Outside Thinkers says sorry on behalf of Canada

A fake government ministry apologizes to the world for the country's failure to meet its environmental obligations.

Outside Thinkers is leaning into a Canadian stereotype to raise awareness for a lesser-known environmental cause, apologizing to the world for failing to protect its land.

In a lead spot for the online campaign, Gord Burton – the fictional Deputy of the equally fictional Canadian Bureau of Foreign Apologies – explains to the world that Canada is sorry for failing to protect its land and reach the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. To make up for this, Burton says he plans to personally apologize to every country in the world, though admits it might be easier (and more effective) if people sign a letter to their politicians to encourage them to advocate for meeting the goals.

The Aichi Biodiversity Targets is an agreement signed by 195 countries in 2010 to permanently protect at least 17% of their land, stop biodiversity loss and promote sustainable use of land. Even though Canada protected 10.6% of its land when the agreement was signed, that number has only reached roughly 11% now, less than a year before the targets are meant to be reached. Canada ranks at 124 among countries (and last among G7 nations) that signed the agreement.

In addition to the 90-second video, Burton also apologizes to nations that have reached their targets like Brazil, Hungary and Zambia for failing to live up to their standard and, in lieu of environmental action, offers Canadiana-themed gifts and merch (though in the case of Zambia, Burton visited the country’s embassy to deliver an apology in person). As part of an influencer outreach element for the campaign, videos have been created with Burton apologizing to people like student environmental activist Greta Thunberg, author Naomi Klein and chief water commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation Autumn Peltier.

The videos include a call-to-action to spread the messages by social media and to visit Outside Thinkers’ website for the Canadian Bureau of Foreign Apologies to send a letter to their local provincial politicians.

The campaign was created internally by Outside Thinkers, a collective of environmental groups such as the Woodcock Foundation, Viola Foundation and National Environmental Treasure. Empathy Inc handled media.