New Canadian Media

Canada's Environmental Movement Needs More Diversity

Written by  New Canadian Media Saturday, 13 February 2016 22:37
David Suzuki Foundation sustainable diversity report launch and workshop in November 2015.
David Suzuki Foundation sustainable diversity report launch and workshop in November 2015. Photo Credit: Supplied by David Suzuki Foundation

by Winnie Hwo in Vancouver 

In 2010, the David Suzuki Foundation, a Vancouver-based national environmental non-governmental organization (ENGO), made a move no other Canadian ENGO had done – it added a multicultural component to its climate change and clean energy team. 

“Out of the experience of the United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009 and the 2010 Winter Olympics, it became clear to the foundation that there is a hole that needs to be filled when it comes to public outreach,” says Ian Bruce, science and policy director at the David Suzuki Foundation. 

The “hole” that Bruce refers to is the lack of diversity in Canada’s environmental movement, which became abundantly clear when speaker after speaker at the Copenhagen Climate Summit, who shared their heart-wrenching stories of surviving climate change-induced extreme weather disasters, were individuals who looked very much like our own diverse Canadian population. 

The “hole” that Bruce refers to is the lack of diversity in Canada’s environmental movement ...

Our diversity was also one of the key facets of our country that we shared with a global audience during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. 

As a nation, Canada is increasingly anything but homogenous, and we pride ourselves on celebrating our differences. 

The question is, when will the environmental movement reflect the real diversity of Canada? Well, the answer began with the David Suzuki Foundation and the multicultural public engagement and communications work we have been doing for more than five years. 

Creating a sustainable diversity network 

Last November, the David Suzuki Foundation felt the time was right to share the learnings from our multicultural public engagement work. It was a culmination of five years of public outreach to and communications with Canada’s diverse communities. 

While the findings were mostly focused on projects and initiatives conducted in metropolitan Vancouver, the lessons learned could easily apply to engaging diverse communities across the country. 

Members of the network are as diverse as you can imagine.

Fast-forward three months to the birth of the Sustainable Diversity Network. Just like a three-month old child, the fledgling network is working hard to find its footing and gingerly mapping out next steps and projects. 

Members of the network are as diverse as you can imagine. 

We have a lawyer and human rights activist, a new mother and writer, a retired social worker and citizenship judge, a father and entrepreneur, a university student who sprinkles his busy schedule with intergenerational exchanges with his grandparents and environmental activities, a 30-something “youth” who is working hard to combine culture and sustainability, two immigrant service specialists who constantly remind us that environmental engagement is a two-way street and two fantastic women with lots of ideas, passion and determination to make changes for a better future by bringing different cultures together. 

Coming back to the crux of this commentary, how does the David Suzuki Foundation build relations with diverse communities in Canada? 

We did that by observing, listening and acknowledging with respect, passion and action. We have done that for over five years now and with the inception of the Sustainable Diversity Network, we will share our recipe widely. 

At one point, we were newcomers too, who came here for better lives and a healthy environment.

A healthy environment requires us all to participate 

Recently, our co-founder, Dr. David Suzuki, joined foundation staff, students and administrators from Richmond, British Columbia to celebrate the REaDY Summit – a youth-led earth day event of which the David Suzuki Foundation is a key partner. 

The summit won the Our Canada Project Award, chosen from 190 youth projects across the country by the Learning for Sustainable Future and the Royal Bank Foundation. Bravo! 

But sustainability works best when we all take part. 

Change for a healthy and greener future is right in front of us, if only we would open our eyes and arms to embrace it. 

At one point, we were newcomers too, who came here for better lives and a healthy environment. 


Winnie Hwo joined David Suzuki Foundation’s Climate Change Team in 2010 after a long and stellar career in Journalism.  She is passionate about Canada’s multicultural policy and healthy environment.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

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