1st Session, 42nd Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 88

Wednesday, December 14, 2016
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

Human Rights—Climate Change

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Thank you very much, minister, for being here. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your responses to the many letters I’ve written to you on climate change being recognized as a human right. I have appreciated your courtesies.

As you know, rising seas threaten the residents of island nations, melting glaciers affect freshwater resources in South America and the Himalayan communities, and low-altitude communities are having their groundwater supplies contaminated by rising seawater levels. Finally, Arctic peoples like those in our territories are at risk as melting snow and ice hurt the food supply and security.

Some states in the U.S. have found that climate is a human right. I’m working with a community environmental legal defence group from Pennsylvania, and they’re also looking at how we make climate a part of human rights. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Human Rights Council have recognized that climate change is not only an environmental issue but also a human rights issue, especially for those experiencing these devastating impacts.

To prevent further harm, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has explicitly recognized the need to protect human rights in all climate action.

Minister McKenna, what is your government’s stance on the need to protect human rights in climate action?

Hon. Catherine McKenna, P.C., M.P., Minister of Environment and Climate Change: Thank you, honourable senator, for your advocacy with respect to human rights.

We certainly recognize the grave impact that climate change has on so many people. On the indigenous people in the Arctic, it’s not just an inconvenience; it’s impacting their way of life. We have hunters who have hunted in a traditional way for decades who have always been able to tell the thickness of the ice, and now they’re falling through and dying. This is a devastating impact on traditional ways of life.

I’m working closely in the international context with Mary Robinson, who I know you know, honourable senator, to advance the agenda when it comes to gender and climate. We know there’s a disproportionate impact of climate change on women in particular in developing countries, and we need to be mindful of that. We need to make sure we consider the gendered impact.

Women are often the ones out looking for food and going great distances looking for water. With the impacts of climate change, that’s much more difficult. climate change also often brings conflicts, and there are gendered impacts in that case as well.

We are looking at how we can bring more women in as negotiators in the climate discussion. I’ve committed that Canada will train females from developing countries as negotiators. We’re fortunate, in fact. A great majority of our climate negotiators are women.

In terms of the question of human rights and climate change, there’s clearly a link. I look forward to working with you on this issue.