Goal 10: Advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and take action to reduce inequality
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Why this goal is important
This Goal's focus on taking action on inequality and advancing reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities draws inspiration from SDG Global Indicator Framework targets:
- 10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
- 10.3: Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard
Social, economic, and environmental inequalities persist in Canada. These inequalities disproportionately affect people with multiple intersecting identity factors such as gender identity and expression, race and ethnicity, faith community, Indigeneity, disability, sexual orientation, and low socioeconomic status.
Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is essential to addressing social, economic and environmental inequalities and achieving substantive equality. Urgent action is needed to close the social, economic, health, environmental protection, and educational gaps between Indigenous Peoples and the rest of Canada to ensure that everyone in Canada can enjoy the same quality of life, regardless of who they are or where they were born.
Achieving reconciliation goes beyond closing these gaps. First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities hold inherent, unique and constitutionally protected Aboriginal and Treaty rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities must always be engaged in decisions about environmental management, infrastructure and natural resource development within their territories on a nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown and government-to-government basis, and in keeping with negotiated treaties, agreements, and other constructive arrangements that recognize and implement Indigenous rights.
Racialized Canadians ('visible minorities'), Black Canadians, and people with disabilities also face a number of socio-economic inequities. For instance, Black Canadians and several other racialized groups, and people with disabilities generally have lower average earnings and higher unemployment rates compared to people in Canada who are neither visible minorities nor have disabilities.
Environmental inequality and injustice are also key manifestations of inequality within Canada. While climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution affect everyone in Canada, their effects are not evenly distributed. Low-income people in large urban centers will be disproportionately impacted by amplified heat waves. People employed in the agriculture sector may experience heat exhaustion and crop failures. Indigenous Peoples, particularly those who rely on land, water and ice for their traditional ways of life may experience catastrophic disruption. Persons with disabilities are disproportionally impacted by extreme weather events. Mitigating the effects of a changing environment in an inclusive manner will benefit everyone in Canada, especially people who are marginalized or at risk.
Intergenerational equity—or the ability to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs—is a principle of the Federal Sustainable Development Act. It is about ensuring that future generations inherit a set of economic and environmental assets that are at least as good as those of the previous generation.
A stable climate, clean air and water, and healthy ecosystems (including sustainably managed forests, wildlife, and fisheries) provide the essential building blocks for all generations to meet their needs. Future generations in Canada (especially Indigenous Peoples and northerners) and around the world are at risk of inheriting many of these environmental assets in a worsened state due to climate change, pollution, and the destruction of species and ecosystems. Urgent action is needed to halt and reverse these trends so that future generations can meet their needs and aspirations.
Canada is promoting intergenerational equity through its measures to assess the state and value of ecosystems and environment, among other actions. These include the forthcoming Census of Environment, and the Natural Capital indicator being developed as part of Canada's Quality of Life Framework.
Climate change impacts on 2SLGBTQI+ communities
Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Intersex Plus (2SLGBTQI+) communities in Canada face social, economic, health, and legal inequalities as well as discrimination and stigmatization, all of which affect their ability to adapt and respond to a changing environment. Moreover, given that 25 to 40% of youth experiencing homelessness in Canada identify as belonging to 2SLGBTQI+ communities, extreme weather patterns related to climate change may disproportionately affect these groups.
Studies report that 2SLGBTQI+ people are more likely than others to be severely impacted by disasters, and may need extra help to cope with them. Prior to a disaster, members of the 2SLGBTQI+ and communities may not have access to the same supports and information as the general population because of potential exclusion, isolation, restricted social networks, and socioeconomic status. Following disasters, they may have difficulty finding access to shelters or face disrespect or harassment within them.
For these and other reasons, climate change adaptation, disaster prevention and response activities need to be accessible and appropriate for 2SLGBTQI+ communities. An important early step in preparing for these events is to ensure active engagement with local groups that represent and have experience working with 2SLGBTQI+ populations.
How the Government of Canada contributes
The Government of Canada is moving forward on reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, promoting diversity, equity and inclusion for groups facing discrimination and marginalization, and advancing environmental justice.
Canada's commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples reflects the importance of working collaboratively with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to advance reconciliation and promote greater equality and prosperity for Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians. The Declaration notably affirms rights relating to conserving and protecting the environment on the lands and territories of Indigenous Peoples. It also highlights the importance of free, prior and informed consent and the effective and meaningful participation of Indigenous Peoples in all points of decisions that affect them, their communities and territories. Free, prior and informed consent is about the federal government working together with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in good faith, partnership and respect, to achieve consensus on decisions affecting their rights and interests.
For Canada, treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements are a preferred means of advancing reconciliation. To reach agreements, Canada and Indigenous groups are exploring new ways of working together, including co-developing new approaches to recognize and implement Indigenous rights. This includes a shift toward negotiating incremental agreements that can address specific issues, such as the collaborative management of lands and resources. Canada is focused on flexible solutions that are responsive to the distinct needs of Indigenous groups and advance their visions for self-determination.
On June 21, 2021, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (UN Declaration Act) received Royal Assent and immediately came into force, in keeping with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls' Calls for Justice. Through consultation and cooperation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities on the development of an action plan, and through measures to ensure the consistency of federal laws with the UN Declaration Act, more specific approaches to implementing the UN Declaration Act will be developed over time.
In alignment with Canada's commitments under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, the Transformational Approach to Indigenous Data was approved, with $81.5 million in 2021, to advance Indigenous data capacity and Data Sovereignty in support of the inherent strengths, resilience, and knowledge systems of Indigenous Peoples as a foundational component of Indigenous self-determination. In addition, the Government of Canada is taking action in the areas of health, education, water and wastewater on reserves, housing, and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. See goals 3, 4, 6, 11 and 16 for more information.
The Government of Canada is also taking action to promote equality for Black, racialized, religious minority and 2SLGBTQI+ communities, and for persons with disabilities. In 2019, it established Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy, 2019-2022, which led to the creation of the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat and to increasing the availability of disaggregated data. It recently launched Canada's first Federal 2SLGBTQI+ Action Plan… Building our future, with pride, and is currently developing a new Anti-Racism Strategy and National Action Plan on Combatting Hate, as well as a Disability Inclusion Action Plan. The latter includes the creation of a new Canadian Disability Benefit, a robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities, and ongoing work to develop a better process to determine eligibility for federal disability programs and benefits.
These efforts are supported by Statistics Canada's Disaggregated Data Action Plan, which provides detailed statistical information and analyses to better understand the experiences and inequities facing groups such as women, Indigenous Peoples, racialized populations and people with disabilities. Statistics Canada's Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics also recently released a dataset with nearly 100 indicators related to socioeconomic aspects of inclusion among racialized Canadians.
The Government of Canada is integrating anti-racism, equity and diversity and inclusion principles into its recruitment and promotion practices. These commitments are reflected in the Clerk of the Privy Council's Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service. This Call to Action has committed to hiring 5,000 new public servants with disabilities, and to ensuring that the proportion of visible minorities, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and women in Government of Canada positions meets or exceeds their workforce availability.
The Government of Canada is taking steps to incorporate environmental equity considerations into legislation. On February 9, 2022, the Government of Canada introduced a bill to enact a strengthened Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), which recognizes that every individual in Canada has a right to a healthy environment (as provided under CEPA). As well, the government has committed to legislating the development of an environmental justice strategy, and to examining the links between race, socioeconomic status and exposure to environmental risk. This includes expressing support for a private members' bill that proposes to develop an environmental justice strategy that assesses, prevents and addresses environmental injustice.
Promoting opportunity for Black Canadians and Indigenous People in Canada
As part of its agenda to addressracial inequality, the Government of Canada is providing resources for Black and Indigenous business owners to engage in entrepreneurship through programs such as the Black Entrepreneurship Program and the Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program.
In 2021, Canada launched its first-ever Black Entrepreneurship Program with an investment of more than $400 million. Budget 2021 allocated an additional $51.7 million over 4 years to support the program. Led by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Canada's regional development agencies, the program provides loans of up to $250,000 for Black business owners and entrepreneurs. It also provides financial support for not-for-profit organizations to offer training and mentorship to Black entrepreneurs, and to conduct research on barriers and limitations to business growth.
As part of the Government of Canada's recognition and support for the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, Budget 2019 allocated $25 million over 5 years to establish the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative to build capacity and foundational infrastructure and take measures to address inequities and systemic barriers faced by Canada's Black Communities. Budget 2021 allocated an additional $100 million to this initiative to continue to support Black-led, Black-serving community-based organizations and $200 million to endow a new Black-led Philanthropic Fund. An additional $50 million, over two years, was allocated through Budget 2022 to continue empowering Black-led and Black-serving community organizations and to promote inclusiveness.
Budget 2021 allocated $42 million to Indigenous Services Canada over 3 years to grow the Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program. This Program enables Indigenous individual and community entrepreneurs to access affordable loans through Indigenous financial institutions (Aboriginal Financial Institutions and Métis Capital Corporations) to support them to start and grow their businesses. The program also provides non-repayable equity support for Indigenous entrepreneurs to meet the requirements for commercial loans, and provides business support services for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis entrepreneurs.
Stakeholder perspective: Tamarack Institute
For over 20 years, Tamarack Institute has supported communities to reduce and ultimately end poverty locally through collaborative strategies that engage across sectors and centre the voices of people with lived/living experience. Inspired by the success of the Communities Ending Poverty campaign, Tamarack launched a new initiative in 2021 focused on Climate and the SDGs to support communities to adopt a shared vision and common agenda when it comes to advancing a just and equitable climate transition locally. Climate change is disproportionately affecting equity deserving groups and communities, meaning that any climate action pursued needs to intentionally reduce inequalities and centre equity, justice and reconciliation. This approach is central to the work of Community Climate Transitions, which in 2022 brought 19 communities together from across Canada through the Climate Transitions Cohort and co-hosts a Community of Practice on Localizing the SDGs alongside Sustainable Development Solutions Network Canada. The City of Victoria, a member Tamarack's Climate Transitions Cohort, is embedding equity into climate action through engagement for development of the City's forthcoming Climate Change Adaptation Plan. This work involves collaborating across City departments through a newly formed Climate and Equity Community of Practice as well as connecting with the broader community through targeted and purposeful engagement on how organizations and individuals can be empowered to lead climate adaptation actions.
Source: Tamarack Institute
Partner perspective: Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) on Reaffirming Traditional Understandings of Gender Diversity in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities
Gender diversity and equality are important components to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis cultures, yet are understood in different ways across cultures and communities. While NWAC does not speak for all Indigenous women or Indigenous communities, it believes in the importance of reaffirming traditional understandings of gender diversity in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.
“Two spirit” is a translation of the Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) term niizhmanidoowag, referring to a person who identifies as having both a feminine and a masculine spirit and is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity. “Two spirit” is an umbrella term that may encompass same-sex attraction and a wide variety of gender variance, including people who might be described in Western culture as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer or who have multiple gender identities.
Historically, two spirit people were seen, loved, and respected in most Indigenous communities, and many held important roles within their tribes such as chiefs, medicine people, marriage counsellors, caregivers, protectors, and knowledge keepers.
The teachings, meanings, roles, and responsibilities related to being two spirit are specific to individual First Nations communities. The diverse understandings of being two spirit are also reflected in language: the Lakota's winkt or the Dinéh's nàdleehé both refer to men who fill social roles associated with women, while the Mi'kmaq phrase GeenumuGessalagee refers only to sexuality, translating into “he loves men.”
In Inuit culture, the focus is on the roles and responsibilities of the individual rather than the notion of roles based on sexual or gender identification. Historically, Inuit have not identified as two spirit as many First Nations have done, but there is a legacy of “third genders” in Inuit culture. A man who dressed as a woman was called a choupan, and these individuals often became shamans. Although some aspects of Inuit culture, gender equality and diversity have been lost due to colonization and Christianization, Inuit women and girls are reclaiming various aspects of sexuality and gender equality through revitalization of language, drum dancing, tattooing, and throat singing.
The traditional Métis language, Michif, is a unique and complex blend of French and Cree languages. Emerging from Métis core values, Métis culture was historically egalitarian: Métis women were the key pillars of their communities and were the providers for their immediate and extended families. Gender-diverse and two spirit people also held important community roles and positions. Colonization deprived Métis women and gender-diverse people of these valued social roles. However, Métis two spirit people and organizations such as Two Spirit Michif are revitalizing Métis understandings of gender and sexual diversity.
Source: Native Women's Association of Canada