Second reading of Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Hon. Marty Klyne: Honourable senators, I am pleased to support Bill C-12, the “Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act.”

We all know why we need to address climate change, and knowing the “why,” it’s now time to turn to the “how.” Bill C-12 will require the country to figure out the “how,” formulating and following an emissions plan aimed at the key dates of 2030 and 2050, a blueprint for the accountability of our national leaders.

Debating the bill’s principle, I submit three thoughts for your consideration as to how we as a country deal with climate change: first, Indigenous leadership and traditional knowledge around environmental protection; second, the need to consider regional and community differences, and available options in government planning; and third, the need for massive investment in green jobs in Western Canada.

On the first point, Bill C-15 received Royal Assent last week, meaning that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will become national law through changes to federal statutes. This shift will require further legal recognition of Indigenous jurisdictions and self-governance in Canada, breathing life into section 35 constitutional rights, including treaties. This shift will encourage similar measures in other countries.

With Indigenous peoples’ inherent rights now recognized in Canada, the country has unlocked huge opportunities for Indigenous leadership to contribute to both environmental protection, and sustainable development and resiliency. Indigenous nations and ideas can positively influence Canada’s laws of general application, as well as bring responsible decision making to managing ancestral lands and waters.

The preamble of Bill C-15 states:

. . . the Declaration can contribute to supporting sustainable development and responding to growing concerns relating to climate change and its impacts on Indigenous peoples . . . .

Senators, Indigenous peoples around the world have generations of values and traditional knowledge based upon environmental respect and stewardship, values and knowledge that can benefit all societies, practically and spiritually. Important aspects of reconciliation will involve sharing and learning Indigenous knowledge and laws, and interpreting ancient wisdom into modern policies and practices.

This is a practical example of reconciliation where all Canadians can benefit from the traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and Western science combined to help shape our nation’s plan to address climate change.

We have heard Indigenous values about nature referenced in this chamber by our colleagues. Examples include Senators Francis and Christmas discussing the Mi’kmaq principle of Netukulimk around fisheries management, and Senators McCallum and Boyer speaking on the concept of “all my relations” in debates on animal cruelty. Indeed, the preamble of Bill S-218, the “Jane Goodall Act”, would acknowledge the concept of “All My Relations” in federal law.

As the current sponsor of that important animal-protection bill based in Indigenous values, I look forward to our productive deliberations and debate in the fall, and to sharing updates from work under way.

As a legislator, I view reconciliation and environmental stewardship as being inextricably linked. From that viewpoint, Bill C-12 is an important advancement in reconciliation — or it has that potential.

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report states:

Reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, from an Aboriginal perspective, also requires reconciliation with the natural world. . . .

. . . Indigenous laws stress that humans must journey through life in conversation and negotiation with all creation. Reciprocity and mutual respect help sustain our survival. . . .

In 2020, Mongabay, an environmental science publication, reported that Indigenous people currently manage or have tenure on 40% of the world’s protected areas and remaining intact ecosystems. With meaningful jurisdiction, you can imagine the difference that Indigenous leadership can make around the world in preserving biodiversity and critical ecosystems, and in mitigating the effects of climate change.

In Canada, many Indigenous people live in communities in remote areas. With generations of traditional knowledge around natural cycles and geography, these communities are best positioned to monitor and manage resources in collaboration with modern science.

Such systems of stewardship have increasingly become formalized, such as through the Guardians land and water management programs. Those programs have shown excellent returns on investment in terms of social benefits, as demonstrated by studies in the Northwest Territories and northern B.C. These programs can help to protect Canada’s natural carbon sinks, to restore areas impacted by logging and extractive activities, and to bolster the resilience of wildlife populations against climate change.

Here are a few examples of Indigenous-led conservation efforts that contribute to Canada’s environmental protection goals. In 2019, Thaidene Nëné came into existence as a 14,000-square-kilometre national reserve park in the Northwest Territories, co-managed by the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation and the Canadian government. Other examples include the 64,000-square-kilometre Great Bear Rainforest in B.C.; the 29,000-square-kilometre Pimachiowin Aki in Manitoba and Ontario, being the largest protected area in the North American boreal shield; and the 108,000-square-kilometre Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area in Nunavut.

Another interesting Indigenous environmental innovation has come through collaborative efforts in Quebec between the Innu Council of Ekuanitshit and the regional municipality of Minganie. This year, these jurisdictions collaborated to recognize the Magpie River as a legal person with nine legal rights, including the rights to flow, to maintain its biodiversity and to take legal action.

Bodies of water have also received legal rights in New Zealand, India, Bangladesh and Ohio. Bolivia and Ecuador have legally protected the rights of nature.

In thinking about Bill C-12, and Canada’s climate plan and environmental goals going forward, I would urge colleagues to contemplate that Indigenous leadership and jurisdictions will be huge advantages towards a mutually beneficial shared success.

My second point for your consideration today is to emphasize that the government should consider regional and local community differences and available options in formulating the climate plan. In this regard, I am encouraged by section 10(3) of Bill C-12, which provides that the plan can contain:

. . . information on initiatives or other measures undertaken by the governments of the provinces, Indigenous peoples of Canada, municipal governments or the private sector that may contribute to achieving the greenhouse gas emissions target.

To paraphrase, we need to pull out all the stops and consider all the measures available to us and double down on achieving our climate goals.

In Regina, Saskatchewan, in a 2018 survey report, local executives imagined an audacious vision for 2050. Respondents believe our city’s future economy will be driven by entrepreneurs and small business, with an increase in agri-value food processing and manufacturing sectors. Sustainable plant-based proteins represent one massive area of opportunity. Another area of economic focus and importance will be the information technology sector.

With climate goals in mind, the Regina of 2050 must be sustainable and resilient. In thinking about the transition to green energy sources, local executives saw entrepreneurs playing the most critical role. They viewed the keys to the clean energy transition as being the financial viability of green energy, the city’s ability to leverage its abundance of wind and solar energy, municipal leadership in green planning and construction, better education on the importance of renewables and better utilization of non-renewables in a more effective manner.

In approaching this part of the climate solution, with other jurisdictions and the private sector, the federal government should be sensitive to and prolific in building public acceptance in all parts of this country. The federal government needs to be mindful of the undeniable regional and community differences across this vast country and accept that one-size-fits-all solutions may not work. For example, some communities may fully electrify, while others may make progress with clean options like hydrogen, biogas and waste heat capture and usage.

The point here is that government needs to understand the importance of including and respecting people in all regions. This must be achieved by cooperative approaches, not top-down edicts. At the same time, all Canadians must acknowledge that climate change is a shared emergency, and all jurisdictions must contribute to a successful plan, as must the private sector.

In closing, the third point I submit for your consideration today is that the government should invest substantially in green jobs in Western Canada. On May 27, at the National Finance Committee I had the opportunity to raise this issue with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland.

I asked Minister Freeland about the language in the budget highlighting near-term potential to advance carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies in Alberta and Saskatchewan. I also raised the point that the Fall Economic Statement 2020 mentioned projects like zero-emission vehicle infrastructure, restoring natural carbon sinks like wetlands, green farming investments and small modular reactors, including interest from Saskatchewan.

Specifically, in terms of gaining public buy-in in the West on a climate plan, I asked Minister Freeland whether the government will need to demonstrate major creation of green jobs in the West and whether the minister views this as important to national unity.

I was pleased to hear Minister Freeland’s response to this priority, as she said:

Canada will only be successful in acting on climate change if we have a plan that involves the whole country and that creates great green jobs across the country, and also . . . a plan which recognizes the diversity of our country.

In this way — and thinking as a business person — all regions of Canada need to see the economic opportunity in addressing climate change. The public sector needs to be there to make major investments in green jobs in the West. I am confident that our energy sectors will prove versatile and adaptable in becoming leaders in green options, as well as in technology to mitigate emissions from oil and gas.

Climate change is a problem that needs to be solved. Innovations in green practices and technology are going to generate a lot of wealth, and I would like to see that prosperity occur in Saskatchewan and right across Canada from coast to coast to coast. I am confident that Canadian businesses can compete and lead in innovation on the global stage.

The Financial Post reported last week that jobs in Canada’s clean energy sector are forecast to grow 50% to reach 640,000 positions by 2030, according to a report from Clean Energy Canada at Simon Fraser University. This sector already employs over 430,000 people, and is projected to grow at roughly 4% annually over the next decade.

The clean energy sector’s gross domestic product is also projected to increase by 58% between 2020 and 2030, reaching roughly $100 billion by the end of the decade, and 29% of Canada’s GDP.

As senators, in the critical years ahead, we can all be voices for our regions in the growth of the green economy. If Canadians can prosper while making valued contributions to saving the planet, I would call that a win-win.

Bill C-12 will give not only the current federal government, but any government in the coming decades, the framework for an organized national climate plan. Success through such a plan will require commitment and determination at all levels of society.

As parliamentarians, we can play our part through scrutiny of government actions, the contribution of legislative and other policy ideas, and public advocacy towards greater climate action when it’s needed. When it comes to climate change, we are all part of the problem, and we must all be part of the solution.

Thank you. Hiy kitatamîhin.

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