OTTAWA – In the House of Commons today, Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands) tabled new legislation calling for a national strategy to address the harm caused by environmental racism.
The bill received widespread support when it was first brought forward in the 43rd parliament by Lenore Zann, the former MP for Cumberland-Colchester. It died on the order paper when the writ dropped last August.
If passed, the bill will require Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault to work with interested groups and individuals to develop a national strategy to assess, prevent and address environmental racism and advance environmental justice.
“The beginning of Black History Month is a fitting time to confront the shameful reality that across this country a disproportionate number of people exposed to toxic pollution or other environmental hazards are members of an Indigenous, racialized or other marginalized community,” said Ms. May.
She said that the bill tabled today – the National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Act – will require the government to identify and rectify incidents of environmental racism across Canada, something the US Environmental Protection Agency has been doing in that country for decades.
“As in the US, the impact of pollution, toxic contamination, bad air quality and proximity to toxic waste in Canada is far more dangerous for marginalized, racialized, low-income communities than for settler culture Canadians,” said Ms. May.
“We don’t need to look hard for examples: witness the long and troubled history of the Sydney Tar Ponds and Boat Harbour in Nova Scotia; the ongoing scandals in Grassy Narrows and Aamjiwnaang First Nations in Ontario; Kanesatake First Nation in Quebec; Shamattawa First Nation in Manitoba; the oil sands in Alberta and multiple sites across the prairies and into British Columbia, including violations of Indigenous territories for pipeline projects.
“We need to act now to confront the implicit racism of pollution and abuse of nature."
Green Party interim Leader Amita Kuttner said: “The climate crisis, environmental degradation and social justice issues have the same root cause. We must address colonialism and white supremacy as part of the systemic transformation needed to preserve a liveable world.”
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