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Advocates welcome passage of bill to tackle environmental justice in Canada

Canada Passes Landmark Environmental Justice Legislation

Canada Passes Landmark Environmental Justice Legislation

Environmental and social justice advocates in Canada have welcomed the passage of a new bill that pledges to develop a national strategy to prevent and address the effects of environmental racism. The Canadian Coalition for Environmental and Climate Justice (CCECJ) says the passage of Bill C-226 this week will help communities better understand the scale of the problem and lay out strategies for how to tackle it.

Environmental racism refers to the disproportionate siting of hazardous projects and polluting industries among populations of color and Indigenous communities. Over the past decades, examples in Canada have included mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows First Nation in northern Ontario, the building of major oil and gas pipelines on unceded, Indigenous lands, and the placement of landfills near historic African-Canadian communities on the east coast.

Ingrid Waldron, CCECJ’s co-founder and co-director, said, “We know the stories about where and how environmental racism exists in Canada. The formal data on these realities is incomplete, and therefore, there is a lack of understanding about how real this problem is. Data collection and analysis will be a critical starting point in the strategy required by the Environmental Justice Strategy Act. The consequences of inaction on environmental racism would be ongoing negative impacts on people’s health and wellbeing.”

Bill C-226 requires the environment minister to “develop a national strategy to promote efforts across Canada to advance environmental justice and to assess, prevent and address environmental racism.” It also says the minister must work with interested parties, including Indigenous communities, and then submit a report to Canada’s Parliament within two years of the bill’s final passage, laying out the national strategy.

Elizabeth May, the Green Party leader, said, “The passage of Bill C-226 represents a commitment to addressing the long-standing and deeply entrenched issue of environmental racism in Canada. This legislation is a testament to the power of collective action and the importance of ensuring that all voices, especially those of marginalized communities, are heard and respected in our environmental policies.”

The bill’s passage comes after years of advocacy by environmental and social justice groups, who have long urged the Canadian government to take action on the issue. With the new law, Canada has taken a significant step towards addressing the disproportionate burden of environmental harms faced by marginalized communities across the country.

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