National Dialogue on Canada's Futures:

Turning Hope into Action in a Turbulent Age

Over the course of three years, the National Dialogue on Canada’s Futures (the Dialogue) will engage one million diverse Canadians in productive, community-directed conversations about our shared challenges, the positive futures we can imagine for Canada as we address these challenges, and the pathways we can follow to make those futures real.

The challenge and opportunity

Lack of hope and continued polarization could undermine our capacity to find collective solutions to our complex challenges.

A convergence of powerful forces—including climate change and increasingly extreme weather to the COVID-19 pandemic, widening structural inequalities, and the decline of Canada’s forest and fishery resources—is upending livelihoods and communities across Canada and tearing at our social fabric. As a nation we are also struggling to navigate the rapidly unfolding energy transition the climate crisis is demanding of us.

Our casual conversations are flooded with growing awareness of historical wrongs, contemporary crises, and a future that looks to be filled with climate, economic, and social distress. Some groups are retreating towards perceived sources of safety to insulate themselves from these challenges, making it harder to learn together and to move collaboratively towards solutions.

Yet almost all government responses to these problems—whether federal, provincial, or municipal—are framed as narrow, technical matters of infrastructure investment, fiscal and tax policy, and regulatory changes.

While such responses can be vitally important, they do not directly engage with the wrenching “human” aspects of our converging crises—the fears and hopes they evoke, the inequitable impacts they produce, the declines in trust and quality of life they cause, and the challenges to our systems and identities they pose. Nor do they directly counter the worsening social and political polarization that is weakening our ability to address our linked challenges.

Purely technical responses will fall on fallow ground without broad conversations about how we can live together cooperatively in a radically changed world. If we don’t effectively and urgently address our problems, our country could fracture.

What is needed now is a new conversation that gives people the opportunity to better understand their own beliefs, find empathy with others, and explore how their core values direct us all towards particular futures. People need the opportunity to step outside of their echo chambers and work collectively to figure out how we will face our extraordinary challenges together.  And they need the positive ideas that emerge from such a process to reach the ears of many other Canadians, including policy makers and power holders.