National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism Act

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

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2021.

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
(This bill did not become law.)

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, an excellent resource from 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 Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2022 / 2 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, environmental racism runs deep in Canada and is a direct result of Canada’s historic and ongoing colonization. Environmental racism causes severe harm to people’s health, threatens culture and destroys the natural environment. Discrimination and systemic racism in Canada’s laws and policies, in addition to uneven enforcement of regulations and laws, have created patterns where marginalized communities are bearing the brunt of the worst environmental impacts from Canada’s economic activities while receiving little of the benefits.

Indigenous, racialized and low-income communities are also the most heavily impacted by the effects of climate change. Last summer, a record-breaking heat dome killed hundreds of people in B.C. During the heat dome, analysis of surface temperature data from NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite found a connection between income and surface temperature in census tracts across the Lower Mainland. The average ground temperature varied by as much as 23°C between metro’s coolest and hottest census tracts.

Throughout Canada, lower-income neighbourhoods also tend to be neighbourhoods with higher percentages of racialized populations, and these neighbourhoods suffer disproportionately from the effects of extreme heat. Researchers indicate that residents of low-income neighbourhoods, like the Downtown Eastside in my riding, face a “double threat”, as many of the neighbourhoods' residents suffer from chronic health conditions, which leaves them more sensitive to the effects of extreme heat. Other neighbourhoods in my riding struggle similarly with higher ground temperatures associated with the reduced green spaces in comparison with wealthier neighbourhoods.

While the impact of climate change has become more severe in recent years, indigenous communities in particular have had a long history of bearing the negative impacts of Canada’s environmental racism, a phenomenon that is well documented. In 2019, Baskut Tuncak, UN special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous wastes, wrote, “During my visit, 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”.

A 2020 report by the Human Rights Council 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” states, “Pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals threaten the right to life and a life with dignity,” and it continues on to say, “The invisible violence inflicted by toxics is an insidious burden disproportionately borne by indigenous peoples in Canada.”

Examples of environmental racism against indigenous communities across Canada abound. It is evident in the high number of drinking water advisories still active in indigenous communities, in the prevalence of health conditions linked to environmental pollution in indigenous communities such as Grassy Narrows, and in the destruction of traditional knowledge and traditional ways of life through pollution, climate change and displacement.

In B.C., the Liberal government continues to push a pipeline that it bought in the middle of a climate emergency, despite the lack of free, prior and informed consent from indigenous communities and in direct violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Members will recall the violence faced by Mi’kmaq fishers on the east coast as they tried to earn a living by carrying out their indigenous rights to fish, while the government looked on.

Reconciliation and implementing UNDRIP are not possible without tackling environmental racism and fully and meaningfully including indigenous communities in the shaping of Canada’s environmental policies. Canada is very late to act on environmental racism.

As we debate this bill to assess environmental racism, in the United States the office of environmental justice, mandated to protect and promote environmental and public health in minority, low-income, tribal and other vulnerable communities, has existed since the early 1990s.

There is no reason to delay the passing of the bill that is before us. A similar bill, Bill C-230, was introduced during the last Parliament and passed second reading. It was studied at the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development and amendments from multiple parties addressing various concerns were passed. Sadly, Bill C-230 died on the Order Paper when the Liberal government called an election that nobody wanted.

Given the state of play with the climate crisis, I call on the government to expedite the passing of this bill so we can start taking the urgent action required to achieve environmental justice for indigenous and racialized communities. Environmental justice is social justice.

I am also calling for the establishment of an office of environmental justice, not only to support the development of a sound strategy to tackle environmental racism, but also to ensure accountability with regular reports. We must also enshrine in law the rights of Canadians to a healthy environment.

Former MP Linda Duncan introduced the environmental bill of rights. We should make that into law. Recent analysis of temperature data in B.C. projected that in 30 years B.C. could experience three to four times more hospitalizations and deaths from high temperature days than there are now.

In Canada’s northern communities with first nations, Métis and Inuit populations, temperatures are rising as much as three times as the rest of the world. This is a matter that cannot wait. We must move forward on action tackling climate change and environmental racism now.

I want to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for tabling this bill and fighting this fight. This is not just for us in this generation. It is also for future generations. We owe it to them. It is incumbent on us to take action now, for if we do not, it will be too late.

National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2022 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Lori Idlout NDP Nunavut, NU

Uqaqtittiji, my dad completed suicide when I was very young, but I was very fortunate to have several different father figures with several different families throughout Nunavut. I would love to wish them a happy Father's Day. I also wish a special one to my husband Allan. As a blended family, we were able to raise nine children together, so happy Father's Day to Allan.

I am privileged to stand here as we celebrate and acknowledge that this is National Indigenous History Month, especially since next week, on June 21, many people across Canada will be celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day. Having said this, I want to call attention to education by insisting that all governments and educational institutions in Canada implement the TRC's calls to action 6 through 12 and 63 to 66, which focus on education.

I also want to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for introducing this bill. Its predecessor, Bill C-230, died on the Order Paper.

I will outline briefly how opportunities for environmental racism have been perpetuated by Canada and implemented in Canada’s constitutional and legal framework for dealing with lands in Canada.

The violation of the indigenous inherent right to lands is the strongest form of colonialism. This practice by Canada has negatively impacted indigenous peoples. This colonialism has happened for hundreds of years, from the time of first settlers to present-day Canada. This is evident with case law leading to the current landmark case on the land title of Haida Nation. We cannot deny that there is conflict between colonial Canada and many of the first nations that have had to go through the courts to have their rights and title recognized.

Before settlers arrived in what is now known as Canada, indigenous peoples thrived. They managed the environment and the wildlife, ensuring a pristine and balanced environment. Since the arrival of settlers that led up to the Constitution Act in 1867, indigenous peoples have been robbed of their lands. However, indigenous peoples can reclaim lands in one of four ways. Rather than explaining the Constitution Act, I will simply state that sections 91(24), 92 and 35 create the opportunities for environmental racism to be perpetuated.

There are many cases dealing with rights and title, including Calder, R. v. Sparrow, Delgamuukw, R. v. Marshall, the Tsilhqot'in case, Clyde River, Haida Nation and Carrier Sekani. These cases lead to opportunities for environmental racism to be perpetuated. While these important cases have advanced indigenous rights and title to lands, the courts have ensured that these rights are limited and incremental.

Another instrument is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted in the United Nations in 2007. Canada was one of four countries that voted against it. It was not until 2016 that Canada finally endorsed UNDRIP. It was finally in the last Parliament that legislation related to UNDRIP received royal assent here in Canada. I will specifically and quickly say that article 32 states:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories

I am going to give a quick example of the impacts of environmental racism.

When environmental racism seemed to reach its peak in Nunavut, in February 2021, a group of hunters from Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet marked a shift in how Inuit voice their concerns. While this group was hunting, it happened to be at the same time the Nunavut Impact Review Board was holding one of its technical hearings on the proposal by the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation to expand its current mine.

During this time, Inuit who attended the hearings felt unheard. The questions they posed to Baffinland were not being answered, and the Nunavut Impact Review Board was continually limiting the number of questions the Inuit could ask throughout the proceedings. The hunters, having heard reports about the suppression of Inuit voices, took the drastic action of impeding access at two points of the mine. Baffinland, rather than working with Inuit, chose to close the mine and impose a court-ordered injunction.

Because of the courage of what is now known as the Nuluujaat Land Guardians and that of hunters and trappers organizations such as the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, which represents the regional interests of the Inuit, the Inuit changed their position. They went from being willing to support phase two to outright rejecting the phase two proposal in its form at the time. Inuit, indeed, have been willing to work with Baffinland to ensure Inuit employment and ensure proper environmental protection, adaptation and mitigation. They just were not heard to the extent they should have been.

On March 13 of this year, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, within its statutory mandate, recommended to the Minister of Northern Affairs that Baffinland's proposal to expand its current mine in phase two should not proceed. It said, “These potential significant adverse effects cannot be adequately prevented, mitigated, or adaptive managed under proposed mitigation, adaptive management and monitoring programs and/or revisions (to the project certificate).” The Minister of Northern Affairs has 90 days from March 13 to decide whether he will accept the Nunavut Impact Review Board's recommendation. While I very much appreciate the work of my forefathers, the fact that the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement ended up with a provision that allows the federal government to have the final say is more than environmental racism.

Since the Nunavut Impact Review Board's decision, Baffinland has requested an emergency decision by the Minister of Northern Affairs to expand the current project beyond its scope. Now Baffinland has issued notices that it will lay off its workers, choosing profits over labourers. While the price of iron ore has dipped, it is projected to continue to rise and remain stable.

There is another aspect to this. The fact that four ministers have been invited to hear directly from the most impacted community and have refused is more than environmental racism. The fact that the Minister of Northern Affairs will decide the fate of the lands, impacting directly the environment and the Inuit who have lived there since time immemorial, necessitates the passing of this bill.

While this bill will be another form of chipping away at the current system, it will still ensure that indigenous peoples are engaged in the development of a national strategy. That is why the NDP supports the passing of this bill. Finally, passing this legislation will ensure that Canada complies with article 32 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is such an important international instrument that Canada has an opportunity to show leadership on.

National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2022 / 1:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, it is the last Friday of this session in the House. If I may, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge everyone who has supported our work throughout this past parliamentary session. This includes the interpreters, the pages, the Sergeant-at-Arms and his team, maintenance staff, cafeteria employees, IT support staff, law clerks, analysts, and so on. Not only do these people help us represent our constituents to the best of our ability, but they also make our job so much more enjoyable simply because they are so incredibly nice.

Madam Speaker, as everyone knows, Fridays can be a little colourful in the House compared to most other days. We are often treated to all kinds of surprises, including new faces in the chair you are now occupying. I want to congratulate everyone who has taken a surprise turn in the chair over the past few weeks. Everyone did a great job. Let me single out my colleague from Joliette, as well as the member who spoke right before me, my colleague from Kitchener Centre.

As I said, Fridays are full of surprises, and parliamentarians' schedules are sometimes turned upside down. I would therefore like to say a quick hello to Marie‑Andrée Cardinal's special education class at École Marguerite‑Bourgeoys. I was supposed to meet with them this morning, but unfortunately had to reschedule. I look forward to meeting them, and I know that it will happen another time. In the meantime, I wish them a great end of the school year and above all a good summer vacation.

I will come back to our current subject, Bill C‑226. This is not the first time that a bill on environmental justice has been tabled in the House. In the previous Parliament, the then member for Cumberland—Colchester, Lenore Zann, introduced Bill C‑230, whose objectives were fairly similar to those of the current Bill C‑226.

When the vote was held at second reading, the Bloc Québécois did not support the bill. Specifically, we raised questions about interference in Quebec's jurisdictions, because, as drafted, it contained provisions that directly attacked Quebec's environmental sovereignty. I will come back to this point later.

The bill did make it to second reading and the committee was able to correct these and other aspects, which made it possible for the Bloc Québécois to finally support it. What happened next is history. The bill died on the Order Paper when the government called an election in the summer.

Discussions about bills similar to Bill C-226 are not just a thing of the past. The other chamber is currently holding a similar debate on Bill S-5, the strengthening environmental protection for a healthier Canada act. We can see that people want something to be done about environmental human rights, and the Bloc Québécois thinks that is a good thing. Since Bill S-5 is broader in scope when it comes to addressing environmental injustices, one has to wonder whether, if it passes before Bill C-226, Bill C-226 will then become obsolete. We will see.

In short, Bill C-226 is no doubt inspired by a very noble desire to advance environmental justice. However, what starts out as a good intention unfortunately does not always lead to a good end result, or the implementation of a good policy, and we believe that Bill C‑226 has some shortcomings. I mainly want to focus on two of them today.

As has already been mentioned, Bill C‑226, like the first version of Bill C‑230, would create a Canada-wide strategy, which, in a federative context, might not be the right approach. Any action by the Canadian government must take into account that Quebec and the provinces have jurisdiction over environmental protections and health and social services. More specifically, it should recognize that the Government of Quebec has authority over these matters. We therefore believe that it would be inconsistent to claim to be fighting for environmental justice at the federal level without, at the time time, defending the environmental sovereignty of Quebec.

Parts of the federal infrastructure, such as wharves, ports, airports, telecommunications infrastructure, federal property and so on, are not subject to our environmental protection laws or municipal bylaws. Quebec's environmental protection and land-use planning laws must apply to all Quebec territory and must not be overridden by federal laws.

This reflects the unanimous will of the Quebec National Assembly, which, on April 13, 2022, voted in favour of the primacy of Quebec's jurisdiction in matters of the environment and opposed any intervention by the federal government in matters of the environment on Quebec territory.

I want to add that, in Quebec, the right to live in a healthful environment in which biodiversity is preserved has been enshrined in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, a quasi-constitutional statute, since 2006. I mentioned Bill S‑5 earlier, and I want to point out that one of the objectives of this bill is to enshrine this type of right in Canadian legislation.

Because this happened last time, the Bloc wants to remind the House that respect for Quebec's environmental sovereignty cannot be sidestepped during the study of this bill.

The other concern I want to raise about Bill C‑226 is that it should focus on environmental justice rather than environmental racism. Not only are there issues with the definitions, but also the notion of environmental racism might not be universal enough. Many people may slip through the cracks, even though we should be tackling the environmental inequality they experience too.

My colleague from Repentigny did a great job of summarizing the situation when she spoke to the former Bill C‑230:

My thought is this. If we introduce new policies based on new rights, such as the right to a healthy environment, everyone should benefit from it. Furthermore, if the policy is well thought out and targeted, it will correct unequal situations. Those who suffer the greatest injustices will then receive help and support from the government, and even reparation for the harm done. That's my understanding. The rights and the criteria for receiving state protection and support are universal. If the principles are truly applied to everyone, without discrimination, then the policy will have the effect of reducing inequalities based on differences.

Leaving aside issue of interference for now, here is my question: If the only inequalities covered by Bill C‑226 are race-related, are we leaving out other people who also deserve protection?

The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec also addressed the issue of the systematic correlation between certain social inequalities and the notion of race.

...the idea that socio-economic, cultural and political differences between groups of individuals can be based entirely or in part on biological and genetic disparities has been widely rejected by most researchers in the social sciences.

Here is a concrete example. If the population of eastern Montreal, which is diverse and has its historical roots in the working class, were affected by air pollution, which we know it is, would it be subject to or excluded from the strategy? Furthermore, we must question the criteria used.

Similarly, would the municipality of Rouyn-Noranda, which is grappling with serious problems of air quality and overexposure to arsenic, be covered by the bill? This matter does raise issues of environmental justice, because, like David against Goliath, citizens whose life expectancy has been cut by five years are fighting Glencore and its $4-billion profits. Would Rouyn-Noranda, on the sole basis of environmental racism, enjoy protection under the law?

In short, this seems to be a matter of universality. We know that a policy is good when its measures are reasonably flexible. Throughout history, the social policies that have best served the advancement of rights and social protections and reduced inequalities, in other words, the development of a welfare state, have been universal policies. The best way for the government to avoid discriminating based on differences is to blind itself to differences.

If our institutions implement 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, if the implementation measures manage to remedy inequitable situations, then those who suffer the most from injustice will receive help and support from the government, as well as reparation for any harm done. If the rights and the eligibility criteria for government protection and support are universal and if those principles are applied to everyone without discrimination, then the policy will also eliminate inequalities based on differences, all differences.

These are two things that we should think about in order to improve the bill. I will end there.

National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2022 / 1:20 p.m.
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Green

Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise this afternoon to speak to Bill C-226, an act respecting the development of a national strategy to assess, prevent and address environmental racism and to advance environmental justice, put forward by my colleague, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

It is far past time we addressed environmental racism and the disproportionate siting of polluting industries in Black communities, indigenous and racialized communities and those of the working poor. These are communities that typically lack an economic and political base to fight back. It is impossible to ignore the reality that governments have consistently put harmful industries and dumpsites dangerously close to some of the most marginalized communities across the country. This is a systemic issue that not only negatively impacts those residents' physical health and wellness through abnormal instances of cancers and other diseases, but also discourages others from moving into that area, deterring growth and new opportunities for those within it.

These decisions also impact the environment around those who live there, affecting drinking water and food sources for indigenous communities in particular. All of this has a negative impact on the mental health of these residents, compounded by gaslighting, with the onus routinely placed on those impacted most to prove the situation is leading to these adverse effects and that change is required. I would like to share a few examples.

Africville was a Black community in Nova Scotia established in the 1850s on the outskirts of Halifax. The community was pushed to the margins and did not receive the same services or infrastructure as others in the nearby city. Over the decades, undesirable developments were built in or near the community, including an infectious disease hospital, a dump and a prison. Africville's water and land were contaminated. Eventually the city relocated residents in 1964 without meaningful consultation or compensation.

Another is the toxic dumping in Kanesatake, Quebec, a community that is suffering ongoing health impacts because of the toxic waste from a recycling facility which has not been cleaned up despite repeated calls.

We can take the example of when a pipe at a pulp mill ruptures, spilling untreated effluent into a Pictou Landing First Nation wetland and it takes six years to solve the issue.

Closer to my community, in Ontario, there is the mercury-poisoning crisis in Grassy Narrows First Nation and neighbouring White Dog Independent Nation, one of Canada's worst environmental disasters that is still ongoing. A recent CBC investigation found that 90% of the population of Grassy Narrows experienced the symptoms of mercury poisoning, which include neurological problems, seizures and cognitive delays. Many homes do not have safe drinking water in an area with very limited health services and no on-reserve mental health care. The community has been fighting to have this contamination cleaned up for over 50 years without result.

These are just a few of the many examples of how Black, indigenous and racialized communities have been disproportionally impacted by neglect and the siting of environmentally harmful industries.

We can also see environmental racism and injustice showing up in other ways, like when racialized neighbourhoods do not have the same access to green spaces, public trails and playgrounds, or even street trees in their area.

Personally, I have learned so much on this topic from the incredible work of Dr. Ingrid Waldron and the ENRICH Project, a collaborative, community-based project investigating the cause and effect of toxic industries situated near Mi'kmaq and African Nova Scotian communities. It is a project that Dr. Waldron started and has led since 2012.

Dr. Waldron literally wrote the book on environmental racism. It is called There's Something in the Water, which was turned into a 2019 documentary of the same name, co-produced with Elliot Page and Julia Sanderson.

Dr. Waldron says it best, “In Canada, your postal code determines your health.” She went on to say, “Environmental racism is about a pattern and it is historical. It is rooted and embedded in historical inequities and it is about the lack of response by government to act on the citing of these industries and communities of colour and indigenous communities.”

Dr. Waldron went on to lay out two ways we can meaningfully address environmental racism. One is to develop legislation across the country and the other is to provide education on the subject in schools.

Collectively as parliamentarians in the House of Commons we can take action on the first. In Canada we need to be honest. We are way behind. As an example, in the United States, the office of environmental justice was formed as part of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1992. That is more than 28 years ago.

Dr. Waldron has been making incredible progress over the last number of years. Dr. Waldron worked with then MLA Lenore Zann on what was Bill 111, an environmental racism protection act in the Nova Scotia legislature in 2015. The bill was defeated at second reading.

When elected as an MP representing Cumberland--Colchester, then MP Lenore Zann in the previous Parliament brought forward Bill C-230, which forms the basis of this piece of legislation before the House today. While Bill C-230 had widespread support, it died on the Order Paper when the election was called.

It is part of why I am so glad that my colleague, the MP for Saanich—Gulf Islands, has now brought back Lenore's private member's bill, as Bill C-226. I am also glad that as it has been brought back, it includes all of the work that has already been done to this point. It has already been to committee, for example. It has had an amendment adopted. The only difference between the current bill and the one in the previous Parliament is that the amendments that had been proposed are now included in the specifics of the strategy that would be developed should the bill be passed.

The bill has all of the benefit of the cross-party support that the previous version of the bill already had. It is for this reason that I am hopeful that Bill C-226 will continue to have the widespread support across party lines, recognizing that there is nothing partisan about ensuring that we take immediate steps to address environmental racism and environmental justice in this country. It is my hope that parliamentarians from all parties will choose to fast-track this legislation, recognizing it has already been studied, so that we can send it to the Senate as quickly as possible and ideally have it passed into law.

In conclusion, we know that for decades environmental racism has been neglected by all levels of government and to some extent the environmental movement itself. We must take action now to ensure that no community suffers the same harms as Africville, Grassy Narrows and so many others have. It is far past time to develop a national strategy to redress the harm of environmental racism and lead us into a just climate future for all.

National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

April 26th, 2022 / 6 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

moved that Bill C-226, An Act respecting the development of a national strategy to assess, prevent and address environmental racism and to advance environmental justice, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues who are here this evening because this is a very important private member's bill.

I am very honoured to stand here to present Bill C-226 in the first hour of second reading. I want to begin with a very heartfelt meegwetch and a recognition that we stand on the territory of the Algonquin nation. It is their land.

I want to take a moment to describe how we got to where we are today, because it is rare for a private member's bill entering its first hour of second reading to have already had any parliamentary history at all, and this has a lot of parliamentary history.

I will start by saying that this bill received wide support under a different mover in the last Parliament, as Bill C-230. It was moved by the magnificent former member of Parliament for Cumberland—Colchester, Lenore Zann. Lenore was elected as a Liberal member of Parliament here, but she is quite a non-partisan individual. She also served with distinction in the legislature of Nova Scotia as a New Democrat MLA and has carried with her a concern for environmental racism for a long time. She did me the great honour of making this a non-partisan bill, and I am very honoured to have the hon. chair of the environment committee as the seconder of this bill now. We wanted to make this a non-partisan effort from its very inception as Bill C-230.

Bill C-230, with the same title, was an act to address and assess environmental racism and move forward to environmental justice. It received support at second reading and actually got to committee. Amendments were made at the environment committee, and I adopted those amendments in Bill C-226 at first reading. What we have in front of us therefore represents work already done by Parliament.

It is my deep hope and desire that all of us here, regardless of party, will find it in our hearts sometime in the near future to give this bill unanimous consent so that it can skip through stages that were already done and be sent to the other place. It would then become law, and we can start working proactively to advance environmental justice. That is the hope with which I speak to members tonight.

I am grateful for the non-partisan support the bill already has, and members will hear that in the speeches that are coming up. We also know from a question that I put to the Prime Minister in question period that the government's position is to support this bill. We feel optimistic that it will become law, but we would rather it was sooner than later.

I will now turn to the history. This is not a recent issue, and we are late to act. However, before I start on that, I need to dedicate this bill to the memory of a friend of mine: Clotilda Coward Douglas Yakimchuk. She was a magnificent woman and a hero in the community. Her parents came from Barbados in the earlier part of the last century to work in the Sydney steel mill.

Clotilda was a proud Black woman. She was the first community activist with whom I ever worked on the issue of environmental racism. Clotilda Yakimchuk died just about a year ago on April 15, 2021. She died of COVID. She was the first Black person to receive a nursing degree at nursing school in Nova Scotia. She was the first Black woman to be the president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Nova Scotia. She was aware of and fought against the pollution of the coke ovens of the Sydney steel mill and the steel mill itself, which led to high cancer rates in the community of Whitney Pier. When this bill becomes law, I hope people will remember that it is dedicated to the memory of Clotilda Yakimchuk.

One of the things I know from cleaning up the Sydney tar ponds with Clotilda is that we can recognize as a reality that toxic chemicals do not discriminate. They do not pay attention to the colour of our skin when they lodge in our body, when they pass through placenta to children, when they cause cancer and when they cause birth defects. They do not care about the colour of our skin. However, the public policy that puts indigenous peoples and communities of colour far more frequently at risk of being exposed to toxic chemicals does notice skin colour. It does notice whether we are marginalized or not. It does notice whether we have money or not.

Therefore, this is absolutely the case in this country, with all of the evidence that we have of racism that cannot be denied. I know this bill makes people uncomfortable. Is there racism in Canada? Yes, there is. We just had a report today about the racism that repulses people as new recruits out of our military. Every institution in our country experiences racism. Environmental racism is not something new.

Let me go through some of the history we have of that in this country. I am going to turn to books for a moment. The first book that really focused on this problem was in 1977, by one of Canada's great journalists, Warner Troyer. The book is No Safe Place, and it is the story of the contamination by the Dryden paper mill of the indigenous community at Grassy Narrows. We are still dealing with that mercury contamination.

Another book on the same topic of the mercury contamination of Grassy Narrows is A Poison Stronger than Love: The Destruction of an Ojibwa Community, by Anastasia Shkilnyk. She was one of my constituents and, also in her memory, I bring this bill forward today.

In 2000, actually, I co-authored with Maude Barlow, who was then the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, the book Frederick Street: Life and death on Canada's Love Canal, dealing with the issue that I mentioned, and I referenced it. That is where Clotilda Yakimchuk and I first became friends. The contamination of the Sydney tar ponds led to the highest cancer rates in Canada. They were in industrial Cape Breton. The place that became the tar ponds was an estuary where the Mi’kmaq community had traditionally had summer fishing camps. The land was stolen, of course, and then became the worst pollution zone in Canada with the pollution from the coke ovens and the steel mill.

In between was a community called Whitney Pier, which was virtually entirely immigrant Canadians, including a lot of people from Ukraine. I mentioned Clotilda's last name was Yakimchuk. Her husband, Dan Yakimchuk, was a steelworker from Ukraine. Whitney Pier is a melting-pot community. It is a fantastic place, but the cancer rates are through the roof. The land was stolen from the Mi’kmaq. They got the contamination too. So did the only Black community in Cape Breton. As Clotilda described it to me, and I recorded it in the book, it was impossible to find housing anywhere but in that community, so the racism was enforced. We did not have Jim Crow laws in Nova Scotia in the 1970s, but we might as well have, because an experienced nurse who was Black, having moved back from Grenada with her children after her first husband passed away, could not get housing anywhere except in the most contaminated neighbourhoods. That is called environmental racism. That is what it is.

Therefore, we have a history here.

Looking at books, the most important, without a doubt, is the 2018 publication of Dr. Ingrid Waldron's book There’s Something In The Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous & Black Communities. It has changed the conversation in Canada. That was fortified a year later, when Dr. Waldron co-produced the film, with the brilliant Nova Scotia actor Elliot Page. They introduced people to this concept. That is part of the history.

Let us look at where else people have done anything on environmental racism. I have been a bit shocked and perturbed, as has been my friend Lenore Zann, by some of the social media reaction to us tabling this legislation, as if we are kind of weird lefties and we made it up because we just want to make racism a thing. No, this is empirically established. We know this is true.

In 1994, the U.S. government took action because it was clear on the evidence that if people lived in a community of colour or an indigenous community, they were far more likely to be exposed to levels of toxic contamination that imperilled their health and the health of their children, their family, their neighbourhood, their community and also other people who were not of colour but who were marginalized. Therefore, it has to do with a bunch of different issues. If people have power and money and they live in Shaughnessy or in Westmount, nobody opens a toxic waste dump in their backyard. That is the reality. In Canada, as in the U.S., if people are marginalized, without economic power, if they are people of colour or indigenous, they might be much more likely to be exposed to toxic contamination. The U.S. recognized this and, since 1994, the U.S. government, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has had a program that is well resourced for environmental justice.

What does that justice look like? It looks like putting tools in the hands of marginalized people to fight for their own health, making sure there are resources for epidemiologists, making sure there are resources for toxicologists and making sure that governments spend the money to clean up the mess.

We are late in Canada. The U.S. took action. Again, I ask that members hear me: the U.S. took action 28 years ago. This is not a new issue. We are late, so we need to get this bill passed. We need to see environmental justice being championed in this country with a well-resourced program in environmental justice where we take our blinders off and say, yes, there is a thing called environmental racism. We are not going to water it down and ignore it, because it is still happening. It is happening today when they try to reopen the Pictou mill and reopen the contamination that has so affected the people of Pictou Landing.

By the way, I see the minister of immigration in the room, so I am just going to give a shout-out to him for being the first federal member of Parliament from that area, Central Nova, who was prepared to say that this mill should close because the jobs were not worth the damage that had been done to Boat Harbour, the indigenous community of Pictou Landing and the neighbourhoods in Pictou. For him just to say that was brave. They are still trying to open it again.

It is seen in Kanesatake, where there is still illegal dumping of toxic chemicals in and around that Mohawk community. That should not be allowed. It would not happen in other communities.

We are looking still at Grassy Narrows and Sarnia, at the first nation of Aamjiwnaang. I invite colleagues from any party to go to Sarnia and visit the enclaves surrounded by petrochemical plants, where the Aamjiwnaang First Nation Cemetery is. They are completely surrounded, and the industry just got a two-year extension to clean up the sulphur dioxide from that refinery. That affects settler-culture Canadians too, but in that community those toxic contaminants completely encircle Aamjiwnaang's centre.

Look at the Lubicon, and the oil sands that have contaminated the communities of Lubicon first nation now for long enough that we wrote about it in 2000, in Frederick Street: Life and Death on Canada's Love Canal.

We do not need to look far. We do not need to look back at deep history, but we do need to be honest about the fact that this is a pressing issue and requires action. I am sorry to say this: Liberal colleagues are supporting this bill, so I say it without malice, but it is a terrible shame that the election was called when it was because this bill, having gotten a lot of support, died on the Order Paper, so we are starting again.

I, and my friend Lenore Zann, who is here in Ottawa today as a former member of Parliament and the original sponsor of the bill, would really love to see the bill go to second reading for the second time. We would really love it. I am sure other members of every party in this place would appreciate that we do not need to take it to committee again and study it again. We cannot make the same amendments, because this bill includes the amendments the committee made last time.

Let us do something for environmental justice. Let us stand up and say there is a better way to deal with a right to a healthy environment that we actually do not have in this country. There is a way to make it real to have the right to a healthy environment for every citizen, regardless of the colour of their skin or their economic status. In the case of indigenous peoples, there is the double horror of having their land stolen and then filled with toxic chemicals. This is not something that any parliamentarian should feel comfortable allowing to continue, so I really beg this of all my colleagues, regardless of party.

I understand that this is an especially difficult issue because it is about racism and inequality, and it is a matter of words. I urge everyone to support this private member's bill.

I have, I think, 35 seconds left, so I just want to say again that this bill will be from all of us. This is not Green Party legislation. I mean, I am completely supported by my colleague for Kitchener Centre, but we do not want to own this. Collectively, all of our hands are on this baby. This bill will matter. It matters for environmental justice. It matters for our future. It matters for who we are.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

March 2nd, 2022 / 3:10 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the last Parliament, Lenore Zann, former member for Cumberland—Colchester, introduced a landmark bill, Bill C-230, to develop a federal strategy for environmental racism and a move toward environmental justice.

The environment committee, after widespread support in this place, studied the bill and made amendments. I recently had the honour to reintroduce it as Bill C-226 in order to work toward getting the bill passed.

I ask this: Will parliamentarians in the House work together to ensure passage of this important bill, and will the government support the bill once again?

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

June 22nd, 2021 / 11:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for supporting my Bill C-230 in the environment committee yesterday.

The member is correct in the fact that we need to work together. Canadians want to see us work together. What does the member say about telling parties when they are doing the right thing and supporting that, as opposed to playing political games, which seems to happen quite a bit in politics?

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 22nd, 2021 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on Bill C-230, an act respecting the development of a national strategy to redress environmental racism.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

June 21st, 2021 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Chair, I'd like to call for a recorded vote on the bill as amended.

(Bill C-230 as amended agreed to: yeas 7; nays 4)

June 21st, 2021 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Shall Bill C-230 as amended carry?

June 21st, 2021 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

The meeting is called to order.

Obviously, we're going to have to play it by ear today, but we have with us the sponsor of the bill, Ms. Lenore Zann, MP for Cumberland—Colchester. As well, from the department, we have Laura Farquharson, Silke Neve and Pascal Roberge. We're here to do clause-by-clause on Bill C-230.

I don't think I need to read out the rules of how we conduct ourselves in a committee, especially in a virtual format. I think everyone is familiar with that.

It seems like just yesterday we were doing clause-by-clause. We will start with the fact that we're doing this pursuant to Standing Order 75(1). Pursuant to Standing Order 75(1), consideration of clause 1, the short title, and the preamble is postponed. For obvious reasons, we've gone through this before on Bill C-12.

I call clause 2. I would like to see if we can adopt clause 2.

June 16th, 2021 / 5:05 p.m.
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Manager, National Policy, David Suzuki Foundation

Lisa Gue

Mr. Bachrach, thanks for your long history of advocacy on environmental rights at the municipal level, as well as in Parliament.

We too are encouraged that the government has introduced Bill C-28, and at the same time, we are discouraged that it has yet to be debated. I hope to have the opportunity in the not-too-distant future to return to your committee to discuss those important measures related to environmental rights and other really critical updates to CEPA that are an important complement to Bill C-230.

In terms of your specific question about how the two relate, as Elaine already said, they are complementary. I would note that, of course, Bill C-28 is primarily amending the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the provisions related to environmental rights and environmental justice that are specific to the authorities of CEPA, whereas Bill C-230 takes a broader view of federal actions.

There are other legislative authorities relating, for example, to the management of nuclear power, nuclear waste, federal environmental assessment and pesticide regulation, just to name a few that could have implications. I think it's a strength of Bill C-230 and, again, an important complement to what's being proposed in Bill C-28, that the proposed national strategy would take a holistic, whole-of-government view to redressing environmental racism.

June 16th, 2021 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Ms. Gue, as you know, the NDP has long fought for environmental rights to be recognized in legislation, and we're very pleased to see a reference to the right to a healthy environment embedded in Bill C-28. Unfortunately, that bill has been stalled. It hasn't been debated in the House yet and we're disappointed that it hasn't moved along any further.

How does this bill that we're talking about today, Bill C-230, relate to the concept of environmental rights?

June 16th, 2021 / 4:55 p.m.
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Member of the National Assembly of Québec for Jonquière, As an Individual

Sylvain Gaudreault

Yes, absolutely. That actually explains why paragraph (d) of subclause 3(3) of Bill C‑230 is completely unacceptable.

I would point out that, leading up to the 2019 election, Premier François Legault sent the leader of each federal party a letter, on September 17, calling on the federal government to give Quebec full jurisdiction over the environment. Obviously, the Fathers of Confederation could not foresee in 1867 the climate crisis facing us now and into the future.

Natural resources and economic development fall within the domain of the provinces. Accordingly, we believe Quebec and the provinces should have exclusive jurisdiction over environmental matters, especially considering that, in many respects, Quebec's Environment Quality Act provides better protection for the environment and goes further than the federal legislation.

Unfortunately, Quebec's act does not cover infrastructure under federal jurisdiction, such as ports and gas or interprovincial pipelines. That infrastructure nevertheless has very significant impacts on indigenous communities in Quebec, on communities that are already devalued or struggling, and on communities that are home to low-income families. Quebec's jurisdiction and Environment Quality Act—which goes further than the federal legislation and controls, for instance, noise and air pollutants—should have primacy.

June 16th, 2021 / 4:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses for being here today.

My question is for Mr. Gaudreault, who is well known for his involvement in environmental issues.

Mr. Gaudreault, you said in your opening statement that health care, education and natural resources, which are under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, are crucial in fostering greater social equality.

In fact, Quebec has recognized the right to live in a healthful environment in which biodiversity is preserved since 2006, in its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Being a quasi-constitutional right, it protects every Quebecker. Why, then, include in the legislation provisions that have the same purpose but carry less legal force?

Do you not get the sense that, because of the exception in Quebec's case, the provisions in Bill C‑230 are of less value to Quebec than they are to the rest of Canada?