A national strategy to assess, prevent and address environmental racism

Speaker: Ms. May
Time: 17/06/2022 14:05:17
Context: Debate

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Madam Speaker, I want to start of course by acknowledging we are here on the territory of the Algonquin nation, and to it we say meegwetch.
I also want to acknowledge the hon. member for Red Deer—Mountain View had intended to speak to this bill. It is unfortunate technical glitches interfered with it, and I am sure he was about to support it wholeheartedly. In any case, we do not get the benefit of his speech and I regret that.

En commençant, je tiens à remercier quelques députés qui ont participé à ce débat dans la première heure et, aujourd’hui, dans la deuxième heure.

Je dis un grand merci au ministre de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique, à ma collègue et amie députée de Repentigny, à un autre ami très proche le député de Victoria, à mon ami le député de Lac-Saint-Louis, aux députés de Dufferin—Caledon, York-Centre et, pour aujourd’hui, mon cher ami député de Kitchener-Centre qui est aussi un député vert. Je dis merci aux conservateurs parce que ce sont eux qui ont donné l’opportunité aujourd’hui de faire un discours. Je remercie aussi les députées de Saint-Jean, de Nunavut et aussi la secrétaire parlementaire députée de Toronto—Danforth, ainsi que la députée de Vancouver-Est.

These were rich speeches; they gave us a lot.

Particularly, I want to thank my friend, the member of Parliament for Nunavut, for reflections on the bravery of Inuit hunters who were forced, due to the lack of environmental rights, and we can hardly imagine what it was like in February in Nunavut, it is not warm, to go out and take their places in civil disobedience on a runway to blockade a mine site because their rights were being violated. With only five minutes, I certainly cannot get into the full details on that effort, but I stand in solidarity with my friend, the member of Parliament for Nunavut, and the communities that have succeeded in persuading the Nunavut Impact Review Board to say no to a doubling of the iron ore mine on Baffin Island. I hope the Minister of Northern Affairs will act as he should and accept that advice.

There is so much to say about the bill and why we are here and where we are.

C’est un projet de loi pour prévenir le racisme environnemental, mais c’est aussi tellement important de souligner que ce projet de loi sert à faire progresser la justice environnementale.
As a feminist commentating, I just went back to make sure I had that right in French. I had not realized before that “le racisme” is masculin but that “justice” is féminin.

I should not digress from my digressions when I have a five-minute speech.
However, this is a critically important issue that we make progress—

Ms. Elizabeth May: Madam Speaker, Do I need to start over?
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): No.

Ms. Elizabeth May: The importance of the bill and what I wanted to underscore is that it is operative.

Earlier today, of all coincidences, I was speaking at a conference marking the 40th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms at the University of Ottawa Law School with many brilliant people. I was not one of the brilliant people, but I was invited anyway. However, we were reflecting on 40 years of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and what was missing: What do we need going forward? There were perspectives on the need for socio-economic rights, that we address the enormous income inequality that is growing in Canada and globally, that we address the needs that we express in terms of human rights but also the rights that were missing from the charter, and so we spoke of the importance of addressing this gap through environmental rights.

I will note parenthetically that, Bill C-226, while being complementary to this right that we should have but do not yet have, we will not have this right if Bill S-5 passes and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act amendments do not create environmental rights as they should, but perhaps we can fix that through amendments.

What are rights without tools to enforce them? The environmental justice program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has, since 1994, created tools that can be used by communities, indigenous communities, people of colour communities, Black communities and low-income communities, who have been historically, and are to this day, deprived of a healthy environment, because they do not have the clout of white, wealthy neighbours. The tools are to hire a toxicologist, to hire an epidemiologist, and are so abbreviated and so well-known in the U.S.: the EJ program of the U.S. EPA, Environmental Justice. That is what we are here for.