Evidence of meeting #40 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was racism.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sylvain Gaudreault  Member of the National Assembly of Québec for Jonquière, As an Individual
Lynn Jones  Community Activist and Archivist, As an Individual
Lisa Gue  Manager, National Policy, David Suzuki Foundation
Elaine MacDonald  Program Director, Healthy Communities, Ecojustice Canada

5:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Yes, and that's what this bill is aiming for.

It's your turn, Ms. Pauzé. Go ahead.

5:35 p.m.


Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

My question is for Mr. Gaudreault.

You talked a lot about addressing inequalities, so could you define environmental justice for us?

June 16th, 2021 / 5:35 p.m.

Member of the National Assembly of Québec for Jonquière, As an Individual

Sylvain Gaudreault

Against the backdrop of climate change, which is irreparable, the biggest challenge facing populations is definitely environmental justice. All impacts on all populations must be avoided. We have to work to avoid the impacts.

The impacts are experienced on three levels. First are the past impacts on indigenous and working-class populations, which we absolutely have to remedy. Second are the current impacts tied to climate change, ranging from heat islands to public health issues. Third are the future impacts, those associated with the green transition; for example, workers and families will end up having to leave behind the types of jobs they currently hold and adopt new types of employment.

That, too, is a facet of environmental justice for all. It is imperative that the provinces and federal government invest massively in a just transition. The transition must be just for workers and vulnerable populations, whether they are racialized or indigenous, whether they live in historically poor neighbourhoods or whether they have to leave well-paying jobs to do other types of work in the future. That is a just transition.

5:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you.

The last turn goes to Mr. Bachrach.

You have two minutes, enough time for one question.

5:40 p.m.


Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have a question for Ms. Gue that I asked a previous panel of witnesses. Often, when we think of environmental racism, the most intuitively understood examples involve contaminated sites near communities, or very site-specific incidents. In the region where I live and that I represent, northwest B.C., climate change is disproportionately affecting first nations communities, as you well know, and that impacts wild salmon stocks, wildlife and so many other values. It's a fundamentally different kind of impact than a site-specific contamination, because it's linked to global climate change, which is a global problem. Is this bill going to sufficiently address those two very different expressions of environmental racism?

What would that look like in the context of the national strategy, for instance?

5:40 p.m.

Manager, National Policy, David Suzuki Foundation

Lisa Gue

That's an important question, and I think good guidance for the committee to give the government in developing the national strategy. Place-based impacts are, as you say, very important and probably what comes to mind first, but certainly climate change has effects that fall in the same category of environmental racism.

There are other examples as well, and I know I don't have too much time, but briefly, for example, recent research looking at air quality in Canada's major cities finds consistently that the worst air quality is in racialized neighbourhoods. I think that is looking at the federal jurisdiction to solve some of these problems. In part, what the systematic collection of data and the strategy have to offer is to bring a focus onto these disproportionate impacts, so that decision-making goes beyond consideration of general population risks and really is able to understand the risks to specific populations that are most affected.

5:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you.

As I said at the beginning, we will break before moving in camera, but first, I want to thank all the witnesses for sharing with us their views and observations on the important issue of environmental racism. It was a real pleasure to hear your comments and discuss the issue with you.

Thank you again to the witnesses. The committee will reconvene shortly.

The meeting is suspended.

[Proceedings continue in camera]