Aamjiwnaang’s Environment Committee is actively fighting against environmental racism in Canada. Aamjiwnaang First Nation borders petrochemical plants and refineries. It is an area around Sarnia, Ont., that people call “Chemical Valley.” As a result, the industry’s pollutants and chemical leaks have negatively impacted the soil, air quality, and waterways over the years.
In 2002, energy company Suncor proposed to build Canada’s largest ethanol plant nearby. The community protested, and as a result, the company built the plant in another location. The protest movement participants later formed Aamjiwnaang’s first environment and health committee.
Air monitoring stations continue to detect harmful chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and benzene. Therefore, the committee also keeps on fighting against it. The chair of Aamjiwnaang’s Environment Committee, Janelle Nahmabin, said: “Our teachings are to think and plan for seven generations ahead. It has been very challenging to fulfill that responsibility, given the fight that we’re up against.”
Activists claim there is environmental racism in Canada. Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards. An associate professor at the University of Halifax said environmental hazards mostly affect low-income, BIPOC, and rural communities. According to the community, poor health quality contributed to cancer and asthma among the residents. Nahman hopes a new private member’s bill will push the government to research the impact of toxic waste on affected communities.
On Capitol Hill, they introduced an environmental justice law last week in the U.S. In Canada, Nova Scotia Liberal MP Lenore Zann introduced a private member’s bill to address environmental racism. The parliament will vote on the bill this week.
Bill C-230 will require the federal government to collect statistical information on the location of Canada’s environmental hazards. The government will also have to research links between socioeconomic status, race, and health impact. Moreover, if passed, Ottawa will have to compensate affected communities. The bill requires affected communities to have access to safe drinking water and clean air.