By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News
[Ottawa – CCN] – Social justice and religious groups who have been demanding what they call a “just recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic heard echoes of that position in the federal government’s Speech from the Throne that was delivered by Governor General Julie Payette on behalf of the Liberal government Sept. 23, 2020.
The federal government pledged in the speech to continue to support Canadians, especially the most vulnerable to the economic hardships that are a result of the disruption to the economy of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to make action to address the threat of climate change the key pillar of future economic development.
Reading the speech on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, Payette said: “the last six months have laid bare fundamental gaps in our society, and in societies around the world.”
She continued: “This pandemic has been hard for everyone. But for those who were already struggling, the burden has been even heavier.
“Climate action will be a cornerstone of our plan to support and create a million jobs across the country,”according to the speech, which added that efforts to foster better relations with Canada’s Indigenous people, investment in a national child care plan in association with the provinces, and establishment of national standards for the care of the elderly will also be cornerstones of Canada’s eventual recovery from the impact of the global health crisis.
The faith-based advocacy group Citizens for Public Justice, which is based in Ottawa and is also a member of the For the Love of Creation coalition, was quick to point out the similarities between what the federal government has put forward as its agenda for the next Parliament and what faith-based social justice groups have been advocating.
“CPJ was happy to see all three of our key issue areas highlighted, along with accompanying policy proposals,” a statement from CPJ said after the throne speech, adding “the government borrowed language from many advocacy campaigns to put forward a progressive vision for the future.”
However, while the agenda set out in the throne speech is in many ways very similar to what campaigns such For the Love of Creation have been seeking, there is concern about whether the government will actually put those words into action.
“As can be expected for these types of addresses, the merit of these words will be determined by the details that follow,” the Citizens for Public Justice statement said. “CPJ remains hopeful that in the implementation of these policies and budgetary decisions, Canada will move quickly to achieve climate justice and ensure the rights of Indigenous Peoples, refugees, people living in poverty, and others experiencing intersecting forms of systemic oppression are honoured and upheld.”
In a Sept. 14 open letter from the For the Love of Creation coalition to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, the faith groups urged the government to take steps that nine days later appeared as promises in the throne speech.
“Even before the emergence of COVID-19, we knew that we were entering into a crucial decade for climate action. Addressing the climate emergency is more important than ever and must now be done while also responding to the pandemic and devastating economic, political, cultural, and social issues,” the open letter from the coalition to the federal minister said.
“Indigenous Peoples have long spoken of the interconnectedness of all Creation. Respecting this interconnectedness is critical for ecological and economic integrity, right relations with Indigenous Peoples, and for holistic recovery from the pandemic.
“We have an opportunity to build a just and equitable Canada,” the letter concluded.
A speech from the throne, which was necessary after the federal government prorouged Parliament in August, eventually leads to a confidence vote in the House of Commons in which the government either stands or falls. The Official Opposition Conservatives have indicated they will vote against the throne speech, but the Liberals only need the support of one party in the House of Commons to survive a confidence vote, and the federal NDP has indicated that it will back the government.