Ensuring a Just Recovery for Canada
As governments and institutions make plans to “recover” from the COVID-19 emergency, we cannot go back to the way things were. For years, we have witnessed the results of chronic underinvestment and inaction in the face of the ongoing, pre-existing crises of colonialism, human rights abuses, social inequity, ecological degradation, and climate change. Now, the COVID-19 crisis is forcing governments and civil society alike to reckon with the inadequacies and inequities of our systems.
This moment is a reminder that the status quo can and must be disrupted. We are standing on the threshold between the old world and the next and we must choose to build the future we want. Recovery efforts must not take us backward; they must accelerate the transition towards a more healthy, sustainable, and equitable society.
To do so, hundreds of civil society groups, including CAN-Rac and many of our members, have identified six Principles of a Just Recovery. Launched on May 25 2020 and endorsed by over 500 organizations from every corner of civil society, these principles stretch us beyond immediate, emergency responses to consider how we might “build back better” so that our economy supports all people, instead of people working to support the economy. Instead of sacrificing people or the planet for short-term profits, these principles guide us to a society that prioritizes resilience and wellbeing. Endorsing organizations agree that all recovery plans should meet the following essential criteria in their design, implementation, and evaluation.
These principles were developed by organizations working together from communities across the country. Collectively, we are committed to a just future that puts the health and wellbeing of ALL peoples and ecosystems first, and builds a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable society.
1. Put people’s health and wellbeing first, no exceptions.
Health is a human right and is interdependent with the health and wellbeing of ecological systems. Recognizing this, ensure that all policies and programs address
the social, economic and environmental determinants of health and are responsive to the climate emergency, which is, in itself, a health crisis. Learn from the pandemic: develop policies and make investments that keep communities and workplaces, particularly those on the frontlines, safe.
2. Strengthen the social safety net and provide relief directly to people.
Focus relief efforts on people, particularly those who are structurally oppressed by existing systems. Prioritize redistributive policies and social services that meet the immediate and long-term needs of all people and eliminate social, economic, and wealth inequalities. Rebuild a single-tier immigration system with permanent resident status for all.
3. Prioritize the needs of workers and communities.
Support must be distributed in a manner consistent with Indigenous sovereignty, a climate resilient economy, and worker rights, including safe and fair labour standards and a right to unionize. Improved conditions for essential service workers must be maintained beyond this crisis. Bailout packages must not encourage unqualified handouts, regulatory rollbacks, or regressive subsidies that enrich shareholders or CEOs, particularly those who take advantage of tax havens. These programs must support a just transition away from fossil fuels that creates decent work and leaves no one behind.
4. Build resilience to prevent future crises.
We cannot recover from the current crisis by entrenching systems that will cause the next crisis. We must invest in sustainable infrastructure and build resiliency within communities, ensuring that people can access public essential services, meet their basic needs, and engage in cultural and artistic expression.
5. Build solidarity and equity across communities, generations, and borders.
In a globalized world, what happens to one of us matters to all of us. A Just Recovery must be guided by the principles of equity, solidarity, and sustainability across domestic and international relations. Recovery plans must honour and expand human rights, including the rights of Indigenous peoples, and advance gender equity while opposing authoritarian regimes and oppressive systems.
6. Uphold Indigenous Rights and work in partnership with Indigenous peoples.
A Just Recovery must uphold Indigenous Rights and include the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples, in line with the standard of free, prior, and informed consent. Indigenous Peoples require sustained resources and investments that stimulate Indigenous economies, create healthy communities, and protect the lands and waters. Indigenous communities need investment in infrastructure, along with social and health services.