Trudeau Liberals vow to fight 'environmental racism' in fiscal update

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered the 2023 fiscal update to the Commons on Tuesday, claiming 'environmental racism' must be addressed to achieve 'net-zero' emissions by 2050.

Trudeau Liberals vow to fight 'environmental racism' in fiscal update
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According to the Trudeau Liberals, "environmental racism" is a considerable area of concern for Canadian taxpayers. 

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered the 2023 fiscal update to the Commons on Tuesday, claiming "environmental racism" must be addressed to achieve 'net-zero' emissions by 2050. 

She heralded her government’s investments in a clean economy as a crucial step to protecting minority groups from 'climate change,' as first reported by True North.

"Investments in a clean economy are an important part of Canada’s plan to reach net-zero by 2050," reads the update. "Achieving this plan will ultimately help protect those that are most at risk of climate change, especially women, Indigenous people, and residents of rural and coastal communities."

"Fighting climate change also fights environmental racism," it added.

According to the federal government, "environmental racism" disproportionately impacts "racialized individuals, groups and communities," citing inequitable environmental policies, laws and decisions. 

Green Party MP Elizabeth May has since tabled Private Member’s Bill C-226, An Act respecting the development of a national strategy to assess, prevent and address environmental racism and to advance environmental justice, to bolster consultation on the environment.

"This enactment requires the Minister of the Environment, in consultation or cooperation with any interested persons, bodies, organizations or communities, to develop a national strategy to promote efforts across Canada to address the harm caused by environmental racism. It also provides for reporting requirements in relation to the strategy," it reads. 

The bill passed the Commons on March 29 by a 174-145 vote, with all Conservative and Bloc Québécois MPs voting in opposition.

The controversial legislation completed its second reading in the Senate last month with no consideration by committee as of writing.

On October 26, Conservative Senator Donald Plett argued Bill C-226 fails to establish a reasonable scope for the consultation process. 

"The legislation calls on the minister to consult or cooperate with 'any interested persons, bodies, organizations or communities,' which includes other ministers and representatives of government in Canada and Indigenous communities — but provides no definition of what constitutes an 'interested' person, body, organization or community, leaving the scope of consultation wide open," he said.

Plett called the bill "unwieldy" and "unworkable" without a precise scope to ensure an effective consultation process. He pointed out the federal government’s "terrible track record regarding consulting," as an area of real concern. 

"Will they prioritize consulting close friends of the government instead of listening to people on the ground? The parameters are unclear, which leaves the consultation process open to manipulation," said Plett.

"Regardless of the goal of any national strategy being developed, the scope of consultations must have clear parameters in order to give concise direction to the strategy or framework," he added.

However, Independent Senator Mary Jane McCallum, of Indigenous origins, thanked May for her work and leadership on this "important initiative."

"That motion acknowledged the systemic racism upon which this country was built," she claimed, "wherein representatives from the federal government and the churches gave themselves a unilateral authority to remove First Nations and Inuit children from their families and their communities."

McCallum contends that the systemic nature of "environmental racism" allows other forms of racism to flourish.

"In other words, environmental racism is not experienced in isolation of other contexts, nor is environmental racism unintended," she said, calling out the general public for putting Indigenous peoples in so-called "sacrifice zones."

"This is known as geographic racism."

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