Speech from Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Parliamentary Secretary Celina Caesar-Chavannes for Canada’s Voluntary National Review at the 2018 United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development


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Minister Duclos:

Mr. President, your Excellencies, distinguished guests, fellow delegates, colleagues, and friends: it is an honour to be here today at the United Nations to present Canada’s first Voluntary National Review.

I am pleased to be joined by a remarkable Canadian delegation made up of representatives from Canada’s provinces, territories, municipalities, civil society, youth, Indigenous peoples, and the private sector.

I would like to applaud the United Nations for their continued work in challenging all governments to work collaboratively towards ending poverty, building more prosperous and peaceful societies, and protecting our planet.

Canada is proud to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and we are committed to advancing the implementation of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it well when he addressed the UN General Assembly last fall: “the Sustainable Development Goals are as meaningful in Canada as they are everywhere else in the world, and we are committed to implementing them at home while we also work with our international partners to achieve them around the world.”

This is why our government is introducing initiatives that fight poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that the benefits of Canada’s economic, social and environmental success are shared by everyone.

In this respect, the work of the Canadian Government reflects the broader global need to build more peaceful, more prosperous, and more inclusive societies.

Through the 2030 Agenda, we are seeing people and governments all around the world embarking on an ambitious path towards ending poverty and ensuring a more sustainable future for everyone.

I want to pause for a moment, and reflect more specifically on two goals: ending poverty, and ensuring a more sustainable future.

For some, these goals may seem to be at odds. Some believe that we can either grow the economy OR protect the environment. We can generate growth, and create jobs, OR we can reduce greenhouse emissions.

Our government believes that we can grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time.

In Canada and around the world, people living in poverty are the most impacted by climate change.

When basic needs are threatened, making life harsher for people living in poverty, it seems easier to support short-term choices, rather than developing long-term, sustainable solutions.

As Canada’s Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, I am fortunate enough to coordinate our country’s efforts in the fight against poverty.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the development of Canada’s first-ever national Poverty Reduction Strategy a core part of my mandate.

We will be unveiling this strategy shortly, but it is important to note that we began tackling poverty since the first moments our government took office.

One of our first actions was to introduce the new Canada Child Benefit, a tax-free benefit that gives more money to families to help them with the high costs of raising children.

This measure is lifting hundreds of thousands of Canadians, including nearly 300,000 children, out of poverty.

Our government is making similarly historic investments in a rights-based housing strategy, as well as early learning and child care.

We know that these are some of the most impactful investments we can make for middle-class Canadians and those working hard to join the middle class. These investments provide opportunities for all, advance gender equity and strengthen our economy.

Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, Celina Caesar-Chavannes, will now share with you what Canada is doing internationally and domestically to make sure we leave no one behind.

PS Celina Caesar-Chavannes:

Actions taken to help build strong, resilient economies and societies must also be environmentally sustainable. Canada understands the importance and urgency of taking actions on global environmental challenges.

That is why Canada has laid out a domestic Strategy to take action on environmental issues that reflects the SDGs, as well as our commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Canada also recognizes these challenges don’t stop at borders.

Just as we are working domestically to give everyone a real and fair chance to succeed, and ensure that all Canadians can share equitably in our prosperity, Canada’s foreign policy is guided by the belief that no one should be left behind.

This is particularly true for women and girls.

In far too many instances, in far too many places, women and girls face discrimination and barriers in realizing their full potential.

Our government wants to see women and girls fully involved in decision making and policy making, so they can shape the services, programs and policies that affect their lives.

Canada has become a global champion for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, both at home and abroad.

We are firm in our adoption of a rights-based approach to our international assistance. We are also firm in our adoption of an intersectional lens to analyzing and implementing programs. This requires us to accept the various ways in which systems of social categorization—gender and sexuality, race/ethnicity, disability and social class for instance—intersect with one another.

Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy adopted last year focuses on promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls as the most effective approach to eradicating poverty and leaving no one behind. SDG 5 is at the heart of our efforts.

When legal and social barriers that discriminate against women are eliminated, remarkable change happens. With better access to opportunities, assets and capital, women start businesses, get decent jobs, and make informed choices. And they invest the profits in their families and communities.

Moreover, we recognize that access to education needs to go hand-in-hand with access to sexual and reproductive health care services and decent jobs. We know this from our own experience in Canada, and we are proud to stand up for women around the world to have these same rights.

As Canadians, we are proud of the progress we have made—but we also recognize there is more work to do.

For too long, under-represented groups such as women, newcomers, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, LGBTQ2 communities and others have faced barriers that have held them back and prevented them from fully sharing in Canada’s economic, social and environmental prosperity.

In particular, we must acknowledge Canada’s history of colonialist policies towards Indigenous peoples that persist to this day.

Our government has made it a priority to engage with Indigenous peoples in the process of reconciliation and to develop a recognition and implementation of rights framework in partnership with Indigenous peoples, which will go beyond the standards adopted right here at the UN.

As our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

declared on National Indigenous Peoples Day: “No relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous peoples. Our government is working together with Indigenous peoples to build a nation-to-nation, relationship—one based on respect, partnership, and recognition of rights.”

Our challenge and our responsibility, to Indigenous peoples and to all the marginalized Canadians, is to address imbalances and break social exclusions to ensure everyone feels part of what we are building: a better world for all.

Furthermore, the Government of Canada is committed to upholding dignity and respect for the LGBTQ2 community both at home and abroad, as Canada continues to take a leadership role in the Equal Rights Coalition.

We must work to reduce social, political, and economic uncertainty, and we can do so by ensuring that prosperity benefits everyone.

We must engage with the under-represented groups by protecting and promoting their human rights; by increasing their participation as decision-makers; and by fostering conditions that give them greater and sustained access to resources.

We must put people at the heart of all that we do.

I will now let Minister Duclos conclude.

Minister Duclos:

Thank you Celina.

Canada’s first Voluntary National Review allows us to take stock of our progress, and chart a path forward—together.

And when I say together, I mean not just in Canada, but also here at the UN, which is and will remain a vital forum for global cooperation and solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. In building a better world, multilateralism demonstrates that we are stronger when we stand together.

Canada is your ally and partner on our common path to fulfilling the 2030 agenda.

Thank you.

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