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Nearly 200 Groups in Canada Vow to Fight for Covid-19 Recovery That Puts Human and Ecological Health First

"The choices we make now about how to recover from this pandemic will shape not only our health and economic future, but also the future of human life on this planet."

A new alliance of Canadian groups is calling for a just recovery.

A new alliance of Canadian groups is calling for a just recovery. "We are standing on the threshold between the old world and the next and we must choose to build the future we want," they say. (Image: justrecoveryforall.ca)

Nearly 200 Canadian organizations on Monday rolled out their demands for a "just recovery," saying that continuing business-as-usual after the pandemic would prevent the kind of far-reaching transformation needed to put "the health and well-being of ALL peoples and ecosystems first."

"The choices we make now about how to recover from this pandemic will shape not only our health and economic future, but also the future of human life on this planet," Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff said in a statement.

"This moment is a reminder that the status quo can and must be disrupted," the new Just Recovery for All website declares. "We are standing on the threshold between the old world and the next and we must choose to build the future we want."

A just recovery—which would enable the government and civil society to "build back better"—rests in six key principles:

  1. Put people's health and well-being first, no exceptions. Health is a human right and is interdependent with the health and well-being of ecological systems.
  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.
  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 labor standards and a right to unionize. Improved conditions for essential service workers must be maintained beyond this crisis.
  4. Build resilience to prevent future crises. We cannot recover from the current crisis by entrenching systems that will cause the next crisis.
  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.
  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.

The principles were endorsed by progressive groups focused on a broad range of issues including 350.org, the Canadian Federation of Students, Oxfam Canada, and The Leap.

"The huge collaborative effort that brought these principles to life over many weeks of rich, challenging discussions exemplifies the kind of action we expect of political leaders as we move through this crisis," Catherine Abreu of Climate Action Network Canada said in a statement.

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"It's going to take a massive and diverse community of voices to encourage governments to be bold in the face of corporate lobbies, and to put people and communities first," she said.

"Our goal was to capture the immense amount of care work happening throughout Canadian civil society right now and present a vision of a Just Recovery that leaves no one behind," Abreu explained. "We know this is a vision the majority of Canadians support, and millions of people are ready to take action."

As for the inevitable question—How are you going to pay for it?—the groups say the money is already there. It's just a question of changing who's on the receiving end. From the new site:

The government currently gives billions of dollars in handouts to industries that harm our environment and communities, including the oil and gas industry. Canada also loses billions of dollars to offshore tax havens every year.

Right now, the government is working on a plan to rebuild our economy. It is likely that they will unveil a stimulus package, but it's on all of us to ensure that money goes directly to workers and communities, not corporations. By bailing out people, not big businesses, and closing tax loopholes, we can start to build a sustainable and just future for all.

Dr. Courtney Howard of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment says it's clear from what she's witnessed amid the global pandemic that people are willing to use moments of crisis as turning points for positive change.

"To feel safe," she said, "we need to manage two planetary health emergencies at once—Covid-19 and its economic fallout, and climate change."

"We've shown that when pressed, we prioritize health. We take care of one another," said Howard.

"We have a generational opportunity to use this time of crisis and reflection to bring to life a vision of planetary health for all," she continued. "We've stayed home to save lives. By working together on a just and healthy recovery, we'll save more." 

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