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Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau on Perpetuating Climate Injustice Against First Nations

Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau on Perpetuating Climate Injustice Against First Nations

Press Release

January 17th, 2023

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Canada bears responsibility for the climate crisis that is driving humans to the precipice of a global catastrophe. While the Government of Canada has begun to acknowledge this crisis and has enacted some measures to try to help pull humanity back from the edge, two major problems characterize government action. Current measures are misleadingly presented as enough when they are far from that, and Canada continues to harm those who can do the most to help lead us out of this mess.

The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) is one such measure. Enacted in 2018, it imposes a Fuel Charge on carbon-emitting fuels, such as oil, gas, and natural gas, as a monetary incentive for us to reduce and eventually stop the production and use of these “bad fuels.” Still, Canada’s highest-emitting sector, the oil and gas industry, receives special accommodations in national and provincial programs for large emitters, which enable them to pay lower carbon tax rates than most other sectors of the economy. This happens through programs such as the federal Output-Based Pricing System and provincial incentive programs.

Rather than targeting institutional and systemic change, Canada’s policies and messaging to the broader public places the onus of combatting climate change on individual citizens. It markets its strategies on climate change as being good for everyone’s wallets and good for the climate and environment. The average household in Ontario spent $362 on the GGPPA Fuel Charge in 2020 and received $436 back in the rebate (The Climate Action Incentive Payment). The GGPPA charge on carbon emitting fuels will be raised each year from the current rate of $50 per metric tonne to $170 per metric tonne by 2030. While pollution pricing is an important tool, its impacts are highly uneven and do not target major emitters.

The same rebate available to the “average” consumer for the Fuel Charge is not available to First Nations citizens who live on reserves. When the Crown obtained First Nations ancestral and territorial lands for their own use and profits, it promised to pay First Nations for their use through treaty annuity payments and exemptions from Crown-imposed taxes. This was a minuscule price to pay for the vast wealth the Crown has extracted and kept for itself. As a result of these treaty promises, First Nations citizens have tax exemptions and are not required to file tax returns, which means they cannot get the rebate of the Fuel Charge that others receive.

The reality in First Nations communities is poverty stricken conditions along with substantially higher costs for all goods and services in rural and remote communities. The Fuel Charge program has added a costly burden on First Nations, who experience far greater poverty and substandard housing and infrastructure than the “average” Canadian as a result of colonialism. The Fuel Charge cost to First Nations citizens amounts to another cash grab for Canada, removing several million dollars a year from those least responsible for the climate crisis. There will be a huge cost to pulling us back from the precipice and fixing the underlying problems associated with climate change. We are not going to fix hundreds of years of decimation and desecration of Mother Earth without facing facts and working to address these truths. It is First Nations, with our laws, customs, Earth-derived knowledge and wisdom, who are best positioned to lead humanity out of the crisis and into a sustainable Earth-centric future. Canada should be working with us, strengthening us, and learning from us. Yet, First Nations are actively ignored by the federal government.

We call on Canada to immediately correct the injustices toward First Nations and our members in the GGPPA. We call on Canada to stop pretending that there is no cost to your populace for hundreds of years of damage to Mother Earth and the climate. The wealth experienced by many in this country has come at great cost to First Nations citizens. First Nations will no longer pay for Canada’s failures.

We call on Canada to recognize and remedy this by working directly with First Nations. It is time that Canada stops loading a grossly unfair burden on First Nations to fix the climate crisis and exempt First Nations from the Fuel Charge. We are requesting to meet with you, Prime Minister Trudeau, to expedite this urgently needed Fuel Charge exemption, and to discuss how the Government of Canada can support First Nations in a just transition to sustainable energy sources.

Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare



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