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Investing In Nature Is Essential to Our Shared Future

Canadian women leaders send an open letter to the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Finance.

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. (Photo: Getty/Stock Photo/apos tophy)

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. (Photo: Getty/Stock Photo/apos tophy)

For over a year the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our health and well-being, our economy and our communities. Low-income and working women, particularly from Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities, have borne the brunt not only of job loss in this ‘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, and more equitable future for all.

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

The federal government is currently hard at work finalizing a federal budget that will underwrite our path forward as a country. That’s why women leaders from diverse regions and sectors, and across Indigenous, Black, racialized and LGBTQ2IS+ communities, wrote to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland this week to remind her that nature’s recovery is essential to our own. 

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.

In our Open Letter to Minister Freeland, women leaders from across the country have come together to ask the federal government to invest in nature for our shared future. Signatories to the letter include writer, Margaret Atwood, businesswoman and philanthropist, Heather Reisman, Deputy Grand Chief Mandy Gull of the Cree Nation Government, Jacqueline Scott of Black Outdoors, and more than XX prominent women leaders from across the country.

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 per cent of land and ocean by 2025 and lead globally to ensure 30 per cent 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.

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.

Signatories to the Open Letter asked Minister Freeland 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.

Credible federal investments in nature will allow us to hold our heads high at President Biden’s upcoming Leader’s Climate Summit and offers Canada an opportunity to demonstrate a serious commitment to global nature protection as a frontline climate defense. 

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 the federal government to ensure we invest in protecting and restoring the lands and waters that hold us all.

Gauri Sreenivasan

Gauri Sreenivasan is Policy Director at Nature Canada.

Mandy Gull

Mandy Gull is Deputy Grand Chief of the Cree Nation Government.

Jacqueline Scott

Jacqueline Scott is a PhD student at the University of Toronto and founder of Black Outdoors.

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