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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 109, Issue 2, pp 268–271 | Cite as

Climate change, colonialism, and women’s well-being in Canada: what is to be done?

  • Lewis Williams
Commentary

Abstract

The impacts of accelerating climate change across Canada are unequally distributed between populations and regions. Emerging evidence shows climate change and resultant policies to be worsening gendered social and economic inequities between women and men, with women’s participation largely absent in climate change research and decision-making. These dynamics are resulting in negative impacts for women’s well-being, with Indigenous and historically marginalized women at increased risk of experiencing health inequities as a result of climate change. To date, public health discourse has largely failed to incorporate gender as a key determinant of health in discussions of climate change impacts on populations. Paralleling this lack of development, the entangled relationship between climate and colonialism tends to be subsumed under the term “Aboriginality” within health determinants discourse. This commentary on gender and climate change in Canada is framed within a radical intersectional approach as an alternative course of public health analysis and action aimed at addressing resulting health and power inequities. Following an overview of evidence regarding the gendered impacts of climate change on women’s work, roles, agency, and well-being, several possible public health action areas on climate change and gender are highlighted as necessary components for resilient communities capable of meeting contemporary challenges.

Keywords

Women Climate change Indigenous Gender 

Résumé

Les incidences de l’accélération des changements climatiques sont inégalement réparties entre les populations et les régions du Canada. Selon les preuves émergentes, les changements climatiques et les politiques qui en résultent creuseraient les inégalités sociales et économiques entre les femmes et les hommes, la participation des femmes à la recherche et à la prise de décisions sur les changements climatiques étant largement absente. Une telle dynamique a des effets nuisibles sur le bien-être des femmes, et les femmes autochtones et historiquement marginalisées courent un risque accru d’être victimes d’inégalités de santé en raison des changements climatiques. Jusqu’à maintenant, le discours de la Santé publique a généralement omis d’inclure le sexe parmi les grands déterminants de la santé lorsqu’il est question des incidences des changements climatiques sur les populations. En parallèle à ce développement insuffisant, le discours sur les déterminants de la santé a tendance à fondre la relation enchevêtrée entre le climat et le colonialisme dans la notion d’ « autochtonité ». Notre commentaire sur le sexe et les changements climatiques au Canada s’inscrit dans une approche intersectionnelle radicale qui se veut une option de rechange à l’analyse et à l’intervention de la Santé publique devant les inégalités de santé et de pouvoir qui résultent des changements climatiques. Nous résumons la preuve des incidences des changements climatiques sur le travail, les rôles, le pouvoir et le bien-être des femmes, puis nous faisons valoir que la Santé publique a plusieurs champs d’action possibles à l’égard des changements climatiques et du sexe, et que ce sont des éléments nécessaires à la résilience des communautés et à leur capacité de relever les défis contemporains.

Mots-clés

Femmes Changement climatique Autochtones Sexe 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This article draws on research previously undertaken by the author towards the report Women and Climate Change Impacts and Action in Canada. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None to declare.

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public HealthUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.School of Environmental StudiesUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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