Elizabeth May is taking the fight to address environmental racism back to the House after a Liberal MP’s bill died on the order paper last fall.
The Green Party parliamentary leader tabled a private member’s bill on Feb. 2 aimed at tackling environmental policies and practices that specifically harm racialized communities. The proposed legislation — nearly identical to a previous bill sponsored by former Liberal MP Lenore Zann — would require the federal government to collect data on links between environmental hazards, race, socioeconomic status and health. It would also mandate the environment andclimate change minister to develop a national strategy for addressing environmental racism.
Last year, the original bill reached the final stage of debate in House and won the support of all parties, with the exception of the Conservatives, just before a federal elections was called.
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“This is a bill that has enjoyed widespread support. Many members of Parliament are very keen to see this bill passed,” May told the House on Wednesday.
“I really urge all colleagues to reflect on the fact that the U.S. and the Environmental Protection Agency, for more than three decades, have had active programs to confront environmental racism while the term is hardly well-understood in our country,” said May.
The Biden administration allocated more than US$1.4 million for environmental justice initiatives in April. Meanwhile, Canada was — and still is — stuck in the discussion phase.
Since then, the federal government expressed interest in supporting the legislation.
Bill C230, the original version, was supported by Liberal MPs. After the federal election, Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault’s mandate letter instructed him to “recognize the ‘right to a healthy environment’ in federal law and introduce legislation to require the development of an environmental justice strategy and the examination of the link between race, socio-economic status and exposure to environmental risk.”
20 environmental groups called for the federal government to prioritize Bill C-230 and reintroduce it last October so that all its progress is not lost.
A ministry spokesperson said that the minister was speaking at the time. Canada’s National ObserverThe government would introduce legislation to conform with Bill C-230.
@ElizabethMay is reviving environmental racism with a private member’s legislation after @ZannLenore died on the paper last fall. #cdnpoli
May’s new bill includes the amendments agreed upon when Zann’s bill was studied in committee, so even if it has to go through the whole process again, it could go quickly, said Lisa Gue, manager of national policy for the David Suzuki Foundation.
However, if the federal government introduced legislation to combat environmental racism, it could be passed through the House much faster.
“I think we have yet to hear the government actually identify this as a priority for their legislative agenda, unfortunately,” said Gue. “When the government set out its legislative priorities for the first 100 days of Parliament … this legislation and in fact, no environmental legislation made the cut.”
Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer