world is at a crossroads and now is the time to take every meaningful step towards a just and equitable transformation of our economy and society.
To address these issues, we ask that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change prioritize the following:
- Reduce domestic emissions by at least 60 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
- Implement 5-year interval carbon budgets to help ensure Canada never misses another target.
- End all exploration and development of new fossil fuel infrastructure, including pipelines to export bitumen and liquefied natural gas.
- End all subsidies, public finance and other fiscal support to the oil and gas sector by 2022, including financial support provided through Export Development Canada.
- Develop just transition legislation and a just transition working group that includes trade unions, as well as women, Indigenous, and racialized people who are currently underrepresented in well-paying and stable employment.
- Honour the rights of Indigenous Peoples by recognizing and enacting the right to free, prior, and informed consent, particularly with respect to resource and infrastructure development, climate policy, and energy policy.
- Reintroduce legislation to examine the link between race, socio-economic status, and exposure to environmental risk, and develop a strategy to address environmental justice.
- Reintroduce legislation to strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act that recognizes the right to a healthy environment and protects vulnerable populations from toxic chemicals and pollution. The UN Human Rights Council recently recognized that having a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a human right. Increase and deliver federal investment in First Nations’ access to safe drinking water.
- Work with Canadian civil society partners on an integrated, feminist global approach to the climate crisis.
We ask that you work with the Minister of International Cooperation to:
- Provide support in equal measure for climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts in the Global South through international climate financing mechanisms, including additional funding for loss and damage. This support must reach $5.2 billion annually by 2025 to meet Canada’s fair share contribution of $5.2 billion.
- Implement grants-based climate funding programs to build capacity and expand the influence of Global South grassroots women’s organizations and movements.
On Corporate Accountability to the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
It is more important than ever for Canada to prioritize corporate accountability as a matter of foreign and domestic interests. Addressing the climate crisis and promoting Indigenous rights requires the federal government to legally mandate companies and their business partners—especially the extractive sector—to abide by the rules and face consequences when they do not. This becomes even more apparent when considering the gendered impacts of corporate accountability through the application of Gender-based Analysis Plus and a Feminist Foreign policy lens.
Canadians and civil society organizations expect Canada to cease succumbing to corporate pressure to minimize accountability. Canada’s current voluntary measures convey a state-sanctioned sense of “anything goes” that results in no consequences for companies and their business partners when they cause human rights violations and environmental harm, which have gendered impacts. It must also be said that there is nothing strong about an economy mired by allegations of corporate misconduct.
To this end Canada must be proactive on corporate accountability and inclusive of its Feminist International Assistance Policy, as it formalizes its Feminist Foreign Policy.
We ask the Minister of Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade to prioritize the following:
- Empower the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE). This can be done by a two-pronged approach, as outlined in the Parliamentary Subcommittee on International Human Rights’ report, “Mandate of The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise”:
- First, requesting the Governor in Council to appoint the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise as a commissioner pursuant to Part I of the Inquiries Act; and
- Second, tabling legislation in the Parliament of Canada establishing the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise and vesting it with the power to compel witnesses and documents.
- Enact mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation. Use the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability’s draft model legislation—the Corporate Respect for Human Rights and the Environment Abroad Act—as a blueprint.
Work with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations to:
- Ensure that the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations fulfills their mandate to establish a National Action Plan to implement the Calls for Justice, including but not limited to, the Calls for Extractive and Development Industries and the Calls for Human and Indigenous Rights and Governmental Obligations, of the Final Inquiry Report on MMIWG2S.
Work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to:
- Strengthen and expand the use of “Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders” at Canada’s foreign missions.
- Further, the Government of Canada must call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to collaborate on the development and execution of a dedicated refugee stream to provide safe haven for human rights advocates.
- Work with the Minister of International Development, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to implement the recommendations of “Raising Her Voice: Confronting the Unique Challenges Facing Women Human Rights Defenders.”
On Indigenous Rights to Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
Your 2019 mandate letters and 2021 supplementary mandate letters to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and the Minister of Indigenous Services stress that there is no relationship more important to you and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples. Both 2019 letters mention significant progress “on supporting self-determination, improving service delivery and advancing reconciliation” and direct the ministers to “accelerate and build” on that progress.
While some progress has been made in some areas, the lack of substantial progress on so many of the priorities in your mandate letters, and regression in others, raises serious questions about your commitment and that of your government to genuine reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
During the 2015 federal election campaign your party enjoyed strong support from Indigenous peoples in part because you made many promises to improve their lives, including a strong commitment to implement all the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). As Prime Minister during the 2019 federal election campaign, you promised your government would turn the 241 Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ into “real, meaningful, Indigenous-led action.”
During this year’s federal election campaign, Indigenous issues were almost ignored by you and your candidates, even though the discoveries of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools heightened awareness of Indigenous issues and highlighted the concerning lack of progress on implementation of both the TRC Calls to Action and the MMIWG Calls for Justice.
We ask the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to prioritize the following commitments:
- Continued and accelerated implementation of the TRC’s Calls to Action, including funding for investigation into the deaths and disappearances of children at residential schools.
- The establishment of a National Action Plan to implement the Calls for Justice, including but not limited to, the Calls for Extractive and Development Industries and the Calls for Human and Indigenous Rights and Governmental Obligations, of the Final Inquiry Report on MMIWG2S.
- Additional and unrestricted new funding for programs that address some of the TRC’s calls to help Indigenous communities search burial sites at former residential schools and to support survivors.
- Work with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and in partnership with Indigenous peoples in Canada, to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Support efforts to develop a comprehensive blue economy strategy, to create jobs and opportunities for ocean sectors and coastal communities, while advancing reconciliation and conservation objectives.
- Continue work on closing the infrastructure gap in Indigenous communities particularly with respect to housing.
- Address systemic discrimination and the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the justice system.
We ask the Minister of Indigenous Services to prioritize the following commitments:
- The elimination of all drinking water advisories on First Nations’ reserves and ensuring that all Indigenous communities in Canada have access to clean drinking water.
- Expedite fair and equitable compensation to First Nations persons harmed by the discriminatory underfunding of child and family services on reserve.
- Continue full implementation of Jordan’s Principle to ensure that First Nations children have access to the health, social and education supports and services they need, when and where they need them.
On Status for All to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Temporary foreign workers play a vital role in Canada’s food and care sectors, filling the jobs that too few Canadians want. This was made clear at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when Canadian farm owners appealed to the federal government to waive agricultural workers from border restrictions to avert a labour shortage during the critical planting season.
The pandemic has also exposed and enhanced the vulnerability of these essential workers. The overcrowded and often unhygienic living quarters of field workers, limited access to benefits, workplace abuse, and the dangers posed by COVID-19 are only a few examples.
The federal government recently addressed some of the problems exacerbated by the pandemic by lowering eligibility requirements for EI benefits, introducing new criteria for employers to help safeguard workers’ safety, and temporarily opening permanent residency applications to 90,000 people, 50,000 of whom are workers in health care and other essential sectors.
Unfortunately, the government’s well-meaning policies are met with barriers, often from policy implementation alone. For example, the Open Work Permit for Workers at Risk provides workers with the opportunity to leave abusive situations. However, the onus is on the workers to provide proof of abuse and there is no guarantee the permit will be granted.
Regarding the pathway to permanent residency, the application requirements are often too stringent for the work required. Farm hands do not need a Canadian equivalency high school diploma. Those who meet the current education and language requirements struggle to find time during their busy work schedules to prepare documentation and study for tests. Some must travel long distances to take the tests and too many pay relatively high application fees.
Many have experienced technical glitches that have undermined their applications.
Moreover, essential workers receive no support if they lose their temporary worker status due to program changes. Many would rather be undocumented and face greater risk than return to their home countries unable to provide for their families.
Recognizing that newcomers are part of Canada’s plan to safely drive economic growth and recovery, the government plans to welcome more than 400,000 immigrants per year until 2023. Inviting 90,000 workers and students already in Canada is a good step but much more must be done to reach the targets as efficiently as possible, and in a way that helps safeguard the workers’ wellbeing.
The most effective and efficient action Canada can take in safeguarding these workers is to provide status for all.
This means that everyone without permanent resident status in Canada be regularized and given permanent resident status, including migrant workers, study permit holders, and refugee claimants.
Canada has a history of administering successful regularization programs, beginning in 1960. The Adjustment of Status Program in 1973 was the largest of its kind in Canadian history, addressing the substantial number of non-status people in the country at the time. It regularized approximately 39,000 people from more than 150 countries.
Some industry representatives fear that regularization and status for all will undermine their goal in filling labour shortages. Indentured labour has no place in Canada. The best method to attract and retain essential labour in Canada is to pay workers a living wage and to treat them with equity and respect. Canada is a human rights defender. This must extend to the workers who come to Canada to serve its essential sectors.
Of note, many temporary foreign workers are from countries impacted by the climate crisis. Those forced to leave their homes due to climate-induced events fall through the cracks of international refugee and immigration policy. The UN Global Compact for Migration, adopted in 2018, does not grant “specific legal international protection to climate-induced migrants,” according to Louise Arbour, the U.N. official who led the migration compact. As the number of climate refugees and migrants increases, it is imperative that countries like Canada work with global partners to secure a binding document that defines and protects this vulnerable group.
We ask that the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship implement on a priority basis the following commitments:
- Ensure that temporary overseas essential workers and migrant justice organizations are fully consulted in the development of policies that affect them.
- Improve collaboration and coherence between Employment and Social Development Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for better service delivery and to close gaps and loopholes in initiatives designed to support temporary foreign workers.
- Recognize the vital role that overseas essential workers play in Canada’s economy and society by pledging to end Canada’s problematic Temporary Foreign Workers Program and by granting status for all as the strategy to strengthen the country, including meeting labour market demands and immigration targets.
- Commit to the regularization of undocumented and non-status foreign workers.
- Work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to recognize migrant workers who escape climate-related emergencies in their home countries as climate refugees rather than “economic migrants.”
- Work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to draft an International Protocol to recognize and protect the rights of climate affected and forced migrants and lobby the United Nations for its adoption and ratification.
- Work with the Minister of ESDC/HRDC to ensure that temporary foreign workers’ rights and welfare are protected and that they have access to support and services.
On Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy and Overseas Development Assistance Contribution to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of International Cooperation, and Minister of Women’s and Gender Equality
Canada is well positioned to play a leading role in advancing its feminist foreign policy. The Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) introduced in 2017 demonstrates foundational progress in its centering of gender equality, recognition of intersectionality as a critical lens, and its feminist framework that strives to “eradicate poverty and build a more peaceful, more inclusive and more prosperous world.”
But FIAP has been hamstrung by limited funding. Canada’s overseas development assistance (ODA) contribution is at 0.28 percent of national wealth, below the international standard of 0.7 percent. This is particularly alarming at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened economic impacts on local women’s grassroots organizations and their beneficiaries, confirming and compounding existing insecurities and inequities. In the Global South particularly, funding restrictions have reduced access to decision making spaces for women’s organizations and exacerbated operational challenges.
Intersectionality is recognized as an essential component of FIAP. The Canadian government must therefore strengthen its feminist foreign policy by acknowledging and allocating adequate resources to the nexus between the Women, Peace and Security agenda, environmental and economic justice, including vaccine equity amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, local women organizations have pointed out this gap in the intersection of gender, environment, and peace in policy and practice, and the lack of Women, Peace and Security initiatives explicitly engaging in issues of socio-environmental conflicts, land rights, and climate change.
The slow pace of prioritizing sustainable, inclusive and adequate funding to grassroot women’s rights organizations in the Global South that, according to FIAP, are key actors and recipients, undercuts the very goals of the policy.
Canada must honour its commitment to a long term, sustainable, feminist, and human rights-based approach to international development as outlined in FIAP. This includes prioritizing support for local women’s rights and peacebuilding organizations in recovery and transformation.
Canada can be a catalyst in WPS initiatives internationally. It must continue to champion human rights by speaking out, reminding countries of commitments they’ve signed while monitoring their progress. Canadians expect Canada to assume a more active leadership role at the UN and work with like-minded states to address pressing international human and environmental justice rights issues.
To this end, Canada must address the rise in global inequity and disparity that COVID-19 has exposed and magnified, centralize political and financial support to women peacebuilders and human rights defenders in these just recovery efforts, and broaden the approach to women, peace and security to include economic and ecological justice.
To build back better with more equitable, healthy and safe societies for everyone, Canada’s Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, and Women’s and Gender Equality Departments must prioritize the following:
- Develop the new Feminist Foreign Policy with full and meaningful representation of Black, Indigenous and people of colour, particularly women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, a 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.
- Fully fund and implement the FIAP, increasing official development assistance from 0.28 percent of national wealth to the international standard of 0.7 percent, and ensure that this funding reaches grassroots women’s rights and peacebuilding organizations. To be accessible to local women’s organizations this funding must be flexible, predictable, and long-term.
- Fund women human rights defenders and women’s rights organizations-led initiatives that simultaneously strengthen the women, peace, and security agenda; economically empower women, girls, and women’s rights organizations; and address the climate crisis. This includes funding grassroots women’s organizations to monitor and reduce conflict at the local level. Targeted, flexible funding will help to strengthen women’s networks and organizations to establish connections and relationships at the local and national levels, enabling conflict-affected countries to be responsive at key moments in pre, ongoing and post-conflict stages.
- Advocate with governments of countries in conflict and at the UN to increase space for women to participate in peace processes at local, national, and international levels and to ensure that the lives and rights of these women are protected. This includes championing efforts at the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice in seeking justice for victims of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of armed conflict.
- Provide urgent and ample funding to help women’s organizations around the world address local needs immediately and post-COVID-19 pandemic.
- Strengthen and expand the use of “Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders” at Canada’s foreign missions.
- Collaborate on the development and execution of a dedicated refugee stream to provide safe haven for human rights advocates.
- Take global leadership in ensuring equity and justice in production, access, and distribution of vaccines around the world.
- Join efforts within the World Trade Organization for a temporary COVID-19 vaccine waiver, removing barriers to lower cost generic production of COVID-19 vaccines.
- Advance support for global health systems through an increased Official Development Assistance budget, with funding specially designated for community-based health organizations and local women’s organizations.
Work with the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to:
- Provide equal support for climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in the Global South through international climate financing mechanisms, with additional funding for loss and damage, scaling up to Canada’s fair share contribution of $5.2 billion annually until 2025.
- Commit to grants-based climate funding to build capacity and expand the influence of Global South grassroots women’s organizations and movements, and work with Canadian civil society partners on an integrated, feminist global approach to the climate crisis.