Background Content

Call to Action # 55: National Council for Reconciliation (53-56)

Six Principles for a Just Recovery

January 1, 2020

An informal alliance of over 150 civil society groups, representing collective memberships of millions in Canada, are demanding these plans move us toward a more equitable and sustainable future, with the release, today, of six Principles for a Just Recovery.

Their message for governments: recovery efforts must support the transition to a more equitable, sustainable and diversified economy, and not entrench outdated economic and social systems that jeopardize the health and wellbeing of people, worsen the climate crisis, or perpetuate the exploitation or oppression of people.

The COVID crisis has revealed the primary importance of the health and safety of all people, as a human rights and collective wellbeing issue. Relief efforts so far have shown that things we’ve been told aren’t possible, actually are once we prioritize them.

The Principles, in brief, ask that recovery plans:

  1. Put people’s health and wellbeing first, no exceptions.
  2. Strengthen the social safety net and provide relief directly to people.
  3. Prioritize the needs of workers and communities.
  4. Build resilience to prevent future crises.
  5. Build solidarity and equity across communities, generations, and borders
  6. Uphold Indigenous Rights and Work in Partnership with Indigenous Peoples.

“Indigenous rights and sovereignty must be the foundation upon which every aspect of Just Recovery is built. Throughout the recovery process, Indigenous Peoples must be at the table, as should voices from all structurally oppressed communities,” said Lindsey Bacigal of Indigenous Climate Action. “Prior to the pandemic, Indigenous communities were already in crisis due to a lack of infrastructure, health and social services and the current situation will only deepen these inequalities. To address this historical injustice, it is essential that Indigenous Peoples have access to adequate resources that revitalize the health, well-being and sovereignty of our communities.”

Endorsing groups will pursue specific policy recommendations, aligned with the Principles. – principles

Six Principles for a Just Recovery

  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. Increase the resilience of our health and social systems – expand and invest in health services, social services and frontline services everywhere. Ensure services are public, culturally safe, linguistically appropriate, and accessible to all without discrimination based on status, location, or circumstance – including to Indigenous peoples living on and off reserve, people in remote communities, migrants, and undocumented people.
  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. Recovery plans should move us toward a diversified economy and systems that reduce social and economic inequity; that respect the limits of the planet; that protect land, water, and air; that uphold human rights and rights of Indigenous peoples; that support people who are not in the workforce to thrive; that create decent jobs; and that foster social, emotional, and cultural health and resiliency from infants to elders.
  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. Emergency expenditures and measures must not be used as an excuse to subvert or suspend human rights, to centralize or reduce checks and balances on power, or to revert to austerity, protectionism, xenophobia, racism, ableism or pre-pandemic systems that sustain structural inequalities. Canada has the historical obligation and the resources to ensure that, both domestically and internationally, funding and resources are provided to enable individuals and communities to thrive, engage in democratic institutions, and assert their rights and live with dignity.
  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. In recognizing Indigenous sovereignty, communities must have control over their housing, water, food, and energy. A Just Recovery must include robust renewable energy policy that ensures Indigenous ownership and equitable partnership of renewable energy projects in Indigenous homelands. Indigenous laws, values, customs, and traditions must be recognized and upheld, including the need for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in all jurisdictions.