Canada and the Green Transition: Perspectives on the Way Forward

Chapter 1: What is a ‘just transition’? Perspectives, Processes, Policy

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Key Messages (Draft)




  • Workers and unions have been the focal point of just transitions advocacy and actions, with a focus on the retraining, relocation and preferential hiring of workers. Broader perspectives are also emerging indicating that families, businesses, service providers, contractors, local governments, non-profit organizations, Indigenous rights holders and marginalized groups face unique challenges in transitioning economies, and should be included in broader social and economic policy solutions
  • Recent discussions consider whether a just transition might include a more transformational shift to address past injustices. Such social justice approaches would provide opportunities for other groups facing employment barriers and strive toward gender and racial parity




  • Research demonstrates that just transition approaches are most effective when embedded in strong community and regional engagement processes which are grounded in the concept of social dialogue in order to develop responsive, place-based policy solutions
  • A tripartite model – focusing on relations between government, industry, and employees/labour unions (used in processes to date) – may not address structural inequalities in communities or properly involve Indigenous Peoples and communities. A tripartite plus model expands the stakeholders and rights holders involved for a more inclusive process
  • Indigenous Nations’ rights must be upheld when implementing policy responses to achieve a just transition—not as stakeholders—but as owners of the land, rightful decision-makers and co-managers with specific rights and responsibilities. Just transition policy responses must fully recognize the impacts that transition and climate change may have on traditional livelihoods and create the right conditions for Indigenous leadership, ownership, and other just revenue-sharing structures
  • Processes need to be proactive in addressing longer-term community or sectoral transitions as well as reactive to changes that are already occurring
  • Rural and remote communities that are less economically diverse may be particularly vulnerable and transition processes need to be carefully managed to avoid heightening inequalities and a geography of discontent




  • Just transition policies have typically focused on supporting workers in impacted industries to transition to new job opportunities through income supports, training schemes or early retirement packages. However, as the scope and scale of sustainability transitions intensify, a much broader array of social support policies are increasingly being employed to reduce harm and amplify benefits to consumers, workers, Indigenous Peoples, firms and communities
  • Researchers have been calling for more integrated approaches that span multiple sectors (e.g., industry, infrastructure, service delivery, labour market policies) and that involve workers in affected industries and communities
  • Ensuring a strong social infrastructure is critically important for communities facing change and decline, and is a policy area often overlooked in transition planning





  • Comprehensive, integrative just transition policies and plans must occur alongside efforts to respond to and mitigate climate change as the world moves toward a net-zero future. This entails actions and coordination across federal, provincial/territorial and local governments, Indigenous governments and organisations, labour unions, industry, and civil society more broadly
  • Place-based approaches to managing transitions are necessary, especially in the Canadian context where certain high emissions industries—e.g., fossil fuel sector—are regionally concentrated and impacts are not evenly distributed across the country.
  • Multi-partisan support for just transition and low-carbon approaches need to be secured so that initiatives designed to help communities and industries prepare over the long term will survive a change of government
  • Canada’s Sustainable Jobs Plan, and accompanying legislation, must put in place the foundations to enable social dialogue in regions, and the development of visions for the future to ensure the right investments, programs, and planning occurs to address the impacts on diverse populations, and fairly distribute benefits. Any plans need clear targets and monitoring of progress over time in order to ensure they are meeting their objectives
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