The hardworking parents, grandparents and guardians in the For Our Kids network know it was a long and bumpy ride to get Canada's first net-zero accountability law (Bill C-12) passed. And while the law itself is not as strong as many wanted it to be, the experience of engaging with it every step of the way has improved the confidence and resolve of our teams to hold governments accountable for the major changes needed to set us on a path of meaningful climate action.
The journey began back in December 2020 when a few team members from the FOK network met virtually to talk about Bill C-12. They had serious concerns about gaps in the bill and weak targets for reducing GHG emissions but weren't sure how to make their concerns heard. They were determined to let those in positions of authority know their responsibility to future generations demanded stronger, more urgent targets and direct accountability for meeting them.
Over the next six months, groups in the FOK network engaged their members in phoning, emailing and meeting with their MPs. They met with nine members of the Standing Committee reviewing the bill, followed up with information, and stayed in touch throughout the bill's journey through the House.
It wasn't easy: more than once, parents found themselves even educating politicians about their own bill, and the party politics and lack of transparency were often discouraging.
But the impact was felt: MPs shared in the House of Commons the key messages they heard from the groups.
"While Bill C-12 is an excellent bill, Davenport residents have been calling me for the last little while to indicate that there might be some ways we can improve it. They have advocated for us to have a stronger emissions target by 2030 of at least 45%, with frequent progress reports over the next 10 years ... that the accountability mechanisms are as strong as possible ... the advisory council and its recommendations be fully public and transparent. These are just some of the very important changes and recommendations they have suggested that could improve Bill C-12. I wanted to make sure I put them on the record." (Julie Dzerowicz MP (Lib) Danforth)
Meanwhile, FOK teams took to social media, sharing their own experiences to encourage other parents to join the action.
"They took notice. It wasn't just another environmental group that's been lobbying them for years on climate action ... a lot of them were surprised and said it was great to hear from [us], an everyday citizen, but with a political movement behind us, because we are organized." - Natalie, team leader
Next, FOK teams researched, wrote and submitted briefs to the Standing Committee reviewing the bill, calling for amendments that reflected climate science, built on successes from other countries, and most of all, kept the future of kids front and centre.
Dr. Kelly Martin of Pour Nos Enfants/For Our Kids Montréal and Laure Waridel of FOK partner network Mères au Front were called as expert witnesses to present to the Standing Committee reviewing the Bill, and two climate scientists recruited by FOK teams were on the expert witness list as well.
In an attempt to get more coverage of Bill C-12 in the news media, parents published op-eds and wrote letters to the editor.
After all their efforts, when it looked like the bill might not make it into law before an election call, teams mobilized their members to push MPs to work together to get the bill to the Senate. In the meantime, the Senate committee sensed the urgency and started its review early, reaching out to groups in the FOK network for their input. Dr. Kelly Martin was again called as an expert witness to the Senate Committee. As the summer break deadline loomed, FOK members contacted all Senators to make sure the bill would receive royal assent first.
The end result is an important first step on Canada's path to net-zero emissions, and an unmistakable message to political decision-makers that parents and grandparents are determined to make themselves heard when it comes to the future of our kids.