The week of June 17 was one of disappointment for those who support climate justice and Indigenous rights. And it was all rather ironically timed.
On 17 June, the House of Commons, with full government support, declared that Canada is “in a national climate emergency which requires…that Canada commit to meeting its national emissions target under the Paris Agreement and to making deeper reductions in line with the Agreement's objective of holding global warming below two degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
The next day, the federal government reapproved the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, an expansion that, if it goes ahead, will undermine the government’s ability to meet its ongoing efforts to implement the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth as well as Canada’s international commitments in the Paris Agreement.
The United Church of Canada has previously expressed its concerns about the pipeline’s expansion and its purchase by the federal government. We did so not just because of the implications for the climate but also because of what the decision-making process has meant for Indigenous rights.
We continue to believe that no decisions can be made on projects on or crossing Indigenous lands without the full participation and the free, prior, and informed consent of the Indigenous peoples affected. These are key principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the United Church has adopted as the framework of reconciliation.
United Church people from across the country have worked for more than three years to support Bill C-262, which would have been a vehicle to harmonize Canadian law with the UN Declaration. Among other things, it would have helped to create a nation-to-nation framework for decision-making on issues like the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
Unfortunately, despite its passage through the House of Commons, Bill C-262 was opposed and delayed by a small number of senators, and died at third reading when the Senate rose for summer break on June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day.
The United Church is saddened by this failure to move such an important and hopeful piece of legislation forward. We are saddened by the lack of coherence on climate action and the role of Indigenous peoples in decisions that affect us all.
United Church people across the country are deeply affected by the climate crisis, whether through concern for their livelihood, weather-related emergencies and changes to the seasons, ecological damage, or the refusal to honour Indigenous rights.
We are encouraged by and give thanks for the ways in which people in the United Church continue to participate in their faith and local communities for climate action, Indigenous rights, and a just transition for all those affected by the climate crisis.
We ask now that the church pray:
In a time of reconciliation, of binding up wounds, we fear an unravelling
We have pledged to bind up wounds together
Yet we do it so lightly that there is no healing
We say, “reconciliation, reconciliation,” but is there reconciliation?
In this time of reconciliation, of binding up wounds, we dare to hope
To find creative solutions together
We say, “reconciliation, reconciliation”
That all might be healed and our relationship transformed
(Excerpted from “We Dare to Hope,” The United Church of Canada, 2018. Read the full text of the prayer.)