Story at a glance

  • Environmental pollution and climate change disproportionately harms Black, Indigenous and other communities of color.
  • In Canada, the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement have resulted in discussions about systemic environmental racism.
  • A new bill advancing in Parliament would force the government to develop a national strategy to address this issue.

On National Indigenous People’s Day in Canada, lawmakers pushed a bill to address environmental racism one step further in Parliament, expanding the language to include other marginalized communities beyond race.

“The fact that this comes on National Indigenous Peoples Day, I think, is very symbolic and very emotional,” said Member of Parliament Lenore Zann, who sponsored the bill, reported a local news outlet. “It's very moving for me, because it is their interests, and Black Canadians and racialized communities and marginalized communities, whose struggles and victories are at the heart of this bill.”  


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The bill, C-230, would require the government to develop a national strategy to address the harm caused by environmental racism in Canada, referring to the disproportionate harm to Black, Indigenous and other communities of color caused by environmental pollution and climate change. Much like in the United States, minority communities are often located in areas that have been exposed to major polluters emitting toxins associated with cancer, respiratory illness and birth defects. 

“One of the biggest mistakes colonial society has made is the belief that some races and genders are more important or valuable than others and therefore that some peoples and communities are less deserving of a healthy environment than others,” Zann told Parliament.


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The death of George Floyd in the United States led to a racial reckoning that extended beyond national borders to challenge systemic racism in Canada and other countries. 

“Black Lives Matter and Covid got people talking about systemic inequalities like never before,” Ingrid Waldron, a sociology professor at Dalhousie University who worked with Zann on the bill, told The Guardian. “It created this environment where people were having discussions more about racism and systemic racism.”  


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Published on Jun 23, 2021