Green Party pressures G&R dossier – The Eastern Door
Green Party of Canada Youtube Screenshot
Kanehsata’kehró:non’s well-being sparks a debate on environmental racism in parliament.
As the community awaits a concrete rehabilitation plan to decontaminate the G&R Recycling facility, Green Party House Leader Elizabeth May is pressuring federal governments to take action to address the lingering problem.
“At its core, (this situation) is about environmental racism. This is about the illegal dumping of toxic waste on Mohawk territory,” May said during the House of Commons debate on Wednesday, February 16. “I can’t imagine any non-Indigenous or non-Black community allowing it, but we have an environmental racism problem in this country.
This is the second time that May has appeared before parliamentarians to discuss the environmental scourge caused by the sorting center for construction and demolition materials operating in the territory since 2016.
On Dec. 2, she had asked Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray for an update on what was being done to remove the “toxic waste facility” in Kanesatake.
“I think his response was thoughtful, but we didn’t have the details,” May said. “The Minister (Murray) said disposing of waste in this manner is dangerous to people, fish habitats and fish, and said ‘we will hold accountable all individuals who break this law’ – as and as things progressed, it is clear that the illegal dumping continues.
A survey of The Eastern Gate published in September shed light on various reports produced by the Quebec Ministry of the Environment which, according to environmental experts consulted as part of this report, revealed the results of analyzes that they considered to be of concern for the environment, aquatic life, as well as potentially to human health.
“This is an issue that affects our entire community and our members,” said Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) Grand Chief Victor Akwirente Bonspille. The Eastern Gate. “I get calls from community members who even get sick from it.”
Calling for tangible solutions, May reminded leaders in the room that the problem remained unaddressed despite the withdrawal of its G&R license in October 2020 and the federal government having issued a directive to owners to clean up the site on November 18, 2020. .
“For the past three years, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) have provided support to the Kanesatake Mohawk Council’s environment office to help the community address environmental issues on their territory. said the Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary. from ECCC Terry Duguid in response to the former Green Party leader’s question on February 16.
“Enforcement officers (ECCC) have carried out at least three follow-up inspections at the site, the last of which was less than two weeks ago. To date, inspections have revealed that the company is complying with the requirements of management.
Neither MCK nor Ratishontsanonhstats Kanesatake’s environmental department has confirmed whether ECCC has inspected the facility in recent weeks.
Saying the results of ongoing environmental assessments are needed to formulate longer-term solutions, Duguid said site monitoring and temporary surface water treatment solutions, including “pumping as needed” and “ ex-situ treatment of contaminated water”, had already been deployed.
While the Parliamentary Secretary maintained that the federal department is working closely on the file with the Council of Kanesatake, SAC and the Government of Quebec, doubts have been expressed as to whether the matter is being approached with the same diligence and same urgency as elsewhere.
“Governments always act slowly, I’m used to it. But they wouldn’t move so slowly if it was a non-Indigenous issue and they wouldn’t have let it go this far if it wasn’t Indigenous property,” the MCK Grand Chief said. “This is an environmental issue and an environmental disaster on First Nations territory.”
Kanehsatake Rotinonhseshá:ka (People of the Longhouse) representative, Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel, denounced “the hypocrisy of all levels of government” which she says do not take into account the big picture: climate change.
“I don’t know what it will take to sort this out because it’s almost like people here are left helpless and unable to do anything about what’s going on in Kanesatake,” Gabriel said. “It’s environmental racism simply because there are no other communities that would accept this standard of litter in their communities.”
Environmental Racism Bill
May introduced a private member’s bill on Feb. 2 aimed at addressing environmental policies and practices that specifically harm racialized communities across the country. The National Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Strategy Act, or Bill C-226, follows a previous bill sponsored by former Liberal MP Lenore Zan, which received broad support from environmental groups , including the David Suzuki Foundation.
However, Bill C-230, introduced by Zan in September 2020, died on the order paper when the writ was filed last August.
Almost identical to legislation tabled by the former MP, May’s bill would require the ECCC minister to work with interested groups and individuals to develop a national strategy to assess, prevent and remedy the harm done. by environmental racism.
Additionally, the legislation would require the federal government to collect data related to environmental risk cases related to race, socioeconomic status, and health.
“I hope my private member’s bill, Bill C-226, will pass soon,” May said of the crisis in Kanesatake during the week’s House of Commons debate session. last. “As people in this community say, enough is enough.”
In a press release issued when the bill was introduced, the Green Party highlighted instances of environmental injustices affecting Black and Indigenous communities, including Kanesatake, Grassy Narrows and Aamjiwnaang First Nations in Ontario, the Shamattawa First Nation in Manitoba and the oil sands in Alberta.
“The climate crisis, environmental degradation and social justice issues have the same root cause,” said acting party leader Amita Kuttner. “We must address colonialism and white supremacy as part of the systemic transformation necessary to preserve a livable world.”
To take part
With growing pressure for governments to clean up the recycling site, Bonspille argued that everyone involved in the troublesome situation affecting the community should be held accountable.
“For years, the federal and provincial governments knew about G&R, the contaminants and the waste that was dumped there. Together with the owners, they (the governments) must take responsibility for this,” the Grand Chief said. “They have a fiduciary duty and a duty to honor the Crown when it comes to assisting and caring for First Nations in issues that may affect our health and well-being.”
While further reassuring Kanehsata’kehró:non that the Council was working diligently on the file, he also said actions would only move forward as quickly as governments would allow.
Meanwhile, Gabriel has expressed his discouragement as he sees construction companies in Montreal and surrounding areas dumping their trash on what little land his community has left.
“The fact that the government continues to (allow) these colonial processes gives people permission to make decisions that affect us all without our consent,” said rights defender Onkwehón:we. “It’s really sad to see what’s happening in our community (because) it’s setting the stage for other Indigenous communities in terms of land protection and land return.”
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil
Journalist of the Local Journalism Initiative