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Canadian decision-makers must redress environmental racism

March 11, 2021

Soon, your Member of Parliament will debate whether to move forward with the National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism Act (Bill C-230). This is a chance that Canada cannot afford to miss.

Environmental racism refers to the disproportionate harms caused to Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities from polluting industries and other environmental hazards. It also refers to the systemic racism embedded in our environmental laws, policies and enforcement, as well as the exclusion of communities of colour from environmental decision-making.

Across the country these communities face more extreme environmental burdens from industrial polluters than white Canadians. Toxic chemicals from effluent, fossil fuel projects, logging and pulp mills, as well as over-fishing, grey infrastructure and railways impact the health of communities, and can show up in higher rates of cancer, reproductive diseases, respiratory illnesses and a range of other health issues.

West Coast understands why strong environmental laws are so important for community health. And now, the government of Canada has the chance to prioritize anti-racism and address environmental harms. Bill C-230 can help.

Without a strategy to redress environmental racism, polluters can continue to harm communities without reprieve. By examining the link between race, socio-economic status and environmental risk, communities can have a greater say on the environmental issues that affect them. A national strategy to redress environmental racism could also offer routes for possible compensation for affected communities.

Pollution, toxic substances, and dangerous chemicals are a risk to all Canadians. But decisions made by successive governments at all levels have disproportionately exposed Black, Indigenous and people of colour to these risks — with lethal consequences. West Coast Environmental Law has seen time and time again how weak environmental laws often fail to protect historically marginalized communities.

Please write to your MP, the Prime Minister, Environment Minister and federal party leaders today, and ask them to support the National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism Act (Bill C-230).

 
Author: 
West Coast Environmental Law