The mission of the ENRICH (Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health) Project is to use community-based participatory action research and publications, multi-disciplinary partnerships, student training, community engagement, mobilizing and capacity building, government consultations, policy analysis and development, public education and workshops, media, art and other knowledge translation and mobilization approaches to support Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities in addressing and advocating on the socio-economic and health effects associated with environmental racism in their communities.
Historically, studies on environmental justice in Canada and the US have predominantly focused on outcomes (both toxin exposure levels and subsequent health outcomes), and not decision-making processes. The need to examine the decision-making processes that create disproportionate exposure of disadvantaged communities in Canada to industrial polluters and other environmentally hazardous activities is increasingly being recognized in Canada, however. Despite this, there is still limited Canadian-based research that focuses on the health risks and socio-economic effects associated with environmental racism in racially marginalized communities.
Environmental racism refers to the disproportionate location of industrial polluters such as landfills, trash incinerators, coal plants, toxic waste facilities and other environmentally hazardous activities near to communities of colour and the working poor. It is also characterized by the lack of organization and political power that these communities hold for advocating against the siting of industrial polluters, the uneven negative impacts of environmental procedures, the uneven negative impacts of environmental policies, and the disproportionate access to environmental services such as garbage removal.
The ENRICH Project is a unique and innovative project that was established in 2012 to address the health and socio-economic effects of environmental racism in Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities, formulate more effective ways to address both distributive/spatial and procedural components of environmental racism in these communities and inform policies about best practice approaches applicable to citizen engagement, environmental impact assessments, and uniform and non-discriminatory application of policies and processes related to the location, management, regulation and evaluation of industrial polluters and other environmentally hazardous activities near to Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities.
The ENRICH Project conceptualizes environmental racism as having two components: 1) distributive/spatial; and 2) procedural. The first is concerned primarily with the inequitable distributions of health risks and health outcomes associated with industrial polluters and other environmentally hazardous activities, and the second focuses on institutional mechanisms that perpetuate inequitable distribution of these activities.
The ENRICH Project is addressing these issues through a collaborative, multi-disciplinary community-based research approach that relies on a team comprised of faculty/researchers in diverse disciplines, Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian community members, students, volunteers and non-profit organizations.
In 2015, the ENRICH Project collaborated with MLA Lenore Zann (MLA for Truro – Milbrrook – Salmon River) to develop the first private members bill to address environmental racism in Canada. The bill, entitled Bill 111: An Act to Address Environmental Racism in Nova Scotia, was introduced at the Legislature on April 29, 2015 and will be put forward to second reading in the fall of 2015.
Since its inception in 2012, team members have engaged in the following activities to raise awareness about environmental racism, mobilize affected communities on the issue, move research to policy and advocate on behalf of affected communities: research, publications, student training, community engagement, mobilizing and capacity-building, community advocacy, government consultations, policy analysis, policy development (e.g. Bill 111), community workshops, public events, multi-media production, art creation and curation.
The ENRICH Project Team has carried out the following projects and activities since 2012, when the project commenced:
- Developing a multi-disciplinary research team comprised of faculty/researchers, M’kmaw and African Nova Scotian community members, students, volunteers, and non-profit agencies;
- Conducting community-based, policy relevant research in Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities;
- Publishing peer-reviewed journal and book articles;
- Training and mentoring university students on community-based research, GIS analysis, mapping and community engagement;
- Coordinating a youth arts and education project entitled “Time to Clear the Air: Art on Environmental Racism by Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian Youth” to increase awareness and generate more dialogue among youth about environmental racism in their community;
- Hosting a series of workshops in 2013 and 2014 entitled “In Whose Backyard? – Exploring Toxic Legacies in Mi’kmaw & African Nova Scotian Communities ” to hear community members’ concerns about the socio-economic and health effects of industrial polluters and other environmentally hazardous activities near to their communities;
- Developing a workshop report entitled “In Whose Backyard? – Exploring Toxic Legacies in Mi’kmaw & African Nova Scotian Communities” and sharing the report with government, the general public, health agencies, community-based agencies, high schools, churches, media, faculty and students locally and nationally;
- Producing a documentary film entitled “In Whose Backyard?” and sharing the film with government, the general public, health agencies, community-based agencies, high schools, churches, media, faculty and students locally and nationally;
- Consulting with government departments and agencies to discuss policies and best practices for addressing community members’ concerns related to community consultations, environmental impact assessments and decision making about the location, monitoring and remediation of polluting industries and other environmentally hazardous activities;
- Developing a government consultations report entitled “Report on Government Consultations for Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities & Community Health (ENRICH) Project” and sharing the report with government departments and agencies
- Collaborating with Lenore Zann (MLA) to develop Bill 111: An Act to Address Environmental Racism; and
- Using diverse multi-media approaches and platforms to share research findings and project activities.