Good afternoon. I am Laura Farquharson. I am director general of the legislative and regulatory affairs directorate of the environmental protection branch at Environment and Climate Change Canada.
I'm accompanied by my colleagues from ECCC: Pascal Roberge, director of the program integration division for the national pollutant release inventory at the science and technology branch; and Silke Neve, director of the information and indicators division of the strategic policy branch. As well, David Morin is here from Health Canada. He is the director general of the safe environments directorate at the healthy environments and consumer safety branch.
We are pleased to appear today to participate in your study of Bill C-230.
As you know, this bill requires the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop a national strategy to redress the harm caused by environmental racism, in consultation with provincial, territorial and municipal governments and indigenous and other affected communities, persons and bodies.
This bill comes at a time when, as public servants, we are seized with issues around diversity, equity and inclusion and with combatting systemic racism, and when Canadian citizens are becoming increasingly seized as well.
In my remarks, I'll focus on some of the proposed or existing legislative or policy frameworks that, to some extent, address the subject matter of this bill. Then I will turn to David, who will speak about Health Canada's role in protecting the health of Canadians from environmental risks.
You discussed the definition of environmental racism.
While there is no commonly accepted definition of environmental racism, it generally refers to racial discrimination in environmental polices, practices and actions, and includes the way in which minority groups may bear a disproportionate burden of adverse health and environmental impacts from environmental pollution. Think, for instance, of landfills or polluted air.
Existing federal legislation and recent amendments ensure the government seeks to protect the environment and health of all Canadians, including vulnerable populations.
Yesterday, as you know, the government tabled Bill C-28, which aims to strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, with a particular focus on recognizing a right to a healthy environment as provided under that act.
If passed, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Health will be required to develop an implementation framework to set out how a healthy environment will be considered in the administration of the act. Among other things, the implementation framework will elaborate on principles such as environmental justice and non-regression. Interested persons, such as stakeholders and partners, will have an opportunity to participate in the development of the implementation framework.
In addition, the ministers are required to conduct research, studies or monitoring activities to support the government in the protection of a right to a healthy environment. This requirement could, for instance, assist in addressing environmental justice issues. For example, it could include the collection and analysis of data to identify and monitor populations and communities that are particularly vulnerable to environmental and health risks.
Additional amendments proposed in the bill tabled yesterday would recognize in the preamble the importance of considering vulnerable populations and cumulative effects. They would codify a number of new elements, including defining “vulnerable population”; requiring the Minister of Health to conduct biomonitoring surveys, which may include vulnerable populations; ensuring that vulnerable populations and cumulative effects are taken into account when developing and implementing the new plan of chemicals management priorities; and requiring that the ministers consider available information on vulnerable populations and cumulative effects when conducting and interpreting risk assessments.
To turn to another area of work, ECCC has been working closely with Indigenous Services Canada—