Since taking office in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has put Canada on the map for a couple big reasons.
For one, the country opened its doors to thousands of Syrian refugees during a significant crisis. For another, Trudeau made a point of saying he was a feminist, naming a gender-balanced cabinet and introducing the Feminist International Assistance Policy.
These are important milestones for the country and put Canada in the spotlight internationally. The world is now watching, and that means the country has the opportunity to lead the way on a number of issues.
The question is: What should those issues be and how should the government move forward in 2018?
1. Canada should govern with a mindset towards accomplishing the SDGs.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are targets set by the UN to improve human rights around the world.
Among them are goals to end poverty and hunger, ensure global health and access to quality education, achieve gender equality and guarantee clean water and sanitation.
When Trudeau gave his speech at the UN General Assembly in September, he spoke about the importance of the SDGs, and he laid out the ones he wanted to work on at home, specifically those affecting Indigenous people in Canada.
But what does it mean to truly do that? How will Trudeau commit to tackling the SDGs?
The United Nations target for foreign aid from developed countries like Canada is 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI). Canada will not hit that target for 2017. In fact, Canada’s contribution in 2016 was only 0.26%.
Canada's development spending is at a near all-time low, with the country spending $5 billion on foreign aid in 2016. Canada ranked as 19th in the world in 2016, according a report from Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
In 2018, the Trudeau government will have the opportunity to change that by increasing the foreign aid budget.
If Trudeau governs in 2018 with a mindset geared towards achieving the SDGs, not only could he help those in need in Canada, but he could help the world reach those targets, while also leading as an example.
By working towards Global Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation, for instance, Trudeau could help lift water bans that exist in Indigenous areas across Canada, but also lead the way for improving access to water worldwide.
Putting the accomplishment of the SDGs at the forefront of Canada’s governance would not only result in a better country, but work towards a better world.
2. Canada should make sure everyone has equal access to a quality education.
Right now, there are an estimated 263 million children out of school worldwide.
The Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a multi-stakeholder collaboration and funding platform, was created in 2002 to help bring education to these kids.
Trudeau and the Chair of the Board of Directors of the GPE, Julia Gillard, met at Global Citizen Festival in Hamburg in July to discuss gender equality and education.
Gillard’s focus was on the need for world leaders to prioritize education, and while the prime minister was supportive, the conversation ended without a clear commitment on the expected financial contribution from Canada when it comes to GPE replenishment 2020.
The goal of the next GPE replenishment is to raise US $2 billion a year by 2020 for the 89 countries the GPE supports. Canada has been asked for a contribution of US $187.5M (CAD $259M) from 2018 to 2020 to help meet this target.
Replenishment contributions will be announced in early 2018.
More funds could result in 19 million more children finishing primary school, 6.6 million additional children finishing lower secondary school, 1.7 million trained teachers, 23,800 classrooms built and 204 million textbooks distributed, according to GPE.
At the meeting with Gillard, Trudeau said that Canada could play an important role internationally when it comes to GPE support.
And that could be of great value too. Providing access to education isn’t just about funding. It’s about showing support and knowing how to create true access for all.
3. Make Canada an example of tolerance and acceptance in the world.
Canada is often seen as an open-minded and accepting country, and certainly some of Trudeau’s finer moments have helped keep that image alive.
But to keep it up, Canada needs to continue to commit to supporting refugees, protecting vulnerable communities, and ensuring equality for all.
Trudeau has succeeded in putting Canada on the global stage, but for the country to truly live up to its name, the prime minister will need to do more than post inspiring tweets and photobomb prom students.
With Nunavut’s symbols now added to the Centennial Flame, Prime Minister Pearson’s words from half a century ago still ring true: “As this symbolic flame burns, so let pride in our country burn in the hearts of all Canadians, where the real meaning of Canada must ever be found.” pic.twitter.com/9Ftjo9oNky— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) December 13, 2017
Taking care of the most vulnerable people is a Canadian value, and doing so at home as well as abroad is important.
Only six OECD countries met the 0.7% target last year and Canada was not one of them. Showing Canada’s commitment to a target like this next year could be a step in promoting help and acceptance for all people.
Working towards the SDGs, ensuring access to education, and speaking out when other world leaders are threatening to stall progress on these kinds of important initiatives is also important.
Actions speak louder than words. A new year will surely offer moments for Canada to show it is truly a place of tolerance and acceptance.
Global Citizen campaigns on issues related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. You can take action here.