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press release

Federal legislation to support the transition to a net-zero economy is an important first step, but more action is needed  

June 25, 2024


Last Thursday, Bill C-50, the Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act (the “Act”), passed into law. The Act establishes a framework to help Canada participate in the transition to a low-carbon economy — a transition that is already underway around the world as a result of climate change. While the Act has some good features, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and Ecojustice see it as a missed opportunity to centre the meaningful participation of Indigenous peoples in the transition.  

ACFN — and Indigenous Peoples across what is known as Canada — have a unique place in the transition to a net-zero economy. As rights-holders and sovereign governments, they have a right to a central role in decision-making within their territories. Additionally, their members often work in industries that will be directly impacted by the transition to a net-zero economy, such as the fossil fuel industry. However, they have not shared equally in the benefits of these industries, but have experienced disproportionate impacts on their lands and waters, health, and Aboriginal and Treaty rights. A fair and equitable transition must address this inequity and ensure that Indigenous communities have a central role in creating sustainable jobs and building the net-zero economy. 

Tabled in Parliament in June 2023, the Act outlines a framework for how the federal government will advance a net-zero economy and create sustainable jobs. It sets out principles of equity and inclusion to guide federal action, requires the federal government release an Action Plan every five years (starting in 2025) with periodic reporting, establishes a Partnership Council to engage with Canadians and provide advice to the government, and establishes a Secretariat within the Department of Natural Resources to lead and coordinate actions across the federal government.  

While the Act provides useful building blocks for federal action on the net-zero transition, it does not go far enough. For example:  

  • The Act does not adequately support the leadership of Indigenous peoples in decision-making for the economic development of their own territories.   
  • The Act fails to establish structures and mechanisms to build net-zero economies at the regional scale, which is where the transition takes place.   
  • While the federal government has established Regional Energy and Resource Tables in several provinces and territories to pursue low-carbon economic opportunities, it has not incorporated these Tables into the Act, meaning they do not have to operate in accordance with the principles, the Action Plan, or the reporting requirements in the Act.   

Matt Hulse, lawyer at Ecojustice, said:

“The Act has come a long way since it was first tabled, and we appreciate the efforts of the government, opposition parties, and civil society who worked constructively to strengthen it. However, it still fails to effectively leverage the resources and powers available to the federal government to advance an equitable transition to a net-zero economy in Canada.  Nevertheless, the government can still show leadership and deliver Action Plans – developed collaboratively with Indigenous Peoples – that are transparent, detailed, and ambitious enough to adequately respond to the climate crisis.”  

Brian Fung, Manager of Government Relations at ACFN Dene Lands and Resource Management, said:

“As rights-holders and sovereign governments, whose members are directly affected by the transition to a net-zero economy, we must play a central role in deciding how the transition occurs in the oil sands region, since it is in ACFN’s traditional territory. Unfortunately, the Act does not provide for this. We look to the federal government to set out concrete and well-funded measures in the Action Plans, and work with our leadership in a Nation-to-Nation relationship to design the transition. These measures must build a strong, low-carbon economy in the Athabasca Region and ensure that industry cleans up its tailings ponds and restores the land to its original state.”     


The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is a Denesuliné Nation and their territory centres on the Peace Athabasca Delta, in Treaty 8 territory, an area that is known as northeastern Alberta. The oil sands are within ACFN’s traditional territory and their primary community is Fort Chipewyan. ACFN is a signatory to Treaty 8, which gives ACFN members constitutionally protected Rights to carry out their traditional ways of life. 

Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions, law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.