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Subject: Support Bill 111 – an act to address environmental racism
Dear Premier McNeil, Minister Delorey, Minister Ince, and all Nova Scotia’s Members of the Legislative Assembly,
(Include a bit about yourself – name, where you live, why you care about Bill 111).
This bill, the first of its kind in Canada, was introduced on April 29, 2015 in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly by Lenore Zann, NDP Critic for Aboriginal Affairs and the Human Rights Commission. The bill comes out of a collaborative, community-based project entitled Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health Project (ENRICH), which Dr. Ingrid Waldron has been leading through the School of Nursing at Dalhousie University since 2012. The ENRICH Project is examining and creating awareness about the health effects of polluting industries and other environmental harms near Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities throughout Nova Scotia through research and publications, legislation, public education, and community engagement (more information: www.enrichproject.org)
The issue of environmental racism has been explored internationally since the 1970s and more recently in Canada. Environmental racism refers to the disproportionate location of polluting industries and other environmental harms (landfills, incinerators, thermal stations, pulp sites etc.) near communities of colour and the working poor, relative to white communities. In Nova Scotia, Mikmaw and African Nova Scotian communities are more likely to experience disproportionate environmental health risks since they are more likely than other communities to live near these and other environmentally hazardous activities. Environmental racism is also characterized by the lack of organization and political power that these communities have for advocating against the siting of industrial polluters and other environmental harms, 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.
Bill 111 proposes a province-wide public consultation with priority placed on Mi’kmaw, African Nova Scotian, and Acadian communities affected by environmental racism. This consultation process will provide Nova Scotian citizens with an opportunity to share their concerns and collaborate with municipal and provincial governments to address this important issue.
In 2014, Premier Stephen McNeil spoke about the abuse of residents at the Home for Coloured Children. He stated that the “struggle of the Home was only one chapter in a history of systemic racism and inequality that has scarred our province for generations.” He declared that Nova Scotians “must do better.”
I believe that supporting and passing Bill 111 is a clear opportunity for the Nova Scotian government to “do better.”
Bill 111 is the first piece of legislation to address environmental racism in Canada. This provides members of all three political parties a unique opportunity to unanimously pass a bill that would make Nova Scotia a leader on the national stage by addressing environmental, social, and public health issues that impact communities not only in this province, but across Canada.