It’s time for Canada to make history
It’s time for Canada to make history
Wednesday May 26, 2021

The legacy of environmental racism throughout the country must be undone

Canada’s first law on environmental racism has passed its first and second reading, and is about to return to the House of Commons for its third and final vote.

Environmental racism refers to the fact that a disproportionate number of people in Canada who live in environmentally hazardous areas are members of an Indigenous or racialized community. Bill C-230 (The National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism Act) highlights how decisions to place industrial plants and their waste streams, toxic dumps, oil and gas wells, and other environmental hazards in these communities are a result of racial discrimination.

If enough MPs vote in favour of passing Bill C-230 in its third reading, we could finally see real action from the government in addressing Canada’s legacy of environmental racism. But they won’t speak up unless they know a majority of Canadians are backing them.

That’s why we’re asking Stand.earth members in Canada to help show MPs that there is huge public support for ending environmental racism.

Click here to add your name to our petition to advocate for passing Bill C-230, or go one step further and send a quick email to your MP using our easy-to-use template.

Bill C-230 is a private member’s bill being introduced by Liberal MP Lenore Zann, and was inspired by the work of Ingrid Waldron, author of There's Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities (now a must-watch Netflix documentary, by the way).

The bill seeks to address the fact that Indigenous and other racialized groups in Canada face disproportionate impacts from industrial projects and their pollution. When it comes to environmental racism, it is important not to conflate the experience of Indigenous Peoples with that of other racialized groups. But the colonial power structures that underlie it are the same.  The resulting exposure to toxic pollutants has been linked to severe health impacts for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities – including high rates of cancer, reproductive diseases, and respiratory illnesses.

Instances of environmental racism in Canada are too many to count, but one obvious example is what’s now known as ‘Chemical Valley’ on the southernmost tip of Lake Huron in Ontario. Close to 40% of Canada’s petrochemical industry is located here, and it has become one of the most polluted hotspots in the entire country. Approximately 800 members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation live right next door to these industrial sites, and have reported grave health impacts. Having an environmental racism bill passed into law would provide an important foundation for addressing injustices like Chemical Valley, and making sure they don’t happen again.

Thousands of Stand.earth members have signed this petition already, and that support helped push MPs to vote in favour of Bill C-230 in its first and second reading. But we need even more people to sign on to ensure the bill passes its third and most important vote. Now is the time to turn the pressure up.

From Grassy Narrows to Alberta’s toxic tailings ponds, and from Chemical Valley to the abandoned oil and gas wells in B.C., there’s no pretending that undoing our legacy of environmental racism is going to be easy. But that’s never stopped us.

At Stand, we remain firmly committed to doing this work because Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. The lives of all People of Colour matter. In the context of our campaigns, that means doubling down on our efforts to highlight environmental racism by working with impacted communities to ensure the air they breathe and water they drink is just as clean as the rest of the country’s. It means recognizing we still have our own work to do internally, it means understanding that racial justice is environmental justice is climate justice, and it means showing up in times like these to advocate for what is right.

If you’re with us, sign the petition and speak up against environmental racism. Let’s get Bill C-230 passed.