On Wednesday, September 23 2020, a pair of speeches from Governor General Julie Payette and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set a course for how the federal government plans to lead Canada’s ongoing response and eventual recovery from COVID-19.
CPJ was happy to see all three of our key issue areas highlighted, along with accompanying policy proposals. With mentions of a “feminist, intersectional response” as well as policy decisions that seek to address “systemic inequities” and “create a stronger, more resilient Canada,” the government borrowed language from many advocacy campaigns to put forward a progressive vision for the future.
As can be expected for these types of addresses, the merit of these words will be determined by the details that follow. CPJ remains hopeful that in the implementation of these policies and budgetary decisions, Canada will move quickly to achieve climate justice and ensure the rights of Indigenous Peoples, refugees, people living in poverty, and others experiencing intersecting forms of systemic oppression are honoured and upheld.
As the federal government irons out these details in the months ahead, here’s what CPJ will be pressing for on our key issue areas.
Poverty in Canada
Ensuring accessibility and equitable impact for all proposed programs will require meaningful consultation and accountability with communities disproportionately affected by poverty and other intersecting forms of systemic oppression, including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people; people with disabilities; Black and racialized people; women, transgender, and gender nonconforming people; LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirit people; newcomers to Canada; and those with precarious immigration status.
Through our Chew on This! campaign and other collaborative advocacy efforts, CPJ will continue to push for concrete targets, timelines, and budget allocations to be developed in consultation with people and communities experiencing poverty and other intersecting forms of systemic oppression for Throne Speech promises such as pharmacare, a national early childhood education and care program, a federal disability benefit, the transition of the CERB to an expanded Employment Insurance program, and the new COVID Recovery Benefit.
The introduction of automatic tax filing for simple tax returns could go a long way in ensuring people receive new and existing benefits for which they are eligible. Tax and employment insurance systems must be supplemented, however, by parallel systems designed to deliver benefits to people outside our tax and banking systems, for reasons of linguistic, technological, economic, or cultural barriers, or whose precarious status makes them fearful of providing information to the government through these systems.
In order to foster a more just, sustainable, and resilient society, the next federal budget must make the elimination of poverty and systemic inequity a core priority. As Trudeau himself said, “doing less would end up costing far more.”
In the Throne Speech, the fourth foundation pertains to standing up for who we are as a welcoming country. It is a reaffirmation of our commitment to immigration as “a driver of Canada’s economic growth” during the recovery from the pandemic. From that positive tone and direction, CPJ is eager to continue helping in mapping out concrete deliverables. As we pointed out in Continuing Welcome, due to the current global pandemic, the annual immigration intake might not be achieved for 2020. There are many people who are already in Canada making great contributions to our society who are denied the opportunity to fully participate due to their immigration status. The immigration targets could easily be met if they were given a swift pathway to permanent residence.
Reuniting families contributes positively to the settlement outcomes of newcomers, but processing delays frustrate many. Our recommendation was that the government should establish service standards of processing family reunification applications within 12 months. For a Just Recovery, all systemic barriers that newcomers face like non-recognition of their foreign credentials should be addressed to facilitate their full integration.
As suggested in 2020 Alternative Federal Budget, “the Anti-racism Secretariat must be guided by a clear, central strategy for achieving measurable goals to dismantle structural racism.” The government should pass the Anti-racism Act to provide the necessary framework.
To continue reflecting who we are as Canadians, government should also shelve the appeal against the Safe Third Country Agreement challenge.
A green economy has tremendous employment potential. We therefore celebrate the government’s acknowledgement that the new jobs Canadians need must align with Canada’s climate ambition. We applaud the commitment to legislate the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and will press for rapid follow-through so that we can “exceed Canada’s 2030 climate goal.”
Decarbonization through a just transition must anchor Canada’s climate plan, and this plan must be developed with Indigenous Peoples and other systemically excluded communities. CPJ will continue to advocate for a strategic training fund to support workforce diversification through post-secondary training programs for populations historically marginalized from clean growth industries like energy efficiency, technology, electric transportation, and renewable energy. And, we will call for investments in service sectors to support low-carbon jobs in public health, education, and long-term care.
Follow-through on the commitment to legislate the implementation of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by year-end is imperative. It is only right to honour the rights of Peoples who have cared for this land since time immemorial. It is also foundational to climate justice.
We encourage the federal government to provide a just transition transfer to provinces and territories to support workers and the communities directly impacted by the move away from fossil fuels.
We can emerge from this crisis as a more equitable society than the one that entered it—a society grounded in an intersectional, feminist understanding of poverty, marginalization and structural oppression; a nation that honours the rights of Indigenous Peoples with the legislated implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and a country well on course to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.