A New Law Seeks to End Environmental Racism in Canada

    Requiring the Canadian government to better track this injustice and aim to correct it

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    For years, researchers, activists, and community leaders have demonstrated how Indigenous populations, Black people, and other racialized groups have been disproportionately affected by polluting industries. Now, a new law will require the Canadian government to better track this injustice and aim to correct it.

    Bill C-226, sponsored by Green leader Elizabeth May, became law on June 20, almost four years after similar legislation was first proposed in Parliament. The law will require the federal government to develop a national strategy on environmental racism within two years.

    Proponents of this law have been pushing for years to pass legislation to curb environmental racism, which is manifested in the fact that polluting factories and other environmentally damaging activities are disproportionately located near indigenous communities or racialized.

    As outlined in the legislation, the national strategy must include an examination of the link between race, socioeconomic status and environmental risk, as well as measures that can be taken to address environmental racism. Those measures could include changes to federal laws, policies and programs.

    McMaster University professor Ingrid Waldron, author of the book There’s Something in the Water, co-produced the film of the same name. His research on environmental racism inspired the creation of Bill C-226.

    It’s been a long road, said Ingrid Waldron, a professor in the global peace and social justice program at McMaster University, who has been pushing for such a law.

    She is a founder of the Canadian Coalition for Environmental and Climate Justice and the author of the book There’s Something in the Water, which documented the impacts of environmental hazards on the health of Black and Indigenous communities in Nova Scotia and beyond. , as well as the actions that these sectors of the population have taken to fight against the pollution that poisons their communities.

    The legislation, Waldron said, means two things happen. Firstly, it will be able to hold the government to account and secondly, it will create greater transparency now that there is much more pressure for the authorities to do something.

    The environmental double standard

    Environmental rights advocates often point to the experience of the Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek First Nation, known as Grassy Narrows, in Ontario, as one of the most egregious examples of environmental racism and the disproportionate impacts on racialized communities. Residents of that indigenous community have suffered for decades from health impacts due to mercury pollution produced by a former pulp and paper mill.

    The First Nation filed a lawsuit in Ontario Superior Court earlier this month, arguing that governments have failed to protect people or remediate the effects of mercury pollution in the English-Wabigoon River system.

    Judy Da Silva, a grandmother in Grassy Narrows and the community’s environmental health coordinator, compared her community’s experience to that of Walkerton, a small town in southern Ontario, where seven people died and more than 2,000 more became ill due to contamination with E. coli in May 2000. An investigation was ordered the same month as the outbreak and residents were offered compensation the following year.

    They were compensated very quickly while Grassy has been going through this situation for decades, and there is still no solution, Da Silva said earlier this month. I think this is environmental racism. In the view of indigenous populations, environmental racism has also manifested itself during regulatory processes for major projects such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline, often through a lack of prior consent.

    It’s really important to raise awareness about how unequal the process is, said Rueben George, manager of Sacred Trust, an organization launched by the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation in British Columbia to fight the pipeline expansion project as it affects their territories.

    George said his experience with the Canada Energy Regulator and other energy sector review bodies made him feel the fossil fuel industry took priority over First Nations concerns. The law against environmental racism is necessary and is a good step in the right direction, he said.

    The law may have repercussions in other areas

    A 2020 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on toxic substances and human rights noted in Canada a pattern in which marginalized groups, and indigenous peoples in particular, find themselves on the wrong side of a toxic divide, subjected to conditions that would not be acceptable elsewhere in Canada.

    Cheryl Teelucksingh, a sociology professor at Metropolitan University of Toronto who researches environmental racism, said in an interview that the bill could also have implications in areas such as public health, urban planning and workers’ rights.

    Having the language and recognition that the federal government sees this as important gives people rights, and standing up for rights is something all Canadian citizens should have, he said.

    Under the new law, the government will collect health statistics for places near environmental hazards and possibly work with community groups to develop the strategy, which is due to be published in 2026 and reviewed five years later. Proponents of this environmental justice law also noted that http://health statisticstatisticsmoney will be needed to put the plan into action.

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