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Results: 1 - 15 of 178
View Elizabeth May Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm not here on my own volition. I'm here because of the motion this committee passed that requires me to be here and that also reduces my rights to present amendments at report stage. It's a small point—it's large to me—but perhaps the committee is unaware that I'm here because of a motion you passed.
Thanks for the welcome.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I need to begin with this for just a moment, and I hope you'll forgive me. This is my first time appearing before the indigenous affairs committee and the nature of my involvement procedurally is unusual, so I want to canvass that quickly for members.
I'm here as a result of a motion that this committee carried under the fiction—and it is a fiction—that committees are masters of their own process. Identical language passes in every committee at the same time every year, following an election, to limit my rights.
My rights under our current Standing Orders would include moving any substantive amendment at report stage before the whole Parliament for everyone to vote on it. Now, that right that I have exists in theory, but every time committees pass the motion that you've passed, my rights are limited, because you've given me the opportunity to show up in each and every committee with 48 hours' notice to produce clause-by-clause amendments. They are deemed moved, as the chair has just indicated, because I have no rights before this committee but for the motion you passed that requires me to be here if I have amendments.
That said, it also means that I can't withdraw my own amendment. I've had conversations with the minister and with others about the 30-day timeline I proposed. I am totally prepared to accept the minister's proposition to me that what he hears—and I believe it—is that 30 days is not going to be feasible for the department in producing and for the government to propose the information for the council from 30 days.
I'm in your hands at this point, Mr. Chair. I cannot remove my own amendment, nor could I move it. This committee can, as you are just looking at it, unanimously remove my amendment or you can vote it down. I have very important amendments subsequent to this one that I do believe should be carried, but I leave it with other members. I can't withdraw my own amendment. If I could, I would.
Thank you.
View Elizabeth May Profile
It is absolutely acceptable, and if it were unacceptable and I violently objected, I would have no impact on the conversation, but thank you for your graciousness.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Yes, absolutely. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
It is a long amendment, but I hope the wording is familiar to all of you. This is the very same language that's found in the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for which this legislation is an important step to fulfill those recommendations and those calls to action.
The legislation, Bill C-29, fails to include the actual requirements—the minimum requirements—of the contents of the annual report. I've had some conversations informally with other members and understand a desire to not be prescriptive and say that's the only thing that the annual report must cover. I certainly would, if I were a member of this committee, amend my own motion by adding a paragraph (h) to say “and any other matters as the Council deems appropriate”, but I do think it's important, at a minimum, to include the mandate of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as they appear in the report.
I think it would be most unfortunate, Mr. Chair, if in the first few reports the minister tabled.... The minister must submit to the council an annual report. Imagine if it didn't include any of these things that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission required. It would be a very large failing of our process here in this committee if a report were tabled by the minister—a future minister, this minister, a minister 20 years from now, whatever—who decided, “I don't want to let the public know or the council know the number of indigenous and non-indigenous children in care, and I really don't think I want to share the comparison in funding for education for indigenous children on and off reserves.”
These are the minimum requirements from the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I hope that colleagues around the table will see the benefit, even if you feel that you want to amend it to make sure you're not ruling out other things that the minister might want. I don't think, when there's a list of things, an annual report setting out (a) through (g), that it in any way, given the context of the whole act, restricts what the minister would be able to put in a report to the council.
Without this language, I don't think Parliament and the government are fulfilling the commitments that were made to follow through on every single call to action. It's not enough, I think, to put a tick box next to this to say, okay, now we've created the reconciliation council, and it exists. On the calls to action, it's only a few paragraphs, but they're highly specific. I really do think it's an error—however well intentioned—and it would be a serious mistake to leave out this language.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I haven't had an opportunity to say this before.
I want to specify that “PV” stands for Parti Vert, Green Party. The first time I participated in a clause-by-clause study, someone suggested that Green Party amendments should be designated with the letter G, for “Green Party”. Now, that would have been a problem, since that letter refers to “government”.
Maybe some day, but it's not right now.
This is why we use “PV” to refer to the Green Party amendments.
This is, again, an attempt to ensure that Bill C-29 as closely as possible tracks the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In Bill C-29, at first reading, the role of the Prime Minister in tabling the report was replaced with the minister. Now, I see by looking ahead.... As you've noted, Mr. Chair, if my amendment is accepted, then the government's amendment...where the “G” doesn't stand for “Green Party”; it's the government, and they're not very green. I'm just moving along here. It's a small dig to cheer up my Conservative friends.
Voices: Oh, oh!
View Elizabeth May Profile
It's really hard, when I get my moments, you know.
Here's the thing. The G-3 amendment does, in fact, ensure that the Prime Minister has a role in this council, something that was removed in the first reading. If G-3 is carried, clearly the bill will track much more closely to what was recommended by the TRC.
I would be forcefully arguing for my amendment if G-3 didn't exist. I can't vote on my amendment. I put it to you that it's an attempt to make sure that the Prime Minister has a requirement of engagement in tabling the report, and in that light, I'll leave it to you. As long as you pass G-3, I won't feel that my efforts have come to naught.
Thank you.
View Mike Morrice Profile
Thank you, Mr. Housefather.
Thank you, Chair.
I have a question for Dr. Geist or Dr. Owen.
In terms of the less than 25% that the PBO is saying is going to smaller newspapers, do you have a suggested amendment that would help to address that?
View Elizabeth May Profile
Mr. Chair, I'm here for just this purpose, to clarify and explain the purpose of the bill.
Thank you, Laurel.
The purpose of the bill is to promote environmental justice and confront environmental racism. It's addressing environmental racism in the largest context. As I said when I was a witness here on November 1, I don't think any community experiencing environmental or toxic contamination as described in the bill, or communities located in proximity to environmental hazards.... The bill does not exclude any community that finds itself in that situation. It is, specifically, part of an approach to confront and name environmental racism. In that context, communities that are not racialized but are economically disadvantaged in any way, to such an extent that they've also experienced a lack of environmental justice.... The bill is focused on environmental racism.
I don't think I'll let any cats out of the bag by saying that, before the bill came forward, before first reading, I engaged with my friend from the Bloc Québécois, the member for Repentigny. We tried to see if there were any ways the Bloc could be comfortable with the bill.
I took the proposals she made today back to Lenore Zann, the original mover and former member of Parliament for Cumberland—Colchester, to Dr. Ingrid Waldron and to some of the many groups across the country that hope to see this bill passed. The notion of removing the word “racism” from the bill was widely and broadly found to be unacceptable.
In the context of Greg McLean's questions, it's quite clear that the bill will not exclude any community regardless of whether or not it's indigenous people or people of colour. If people are in a disadvantaged situation, where environmental contamination is visited upon them in a way that would not happen in a more well-heeled and economically and politically powerful community, they'll have access to the programs of environmental justice. As I mentioned before, the U.S. EPA is a model in this area, having developed robust programs since 1994.
I hope that helps clarify it for you.
Thank you for asking me, Laurel.
I have the U.S. EPA definition of “environmental justice”, but I think it's so common sense that courts aren't going to have a problem knowing this bill doesn't relate to trees going to court to defend themselves. That's one aspect Greg suggested, that it might be nature itself getting the right to remedy. This is clearly a bill that focuses on human communities that are not receiving the protections we would require as a minimum for Canadians. We know that it's overwhelmingly and disproportionately communities of colour and indigenous people experiencing this in Canada, although it's not exclusively people of colour and indigenous communities.
View Elizabeth May Profile
If I may, Mr. Chair, just to confirm—and thank you, Ms. Farquharson—that is in fact the commonly held definition found within the United States EPA. The translation is pretty straightforward as well if anyone wants it in French, but I'm sure our interpreters have already done that.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Yes, I am. Thanks for the question.
It's very routine. The term “consulting” with interested parties is used in many pieces of Canadian legislation. Even just dealing with Environment and Climate Change Canada, they put out on a website on a routine basis “here's an opportunity to comment”. People have that opportunity to comment. Then the minister reports.
The only mandatory portion of what the minister must do is to table the report and prepare the report in consultation with those groups. It's not an in-person event. It doesn't mean that the minister has to sit down and have tea with everybody who has written to him or her or them, by that point.
This is pretty boilerplate. I'm sure Environment Canada can confirm. I don't know how many consultations Environment and Climate Change Canada does. Just trying to keep up with them and write back myself is exhausting. I think I see on the order of one or two a month of consulting with the public at large and individual interest groups, etc.
That is the intention, but I don't think it's onerous.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
If you'd like, I can read the definition Ms. Farquharson, one of the Environment Canada officials, gave in response to Mr. McLean's question.
It's a very well understood definition that's quite available and accepted. It's:
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
I had translated it, but this is pretty much boiler plate. I wouldn't put forward legislation, although I wasn't the original drafter, and again, thanks to Lenore Zann.
As a former environmental lawyer, Greg, I can tell you it's really hard to find environmental laws that work in this country. This one should not put us into any kind of snags.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank my fellow members for being here.
This isn't the first time the committee has studied this bill.
I want to start by acknowledging that this bill was in the last Parliament, came before this committee, had hearings and had amendments made. I particularly want to thank the former member for Cumberland—Colchester, Lenore Zann, who brought it forward then as Bill C-230. I was honoured, at the time. I have never before had a member of another party ask me to second their bill. I was the official seconder on Lenore's bill, back then. I'm grateful that my bill also has bipartisan support.
I want to split up my time as follows.
As the name suggests, the bill is about the development of a national strategy to deal with environmental racism and to advance environmental justice. I will share our ideas on what an environmental justice program should look like and what such a policy should cover.
I'll be sharing my time with Jane McArthur, who will explain what environmental racism is.
I may have surprised some of you by saying that I didn't, before this moment, know Dr. Jane McArthur.
The name Dr. Ingrid Waldron is certainly known to everybody who has looked at the question of environmental racism across Canada. Dr. Waldron has done a lot of research. She was unable to be here today. She played a key role with Lenore Zann in bringing the bill forward and providing its academic and evidence-based underpinning. When Dr. Waldron wasn't able to attend, I asked her if she could recommend someone who could give us the same kind of evidence. She referred me to Dr. McArthur.
I would now like to turn it over to Dr. McArthur for three or four minutes of her expertise in terms of what this bill addresses and what evidence we have that there's a problem that requires this bill.
It's over to you, Dr. McArthur. Thank you for being here.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Thank you, Dr. McArthur.
I was delinquent in not recognizing that I'm here on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe nation. Parliament is on their land.
I want to pick up where Dr. McArthur left off and then explain the path to environmental justice.
I first started working with and using the term “environmental racism” in approximately 1994, 1995 and 1996, in working to get the cleanup of the toxic Sydney tar ponds. The community of predominantly Black people of Whitney Pier, Nova Scotia, and the indigenous land of the Mi'kmaq people became the most toxic site in Canada, located between the coke ovens and the steel mill.
I came upon a program in environmental justice that quite inspired me, and also the use of the term “environmental racism”, which informed my work. It came from no radical organization. It came from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which, from 1992 until now, has had an office of environmental justice.
It provides specific assistance to communities, such as the communities described by Dr. McArthur: people of colour, indigenous peoples and, also, communities that are marginalized economically, where you know for a fact, you don't even need.... To point it out is to answer the question. You're not going to find a toxic waste site in Rosedale. You're not going to find people living with environmental quality that threatens their health in Shaughnessy, Vancouver. We know the neighbourhoods and we know the peoples who disproportionately are exposed to toxic chemicals and poorly regulated waste sites, whether we're talking about Kanesatake right now, or whether we're talking about the ongoing generational abuse of Grassy Narrows, first drawn to light, by the way, in the 1970s, by a book by the late environmental journalist Warner Troyer, who wrote the book No Safe Place about what Reed Paper was doing to the people of Grassy Narrows.
I'm not going to take much time, but I will say that the path ahead with this bill's passage will be to environmental justice. It's not about blaming and shaming people for the conditions we experience. It's for making it better.
Under the U.S.'s environmental justice program, the Environmental Protection Agency and a few programs provide funding so that communities threatened by pollution have access to experts.
It's really important for communities to have their own agency to be able to contact epidemiologists; to have their own studies done; to have evidence-based decisions around what can be done for cleanup and what we are prepared to spend; and to see if we can trace down the original polluter and make them pay for the cleanup. The main essence of this is that no Canadian should live in conditions that other Canadians would never accept.
I remember taking Mike Harcourt on a tour of the Sydney tar ponds. He was at that point the former premier of British Columbia and was with the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which used to exist. I'll never forget Mike Harcourt saying that, if anyone had tried this in Vancouver, they would have all been hoisted up on ropes and executed, point blank. He was so shocked that we had cancer rates through the roof in specific communities.
We managed to get the Sydney tar ponds cleaned up, but there's no systematic program. At the U.S. EPA, not only do they have the program for superfund sites, but they have specific programs in environmental justice.
This year.... I just decided to pull this off the U.S. EPA website:
The Budget invests more than $1.45 billion across the Agency’s programs [to] clean up pollution, advance racial equity and secure environmental justice for all communities. To elevate environmental justice as a top Agency priority, EPA has proposed a new national environmental justice program office, to coordinate and maximize the benefits of the Agency’s programs and activities for underserved communities.
I'll close on this thought. We need to make sure that, as this bill goes through the House—and I hope the Senate—quickly, we will begin to hear from Environment and Climate Change Canada that they have thoroughly reviewed what the U.S. EPA is doing now and prepare that Canada do at least as much for our citizens.
The last time I checked, Environment Canada had not yet looked into what the U.S. EPA does.
This bill, I hope, will pass with all of your support, but once it's passed it's not about window dressing or bumper stickers. It's about addressing a real problem in real time with solutions. We don't have to reinvent the wheel. We have models.
Thank you.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Thanks so much.
I do have a background as a lawyer, so I'm very cognizant of how the law plays out and how we want to make sure terms are clear.
The question of assessing environmental racism also has to do with the collection of information. As Dr. McArthur mentioned.... Jane, if you want to jump in anywhere, just flag me. I'll try to watch you on the Zoom screen.
What we're looking at particularly is the content of the strategy included in subclause 3(3). We are looking at a study to examine “the link between race, socio-economic status and environmental risk, and (ii) information and statistics relating to the location of environmental hazards”. Specifically in subparagraph 3(3)(b)(iv), it says, “the collection of information and statistics relating to health outcomes in communities located in proximity to environmental hazards.” It's very specific.
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