Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau: Reintroduce and pass environmental racism bill
David Suzuki Foundation and partners
Authored by: Severn Cullis-Suzuki
Partners: Environmental Defence, Canadian Coalition for Environmental and Climate Justice, Climate Justice Laurier, Wilfred Laurier University, Black Environmental Initiative, Breast Cancer Action Quebec, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Canadian Coalition for Environmental Rights, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, EcoJustice, Ecology Action Centre, The ENRICH Project, Future Ancestors Services, Grassroots Grandmothers Circle, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, La CEVES, missINFORMED, Nature Canada, Prevent Cancer Now, Sierra Club Canada, SEED (South End Environmental InJustice Society), Shake Up the Establishments, West Coast Environmental Law, Wet’suwet’en Nation, Youth4Nature
In June 2021, a private member’s bill addressing environmental racism gained the support of four of five parties in the House of Commons (Bill C-230, introduced by Cumberland-Colchester MP Lenore Zann). Unfortunately, the bill did not advance to a final vote before Parliament was dissolved for the 2021 general election.
Environmental racism occurs when environmental policies or practices intentionally or unintentionally result in disproportionate negative impacts on certain individuals, groups or communities based on race or colour, as well as unequal access to environmental benefits.
Bill C-230 proposed a legislative requirement for the federal environment minister to examine the link between race, socio-economic status and exposure to environmental risk. The bill also required the environment minister to develop a national strategy to assess, prevent and address environmental racism and to advance environmental justice.
Following the election, the David Suzuki Foundation and partners sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking the government to re-introduce Bill C-230, as previously approved by the House environment committee, and work with other parties to ensure its swift passage.
“Ensuring that the recent elections do not delay passage of Canada’s first environmental racism bill will allow the important work of examining the link between race, socio-economic status and environmental risk, and developing a national environmental justice strategy to begin.”
Recommendations for strengthening Bill C-28, updating the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
On April 13, 2021, the federal government introduced Bill C-28, proposed updates to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. CEPA provides the legislative framework for federal action to protect human health and the environment from pollution and toxics, but the law has not been significantly amended for more than two decades.
Strengthening CEPA to support a substantive right to a healthy environment
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, a cornerstone pollution-prevention law, is out of date. Government has committed to modernizing it to better protect people and the environment. Complementing and reinforcing other important CEPA reforms, applying a human rights lens to the process for regulating toxic chemicals represents an essential paradigm shift that will modernize and strengthen Canada’s approach to environmental protection.