The Story of Environmental Justice Bill C-226
It has been a long road in the fight to pass a federal environmental justice bill. Read this backgrounder for information on the beginning stages of Bill C-226, as well as CCECJ’s contributions and unwavering support for Bill C-226, the National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Act.
It has been a long road in the fight to pass a federal environmental justice bill.
Let us rewind to January 2015, when Dr. Ingrid Waldron entered a cozy Nova Scotia coffee shop to meet her friend Lenore Zann, who was an NDP Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) at the time. Over a warm cup of coffee, the two close friends hatched a plan to shed light on environmental racism and bring it to the public’s attention. Back in 2015, the broader public had a minimal understanding of the issue of environmental racism, and discussions with journalists and community members were often met with confusion: “What is environmental racism?” As a response, Zann proposed the idea of developing a private member’s bill (PMB) to educate the public and amplify the issue through media coverage.
In April 2015, Bill 111 was introduced in the Nova Scotia legislature at the provincial level. This bill aimed to investigate environmental racism across the province, particularly its impact on the African-Nova Scotian community, Indigenous communities, and the Acadian community. It also sought to provide recommendations on how to address this form of discrimination. Although it reached second reading, the bill never passed. Zann made multiple attempts to reintroduce it over the following three years, facing persistent obstacles. Nevertheless, the bill succeeded in building a nationwide awareness campaign.
In 2020, Zann transitioned from the provincial legislature to become a federal Member of Parliament (MP) and expressed her desire to reintroduce the environmental racism bill at the federal level.
The first iteration of the federal legislation, Bill C-230, was introduced in both the first and second sessions of the 43rd Parliament and advanced to second reading in the House of Commons. However, the legislation died on the order paper when the government dissolved for elections in September 2021.
Back to square one.
After the election, MP Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party, decided to revive the work of Waldron and Zann by introducing Bill C-226, titled An Act respecting the development of a national strategy to assess, prevent, and address environmental racism and to advance environmental justice. This is the current version of the bill.
If Bill C-226 becomes law, it will require the government to examine the links between race, socio-economic status, and environmental risk, and to begin to collect this critical data. It will also require the federal government to develop Canada’s first national strategy on environmental racism and environmental justice. This national strategy must be led by impacted and equity-deserving communities.
To become law, any government bill must pass through both chambers of Parliament — the House of Commons and the Senate. Bill C-226 passed in the House of Commons on March 29, 2023, then moved to the Senate. For updates on its progress, click here, and to read the full text of the bill, click here.
Dr. Ingrid Waldron, Naolo Charles, and valued CCECJ members have played a key role in the process of advancing environmental justice legislation, including providing significant contributions and input during the bill’s drafting process, offering unwavering support, and actively advocating for the successful passage of the bill.
This legislation is critical for Canada to follow through with its commitment to fight and prevent environmental racism and ensure that all people, regardless of race and socio-economic status, have access to a healthy environment. Bill C-226 must pass without further delay.
CCECJ’s product team is actively engaged in efforts to support the timely and successful passage of Bill C-226. To get involved, please reach out to our Project Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.