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Broad spectrum of groups welcome federal vote on environmental racism bill

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Urgent need for national strategy and law to address environmental racism

OTTAWA/Traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg people – Social justice organizations, health organizations, academics, rights campaigners and environmental groups have welcomed the support shown by the majority of MPs for the National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism Act (Bill C-230) at the bill’s second reading in the House of Commons today. 

But the work is far from over. Canada is long-overdue in addressing its legacy of environmental racism. 

All parties must support Bill C-230 through the parliamentary process so that it can become law. 

The Private Members Bill tabled by Lenore Zann, (Cumberland—Colchester), would finally require Canada to develop a strategy to address environmental racism. The United States has collected race-based and income data on environmental pollution since 1994. The new Biden administration has made environmental justice central to its mandate. It’s time for Canada to step up.

Environmental racism refers to the disproportionate impacts on Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities from polluting industries and other environmental hazards. These toxic burdens have been linked to high rates of cancer, reproductive diseases, respiratory illnesses, and other health problems, all of which only compound the cultural loss resulting from poisoning of country foods and destruction of culturally significant places.

Bill C-230 proposes a national strategy that examines the link between race, socio-economic status, and environmental risk, collects information and statistics about the impact of pollution on racialized and low-income communities and addresses environmental racism through a series of federal government actions. 

From the decision approximately 60 years ago to offload pulp mill effluent into Pictou Landing First Nation’s once-pristine Boat Harbour, and toxic landfills placed in the African Nova Scotian communities of Shelburne and Lincolnville, to mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows First Nation, petrochemical facilities in Chemical Valley in Ontario adjacent the Aamjiwnaang First Nation and hydro megadams creating a risk to Indigenous communities in British Columbia and Labrador, Canada’s legacy of environmental racism can no longer be ignored.

Please see here for quotes from groups and individuals supporting Bill C-230

Supporting organizations and individuals:

  • Dr. Ingrid Waldon, Ph.D. and Naolo Charles Co-Founders, National Anti-Environmental Racism Coalition
  • Dr. Elaine MacDonald, Healthy Communities Program Director, Ecojustice
  • Tina Northrup, Staff Lawyer, East Coast Environmental Law
  • Manvi Bhalla, President and Co-Founder of Shake Up The Establishment
  • Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence
  • Dr. Ellen Sweeney, Board of Directors, Prevent Cancer Now
  • Jennifer Beeman, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Action Québec
  • Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director, Sierra Club Canada Foundation
  • Andre Forsythe, Executive Director, School For Climate
  • Vanessa Hartley, Chair South End Environmental Injustice Society (SEED)
  • Louise Delisle, Advising Chair, Founder, South End Environmental Injustice Society (SEED)
  • Siobhan Takala, Co Founder / Co Director of Let’s Sprout
  • John Nathaniel Gertler, Member of La coalition étudiante pour un virage environnemental et social (la CEVES)
  • Lori Ransom, Interim Executive Director of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
  • Isaac Kadende
  • Kenny Gbadebo, ED, YCA Inc.
  • Dr.  Jane McArthur, Toxics Campaign Coordinator at Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE/ACME)
  • Eugene Kung, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
  • Aucha Stewart, Law Student Member, Windsor Law Cities and Climate Action Forum (CCAF)
  • Sam Hopkins, Representative member of Cheetahs for Change at Charles P. Allen High School
  • Lisa Gue, Senior Researcher and Analyst, David Suzuki Foundation 
  • Gauri Sreenivasan, Director of Policy and Campaigns, Nature Canada

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For media inquiries, please contact:

Eugene Kung, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
604-601-2514, ekung@wcel.org