Open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau

Mr. Justin Trudeau, M.P.
Leader
Liberal Party of Canada
House of Commons
111 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister-designate,

On behalf of the collective membership of the Inter-Council Network of Provincial and Regional Councils for International Cooperation (ICN), representing nearly 400 Canadian international development and humanitarian organizations from coast to coast to coast, we would like to extend our sincere congratulations to you for your success in presenting a federal election platform that resonates deeply with Canadians and suggests a positive, ambitious and hopeful future.

The ICN looks forward to your leadership in creating and sustaining an enabling environment for civil society, and in helping to realize the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development launched in September 2015 by the Member States of the United Nations, including Canada.

As you are aware, the Global Goals are recognized as the most holistic, universally-applicable and significant global agenda for people, the planet and prosperity. And as you know, eradicating extreme poverty for over a million people every week is a tremendous challenge and will require a collective game-changing shift in our thinking.

While in recent years Canada has shown considerable leadership in addressing Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) in particular in the global arena, and in February 2015 the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) launched a promising Civil Society Partnership Policy with broad-reaching implications, under your government we anticipate a significant increase in Canada’s commitment to achieving the following:

1. A reversal of the downward trend in the percentage of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in relation to Gross National Income (GNI)

The international target of 0.7% set by Prime Minister Pearson so many years ago has eluded Canadian ambition. It will take strong commitment and aggressive target-setting to bring Canada from our current 0.24% spending to be on par with countries like the United Kingdom, that have achieved the target, and leaders like Norway and Sweden, which have exceeded 1%. While you have promised to reverse Canada’s downward trend in ODA spending, we encourage you to set a concrete timeline and framework for doing so that will kick-start Canadians’ imagination, and demonstrate that Canada is committed to eradicating global inequality and poverty. The Provincial and Regional Councils for International Cooperation and our members extend our support and ideas, should you be looking for cooperation and input in this regard.

2. A renewed partnership with Canadian civil society organizations

Despite fewer and fewer opportunities for responsive partnerships with the Government of Canada, and a shocking decline in support for small and medium-sized organizations in particular, civil society has continued to work, to garner the support of the Canadian public, and to create innovative solutions to global poverty challenges in dozens of countries around the planet. We stand ready to work with Canadians and with the federal government on developing a renewed partnership with Canadian civil society organizations, and we have concrete proposals on how to do so in measurable, achievable and time-bound ways.

3. An integration of Canadian foreign policy with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, including a universal approach and an understanding that none of the goals are achievable in isolation

We are particularly encouraged that your platform includes an affirmation of the universality of the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. For Canada to be credible internationally we must be prepared to look squarely at our domestic reality, and to address our own atrocities and challenges in concrete ways. For example, a national inquiry on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada will have impact along highway sixteen. It will speak volumes to the provinces. And it is paramount to our obligations to the International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, an agreement that Canada has much to catch up on. We are particularly encouraged that you indicate that you will take a cooperative approach, and remind you that few are better placed than the Provincial and Regional Councils for International Cooperation to support national consultation, capacity development and public engagement on these issues.

4. A renewed affirmation regarding the role of civil society as development actors in our own right

We look forward to an increase in consultation with and programmatic support to civil society as development actors in our own right. We understand that the full engagement of youth is something you will champion, and we are encouraged by your commitment to reignite Canadian leadership. We look forward to working with the Canadian government to develop and implement an inclusive national strategy for doing so. The Inter-Council Network (ICN) is a dynamic coalition of the eight provincial and regional member-based Councils for International Cooperation across Canada committed to social justice and social change.

5. A genuine commitment to engage Canadians as active global citizens

You have personally demonstrated that engaging Canadians has an impact. Your own efforts to travel to all regions of the country to inspire a new narrative of Canada exemplifies the significance of and potential for citizen engagement in international cooperation, particularly for and by youth. Canadians need and want access to inclusive, diverse and multiple platforms that unpack the root causes and consequences of global inequality and poverty, and identify calls to collective and global action. The Provincial and Regional Councils are well-placed and have requisite expertise to assist your government and civil society in this endeavour.

We look forward to an exciting four-year mandate that positions Canada as a global leader in international cooperation and sustainable development. Whether it be assisting with refugees, humanitarian aid, engaging the Canadian public, working through partnership, tackling enormously complex issues like climate change, peacekeeping, managing post-conflict development, or lending expertise through consultation, we assure you that we and the nearly 400 member organizations we represent are eager to work together, and are proud, in this moment, to be Canadian.

Sincerely,