National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism Act

An Act respecting the development of a national strategy to redress environmental racism

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Lenore Zann  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Report stage (House), as of June 22, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-230.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Minister of the Environment, in consultation or cooperation with any persons, bodies, organizations or communities who are interested, to develop a national strategy to promote efforts across Canada to address the harm caused by environmental racism. It also provides for reporting requirements in relation to the strategy.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 24, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-230, An Act respecting the development of a national strategy to redress environmental racism

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2021 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the last vote was taking place, we were unable to access the site and see each of our colleagues' votes simultaneously. I tried to refresh the page, but it did not work. I think it is important that the system be fully functional so that all votes count in the House.

I would ask you to take note of that and check what happened from a technical standpoint. I do think it is very important that we be able to see how our colleagues are voting as we go.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2021 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Eric Melillo Conservative Kenora, ON

Madam Speaker, it is great to see you in the Chair again. I hope to join you in Ottawa very soon.

It is an honour to join the debate today on Bill C-230, which deals with a national strategy to redress environmental racism.

Preserving our natural environment is one of the most important issues of our time as is building a more just society and supporting Canadians of all races and from all walks of life.

The people of the Kenora riding know the importance of our environment quite intimately. In northern Ontario, hunting, fishing and ecotourism more broadly are a part of our way of life and a major driver of our economy. We understand how essential it is for clean air, clean water and a vibrant natural environment now, but also preserved for future generations.

Unfortunately, we have also seen first-hand how legacy failures by various governments have harmed the environment and the health and well-being of racialized people.

After I was elected in 2019, I used my first intervention in the chamber to raise the issue of mercury poisoning in the Grassy Narrows First Nation. Members of this nation as well as those of Whitedog in my riding have been suffering the effects of mercury poisoning, such as muscle weakness, cognitive impairments, reduced vision, hearing and speech, for decades. It was not until last year that the government finally signed an agreement for a treatment facility in these communities.

In both communities, the water systems were contaminated when toxic waste was dumped into the English and Wabigoon river systems in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2016, it was reported that the fish in Grassy Narrows, specifically, still had the highest levels of mercury contamination in the province of Ontario. This is perhaps the greatest example of environmental racism in Canada and the government allowed it to continue for five years under its watch without action.

Of course, we also remember the Prime Minister's smug and condescending comments toward protestors of this injustice at a Liberal fundraiser in 2019. He thanked these individuals for their donations without even attempting to address the real and urgent issues they were hoping to bring to his attention.

Contaminated or otherwise unsafe water is an unfortunate and unimaginable reality, yet it is the reality for many first nations across the country.

On March 1, the Globe and Mail reported that 39 first nations were under long-term boil water advisories. Several have gone without clean water for more than a decade. Last month, the Neskantaga First Nation, also in my riding, marked 26 years under a boil water advisory. Of course, members may recall that last year the residents of this community actually had to evacuate entirely because there was a breakdown of their water system.

The Liberal government promised that all long-term boil water advisories would be ended by March of this year. Of course, it is now March and we know that it is not close to reaching that goal and has not even set a new date for when it hopes to achieve that. It has blamed its lack of progress on the file on the pandemic, but that excuse frankly does not add up. We know it was on track to miss its timeline long before COVID‑19 ever hit. We also know that many indigenous communities have been incredibly diligent about fighting COVID‑19 have nonetheless been finding ways to get essential work done on reserve, while protecting the health and safety of their residents.

Many indigenous people across the country and indeed all Canadians see this delay for what it is, and that is the government once again putting their needs on the backburner.

I truly worry about how continuing with the failures of the past will prevent us from securing a more prosperous future. If the government is serious about addressing environmental racism, I suggest it place much more urgency on the issues of clean water in first nations across the country.

We also know that many indigenous people, particularly in remote and northern communities, like those in my riding, will be disproportionately impacted by climate change, and ridings like mine will bear the brunt of many of the challenges. Remote communities face unique circumstances. Some of these challenges are related to their geography of course, but many are exacerbated by chronic underfunding, discriminatory legislation and environmental neglect.

In the past few years, residents of communities such as Bearskin Lake and Fort Hope in the riding of Kenora have been forced to evacuate because of floods and fires, respectively. These extreme events are expected in my region; however, they have been increasing in frequency and severity in recent years.

I frequently hear concerns from residents of remote communities in Kenora who rely on ice roads as a major transportation route for essential items. Shorter and milder winter seasons, as we experienced this past year, are limiting many people's ability to use these road systems, and this is cutting off many northern communities from vital resources. Residents of these communities are resilient, but their opportunities are often limited by insufficient infrastructure.

Housing shortages, lack of transportation and limited access to goods and services all have negative impacts on health, nutrition, financial security and the emergency response in the north. These issues will only get worse as the climate changes and weather patterns become even more erratic.

Indigenous communities have been raising concerns about this for years, and since being elected, I have been fighting for real support in these areas. However, the lack of action from the government has been disheartening. Barely anything has been done to address the current challenges that remote communities face, let alone to prepare them for the consequences of climate change.

I do appreciate the very real and important issues the member for Cumberland—Colchester is aiming to address with this proposal. However, there are many questions we still need answers to. How will we prepare remote communities to respond to natural disasters if they continue to increase in frequency? How will we support hunters and anglers in maintaining their traditional ways of life as ice thins and wildlife behaviour changes? How will we ensure that communities relying on ice roads will not be cut off from the rest of the country when temperatures rise and winter seasons shorten? How will we ensure that houses and other facilities in these regions can withstand severe weather when the buildings they currently have are in an advanced state of disrepair?

These questions must be answered. Frankly, time is of the essence.

We can and must work to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change. We can invest in new technologies and work with industry to reduce emissions. We can support Canadians who want to practice sustainability in their daily lives. We can take transformational actions, just as former prime minister Brian Mulroney did with regard to acid rain, to combat the environmental crises of our time.

We also need to do right by the people who are already feeling the effects of environmental degradation. I do not believe we as Canadians can trust the current Liberal government to do that, because right now the Liberal track record on these issues has been all talk and very little action. The Prime Minister committed to preserving our environment, reducing emissions and bringing clean water to first nations communities, but under his leadership, emissions have risen, critical habitat has been lost and indigenous communities are still underserved.

How can anyone take the government at its word when its environmental record remains one of failure to back up its big promises with action? The government has had over five years to address these issues with meaningful legislation and tangible actions, but it has completely failed to do so. Its inaction has increased inequality, food insecurity and negative health outcomes for indigenous communities. We need to do better, and that is why Canada's Conservatives will continue to raise the voices of those who have been disproportionately impacted by these legacy government failures.

I will end my remarks there. It has been a pleasure to join the discussion today.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2021 / 5:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure for me to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois and the people of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, particularly to talk about the environment.

I want to begin by thanking my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester for her work and for introducing this bill. I want her to know that the Bloc Québécois has big ambitions when it comes to the environment. We welcome bills that address this issue.

Her bill touches on a particularly worthwhile issue, a concept that has not been very well known until now, and that is environmental racism. I myself had to read up on this concept before I spoke about it, and I have to say that I learned a lot. I think it is important to talk about what this concept means.

Environmental racism is a grassroots concept, but that does not make it any less real. It is a concept that exists in the broader context of the environmental justice movement, which originated in the United States. It is based on the connection between nature and social factors, such as class, gender and race.

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation defines environmental racism as follows:

A systemic form of racism in which toxic wastes are introduced into or near marginalized communities. People of colour, indigenous peoples, working class, and poor communities suffer disproportionately from environmental hazards and the location of dangerous, toxic facilities such as incinerators and toxic waste dumps. Pollution of lands, air and waterways, often causes chronic illness to the inhabitants and change in their lifestyle.

According to this definition, the concept of environmental racism is intrinsically linked to that of systemic racism. At the same time, it is not exclusively linked to minorities because it includes more varied vulnerability criteria, so is calling it exclusively a form of racism justified?

There is without a doubt good reason to add environmental factors to the social determinants of health. Essentially, the definition of the concept of environmental racism seems vague. Without a clear definition of this concept, I think it is difficult to develop a public policy.

More pragmatically, the fact that this concept is linked to a wide range of social phenomena poses a real challenge in terms of public policy development. In this specific vision of environmental justice, policies have to adapt continuously to the variety of situations encountered.

The concept of environmental racism was popularized in Canada by Dr. Ingrid Waldron, a professor at Dalhousie University. According to her, every community experiences these issues in its own unique way, which makes it challenging to take concerted action for social, economic, political and environmental justice.

It is one thing for social movements to adapt their political battles to the realities on the ground. Just look at the opposition to pipeline projects like Energy East or the Coastal Gaslink pipeline.

The challenge is quite different for lawmakers who have to draft legislation that serves justice and has to apply to all citizens. A good policy is a universal policy that serves the common good and applies to the entire population. Universal public policies dismantle unequal structures and discriminatory practices. That seems to be the purpose of Bill C‑230, but that will not be the result.

Whether in Quebec, France or elsewhere, the social policies that have best served the advancement of rights, social protections and reduced inequalities are universal policies that apply to everyone. I would like to remind the House that the Bloc Québécois strongly believes in the principle of universality, which involves promoting the economic and social well-being of all members of society.

The best way for the government to avoid discriminating based on differences is to blind itself to differences. If we institute new policies based on new rights, such as the right to a clean environment, everyone should have them. If the policy is well thought out, those who suffer the most from injustice will receive help and support from the government. If the rights and the eligibility criteria for government protection and support are universal, then the policy will eliminate inequalities based on differences. Unfortunately, Bill C-230 does not meet these criteria of universality.

The second problem with this bill is that it is a direct infringement on Quebec's environmental sovereignty. One striking example is the following clause: “assess the administration and enforcement of environmental laws in each province”. In other words, the federal government would no longer respect Quebec's environmental legislation. It would give itself the right to assess the administration and enforcement of environmental laws in Quebec and every province. I am sorry to say that the Bloc Québécois cannot agree to such a clause. Quebec's territory belongs to Quebec, and it is up to the Government of Quebec to protect it.

Bill C‑230 puts the Minister of the Environment in charge of the national strategy. The choice of the minister is not bad in itself, but we need to first consider the intersectionality of environmental racism, which requires a horizontal approach involving multiple departments. For example, the environment is a shared jurisdiction, and social policy is not a federal responsibility.

Next, who is to say that the federal government has the constitutional jurisdiction to implement the measures in this bill?

The fact that the federal government wants to consult other levels of government is not sufficient, in the context of Canadian federalism, to justify that same government's intrusion in areas that are the jurisdiction of Quebec and the other provinces. The federal government can legislate on environmental matters, but only in areas under its jurisdiction.

Bill C-230 does not concern fisheries or navigation and shipping and does not apply solely to federal public property. The bill makes no reference to any criminal matters, nor does it establish an obligation to adopt environmental mechanisms in conjunction with provincial governments.

Need I remind members that the clause about assessing the administration and enforcement of environmental laws in Quebec is unacceptable to us?

The federal government has a long way to go if it wants to respect Quebec's environmental sovereignty at long last. It should start by taking care of its environmental responsibilities, such as the management of dangerous goods. The federal government's practices with regard to the management of radioactive waste are particularly questionable.

Under the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal Parliament exercised its declaratory power to assert jurisdiction over nuclear energy. The federal government therefore needs to accept responsibility for its decision and live up to its responsibilities by ensuring that no human being in Quebec or Canada is exposed to the hazards of nuclear waste. As for the rest, as I said at the beginning, Quebec's territory belongs to Quebec, and it is up to the Government of Quebec to protect it.

If the current government really wants to fight climate change and social inequality, it does not need Bill C‑230 to do so. It does not need to bring up environmental racism.

There is already scientific evidence to show that it is the most vulnerable people, the most disadvantaged, the ones living in the poorest neighbourhoods, who experience the most direct harm from the environmental crisis. Yes, cultural minorities and immigrants are overrepresented in those neighbourhoods. Yes, indigenous people are among the hardest hit. The data is there. What we need now is political will.

We have known for more than 30 years that climate change affects our physical and mental health. Natural disasters, heat waves, floods, poorer water quality, reduced food quality and quantity, and the emergence or development of new diseases are all factors that affect human health. Not only are these phenomena getting worse, but they can also appear simultaneously. What happens then? Health risks skyrocket, and vulnerable people's lives are in jeopardy.

We can tell ourselves that the impact of climate change on health is felt elsewhere, far from home, but that is like burying our heads in the sand. Quebec and Canada are already feeling the impact of climate change.

Remember the 2018 heat waves. In and around Montreal, that heat wave killed 66 people. Mapping where those deaths occurred reminds us of the influence of social inequality on health, because the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods had the most deaths.

Other local examples include increasingly poor sanitation in indigenous communities. Rising waters and changing seasons are leading to a whole new set of mental health problems and food shortages.

The problems do not end there.

If we keep fuelling climate change with our polluting emissions, everyone's health will be compromised. Canada is already being hit with climate change events such as heat waves, forest fires and floods. They will certainly become more frequent in the coming years. The health risks of climate change include heat-related illnesses, lower air quality due to pollution, contaminated water sources, and diseases spread by insects, ticks and rodents.

The literature makes it quite clear that the least fortunate members of our society, which includes a huge proportion of indigenous peoples, racialized individuals and immigrants, will also bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change.

It is up to us as policy-makers to be aware of this and stop dithering over the need to immediately reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. If we do not, we will be contributing to jeopardizing the health of the public now and in the future.

That is why the Bloc Québécois position is not motivated by opposition to the will expressed in Bill C‑230 to resolve a real social problem, but by whether the bill could change anything. The Bloc Québécois is concerned about quality of life and access to a healthy environment for all Quebeckers.

Over and above Bill C‑230, the appalling living conditions in some of our communities, which have no access to a healthy environment, are unacceptable, and governments must live up to their responsibilities in that regard.

Environment-based human rights need to be developed. These rights, and the policies that stem from them, will have to be universal. Everyone must have them, regardless of their differences. Only then will we have powerful legal tools to address the inequities and discrimination caused by unequal environmental factors, such as exposure to pollution or lack of access to clean drinking water.

Unfortunately, Bill C‑230 cannot fulfill this vision.

The Bloc Québécois is working hard and pushing for an independent Quebec, one based on mutual recognition with indigenous nations, in which all citizens are equal and enjoy the benefits of social and environmental justice.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2021 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Cumberland—Colchester for bringing forward this important bill to address environmental racism. The bill tabled by the member requires the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop a national strategy to promote efforts across Canada to redress the harm caused by environmental racism. I certainly hope that the government will support this bill and take meaningful action to really redress environmental racism.

As we know, across Canada toxic dumps, polluting projects, risky pipelines, tainted drinking water and the effects of the climate crisis disproportionately hurt indigenous, Black and racialized communities. We need look no further to see the impacts of Canada’s colonial history on indigenous people. However, even as successive governments say they recognize these historical injustices, so far we are only seeing tiny, incremental measures to right such wrongs.

According to the government’s own website, currently there are 58 long-term drinking water advisories in first nations communities. There are two in British Columbia, six in Saskatchewan, four in Manitoba and 44 in Ontario. I should note that many of these communities have had such conditions for years, and in some cases for decades. The First Nations Health Authority’s Environmental Public Health Services indicate that there are both “do not use” and “do not consume” water advisories in our first nation communities.

“Do not consume” advisories are issued when a community's water system contains a contaminant, such as a chemical, that cannot be removed from the water by boiling. The water should not be used for drinking, brushing teeth, cooking, washing fruits and vegetables, making infant formula or other drinks, soups or ice cubes, for bathing infants and toddlers, or for pets.

“Do not use” advisories are issued when the water system contains contamination that cannot be removed by boiling and consumption of the water poses a health risk. Exposure to the water when bathing could cause skin, eye or nose irritation. In what universe is this okay?

Behind every community are the faces of the people: children, elders and people with disabilities. They are the faces of all of us. Water is life, yet they cannot access basic clean drinking water, which is essential to sustaining life.

This is happening in indigenous communities right now. This is what environmental racism looks like. As an ally of indigenous people, I have attended countless protests and rallies led by indigenous people: the first people, the protectors of mother earth, of water and land. They have demanded accountability. We have protested Canada’s ongoing active engagement in land dispossession and resource exploitation in their territories.

Look at what is happening with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The Prime Minister ignored the voices of the indigenous people, elders and protectors of land. He ignored the science on the climate emergency, brought the Trans Mountain pipeline in and pushed ahead on the expansion.

The Prime Minister is completely oblivious to his own hypocrisy. He cannot call himself an environmentalist and buy a pipeline. Thousands of people have come out as allies to indigenous communities who are opposed to the expansion. Some have been arrested for fighting to protect the environment. Watch houses have been set up to monitor the situation, and people are there in the rain and snow. Land defenders continue to take to the streets to protest the TMX expansion. We must stop throwing away billions of dollars on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and fossil fuel subsidies.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has analyzed the Trans Mountain pipeline and shown that, in all the scenarios it has modelled, there is almost no chance that the pipeline would be profitable. That undercuts the Liberals' claim that the pipeline is needed to pay for green energy investments.

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation conducted an independent assessment of the project and found that there was a 79% to 87% chance of a spill in its waters over the next 50 years if the project is built. In the worst-case scenario, it projected there is a 29% chance of a spill of over 100,000 barrels. The risks are real. The question is not whether there will be a spill; it is when there will be a spill. These risks are exactly the reason the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and other first nations have not given their free, prior and informed consent to the project.

The Prime Minister is buying the TMX pipeline and pushing ahead on its expansion, and this is a clear violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. So much for the Prime Minister's most important relationship. This is no joke. The day the government announced it was buying the TMX pipeline, there were new environmental violations for the project.

The truth is that systemic discrimination has been embedded in our environmental policy-making. Enforcement of environmental regulations and laws is often lax. In fact, most recently, it was found that there have been repeat violations of COVID-19 protocols on the site. According to Burnaby Now, a report by the Canada Energy Regulator found there was “systemic non-compliances” of COVID-19 rules at the TMX expansion project.

Canada’s environmental decision-making process excludes indigenous, Black and racialized communities. Make no mistake about it: This is environmental injustice.

There are other examples of environmental racism in Canada, including the horrific mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows. In addition to the frightening health effects of mercury poising and cancer from toxic waste, the high levels of contamination forced the community to stop commercial and tourist fishing, one of its last avenues for traditional economic living, while the Ontario government continued to insist the poisoned fish were safe to eat.

In urban areas, 25% of the neighbourhoods with the lowest socio-economic status are within a kilometre of a major polluting industrial facility, compared with just 7% of the wealthiest neighbourhoods. This results in an elevated risk of hospitalization for respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

In Vancouver East, our East Village neighbourhood has campaigned for years, fighting against odours coming from the poultry plant in the community. The community has learned that West Coast Reduction is looking at increasing emissions of ammonia, nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxides. Rightfully, my constituents are concerned about this.

I have brought this up with Metro Vancouver, which regulates air quality for our region. Councillor Adriane Carr is the chair of the Metro Vancouver committee that oversees air quality, and she has advised that it will consider input from concerned parties right up to when the permit decision is made.

In another part of my riding, community members are concerned about the activities of the port. They have been raising concerns about the well-being of a bird marsh at Crab Park. They are concerned that the Port of Vancouver's security fence, which has been put around the four-acre empty parking lot beside Crab Park, will negatively impact the birds there, and they note there are 26 species of waterfowl in Burrard Inlet.

Crab Park is a sacred space for the people of the Downtown Eastside. They fought hard for it and of course they want to ensure that it is protected. They also want to see a healing lodge at Crab Park to support people in our community so they are able access a safe place, a place of healing, especially in the face of so much stress and trauma from the homelessness crisis, the opioid crisis and now the pandemic.

In 2019, Baskut Tuncak, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, wrote, “I observed a pervasive trend of inaction of the Canadian Government in the face of existing health threats from decades of historical and current environmental injustices and the cumulative impacts of toxic exposures by indigenous peoples.

In September 2020, a report entitled “Visit to Canada—Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes” was submitted to the Human Rights Council. It states, “Pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals threaten the right to life, and a life with dignity”. It also says, “The invisible violence inflicted by toxics is an insidious burden disproportionately borne by Indigenous peoples in Canada.” Canadians have the right to a healthy environment.

Both Liberals and Conservatives have failed to put words into action and, in 2019, they voted against NDP Bill C-438, an act to enact the Canadian environmental bill of rights, which was tabled by former NDP MP Linda Duncan.

In this Parliament, they also failed to show up for NDP Bill C-232, an act respecting a climate emergency action framework, which calls for the recognition of the right of all Canadians to a safe, clean and healthy environment grounded in a commitment to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is a bill that was tabled by my colleague, the member for Winnipeg Centre

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2021 / 6:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois does not support Bill C-230 because, although the Bloc Québécois believes in a cleaner and fairer world, this bill is unfortunately a direct attack on Quebec's environmental sovereignty.

The Bloc Québécois is fully aware that there are disparities in living standards in Quebec and Canada. We are very concerned about that and have been for a long time. Our political agendas are already full of proposals that seek to make Quebec a cleaner and fairer nation.

It gives me great pleasure to say that, when it comes to environmental and social policies, Quebec sets an example for the whole world in the way it protects its land and its plant and animal life and the way it fights social inequality.

Although the Bloc Québécois does not support Bill C-230, we do support government efforts to work in concert with indigenous nations, the Government of Quebec and the other governments of Canada to counter the inequities experienced by our minority communities in their relationship with the environment.

We know that an important part of reconciliation with indigenous peoples involves joint initiatives to make Quebec and Canada cleaner and more just. Living conditions for some people and in some communities in Quebec and Canada with respect to the environment are unacceptable, and governments must uphold their responsibilities in this regard. Access to drinking water comes to mind.

Top of mind are our first nations, Métis and Inuit friends. The shame of the profound and indescribable harm done to them by the federal government's laws and decisions dating back to 1867 endures to this day. The federal government's misdeeds haunt us painfully and unremittingly.

It is difficult for indigenous peoples of Quebec and Canada to heal the wounds that the Government of Canada inflicted on them and, incomprehensibly, continues to inflict on them. Unbelievably, the Indian Act is still with us.

Nevertheless, there is hope, because we are all working on a relationship based on recognition, respect and co-operation. There is hope because the Bloc Québécois is working and fighting to make Quebec a country founded on mutual recognition with indigenous nations, a country in which all citizens are equal and everyone reaps the benefits of social and environmental justice.

While there are increasingly well substantiated links between rising pollution levels and various diseases and developmental disabilities, I would still like to take this opportunity to highlight the longer-term implications of environmental inequities, particularly for the different regions of Quebec. These repercussions are very real. One need only compare the populations of the two sides, west and east, of Montreal Island. Life expectancy on the east side, which is more francophone and very multicultural, is 10 years lower than that on the West Island. That is a sad reality.

Putting people's quality of life and health at risk puts the development and sustainability of our communities at risk. If we want to avoid environmentally risky industrial projects, we must create mechanisms that ensure the safety and health of citizens. We also need to be mindful of the support that must be provided to organizations that combat some of the negative effects of industrial projects. These elements have been increasingly well documented, and we know that the quality of the environment affects the physical and cognitive development of individuals. For example, there are statistics pointing to a higher incidence of pervasive development disorders.

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the painstaking and ground-breaking work of Mohamed Ghoul and his team. I have a huge amount of respect for Mohamed and Lucie Beauregard and the organization they run. They work very hard to help people with autism integrate into society, primarily through music. APPROSH is a clinical psychosocial intervention program developed by Mr. Ghoul for young people and adults who have neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism.

Mr. Ghoul has been developing his training program for years and running the Maison-école des artistes autistes & le monde, a place for people with autism to come together and learn. Mr. Ghoul has been recognized around the world for his work, but his programs have been left out of Canada's federal programs. I am mentioning him today because it is important to think big and think about the potential impacts on the well-being of Quebeckers.

Let us come back to Bill C‑230. In order to establish a national strategy to repair the harm caused by what our colleague from Cumberland—Colchester calls environmental racism, this bill provides that the Minister of the Environment consult with representatives from provincial governments, municipal governments, indigenous communities and other communities affected, as well as any other person or entity affected. The purpose would be to gather information and statistics on the location of environmental hazards and the health problems in the most affected communities.

The Bloc Québécois has no problem with everything to that point. However, Bill C‑230 is problematic in that it stipulates that the Government of Canada will assess the administration and enforcement of environmental laws in Quebec. We categorically oppose that because when it comes to the environment, the laws and regulations of the municipalities of Quebec and the Government of Quebec have to apply in Quebec, even though the environment is a shared responsibility. That is indisputable.

What is more, the Bloc Québécois, through my colleague the hon. member for Jonquière, introduced Bill C‑225, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Fishing and Recreational Harbours Act and other acts with regard to the application of provincial law. We wanted the Government of Quebec to have priority, even total sovereignty, on matters of environmental protection on our national territory, but the other political parties opposed us.

We also introduced another bill, and it too was rejected by a majority of the members of this Parliament. It was in response to another bill that lacked scope and restrictions introduced by the Liberals who, in theory, want us to try to achieve their greenhouse gas reduction targets under the Paris Agreement. We introduced Bill C‑215, an act respecting Canada’s fulfillment of its greenhouse gas emissions reduction obligations, sponsored by my hon. colleague for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia. This bill wanted to provide the means and some teeth to ensure that the Liberal government met its own commitments on fighting climate change, but it was rejected.

The House of Commons is in no position to lecture Quebeckers about the environment because the parliamentarians of the other political parties are incapable of turning their words into coherent action while respecting provincial jurisdictions. Why is Ottawa again attempting to impose its will to the detriment of the state of Quebec? Furthermore, I would venture to say that for some time Canada has sullied Quebec's exemplary environmental reputation. Therefore, we are saying no to Bill C‑230 primarily because Quebec's social policies are not within the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Furthermore, Quebec does not need any lessons from the Canadian government on social policies. A quick look at the history of Quebec and Canada shows how Quebec has long had forward-thinking and high quality social policies that have even been copied by the governments of other Canadian provinces and territories. This is a credit to Quebec, and we are always proud to see our Canadian friends open up to our way of doing things and our way of building a more just society.

In closing, there is no doubt in the minds of Bloc Québécois members that Bill C‑230, an act respecting the development of a national strategy to redress environmental racism, is nothing more than another attempt at federal interference, much like the ones we in the Bloc are accustomed to opposing day after day in most of the legislation introduced in the House of Commons. With Bill C‑230, the federal government would no longer be content with disrespecting Quebec's environmental laws. It would assume the right to assess the administration and enforcement of environmental laws in each province. The idea of joint consultations with indigenous nations, Quebec City and Ottawa is certainly a good intention, but it must end with just consultations.

The Bloc Québécois will not allow the federal government to infringe on areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec and its municipalities. I would like to remind all members of this Parliament that Quebec's territory belongs to Quebec, and it is up to the Government of Quebec and Quebeckers to protect it as they see fit. Once again, Bill C-230 clearly proves that a federal government that seeks to centralize authority has no respect for Quebec's sovereignty and jurisdictions. It is important to remind members of that. It bears repeating over and over because the federal government does not seem to want to hear it: it is up to the Government of Quebec to enforce its own laws, period.

I will close with brief editorial note. A survey was presented this morning that clearly illustrates how the federal government wants to impose an energy corridor that would run through Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the Gazoduq project. The government wanted to move western Canadian oil through Quebec with energy east, but that project was rejected. It is now trying to move the project somewhere else, where it would affect a population that is perhaps more vulnerable and less involved, the population in northern Quebec, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, in my riding. However, the people of Quebec do not support that project, and I would like the House to take note of that.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2021 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Patrick Weiler Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Madam Speaker, over the course of our nation's history, polluting projects have disproportionately been situated in areas adjacent to indigenous and racialized populations, which has led to increased impacts to human health in those communities. This is a reality that we need to confront, as Canadians, to become a more equitable society. I thank my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester for tabling Bill C-230, an act respecting the development of a national strategy to redress environmental racism, which follows similar acts she advocated for as an MLA in Nova Scotia.

Environmental racism is characterized by the disproportionate exposure of communities of colour to pollution and its associated effects on health and the environment, as well as the unequal environmental protection and environmental quality provided through laws, regulations, governmental programs, enforcement and policies.

Recently, the issue of environmental racism in Canada was emphasized by the United Nations special rapporteur on toxics and human rights, who visited Canada in 2019 to report on the prevalence of environmental and health discrimination faced by indigenous and marginalized groups.

Ultimately, he concluded that a pattern exists in Canada in which marginalized groups, and indigenous people in particular, find themselves on the wrong side of a toxic divide and subject to conditions that would not be acceptable elsewhere in Canada. This is the crux of the problem that we face.

In Canada, this environmental injustice for indigenous and racialized peoples stems in part from our history of colonialism: the lack of diverse representation in decision-making roles, the marginalization of racialized voices, income inequality and the general blind eye that our system over our history turned to negative externalities such as pollution.

Communities of colour, particularly poor communities, have been seen as attractive sites for industrial facilities and other developments that impact the proximate populace because they were seen as cost-effective and efficient. For example, when a decision is made to situate a landfill in a particular location, the surrounding population that has the ability to move, does. However, those who are already at a disadvantage in society, and who do not have the capacity to oppose such projects, are forced to live alongside pollutants that may impact their health and their surrounding environment.

Environmental inequality is not relegated to decisions of where to site projects alone. Consequences for environmental violations are not uniform. In my home province of British Columbia, the maximum penalties for dumping garbage or waste on Crown land currently have upper limits of $2,000 or $1 million, while the maximum penalty for dumping garbage or waste on Indian reserves is only $100.

In my community, the North Shore Sewage Treatment Plant has sat on the Squamish Nation's Capilano Reserve for the last 55 years. Known for emitting fumes, especially on hot summer days, the plant is situated metres away from the Squamish Nation community despite waste management facilities generating emissions that may be hazardous to human health.

Now, with the help of federal and provincial funding, construction of the new Lions Gate Secondary Wastewater Treatment Plant is under way. It will be relocated from the Squamish Nation Reserve to a location in the District of North Vancouver owned by Metro Vancouver. The new treatment plant is being constructed with 100% odour containment, and the old facility's land will be returned to the Squamish Nation for it to redevelop as it sees fit.

The reconstruction of the waste water treatment plant will not only relieve residents of foul odours, but will also provide the north shore with cleaner water and a healthier ecosystem because, while the current plant only removes 50% of organic matter and 70% of suspended solids, the upgraded plant will ensure the elimination of 90% of all waste prior to the sewage entering the sea.

The neighbouring Tsleil-Waututh Nation is hopeful that the upgraded plant will help reduce contamination in shellfish harvesting areas both in Burrard Inlet and in Indian Arm. The North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant serves not only as an excellent example of what redressing environmental harm can look like, but also as an example of how varied and extensive the impacts of toxic exposure can be for indigenous and racialized communities, with a sewage plant directly impacting the air of one nation and the food supply of another.

Elsewhere in Canada, approximately 90% of Grassy Narrows residents currently suffer from mercury poisoning as a result of Dryden Chemicals dumping mercury into the English-Wabigoon River system between 1962 and 1970. As a result of the dumping, all commercial fishing in the river system has been banned: the fish were shown to contain mercury levels 10 to 50 times higher than in other areas. As such, the Grassy Narrows Nation was not only subjected to severe mercury poisoning, but also to the elimination of the community's main source of income. Despite this clear environmental injustice, it took 50 years for the government to provide the people of Grassy Narrows with an effective remedy.

Another compounding issue is that despite greater exposure levels to hazardous substances, indigenous and racialized peoples have been shown to face further discrimination in health care. As an example, 62% of Grassy Narrows First Nation members living on reserve report barriers to health care. While in many examples we have a painful legacy of environmental racism, our legal frameworks are evolving over time to mitigate the risk of future such examples occurring.

For instance, the Impact Assessment Act, which became law in 2019 and replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, greatly increased the standard of public participation and transparency in environmental assessment. It became easier for the public to formally participate in assessments. It introduced a pre-assessment planning phase in which the public could participate to address clear issues such as project siting before the assessment in full began. It greatly enhances the consultation and accommodation process with affected first nations by requiring that this begin in the planning phase. It also incorporates traditional knowledge and creates the conditions for indigenous-led assessments.

In addition, with the introduction of Bill C-15, which if passed would implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into federal law, we would take further holistic action on reconciliation. Notably, this would also address environmental racism, as UNDRIP affirms that indigenous peoples have the right to conservation and protection of the environment.

Most importantly, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, or CEPA, is the main piece of legislation we have in Canada to ensure that we protect the environment and human health. However, this legislation has not been substantially updated in over two decades. The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development studied CEPA and delivered a comprehensive report. Among the recommendations were that the government should recognize the right to a healthy environment. It mentioned the importance of considering vulnerable populations and risk assessments, and of developing legally binding and enforceable national standards for drinking water in consultation with provinces, territories, indigenous peoples, stakeholders and the public.

I look forward to the introduction of a reformed CEPA in due course. If we follow through on these and other suggestions made by the committee, we would go a long way toward addressing future environmental racism in Canada, but there will surely be gaps that remain after all this is done, which is why the bill that we are discussing today is so important in further studying and uncovering where these gaps may lie. The bill would require the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to collect information about the locations of environmental hazards and information about the negative health outcomes in affected communities, ensuring that the public and the government are informed and aware of the dangers associated with hazardous sites.

The minister would also be required to examine the link between race, socio-economic status and environmental risk, thus examining how race and socio-economic status expose indigenous and other racialized communities to contamination and pollution.

Furthermore, Environment and Climate Change Canada would be required to develop a strategy to address environmental racism and to provide regular reports to Parliament on its progress. Bill C-230 would ensure that there is a routine assessment of the extent to which environmental laws are administered and enforced in each province and would promote efforts to amend federal laws, policies and programs in order to address environmental racism.

To conclude, I believe that this bill will make progress on issues of both environment and equity. I will be voting in favour of sending it to be studied further at committee. At this stage, we can involve the voices of provinces, territories, rights holders and stakeholders from right across the country in its deliberation and to further strengthen it. I invite my colleagues from across this House to do the same.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2021 / 6:30 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Western Economic Diversification Canada) and to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (Canada Water Agency)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today about the bill by the member for Cumberland—Colchester, Bill C-230, an act respecting the development of a national strategy to redress environmental racism.

Bill C-230 proposes to develop a national strategy to address the harm caused by environmental racism, in consultation with provincial and municipal governments and indigenous and other affected communities, persons and bodies. Given the important objectives of the bill, the government supports sending the bill to committee for further study. This would enable a broad discussion to take place on the environmental risks faced by marginalized communities and historically disadvantaged groups, and examine options to develop a strategy that is both practical and appropriate for the federal government. The activities proposed by the bill could help identify and fill knowledge gaps, providing different levels of government with the information needed to work toward addressing issues raised by the bill.

This would build upon the government's commitment to evidence-based decision-making that takes into consideration the impact of policies on all Canadians. The bill is timely and commendable. However, there are three sets of issues that the government is looking forward to discussing and studying at committee, and which the government would seek amendments to address.

First, a national strategy could serve to promote environmental justice, which is a concept that is already recognized in the bill, as a goal to strive to achieve through a coordinated national strategy. Environmental justice seeks to avoid disproportionate impacts of environmental harm on certain communities, for example, minorities, and includes other grounds of discrimination in addition to race, such as low-income communities and remote communities. Potential amendments would seek to further incorporate principles of environmental justice into the bill.

Second, there are some measures proposed in the bill that are more appropriately taken by provinces. We recognize that jurisdiction over the protection of the environment is shared among different levels of government in Canada and we would seek amendments to address the impacts on provincial jurisdiction.

Third, while the bill contains some important mandatory requirements, a flexible framework for developing a national strategy would be required. Amendments would aim to avoid pre-empting or prejudging the issues and findings of environmental racism that may be identified in the process of developing a national strategy. As I said, the bill deserves our attention and represents the beginning of a conversation that can build upon and complement efforts that our government is undertaking to strengthen environmental protections and to combat systemic racism. As a result, we look forward to careful study at committee and discussions on possible ways to reinforce the bill and its purpose.

Finally, once again I would thank the member for Cumberland—Colchester for bringing this bill forward, for her advocacy and her environmental passion, which are very important in this particular case. I hope that all members will join the government in supporting sending this legislation to committee for further study.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2021 / 6:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that I stand on the unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq here in Nova Scotia and thank them for sharing their land with us. Wela'lioq.

To everything there is a season, a time and a purpose, and Bill C-230 is a bill whose time has come, for we are at a tipping point or, hopefully, a turning point in Canada's history and indeed that of our planet.

For years, grassroots activists across Canada have been fighting for social and environmental justice for indigenous, black and other racialized communities. We stand on the shoulders of community leaders like Chief Dan George, Dr. David Suzuki in B.C., to Dr. Ingrid Waldron, Chief Andrea Paul, Louise Deslisle, Doreen Bernard and Drs. Lynn and Rocky Jones right here in Truro, Nova Scotia.

One year ago I introduced Bill C-230, a national strategy to redress environmental racism, in the House of Commons in Ottawa. Then recently, in January of this year, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to develop programs and policies to “address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities” in the United States. Surely this gives even more credence to the need for Canada to address this issue within our own borders. Therefore, let us do the right thing and acknowledge the injustices of the past by addressing the issues of systemic environmental racism with respect to the pollution of the land, air and water affecting a disproportionate number of indigenous, black and other racialized communities; acknowledging the equal and inherent right of all to clean air and water; meaningfully consulting affected communities; collecting vital data; recommending further action and redress; and embracing environmental justice by honouring, celebrating and protecting the natural environment.

Research shows that racialized people have higher rates of chronic disease and are more vulnerable to both climate change and new diseases like COVID‑19 due to the long-standing structural inequities that have caused poverty, leading to unstable housing and food insecurity. Environmental racism is a major contributor to these inequities, since a disproportionate number of racialized communities are located in areas that have been exposed to major polluters emitting toxins associated with cancer, respiratory illness and birth defects.

We have much to learn from indigenous people around the globe, particularly women, as it is often the women who bear the brunt of inequity and are faced with the fallout of environmental racism. It is with this in mind that I honour all grassroots grandmothers and sacred water protectors, the women whose blood, sweat and tears has been spilled endlessly in the spiral of creation, fighting for their lives, their rights, those of their children and, I would add, for Mother Earth. If we are to survive as a species, the way we perceive, value and treat our fellow humans, natural environment and every living thing must change. I would like to believe it is changing with each new generation, as the obvious results of our human flaws and past mistakes become impossible to deny.

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. Not only is this premise false, but we also seem to have forgotten that we are in fact part of nature ourselves and are all connected to each other and to the natural realm. We are all born with the innate right to clean air and water. These simple elements are vital for our survival. Let us be honest, we have taken both for granted to our own detriment.

My parents taught me long ago that every child is born equal and deserves to be treated with mutual respect. My 97-year-old grandmother, Elizabeth, taught me that without hope we have nothing. The eyes of our children and grandchildren are upon us. Let us give them a reason not only to hope, but to believe.

The time to act is upon us. If not us, who? If not now, when? I humbly ask members to support Bill C-230.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2020 / 6:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

, seconded by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, moved that Bill C-230, An Act respecting the development of a national strategy to redress environmental racism be read the second time and referred to a committee.

She said: Mr. Speaker, “The land is our Mother, so when we lose value for the land...people lose value for the women.” Thus says Vanessa Gray of Aamjiwnaang first nation in Ontario, and I agree. It is also my firm belief that, like systemic racism, environmental racism is something that has been ignored for far too many years. The time has come for us to act to redress the problems of the past and make sure they do not continue. Surely it should be enshrined as a human right for all Canadians to have clean air, water and earth.

I first became aware of the issue of environmental racism five years ago when I first met Dr. Ingrid Waldron, a professor in the School of Nursing at Dalhousie University, at a coffee shop in Halifax near the provincial legislature where I worked as an MLA. At that time, Dr. Waldron explained what her research and data gathering was proving about the reality of environmental racism in Nova Scotia.

I suggested that creating a legislative bill to address the issue would be of help at that point in time in bringing it to public awareness and to the floor of government in Nova Scotia. Dr. Waldron and I worked together for several weeks on my very first private member's bill, Bill No. 111, the environmental racism prevention act, which I introduced in Province House in 2015.

Later on, Dr. Waldron wrote a book entitled There's Something in the Water, which highlights environmental racism in Black and indigenous communities across Nova Scotia. She recently partnered with Nova Scotian actor Elliot Page to create the 2019 documentary based on that book.

Upon my arrival in Ottawa as an MP a year ago, my first personal order of business was to introduce a similar bill, but this time as a national strategy, in order to address environmental racism across Canada. The scope of Bill C-230 is therefore broader and more comprehensive than my original provincial bill.

Bill C-230 would collect data, including socio-economic circumstances, physical and mental effects of communities affected by environmental racism across this land. These effects are wide-ranging, from skin rashes and upset stomachs to more serious ailments, such as respiratory illness, including asthma; cardiovascular disease; reproductive morbidity, including preterm births and babies born with Down syndrome; as well as cancers that disproportionately impact women. There is evidence that many chronic diseases in indigenous communities, for instance, are not primarily due to genetics or internal factors, but instead, to external factors, such as what is in the air, in the water and in our environment.

I would like to personally thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands at this time for seconding Bill C-230. I suggest this is an example of what Canadians truly want to see in their government, especially in these dangerous times, which is parliamentarians working together.

I would like to thank Dr. David Suzuki and the David Suzuki Foundation, the Blue Dot movement and The ENRICH Project for their endorsement for and support of this vital bill. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Ingrid Waldron for her passion, dedication, research and assiduous study, as well as for sharing her notes with me this evening, because environmental racism and its effects on racialized communities need to be heard by everybody.

As MP for Cumberland—Colchester, I would like to explain what environmental racism is. It refers to the disproportionate location and greater exposure of indigenous, Black and other racialized communities to polluting industries and other environmental hazards. These toxic burdens have been linked to high rates of cancer, as I have said, and other health problems in these communities.

From the decision approximately 60 years ago to off-load pulp mill effluent into Pictou Landing first nation's once pristine boat harbour and toxic landfills and dumps placed in the African Nova Scotian communities of Shelburne, Lincolnville and Africville to mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows First Nation, petrochemical facilities in the chemical valley of Ontario and in British Columbia, the legacy of environmental racism can no longer be ignored.

Bill C-230 is asking the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop a strategy that must include measures to:

(a) examine the link between race, socio-economic status and environmental risk;

(b) collect information and statistics relating to the location of environmental hazards;

(c) collect information and statistics relating to negative health outcomes in communities that have been affected by environmental racism;

(d) assess the administration and enforcement of environmental laws in each province; and

(e) address environmental racism including in relation to

(i) possible amendments to federal laws, policies and programs,

(ii) the involvement of community groups in environmental policy-making,

(iii) compensation for individuals or communities,

(iv) ongoing funding for affected communities, and

(v) access of affected communities to clean air and water.

I would contend that indigenous and Black women have been building grassroots environmental and social justice movements for decades to challenge the legal, political and corporate agendas that sanction and enable environmental racism and other forms of colonial violence in their communities. Colonial gendered violence continues today and includes the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women, the displacement of indigenous people from their lands by corporate resource-extraction projects, anti-Black and anti-indigenous police violence and other forms of state-sanctioned violence that make it difficult for indigenous and Black peoples and women to meet their basic needs with respect to employment, income, health care and other resources.

Colonization and genocide are tied to the intersections of indigenous lands and bodies. Women experience violence because they are the ones who are responsible for taking care of the land and holding it for future generations. Therefore, gendered violence that harms women specifically, also harms nations which makes it easier to take possession of the land.

For indigenous women specifically, production and reproduction, land and life, resistance and survival are all intimately connected. There is no separation. Therefore, the indigenous role in fighting against environmental racism by defending their land and territory and protecting their water are acts of resistance against gendered oppression.

What is environmental racism exactly? How do we define it?

Environmental racism is racial discrimination in the disproportionate location and greater exposure of indigenous and racialized communities to contamination and pollution from polluting industries and other environmentally hazardous activities, as I said, but also in in the lack of political power these communities have for resisting the placement of industrial polluters in their communities; in the implementation of policies that sanction the harmful and, in many cases, life-threatening presence of poisons in these communities; in the disproportionate negative impacts of environmental policies that result in differential rates of clean up of environmental contaminants in these communities; and in the history of excluding indigenous and racialized communities from mainstream environmental groups, decision-making boards, commissions and regulatory bodies and in the feminist movement.

Regarding the health effects of environmental racism in Canada, the health risks associated with that include, as I have said, all of these various different types of serious illnesses. Studies provide evidence that health effects of environmental racism are both gendered and racialized and impact indigenous women in specific ways, most notably the impacts on reproductive health. One of the most significant ways that environmental racism impacts indigenous women specifically is through the detrimental health effects of toxic contaminants that include high levels of toxins in breast milk, placenta, placenta cord blood, blood serum and body fat as well as infertility, miscarriages, premature births, premature menopause, reproductive system cancers and an inability to produce healthy children due to compromised endocrine and immune systems while in utero.

This bill, Bill C-230, is important. Why is it important? It would play a significant role in addressing the legacy of environmental racism in Canada and ensure that these communities would have access to clean air and water, to which all Canadians have a right.

It would also help address environmental health inequities in indigenous and Black communities that are outcomes of these communities' proximity to environmental contamination and pollution.

It is up to those with power, and not the people impacted by environmental racism, to address the problem. Those who have the most influence and the strongest voices need to be part of the solution. It is important that all communities have the power to control their environment. Currently, indigenous, Black and other racialized communities, non-white communities, do not have that power. When they do not have a say in what happens in their communities, we all suffer.

Bill C-230 addresses this imbalance of power and benefits everyone. It is good for all of us. It is good for Canada. It would provide an opportunity for the communities most affected by environmental racism to be involved in environmental policy-making.

According to a Lincolnville resident in Nova Scotia, who is mentioned in Dr. Waldron's book There's Something in the Water, community members have experienced worsening health since the first generation landfill was placed in their community in 1974, including increased rates of cancer and diabetes.

This person also says:

“If you look at the health of the community prior to 1974 before the landfill site was located in our community, our community seemed to be healthier. From 1974 on until the present day, we noticed our people's health seems to be going downhill. Our people seem to be passing on at a younger age. They are contracting different types of cancer that we never heard of prior to 1974. Our stomach cancer seems to be on the rise.... Our people end up with tumours in their body. And, we're at a loss of, you know, of what's causing it. The Municipality says that there's no way that the landfill site is affecting us, but if the landfill site located in other areas is having an impact on people's health, then shouldn't the landfill site located next to our community be having an impact on our health too?”

Perhaps no other African-Canadian community has served as a more classic example and symbol of both gentrification and environmental racism than Africville: the former Black community on the shores of the Bedford Basin.

By 1965, the City of Halifax had embarked on an urban renewal campaign resulting in the forcible displacement of Africville's residents, resulting in the area becoming host to a number of environmental and social hazards, such as a fertilizer plant, a slaughterhouse, a tar factory, a stone and coal crushing plant, a cotton factory, a prison, three systems of railway tracks and an open dump.

I ask that all members of the House support this bill. Let us be a first. Let us make this something we can all be proud of, and let us do this for the people of Canada.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2020 / 6:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the member has brought a bill to this place and a debate that she is very passionate about. In this bill, she is actually tasking the Minister of Environment, but many of the issues she has talked about are in regard to indigenous reconciliation.

Why only task the Minister of Environment? Why does the member believe that the minister may criticize many of the failures the government has had in reconciliation? Many of these are also historic wrongs dating back to the last century. I would like to hear what the member has to say in regard to that.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2020 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, when I first started down this road and researching it, I thought of it as a provincial issue. A lot of things are provincial and municipal like dumps, waste sites, toxic landfills and things like that. As I started to look into it more, I started to notice that it is stretched right across Canada. In fact, there are many corporate polluters, which is part of the reason why many indigenous communities do not have clean drinking water today, why children have rashes and why they have all kinds of illnesses. That is why our government is now tasked with cleaning that up. I think it will stretch across all kinds of departments, but it lands at the department of environment to begin with—

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2020 / 6:45 p.m.
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NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Cumberland—Colchester for bringing forward this really important bill. I applaud her work on it.

I am curious about reparations. This bill speaks about the impacts on indigenous communities and on racialized communities. We were just debating a bill on Emancipation Day. The conversation around how to compensate communities that have been impacted is an important one.

I am curious how the member sees her bill fitting into a conversation around reparations.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2020 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I know the member opposite has also studied environmental racism and actually taught about it in university.

This is an important part of this bill. We are talking about this now in Nova Scotia and in the Black community. It is a very big deal here. The dialogue has just started.

This bill is meant to enable people to make references and tell the government what they think we should do. I would hope that the government would then follow suit, take note of that and follow up with it. It is very important.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2020 / 6:45 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester for bringing forward Bill C-230. It is an honour for me to second it.

My home was originally in Nova Scotia, and my first experience in understanding environmental racism was the horror of the Sydney tar ponds in industrial Cape Breton. They are now sort of cleaned up. They are at least buried. I am flagging that what was called the tar ponds was originally an estuary of the Mi'kmaq fishing grounds. The Mi'kmaq were forced off that land and put in Membertou in order to build a steel mill and coke oven, and the only African, Black, community in Cape Breton was between the coke ovens and the steel mill. The population had huge levels of cancer. It was the biggest toxic waste site in Canada.

I wish we had had the bill here in place then. I would ask the hon. member if she has any reflections on that, and thank her again.

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2020 / 6:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for seconding my bill.

That is a perfect example, and so was Boat Harbour, which was a beautiful, pristine lagoon where first nations communities came to picnic for thousands of years. I went there and saw the degradation, and smelled the stink. I saw what it was doing to the people. Many of the people who I stood in a barricade against the mill with at that time are no longer here. They died of cancer.

It is a bill whose time has come. I think it is up to us to make sure that this happens.