Canada must address harms of environmental racism

April 22, 2024 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

Today, on Earth Day, Charlotte-Anne Malischewski, Interim Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, issues the following statement:

Today on Earth Day, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is calling for the swift passage of the National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Act (Bill C-226).

Environmental racism is a form of systemic racism that results in the disproportionate proximity and greater exposure of Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities to polluting industries and environmentally hazardous activities. And the reality is that environmental injustice is impacting far too many communities in Canada, including those facing economic and social disadvantage.

Bill C-226 calls for the development of the national strategy to promote efforts across Canada to assess, prevent, and address environmental racism and to advance environmental justice. It is our hope that this law will raise awareness and address the harms caused by environmental racism and environmental injustice in Canada.

The Commission is today releasing a summary report on environmental racism in Canada that stems from a conversation we hosted with activists, advocates, academics, and people with lived experience. They told the Commission about the complex, interconnected issues involved in environmental racism in Canada, including the role of colonialism and the disregard for Indigenous knowledge, as well as the negative effect of environmental racism on the human right to adequate housing and on the health of impacted communities and individuals.

The Commission calls for the swift passage of Bill C-226. The insight and perspectives of affected communities are invaluable in finding solutions to address the harms caused by environmental racism. We encourage the Government to provide these communities with opportunities to meaningfully participate in the development of a national strategy.

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