On the journey: Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
From the start, For Our Kids has been about empowering parents, grandparents, and all those who care for kids to raise their voices and share their stories, bringing the moral imperative to change the course humanity is on, for the sake of our children and future generations.
We communicate a lot about what parents and teams across the network are doing, and we typically keep what happens behind the scenes - well, behind the scenes. As we've grown from one-person network support to a team of five+ part-timers, we're learning that we need to acknowledge and give space and time to what has brought us to this place. It's an important piece of supporting and strengthening the web that connects the For Our Kids network.
A huge part of our journey as a network and as a network support team began a few years ago with a deliberate plan to make our commitment to JEDI principles (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) more visible and meaningful.
Here's a look at where that has taken us:
- Acting on the desire of FOK teams to learn from, build relationships with and support work led by BIPOC communities, two parents from the network spearheaded a JEDI-Accelerator (JEDI-A) committee - read about it here - which has focused on how FOK enacts and reflects its commitment to anti-racism and climate justice in its actions, governance, communication, relationships and resources for network members.
- Starting last fall, national support team members and the JEDI-A committee have been engaged in the course "Whiteness at Work" offered through Patagonia and led by The Adaway Group; it's helped us recognize how deeply-embedded racial discrimination and practices are in our daily lives and the systems within which we work.
- And in January FOK launched our first membership survey with guidance from Bloom Consulting. It was intended to be a way to hear from anyone who has joined the network through the website or is following us on socials - to learn about who you are, how you see the connection between climate action and racial justice, and how FOK could support you. More than 140 people responded with rich, valuable, and personal insights and experience, for which we're deeply grateful.
What have we learned so far?
First, that it's an incredible privilege to be in community with all of you, that there are threads of action, compassion, and brilliance holding this network together, and that those threads are incredibly strong and vulnerable at the same time.
Second, that just as in our personal lives, we have a lot more to learn and unlearn as a team and an organization. Also, that just as it is in our personal lives, it's hard work that takes time.
Third, that a key part of this journey is to be transparent about it. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Where do we go from here?
This journey has given us pause to reflect on FOK's theory of change, re-commit ourselves to its fundamental work, and re-imbue it with the energy and learning that's been gifted to us over the past three and half years.
What will that look like?
- collaboratively developing a new governance model that's about sharing power and being responsive
- capturing key learnings from the member survey and sharing them with you, soon!
- reaching out to those of you who told us, in the member survey, that you want us to reach out to you about inclusion and diversity in FOK
- expanding resources and training for individuals and teams
- starting conversations in communities where we haven't been present: listening and learning
- and sharing what we're doing, as often as we can, in blog posts like this one.
We're here to support you as parents and to connect you, helping to balance the often overwhelming sense of urgency we all feel with sustainable, inclusive, evolving ways to make change happen, and above all, to base our work in relationships. After all, parenting is all about relationships, learning as we go from a place of love.
Reach us anytime at [email protected]
Team Leaders' meeting April
Those of you who take a leadership role in your local FOK teams are the roots holding this grassroots network together, and we want to support and appreciate you however we can.
Team leaders' meetings are an opportunity for team leaders or active members from each team in the FOK network to:
connect with each other about the challenges and successes you're experiencing
collaborate on common issues and actions, and
get support from each other and from the network team through skill-building and development sessions based on your needs
The next meeting is on Saturday, April 1. You can register below for a link to the meeting. We'll send a calendar invitation closer to the date.
Contact [email protected] with any questions or comments.
Parents call for regulation on natural gas in buildings
Amid growing awareness of the impacts of natural gas on our health, Kelly Marie Martin and Geneviève Ferdais, physicians and parents in For Our Kids and Mères au front, wrote this compelling op-ed.
Op-ed: Natural gas use in Montreal buildings should be phased out -- Montreal Gazette
Learning Together with Chelsea Vowel and Clayton Thomas-Müller
In March 2023, parents, grandparents, and caregivers across the country came together online to listen to authors and activists Chelsea Vowel and Clayton Thomas-Müller in conversation with moderator Michelle Cyca on climate justice, Indigenous rights and parenthood. The conversation is available here.
There were a lot of important lessons and ideas shared, and there’s so much to reflect on. We’re grateful to Michelle, Chelsea, and Clayton for sharing their knowledge and guidance so generously.
A Message to For Our Kids Supporters and Members
From Seth Klein, Team Lead with the Climate Emergency Unit
Seeking your support for a Youth Climate Corps
Dear FOK friends,
Seth Klein here, Team Lead with the Climate Emergency Unit. I’m writing to seek your support amplifying the national call for a Youth Climate Corps.
I hope some of you have already heard a bit about the idea of a Youth Climate Corps, but if not, you can read more (including our policy brief outlining our vision for the YCC) here.
Here’s the idea
As many of you know, a couple years ago I wrote a book called A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency. The book seeks to map out a mobilization to confront the existential threat of our time, but is structured around lessons from the Second World War. One of those lessons is the potentially transformative power of a Youth Climate Corps.
Today, as I give talks and meet young people across the country, I am convinced that tens of thousands of them are once again eager to serve – ready to confront the civilizational threat of this generation. But sadly, our country has yet to issued them such an invitation. They want to enlist in this task of our lives, but our government has not provided the opportunity.
The YCC, as we envision it, would be a two-year, federally-funded training and employment program for people 35 and under, empowering them to work within their communities and across the country on low-carbon and climate mitigation/adaptation work. The establishment of a YCC would communicate that our government is indeed entering genuine emergency mode. YCC participants would be engaged in meaningful climate work: restoring ecosystems, managing forests to reduce wildfire risks, responding to climate disasters and enhancing community resilience/safety, building new climate infrastructure (renewable energy projects, building retrofits, high speed rail), and engaging in low-carbon care work (elder/child care).
At a time when many communities grapple with the future prospects for their youth, and when many young people are wrestling with climate anxiety and mental health,* the YCC could be just the hopeful solution to captivate people’s excitement, and signal that young people are being invited to join in a grand societal/economic transformation.
Here’s how you can help
If this idea captivates you, there are many ways you can help build the call for this new national program.
- The CEU has created a letter-writing tool for folks to send their support for this transformative policy to key federal leaders and their local MP. Please use the tool to send these folks your message, and consider sharing the tool with your friends, colleagues, newsletter lists and on social media. Here are some relevant links:
Our letter-writing to representatives tool can be accessed here.
We’ve also created a welcome package with shareables you can use to promote the YCC, which you can access here.
There is a twitter thread about it here.
- Talk to your kids about this idea. We’d love to know what they think, and if they want to get involved in this campaign. Maybe they want to see if their student councils or other youth groups want to endorse the idea of a YCC.
- Consider approaching other organizations and institutions in your life – faith institutions, union locals, school PACs, community organizations – to see if they would support and amplify the call for a YCC.
- Maybe you’re ready to seek a meeting with your local MP to discuss the YCC. If your local representative happens to be a cabinet minister (yay!), we’d be happy to help prepare you for that meeting.
- Help us seed this idea in your local media. Consider writing a letter to the editor, or calling into your local radio show, and talk-up the value of the YCC. Try to draw out a response from local politicians.
- The national YCC campaign is going to be producing a bunch of videos, shareables and other campaign materials in the coming months, as well as hosting national events to drum up excitement about this idea – indeed, we are hosting one such exciting event on March 7, for which you can register here. And we have some fun actions in the works. If you use the letter-writing tool, you’ll have the option to sign up to receive updates about all these, and we hope you’ll keep spreading the word.
Friends, this is a winnable campaign. Together, we could press for the creation of a program that gives all of us – and our kids – new-found hope.
If you want to get more involved in the YCC campaign, please get in touch (my email is: [email protected]).
Thanks for considering,
* A new report from Lakehead University researchers Lindsay Galway and Ellen Field lays out what you as parents know well – many of our kids are wrestling with significant climate anxiety. Their study, Climate emotions and anxiety among young people in Canada, surveyed 1,000 young people age 16-24. Among their findings: at least 56% of respondents reported feeling afraid, sad, anxious, and powerless and 78% reported that climate change impacts their overall mental health. Respondents rated governmental responses to climate change negatively and reported greater feelings of betrayal than of reassurance.
Listening and learning with our first Member Survey
This summer, the For Our Kids (FOK) network will be 4 years old, and as we move past toddlerhood we're looking for input from our members to move us to our next, critical phase of development.
We've crafted our first ever member survey and we'd love to hear from you! Could you spare 5-10 minutes, before February 3?
The survey is for members in the For Our Kids network - parents, guardians, grandparents and allies who have signed up here as individual members and/or are connected to a team in the network.
The survey is confidential, unless you want to share your name with us for follow-up. It’s hosted on our behalf by our partners Bloom Consulting, a team of equity-focused facilitators who are helping us learn from your critical input. Responses will be reviewed by FOK’s Justice-Equity-Diversity-Inclusion (JEDI) accelerator committee to lead them in the next steps of increasing FOK’s capacity and knowledge about the interconnection of climate change with social and racial justice.
We will also share general, aggregate survey results back to network members.
What’s the survey for?
Parent-led local teams set the course for the FOK network. In 2022 conversations among those teams about social justice were formalized into a JEDI accelerator committee - read more about that process here.
We’ve set ambitious goals and to move forward we need to learn more about the network’s membership: who you are, your many dimensions of diversity, and how you understand the connection between racial equity and climate action.
Critically, this will provide a baseline for us to understand the diversity that exists within the For Our Kids network and the impact of our actions. And personally, we hope that these questions spark reflection and curiosity about the interconnection of racial and climate justice, and our place in it.
This is the first time we’ve undertaken something like this in For Our Kids, and we're stepping out humbly to understand and support, not to judge or challenge. Most of all, we hope you feel welcomed and safe in participating. We’re asking these questions in the gentlest possible way, and will treat your responses the same way.
If you have questions or feedback about the survey, we encourage you to email us at [email protected]
Thank you for your crucial participation - looking forward to hearing from you.
Looking for a way to support the amazing parents in the For Our Kids network?
We’re looking for a Network Coordinator to join our national support team.
For Our Kids is a growing network of parents, grandparents and guardians advocating for a green, equitable, and just world where our children and grandchildren grow up safe and healthy. We are organized in local teams taking action across unceded Indigenous territories known as Canada.
Since August 2019, network members have come together to grow their awareness, confidence, and skills to impact change at the local, regional, and national levels. Parents participate in a range of actions including art installations, meetings with elected representatives, submitting policy briefs, info sessions, participating in community events, and many more. We bring parent voices to municipal and school climate action planning, federal net-zero emissions policy development, and global COP conferences, while being involved on the ground in issues that are prioritized by the communities in which our members live.
For Our Kids practices a grassroots organizing model whereby our parents and guardians are the heroes in the story, choosing what to work on and stepping up into leadership. Our paid staff are at the service of others, facilitating conversations, providing training and guidance, and helping parents succeed. We see ourselves as building a powerful community.
About the role
We are seeking a bit of a unicorn. We seek a leader who steps back so that others can lead. In contrast to a traditional Executive Director, we are seeking a Coordinator who practices what some call “servant leadership,” who sees their role as lifting others up, and who seeks the limelight only for others.
The Network Coordinator will anchor the overall strategy of the network, listening deeply to the desires of the parents, the feedback of the staff team who work closely with them, and to current events to help shape common work and activities. The Coordinator will be responsible for ensuring overall impact - to make sure that the network is making a real difference.
The Coordinator will lead day-to-day administration of the network, help manage the multiple projects being undertaken, and collaboratively lead operations and fundraising hand-in-hand with our small and mighty national support team. In addition, the Coordinator will help bring to life a new governance model that reflects the unique grassroots-led nature of the For Our Kids network, working with the current Board of Directors and other committed parent leaders to implement a new approach to making key network decisions.
Appreciating that the experience and skillset that suit this position may come from a variety of backgrounds, we invite you to apply for this role if you can demonstrate the following:
You are very good at:
- deep listening and consensus building
- managing multiple projects effectively
- collaboratively leading a team of experienced consultants working remotely and with flexible schedules
- managing a variety of daily network operations including financial planning and monitoring, personnel and resource management
- thinking strategically and practically
- being adaptable
- planning and facilitating meetings
- building relationships
- communicating in many ways across different audiences
You have experience with:
- working independently and remotely coordinating an online team
- project management
- database management
- Zoom, Slack, and collaborative documentation
- financial planning and operations
- operational planning
- supporting a board of Directors
- facilitation and strategic planning
You are passionate about:
- contributing to For Our Kids’ vision and grassroots organizing model
- running an effective organization and building capacity and credibility
- grassroots-led organizing, growing the capacity of local teams, and centring parent voices
- diversity, equity and inclusion, and bringing those to life within the For Our Kids network
- the world future generations will live in
You will need strong interpersonal skills to work in a highly collaborative environment, and while scheduling will be relatively flexible, you will be called upon to be available outside regular working hours to accommodate the national scope of the support team and the volunteer parents who often give their time outside of 9-5. You’ll also need access to reliable internet service and the resources to work effectively from home or a remote office. Some travel will be required as we open up from COVID-19.
Experience working in the non-profit sector; environmental, climate justice or social justice background would be considered assets. Strong skills in English are important; equally strong skills in French would be nice to have; proficiency in other languages would be valued and appreciated.
Structure and Salary
The Network Coordinator reports to the Chair of the Board of Directors and oversees 5 part-time contractors. The Network Coordinator will meet with the Board Chair once a month and the full Board twice a year pending changes to our governance structure. They will develop their own schedule for regularly meeting the contractors both one-on-one and as a team.
This role is envisioned as 30 hours/week paid at a rate of $65,000 annually. It is a one-year contract position with the intention of renewal.
This is an exciting opportunity to be part of an inspiring and growing organization and to further develop a wide range of skills. We encourage applications from members of equity-seeking groups and are committed to a recruitment process and working environment free from discrimination, in which each person is respected and can participate safely and confidently.
Please forward your resume and a cover letter outlining your interest in this position to [email protected] by January 27. We cannot promise to follow up with all applicants; however, we value each application and will contact those with whom we would like to further discuss this opportunity.
Parents weigh in on an emissions cap!
Reversing biodiversity decline in our kids' lifetime is possible
By Jennifer Smith, founding member and organizing parent with Pour nos enfants / For Our Kids Montreal
As a board member for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) who happens to live in Montreal, I had the privilege of having access to COP15 or NatureCOP. I was very much appreciative of the opportunity to be the eyes and ears of parents across the country.
The goal of NatureCOP is to establish a Global Biodiversity Framework, an international agreement for protecting nature around the world. This is essential to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. Biodiversity is the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. We are biodiversity – our kids are biodiversity – and biodiversity collapse means the collapse of humanity.
Indigenous Peoples across the country have been doing tremendous work for the conservation of their territories since time immemorial, and we have so much to learn from them regarding our place within nature and the stewardship of the environment. A lot of this work was showcased in panels at COP15, and I was in awe of all the work that is being done. The federal government made commitments to support some of this work. This is a start, but more can certainly be done.
It was invigorating to be joining people around the world in one common goal – the protection of nature. Hardworking individuals from across the country were working from dawn until the late hours of the night hosting informational panels, giving a platform to Indigenous Peoples, meeting with government officials, and doing what they can to influence negotiations, all while doing an excellent job engaging the public. We need to do what we can to support these groups.
Overall, I have come away hopeful. Yes, moving our governments and the governments of the world can be a slow and frustrating process. But there are so many people who are working toward the solutions that I can’t help but feel that we will get there and reverse biodiversity decline in our kids’ generation.
- Thousands of people – including families (and David Suzuki!) – took to the streets of Montreal for a march for biodiversity led by Indigenous groups
- Indigenous Leadership Initiative built an Indigenous village at the Old Port, a welcoming space, which hosted talks on Indigenous-led conservation and showcased Indigenous culture
- Our very own Natalie Caine represented For Our Kids and Mères au Front on a panel on climate grief
- The Mères au Front hosted a number of family-friendly workshops to create the Chair of generations to give our kids a seat at the table and delivered one of these to COP15
- Réseau Environnement hosted a public space that included family-friendly biodiversity activities, including the Biodiversity Collage animated by For Our Kids Montreal parent Olivier Gourment
- Collectif COP15 hosted a public forum on the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, which culminated in the Montreal Call to pursue systemic change announced by Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and supported by the Quebec and federal environment ministers
- The NatureBUS from Nature Canada delivered thousands of letters to Minister Guilbeault, in support of nature protection from across Canada including letters from kids and families
- Minister Guilbeault was literally everywhere making positive announcements for Canada, including for Indigenous-led conservation. We will need to push the government to follow through on these commitments and to take action
These are still taking place and are slow. The clock is ticking, and negotiators still have a few more days to come to an agreement, but we continue to push for action.
What can you do
- There is still time to take 30 seconds to send off your own letter to decision makers urging them to halt and reverse biodiversity loss for nature and for our kids
- Support the Montreal Call for a dialogue on addressing the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and climate change and urge your local government to join the call
- Send your MP a holiday card calling for a cap on oil and gas emissions
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was created to document and record the truth of Canada's Indian Residential School System, and to inform all Canadians of those truths.
Over five years, the TRC listened to and documented the experiences of residential school survivors, their families and communities, and former residential school employees. You can find the history, mandate, and work of the TRC on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation's website.
The TRC's final report was released on Dec. 15, 2015. It included six volumes of what the Commission heard and researched, along with 10 principles of reconciliation and 94 Calls to Action to address the ongoing legacy of the Indian Residential School System. You can find all the documents here.
As Canadians, we are challenged by the Calls to Action to change the fundamental structures and attitudes in our society that continue to marginalize and harm Indigenous Peoples and communities, and to seek to advance the process of reconciliation.
Since the report was released 7 years ago, only 12% of the recommendations are considered completed, and 38% are either not started or stalled, according to ongoing tracking on the Indigenous Watchdog site. There was also a comprehensive review of each Call to Action prepared by the Yellowhead Institute in December 2021 that shows similarly dismal progress.
To mark the release of the final report, For Our Kids is launching a series of interactive sessions you can participate in with your team, your family or any group you'd like to bring together, to walk through the 94 Calls to Action, reflect on what they mean and their status, and think about how to commit to moving them into action.
The sessions will be ready in the new year. Meanwhile, if you are not already familiar with the Calls to Action, you can take the first step by reading them here.
If you would like to be part of the interactive sessions, please contact us at [email protected]
Emissions Cap follow up
Right now, leaders are deciding how to limit Canada’s biggest source of climate pollution – oil and gas industry emissions.
If you're on this page, you've likely just sent a postcard to your MP asking for the regulation around emissions to be robust and comprehensive - it's the only way to effectively cut our emissions which right now are only increasing. So, thank you for taking that action!
(Haven't yet sent a postcard? Check out how easy it is, here!)
We want to follow up in the new year by phoning MPs to make sure they received the postcards and took notice of them. If you'd like to be part of this phone campaign, please sign up here. We'll be in touch in January!
If you're not able to commit to this follow up, but you'd like to learn more about the For Our Kids network and how we support parents interested in meaningful change in their communities, nationally, or globally, you can find out more about us here.
Questions? You can always reach us at [email protected]Sign up
Holiday Cards for Change
Could you host a Holiday Cards for Change party with your family, friends or For Our Kids team? (Find a team near you here).
Making our climate action creative, impactful and fun creates the energy we need to stay involved. Tap into your inner artist during the winter holidays and create some homemade cards for change. It's a fun activity that helps build connection and can involve our kids!
Send your cards to your elected officials, bank CEOs or other power holders.
Three easy steps,
on your own or with a group
Make it bright
Think about ways you can bring people together for a card-making party (online or in person). Share your thoughts as you're creating them, have some hot chocolate or treats, play some music or sing songs. Do a show and tell at the end to share your messages and artwork. Share stories of hope and solutions.
Make it personal
You can find some past designs from For Our Kids teams to print out here or create your own. Then, tell your story. What are you wishing for?
- Reflect with your kids about the type of world we want (5, 10, 20 years from now) and then capture those hopes and demands in a card.
- Thank those who have been champions for climate action and remind the rest that we need a just transition to a low carbon world now.
- Ask government(s) to set and reach real goals informed by science.
- Acceptance of the economic forecasting that show more pipelines or fossil fuel subsidies are not the investment we need.
- A commitment to using a sustainability and equity lens to make all decisions, realizing the health of people and the planet are inextricably tied.
- In December 2022 - ask for a strong oil & gas emissions cap that will ensure oil and gas companies won’t ever be able to pollute above current levels again, immediate reduction in emissions and commitment to a 60% reduction by 2030, and inclusion of all types of emissions (not just from extracting and refining).
You and your kids will have your own way of expressing what's in your heart.
Make it visible
Take a picture of your kids or yourself with your cards and post on social media. You can tag the recipient or your elected officials, and remember to tag @forourkidscanada on FB/IG so we can amplify your voice. Or email us your photos and a short description of your event here: [email protected]
Where to send your cards
Send a card to whoever you want to influence - locally to globally. Here's a few ideas:
- Your city councilor, mayor or provincial premier
- Your member of parliament: You can send cards for free (without postage) to your MP's office in Ottawa. Find your MP here.
- Send an e-card or email the photos to your elected officials. Copy to the Prime Minister ([email protected]), the Minister of Environment and Climate Change ([email protected]) and the Minister of Finance/Deputy Prime Minister ([email protected]).
- The CEO of Canada's top banks, who continue to fund fossil fuel development (more here):
RBC: David I. McKay, President, CEO and Director, 200 Bay Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5J 2W7. Email: [email protected]
TD: Bharat Masrani, Group President and CEO, 66 Wellington Street West 15th Floor, Td Tower Toronto, Ontario A6 M5K 1A2. Email: [email protected] (and copy [email protected])
BMO: Darryl White, President and CEO, 100 King Street West, 28th Floor, Toronto, On M5X 1A1. Email: [email protected]
Scotiabank: Brian J. Porter, President and CEO, Scotia Plaza 44 King Street, West Toronto, Ontario M5H 1H1, Canada. Email: [email protected]
CIBC: Victor G. Dodig, President and CEO. 199 Bay Street, Commerce Court Toronto, ON, CA, M5L 1A2. Email: [email protected]
Holiday Cards for Change: Inspired by the local group Pour Nos Enfants / For Our Kids Montréal who partnered in 2019 with Amnesty International's group there to start this tradition.Read more
Question Fossil Fuel Influence
In the quest to transition rapidly from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources to create a more liveable future for our kids, parents often run into a powerful counter-lobby from the fossil fuel industry. Oil, gas, and coal companies have huge resources and they have built influential relationships across all political, economic and social sectors.
One of the places you might not expect to see that influence is in the education system. In fact, fossil fuel companies are heavily involved in teacher education programs at universities across the country, have long been contributing curriculum material for use by educators, and sponsor innumerable projects and programs through schools.
On one hand, the influx of resources is valuable for educators and school districts facing financial restrictions. Digging more deeply, however, this gives fossil fuel companies a huge opportunity to promote their products and an ongoing reliance on fossil fuel energy, particularly to the next generation. And that part of the relationship isn't always clear.
The lack of transparency and the opportunity to influence what students learn about the role fossil fuels play in climate change are the focus behind this campaign. We want to raise awareness of how deeply involved fossil fuel companies are in every level of education across the country, and we're here to support parents taking this on!
Interested in finding out more about fossil fuel industry influence at your kids' school?
- Let us know what it would take for you to bring this to your school or school board.
- Be inspired and encouraged by this example of parents in BC questioning education material prepared and distributed by Fortis BC.
- Learn more - watch the recording below of Do You Smell Gas?, an information session hosted by FOK and CAPE
Interested in fossil fuel industry influence outside the education system?
- Municipalities around the world are starting to ban fossil-fuel ads. This video, hosted by the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, walks through the process and how communities can take this on.
- Canada is the world leader so far in the number of municipalities supporting a global Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, and For Our Kids teams have been instrumental in getting that support. But there's much more that can be done. If your municipality has not yet supported the FFNPT, get in touch with us for more information.
You can always contact us with questions, comments, or ideas: [email protected]
Youth Climate Justice at COP27
I had the good fortune to have the opportunity to go to COP 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh this year. As a volunteer and representative for the BE Initiative, and a parent who is new-ish to the climate movement, I thought it would be an incredible opportunity to immerse myself into the knowledge and culture of climate action, especially as it pertained to the participation of marginalized voices. I am grateful to the BE Initiative for facilitating my attendance there.
Photo: COP 27 People’s Plenary
As a member of For Our Kids, I started my journey in climate action from the perspective that climate action and mitigation is about protecting the future of my child and all the children of the world. The reality is that in most conversations about climate change, the voice of youth and children are a minority--if not outright excluded. But the intent of youth-led groups is to get a seat at the negotiation tables: The phrase "nothing about us without us" was mentioned in several youth-led presentations that I attended at COP 27. This phrase also holds true for other groups whose voices are overshadowed by oil companies and major polluters such as Canada (it was dispiriting to learn that the number of representatives from the oil and gas industry at COP 27 was larger than the number of any single country from the global south this year - more on this from the The Guardian here).
The reality is that the people who will be living with the effects of climate change for the next hundred years--young people (especially those in the global south and racialized communities of the north)--haven't been given much of a say in how their future will look, and haven’t had the ability to hold people like me, the older generations of polluters, accountable for our contributions to global climate change.
At COP 27, things started to feel different. Due to the years-long persistence and tenacity of youth and other marginalized groups, their voices are becoming harder for the privileged to ignore. This was embodied by an event held on the second-last day of the conference called the People’s Plenary.
Photo: Artivistnet via Twitter – Peoples Plenary march at COP, November 17
The People's Plenary was a gathering of all those whose voices are typically overlooked by the privileged climate community: youth, Indigenous Peoples, people with disabilities, women & gender non-conforming people, trade workers and environmental justice groups. Many of the speakers at the plenary were representatives of international organizations and groups representing the global south, which will continue to be the hardest hit by climate change. It was inspiring and humbling as I listened to them recount their battle cries in the quest to be heard and their right to have a seat at the negotiating tables. At the end of each speech, each speaker refrained, "We are not defeated. We will not be defeated!" And each and every time that phrase was spoken, the crowd roared, clapped, chanted and stomped their feet in support.
At the end of the plenary a march ensued through the outdoor conference area with youth and older people alike from all over the world calling for change and demanding to be heard. Yes, amid the posturing and sometimes seemingly empty words of politicians, and amid the numerous oil and gas lobbyists, COP 27 was a forum where marginalized voices were to be heard and progress for their benefit was to be made. Indeed, it seems like at COP 27, progress was made.
Negotiations amongst 200 nations ended a day longer than expected with the achievement of a milestone: major polluters agreed to create a new fund to cover the loss and damages that will be incurred by lower-income countries that are caused by climate change. How much money they will contribute to the fund remains to be seen, but it is now something more that we can hold them accountable to.
I've done some reading about conferences such as COP 27 and how we cannot view them as singular events where change either does or does not happen; instead, we should view them as a part of a larger process of negotiating and making progress over time. As an individual, when you live with the daily awareness of the monstrous task of tackling climate change, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, anxious, alone, and hopeless. I, too, have sometimes succumbed to the notion that what I do really won't do anything to stop climate change. However, what I've learned from attending COP 27 is that the first step we should take in supporting youth and other marginalized voices is to simply show up: Show up at events, marches, meetings, and webinars. Once you've done that, and keep doing that, time and time again, you will find other ways to contribute, even if it is just to continue showing solidarity with those whose voices must be heard.
COP27 closes with deal on loss and damage: ‘A step towards justice’, says UN chief
The Peoples’ Declaration for Climate Justice
Vanessa Brown is a parent, volunteer with BE Initiative, organizer in For Our Kids Toronto and a member of the For Our Kids' national JEDI Accelerator Committee.
Preparing for COP15: Biodiversity Matters
The Convention on Biological Diversity’s 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) will bring together 196 countries in in Montreal, Canada, Dec 7 to 19, 2022. In preparation, parents in For Our Kids Montreal organized a Biodiversity Collage Workshop to better understand the systems leading to biodiversity collapse and brainstorm ways families can be part of the solutions.
Jennifer Smith, parent organizer in FOK-MTL shared this: "In light of the COP15 conference on biodiversity coming to Montreal and the imminent threat of biodiversity collapse, I encourage anyone who can to attend a Biodiversity Collage workshop. The Biodiversity Collage workshop really put into perspective how interconnected humans are with nature. So many human activities are derived from biodiversity, and all human activity can impact it. Participating in this workshop as a small group really allowed us to understand the relationships and come to the solutions ourselves. There is really nothing like that lightbulb moment when your group figures out together – with gentle guidance from the facilitators – how a tiny shift can ripple through a whole ecosystem and how everything is interrelated. As someone who has a background in biodiversity protection, I felt that this workshop was able to bring home some difficult-to-understand concepts in a way that could never be achieved through a textbook.
I attended with my kids, 5 and 7, and they were really engaged with seeing the relationships among the different species. For them – and for all of us really – it was similar to a cooperative board game that allowed us to see these relationships ourselves. When the workshop started to get more complex, one of the facilitators pulled out some colouring sheets that kept my kids busy while the older participants were able to tease out the more intricate relationships between human activities and biodiversity. We were able to incorporate these colouring sheets later, as they depicted some of the core concepts of the collage, and my kids seemed excited that they were able to contribute to the final solution.
We left feeling hopeful. Yes, the threat of biodiversity collapse is a huge crisis to tackle. But we can be part of the solution as individuals and collectively, pushing our governments to do more."
Participate in a Biodiversity Collage
Many French language workshops in Quebec are scheduled - check out Facebook or LinkedIn or on demand here.
If you'd like to attend a virtual workshop in English, you can register here and a volunteer facilitator from Biodiversity Collage will get in touch!
Put pressure on Canada to do its fair share
A major focus of COP15 will be to finalize a new plan to protect nature, called the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. It's expected to include the target of protecting 30% of the world's lands and oceans. Meeting the target will be a critical step in fighting the biodiversity loss and climate change crises. Especially since countries are falling short of previous global targets. And as the CBC recently reported, "Canada continues to struggle to meet its own biodiversity goals."
You can participate in Nature Canada's NatureBus Tour, collecting your messages of support for a plan to restore nature. And join For Our Kids, to stay informed of other ways parents are taking action and how you can join in.
Why is this man being appointed to the Order of Ontario?
We couldn't believe it when we heard that RBC's CEO Dave McKay is about to be appointed to the Order of Ontario, despite growing backlash against RBC as Canada's top funder of fossil fuels and the climate crisis.
As CEO, McKay has invested over $260 Billion in fossil fuels, funded countless projects that violate Indigenous rights and sovereignty, and come under investigation by the Competition Bureau for misleading Canadian consumers about its investment practices.
We think this is a terrible decision, and we want to let the Ontario government know before he's appointed on November 21st.
Why? Because we're living in a climate crisis, and we shouldn't be encouraging business as usual when what we need is rapid change. Instead, we should be recognizing Indigenous leaders and youth on the frontlines of climate solutions, fighting for a better future for all of us.
Contact Your Member of Parliament
Engaging our political leaders is a key thing we can do for our kids. You don't need to be an export on climate science or policy to meet with your elected officials. You just have to speak from the heart, ask questions and share your concerns as a parent or grandparent. It's your super power!
Elected officials aren't used to hearing directly from parents and grandparents about climate, so your correspondence will stand out. It's also their job to connect with their constituents. So it's a great place to learn what policies exist, practice voicing our concerns and ask for accelerated climate action. You can also adapt this action to other elected officials - municipal, provincial or school-board trustees.
2. Send them a personal email or phone their office and ask to leave them a message.
You could also co-write a letter with other parents/grandparents in your riding or your For Our Kids team for a bigger impact. Template letters or scripts help make things quick, but we've heard that unique correspondence has a bigger impact.
3. It helps us to track who's taking action. CC: us on your emails or send us a scan/photo of any handwritten communication: [email protected].
Not Sure What To Say?
Here are some ideas:
- introduce yourself and your family (or group), let them know you are their constituent (living in their riding)
- if you've met formally with them before, remind them what you met about
- speak from the heart and share your concern about your kids' future
- ask them what climate actions and policy their working on
- offer to work with them on that action
- ask them how they're addressing inequity - we know that women, children, low-income and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) families are harmed most by fossil fuel pollution & climate impacts like heatwaves, extreme weather and poor air quality
- invite them to meet with you and/or a group of parents in your riding
- Let them know you're paying attention and monitoring their climate commitments.
- Send them the latest copy of the IPCC report (in case they haven't had a chance to read it yet).
- Send them a hand-written note or hand-drawn picture from your child (older kids can add their own thoughts!) to remind them of your concerns and their commitments (send us a scan/photo to [email protected] so we can share the inspiration with the network).
Most important: Don't give up! MPs receive a heavy volume of correspondence, so it's likely you may not hear from them right away. Set a reminder in your calendar to follow up on a regular basis, restating all the points above. You could also include positive reinforcement if they've taken actions that show they're committed to a more sustainable and equitable future; if their actions demonstrate the opposite, point that out and let them know that's not what you expect from your elected representative. Here are more tips from two mothers active in For Our Kids teams:
As always, sharing your actions will inspire others to do the same, so tell your friends or share posts about it on social media, and let us know at [email protected].
Get inspired! Check out how For Our Kids teams have been engaging their MPs:
- Strengthening Bill C-12 - now Canada's Climate Accountability Act
- Working for a Just Transition from fossil fuels
- Meeting with the Minister of Climate Change and the Environment
Two Quick Actions with Big Impact
Each action can take less than 30 minutes. Deadline: Sept. 30
1. Public consultation: Climate Risk Guidelines for Canada's Banks
Since the Paris Agreement, Canada’s Big Banks have invested over $900 billion in fossil fuels, pushing us further into climate chaos and financing projects that violate fundamental Indigenous rights. We need banks to stop funding the climate crisis and start investing in a liveable future now, but they won’t do it unless they’re forced.
That’s where Canada’s bank regulator, the OSFI, comes in. Recently, the OSFI drafted climate risk guidelines intended to make banks take climate change seriously, but the guidelines fall far short of what we need. Not only are the guidelines not binding in any way, the requirements are completely inadequate. For example, banks don’t need to define targets aligned with a 1.5˚C scenario, and there is no mention of the importance of respecting Indigenous rights.
OSFI is taking public feedback on the guidelines until Sept 30, which means, right now, we have a unique opportunity to tell them what we think! The OSFI isn’t used to getting this kind of pressure, and they’ve even started responding to some of the criticisms raised. Please take a few minutes to show them we won’t stand for weak regulations on banks!
Here's how: All you have to do is send an email explaining why these regulations should be stronger. You can use this template as is and/or adapt it to reflect your own perspective.
2. Public Consultation: Cutting emissions from the oil and gas industry
It's a well-studied and widely accepted fact that immediately and drastically reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is essential to keep global warming from going over the critical 1.5 degree mark.
The federal government has promised to cut Canada's GHG emissions 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030. It also understands, and has stated, that the oil and gas industry in this country needs to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it? But the path to net-zero for the industry is being blocked by the industry itself, which is claiming the targets are too much, too fast, and have been lobbying the government persistently to be more lenient (while they continue to see outrageously high profits).
This public consultation about how the government can hold the oil and gas sector accountable for meeting emission reduction targets is our chance to counteract that corporate pressure. Groups and individuals across Canada are raising their voices, and we know that together we are stronger.
Here's how: We've tried to make it as easy as possible to respond to this public consultation with this document. You can copy any of the answers, add your own thoughts, and email your response - all the info is provided in the doc.
Two ways to impact critical discussions and decisions.
Every voice counts in this discussion, so share this with your family, friends and neighbours.
Anti-Racist Actions Your Team Can Take
We were all born into a system of white supremacy. Challenging our own implicit or explicit biases and the structures that uphold racism is a part of our work for climate justice. Climate change disproportionately impacts BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) communities and historically the environmental/climate movement has failed to listen to the needs, experiences and solutions offered by BIPOC activists. We all can work together to change that norm. Here are some ideas on how your team can get started, based on what existing teams have done in the network.
1. Dedicate time for learning together
You could organize a training or workshop for your team with an outside facilitator or organization (reminder: your team has access to funds from For Our Kids that could help cover costs). Or begin with your own reflection on white supremacy culture, its effects on the climate movement, your team, and talk about it together. Some ideas:
Learn together about the Indigenous territories you’re on: Do a circle at a team meeting, sharing what you each know about the Indigenous territories you're on. Or have a working group prepare a presentation to share at a meeting or lead a discussion. Incorporate land acknowledgements and connection to the land and its First Peoples at your events and meetings. More decolonization learning ideas here.
Make Anti-Racism action or sharing news/key learnings a part of your regular meeting agendas: for example, For Our Kids Toronto dedicates the first 15 minutes of every meeting to social justice. They start with a land acknowledgement that is given by a different group member each meeting, and that group member is responsible for making it personal to them. Following the land acknowledgement, another group member shares a new learning related to topics such as anti-racism, Indigenous issues and culture, or local food insecurity, to name a few. These brief presentations can take the form of discussing books or articles the member has read, or mentioning new BIPOC activists or organizations they have learned about.
Video Workshop on Anti-Racism: Organize a 1.5 hour meeting to watch and work through the questions posed in this workshop: You Can't Be Switzerland with Dr. Lisa Gunderson (first hour of video). End the meeting with a go around with your key learnings. Huge thanks to the Mothers Against Racism’s Race Matters Conference for making this publicly available.
Watch a short video at your meeting and discuss:
Read an article in the meeting or as homework, then discuss:
- Racism Is Killing the Planet: The ideology of white supremacy leads the way toward disposable people and a disposable natural world (6 pages)
- Why climate action must also take racial justice into account (8 pages)
- Making space for Black leaders in Canada’s climate movement (6 pages)
2. Intervene and challenge racism that you witness
As we learn more about anti-racism, it’s important to use that knowledge. If you see or hear something, say something. This includes addressing any explicit or implicit biases you notice coming up in yourself. Microaggressions, inappropriate comments or behaviors, racial jokes, denial of the marginalized experience, the centring of white people’s feelings or perspective - these are the daily experiences of many Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC).
If you benefit from the system of white supremacy, you can use your privileges to confront these different forms of racism. If you feel that someone is being targeted or ignored, let them know you’re noticing it too. Ask them how you could support them. By speaking up when we witness racism we begin to dismantle the system of white supremacy.
3. Financially support and amplify BIPOC-led campaigns, organizations and initiatives. Here are some ideas:
- Asian Pacific Environmental Network
- Assembly of 7 Generations
- Black Lives Matter Canada
- Black Environmental Initiative
- Canadian Coalition for Environmental and Climate Justice
- Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
- Foundation for Black Communities
- Indigenous Climate Action
- Indian Residential School Survivors Society
- Migrant Rights Network
- Moms Against Racism
- Pay Your Rent
You can also research what BIPOC-led groups are leading locally where you are. You could:
- organize a fundraiser to make a group donation
- support and promote their initiatives & campaigns online and show up to their actions and events in person
- don’t try to recruit them to join your For Our Kids team - introduce your team and let them know you’re there to help if they need support
Know other organizations? Or have other ideas for anti-racist action that the For Our Kids network could take?
Let us know: [email protected].
You can also check out more ideas from our post for families not yet in teams: 5 Ways to Challenge Racism.
Parent support for youth reflected in National Observer Op-Ed
This powerful op-ed piece by a parent from the For Our Kids Toronto team ran in the National Observer on Sept. 14.
"As a parent, I won’t stop pushing for change, and I’ll be there to support youth in the street, in the courthouse, and anywhere else I’m needed. This is a battle for future generations. We all have a role to play."
Learn more about this historic case and FOK's role as intervenors here