Sector News Digest – November 9, 2021

1.5 degrees of separation

Against the backdrop of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the Fondation du Grand Montréal, the Trottier Family Foundation, and the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. call on the sector to take up the cause in an op-ed in The Province entitled “Time for Philanthropy to Respond to the Climate Crisis, Just As It Did with COVID-19.”

The three groups urge “all corners of Canada’s foundation community, representing over 10,000 organizations with close to $100 billion in assets,” to prioritize climate action and sign on to the Canadian Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change to “apply a climate lens to all our granting.”

“Many foundation models are premised on supporting thriving communities in perpetuity,” the op-ed states. But if global temperatures rise by more than 1.5°C, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has warned, “the promise of healthy, equitable and just communities that define much of foundations’ goals” will no longer be tenable.

New emission estimates for 2021 have moved the Climate Clock, which has tracked global warming and temperature data since 2015, a year closer to the 1.5°C threshold. The clock’s creators, which include H. Damon Matthews, Concordia University Research Chair in Climate Science and Sustainability, remain hopeful. “If we learned one thing from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that rapid and far-reaching action in response to an acute threat can be successful in limiting the damage,” they wrote in The Conversation.

Campaign against coal

Seven organizations, including Keepers of the Water, Ecojustice, and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), recently delivered petitions containing more than 32,000 signatures to the federal government, demanding it phase out coal by 2023 instead of 2030, as pledged in the Liberals’ campaign platform. Thermal coal exports from and through Canada currently total between 15 and 18 million tonnes. The coalition joined an international push during the COP26 conference for commitments to end the use of coal.

“Canada wants to be a global climate leader but continues to mine and export thermal coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel,” said Julia Levin, senior climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence. “With world leaders gathered at COP26, we are calling on the Government of Canada to honour their commitment to a greener future by making coal a relic of the past.”

The logging agenda

News that Canada has endorsed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use to stop what one world leader dubbed “the great global chainsaw massacre” by 2030 was met by criticism from Michael Polanyi, policy and campaign manager at Nature Canada.

Polanyi told The Globe and Mail he was “deeply concerned” that the pact overlooks the impact of clear-cutting in countries such as Canada. “It perpetuates this dynamic of northern countries pointing the finger at the loss of massive tropical rain forests in southern countries,” he said, “while ignoring the loss of boreal forests in Canada or Russia,” which, per hectare, store more carbon than tropical rain forests.

Nature Canada’s latest report – Missing the Forest: How Carbon Loopholes for Logging Hinder Canada’s Climate Leadership – shows that Canada is in no position to be pointing fingers. Our forestry sector, the study shows, has been underreporting emissions to the tune of 80 million tonnes a year – the equivalent of the emissions from 17.4 million cars, The Narwhal notes.

Harnessing she-power for the climate

If you really want to affect climate change, talk to women,” Sarah Lazarovic, vice-president of marketing at Clean Prosperity, commented in a recent opinion piece published by the CBC. She argues that climate groups should be leveraging the communications savvy of she-power. “It’s not that men are useless, but that women are useful, because they are already more likely to care and want to take action.”

When what we’re selling is the salvation of the planet, this is important. A 2021 poll – the People’s Climate Vote – conducted by the United Nations Development Programme, shows that when it comes to climate concern, Canada has the largest gender gap in the world, with women taking the lead by 12%. Caring about the climate crisis, however, likely stems from the fact that women experience the brunt of its ill effects, from a rise of domestic violence after natural disasters, as a post-bushfire study by the Australian government shows, to displacement, Lazarovic says.

UN WomenWatch notes that “women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men – primarily as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change.”

An Indigenous perspective on COP26

In a recent blog post, former MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew, a senior leader with the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, described the “inescapable” impacts of climate change in her northern community, the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories. However, she said, “we also have a relationship to the land that can help rebalance the world in the midst of climate chaos.”

Programs such as Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCA) and Indigenous Guardians “provide the single most important strategy for addressing both climate change and loss of biodiversity,” she argued. “Indigenous Peoples within Canada and around the world must be heard at COP26. But Indigenous Peoples can’t do it alone. Tackling climate change requires leadership from all peoples and all nations. It requires a global realization that we all breathe the same air.” Read about the latest IPCA, Shawanaga Island, in this TVOarticle.

Strengthening the care economy

The Care Economy Team submitted a mandate-of-care letter to the new federal cabinet, challenging the government to address “crisis levels” in healthcare, eldercare, and childcare. The group notes that while the care economy is “foundational” to Canada’s economy, and accounts for nearly 13% of GDP and one-fifth of all jobs (of which 90% are held by women), the sector continues a downward spiral for those with care needs and their caregivers and employees’ working conditions.

“Many essential workers, despite being called heroes, have been treated as disposable,” they comment, with thousands of workers on the precipice of burnout and no relief in sight. The coalition calls for a number of measures, including the development of a national health labour force strategy by the end of next year, and anchoring the federal minimum wage to 60% of the average Canadian wage, which works out to $17.70 in 2021.

The proposal comes on the heels of the Ontario government’s announcement that it will raise the province’s minimum wage to $15 an hour in January. But an editorial in the Toronto Star isn’t celebrating Premier Doug Ford’s move. While an improvement from earlier increases, the editorial says, the move to $15 is still far from enough, given increases in the cost of living.

The Ontario Living Wage Network released updated living wage rates from across the province, ranging from $16.20 in Sault Ste. Marie to $22.08 in Toronto. Cathy Taylor, executive director of the Ontario Nonprofit Network and a long-time advocate for building a decent work movement, urged sector employers to pay a living wage as part of a decent work practice and suggested that funders keep a living wage in mind for grantees’ minimum thresholds.

Decolonizing history

A new youth-led collaborative online portal, Righting History, launched yesterday, with the objective of sharing stories not taught in mainstream history classes. “I hope this project will take the first step towards decolonizing the way we look at history and move towards righting the wrongs of history that all of us grew up with,” Heather Li, the initiative’s project manager, told the Toronto Star.

Awareness about past struggles faced by marginalized communities can lead to more awareness about present-day systemic challenges, the project creators say – for example, by challenging narratives that Canada’s only role in slavery was to help enslaved Black people escape from the United States. According to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the mythology about the Underground Railroad is “only half the story.” The museum provides archival photos of deck plans for slave ships and advertisements offering rewards for runaway slaves.

The perception that racism doesn’t exist in Canada also hinders the pursuit of decolonized knowledge, Li adds – a view backed by recent survey results released by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) and the Environics Institute. The majority of Canadians (64%) believe race relations are “generally good,” the survey found. However, nearly 60% of Black respondents reported experiencing racism on a regular basis, along with nearly half of the South Asian and Indigenous people who participated.

Mohammed Hashim, executive director of CRRF, told CBC News the report shows that “optimism has subsided and that pessimism is growing” among racialized communities, but this might be a sign of increasing awareness. Since CRRF’s last survey, in 2019, catalytic events such as the murder of George Floyd, the rise of anti-Asian racism fuelled by the pandemic, and the discovery of hundreds of bodies of Indigenous children in unmarked graves have shone a harsher light on Canada’s record.

Systems-change thinkers recognized

A recent PANL Perspectives article spotlights the Calgary Foundation’s reconciliation in action and its journey of “systems-change thinking.” This shift has been so successful the foundation has become a case study for organizations south of the border.

Swapping a transactional approach for a relational approach, the foundation initially reached out to the surrounding Nations of Treaty 7 to learn why they’d never applied for funding. Four years later, the foundation now prioritizes Indigenous ways of knowing, accepting oral and video grant submissions, and meets regularly with Elders and community leaders. Such an approach, informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and the Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action, led to recently awarding a grant to the Blood Reserve in southern Alberta to reintroduce bison, helping to restore one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Liberals appeal Indigenous child welfare ruling

The federal government’s decision to appeal a judge’s order to uphold a ruling from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, that Ottawa compensate Indigenous children and their families, met with waves of criticism. Save the Children issued a statement expressing its disappointment. “Continuing to take First Nations children to court isn’t congruent with reconciliation and prevents them from experiencing their basic human rights.”

While the government has also launched negotiations on settlements with survivors and their families, Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the driving force behind the case, told The Globe and Mail that, after a 14-year battle, she was ready to throw in the towel. “I think this is worth one last kick at the can for kids,” Blackstock said. “And then that’s it for me. I’m done. Because the only real progress that we’ve seen so far has been really through litigation.”

Stepping up for Afghans

Canada’s Afghan settlement program has left some Canadian non-profits in the lurch, especially since a recent change in eligibility requirements states that applicants must be living outside of Afghanistan to apply. Muhammad Ibrahimi, program director of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WA), told Global News that only two of his 25 staff have left the country. Lauryn Oates, CW4WA’s Calgary-based executive director, said, “It hasn’t given us a lot of faith in the way this is being managed and the response of the government to people who are at very, very real risk.”

After receiving hundreds of requests for help from LGBTQ2S+ Afghans, Toronto-based charity Rainbow Railroad embarked on a “months-long, cross-continental campaign” to airlift 29 members of the community to the UK by partnering with the British charity Stonewall.

Eric Wright, Rainbow Railroad’s communications officer, wishes the Canadian government would also step up to the plate to resettle this vulnerable group in Canada. “The former Minister of Immigration has been tweeting about this since the beginning, but we need more than this. We need Canadian moral and humanitarian leadership on this file,” he told CBC News. Under Taliban rule, homosexuality is punishable by death.

A sector in transition

Imagine Canada has highlighted a few changes in the makeup of the federal cabinet that are of “particular importance” to the sector: Ahmed Hussen was moved from Children, Families and Social Development to become Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion (read this First Policy Response article about what should top Hussen’s agenda). Meanwhile, Diane Lebouthillier remains in her role as Minister of National Revenue – “a key ministry for the charitable sector due to its regulatory role,” Imagine says. Lebouthillier will continue to receive the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector.

Another appointment of note is that of Steven Guilbeault as the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change. A former Greenpeace activist and co-founder of the Quebec environmental group Équiterre, the new minister accompanied Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to COP26. “I’m very aware that those [COP26] activists will be holding my feet to the fire and I welcome their attention and focus, but I also know that I work for all Canadians and must make this transition work for everyone,” Guilbeault said at a press conference after his appointment.

Defunding of Friendship Centres

The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) – a volunteer-led urban Indigenous service-delivery network established in 1972, with more than 100 centres across Canada – is slated to lose its funding next spring, and the group has issued a cry for help. “Investing in friendship centres is reconciliation in action,” the NAFC tweeted recently.

Its newly released Honouring Our Ways: A Just and Sustainable Approach to Urban Indigenous Wellbeing & Safety – an action plan to end violence against, and within, Indigenous communities – highlights the advantages of a Friendship Centre approach, in which “wraparound” programs and services across a person’s life cycle recognize “the whole of a person alongside broader kinship and community needs” and “contextualize care from the vantage point of a shared history and understanding.”

The way the Girl Guide cookie crumbles

Fans of the Girl Guides of Canada’s chocolate-mint cookies are in for a “sweet tooth letdown” this Christmas, according to Guelph Today. “Due to the ongoing pandemic, we’ve had to make some adjustments to our cookie fundraiser, which includes having just one cookie campaign for 2021,” a spokesperson said. Don’t fret, however: the chocolate and vanilla sandwich cookies, normally available only in the spring, will be making the rounds.

Choco-mint purists will have to wait until the fall of 2022 to get their fix.

Events and diversions

  • On November 19, First Policy Response and Vancity will host a “timely discussion” about what climate change policies look like on the ground, with a focus on “just transition” and “climate finance.” Speakers include Pedro Barata, executive director of the Future Skills Centre, and Senator Hassan Yussuff. Register here.
  • “So you’ve won (or lost) your grant. Now what?” Imagine Canada’s Grant Connect and Keela have teamed up to create a Grant Stewardship Checklist to help cultivate good relationships with funders and improve applications. Other resources from these organizations? Get ready for GivingTuesday with Keela’s list of free campaign templates, tips, and resources by clicking here. Find out the latest federal government COVID-19 measures with Imagine Canada’s regularly updated chart.
  • Tune in to the Halifax Climate Hub and the OATHE Project’s podcast, One Act at a Time, produced by folks who “believe that small acts, when done collectively, can have a massive impact” to help the earth. A new podcast of note, the Ontario Nonprofit Network’s Digging in with ONN, shines a public policy lens on issues in Ontario’s non-profit sector. Click here to listen to the first episode: “Decent Work Movement Building.”


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