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Re: Investing in Nature is essential to our shared future

Margaret Atwood CC OOnt CH FRSC, Poet, novelist and literary critic |
Adrienne Clarkson PC CC CMM COM CD FRSC(hon) FRAIC(hon) FRCPSC(hon), 26th Governor General of Canada | Louise Dennys, Executive Publisher, Penguin Random House Canada |
Mandy Gull, Deputy Grand Chief, Cree Nation Government |
Melissa Lem, MD, CCFP, FCFP, President-Elect, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment & Clinical Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine |
Heather Reisman, CEO, Indigo Inc. |
Jacqueline L. Scott, Founder, Black Outdoors |
Mary Simon, OC, OQ, Former Ambassador, Circumpolar Affairs |
K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett, President, Coastal First Nations/Great Bear Initiative |
Ingrid Waldron, Executive Director of the ENRICH Project, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Dalhousie University

April 7, 2021

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland 
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
Department of Finance Canada
90 Elgin St.
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G5
Via e-mail: chrystia.freeland@canada.ca 

Dear Minister Freeland,

For over a year the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our health and well-being, our economy and our communities. In particular, low-income and working women, particularly from Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities, have borne the brunt not only of job loss in the ‘she’-cession, but of the physical and mental stress fueled by lockdowns and school closures, rising family violence and heavy demands on frontline workers.  

The pandemic has thrown into relief what we value—and the urgent need to build up and invest in essential support systems that will secure a healthy, secure, and more equitable future for all.

In coping through the pandemic, and as it has since time immemorial, our most foundational and essential support system has been Nature. 

We know you and senior officials are hard at work to finalize a federal budget that will underwrite our path forward as a country. As women leaders from diverse regions and sectors, and across Indigenous, Black, racialized and LGBTQ2IS+ communities, we are writing to remind you that Nature’s recovery is essential to our own. 

As the buds burst forth and the birds return this spring, people are rejoicing at the prospect of more ways to get outside safely and the chance to reconnect with each other and the land. While we marvel at Nature’s persistent capacity for renewal, we are deeply concerned that natural support systems—from forests to wetlands to ocean and the wildlife they hold—are being dangerously depleted. Over 600 wildlife species are at risk of disappearing. Nature is in crisis across Canada—and therefore, so are we.  

As with the pandemic, Indigenous, Black, and racialized women and their communities are disproportionately affected by environmental damage and climate disruption, and have highly inequitable access to safe and thriving natural areas. 

Indigenous knowledge systems and Western science tell us that the lack of attention to the interface between humans and the natural world is putting us at immense risk.  The destruction of habitat and climbing carbon emissions combine to increase the likelihood of future viral outbreaks, climate chaos and the continued collapse of the natural systems that support all life, providing us clean air, water, food, health and wellness, and cultural connection. Nature also underwrites economic activity and employment for women and their communities from coast to coast to coast.

But there is hope. We have been buoyed by the federal government’s public commitment to protect 25% of land and ocean by 2025 and lead globally to ensure 30% protection of the planet by 2030, while achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. We strongly believe that respect for Indigenous rights and authentic support for Indigenous-led conservation must be central to these efforts. Indeed Indigenous women are leading efforts to defend, restore, and protect ecosystems in their territories, which benefits us all.

Minister, we ask you to ensure that investments to expand protection of land, freshwater and ocean are a priority in the federal budget, and at a level commensurate with Canada’s historic nature and climate commitments. We support the call from the Green Budget Coalition for a minimum investment of $4.8B over five years, including support for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas and Guardian Programs. Without this, the promise of global leadership on nature and climate will be empty, and we will have shortchanged future generations and all species the healthy future that is their right.

As Indigenous peoples have understood for millennia, humans are an integral part of Nature not above it. Simply put, our economy and our communities cannot thrive if Nature does not. 

As Nature renews her life-giving support to us all this spring, we urge you to ensure we invest in protecting and restoring the lands and waters that hold us all.

Sincerely,

  • Margaret Atwood CC OOnt CH FRSC, Poet, novelist and literary critic
  • Adrienne Clarkson PC CC CMM COM CD FRSC(hon) FRAIC(hon) FRCPSC(hon), 26th Governor-General of Canada
  • Valérie Courtois, Director, Indigenous Leadership Initiative
  • Louise Dennys, Executive Publisher, Penguin Random House Canada
  • Julie Gelfand, Former federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in the Office of the Auditor General of Canada
  • Mandy Gull, Deputy Grand Chief, Cree Nation Government
  • Melissa Lem, MD, CCFP, FCFP, President-Elect, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment & Clinical Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine
  • Heather Reisman, CEO, Indigo Inc.
  • Kekinusuqs Judith Sayers, C.M., President, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council
  • Jacqueline L. Scott, Founder, Black Outdoors
  • Mary Simon, OC, OQ, Former Ambassador, Circumpolar Affairs
  • K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett, President, Coastal First Nations/Great Bear Initiative
  • Ingrid Waldron, Executive Director of the ENRICH Project, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Dalhousie University
  • Jennifer Beeman, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Action Quebec
  • Meredith Brown, Riverkeeper Emeritus, Ottawa Riverkeeper
  • Sharon Butala, OC , SOM, Author
  • Cara Clairman, President & CEO, Plug’n Drive
  • Amelia Clarke, Associate Dean of Research, Faculty of Environment & Associate Professor, Univeristy of Waterloo
  • Ann Dale, Director – School of Environment & Sustainability, Royal Roads University
  • Amber Dawn, Author
  • Demiesha Dennis, Founder & CEO, Brown Girl Outdoor World
  • Vanessa Eckstein, Founder, Blok Design
  • Karen Farbridge, President, Karen Farbridge & Associates, Former Mayor of Guelph
  • Charlotte Fillmore, Teacher, Armbrae Academy & Mother of Activist Jacob Fillmore
  • Samya Hassan, Executive Director, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
  • Courtney Howard, MD, Emergency Physician, Past-President, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
  • Rita S Karakas, Managing Partner, RSK Associates
  • Judith Kasiama, Founder & CEO, Colour the Trails
  • M. Janet Kasperski RN, MHSc, CHE, President & Chief Executive Officer, Resilient Kids Canada
  • Gail Krantzberg, Professor – Engineering, Science & Public Policy, McMaster University
  • Rosanne Kyle, Partner, Mandell Pinder LLP
  • Marty Leonard, Dean – Faculty of Graduate Studies & Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University
  • Lynn McDonald, Former MP and former president, National Action Committee on the Status of Women
  • Juanita Montalvo, Managing Director, Privus Capital Inc.
  • Anastasia Mourogova Millin, Global Director – Capital & Investments, Dark Matter Labs
  • Sarah P. Otto FRSC, Killam University Professor in Evolutionary Biology, University of British Columbia
  • Jane Pagel, Retired President & CEO, Ontario Clean Water Agency
  • Christy Pettit, CEO, ODScore Inc.
  • Isabelle Poirier, Founder, Intelegia
  • Marina Queirolo, Managing Director, Sûrkl Inc & Chair – Public Food Market Working Group, Toronto Food Policy Council
  • Nicole Rycroft, M.S.C., Founder & Executive Director, Canopy
  • Trish Salah, Writer & Associate Professor of Gender Studies, Queen’s University
  • Sheila Sampath, Editorial & Art Director, Shameless Magazine
  • Nola Kate Seymoar, Associate, SFU Center for Dialogue & Retired President/CEO, International Centre for Sustainable Cities
  • Bridget J. Stutchbury, Distinguished Research Professor & Canada Research Chair – Ecology & Conservation Biology, York University
  • Cedar Swan, CEO, Adventure Canada
  • Ambika Tenneti, Ph.D. Candidate – Daniels Forestry, University of Toronto
  • Marium Vahed, Chair, Green Ummah
  • Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese, President, SMV Energy Solutions
  • Laura Zizzo, Co-founder and CEO, Manifest Climate

cc. The Honourable Mona Fortier, Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance 

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