Canada has long been a country that views nature as an object to be excessively exploited rather than a being to be respected.
But viewing nature as something separate from ourselves that can be continuously pillaged for profit is a devastating mistake. The forests, rivers, and oceans that sustain Canada’s biodiversity are essential for us, too. They filter the water we drink, suck carbon out of the air, and nurture pollinators that help crops grow.
These ecosystems are also the territories of Indigenous Peoples, who have kept them healthy since time immemorial and who are, far too often, criminalized for defending them. Respecting Indigenous rights and protecting biodiversity are two sides of the same coin.
Meanwhile, the federal government has failed to deliver on its commitment to protect 17% of Canada’s lands and freshwaters under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Powerful industry lobbies deny there’s a problem in order to delay action. And what little biodiversity policy does exist in Canada is a fragmented mess of provincial, federal, and territorial legislation that is plagued by endless delays.
This legal landscape means that governments consistently prioritize big corporations over Indigenous rights and a healthy environment, which in turn accelerates climate change and the further loss of biodiversity on a massive scale.
Canada needs a strong Nature & Biodiversity Act that protects nature right across the country — from the biggest forests to the smallest blades of seagrass — because every single part of a natural system contributes to the smooth functioning of the whole.
This Act should be created in deep partnership with Indigenous Peoples, whose rights and knowledge are key to the regeneration and responsible stewardship of stolen lands. It should shift power away from big corporations to the communities most impacted by environmental degradation. And it should establish firm biodiversity protection targets that include annual reports to the public to ensure transparency and accountability.
Finally, while targets and reports are important, the Biodiversity Act must trigger a value shift within our governments, in which the ecological crisis, Indigenous knowledge, and the restoration of our connection with Nature are embedded in all levels of decision-making.
Acknowledgment: As a settler-founded environmental organization, Greenpeace Canada is on a journey to be in better relationship with the Earth, one that centers Indigenous experiences, knowledge and voices, as they are the inherent rights holders of the lands we operate upon. We recognise the harms of past Greenpeace campaigns under the name of protecting wildlife – in particular our misguided campaigns against the seal hunt. In a spirit of humility, respect and gratitude, we acknowledge the many Indigenous people who have shared their diverse perspectives with us over the years. We have a responsibility to listen carefully and act intentionally, working in partnership to build a truly decolonized world.