A bill that attempts to address issues of environmental racism and injustice has passed the federal Senate and is on its way ro Royal Assent.

The bill, C-226, is formally known as the National Strategy on Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Act.

The act “will require the (federal) government to examine the links between racialization, socio-economic status and environmental risk and develop Canada’s first national strategy on environmental racism and environmental justice.”

Environmental racism refers to the disproportionate siting of polluting industries and other environmental hazards in Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities and uneven access to nature and environmental benefits, according to the Senate.

A UN report from 2020 found there was “a pattern in Canada where marginalized groups, and Indigenous peoples in particular, find themselves on the wrong side of a toxic divide, subject to conditions that would not be acceptable elsewhere in Canada.”

“We know the stories about where and how environmental racism exists in Canada,” said Ingrid Waldron, director and founder of the ENRICH Project, a community-based project investigating the cause and effects of toxic industries near Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian communities.

“The formal data on these realities is incomplete and therefore there is a lack of understanding about how real this problem is,” Waldron added.

The U.S. enacted legislation on environmental racism in 1994 and that law will guide the regulations Canada will attach to the new law.

The government will now begin to develop the national environmental justice strategy to help communities most impacted by environmental racism.

The bill has had a winding road to passage. It was first introduced by former MP Lenore Zann as Bill C-230 in the last session of Parliament died on the order paper when Parliament dissolved for the last election. On February, 2022, Green Part co-leader Elizabeth May re-introduced the legislation as Bill C-226. It passed the House of Commons last spring.