Lobbying for nature: Successes from our second annual Nature on the Hill event
Change is not a passive act. A strength of our democracy is that we can voice opinions and priorities directly to our elected officials. That’s what more than 50 environmental groups from across Canada did on Parliament Hill earlier this month.
February 4 marked Nature Canada’s second Nature on the Hill event. The day was about reminding Members of Parliament from coast-to-coast and across party lines that even though the election is over, the work is just beginning. This year built on the success of the inaugural Nature on the Hill event, and we welcomed back numerous participants. It was a busy day! With the combined efforts of our partners in the Nature Network we met with 56 MPs, pressing them to #MakeRoomforNature.
MPs heard about a number of key priorities for nature, including expanding protected areas, supporting Indigenous-led conservation, and investing in the 2020 budget.
1) The clock is ticking for the government to set aside the additional 5.2 percent of land and freshwater needed to meet Canada’s 2020 commitments through the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The 10 percent ocean target is met, but there’s still much to do in order to achieve the 17 percent terrestrial target by year’s end;
2) We need to maintain momentum on the 2019 election promise: the Canadian government’s historic pledge to protect 25 percent of Canadian land and oceans by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030. If achieved, these targets will be the biggest nature protection initiative in Canadian history and will position us to ultimately protect half of our terrestrial and marine ecosystems;
3) Achieving these ambitious goals will require more investment! The Green Budget Coalition has laid out a roadmap for achieving these targets in their recommendations for the 2020 budget, starting with a $934 million down payment in Budget 2020;
4) Achieving our conservation goals will not be possible unless we learn from, and meaningfully partner with, Indigenous Peoples—the original guardians of the land. The expansion of protected areas must include support for Indigenous protected areas, with Guardian programs at its core. Making room for nature depends on pairing Indigenous wisdom, values, and ways of knowing with contemporary systems of policy making.
The tone of the day was overwhelmingly positive. MPs from all parties showed their support for nature, including Parliamentary Secretary Terry Beech, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, CPC environment critic Kerry-Lynne Findlay, Bloc environment critic Monique Pauzé, and Green Party MP Jenica Atwin.
Representatives also met with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson, who attended our end-of-day reception and delivered a speech highlighting the importance of collective action and thanking nature organizations for all they do.
Pleased to meet with @NatureCanada today. We had a thoughtful discussion about how governments, environmental groups & Indigenous communities can work together to ensure Canada remains the most beautiful place on Earth. #ProtectingNature 🇨🇦🍁 pic.twitter.com/ny0frwxMHR— Jonathan Wilkinson (@JonathanWNV) February 4, 2020
Jordy Thomson with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax attended lobby day for the second year. “I think the strength of Nature on the Hill is bringing together people who might not always want to be part of policy discussions,” he says. “The nature community is huge across the country, but we tend to prefer to walk in the woods rather than engage in these discussions. It’s really important that our voices are heard especially now that we have this dual biodiversity and climate crises.”
Finally, the impact of Nature on the Hill wasn’t limited to the Hill. Naturalist groups across the country penned op-eds about why we need to shift from being nature lovers to nature defenders. And our digital day of action saw Canadians across the country engaging with MPs to such a degree that our hashtags #MakeRoomForNature and #NatureOnTheHill were trending on Twitter.
Thank you to all the nature groups who joined us for this second annual event. We hope to continue to bring people together to collectively expand protected areas in Canada. Canadians and MPs alike want to #MakeRoomforNature, so what are we waiting for?