The House of Commons is close to adopting Canada’s first-ever legislation on environmental racism — environmental hazards that disproportionately affect Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities.
Bill C-226 comes up for a vote today and is expected eventually to pass through the House of Commons with the support of the Liberals, the NDP and the Green Party.
Those parties hope the bill can be fast-tracked through unanimous consent and bypass several procedural hoops. That’s not likely without the support of the two other opposition parties. legislation
C-226 would require Parliament to develop a national strategy to collect information on environmental hazards in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) communities and address their impacts.
That information could provide a foundation for changing existing federal laws, policies and programs.
The bill’s supporters say they hope the remaining parties throw their support behind it when it comes back for another vote.
“I’m really hopeful that we will finally, as a government, address the issue of environmental racism and injustice,” said one of the bill’s supporters, Nova Scotia-based activist Lynn Jones.
Jones, a leader in the African Nova Scotian community, said she felt the impacts herself growing up on the banks of Cobequid Bay.
She said her community and other Black settlements in the province were isolated on the outskirts of Truro, N.S., where governments often located landfills and ignored area flooding for years.
“So living on the edges, you often had the worst conditions. You didn’t often have all the amenities that the other people in the town had,” she said.
First Nations and Métis communities have complained for years of being left to deal with environmental threats such as the release of pulp paper mill effluent into the harbour near Pictou Landing First Nation in Nova Scotia or mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario.