Canadian organizations combating environmental racism

2021-10-05

 |  Environmental Racism

Environmental racism occurs when Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities are disproportionately exposed to polluting industries and environmentally hazardous activities. Examples of environmental racism include the destruction of Africville in Nova Scotia and the everlasting water crises of Indigenous communities across Canada. 

The image below reveals an example of environmental racism in modern Nova Scotia. Evidently, polluting industries and environmentally hazardous activities are close to or located in Indigenous and Black communities. 

“In this map by the ENRICH Project, “W” s represent waste disposal facilities, “T” s represent thermal generating stations, and “O” s represent other toxic industries. Green dots represent First Nations communities, while blue dots represent African Nova Scotian communities. The pink-purple rings around each dot represent distance (see the legend for scale). The brown-beige polygons represent material deprivation” (Waldron, 2020).  A larger, interactive map can be found here

To learn more about environmental racism in Canada and the impacts it has on human health and social wellbeing, please refer to my previous article (Environmental Racism in Canada – Past and Present) here

It is pivotal that provincial and federal action takes  place in order to combat modern environmental racism in Canada. Fortunately, there are many governmental and non-governmental environmental organizations that address  environmental racism at the provincial and/or federal level. These organizations influence Canadian environmental and climate policies through their research and advocacy. Each organization plays a different yet important role in the environmental protection mosaic, whether that be environmental sampling, environmental testing, surveillance, monitoring, research, or advocacy. Below is a list of Canadian organizations that are working on doing just this on home soil.

1. Ecojustice Canada

Ecojustice is Canada’s largest environmental law organization. They are a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that currently has 31 active court cases. They fight environmental racism through their research and governmental advocacy. In 2007 they released a report exposing Canada’s chemical valley, and following this report Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change mandated industries in Sarnia (chemical valley) to address leakages of the cancer-causing substance benzene and publicly report levels in 2016. In 2018, the ministry implemented a policy that would significantly reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. Although air pollution has decreased in this area, Ecojustice (2019) has found that air quality is still very poor in this area. For example, double the amount of safe levels of benzene remains in this area. Consequently, Sarnia is now a hot spot for Myeloid Leukemia, a type of cancer associated with benzene. Chemical Valley has a majority population of racialized peoples whose health is disproportionately and negatively affected. This is just one example of the research initiatives Ecojustice has taken in the fight against environmental racism in Canada. 

2. Environmental Defense Canada (EDC)

They are a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, advocate for a safe climate, and promote healthy communities. They encourage governments at the municipal, provincial, and federal level to enact policies that protect the health of Canadians and of the environment. They work to decrease Canadians’ exposure to toxic chemicals, safeguard freshwaters, and create livable communities through governmental policies. Recently, they influenced the Canadian government to pass Canada’s first environmental racism bill, which may soon become a law. EDC works with government officials, regardless of their political affiliation, to implement bills and policies for the betterment and/or protection of human health and the environment.

An article written by Environmental Defense Canada revealing their contributions to the bill. Their article can be found here.

3. MiningWatch Canada

They are an organization that observes mining operations across Canada with a focus on fixing mining laws, putting people and ecosystems first, controlling corporations, and protecting water. They do so by conducting research and analysis of Canadian industrial mining, providing technical communication and strategic support to mining-affected communities, campaigning against mining abuses, and advocating for the greater protection of Indigenous communities. MiningWatch holds mining corporations accountable for their abuses through changing the laws, policies, and economic conditions that perpetuate mining-related abuses and injustices.  

Indigenous communities protesting against mining operations on their territories that are being done without their consent. See article here

Supporting these organizations, whether it be reading and sharing their articles or donating directly to them, is crucial in supporting Canada’s fight against environmental racism.