Environmental racism plagues low-income and minority communities across Nova Scotia

Watch above: NDP is taking steps to try and stop environmental racism. Natasha Pace reports.

Halifax -Although the term environmental racism may not be well understood, it’s an issue that’s plagued many Aboriginal, Black and low-income communities across North America for decades, including here in our region. Experts say you don’t have to look far to see environmental racism across Nova Scotia.

“We talk about racism in employment, we talk about racism in labour, we talk about everyday forms of racism, this is just another aspect of systemic racism, historic racism that has been happening in this province for years,” says Dr. Ingrid Waldron, professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Environmental racism essentially means that hazards, like toxic waste, pollution or dumps are placed near low-income or minority communities.

Africville is one example. The community was surrounded by an open dump and a slaughterhouse, but it is not the only one.

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The community of Lincolnville, N.S., has been fighting to get a dump removed from their area for years. Residents have long protested against the site being there, saying there are high rates of cancer caused by the dump.

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Members of the Pictou Landing First Nation recently set up a blockade to protest pulp mill waste near their reserve.

“These communities that were affected always knew it was an issue, its not a new phenomenon,” says Lynn Jones, a member of the group Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities & Community Health.

Wednesday, the NS NDP introduced a bill to address environmental racism. The bill calls for a panel to be struck consisting of members of the provincial Human Rights Commission and members of the Minister of Environment’s Roundtable on Environment and Sustainable Prosperity.

The NDP also wants to see the panel consist of one member from the African Nova Scotian community, the First Nations community and the Acadian community. The group would have one year from the date the bill is proclaimed to engage in a province wide consultation and draft a report and recommendations to be tabled in the Legislature.

“There is a disproportionate number of toxic waste sites and dumps in racialized communities, backyards, and this has been happening for many, many years, so really this is long overdue,” says Lenore Zann, NDP MLA for Truro.

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Those who have been fighting environmental racism for years want to see government step up.

“Most or many of the landfills that exist in Nova Scotia should be re-located. There is sufficient land in Nova Scotia that will not environmentally impact in a negative way any African Nova Scotian community or Aboriginal community,” says Raymond Sheppard, former Lincolnville resident.

“What we want is justice, how we get to justice has all kinds of threads, and part of those threads are legislation,” adds Jones.

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