Environmental racism

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Environmental racism, coined by Benjamin Chavis describes policies and practices that target racialized communities as places for toxic waste facilities and the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants; historical exclusion of racialized people from leadership within the environmental movement - Benjamin Chavis, adapted by Michelle Xie [1]

Examples of Environmental Racism in so-called Canada [2] : 

Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek)

  • For 8 years, Dryden Chemicals Ltd. dumped mercury into the English-Wabigoon river system, which fed into Grassy Narrows. The mercury poisoned fish in the river, a key food and economic source for the community.
  • The Ontario provincial government advised the community to stop eating fish and closed their commercial fishery. Within a year of the fishery closing, Grassy Narrows’ unemployment rate jumped from 5 per cent to 95 per cent.
  • Although Dryden Chemicals Ltd. has closed, the health effects of mercury contamination linger in community members.

Aamijiwnaang First Nation

  • Chemical Valley is Canada’s largest petrochemical complex. Over 60 petrochemical facilities can be found within a 25 km2 area.
  • High rates of cancer, respiratory illness and reproductive health issues have been linked to living near these facilities.
  • Members of the community depended on fish from the St. Clair River which flows through Chemical Valley. The river has had hundreds of spills which contributed to approximately 10 tonnes of pollutants in the St. Clair River.


  • In 1965, the City of Halifax undertook actions that took property away from and displaced members of the Africville community. The area became the location of environmental and social hazards.
  • Hazards included "a fertilizer plant, slaughterhouse, tar factory, stone and coal crushing plant, cotton factory, prison, three systems of railway tracks, and an open dump." - Ingrid Waldron [3]
  • Africville descendants have fought back. "Most recently, in November 2016, up to 300 former residents and their descendants joined an application submitted to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. The application was for a class-action lawsuit against Halifax over the loss of their land. In 2018, a judge turned down the application. The judge ruled that the plaintiff had not “satisfied the requirements” to certify the class action, which prevented the case from proceeding."  - Ingrid Waldron [4]

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