Addressing environmental racism in Canada

Program area – Healthy communities Status: In progress
Overview
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Toxic pollution and exposure to dangerous chemicals impact people across Canada, but Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) and those with a lower income often suffer the worst effects of that toxic legacy.

A colonial and inherently racist system of laws in Canada facilitates opaque, inequitable decision-making. Compounded over time, these decisions have resulted in these communities being disproportionately impacted by pollutants that spew from industrial plants, abandoned oil and gas wells, and toxic dumps, and by the destruction of habitat and cultural sites by mining, pipelines and dams activity. This is what environmental racism and injustice in Canada.

Communities across Canada know too well the devastating impacts of environmental racism and the failure of successive governments at all levels to adequately address this harm.

Located near Sarnia, in southeast Ontario, Chemical Valley is home to about 40 per cent of Canada’s chemical industry. Though pollution impacts tens of thousands of people in the surrounding areas, a 2017 report by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario found that people in Aamjiwnaang First Nation are particularly affected: “There is strong evidence that the pollution is causing adverse health effects, which neither the federal nor provincial government have properly investigated.”

In Nova Scotia, on the northern edge of the Halifax peninsula, the community of Africville became a dumping ground for waste from the industries of the province’s capital. Africville was a tight-knit community to hundreds of descendants of enslaved African people. Over time facilities — including a dump, an infectious disease hospital, and an abattoir — were placed in and around Africville. Then, in the 1960s after decades of being used as a regional dumping ground, Africville was declared a slum and an eyesore. The community was bulldozed and its residents displaced.

Ecojustice is working with the members of the Canadian Coalition for Climate and Environmental Justice, especially its founders Dr. Ingrid Waldron and Naolo Charles, to advocate for action on environmental racism in Canada.

A key focus of this work is supporting the National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Act (Bill C-226)

Bill C-226 is a Private Members Bill introduced by Elizabeth May, M.P. for Saanich—Gulf Islands, that would require the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop a national strategy to tackle environmental racism in Canada.

This Bill re-introduces a widely supported legislative proposal that was initially tabled by former M.P. Lenore Zann (then known as Bill C-230).

It would require the federal government to examine the links between race, socio-economic status, and environmental risk. If passed, the legislation would require the collection of information on the location of environmental hazards and produce statistics that outline the negative health impacts on communities that have suffered environmental racism.

Key developments

Press release

High time to pass environmental racism bill, advocates say

Favourable committee report puts Bill C-226 in line for final vote in House of Commons OTTAWA/TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE ALGON...

November 15, 2022

Press release

Civil society groups urge expedited passage of Canada’s first environmental racism bill

House to resume debate on Bill C-226 today OTTAWA/TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE ALGONQUIN ANISHNAABEG PEOPLE – Civil society gr...

June 17, 2022

Press release

A broad spectrum of groups urges Parliament to expedite passage of Canada’s first environmental racism bill, ahead of the House of Commons debate

Social justice organizations, health organizations, academics, rights campaigners, and environmental groups are calling on MPs to pass Canad...

April 20, 2022

Press release

Canada’s first environmental racism bill closer to becoming law

Groups urge all MPs to support Bill C-230 in final House vote this fall OTTAWA/TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE ALGONQUIN ANISHNAABE...

June 22, 2021

Press release

Broad-spectrum of groups welcome federal vote on environmental racism bill

Urgent need for national strategy and law to address environmental racism Ottawa/The traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin Anis...

March 24, 2021

Blog

Canada’s environmental laws continue to perpetuate systemic racism

Since this blog was published, the National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism Act (Bill C-230) passed second stage in the House of Co...

March 3, 2021

Blog

Environmental racism in Canada: What is it, what are the impacts, and what can we do about it?

Ecojustice spoke with Beze Gray, an Anishnaabe land/water protector from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, about environmental racism in Canada, how...

September 1, 2020

Blog

Environmental Racism: The first step is recognizing we have a problem

New legislation in Nova Scotia is a big step in the right direction Last week, Bill 111, An Act to Address Environmental Racism, passed f...

May 6, 2015

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