Least Developed Countries
The fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) took place in Doha, Qatar from March 5 to March 9, 2023. It was an amalgamation of political leaders, the business sector, civic organizations and youth. The conference’s main aim was to build a framework of support for the current 46 least developed countries in the world through the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA). Between 2022 and 2031, DPoA will aid LDCs in six key areas, driving investment and innovation in these countries and hopefully leading to their graduation from the LDC status.

LDC Classification

LDC or a least developed country is a U.N. classification of an impoverished country bereft of economic and human resources. The Committee for Development Policy meets every three years to review the LDCs and their inclusion and graduation criteria. These criteria are based on a country’s gross national income, human assets and economic and environmental vulnerability.

There are currently 46 countries on the LDC list, most of which are in Africa. Asia also has a significant number of LDCs. The U.N. put the first group of countries (25 nations) in this category in 1971. Today, the number has risen to 46 countries. However, since 1994, six countries have graduated from the LDC list and seven more are on the path to graduation by 2026, with Bhutan next in line.

Challenges LDCs Face

The combined population of all the world’s least developed countries is 1.1 billion. According to the U.N., “more than 75% of those people still live in poverty.” Due to low economic and human resources, LDCs are more vulnerable to deprivation. Many of the current LDCs are indebted. The U.N. states that out of the 46 countries, “four are classified as in debt distress” and “16 LDCs are at high risk of debt distress.”

The U.N. states that in 2019 “almost half of the children out of school worldwide” lived in LDCs. This shows that children in these countries have a higher chance of growing up without proper education, leaving them more vulnerable to economic instability. Poor enrollment and completion rates along with low education budgets in LDCs leave much to be desired. “Clearly, the education systems in the LDCs require significant development to equip their young people with the skills they need for the future,” said Rabab Fatima, secretary-general of the LDC5 at the conference.

LDCs face a multitude of challenges including “limited fiscal space, high external debt, macroeconomic imbalances, widespread poverty and underdeveloped or no social protection systems,” U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stated at the LDC5 conference.

LDC5 and DPoA

The LDC5 conference is the U.N.’s effort at uniting people that can make a difference in order to build a strategy for driving positive change in LDCs. This was the fifth such decennial conference, with the first taking place in Paris in 1981. The LDC5 conference hosted 9,000 people, including 46 heads of state and comprised many events and discussions.

The main focus of LDC5, however, was the DPoA. It “manifests a new generation of renewed and strengthened commitments between the least developed countries and their development partners, including the private sector, civil society and the governments at all levels,” the U.N. says. The DPoA provides a framework and guiding principles for LDCs to improve their socioeconomic standing and graduate from the category.

There are six key areas of focus in DPoA, including increased investment in human assets, driving technological advancements and increasing trade. In particular, the DPoA promises “an online university, a graduation support package, a food stock holding solution, an investment support center and a crisis mitigation and resilience building mechanism,” the U.N. reports.

Agrifood Systems Transformation Accelerator (ASTA)

The U.N. Industrial Development Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched the Agrifood Systems Transformation Accelerator (ASTA) at LDC5. ASTA aims to revitalize agricultural food production in LDCs by combining investment from the public and private sectors as one of its methods. ASTA had been successfully operating as a pilot scheme in 15 countries since 2018. It predicts more than $300 million in investment from the private sector in the future.

Many countries officially announced support packages at the conference. According to the U.N., Germany pledged €200 million to support LDCs. Qatar pledged $60 million while Canada dedicated $59 million toward ecosystem conservation and delivering vitamin supplements in LDCs.

With a blueprint ready, LDCs have way ahead of making socioeconomic progress and graduating from the category. The LDC5 conference proved that the world is full of people who are committed to improving the situation in these 46 countries and beyond. The U.N. General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi said, “Through science, technology and innovation, we have the tools to build sustainable recoveries.”

– Siddhant Bhatnagar
Photo: Flickr

Canada's Global COVID-19 Response
The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts across the globe, especially impacting the world’s poor and marginalized. Organizations like UNICEF are working tirelessly on COVID-19 response efforts to protect children in the face of a global pandemic, but the responsibility extends far beyond international organizations to support the world’s poor. In particular, Canada’s global COVID-19 response looks to support people in the most disadvantaged areas of the world.

The Pandemic’s Impacts

COVID-19 has changed the world in more ways than one. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported more than 6.8 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide as of February 17, 2023. According to the Brookings Institution, the COVID-19 recession is “the deepest since the end of World War II.” The International Monetary Fund’s 2021 report showed a 7% loss in the global economy in 2020 alone, with nearly every country showing a decline, particularly the poorest countries.

While more than 50% of the school-aged children in developing countries faced learning poverty (the inability to read and comprehend a basic text by age 10) before the pandemic, disruptions in education due to the pandemic and associated lockdowns may have raised this rate to as much as 70%. Some students did not return to formal school at all after these disruptions.

Needless to say, the impacts of COVID-19 extend far beyond health outcomes and disproportionately impact the world’s poor.

A Strong Start to 2023

In the face of a threat like COVID-19 that requires a global response, Canada has kicked off 2023 with an announcement of a $70 million CAD contribution to UNICEF, bringing its total contribution to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Humanitarian Action for Children appeal to CAD $255 million. The ACT-A Humanitarian Action for Children appeal looks to support disadvantaged populations with COVID-19 tools and resources amid the pandemic. Canada was one of the earliest supporters of the effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19-related health resources.

Canada’s global COVID-19 response also includes an ongoing investment with UNICEF called the Global Initiative for Vaccine Equity (CanGIVE), which was announced in June 2022 and allows UNICEF to increase the accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines and strengthen health systems in 11 under-resourced developing countries. Not only will Canada’s contributions increase vaccine accessibility, administration/distribution and adoption but these funds will also support gender-sensitive health care efforts.

Additionally, the Government of Canada has taken a special interest in the rights and needs of women and girls, recognizing that the pandemic has magnified existing inequalities for impoverished/marginalized women. Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, launched in 2017, emphasizes supporting the poorest and most marginalized and ensuring “education, health, nutrition and sexual and reproductive health and rights.” Over the past three years, starting in February 2020, Canada’s international contributions to COVID-19 response efforts have surpassed $3 billion.

Canada’s Record of Support

  • In April 2020, Canada supported the International Monetary Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust through a $1 billion loan.
  • Since May 2020, Canada has provided temporary debt service relief to impoverished countries as part of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI).
  • Canada allocated $3.7 billion of its International Monetary Fund Special Drawing Rights to assist struggling countries.
  • On September 21, 2022, Canada made a $1.21 billion allocation to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria in order to reignite efforts to fight these diseases.
  • During the G20 Leaders’ Summit in 2022, Canada allocated $50 million to the Pandemic Fund to “address the significant financing gaps on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPR).”
  • Canada committed to donating 200 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine both to countries directly and to COVAX, a facility that “aims to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines.”
  • The country created the “Give a Vax” matching fund through which the government matched every dollar of COVID-19 donations that Canadians made through UNICEF Canada.

Canada’s global COVID-19 response stands as an example of the global duty to support those in poverty, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic but until poverty and its outcomes dissolve. These efforts that the government of Canada has undertaken extend toward poverty, health access, gender rights and more.

– Mahak Kumari
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Fishing Rights in Canada
According to Statistics Canada, a 2021 census revealed that 1.8 million Indigenous people reside in Canada, equating to 5% of the overall population. The Mi’kmaq are a First Nations tribe, the first inhabitants of Nova Scotia. The Mi’kmaq have historically relied on fishing as a livelihood, however, several cases have brought to the forefront concerns over Indigenous fishing rights in Canada.

Poverty in Indigenous Communities

“Of the 1.8 million Indigenous people living in Canada in 2021, 18.8% lived in a low-income household, as defined using the low-income measure, after tax, compared with 10.7% of the non-Indigenous population,” said Statistics Canada. Poverty in such communities is in part a historical reminder. According to Indigenous experts, Melisa Brittain and Cindy Blackstock, one of the major causes of poverty within Indigenous communities is the effect of colonization — the “direct result of the dispossession of Indigenous peoples of their lands and livelihoods,” the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) said. Brittain and Blackstock describe this as “poverty by design.”

The Indian Act, which came about in 1876, made it “difficult for Indigenous people to participate in the non-Indigenous economy or profit off of activities such as farming” and fishing. The Indian Act, which originated to assimilate the natives with the colonizers, “has led to trauma, human rights violations and social and cultural disruption for generations of Indigenous peoples.”

The consequence of colonization for indigenous communities is economic dependency. Previously, Indigenous peoples ended up having to leave their resource-dense lands, disrupting livelihoods and causing ever-greater economic dependency.

Marginalization and colonization have led to conditions of poverty among the Indigenous. Indigenous people lack access to education, safe water and proper shelter, among other issues. A lack of investment and funding in these communities exacerbates poverty.

Fishing as a Livelihood

For thousands of years before European colonization and the subsequent industrialization that came with it, indigenous populations engaged in sustainable fishing practices as a livelihood. The Tsleil-Waututh, originally occupying the land that is now modern Vancouver, used weir traps to capture salmon coming to spawn. They did so sustainably by releasing any females caught. A male can mate with up to 10 females, thus keeping the population stable. During European colonization, settlers tore down the weirs set up by Indigenous people.

In Nova Scotia, the Mi’kmaq are taking a stand against historical poverty by fighting for Indigenous fishing rights in Canada. This fight initially began in Canada’s Supreme Court.

Court Cases on Indigenous Fishing Rights in Canada

  • R. v. Sparrow (1990). In a matter citing Aboriginal rights as a defense, the Supreme Court debated whether or not Indigenous people could fish on land the Indigenous traditionally call their own. In the end, Sparrow proved that his people historically fished on these lands and that fishing had cultural importance. Based on these reasons, Canada did allow this fishing. But, Sparrow was only a lone fisherman. The courts still had to determine if Indigenous people had the right to engage in commercial fishing.
  • R. v. Van der Peet (1996). Authorities charged an Indigenous woman for selling fish to a non-native. She claimed that it was part of her Aboriginal rights. This case pivots on the issue of Indigenous culture prior to colonization. If the Indigenous communities can prove that commercially selling fish is a historic cultural practice, they could continue the practice. If not, individuals would need to acquire permission from the Canadian government to commercially sell fish.
  • R v. Marshall (1999). Authorities arrested Marshall, a Mi’kmaw, for selling 210 kilograms of eels without a license. The final ruling of the Supreme Court allowed Indigenous peoples the right to fish and sell commercially to make a “moderate livelihood.” The diameters of a moderate livelihood are, two decades on, still contested, effectively opening the door to more substantial commercial fishing for aboriginal communities, or at least not closing it. The fisher must pass the test outlined in Van der Peet. Following R v. Marshall, the Mi’kmaq peoples in Nova Scotia began lobster fishing, giving rise to the so-called ‘Lobster War’ in Nova Scotia.

The Lobster War

In 2000, after the Marshall case, the Mi’kmaq began setting traps to harvest lobster to “earn a moderate livelihood from fishing and hunting,” as is their right. Video footage showed violence erupting after a Department of Fisheries and Oceans patrol boat rammed native Mi’kmaq fishing boats.

However, 22 years on, the war continues. The Mi’kmaq face “intimidation, bullying, threats and acts of violence by non-native fishermen,” Sierra Magazine reported. The non-native fishermen cite concerns over unsustainable fishing practices on the part of Indigenous people, however, there is no evidence to prove this.

A Victory

In 2020, the Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia announced a victory that will combat the long-lasting effect of colonization and the poverty it has imposed on Indigenous peoples. Mi’kmaq communities purchased the Nova Scotia-based company Clearwater Seafoods, in partnership with Premium Brands Holdings Corporation, for $1 billion CAD. This is the “single largest investment in the seafood industry by any Indigenous group in Canada,” the Guardian reported.

The acquisition opens doors of opportunities for these communities, a step away from punitive colonial legislation, giving them a “seat at the table” and a move away from “poverty by design.” The conflict in Nova Scotia represents a deeper governance issue. In an October 2020 article that The Conversation published, researchers Lucia Fanning and Shelley Denny suggested “developing a mechanism by which Mi’kmaq can legitimately contribute to the governance of fisheries as an integrated whole.” Indigenous Canadian fisheries are fighting for progress to support themselves, make a modest living and gain the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty by design, unfairly introduced in a bygone era.

– William Fletcher
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous People in Montreal
The state of Indigenous homelessness in Montreal is alarming. The Homeless Hub Canada reported that in 2018, there were more than 3,000 homeless individuals, a figure that has risen drastically since the pandemic. Of these individuals, an indigenous person is 27 times more likely to be homeless than a non-indigenous person, and an Inuk person is 80 times more likely. Despite Indigenous individuals expressing a desire to receive services, they usually do not get the care they deserve under the shelter system. There have also been reports of two deaths in the Milton Park area of Montreal during the harsh Canadian winter where temperatures hit -20 degrees Fahrenheit annually. Raphael Indre was a regular client of the Open Door Shelter and passed away in a public bathroom while the shelter had to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak in January 2021. Furthermore, during the pandemic, despite the lack of adequate shelter, the curfew did not exempt homeless indigenous people in Montreal and they received a $1,550 ticket for being outside.

A Background on Homeless Indigenous People in Montreal

When looking at the reasons for the high level of indigenous homeless people in Montreal, it is important to consider Canada’s colonialist history. In a 2020 policy report, The Homeless Hub Canada discussed the need to recall that colonial projects have prevented Indigenous people from accessing traditional land and resources. The Indian Act of 1876 allowed the Canadian government to control resources on reserves and subsequently displaced thousands of Indigenous people putting them in difficult financial situations. The act also stopped Indigenous people from being able to self-govern, hence, giving the Canadian Government power to veto any decisions.

Additionally, Indigenous children had to go to “residential schools” which the Canadian government established to indoctrinate Indigenous children into the Euro-Canadian ways of thinking. In addition to a large amount of abuse taking place in these schools, the students also did not receive the same education as the general public which discouraged them from pursuing higher education. This system largely contributed to the high levels of Indigenous homelessness seen today

Indigenous people in Canada, particularly in Montreal, struggle to access housing due to extreme housing discrimination. A 2020 study found that despite some Indigenous families having the right to certain supports, they still experience “discrimination in the provision of services, resulting in barriers to access.”

Steps in the Right Direction

The situation has incited organizations around Québec as well as the Canadian government to take steps to improve Indigenous housing and reduce homelessness. In 2019, the government passed Canada’s National Housing Strategy Act recognizing that “the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right affirmed in international law.” Additionally, Montreal created a “Strategy for Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples,” which commits the city to support Indigenous social housing initiatives led by Indigenous organizations. Moreover, the city also approved a funding agreement of $1.7 million to help build 23 temporary housing units for homeless Indigenous women.

NGO organizations such as Native Montreal and Projets Autochones du Québec are also making significant progress in reducing Indigenous homelessness. Native Montreal originated in 2014 to “contribute to the holistic health, cultural strength and success of Indigenous families,” and their focus is not just homeless populations; they provide wellness programs for both families and youth and have raised more than $6 million over the years.

Projets Autochones du Québec (PAQ) started in 2004 as a social reinsertion program for First Nation, Inuit and Metis people experiencing homelessness in Montreal. During the pandemic, due to reduced capacities in shelters, PAQ opened a second temporary emergency shelter with limited admission restrictions for Indigenous people. Additionally, it provides psychological support, alcohol addiction treatment programs and transitional housing programs to help with financial literacy.

The state of indigenous homelessness in Montreal is grave, but with the help of indigenous-led charities and government support, one can hope for progress.

– Priya Maiti
Photo: Flickr

Regina Equity Project
According to the First Report of the National Advisory Council on Poverty, published in 2020, 3.98 million Canadians were living under the poverty line, which corresponds to 11% of the whole population. Regarding specific categories, 748,000 children in Canada are considered poor, representing a share of 10.8% of all children within the country.

There is a huge difference between poverty levels in Canadian provinces. For instance, Saskatchewan is one of the poorest provinces in Canada with poverty statistics higher than the national average. Indeed, in 2018, 19% of its population are living below the poverty line; a number reaching 26% when it comes to children aged between 0 and 17, making the province the one with the second highest level of child poverty in Canada.

Poverty also significantly affects Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan. In fact, 15% of the population is poor and 20% of children are living below the poverty line. In reaction to the high poverty level in Regina, a few residents of the city launched an initiative to bring citizens united to fight against poverty in the town called the Share the Credit: Regina Equity Project.

An Initiative From Citizens and For Citizens

At the beginning of 2022, the Saskatchewan government announced that it would give $500 affordability cheques to the citizens of the province who fulfilled their taxes in 2021 in the fall of 2022. However, on September 2002, some Regina citizens decided to use their affordability tax credit cheques to fight against poverty in their city.

The city of Regina already had the experience of citizens united to fight against poverty. For instance, the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry (RAPM), an NGO made up of local citizens, is advocating for many years for a Saskatchewan Anti-Poverty Act that would promote basic economic and social rights for the population.

The aim of the RAPM is to advocate for political measures to end poverty in the province and its capital Regina. The RAPM is doing both individual advocacy, in order to mediate the tensions people, may have with institutions, and systemic advocacy, aiming at changing the anti-poverty politics of Saskatchewan with for example a deep modification of the Saskatchewan Income Support System, which is the main component of the anti-poverty measures in the province.

In addition to advocacy, the RAPM is also deeply involved in education and social justice. Better education can help young people get out of poverty, while it is integral to maintain and defend the rights of the poorest people.

The RAPM had for instance brought its support to an increase of the minimum wage in the Saskatchewan province on May 2022. The government of the province accepted this measure. As a consequence, the minimum wage went higher on October 1, 2022, increasing from $11.81 to $13 per hour. Following that, it should reach $14 per hour on October 1, 2023, and finally, $15 per hour on October 1, 2024.

A Fight Against Local Poverty

Citizens of Regina created the Share the Credit: Regina Equity Project in September 2022. The objective of this initiative is to convince residents of Regina to donate their 2022 affordability cheques to organizations fighting poverty. Furthermore, the creators of the project already decided to give their own cheques to four local shelters and anti-poverty organizations including the North Central Family Centre, Carmichael Outreach, All Nations Hope and the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry.

To help the initiative kick-off, the City and the University of Regina created in the last weeks a guide that includes a summary of the services available in town for those in need. The upcoming donations would be either split between the four local organizations chosen by the initiative or the donor can give his whole donation to one unique organization among those four.

The Credit Regina Equity Project shows how much citizens united to fight against poverty in their area can cooperate with local anti-poverty organizations as well as public powers. Other areas in Canada and other countries around the world could easily imitate this project.

– Evan Da Costa Marques
Photo: Unsplash

Canadian Job Market
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, Canada’s unemployment rate first jumped to the highest it had been in more than two decades. In just two years, it dropped to almost the lowest it has ever been.
As in many countries, the Canadian job market struggled after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people had trouble finding work during the first few months of the pandemic. However, Canada has managed to create a staggering number of jobs since then. Now, the country’s job market is, arguably, in better shape than it was prior to the start of the pandemic.


 Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian job market had been enjoying a prolonged period of prosperity. From 2009 until 2019, Canada’s unemployment rate decreased almost every year, with a low in 2019 0f 5.7%, an all-time low for the country.

In February 2020, just before the start of the pandemic, Canada’s unemployment rate was at 5.5%, only a slight increase from 2019 and there were some signs of encouragement. Employment amongst youth had increased, although with little change to other age groups. Additionally, a number of provinces had also seen increases in employment. Most notably, Quebec increased its employment by 20,000. Other provinces that had increased employment during this same period were Alberta, Nova Scotia and Manitoba.

How COVID-19 Affected the Job Market

As COVID-19 began to spread, many nations required massive shutdowns of companies and businesses to combat the virus. People worldwide either had to work remotely or lost their jobs entirely. Canada was no exception to this as the number of jobs available decreased by more than 3 million in the months of March and April 2020.

Canada’s unemployment rate rose to 13.7% in May 2020, the highest it had been since 1993. Most of the jobs that Canada lost had been recovered during the summer of 2020 and yet, recovery efforts slowed as the virus began to ramp up again that fall. Another wave of job losses also occurred in January 2022 as a result of precautionary shutdowns in response to the Omicron variant.

The pandemic had the largest impact on women, young workers and workers with low wages. Unemployment for those between the ages of 15-24 rose far more sharply than any other age group. Before the pandemic, women had a lower unemployment rate than men. However, in May, unemployment spiked for both genders and women had the higher rate.


In just two years since the start of the pandemic, the Canadian job market has rebounded in impressive fashion. Not only did the country’s unemployment rate return to where it was prior to the shutdowns, but it was also even lower than it was in early 2020. In February 2022, Canada’s unemployment rate stood at 5.5%, lower than the 5.7% rate it was in February 2020. That is also just about the all-time low of 5.4% that it reached in 2019.

Much of the decrease in the unemployment rate can be due to Canada’s unprecedented job creation. The nation has been able to create thousands of jobs per month over several months. In November 2021, 154,000 jobs were added and 54,700 jobs were created in December. Following the temporary Omicron shutdown, Canada added 337,000 more jobs in February 2022.

While many jobs recovered thanks to businesses reopening after the start of the pandemic, the Canadian government also introduced various measures to improve the state of the job market. One of these was the Canada Recovery Hiring Program which helped employers rehire employees with an added boost to their salaries. The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy allowed millions of Canadians to keep their jobs so that their employers could rehire them once the positions were available again. The Canada Recovery Hiring Program provided assistance to employers that would help them rehire employees, create new jobs and increase hours for those jobs. The combination of the policies and others allowed Canada’s job market to rebound tremendously.

Looking Ahead

After losing more than 3 million jobs at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has managed to get its job market in a better position than it was prior to the pandemic. Rapid job creation that shattered expectations has allowed millions of citizens to return to work and many to begin working. It appears that Canada has made the best of what was, otherwise, an unfortunate situation.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Flickr

First Nations Water Crisis
Local health officials issue a boil water advisory when the water in a community is contaminated. When issued, it means the tap water is no longer safe to use unless boiled for at least one minute and buying bottled water for consumption is advisable. On June 20, 2022, the Neskantaga First Nation in Ontario reached the 10,000th day of being under a drinking water advisory issued by authorities. Twenty-seven years have passed since authorities first issued the advisory in 1995 after the water treatment plant failed to produce safe drinking water. The Neskantaga First Nation holds the record for the longest boil water advisory in the nation and is a stark example of the First Nations water crisis that has been ongoing for decades.

Unfulfilled Promises

In 2015, Justin Trudeau made a campaign promise to bring clean water to Indigenous communities and end the First Nations water crisis in a span of five years. However, according to The Guardian, the deadline set by Trudeau passed with 52 advisories still active across 33 communities in Canada as of April 2021.

For decades, Indigenous communities have been forced to create and manage their own water treatment systems, which often means procuring bottled water on their own or simply using the contaminated water if the prices become too steep. Countless families, especially those living in areas where the water has traces of E. coli or uranium, are more susceptible to skin diseases, gastrointestinal issues and more.

Decades of inaction from the federal government and lack of adequate funding prompted chiefs and leaders of the First Nations to collectively sue the federal government in 2019 for failing to provide clean water in a country rich with water resources.

The Good News

According to The New York Times, the Federal Court of Canada ruled in favor of the First Nations and approved a legal settlement requiring the government to invest at least $6 billion CAD toward solving the First Nations water crisis in the next nine years. The government will provide compensation of $1.5 billion CAD to around 140,000 Indigenous people for the damages arising from contaminated water.

Chief Emily Whetung, a lawyer leading the Curve Lake First Nation, mentioned that many communities will be unable to feel the benefits of the settlement, especially those who rely predominantly on private wells. However, she still expressed her excitement at this legal success. “I’m just so thrilled,” she said to The New York Times. “Now that we’ve turned this corner, we can keep going down this road and ensure that we get access to clean drinking water for all First Nations.”

Activism in Indigenous Communities

However, other activists, such as Autumn Peltier, are also doing all they can to ensure Trudeau’s promise does not become an empty one. Her influence started in 2016 when she called out Trudeau publicly during the Assembly of First Nations for his failure to protect the water in her communities. According to APTN News, in the few moments she had to speak to Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, she said, “I am very unhappy with the choices you’ve made.” Additionally, Trudeau said, “I understand that.” Trudeau responded with a commitment: “I will protect the water.”

Since then, Peltier has dedicated her work to ensuring Prime Minister Trudeau’s promise became reality. She became the chief water commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation and began a career advocating for the importance of clean water, consistently calling Trudeau out online for the lack of progress toward his promise. Having spoken with organizations such as the United Nations, she has also received nominations for the International Children’s Peace Prize on multiple occasions.

Looking Ahead

Although the path to completely solving the First Nations water crisis may be difficult, the legal settlement is a critical first step to bringing clean water to the Indigenous communities of Canada. With the help of activists placing pressure on the federal government, hopefully, it will just be a matter of time before the people of First Nations can enjoy the same right as all other Canadians: the right to clean, safe water.

Emilie Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in Canada
The gender wage gap in Canada between men and women is due to several factors including gender roles in the workplace and how employers advertise job listings. Here is some information about the gender wage gap in Canada and some suggestions on how to eliminate it.

The Gender Wage Gap’s Presence in the Workforce

In the past 70 years, women have joined the workforce in increasing numbers, despite it previously including mostly men. As the Canadian Women’s Foundation reported in 1950, about 21.6% between the age range of 25 to 54 had employment. The number increased to 82% in 2015. Despite the slight growth, the gender wage gap in Canada is still present. Data from the year 2018 from Statistics Canada displayed the economic disparities between women and men. For every dollar a man receives, a woman earns 87 cents, which is a difference of $4.13 per hour if a man makes $31.05 and a woman makes $26.92.

Another example of wage disparities is a report from Robyn Doolittle, a writer for the Globe and Mail who reported that in February, women made 25% less than their male peers who made $200,000. Jodie Primeau, who works at Deep River, Ontario’s Primeau Law Professional Corporation, stated that gender wage segregation, the way others treat women in the law firm and how customers view women lawyers all play into the gender wage gap.

Gender wage segregation is where people view certain jobs as acceptable for women such as roles as assistants, receptionists and clerks. As a result, women often fill these roles at legal firms, which tend to be lower paying than other positions.

The way others treat women in the law firm impacts their wages in that in corporate law, they may end up with tasks like research letters rather than legal documents. The circumstance of how women are socialized to accept certain kinds of work could potentially lead them to make less money.

The way that customers view women lawyers may influence their success in the workplace as well. After a male lawyer sent emails with his female coworker’s signature, he found that clients were more difficult and required more explanation than when he signed emails with his own name.

Recommended Steps to Ensure Pay Equality in the Workplace

The gender wage gap in Canada is a major problem with the salary for women being 12.1% less than their male counterparts. Despite earning degrees and working in fields having a much higher income, women are still earning half of their male counterparts instead of earning the same amount. On June 1, 2022, Canada requires employees to submit income data indicating the wage gap. Doing so will display the unjust reality of what women go through despite having the qualifications to work.

The Toronto Star, a news site, suggested four steps to eliminate the wage gap. The first step is to inspect how wages differ between men and women who work in similar jobs. The second suggestion is for job listings to indicate the pay range for the role which should prevent women from asking for too little when negotiating for a job. For the third step, the Toronto Star recommended that is for job listings not include present-day or preceding wages as it is not important to employees. Some states in the U.S. have placed a ban on including wage history in job postings and have seen a low rate of pay discrepancies between men and women. The final step is for employers to promote fairness by hiring a range of people from different backgrounds.

The Ontario Equal Pay Coalition

The Ontario Equal Pay Coalition has been working to resolve the gender wage gap. This coalition is a collection of trade unions and other organizations that promote pay equity for employees including women. Since its beginning in 1976, it had a role in promoting increases in the minimum wage, restoring the province of Ontario’s Employment Equity Act and encouraging the Pay Equity Act. 

The Equal Pay Coalition compiled four steps to close the gender wage gap in Canada. Here are its recommendations.

  1. Spread its campaign materials regarding the gender wage gap on social media.
  2. Encourage political candidates to advocate for women’s rights.
  3. Send a letter to an editor to help raise awareness about the issue.
  4. Organize an event to raise awareness.

Despite wage disparities between men and women and gender roles in the workforce, the steps that the Ontario Equal Pay Coalition recommended should help reduce the gender wage gap and promote awareness of the issue.

– Jacara Watkins
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Renewable Energy in Canada Renewable energy currently amounts to around 18.9% of Canada’s energy supply and more than half of its electricity generation. Nonrenewable sources of energy like natural gas and petroleum make up a majority, at 35.7% and 38.7% respectively, but private and public organizations are working to shrink the disparity. Renewable energy in Canada primarily comes from hydropower plants the country has established on its vast system of rivers. Quebec generates the most renewable energy of any province — 40,000 MW on hydropower alone, according to the Government of Canada.

Now, the expanding renewable energy industry is poised to make energy more affordable, fight unemployment, and strengthen diplomatic relationships between Canada and other countries.

How Renewable Energy in Canada Can Make Energy More Affordable

Renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy available. It is cheaper to build infrastructure for and generate power than nonrenewable sources. This remains true even without the government-provided subsidies that companies which businesses in the nonrenewable energy industry typically receive.

In recent years, Canada has committed to subsidizing renewables after signing the Paris Agreement, which set a goal for countries around the world to eventually become carbon neutral.

Currently, energy in Canada is the most expensive in the provinces and territories that are the most impoverished. Nunavut has the second priciest electricity — costing $0,37.5 per kilowatt in 2021. No official reports on poverty exist for Nunavut, but the Canadian government concluded that the residents of Nunavut live in some of the poorest conditions and 37% of households there struggled with food insecurity.

Nunavut is largely made up of scattered, remote and scarcely populated communities. This combined with difficult geography makes it challenging to build centralized energy infrastructure. Thus, most people living in Nunavut rely on expensive diesel power generators and burning fuel oil to power and heat their homes.

Renewable energy has shown some promise in Nunavut. Hydropower provides a third of the energy available in the territory. On average, hydropower costs around $0.80 per kilowatt, which is nearly five times less expensive than the average energy bill.

Currently, most people in Nunavut are not able to take advantage of cheaper renewable options because there are no regional or territorial energy grids in the territory. Still, indigenous groups are fighting to bring renewable energy to their communities and make energy more affordable.

Recently, the Canadian government approved grants to provide $1.6 million to indigenous-led projects that will build solar panels, geothermal heating technology and energy storage infrastructures in remote Nunavut villages.

The Economic Advantages of Expanding Renewable Energy in Canada

The focus on renewable energy in Canada also opens new opportunities for Canadian businesses to grow and expand in international trade.

Due to historical success and $200 million from the government, businesses are constantly emerging in the Canadian renewable energy sector. One such company is the Ontario-based NRStor Inc., which builds energy storage devices for renewables. The company has most notably worked on the Oneida Energy Storage Project, alongside the Six Nations of the Grand River. The project could save Canadians $760 million and be the largest battery energy storage facility in Canada.

The Canadian government reports that Indigenous Canadians are more likely to live in poverty than other groups in the country. This project will create internship, training and employment opportunities for Canada’s indigenous community, according to Six Nations Future.

The exporting of renewable energy internationally is an important source of profit for many of these companies. In 2014, renewable energy companies made $13 billion. Currently, clean fuels like ethanol and biodiesel are the most profitable products. However, there is variety among the hundreds of companies within the Canadian renewable energy industry. As these businesses succeed, they create new jobs and those in poverty can find work.

The Political Advantages of Expanding Renewable Energy in Canada

The expanding renewable energy sector strengthens international relationships between Canada and other countries through the importing and exporting of resources and devices needed to build renewable energy plants.

Recently, the Canadian Government announced hopes to export hydrogen to Germany to help replace Russian oil considering tensions caused by the conflict in Ukraine. The government wants to decrease Russia’s influence on Western Europe and push the international community to further embrace renewables.

The U.S. sees Canada as a major export opportunity for its machining industry because renewable energy plants require many different pieces of machinery to work. Trade between the U.S. and Canada within the renewable energy sector has already led to a memorandum of understanding that removed tariffs on solar technology, establishing the groundwork for future trade deals and partnerships.

Ultimately, renewable energy in Canada could be a key component in the country’s fight against poverty going forward, providing a new avenue for safety, opportunity and security to the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

– Ryan Morton
Photo: Flickr

First Nations’ Culinary Connection
First Nations communities across Canada continue to confront the effects of centuries of colonization, with impacts on not only their communities but also on their nutrition, health and well-being. Recently, through cultural awareness and new government initiatives, First Nations communities have begun a rebirth of their Indigenous agriculture and cuisines. A revival of the First Nations’ culinary connection brings benefits that extend far beyond cultural awareness.

Cultural Genocide and Food Insecurity

The severing of the First Nations’ culinary connection began centuries ago. Ancestral food was all but annihilated during colonization beginning in the 16th century as European protocols replaced Indigenous agricultural practices and traditions.

Beginning in the late 19th century, authorities denied Indigenous children in residential schools what remained of traditional Aboriginal food. Instead, authorities would regularly push these children to the brink of starvation. The little food these children received included high glycemic, non-nutritive, spoiled and canned food.

Recent analytics show that poverty and food insecurity continue to be prevalent among First Nations communities. National statistics often exclude on-reserve studies, leaving First Nations and other Indigenous communities unaccounted for in government poverty estimates.

However, a 2015 study estimates that 53% of on-reserve First Nations children live in poverty and that nearly 80% of reserves have a median income that “falls below the Low-Income Measure.” Most recently, a 2019 study estimates that 18% of off-reserve Indigenous groups lived below the poverty line, with First Nations people accounting for 22.1% of the impoverished in this group.

Alongside high rates of poverty, the severed First Nations’ culinary connection has led to a vast overrepresentation of food insecurity among Indigenous communities. A 2015 study estimates that Indigenous communities suffer an average 28% rate of food insecurity and, while insecurity varies by province, a 2017-2018 study estimates that close to 60% of the communities in the Canadian province of Nunavut, where the Indigenous population accounted for more than 85% of the territory’s population in 2016, suffer from food insecurity. In Ontario, Canada, where 23% of Canada’s First Nations population resides, food insecurity is nearly 15%.

Food Deserts and Chronic Health Issues

A food choice study done in 2020 found that many First Nations reservations lack access to traditional foods, but regularly source processed foods from grocery and convenience stores.

The close proximity of convenience stores to both on and off-reserve communities has led to a high intake of highly processed and unhealthy food, with nearly 60% of First Nations members shopping for food at convenience stores once a month at minimum.

Food prices at convenience stores are more expensive than at grocery stores, leading to both an economic and health deficit in the community. There is a high rate of diabetes and obesity among First Nations communities, as nearly 13% of children, ages 12 to 17, are obese, according to estimates from a 2008-2010 survey. A 25-five-year medical study from 1980 to 2005 found that more than 20% of First Nations women and 16% of First Nations men have Type 2 diabetes.

The Resurrection of Culture

Within First Nations communities, members have not been idle. Culinary enthusiasts, like chef and finalist of the Food Network’s “Top Chef Canada” Rich Francis and First Nations ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph are just two of the many First Nations Peoples to be championing a revival of a First Nations’ culinary connection and renewed agricultural practices. By bringing dishes to the table that pre-date colonialism, the narrative of Indigenous cuisine is seeing a shift among communities.

Foods indigenous to the land, such as salmon, beluga, moose, whale fat, bison, beans, mushroom, corn, mountain blueberries, citrus, fresh herbs, beetroot and cedar are rich in nutrients and sustainable and help to reconnect a community to their roots.

While specific foods, such as whale and wild game meat, are not legally marketed off-reserve, these foods are seeing renewed interest on reserve, alongside traditional hunting and agricultural practices.

Canadian restaurants like Salmon n’ Bannock in Vancouver, Kekuli Cafe in Merritt and Westbank and Feast Café Bistro in Winnipeg are only some of the on and off-reserve restaurants featuring traditional and modernized Indigenous cuisine that are reviving the First Nations’ culinary connection.

Governmental Programs Seek to Support

In 2016, only 2.7% of the agricultural population identified as Indigenous and less than 2% had representation among agricultural operatives.

Due to the severe lack of agricultural representation from these communities, the Canadian government established that “The Indigenous Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative” in 2018, which aims to give opportunities and necessary funding support to Indigenous people to revive agricultural production within their communities over a five-year period.

The $8.5 million initiative seeks to assist in the planning and production of fresh food within Indigenous communities. Overall, it aims to establish food systems within Indigenous communities to increase access to healthy and nutritious foods “while also providing an opportunity for Indigenous Peoples to share their agricultural knowledge and experiences, and market and sell their agriculture products.” The initiative also provides the necessary training for increasing agricultural operations.

Heritage in Harmony

As many First Nations culinary, educational, agricultural, spiritual and cultural traditions see practice in new generations, hopes for lowering chronic health issues and increasing food stability are as plentiful as the land they hail from.

– Michelle Collingridge
Photo: Flickr