Aboriginal Communities Are Disproportionally Affected By Environmental Concerns In Canada

In Canada, aboriginal communities are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation. There are a few (very realistic) possibilities about this happens. A few times I read that it is because it is how the land is regulated by the government so it makes it easier for corporations to use First Nations lands for projects that would have been turned down somewhere else.

I researched endlessly. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I know so much more than I used to. It is why I know what environmental racism is now. Environmental racism isn’t really talked about a lot, but basically it is a kind of racism where one group or culture is disadvantaged over others because of their race. It sounds a lot like First Nations people in Canada right? I have done enough reading to know that when people were expanding in North America, that aboriginal people were forced to live on parcels of land that generally weren’t the best, and that’s the reservations (or reserves) that still exist today. Obviously that isn’t true 100% of the time, but it is true enough of the time that it’s a valid concern. Now, that is just a beginning example. Environmental racism can be expanded to show how certain groups or cultures are faced with environmental problems (pollution for example) more than others. I’m not sure why people don’t talk about it more, maybe it is hard to prove in science or something.

The example that I researched the most is the case of Aamjiwnaang First Nation outside of Sarnia, Ontario. There are roughly 65 chemical plants within a 25 km radius of the community. I swear that my lungs feel aggravated just because I drove close to Aamjiwnaang. There are reportedly higher rates of cancers, respiratory problems, and a whole ton of other health problems.

The problem extensive. For starters, the environmental laws don’t necessarily account of multiple contributions to the air shed. The laws determine how much 1 company can emit – but it does not account for what happens if 65 factories are all emitting pollutants into the air. 65 x 1 = a lot of stuff in the air. The air shed in the area can only handle so much.

Next, the problem is that the land wasn’t willingly taken. When I interviewed people I was told that the corporations came and asked to buy the land for a lot less than it was worth. When the people living in Aamjiwnaang said no, the corporations went to the government. The government stepped in and said that they had 2 choices A) sell the land for less than it was worth or B) the landed would be taken for the corporations any how with no returns to the locals. So they sold it, but unwillingly, and then more and more corporations moved in.

Nowadays, the region is known as the Chemical Valley.

It’s not like they expect the corporations to go away. The locals want TV, they want cars, they understand what needs to happen if they want those products.

Ultimately, based on what I know about the situation, what they want to see happen is that there will be stricter regulations from the government on emissions, it will be mandatory to use certain technology to be greener and more sustainable, and that the communication to the people in Aamjiwnaang will work better.

There is a lot of information about how aboriginal communities are affected by environmental problems. I can’t even begin to cover everything that is out there. What I wanted to accomplish is introducing the problem and letting everyone know it exists, and that there is something to be learned here. I wold strongly encourage you to learn more and advocate for change.


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