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Introducing the strategy

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Introduction

The 2022 to 2026 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS, the strategy) is the first to be developed under a strengthened Federal Sustainable Development Act (the Act). Taking a whole-of-government approach, it brings sustainable development goals, targets, milestones and implementation strategies across 101 federal organizations together in one place. Unless stated otherwise, information in this strategy is current as of September 1, 2022.

The 2022 to 2026 strategy supports Canada’s efforts to advance the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With the 17 SDGs as its frame, the strategy highlights federal government actions over the next four years to support their achievement.

Message from the Minister

In March 2022, I asked Canadians to help shape the 2022 to 2026 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (the FSDS, or the Strategy). I am pleased to present the final Strategy that reflects the views and perspectives of those who answered the call.

With the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as its frame, the Strategy sets out the Government of Canada’s goals, targets and implementation strategies for the next 4 years with a whole-of-government approach that includes, for the first time, input from more than 100 federal organizations.

The principles laid out in the amended Federal Sustainable Development Act help guide the FSDS, and the 2022 to 2026 Strategy implements them in novel ways. The principle of collaboration is expressed through a series of stakeholder and partner perspective textboxes that provide examples of how environmental non-government organizations, businesses and community groups are advancing sustainable development in their communities.

It is a pleasure to note that this is the first Federal Sustainable Development Strategy presented to Canadians after the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act came into force. As such, the principle of Indigenous involvement takes a new direction in the Strategy by including reflections from members of National Indigenous Organizations that highlight dimensions of sustainable development such as history, culture and Indigenous rights.

Openness, transparency and a results and delivery approach also remain core principles. Through them, the Strategy provides a framework for the Government of Canada to make progress on sustainable development with specific, measurable and time-bound targets, while fostering intergenerational equity.

Canadians engaged constructively with impressive knowledge of, and commitment to, sustainable development. They shared their thoughts on how the concept of sustainable development should evolve. They offered suggestions to raise our ambition and to build on previous strategies. They also recommended additional areas of focus around green procurement, Just Transition and clean energy.

They asked us to strike more of a balance among all three dimensions of sustainable development by integrating additional social and economic elements. First Nations, Inuit and Métis also encouraged us to take a distinctions-based approach.

We have listened, and the result is a major evolution in the Strategy’s approach. It provides a more balanced perspective and incorporates purely social and economic goals and targets. These include targets related to homelessness and housing need, poverty reduction, access to mental health services, and affordable child care.

The Strategy does not stop here. We will update the online version of the FSDS in the future to reflect new or renewed targets. We will add results as data become available and outline more specific actions federal organizations will take to support FSDS goals and targets, as outlined in their individual Sustainable Development Strategies. We encourage all Canadians to share their thoughts on this Strategy and to remain engaged as we implement and monitor progress.

I look forward to continuing the conversation in the coming years as we work to advance sustainable development by promoting clean and inclusive growth, taking action on climate change, working to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity, and improving the quality of life for all Canadians, now and for future generations.

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Executive summary

The 2022 to 2026 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy: what’s new

  • For the first time, to align with the strengthened Federal Sustainable Development Act, the scope of the 2022 to 2026 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) encompasses all three dimensions of sustainable development—social, economic and environmental.
  • 101 federal organizations will play a role in achieving the strategy’s goals and targets, compared with 42 in the previous FSDS.
  • The strategy features perspectives from National Indigenous Organizations and Indigenous members of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council. They provide distinctions-based examples of local, Indigenous-led sustainable development in action.
  • Although the FSDS is a domestic strategy, it directly supports 52 targets included in the 2030 Agenda’s Global Indicator Framework and indirectly supports an additional 60 targets.
  • Wherever possible, the FSDS aligns with the Canadian Indicator Framework for the Sustainable Development Goals, the Quality of Life Framework and the Gender Results Framework.

The 2022 to 2026 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS, the strategy) brings sustainable development goals, targets, short-term milestones and implementation strategies from across the Government of Canada together in one place. It provides a whole-of-government view of priorities and actions to advance sustainable development in 101 federal organizations.

While this is Canada’s fifth FSDS, it is the first to be developed under a strengthened Federal Sustainable Development Act (the Act), improving accountability through measurable, time-bound targets and whole-of government participation. It is also the first FSDS to be oriented toward the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the first to provide a balanced view of the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development.

The strategy brings together 50 targets supported by 114 milestones (short-term objectives intended to be achieved within the current FSDS cycle) and 162 implementation strategies (actions federal organizations are committed to taking to make progress toward the strategy’s goals and targets). It reflects the Government of Canada’s sustainable development priorities, including achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions; conserving nature and biodiversity for future generations; advancing reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities; promoting gender equality; and, supporting innovation and economic growth.

While the 2022 to 2026 FSDS provides a snapshot of the Government of Canada’s sustainable development policies and programs, these will continue to evolve over time. To reflect future policy decisions, the online version of the FSDS will be updated to incorporate new or renewed targets. Some of these may be related to economic growth, clean fuel, as well as reflect the forthcoming National Adaptation Strategy, Green Agricultural Plan, and post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This update may also reflect the work of the new Canada Water Agency, expected to be established by the end of 2023.

Over the next four years, 101 federal organizations, including departments, agencies and selected Crown corporations, will contribute to implementing the strategy in accordance with their mandates. Annex 3 of the strategy, Responsibilities and Contributions of Federal Organizations, specifies the ministers responsible for FSDS targets as well as the specific federal organizations responsible for achieving the strategy’s short-term milestones and contributing to its implementation strategies.

Transparency and accountability are central to the strengthened Act and the FSDS. Before the end of the four-year FSDS cycle, the government will table a whole-of-government FSDS progress report that describes how the strategy has been implemented and the progress made toward its goals and targets. To develop the progress report, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Sustainable Development Office will examine the most recent target-level indicator results and propose an assessment of “achieved”, “underway”, “attention required” or “no new data available” for each target. The ultimate decision on the assessment of progress rests with the organisation/s that are responsible for the targets, based on indicator results. Annex 2, Performance Measurement, provides more information on how progress will be reported, including a list of FSDS target indicators.

Public consultation plays an important role in developing each new FSDS. Consultations on the 2022 to 2026 FSDS ran from March 11 to July 9, 2022. We received more than 700 comments and a reach of more than 3.5 million Canadians, including Indigenous Peoples and other diverse demographics. We accomplished this through public webinars, PlaceSpeak, the online version of the strategy, email and social media. We have carefully considered these comments along with those from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Advisory Council.

We encourage Canadians to continue the conversation on sustainable development with us throughout the four-year FSDS cycle. We will update the online version of the FSDS on an ongoing basis to reflect new commitments and results. You can also follow what actions federal organizations are taking to support the strategy’s goals and targets by looking at their departmental sustainable development strategies, to be tabled in Parliament within one year after the FSDS is tabled, and subsequent reports on results.

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Sustainable development: Perspectives from national Indigenous organizations

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) is the national representative organization for the 65,000 Inuit in Canada, the majority of whom live in Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homeland encompassing 51 communities across the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (North West Territories), Nunavut, Nunavik (Northern Québec), and Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador).

ITK works to improve the health and wellbeing of Inuit, which includes research, advocacy, public outreach and education on the issues affecting our populations. A major part of ITK’s advocacy work includes drawing attention to the impacts of colonization, prejudice and the inequities being faced by Inuit, and marshalling available resources to work towards eliminating these inequities and promoting sustainable development in Inuit Nunangat.

ITK recognizes the importance of advancing the United Nation’s (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are guided by the principles of the Federal Sustainable Development Act (FSDA). The FSDA frames sustainable development in terms of three dimensions: social, environmental and economic, which align with the guiding principles of ITK’s National Inuit Climate Change Strategy (NICCS). ITK’s guiding principles from the NICCS are illustrated in the diagram below.

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These guiding principles emphasize the need for Inuit to be meaningful partners in the development of the sustainable development policies that affect us. As rights holders, any actions to advance the SDGs should apply a rights-based approach premised on partnerships with representatives of Inuit and government.

We envision a future where Inuit communities are self-sufficient and no longer face social, economic, and health inequities compared to other Canadians. This is why ITK continues to serve as the national voice for protecting and advancing the rights and interests of Inuit in Canada. ITK recognizes that Canada’s commitment to the UN’s SDGs is also a commitment to eliminating the inequalities that exist between Inuit Nunangat and the rest of Canada.

Métis National Council

“The Métis Nation has a strong desire to be a part of the solution for environmental and cultural preservation, and, as Métis people, we have a lot to offer. It is important for all Canadians to understand how the Métis have both historically been involved, and continue to be involved, in sustainable development today.” ~ Cassidy Caron, President, Métis National Council

The land, the water, the ice, the plants, the animals, and the Métis Nation are all interconnected. There is a long-standing, inter-woven relationship between the Métis and their environments that has continued throughout generations and will continue into the future. Rooted in this relationship is Métis culture, language, knowledge and traditions. However, as the lands and water change as a result of climate change and unsustainable development, this directly threatens the Métis Nation’s knowledge systems and livelihoods; the Métis Nation’s way of life and well-being.

For the Métis Nation, the Michif language, family bonds and storytelling are intrinsically tied to the natural environment. Language, cultural traditions and our distinct Métis knowledge systems are passed from generation to generation, and are susceptible to loss if the lands and water are not well stewarded. Métis knowledge is an invaluable tool to support Canada in meeting its sustainability goals and commitments; and more importantly, ensuring a healthy and culturally thriving future for our Métis children.

Sustainability is a concept that has developed over time and continues to evolve as new perspectives and objectives emerge. For the Métis Nation, sustainability involves the efficient use of natural, social and economic resources. Each must be considered in making decisions in the fight for sustainability and environmental protection. As stewards of our ancestral lands, the Métis Nation is advancing our role in the prioritization of environmental and cultural sustainability in Canada.

In advancing sustainable development, the Métis Nation prioritizes an intersectional approach that incorporates the values and priorities and of the past, present and future. The Métis Nation’s spirit is entrepreneurial and strives to support sustainable production and economic growth. The skills and innovations present within the Métis Nation have the opportunity to uphold sustainable development throughout the homeland – sustainability has always been the way of the Métis.

The Métis Nation continuously advocates for at-risk populations and those that are being directly impacted, both nationally and internationally, by climate change and unsustainable development. Many of our Métis Nation communities live in areas that are at greater risk to wildland fire, flooding and industrial development. Additionally, our Métis children pose to lose the most from changes to their environment and the loss of traditional Métis knowledge directly tied to it. As the future of the Métis Nation, children are in a unique position to foster sustainable development goals and act as leaders of environmental and cultural change.

Furthermore, our Métis women play an integral role in child development and are the social fabric of our communities. Through the support of our women and children, the Métis Nation can enrich our culture, language and further share our traditional teachings that can inform sustainable development for the future.

Furthermore, when sustainable development goals are co-developed through a Nation-to-Nation process, and informed by the Métis Nation in a respectful partnership, the future for the Métis Nation is bright. A sustainable future for all can be found in Métis knowledge, the Michif language, our unique culture, and our relationship to the land and water; the heartbeat of the Métis Nation’s Homeland.

Assembly of First Nations

First Nations have been practising sustainable development since time immemorial and have demonstrated leadership on environmental protection, conservation and climate change. No relationship is more valuable to First Nations than that with Mother Earth.

However, mainstream development processes have had a detrimental impact on Mother Earth and the health and well-being of First Nations, who depend on it. The degradation of the environment has led to a decline in the way of life and cultural health of First Nations.

Chiefs-in-Assembly have provided the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) with a direct mandate to advocate for increased participation and inclusion of First Nations in decision-making processes related to the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While the principles of the Federal Sustainable Development Act frame sustainable development in terms of three dimensions: economic, social and environmental, First Nations’ concept of sustainable development goes beyond these dimensions and recognizes culture as an important pillar of sustainable development, while also viewing sustainable development through a rights-based framework.

This means acknowledging and respecting the inherent, constitutional, human and Treaty, rights of First Nations, including the right to self-determination, self-government and the exercise of jurisdiction associated therewith.

These fundamental rights are also internationally recognized and respected, notably having been incorporated into the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the UN Declaration) which was recently brought into domestic Canadian law by virtue of Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Bill C-15 further emphasizes that implementing the UN Declaration can contribute to supporting sustainable development and address growing concerns related to climate change and its impacts on First Nations.

The AFN has been directed by Chiefs-in-Assembly through Resolution 44/2021 – Support for a First Nations-led pathway to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to call on Canada to work in full partnership with First Nations, to support their self-determination and participation in all efforts related to the SDGs. Sufficient and sustainable funding for First Nations governments is also required to realize the ambitions of the 2030 agenda and for First Nations to exercise their inherent rights.

Annex 1: About the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS, the strategy) sets out our sustainable development priorities, establishes goals and targets, and identifies actions to achieve them. Actions to implement the strategy will support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Legislative basis

The Federal Sustainable Development Act (the Act) establishes the requirement to table the FSDS. Its purpose is to provide the legal framework for developing and implementing a strategy that will:

  • make decision making related to sustainable development more transparent and subject to accountability to Parliament
  • promote coordinated action across the Government of Canada to advance sustainable development
  • respect Canada’s domestic and international obligations relating to sustainable development

The Act requires the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to table and report on a whole-of-government strategy at least once in each 3-year period. Amendments to the Act came into force on December 1, 2020.

History of the strategy

The 1987 Brundtland Report to the World Commission on Environment and Development introduced the concept of sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In response, in 1995 the Government of Canada introduced amendments to the Auditor General Act requiring federal departments and agencies to create their own individual sustainable development strategies. These amendments also established the office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (the Commissioner). The Commissioner later identified several weaknesses in this system, including the lack of a coherent, overarching federal strategy, stating it was like trying to put together a puzzle with no picture on the box.

In 2008, a more effective approach was enacted when the Act was passed and came into force. The Act provides the legal framework for the FSDS. At that time, it also tasked 28 departments and agencies with preparing their own departmental sustainable development strategies (DSDSs) that comply with and contribute to the strategy. The 2008 Act also introduced a requirement to consult Canadians on each new FSDS. Four federal sustainable development strategies were tabled under the 2008 act (2010 to 2013, 2013 to 2016, 2016 to 2019 and 2019 to 2022).

In 2016, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development conducted a review of the Act and issued a report containing 13 recommendations. The committee’s recommendations identified issues concerning, among other things, the scope of the Act, the need for a whole-of-government approach, and a need for greater transparency and accountability in the development and implementation of sustainable development strategies.

The government responded to the committee’s recommendations with the 2017 Bill C-57, An Act to Amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which came into force on December 1, 2020. The amended Act provides greater flexibility in presenting the view of sustainable development to encompass environmental, economic, and social aspects. It also provides for a whole-of-government approach by increasing the number of federal organizations required to contribute to and report on the FSDS from 28 to 100.

The amended Act also includes mechanisms to make sustainable development decision making more transparent and accountable, including a requirement that targets be measurable and include a time frame, and that departmental sustainable development strategies must be tabled in Parliament and referred to the Senate and House committees that deal with matters relating to sustainable development. The 2022 to 2026 FSDS is the first to be prepared under the amended Act.

Roles and responsibilities

Environment and Climate Change Canada plays a key role in implementing the Act. It houses the Sustainable Development Office (SDO), which is responsible for coordinating the development of the strategy. The SDO is also responsible for developing and maintaining systems and procedures to monitor progress on implementation of the strategy, and for preparing FSDS progress reports at least once every 3-year period.

Sustainable development cuts across many departmental and agency mandates. The Act reflects this, requiring federal organizations named in Schedule I, I.1 and II of the Financial Administration Act to prepare and report on sustainable development strategies that support the implementation of the goals of the FSDS. It also provides for including other federal organizations that wish to participate in the strategy, such as Crown corporations, through an Order in Council. Two such organizations, the National Capital Commission and The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc., are now included in the Act.

The role of federal organizations also includes:

  • working collaboratively with Environment and Climate Change Canada to develop the FSDS and progress reports within every 3-year period
  • integrating environmental and sustainable development considerations into policy, plan and program development through strategic environmental assessments and the Integrated Climate Lens

The role of public consultation

Public consultation is an important part of FSDS development under the Act. Each draft strategy must undergo a public consultation period of at least 120 days before it is finalized. As part of public consultation, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change provides the draft FSDS to:

  • the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
  • the Sustainable Development Advisory Council (a multi-stakeholder advisory body consisting of 13 members of the Canadian public that represent the views of different provinces and territories, 6 representatives of Indigenous Peoples and 3 from each of the following: environmental non-governmental organizations, business organizations, and organizations representative of labour)
  • the appropriate committee of each House of Parliament
  • the public

Consultation results inform the final strategy and are summarized in a publicly-available report.

The structure of the strategy

The 2022 to 2026 FSDS is organized around the UN 2030 Agenda 17 Sustainable Development Goals, acknowledging Canada’s unique responsibilities and circumstances.

One or more targets contribute to each goal. Under the Act, targets must:

  • be specific and measurable
  • include a time frame
  • identify one or more responsible ministers
  • be consistent with the Act’s principles

To the extent possible, targets should also:

  • take a medium-term or long-term view (5 years or longer), to help track progress over multiple cycles of the FSDS
  • fall within federal jurisdiction
  • align with federal priorities
  • be supported by indicators that accurately represent the target and allow for comparison over time
  • have a clear connection to an FSDS goal

Short-term milestones complement the strategy’s targets. They represent interim steps that will help ensure the Government of Canada stays on track to achieve its longer-term objectives. In general, short-term milestones should be achievable within one FSDS cycle. To the extent possible, milestones should:

  • be specific and measurable
  • include a timeframe
  • take a short-term view (within one FSDS cycle)
  • have a clear connection to an FSDS target or to an FSDS goal

Implementation strategies set out what the Government of Canada will do to achieve its goals and targets. They describe the actions that federal organizations are committed to taking to make progress toward the strategy’s goals and targets. To the extent possible, implementation strategies should:

  • be written in plain, high-level language
  • be broad and inclusive to allow for linkages with specific departmental actions
  • reflect actions the Government of Canada is taking or plans to take during the FSDS cycle
  • have a clear connection to an FSDS target or to an FSDS goal

Implementation strategies set out in the FSDS are complemented by specific commitments in departmental sustainable development strategies. Departmental strategies, which must be tabled within one year of the FSDS tabling date, will include actions and performance measures that contribute to the strategy’s implementation strategies.

While provinces and territories, Indigenous Peoples, businesses, the scientific community, non-governmental organizations and Canadian citizens contribute to achieving environmental outcomes and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, only federal actions are included in the FSDS.