Bill C-230 is a trailblazing piece of legislation in Canadian environmental politics, and one of the main focuses of SCAN‘s annual Climate Action Awareness Campaign. This article will provide an update on the subtle progress that has been made by the government regarding Bill C-230 since last year’s campaign, but also provide background information on the Bill, and why it is so important.
In order to understand the importance of Bill C-230 and why it is such a relevant piece of legislation in Canadian environmental politics today, the concept of environmental racism must first be discussed. Environmental racism can be defined as acts of social injustice and the lack of environmental policies and legislation resulting in the racial targeting of Indigenous and other minority communities by deliberately establishing hazardous waste sites, chemical factories, landfills, and other polluting industries in their vicinity, causing adverse mental and physical health consequences. Despite the growth in knowledge, research, and awareness regarding environmental racism, there is very little existing environmental policy addressing the issue, and very minimal government action that is being taken.
Toxic air pollution, industrial waste, mercury poisoning in local drinking water supplies, Cancer-causing substances, and landfills are only some of the examples of blatant environmental racism facing racialized communities in Canada. Because environmental racism is experienced differently by each community that is involved, creating policy that will enable reasonable environmental justice for each case is something that is incredibly difficult to achieve. That being said, Bill C-230 is a step in the right direction, but should only be considered as the beginning of the environmental justice movement in Canada, rather than the solution to environmental racism.
To start from the beginning, Bill C-230 was originally introduced by Nova Scotia MP Lenore Zann as a private member’s bill, with the intention of seeking environmental justice in Canada. The first reading was completed on February 26, 2020. The original bill required the Minister of the Environment “to develop a national strategy to promote efforts across Canada to address the harm caused by environmental racism” and was named “A National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism, Bill C-230”. A second reading occurred on March 24, 2021 in the House of Commons with a result of 182 Yeas and 153 Nays.
Following the second reading, the Committee report was presented on June 22, 2021 at the House of Commons, where the report was amendended, including a change in name to the “National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Act. As stated by lawyer Paula Lombardi, “An important amendment approved by the Committee requires that the national strategy include information and statistics relating to the location of environmental hazards, and an examination of the link between race, socio-economic status and environmental risk, in addition to health-based outcomes.” As of now, the bill is considered to be “At report stage in the House of Commons” with no reported activities. Click here to better understand the process of how a government bill becomes law in Canada.
Now, you may be wondering what happened to Bill C-230 and why there has been no recent updates about the progress of the bill. According to an article published by the National Observer, the call for a snap federal election in fall 2021 halted the progress being made for Bill C-230. Lenore Zann, Nova Scotia MP who originally introduced the bill was also not re-elected. Since then, environmental groups have been urging the Trudeau government to “reintroduce the bill as reported by committee and seek the agreement of other parties to proceed to third reading before the end of the year.” Efforts are being made to soften the impacts of the election to Bill C-230, and to minimize delays. However, little to no word has been heard about Bill C-230 since then, especially at the government level.
To end off, often, racism in Canada is thought of as an act of the past, and since the stigma around racist behaviors can be considered as “common-knowledge” it is easy to assume that racist actions no longer occur. However, social media allows for the unveiling of the truth; that racism in Canada continues to exist, especially at an environmental level. This increase in awareness then has the power to influence current and future voters to vote for politicians whose values voters believe align with their own, ultimately shaping the trajectory of future policy-making and political action. Bill C-230 is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for addressing environmental racism in Canada, but it is not the ultimate solution.